The latest exercise in propaganda by combined right-wing forces in this country is a classic of its kind.
It starts with a report by the Centre for Social Justice, the "think-tank" set up by Iain Duncan Smith and run by his adviser Philippa Stroud. This is reported in detail by the Telegraph. The phrase "welfare ghettos" is prominent. That's important. The word "ghetto" is innocent enough in its original meaning ("a part of a city, esp. a slum area, occupied by a minority group or groups") but of course it's a very loaded word now. The report is full of figures purporting to show that almost 7 million people live in these "welfare ghettos" where more than half the working age population is dependent on benefits.
I haven't looked at the report itself, but I suppose that the Telegraph has reported it faithfully. If so, there are a great many question marks over it. It talks about "areas" of various cities. How is an area defined? At one point they talk about "neighbourhoods"; again, how do you define that? This isn't nit-picking. You can draw lines on a map to produce whatever figures you want. 48 charities were consulted. 96% of them (why can't they just say "46 charities"?) said that "they had come across families where unemployment was intergenerational". All that means is that both the kids and the parents were out of work. It tells us nothing else - certainly not how many families were involved.
They do make an important point about aspiration. Lots of youngsters do not expect to ever have a job, and don't aspire to anything better than they have now, except to become a celebrity. But the CSJ manage to link that with the benefits cap.
The Express's account is less nuanced, as you would expect. The headline is "Welcome to the benefit ghettos where the majority live on state handouts". There's a photo of a young woman pushing a toddler in a buggy; we are, of course, meant to take the point about teenage single mothers. There is a familiar response from the DWP about welfare reforms improving the lives of these people.
The Mail is, as usual, hysterical. It uses the same phraseology about "benefit ghettos" but there are graphics for those who need pictures with their reading. My earlier point about the definition of an area is important in the context of the Mail's version. They list 6 places where there are a large number of "neighbourhoods" with more than 30% unemployed. But to say that there are "nearly 70 neighbourhoods" in Liverpool" in this state is a nonsense. Are we talking about a large housing estate or a small street? The article ends by saying that the CSJ is working on a follow-up report with its recommendations.
So a minister's pet think-tank comes up with a report with the message which the minister wants to convey, and the right-wing press runs with it in its own inimitable way. Goebbels would be proud.