Most Jeremy Clarkson wannabes like O’Neill are reduced to scrawling letters to their local council in green ink complaining about the communist conspiracy at their local swimming baths. Occasionally they get given a column at the Daily Telegraph where their pub bore invective can be laid out in full view by cynical press barons, dragging them out like freak show performers in the hope of cashing in on that ever elusive click through internet ad revenue.
So we shouldn’t take the opinions of Brenden O’Neill too seriously when he attacks disability and welfare campaigners for caring about the growing number of suicides linked to welfare reform.
In his latest spittle flecked rant for the Telegraph, O’Neill lectures us that campaigners discussing those suicides with a direct link to benefit cuts is ‘depravity’ and ‘low, apolitical, super-cynical emotional blackmail.’
With escalating pomposity O’Neill refers to the sad case of the family man who ended his life, blaming cuts to his Housing Benefit. O’Neill tells us that this actually had nothing to do with his benefits being cut but was “the act of someone in a fevered, unstable state of mind. “
In fact the Coroner in the above case said quite the opposite, but then what does she know – unlike O’Neill, she’s got a proper job. But O’Neill is correct that this was clearly a very desperate man. And here lies a hole in his argument so wide the entire Top Gear team could drive through it.
If an obviously suicidal man was pushed into such drastic action by having a ‘fevered, unstable state of mind.‘ then what was he doing on Job Seekers Allowance in the first place? Is this what ‘fit for work’ means to these scum?
The same applies to the man who set himself on fire outside a Jobcentre in Birmingham recently. Right wing zealots like O’Neill can’t have it both ways. If these tragic cases represent people with ‘serious mental-health issues’, as he alleges, then they should have been on the benefit for those with ‘serious mental health issues’, which is Employment Support Allowance, not the dole.
That they weren’t goes to the very heart at the brutal and inhumane flaws of this Government’s welfare reforms. Both men appear to have been dumped on Job Seekers Allowance, the benefit for those unemployed, not unwell. It has been suggested that the man in Birmingham was recently stripped of sickness benefits and found ‘fit for work’, a direct result of the DWP’s current hounding of sickness benefit claimants.
So whether these events were linked to benefit cuts or mental health (or even both), the safety net of the welfare state has failed both men. And either way O’Neill is wrong.
O’Neill singles out Calum’s List for particular invective, a website which has chronicled the tragic losses of life that have been linked to the welfare cuts. In his deluded little world he has decided that this is all a conspiracy by the Guardian in an attempt to ‘approach working-class and less well-off communities through the politics of pity’.
Calum’s List have responded:“Calum’s List is written by the disabled, and by people who are bereft and Brendan O’Neill is too unprofessional or ignorant to approach the subscribers of this website for a point of view, or balance, and instead opts to stick his bully boy boot into a group of disabled people, widows, widowers, bereaved parents and orphans trying to find a voice for their anguish in the absence of mainstream media and all but a few politicians taking any interest in what is a subject that does concern most decent right minded people.”
It may surprise O’Neill to know that benefit claimants actually care about benefit cuts. As do many of the working poor and the growing army of temporary and part time workers, most of whom rely on benefits some or all of the time. In truth the Guardian have been dragged kicking and screaming into highlighting the very real human suffering which is taking place as a result of welfare reforms. It has been sick, disabled and unemployed people along with parents, the low waged, casual workers and pensioners, who have been raising their collective voices. And despite the tidal wave of abuse directed at claimants from all sections of the mainstream political establishment, they are starting to be heard.
As millions of people are pushed deeper into poverty by welfare reform – and it’s only barely begun – slowly but surely public opinion is changing as suddenly people realise it’s their mum, their brother, their friend, or even themselves that is being plunged into economic despair.
Brendan O’Neill is a political oddball who knows nothing of the people he claims to represent. He edits the crank website ‘spiked’ which is little more than a mouthpiece for former members of the misnamed Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). This strange 80s left wing sect managed to find themselves on the right and now preach extreme libertarian capitalism as the solutions to the problems created by inequality and class. Only more capitalism can save us from capitalism.
Insulated as Brendan O’Neill is in his cosy world of pseudo-intellectual cultists and libertarian fantasisers, he has managed to convince himself that the views of him and his cult are shared by us normals. It’s true they have loud voices and in some cases deep pockets. But few are listening anymore to their cheers for the bankers and businessmen.
O’Neill’s faux outrage at the bereaved and disabled who are attempting to tell their own stories of the consequences of this Government’s actions is best ignored. It is telling however that it is the supporters of these reforms that are really reduced to using emotive slurs to stop people telling the truth about what’s really taking place because of social security cuts.
According to O’Neill, tales of homelessness, poverty, suicide and ill health should be hushed up. To even mention them means we’ve lost the argument. And yet it is him evoking the ghosts of desperate events to mount a political attack on the people left coping with these Government created tragedies. A more super-cynical attempt at emotional blackmail would be hard to find.
UPDATE 6/4/13 part 2: Brendan O’Neill Is Still A Knob
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