There have been some interesting bits and pieces in the media this week which show how the battle to stigmatise those who have to depend on benefits is being won.
The Guardian carried a report on Tuesday of research by a team from the University of Kent. Not, you notice, a think tank but an academic institution. It reported that there is "a climate of fear" among people who need to claim benefits which frightens them off. Government disinformation has meant that 1.8 million people have been "potentially too scared to seek help". The report lists some of that disinformation (lies, in effect) then examines how the newspapers have systematically branded as scroungers those on benefits. It's a damning report, but where was the coverage elsewhere? There wasn't any, because it doesn't fit the agenda of the government and its mouthpieces. Well done to the Guardian, though.
On Thursday Iain Duncan Smith appeared on BBC's Question Time. I wasn't able to watch all of this, but I caught the row between him and another panellist, Owen Jones. Jones tried to talk about the demonisation of the poor, but IDS snapped back at him with a furious face and voice. And even the usually sensible Deborah Meadon disagreed with Jones. The truth was outnumbered, as usual.
Plenty of coverage was given this week to Lord Freud, the employment minister in charge of reforming the welfare system. Radio 4 discussed the "bedroom tax", under which people on benefits and living in social housing (I hate that term) will lose a big chunk of money if they have a spare bedroom. A reporter went to the North East and discovered that there is a huge shortage of housing which people can down-size into. So they have to either move far away or go into private rented accommodation which will end up costing much more. When the reporter put this to Freud he waffled and retreated to the previous question. Clearly what seems eminently sensible in an office in Whitehall doesn't work in the real world, but nobody wants to know. Freud again showed the extent of his understanding in an interview in House Magazine, reported in the Guardian. Apparently people on benefits are too comfortable and have a lifestyle which discourages them from taking risks. He then made the sort of remark which comes back to haunt you: "Freud, a former journalist and investment banker, told the magazine that his background did not make him unable to understand the reality of living on benefits. 'You don't have to be the corpse to go to the funeral, which is the implied criticism there,' he said." The Telegraph also reported the story and the reaction of Liam Byrne for Labour. The difference in the comments under the two articles speaks volumes about the polarisation of attitudes.
On a lighter note - sort of - was the report of a fake job advert which appeared on the direct.gov website. It was for a professional killer for MI6, and was so well put together that it was a while before anyone spotted that it was a fake. Makes you wonder how many other fake jobs are being advertised.