"Language is balls coming at you from every angle" - Alan Bennett, Talking heads 2
‘The language of 'benefits' and the 'welfare state' have become 'dog-whistle' words of implicit abuse. Politicians assert that housing benefit is designed for ‘those who lie in bed with the curtains drawn’. Those on benefits are ‘scroungers’, ‘benefits cheats’.
‘The data shows that 61 per cent of children in poverty actually have working parents. Yet what we hear is the stigmatising of what the Victorians used to call the 'undeserving poor...'’
‘Public discourse is manipulated so that policy measures which penalise rather than help those in poverty are seen to be going with the grain of that public opinion...’
Stoller sums this up in terms of ‘political stereotyping’, which
‘blames poverty either on the individual or structural inequality, confuses welfare with poverty and fails to make the basic connections which underpin a true appreciation of the common good.’
It would be interesting to develop a wider critique of the persistent rhetoric of this government, including the use of the phrase 'hard-working families' which I mentioned previously; 'integration' as a replacement for 'cohesion'; 'doing the right thing’ as a moral justification for evidence-free whim; and the word 'heroes' used to help manage a delicately balanced political approach to the funding of defence.