I have long believed that the left right paradigm is used to stifle debate and cut people off from certain perspectives by labeling them and then telling them what they are allowed to think. However I assumed people who were "left wing" were merely misled rather than deliberately misleading. The reaction last week to the TV show "Benefits Street" has been a depressing undoing of that opinion for me.
"[T]he only debate to be opened is why we let our media get away with it" squeals 'left wing' columnist Owen Jones in The Independent. In other words, he believes this particular television programme is so immoral you should not be allowed to see it. How profoundly depressing that someone in his position saw a documentary which fueled a "pervasive sense that people on benefits are feckless scroungers" where I saw one about people living in difficult circumstances. I recognised characters who reminded me of old school mates where he witnessed "unsympathetic examples of unemployed people".
According to him the TV show itself "produced a tidal wave of hate". Just stop and think about that for a minute. He lives in a world where you cannot decide how to react to a television show for yourself, like a grown adult. If you use your social media presence to call for "those who appeared on the show – and people on benefits more broadly – to be shot, hanged or gassed" it's not you that's the irresponsible wanker, it's the people who made a documentary you happened to be watching at the time. I find that point of view profoundly loathsome. Suggesting Twitter users who "pledged to assault the show’s participants if they saw them" had their fingers forced by their televisions is to ignore the fact those people have broken the law by making specific threats against other British citizens. Owen may look like a twelve year old but he really should know better than to excuse such behavior.
Deeper than this though is the fact that I have started to think the reason why the people in this documentary represent a forgotten underclass is because when "the left" get a taste of power they simply do not factor in the needs of these constituents at all. They'd far rather moan about other 'more showbiz topics' such as how evil the rich are and so instead chuck the underclass a little money and hope they'll go away. I assume this is because their world view requires such people to be ignored because they don't neatly fit a "deserving poor" stereotype, such as pensioners or children in poverty. Dealing with people like those in the documentary who are complex, capable and busy frequently making hard choices during their hard lives is not something people like Owen Jones are remotely interested in.
Don't misunderstand me here I have no sympathy with "right wing" ideas either, I just naively assumed, until last week, that their opposite number genuinely cared about the kinds of people I watched struggling to get by on "Benefits Street".
First episode of the "Benefits Street" documentary is here. The documentary itself is not that exciting to be honest. Certainly nowhere near as controversial as you might have been led to believe.