Finger-pointing is nothing new in British politics; we see it all the time, in Parliament, in the media even on our streets. Over the last few months however, it seems like this attitude of blaming everything bad in society on certain groups has risen exponentially. Like many people, I have been getting incredibly riled watching the series of live debates that TV bosses have deemed it necessary to produce after the fuss kicked up by the ‘Benefits Street’ programme on Channel 4. While Channel 5's debates quickly descended into chaos, partially due to Katie Hopkins being dragged out to spout some ridiculous extreme right wing, bigoted, racist comments, what these live debates have really made me realise is the worrying culture of blame we have in Britain.
For me, one of the most worrying statistics shown on Monday's 'Big Immigration Row' was that 21% of people surveyed believed that immigration should be stopped completely and entirely. This astounding lack of understanding and unquestioning belief in what papers like the Daily Mail tell people to think is one of the saddest indictments I have seen on the people of Britain in my lifetime.
What salvaged some hope however was the way in which much of the studio audience and many of the panellists defended immigrants and the average benefit claimant vehemently in the face of, at best naivety, and at worst an established agenda created to hide the true reasons behind the problems this country faces.
What I believe people fail to understand is the fact that there are powerful people pulling the strings, not just in Britain but across the world, to avoid the masses discovering what’s really causing economic hardship for the average citizen. Now before you go away thinking I'm some kind of David Icke style Illuminati hunter, let me qualify what I'm trying to suggest. There are people, namely big business, bankers, CEOs and Tory front benchers whose financial situations and ideological aims stand to benefit from people pointing the finger of blame at certain groups in society rather than those really causing economic depravity.
Upon first glance this may seem like an abstract proposal, but think about it, the media is constantly feeding us a steady stream of lies and slander about groups in society that struggle to defend themselves. Just go onto the Daily Mail homepage and I can guarantee there will be articles attacking immigration, benefit claimants, Muslims, socialists, LGBT activists or anyone endangering the 'normality of traditional British life.'
This is a large reason for the uproar that Benefits Street caused. White Dee herself told Mondays’ debate that Channel 4 had spent 18 months recording but only used extreme, negative moments in their programme in a deliberate attempt to create animosity towards all benefits claimants. The name of the show itself tells a story. I believe a great point was raised by an 'immigrant' interviewed on Channel 5, who pointed out that whenever there is a period of austerity there are always groups in society who get used as scapegoats in a carefully prepared propaganda offensive to avoid the finger being pointed at the top. Let’s be honest, the 2008 financial crisis wasn't caused by immigrants or benefits claimants or Muslims, but by the banks becoming too greedy and too risky. It is constantly proven that immigration is a net benefit to our economy, immigrants on average are younger, better educated, more likely to work and less likely to claim. It is also proven that only a tiny amount of benefit expenditure goes to the long term unemployed, and much more is lost in big business tax evasion every year than benefit fraud. And may I also point out to Katie Hopkins and many in the closet racist UKIP, that nowhere in the Quran is terrorism excused. The plain and simple fact is that all these myths are spread by those at the top in a desperate attempt to cause infighting amongst the working classes in Britain. The unfortunate thing is that a large proportion of people in Britain don’t take the time to understand the facts, and simply acquiesce to what they hear in the media.
This is a war that can be won however. Much of the audience in these debates were people who care about the subject matter and therefore understand that most of what they hear is rubbish. Owen Jones and Mehdi Hasan were also promising voices during the debate on benefits and there are many more like them fighting to get the message out that we can't allow the creators of the war to set the battleground on which it will be fought. Unfortunately there is little Parliament can do about this due to its backward ways, so this is a fight that must be won by the people, and the sooner it is won the sooner we can get back to solving the real problems in Britain rather than fighting each other.
So get the message out there, tell your mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, aunts and uncles. Tell anyone who will listen who is really to blame for the problems in this country and, above all else, don't let the already downtrodden people in this nation get kicked while they are down. It will be difficult to change the tide of public opinion, but for the sake of this country it is every man and woman’s duty to help do so.
By Simon Winstanley