Tag: #bullying

It’s time the government took some lessons in the ethical use of power and influence amid the discussion about abuse

 

Image result for Daily Mail Jo Cox Image result for Daily Mail Jo CoxImage result for This is for britainImage result for Daily Mail Jo Cox

Image result for Daily Mail Jo Cox

Irresponsible racist scapegoating discourse and an utter incapacity to join the dots in the media. When Jo Cox was murdered, her killer shouted “Britain First” – the name of the political party formed by former BNP members, which has over 1.5m likes on Facebook. The Daily Mail buried the news of his conviction for murdering a sitting MP on page 30, almost as if the Mail thought it was somehow unimportant.

Minority groups are demonised and denigrated as a matter of routine and tradition – at what point does our feigning ignorance of this process turn into complicity with it? The problems we face as a society are not caused by immigration, but by socioeconomic inequality, with widespread, growing poverty, exclusion and youth unemployment faced by working class people of all ethnic backgrounds. Pointing the finger at immigrants is an attempt to mask how current government policy is actually exacerbating inequality.

The rise in targeted abuse of MPs of all stripes

It’s quite remarkable that Conservative MP, Simon Hart, claims: “Abuse of candidates and activists is “driving people away from politics,” and it’s also entirely predictable that he almost exclusively blames left wing campaigners. However, we do need to tread carefully when using labels such as “bullying” and “abuse”. We need to be careful not to allow politicians to lump reasonable opposition, challenges, legitimate democratic dialogue and action into the same category as examples of abuse.  

This is a government, after all, that has sneeringly labelled those reasonably calling for an end to austerity, adequate funding for our public services and adequate social security protection for disabled people as “unrepentant Marxists”, “Trots”, “the Hard Left”, “the Loony Left”,  and who ran almost all of their election campaign as a strategic, pointed, deeply personal smear attack on Corbyn and some of the shadow cabinet. 

The Conservatives ran an election campaign that was almost entirely about character assassinations and smearing the opposition, rather than offered policies. It was also about telling the electorate who they must and must not vote for. They seem to have forgotten that it is the public who decide who is “fit” to run the country, not the increasingly authoritarian incumbent government. We live in a democracy, after all, not a one-party state.

Hart told HuffPost UK that “silence” from Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour grassroots campaign organisation Momentum had meant the intimidation of candidates had increased. Labour immediately responded, expressing “deep dismay and concern at the vitriolic personal attacks” carried out and financed by the Conservative Party.

A spokesperson for Momentum dismissed Hart’s criticism as a “ludicrous smear”. I’m inclined to agree. Many of the right wing tabloids have predictably tried to blame Jeremy Corbyn entirely for political attacks.

Yet the same tabloids have printed horrifically dishonest, abusive articles about Corbyn, and historically, against the Labour Party  more generally.

Image result for Labour zinoviev letter Daily Mail

One of the great political scandals of the 20th century. Shortly before the 1924 general election, a letter purporting to be from Grigory Zinoviev at the Comintern in Moscow to the Communist Party of Great Britain appeared in the Daily Mail, along with “concerns” about a proletariat revolution.  The Conservative landslide victory four days later was in part attributed to the fake letter, which is now known to have been a forgery.

Corbyn has previously revealed that the abuse thrown at him over the course of the Labour leadership campaign has been “deeply hurtful” to his family and close friends. Yet he has consistently said: “We’re not responding in any way; we don’t do that kind of [abusive] politics.”

Hart, the MP for Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, said the “general thuggishness” of the election campaign was “deterring” people from getting involved politics. 

I agree. Right wing thuggishness is writ large in screaming headlines, smear campaigns and slanderous columns. The Conservative approach to election campaigns has normalised abuse.  The nasty party probably think that positive role modelling involves the fashioning of voodoo dolls of the opposition out of plasticine to stick their malicious and vindictive pins into.

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It becomes obvious with a little scrutiny who is actually doing the attacking on a very personal level. Debate and political criticism are one thing: personal commentaries, character assassinations, attacks, threats, bullying, abuse and harassment are another. I have seen that quite often, abusive tactics include manipulating people’s perceptions and diverting attention to portray themselves as the injured party, with their target being portrayed as the villain. 

The danger of portraying democratic opposition as “abuse”

The Conservatives seem to be outraged at the very idea of political opposition, to the extent that the Conservatives’ rhetoric and practices are now bordering on political totalitarianism. 

The Conservatives have a habit of stifling legitimate criticism, personalising public issues and frequently labelling the opposition’s concerns with negative terms such as “scaremongering” , “grandstanding” and “crying wolf” in what ought to be democratic debate.

This kind of discrediting  and dismissive language, and unwillingness to engage in a genuine dialogue, sidestepping accountability and transparency, sends a wider message out to the public. Cameron’s “one nation” politics has extended more of a one party state message, creating an illusion of a national consensus bandwaggon that does not exist. 

In a letter to Conservative party chairman, Sir Patrick McLoughlin, Labour’s Ian Lavery and voter engagement spokesman Cat Smith wrote: “The Conservatives ran a negative, nasty campaign, propagating personal attacks, smears and untruths, particularly aimed at one of the most prominent women MPs, and indeed the first black woman MP, Diane Abbott.

“Such attacks on politicians, the consequent intimidating and abusive language and threats of violence towards them online, deter many people from entering politics. Parties and politicians have a responsibility to set an example, by treating others with dignity and respect, including those with whom we strongly disagree. The Conservative Party has instead promoted personal attacks as a core component of its national campaign.

“Abuse against candidates on social media is completely unacceptable. The Conservative Party perpetrated this on an industrial scale by spending millions of pounds to post highly personalised and nasty attack adverts on voters’ Facebook timelines without their permission.”

They say that the Labour party “fought a positive, hopeful campaign” and insisted that all its MPs ran campaigns based on its policies rather than personal attacks.

All of this is certainly verified by the televised debates and media coverage of the election campaigns.Image result for Jeremy Corbyn's positive election campaign

On Monday, Theresa May asked whether Jeremy Corbyn was “doing enough in response to complaints of intimidation” and said she was “surprised at any party leader who’s not willing to condemn that”. Yet Corbyn has publicly condemned personal abuse many times.

May has ordered a review of the law after saying she had been shocked at the number of colleagues who had talked to her about intimidation and harassment during the campaign. It’s notable and telling, however, that the mainstream media’s role in the general election campaigns won’t be included in the remit of this inquiry.

I deeply suspect that this inquiry will be about the hijacking of abuse from the right: it won’t be about an intention to genuinely deal with cross-party cases of abuse to eliminate it, but it will  be about an ambition to weaponise abuse, using it as a political prop to attack the left and silence criticism.  

By emphasising online abuse only, and ignoring the elephant in the room – the hateful right wing media and the Conservatives’ own abusive approach to public debate – the Conservatives are attempting to paint the entire left as being defined by viciousness and hatred, intolerant of opposition, threatening even, according to this narrative  –  and that of course will be used to justify why they must be kept from power.

That’s absolute hypocrisy, indicating clearly that the Conservatives see the mainstream media as an asset, rather than as a source of aggressive and divisive right wing ideological narratives.

It may also be used to justify more repressive reform to social media. May has already pledged to create new internet that would be controlled and regulated by government. I can’t help wondering if that will entail a “management” of “left wing bias”. Who can forget Iain Duncan Smith’s despotic and hysterical  “monitoring” of the BBC for any “bias”.

As I write, every single right wing broadsheet has a deeply misleading published article portraying the left as being entirely responsible for abuse of (all) MPs. Yet the report was about abuse directed at BOTH Conservatives and Labour MPs.

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The Conservative Party have cheer-led the personal abuse people on the left receive. The Tories made a strategic decision to discredit, smear and delegitimise the official opposition, portraying Labour’s left supporters as “extremists”, “dangerous”, and “terrorist sympathisers”. Such an attack tactic has some very chilling and profoundly anti-democratic implications, because it leaves the left exposed as a dangerous internal enemy, which legitimises radical right wingers’ belief that the left needs to be “eliminated”.

The “abuse” accusation is one of many techniques used by the right to police the boundaries of “acceptable” political thought.

The right and the dangers of dog whistle politics

It is worth remembering that it was a Labour MP, Jo Cox, who was murdered by a far right terrorist. This has been linked to the rhetoric employed by hardcore right wing Brexit campaign. Others, including myself, have linked it with a growth in wider social prejudiceand the social divisions which have been politically fostered, motivated and manipulated by the Conservatives. Lynton Crosby’s dog whistle racism and negative campaigning strategies have been a key feature of elections over recent years and have normalised below the radar “coded” racist messaging, with the inbuilt “safeguard” of plausible deniability.  

Dog whistling is designed to trigger previously indoctrinated prejudice, bigotry and  hatred without being recognised by outsiders as hateful speech in prejudiced communities. The legitimising of sentiment which has previously been considered inappropriate is one of Crosby’s trademarks, and this approach has steadily pushed at public moral boundaries, making hate speech and hate crime much more likely. 

The philosopher Jennifer Saul has how the linguistic drift of increasingly intolerant speech can lead to racist violence. As we become habituated to a subject of speech, our standard of what is acceptable to say (or not say) shifts, which in turn opens up possibilities for how we may act.

Of course intolerant speech is that which creates categories of outgrouped others, and this process of othering hasn’t been confined to ethnic minorities. The Conservatives have also stigmatised disabled people, social security claimants more generally, trade unions, public sector workers, among others and have systematically demonised and personally discredited critics, opposition (including charities and academics), and especially, those on the left.

The government has consistently sent out a broader message, in the form of a series of coded emotive appeals and sometimes, quite explicitly stated, that the left has/will take your taxes and give it to “undeserving” minorities. Those “minorities” are disabled people, people in low paid work, people who have lost their job, as well as asyum seekers and migrants.

As opposed to undeserving millionaires and rogue multinationals.

The Conservatives have normalised bullying and intimidation to silence dissent

Conservative MP Anna Soubry has spoken out at the Conservatives’ “bully boy tactics” employed against Mark Carney by some of her Tory colleagues. Carney came in for attacks from senior Brexiteers like Michael Gove and William Hague, while other pro-Leave campaigners have called on him to be sacked as governor of the Bank of England. In the run-up to the EU referendum, Tories accused Carney of “interfering” in the campaign by his simple and evidenced warning about the economic effects of a vote to leave.

Speaking to Sky News, former business minister Soubry said: “This is what I mean about almost bully boy tactics, this idea that you just slag people off and then you go to some of our newspapers and they join in this very unpleasant campaign which means people like Mark Carney don’t have any defence, they can’t really come out and fight their corner as they should do.

“He shouldn’t be attacked in the way that he was. He’s done a great job. He was universally recognised as being a real coup for our Bank of England, for our country. I’m just sad that he seems to be going early, but I’m delighted he’s staying.

“We all seem to have almost taken leave of our senses in this country.”

The language mirrored that used in an article for LabourList from Rebecca Long-Bailey, then the Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

She wrote at the time: “That a committed public servant like Dr Carney has been the subject of briefings, on and off the record, questioning his fitness for the role – when he himself has no opportunity to respond – is an indictment of the toxic atmosphere now brewing inside the Conservative party.

Denigrating reasonable criticism and monstering campaigns for social justice

Work and Pensions Secretary Damian Green criticised “irresponsible scaremongering” by Labour and insisted the Tories “will always look after the most vulnerable”, following legitimate concerns raised by the opposition about the impact of the proposed dementia tax and cuts to winter fuel payments for the elderly. The United Nations inquiry into the Conservatives’ grave and systematic abuse of disabled people’s human rights certainly doesn’t support Green’s claims. He said: “At the heart of this report lies an outdated view of disability which is patronising and offensive. We strongly refute its findings.”

However, it is the government that hold a deeply patronisingoutdated and discriminatory view of disability, and they are the ones dismissing the concerns raised over and over by disabled people who pushed to instigate and evidence the inquiry in the first place, because the government have disgracefully and systematically marginalised us, and consistently refused to listen to our grave concerns about the harms, distress and premature deaths that Conservative welfare policies are increasingly correlated with. 

Hart says: “I wrote to every MP at the beginning of last week to say would they like to come up with examples of where this has been happening and the only examples I’ve had are of attacks by the left on the right. If there are others, I haven’t heard of them.” 

“I know a lot of Labour MPs have been subject to quite nasty abuse over a number of years now. It’s not exclusively left-wing attacking right-wing, or left-wing attacking center, but there is certainly more evidence of that than there is the contrary.”

Perhaps Hart doesn’t read the tabloids. Or listen to the malicious comments of his colleagues made frequently during election campaigns.

Try as I might, I just simply can’t imagine Jeremy Corbyn calling Boris Johnson a “mutton-headed old mugwump”, or a “benign herbivore”. Nor can I imagine him dismissing United Nations rapporteurs as “loopy Brazilian lefties” or “partisan marxists”.

Tory MP Stewart Jackson tweeted that Miss Rolnick was a ¿loopy Brazilian leftie with no evidence masquerading as a serious UN official¿

The Conservatives don’t take independent criticism of the adverse effects of their draconian policies very well. However, the UK is a signatory to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, which means that Ms Rolnik’s independent findings should carry weight within the British justice system and prompt the government to abandon this most inhumane of policies. Rather than approach this public issue with impartiality, government ministers decided instead to launch a disgraceful personal attack on Raquel Rolnik.

Image result for Raquel Rolnik British media

I condemn personal attacks and abuse on MPs of any political stripe. However, it seems to me that the Conservatives are launching a gaslighting campaign, with the sole intention of diverting attention from their own appalling track record on systematic abuse and bullying, and to attempt to further discredit the left.  

What about the abuse directed by right wingers on social media?  Some have claimed that Corbyn supporters are a “cult”, painting a picture of Corbyn’s supporters as “blind” followers of a strange doctrine. It links us with some of the worst instances in political history and develops a narrative that positions Corbyn and his supporters as “dangerous”. It is a poisonous term that should be deployed with caution. But sadly, that hasn’t stopped Corbyn’s opponents.

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This tweet has now been deleted. It’s from Financial Times’ political columnist Janan Ganesh, who seems to have realised his is a difficult narrative to push, as the likes of Stephen Hawkings, Noam Chomsky and much of the academic world explicitly endorse Corbyn’s project.

The Telegraph has patronisingly declared that young people who voted Labour are “deluded about Jeremy Corbyn, and about much else besides”. With the likes of Tory MP, Andrew Bridgen complaining: “The BBC will do everything they can to get their hero Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street. Now with things like this year’s Glastonbury, it’s becoming ever more blatant.

“They are at the stage where if the BBC give it one more push, we will end up with a Marxist in No 10.”

 “Marxist” is used as a term of abuse here. Yet in this context, a marxist is simply someone who wants to adequately fund public services, raise our standard of living and introduce a progressive tax system  – something that the Conservatives have deemed “reckless” and only possible with the help of a magic money tree. Mind you, that same magic money tree has been supporting the millionaires in handouts for the past few years.

At the same time that George Osborne told us that we needed to make cuts, rolling out his austerity programme that targeted the poorest citizens, he awarded millionaires £107, 000 each per year in the form of a handout tax cut. 

You have to worry at this particularly authoritarian comment, too: “If the BBC feel Labour are potentially close to power, any semblance of impartiality can be disregarded because with the Left, the ends always justify the means.” 

The BBC’s coverage of the event does not indicate “bias”, it’s simply coverage of an event. In a healthy democracy, that should never even be an issue. It’s not the BBC that decides voter’s intentions. It is the voters. It is the nation that decides what is in the “national interest” not the Conservatives.

Labour’s pledge to make university education free was claimed to be “the £11 billion bribe”, according to the Daily Mail. Unlike, for instance, the £350 million “save the NHS” lie plastered on Boris Johnson’s Brexit campaign bus. Or the Liberal Democrats’ giant cardboard cutout promise that tuition fees would absolutely never in a million years go up to 9K per year. Nope. Honest…

Since when was an inclusive manifesto considered “bribery”? Have we travelled so far down the road of Conservative authoritarianism, which has normalised the politics of stigma and exclusion, that reaching out and democratically engaging with politically betrayed, marginalised social groups to acknowledge and reflect their needs is considered so baffling and alien?

The language use that has been used to describe people exercising a democratic right to protest peacefully against government policies, variously described as “mobs”, a “rabble” and “thugs”.  As a disabled activist I have been called an “extremist” by the Conservatives and their supporters.

In 2015, a campaign group working to protect the NHS criticised Employment Minister Priti Patel, after she allegedly described members that gathered at her office – some of whom were elderly and others were disabled – as a “thuggish gang”.

Members of the People’s NHS gathered outside Patel’s constituency HQ in Witham, Essex, to urge her to protect the NHS against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnerships which they fear will lead to the health service being privatised. A photo of the protest shows around a dozen peaceful demonstrators holding a banner reading “fight for our NHS” and protecting themselves from the rain with umbrellas.   

Patel responded to the demonstration by writing to Unite union boss Len McCluskey, who she wrongly believed was heading the campaign. The letter read, according to The Sunday Mirror, that the woman who works at the Witham Conservative Association office “felt harassed, frightened and intimated” by “a thuggish gang of People’s NHS campaigners”. Patel went on to accuse the group of “intimidation and harassment”. 

However, someone in a position of power using such derogatory labels to discredit, smear and pathologise people raising legitimate criticism is intimidation, harassment and bullying. We live in a democracy, and the right to protest is a manifestation of the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of association, and the right to freedom of speech. Whether the authoritarian Conservatives like it or not.  From the historical UK Labour movement, civil rights protesters such as Rosa Parks in 1950s America, to the 60,000 participants in Gandhi’s Salt march, people throughout history have chosen to resist injustice because, as Rosa herself said, they’re “tired of giving in”. In contemporary Britain, disabled people are fighting a battle of life and death proportions. People are dying as a consequence of draconian policies. No-one is listening, so we protest.

The Conservatives fear civil unrest, yet every Tory government prompts protest because of their grossly injust, punitive policies. Protest is what happens when governments refuse to listen. It’s what happens when policies are non-inclusive and nasty. It’s what happens when ideologies are manifested, causing people distress and harm.

Simon Hart has complained that almost half his election campaign boards were defaced, stolen or damaged, adding that he and other MPs received abuse on social media “on an almost daily basis”.

“These are things that have significant financial consequences and it’s driving people away from politics, even on the fringes, at a time when actually it’s never been more important that they’re part of politics,” he said.

The importance of practicing what you preach, and keeping your own house in order

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However, Hart seems to have forgotten all about the details of his own election campaign, and some of the issues arising because of his election boards being placed without permission on private property. In fact one of the Tory MP’s own campaigners attacked a local resident, slamming his van door on the man, and hurting his arm, before driving at him – in a row over Hart’s election boards.

John Kilcoyne, a Conservative campaigner for Hart, infuriated local Adam Morres, after he put up signs promoting Hart in a field near the local’s home in Manorbier, Wales, back in May. Morres took them down and billed the local Conservative party for rent and damages – but then caught Kilcoyne putting them back up a day later.

The video appears to show the volunteer smacking the villager in the arm with his van door – before repeatedly DRIVING his van at him along a rural road. The police arrived moments later and are now investigating the incident.

Morres said: “Normally, I would choose who to vote for based on their policies, but in this instance I will be choosing based on the party I think has employees who aren’t going to attack me.”

The furore began on Sunday, May 7, when Morres was out for a walk with his ex-partner in the fields that she rents for her horses. They spotted two blue signs supporting incumbent MP Simon Hart nailed to a fence post inside the field. Morres says that he phoned the Electoral Commission who he said told him they could be removed, so he took them down the next day.

He invoiced Camarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Conservatives £50 for rent and damages.

“The damages are in case out neighbours thought the signs meant we were Conservative voters,” he added sarcastically. 

He claims John Kilcoyne – named as the seconder on Mr Hart’s 2015 election nomination document, came to both his home and his partner’s house. Kilcoyne claimed he had permission of the land owner to put the signs up, and left. Moments later  spotted him back next to his ex’s field getting new “Simon Hart” signs out of his van and the two men rowed.

The video appears to show the pair arguing before the volunteer sharply pulls his van door onto Morres’ arm before mocking him, saying: “Watch out, watch out.” He denied his actions. With a smirk.

Morres phoned the police and when he stood in front of the van to record the licence plate, claims Kilcoyne repeatedly drove at him. 

The footage on the video – taken moments before police arrived – appears to show the car inching towards him as he moves away across the road before driving off.

Astonishingly, Morres woke up the next day to find the signs had been reinstated.

“The police have told us not to touch them in case they get damaged and Simon Hart claims criminal damage,” he said. 

Dyfed-Powys Police said: “The force received a report of an assault without injury at approximately 9.40am on Tuesday, May 9.

“The incident took place at Wheelers Way, Manorbier. The investigation is ongoing.”

The Welsh Conservative Party and Simon Hart refused to comment. Kilcoyne, from Pembroke Dock, Pembrokeshire, said: “Have you spoken to Mr Hart?

“I’m in the same position as Mr Hart. There is a police officer dealing with it. I have nothing at all to add.”

Meanwhile, Wales Office minister Guto Bebb said he had also been a victim of online intimidation, and has surprisingly accused serving police officers of being among those who have abused him.

Ah yes, the sensitive Guto Bebb, who dismissed Dylan Barlow’Asperger’s syndrome as a “sob story” in a series of emails after his constituent raised questions on foreign matters.  

The MP for Aberconwy, North Wales, wrote: “If you have mental health issues then you should possibly refrain from commenting in the public domain since it might create problems for you.”

I’m disabled because of illness. I am a campaigner that supports Labour’s policies. I have had a lot of abuse, ranging from name-calling such as “leftard” , “trot”, “loony leftist”, “scrounger” , “lazy” to organised hate and smear campaigns, malicious communications that have used my social media account details and my photograph, resulting in death threats, rape threats, threats to my family and a threat from Combat 18. I involved the police at the time. I have also received very offensive comments calling for disabled people to be shot.  

disability hate speech

Conservative rhetoric, policy practices and in particular, their anti-welfare campaign which has been amplified by the media, has systematically dehumanised and scapegoated disabled people and migrants, and has contributed significantly to my experiences of abuse these last few years.

Divisive rhetoric, such as Cameron’s “scroungers and strivers” dichotomy, and traditional, embedded Conservative prejudices (based on class, ableism, economic productivity, ethnicity and gender) have added to the problems of social division,  encouraging and legitimising hate speech and hate crime.

The unedifying sight of Conservative ministers’ sneering contempt and laughter when they hear accounts of people suffering hardships and harm because of their policies in parliament isn’t a rare event. The persistent denial of a “causal link” between policy, hardship and distress, and refusal to investigate an established correlation between policy and hardship – all of this sends out a negative message to the wider public.

The message is that hate speech, bullying and abuse of marginalised social groups is permitted, and by gaslighting – negating or attempting to invalidate those group’s common experiences of harm and distress – the Conservatives have othered, isolated and dehumanised them.

A major contributing factor to the increase in bullying is the collective behaviours of the current government, which has perpetuated, permitted and endorsed prejudices against marginalised social groups, such as disabled and unemployed people, with a complicit media amplifying these prejudices. Their policies embed a punitive approach towards the poorest social groups. This in turn means that those administering the policies, such as staff at the Department for work and pensions and job centres, for example, are also bound by punitive, authoritarian behaviours directed at a targeted group.

People affected by those behaviours are then encouraged to blame other marginalised groups – migrants and asylum seekers, people who are “not really” disabled, and others politically deemed “undeserving”. This creates a hierarchy of needs, when the reality is simply that people have different but equally pressing needs for basic support. Everyone, after all, needs food, fuel and shelter. Without being able to fulfil those basic needs, we cannot fulfil higher level psychosocial needs.

As authority figures and role models, the government’s behaviour establishes a framework of acceptability. Parliamentary debates are conducted with a clear basis of one-upmanship and aggression rather than being founded on rational exchange and mutual respect. Indeed, the prime minister sneers at rationality and does not engage in a democratic dialogue, instead she employs the tactics of a bully: denial, scapegoating, vilification, attempts at discrediting, smearing and character assassinations. This in turn gives wider society permission and approval to do the same.

At prime minister’s questions, Cameron found it hard to rein in his Flashman reflex. His answers were frequently ever more sneering and personal, determined to characterise his political rival as weak and useless. It was not pleasant to watch the jabbing finger and the reddened face, especially when the Tory backbenchers behind him join in with bullying jeers.

Even Steve Hilton, David Cameron’s former aide has accused the political establishment of bullying Jeremy Corbyn after he was elected as Labour leader in what he described as “incredibly unattractive” behaviour.

It’s dangerous behaviour

Scapegoating has a wide range of focus: from “approved” enemies of very large groups of people down to the scapegoating of individuals by other individuals. The scapegoaters’ target always experiences a terrible sense of being personally edited and re-written, with the inadequacies of the bully inserted into public accounts of their character, isolation, ostracism, exclusion and sometimes, expulsion and elimination. The sense of isolation is often heightened by other people’s reluctance to become involved in challenging bullies, usually because of a bystander’s own discomfort and fear of reprisal.

Another tactic commonly used by Conservatives is projection – a defense mechanism used to displace responsibility of one’s negative behaviour and traits by attributing them to someone else. It ultimately acts as a diversion that avoids ownership and accountability. Simon Hart’s emphasis on “left wing bullying” is an attempt to steer us away from his own party’s entrenched prejudices, draconian policies, bullying practices and the hectoring approach to dialogue and debate.

The Conservatives have played the “blameshifting game” on many occasions over the past seven years. The objectives of the game of course are that it simplistically dichotomises issues, turning debate into often diversionary, personalised, simplistic arguments of reductive one upmanship: for the Conservatives, it’s about winning  and getting your own way, while others lose and are also blamed for everything that’s wrong with them. Ad hominem arguments have been normalised by Conservatives.

Image result for disability stigmatising messages in the newspapers

It’s time for the government to consider the impact of negative role modelling – Conservatives regularly use abusive language when challenged. Politicians have a responsibility to set an example, by treating others with dignity and respect, including those with whom they may strongly disagree. However, the Conservatives seem to regard opposition and challenges as an irritating inconvenience rather than as an essential feature of a functioning democracy.

The Conservative Party has promoted personal attacks as a core component of its national election campaigns, and has used stigma as a justification for extremely punitive policies that target marginalised groups. 

Bullying and abuse within the Conservative party

Let’s not forget poor Elliott Johnson: the young Conservative who was destroyed by the party he loved, and subsequently took his own life in 2015, aged just 21, as a result of blackmail and persistent bullying. Earlier this year, the Conservative party were accused of ­withholding evidence from police about the death of the young party activist who said he was systematically bullied. Others have since come forward – a further 13 alleged victims of Mark Clarke came forward, the so-called “Tatler Tory,” over a 20-month period, and allegations included six accusations of “sexually inappropriate behaviour”.

Clarke, who was appointed by the party to run its RoadTrip2015 election campaign, came under heavy scrutiny after Elliott Johnson, a young Tory activist, took his own life in September 2015 and named Clarke as his tormentor in a suicide note.

Then there was the Tory MP who “faked” a death threat, accused of threatening to sack a member of staff if she took four weeks off work sick – as advised by her doctor. 

Telford MP Lucy Allan was accused of launching a “vicious” verbal attack on a female staff member who phoned in sick. Allan accused the alleged bullying victim Arianne Plumbly of having an “alcohol problem,” dismissing her claims to be ill as “pathetic”. In a recording of the telephone call handed to the Evening Standard,  Allan is heard telling the alleged bullying target Arianne Plumbly: “I’m not paying you for that then; it’s ridiculous” and told her she had “pissed around on my life”. 

The Nasty Party and dehumanising language

Rosemary Carroll, a Conservative councillor, shared a post about a man asking for benefits for his pet dog, making very offensive racist comparisons.

She was Mayor of Pendle until last month but was suspended from her party after the post appeared on her account, pending an inquiry.

The post

Only last week, a Tory Brexiteer described the UK leaving the EU without a deal as a “real n****r in the woodpile” at a meeting of eurosceptics in Central London. 

Anne Marie Morris, MP for Newton Abbot since 2010, made the astonishing remark while discussing what financial services deal the UK could strike with Brussels after 2019.

The phrase she used is from the nineteenth Century, and refers to slavery. It is thought the phrase arose in reference to instances of the concealment of fugitive slaves in their flight north under piles of firewood.

The origin of the phrase is from the practice of transporting pulpwood on special railroad cars. In the era of slavery, the pulpwood cars were built with an outer frame with the wood being stacked inside in rows and stacks. Given the nature of the cars, it was possible to smuggle persons in the pile itself, giving rise to the phrase.  

In July 2008, the leader of the British Conservative Party, David Cameron, was urged to sack Conservative peer Lord Dixon-Smith, who said in the House of Lords that concerns about government housing legislation were “the n***er in the woodpile”. Dixon-Smith said the phrase had “slipped out without my thinking”, and that “It was common parlance when I was younger”. 

Despite using the racist term, none of Morris’s fellow panelists, including Tory MPs Bill Cash and John Redwood, reacted at the time. 

Racism isn’t the only traditional Conservative prejudice. Who could forget David Freud’s offensive comments, made when he was a Conservative Welfare Reform Minister, that some disabled people are not worth the full national minimum wage”  and that some “could only be paid £2 an hour.” Cameron claimed the disgraceful comments made by Lord Freud at the Tory conference do not represent the views of government. 

However, his government’s punitive austerity measures and the welfare “reforms” tell us a very different story. The comments came to light after they were disclosed by Ed Miliband during Prime Minister’s Questions

Freud’s comments are simply a reflection of a wider implicit and fundamental Social Darwinism underpinning Tory ideology, and even Tim Montgomerie, who founded the Conservative­Home site has conceded that: “Conservative rhetoric often borders on social Darwinism […] and has lost a sense of social justice.”  

David Freud was made to apologise for simply being a Tory in public. The Conservatives have systematically blamed poor people for their poverty rather than acknowledge that poverty arises as a consequence of political decision-making and policies that financially penalise the poorest while handing out rewards to the wealthiest

Conservative policies are not only entirely ideologically-driven, they reflect traditional Tory prejudices. We have a government that uses words like workshy to describe marginalised social groups. This is a government that is intentionally scapegoating poor people, unemployed people, disabled people, asylum seekers and migrants. If that isn’t bullying and abuse, I don’t know what is.

One Tory councillor, Alan Mellins – called for the “extermination of gypsies”, more than one Tory MP has called for illegal and discriminatory levels of pay for disabled people. Philip Davies has also said that the national minimum wage is “more a hindrance than a help” for disabled people, and proposed that we are paid less. A Conservative deputy mayor – retired GP, Owen Lister –  said, unforgivably, that the “best thing for disabled children is the guillotine.”

Let’s not forget Boris Johnson’s grossly racist comments describing black people as “piccaninnies” with “watermelon smiles” in the Telegraph in 2002. He only apologised when he first ran for London mayor in 2008.

And Cabinet minister Oliver Letwin also escaped disciplinary action after it was revealed that he had said black people have “bad moral attitudes” when he was a top adviser to Thatcher. He actually said that any government schemes to help black people would be wasted in “the disco and drugs trade.” 

In August, 201, Dover Conservative councillor Bob Frost describes rioters as “jungle bunnies.” He lost his teaching job but the Tories suspended him for just two months. In 2014, he referred to the prospective Middle Eastern buyers of Dover port as “sons of camel drivers.” No action was taken.

In January 2013, Enfield Conservative councillor Chris Joannides compared Muslim children to black bin bags in a Facebook post. In April 2014, Barnet councillor Tom Davey complained online about “benefit claiming scum”, and said that it might be easier to find a job if he were “a black female wheelchair-bound amputee who is sexually attracted to other women.” He was not disciplined by the party.  

These are NOT “slips”, it’s patently clear that the Tories believe these comments are acceptable, just as long as they aren’t made in public. We need only look at the discriminatory nature of policies such as the legal aid bill, the wider welfare “reforms”, the cuts aimed at disabled people s support and services – which were unthinkable before 2010 – and tresearch the consequences of austerity for the most vulnerable citizens, those with the “least broad shoulders” and the least to lose – to understand that these comments reflect accurately how Conservatives actually think

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That any of this is considered acceptable behaviour by a government – who serve as public role models – is an indication of just how far our society has regressed in terms of human rights and our democratic ideals of equality and diversity. This is a government that has purposefully seeded and permitted social prejudice in order to gain support and power. 

The Tory creation of socioeconomic scapegoats, involving vicious stigmatisation of vulnerable and protected social groups, particularly endorsed by the mainstream media, is simply a means of de-empathising the population, manipulating public perceptions and securing public acceptance of the increasingly punitive and repressive basis of the Tories’ crass neoliberal welfare “reforms”, and the steady stripping away of essential state support and provision, for the public, which the public have paid for via taxes and national insurance.

At the same time that austerity was imposed on the poorest citizens, the millionaires were awarded a £107,000 each per year tax cut. It seems only some of us have to “live within our means”. 

The political construction of social problems also marks an era of increasing state control of citizens with behaviour modification techniques, (under the guise of paternalistic libertarianism and behavioural economic theories), all of which are a part of the process of restricting access rights to welfare provision. Discriminatory political practices and rhetoric send out a message to the public, and that permits wider prejudice, hate speech, hate crime and discrimination.

The mainstream media has been complicit in the process of  constructing deviant welfare stereotypes, folk devils and in engaging prejudice and generating moral outrage from the public. 

The growing inequalities we are witnessing in western neoliberal “democracies” create profound psychological trauma, hermetic material and ontological insecurity. Humans are fundamentally social beings. We thrive best when we have a social rationale which tends towards the promotion of cooperative and collective creativity. This was perhaps expressed best in our civilised, progressive institutions and civilising practices, facilitated by the social gains and economic organisation that arose from the post-war settlement.  

Those gains are now being systematically dismantled. Our culture has been saturated with conceptual schema that demand we remain committed to a socioeconomic Darwinism, a kind of economic enclosure: a neoliberal competitive individualist obsession with our private, inner experiences, the pursuit of economic self-interest, and ultimately, this embellishes our separability from other human beings. It alienates us. 

Neoliberalism scripts social interactions that are founded on indifference to others, tending to be dehumanising, adversarialand hierarchical in nature, rather than social and cooperative. Neoliberalism is the antithesis of the responsive, animated human face; of collectivism, mutual support, universalism, cooperation and democracy. Neoliberalism has transformed our former liberal democracy into an authoritarian “still faced” state that values production, competition and profit above all else; including citizens’ lives, experiences, freedoms, wellbeing, democratic inclusion and social conditions that support all of this. 

Neoliberal socioeconomic organisation has perpetuated hierarchies of human worth, and pitched social groups against one another in a fight for resources.

I condemn all abuse, be it from the left or right of the political spectrum.

However, it’s time the government took some lessons in the ethical use of power and influence, democratic inclusion and accountability.

pie-wealth

The still face paradigm, the just world fallacy, inequality and the decline of empathy

Ken Loach Criticises BBC’s “Disgusting” Political Bias Ahead of U.K. Election

More allegations of Tory election fraud, now we need to talk about democracy

MPs speak out about ‘sinister’ election abuse

Death threats and daily hate: MPs recall abuse they have received

Not one day more: Tory councillor suspended for sneering racism and vindictive Tory anti-welfarism

Some of the lies politicians and the media have told about Jeremy Corbyn 

Tory attack ad misrepresents Corbyn views on IRA

A couple more lies that politicians and the media have told about Jeremy Corbyn – editing someone’s character is abusive

From the Zinoviev letter to the Labour party coup – the real enemy within

Conservatives, cruelty and the collective unconscious

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work and I am not funded. I am disabled because of illness and struggle to get by. But you can help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others, by making a donation. The smallest amount is much appreciated – thank you.

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How bullying works: projection and scapegoating.

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Very few people, when put to the test, have the integrity and moral courage to stand up against bullying, harassment, abuse, threats and corruption. The targets of adult bullying are selected often because they DO have the moral courage to challenge; many people will pass by on the other side.

A target of adult bullying is most often chosen because of their strength, not their weakness. Research shows that targets of bullying tend to have highly developed empathy, and sensitivity for others, a high degree of perceptiveness, high moral values, a well-developed integrity, a strong sense of fair play and reasonableness, a low propensity to violence, a reluctance to pursue grievance, disciplinary or legal action, a strong forgiving streak and a mature understanding of the need to resolve conflict with dialogue. Often, targets of bullying are independent, self-reliant and “different” in some way. Weak people often disingenuously confuse these hallmarks of character with weakness.

Bullies aim to inflict psychological injury more often than physical injury. Their main aim is to control, discredit, isolate and eliminate their target.

The word “victim” also allows disingenuous people to tap into and stimulate other people’s misconceptions and prejudices of victimhood which include the inference that the person was somehow complicit in the abuse. (See just-world fallacy and victim-blame narrative). So I use the word “target”, which is also accurate because bullying involves the intentional singling out of a person for abuse.

Bullies, who have no integrity, are vindictive, aggressive, demanding, and regularly violate others’ boundaries; displaying aggression does not respect peoples’ rights, and a bully’s “requests” come with a negative consequence if the course of action demanded by the bully is declined. A bully’s bad behaviour is entirely his or her responsibility, they intend to cause their targets harm, to undermine them and damage them socially, emotionally, psychologically and sometimes, physically. And they often do.

Bullies typically isolate and dehumanise their targets in order to disempower them. It’s a key tactic of control used by all abusers, it can be particularly injuring, emotionally.

The major triggers for bullying come from the bully’s own sense of inadequacy, according to research. Feeling envious and threatened by others with competence, integrity and popularity, the bully will project onto them their own inadequacy and incompetence, and often the bully will use their own behaviours and thoughts, attributing them to their target, to rally support for their “cause”. The inadequacy or envy of a bully is often translated into negative language used intentionally to completely diminish the target’s positive qualities, socially.

Using unwarranted criticism and threats, the bully tries to control their target and subjugate them, without a thought for that persons’ contributions, reputation, well-being, health or self confidence. Sooner or later this person – the bully’s target – realises that they are not only being “managed” but bullied, and they will start to show signs of resistance to that. Often, anything said in the target’s self-defence will be distorted and used by the bully, too. Gaslighting involves attempts to either negate or redefine a target’s experiences, and abusers often use this method.

The bully often fears exposure of his/her own incompetence and inadequacy, and takes steps to disable the the target, typically by isolating them and/or destroying their credibility and reputation among peers and decision-makers, putting them out of the picture in the workplace through dismissal, forced resignation or even early retirement. Once the target has gone, within about two weeks, the bully’s focus turns to someone else and the cycle starts again.

Some people enjoy the sense of power and control that bullying others gives them.  

Online bullies aim to isolate the target, destroy their credibility and force them out of established communities and groups.

When faced with a bully, your only responsibility is to protect yourself from the emotional, social and/or physical harm that the bully intends to cause you.

I’ve noticed an increase in online bullying, which some of my friends are experiencing, too. That is what prompted this article. It’s a myth that only vulnerable and weak people are targeted by bullies. Most often it is strong people – articulate and decent people who think independently, who have conviction in their beliefs, who are intelligent, cogent and coherent and strong-minded – that are targeted, as they are most often perceived as a threat because their qualities tend to inadvertently highlight the inadequacies of bullies. 

Vulnerable people and bystanders are, however, often manipulated and sucked into the bullies’ strategies. Bullies are more likely to stop if their audience shows disapproval, but most bystanders are reluctant to do so, studies show, for a variety of reasons. Bullies rely on bystander apathy and this often leads to the target feeling a further sense of isolation.

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Much of the bullying I have witnessed recently has been entirely political, with articulate and conscientious activists being targeted for very personal attacks, discrediting, smear campaigns and trolling. I see that those who are particularly adept at debate and providing well-evidenced, well-reasoned responses, posts and comments tend to get the attention of bullies and trolls, who are most often supporters of either right-wing or occasionally, minor and “alternative” left wing political parties that frequently employ negative campaigning and lies to try to gain credibility.

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Bullying is a form of scapegoating and projection. We know that scapegoating is a hostile socio-psychological discrediting operation in which people move blame and responsibility away from themselves and towards a target person or group. It is also a practice were angry feelings and inappropriate accusation are placed on others. Quite understandably, the target feels persecuted and receives misplaced vilification, blame and criticism; and the victim is likely to suffer rejection from those who the perpetrator seeks to influence and again, an increasing feeling of isolation. We live in a society where bullying has become increasingly acceptable, and certainly, as form of doing politics.

A major contributing factor to this increase in bullying is the collective behaviours of the current government, which has perpetuated, permitted and endorsed prejudices against marginalised social groups, such as disabled and unemployed people, with a complicit media amplifying these prejudices. Their policies embed a punitive approach towards the poorest social groups. This in turn means that those adminstering the policies, such as staff at the Department for work and pensions and job centres, for example, are also bound by punitive, authoritarian behaviours directed at a targeted group.

As authority figures and role models, their behaviour establishes a framework of acceptability. Parliamentary debates are conducted with a clear basis of one-upmanship and aggression rather than being founded on rational exchange. Indeed, the prime minister sneers at rationality and does not engage in a democratic dialogue, instead he employs the tactics of a bully: denial, scapegoating, vilification, attempts at discrediting, smearing and character assassinations. This in turn gives wider society permission and approval to do the same.

Scapegoating has a wide range of focus: from “approved” enemies of very large groups of people down to the scapegoating of individuals by other individuals. The scapegoater’s target always experiences a terrible sense of being personally edited and re-written, with the inadequacies of the bully inserted into public accounts of their character, isolation, ostracism, exclusion and sometimes, expulsion and elimination. The sense of isolation is often heightened by other people’s reluctance to become involved in challenging bullies, usually because of a bystander’s own discomfort and fear of reprisal.

Bullies don’t like to have their lies exposed. That’s not to say that all supporters of those minority parties are bullies: they’re not. On a personal level, despite the fact that most of my political criticism in debate and on my site has been directed at the Conservatives (evident on this site, for example, which is actually identified as a Human Rights site) most of the bullying I have personally encountered this past twelve months has been from a small group of Green Party members, curiously. 

This is possibly because the Green Party regard the Labour Party as their “enemy” in elections – in that they compete for supporters with similar values – rather than the Conservatives, and therefore spend a lot of time vilifying Labour. This has fuelled some grassroot Green supporters in attacks on key Labour supporters, particularly the ones who are adept at challenging lies and point out the Green Party’s negative campaigning and electioneering strategies.

I’m an anarchist, but have decided to vote Labour, because the alternative – 5 more years of such a destructive and authoritarian Conservative government – is untenable. People are dying because of Tory policies. I can’t in good conscience turn away from that and pretend it isn’t happening. I’ve been quite vocal about this on social media and on this site. 

I was also targeted by “Tommy Robinson” (real name is Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon), the ex-leader of far-right English Defence League (EDL). He used my account details on Twitter and Facebook, designed and shared a malicious meme, claiming I had made comments that I hadn’t, and invited people to “let her know what you think of her”. I had hundreds of messages that included death and rape threats from the far-right, and one threat from Combat 18. I involved the police, but Robinson claimed several people had access to his account, and denied any knowledge of the meme. It was shared in and among groups like the National Front, Britain First, some UKIP groups, and even a couple of Tory councillors reposted it.

My sin? He was harassing me on Twitter, wouldn’t engage in reasonable debate, he was quite abusive and I told him to do one and leave me be. He didn’t like that. 

Bullying becomes obvious when you scrutinise who is actually doing the attacking on a personal level. Debate and political criticism are one thing: personal commentaries, character assassinations, attacks, threats, abuse and harassment are bullying. I have seen that quite often, bullying tactics include manipulating people’s perceptions to portray themselves as the injured party, with their target being the villain. However, again, scrutiny of who is actually instigating and doing the personal attacking will reveal the real bully or bullies.

Bullies show a complete lack of remorse for the damage they are intending to inflict on their target.Victim-blame narratives aside, it’s never wise to ignore bullying; bullies use provocation to elicit a response from their target and if you ignore it the provocation will simply get worse. That is the nature of bullying. Ignoring a bully actually gives him/her permission to continue bullying. Ignoring a bully sends the signal that it is acceptable to bully that person.

Furthermore, ignoring a bully tells bystanders that is acceptable to bully that person and inevitably, this becomes embedded in our culture. It’s worth looking at Gordon Allport’s Ladder of Prejudice to see exactly how that process works. If a bully’s audience or peers show disapproval and don’t become complicit, the bully will be discouraged from continuing their abuse. The biggest fear a bully has is that of being exposed for what they really are.

Bullies project their inadequacies, shortcomings, behaviours, anger and spite on to other people to distract and divert attention away from themselves and their own inadequacies and to avoid facing up to the same scrutiny. The vehicle for projection is blame, criticism and allegation. Once a target realises this, they can take comfort from the fact that every time they are blamed, criticised or subjected to another specious allegation by the bully, the bully is implicitly admitting or revealing something about themselves. Not that it is much of a comfort.

A target’s awareness of projection can help them translate whatever they are being accused of into an awareness of the bully’s own misdemeanours. Again, the bully may be identified by the fact that they are the ones loudly criticising and attempting to discredit the target, rather than there being any evidence of the converse.

Vilifying the target is the most frequently used as a gaslighting tactic in bullying. This  is a powerful means of putting the victim on the defensive while simultaneously masking the aggressive intent of the manipulator, the bully then falsely accuses the victim of being an abuser in response when the victim stands up for or defends themselves or their position.

Nobody’s behaviour is perfect, and many balanced, well-intentioned people will at some time unjustifiably or inadvertently upset others. When this is drawn to their attention, they are usually horrified and will do what they can to make amends and ensure it isn’t repeated. That’s what reasonable and mature people do.

Serial bullies, on the other hand, do not want to know about the negative effects of their behaviour. Denial, retaliation and feigning victimhood are some of the ways that bullies express their antipathy for anyone who is able to describe their behaviour, see through their mask of normality or help others to do the same.

Here are some recognisable bullying traits and tactics, designed to damage, isolate, discredit and eliminate the target:

  • bullies are adept at exploiting the trust and needs of individuals, organisations and groups, for personal gain.
  • bullies react to criticism with denial, retaliation, feigned victimhood.
  • the bully grooms bystanders, and the target, to believe the target deserves the treatment they are receiving and attempts to limit contact between others and their target. Often the bully will use communications that exclude the target so that there is no opportunity for them to defend themselves and present their truth.
  • the bystanders see only the Dr Jekyll side of the bully, but only the target sees the Mr/Ms Hyde side; Dr Jekyll is sweet, manipulative and charming, Mr/Ms Hyde is evil; Mr/Ms Hyde is the real person, Dr Jekyll is an act.
  • bullies exert power and control by a combination of selectively withholding information and spreading lies and disinformation, therefore everyone has a distorted picture – of only what the bully wants them to see.
  • the target finds that in any response, everything they say and do is twisted, distorted and misrepresented.
  • bullies are adept at manipulating people’s perceptions with intent to engender a negative view of the target in the minds of others – this is achieved through undermining and discrediting, including the creation of doubts and suspicions and the sharing of lies.
  • bullies use other people to further the aim of discrediting their target, creating a false impression of consensus.
  • bullies poison the atmosphere and actively poison people’s minds against the target when close to being outwitted and exposed, the bully feigns victimhood and turns the focus on themselves as previously stated – another example of manipulating people through their emotions such as guilt, sympathy, feeling sorry for the bully. Many bystanders are hoodwinked by the bully’s ruses for abdicating responsibility and evading accountability, they may say, for example: “that’s all in the past”, “let’s focus on the future” , “you need to make a fresh start”, and “forgive and forget”, “you’ve got to move on”, “sticks and stones” and so on.
  •  bystanders often feel cognitive dissonance and usually minimise their discomfort by reasoning to avoid any responsibility, it usually goes this way because they themselves don’t want to become targets. They may say things like: “just ignore them”, “stand up to them” , “I’ve personally  never had any problems with him/her”, “Oh I never get involved in personal differences” and so on. Even worse, they may imply that you did something wrong to “attract” the bullying.
  • the bully encourages and manipulates as many bystanders as possible to lie, act dishonorably and dishonestly, withhold information and spread lies and misinformation, the bully manipulates bystanders to punish the target for alleged infractions, so the bystanders also become instruments of harassment.
  • some people gain gratification (a perverse feeling of satisfaction) from seeing others in distress and thus become complicit in the bullying and a few people think that bullying is funny.
  • some observers regard behavioural responses that are reasonable and civilised as a sign of weakness rather than maturity. Many seem to lack critical thinking skills and analytical abilities and so cannot see through the facade or the bully’s mask of deceit. Even when it is obvious, sometimes. There’s very often an element of not wanting to see, too. Other people fear becoming targets themselves, and so “go along to get along.” Complicity because of fear of reprisals.
  • bullies are extremely vindictive and will do everything in their power to damage and destroy anyone who can see through their mask of deceit. In very rare cases you may receive information from a bystander who wants to help but is afraid to do so publicly for fear of retribution – and fear of becoming the next target.
  • apathy and indifference to the distress of others are widespread. The bully relies on this.

“Bullying is a compulsive need to displace aggression and is achieved by the expression of inadequacy (social, personal, interpersonal, behavioural, professional) by projection of that inadequacy onto others through control and subjugation (criticism, exclusion, isolation etc). Bullying is sustained by abdication of responsibility (denial, counter-accusation, pretence of victimhood) and perpetuated by a climate of fear, ignorance, indifference, silence, denial, disbelief, deception, evasion of accountability, tolerance and reward (eg promotion) for the bully.”
Tim Field, 1999

The Law and Cyber-bullying:

As cyber-bullying is a relatively new phenomenon, the UK courts are still trying to catch up with it and sentence offenders effectively. Though no laws specifically apply to cyber-bullying alone, there are several laws which can be applied in cyber-bullying cases:

  • Protection from Harassment Act 1997
  • Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994
  • Malicious Communications Act 1988
  • Communications Act 2003
  • Breach of the Peace (Scotland)
  • Defamation Act 2013

In 2012 The Crown Prosecution Service published guidelines on how cyber-bullying cases would be assessed against current laws, which you can find here.

On January 1st 2014 the Defamation Act 2013 came into order, and can be read here.

Examples of bullying:

What a bully might say when held to account

One day in the life of a blogger.

Someone elses’ perspective: A few words about respect and: One day in the life of a blogger – kittysjones. It’s worth reading the comments thread on these articles by Mike Sivier, too.

Related

Interesting article on the empath, apath (bystander) and sociopath triangle: it’s a useful model of analysis for those who have experienced abuse and wondered: why me? –EMPATHIC PEOPLE ARE NATURAL TARGETS FOR SOCIOPATHS – PROTECT YOURSELF
psychopathy101: Projection Beware of individuals spreading rumors about others behind their back, psychopaths are cowards, know that they are telling lies, enjoy hurting others and very afraid of being found out of who they really are, thus everything takes place in the “shadows”/behind the “targets” back.   To remember; the “bully” is telling everyone about him/herself  (thoughts and actions) what he/she has done, is doing or is about to do.”

Introduction to the Serial Bully “Perhaps the most easily recognisable Serial Bully traits are:

  • Jekyll and Hyde nature – Dr Jekyll is “charming” and “charismatic”; “Hyde” is “evil”;
  • Exploits the trust and needs of organisations and individuals, for personal gain;
  • Convincing liar – Makes up anything to fit their needs at that moment;
  • Damages the health and reputations of organisations and individuals;
  • Reacts to criticism with Denial, Retaliation, Feigned Victimhood;
  • Blames victims/targets;
  • Moves to a new target when the present one burns out.

What is a Bully “Projection behaviour and denial are hallmarks of the serial bully. It is believed by some that bullying is present behind all forms of harassment, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, persecution, conflict and violence.

What bullies fear most is exposure and being called publicly to account for their behaviour so they can go to great lengths to keep their target (victim) quiet from misdirection when it is reported to using threats of disciplinary action, dismissal, gagging clauses and fear.

Despite the façade that such people put up, bullies have another side to them. What complicates matters is that the  bully may not be aware or acknowledge to themselves they very often suffer from one or more of the following:

# Envy# Jealousy# Low self-confidence# Low self-esteem# Feel insecure# Seething with resentment# Bitterness# Hatred# Anger# Inadequacy# And may have a wide range of prejudices as a vehicle for dumping anger onto others.”

About the impact of abusive language: Sticks and stones: abusive labels, self concept – when words become weapons

Further information:

Bullying can cause injury to health and make people ill, with some or all of the symptoms below. Many, if not all of these symptoms are consequences of the high levels of stress and anxiety that bullying creates:

  • shattered self-confidence, low self-worth, low self-esteem
  • reactive depression, lethargy, hopelessness, anger, futility and more
  • hypersensitivity, fragility, isolation, withdrawal
  • obsession, not being able to stop thinking about the experience in all its detail
  • hypervigilance (feels like but is not paranoia), being constantly on edge
  • uncharacteristic irritability and angry outbursts
  • tearfulness, bursting into tears regularly and over trivial things
  • sweating, trembling, shaking, palpitations, panic attacks
  • bad or intermittently-functioning memory, forgetfulness, especially with trivial day-to-day things
  • poor concentration, can’t focus on anything for long
  • skin problems such as eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, ulcers, shingles, urticaria if prone to them
  • irritable bowel syndrome
  • flashbacks and replays, obsessiveness, can’t get the bullying out of your mind
  • tiredness, exhaustion, constant fatigue sleeplessness, nightmares, waking early, waking up more tired than when you went to bed
  • headaches and migraines
  • frequent illness such as viral infections especially flu and glandular fever, colds, coughs, chest, ear, nose and throat infections (stress may play havoc with the immune system.)
  • suicidal thoughts, self-harm.

For the symptoms of injury to health caused by prolonged stress (such as that caused by bullying, harassment, abuse etc) click here. For details of the trauma that can result, click here.

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Related

Conservatives, cruelty and the collective unconscious

 


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Sticks and stones: abusive labels, self concept – when words become weapons

The socio-political perspective.

My friend Harry Ottley once told me, many years ago, that I could kill a man with words. It was at a time when I was struggling to come to terms with a series of horrible events. Recovering from trauma takes time and for a while, I wasn’t myself. I didn’t want any company at the time, and Harry, who simply wanted to offer support, found me somewhat antisocial and blunt.

We can heal, though. It takes time, a lot of soul-searching, it’s often a very painful process and there are no short cuts. One of the reasons I decided to study psychology and sociology was my abiding interest in how we are immersed in each other: we exist, connect, shape and are shaped in a social context: in an inter-subjective realm, our behaviours affect each other, often profoundly.

Language, narratives, ideologies, norms and all of the mechanisms we draw on to make sense of and to navigate the universe can stifle us, damage and repress us, but may also transform and liberate us.

Harry is right. What we say to each other matters very much.

The range of what we say and think and do is limited by what we don’t notice. And because we fail to notice that we fail to notice, there is little we can do to change; until we notice how failing to notice shapes our thoughts and deeds

Some people often use the “freedom of speech” plea to justify their prejudice. They say they have a right to express their thoughts. But speech is an intentional ACT. Hate speech is intended to do harm – it’s used purposefully to intimidate and exclude vulnerable groups. Hate speech does not “democratise” speech, it tends to monopolise it. Nor is it  based on reason, critical thinking or open to debate. Bigotry is a crass parody of opinion and free speech. Bigots are conformists – they tend not to have independent thought. Prejudice thrives on Groupthink.

Being inequitable, petty or prejudiced isn’t “telling it like it is” – a claim which is an increasingly common tactic for the right, and particularly UKIP – it’s just being inequitable, petty or prejudiced.  And some things are not worth saying. Really. We may well have an equal right to express an opinion, but not all opinions are of equal worth.

And the right-wing do frequently dally with hate speech. Hate speech generally is any speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of their race, religion, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. Critics have argued that the term “hate speech” is a contemporary example of Newspeak, used to silence critics of social policies that have been poorly implemented in order to appear politically correct.

This term was adopted by US conservatives as a pejorative term for all manner of attempts to promote multiculturalism and identity politics, particularly, attempts to introduce new terms that sought to leave behind discriminatory baggage attached to older ones, and conversely, to try to make older ones taboo.

“Political correctness” arose originally from attempts at making language more culturally inclusive. Critics of political correctness show a curious blindness when it comes to examples of “conservative correctness.” Most often, the case is entirely ignored, or censorship of the Left is justified as a positive virtue.Perhaps the key argument supporting this form of linguistic and conceptual inclusion is that we still need it, unfortunately. We have a right-wing Logocracy, creating pseudo-reality by prejudicial narratives and words. We are witnessing that narrative being embedded in extremely oppressive policies and in their justification.

The negative impacts of hate speech cannot be mitigated by the responses of third-party observers, as hate speech aims at two goals. Firstly, it is an attempt to tell bigots that they are not alone. It validates and reinforces prejudice.

The second purpose of hate speech is to intimidate a targeted minority, leading them to question whether their dignity and social status is secure. In many cases, such intimidation is successful. Furthermore, hate speech is a gateway to harassment and violence. (See Allport’s scale of prejudice, which shows clearly how the Nazis used “freedom of speech” to incite hatred and then to incite genocide.) As Allport’s scale indicates, hate speech and incitement to genocide start from often subtle expressions of prejudice.

The dignity, worth and equality of every individual is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equality of all human beings. Article 20(2) of the ICCPR requires states to prohibit hate speech. Hate speech is prohibited by international and national laws, not because it is offensive, but rather, because it amounts to the intentional degradation and repression of groups that have been historically oppressed.

The most effective way to diffuse prejudice is an early preventative approach via dialogue: positive parenting, education and debate. Our schools, media and public figures have a vital part to play in positive role-modelling, like parents, in challenging bigotry, encouraging social solidarity, respect for diversity and in helping to promote understanding and empathy with others.

Hate speech categories are NOT about “disagreement” or even offence. Hate speech doesn’t invite debate. It’s about using speech to intentionally oppress others. It escalates when permitted, into harassment and violence. We learn this from history, and formulated human rights as a consequence.

UKIP would have us unlearn the lessons of the Holocaust so that people can say “I’m not being racist, but…” or “It’s not wrong to say immigrants should be sent home…” and so on.

Wittgenstein once said: “The limits of my language are the limits of my  world.”

Words are powerful. As well as describing, signifying, explaining, persuading, interpreting, obscuring, deceiving and so on, they may also issue commands and instructions. We “spell” words. Spelling may also be described as “words or a formula purported to have magickal powers.” Words act upon others and elicit responses.

Yes, they may profoundly impact on others. With words, both spoken and unspoken, we can shape and re-shape the universe. We shape and transform each other. We can create. Einstein changed the meaning of the word “mass” and transformed Newton’s universe of structures to his own – one of events. It’s a different universe.

We can oppress or liberate with a few intentional words. The choice is ours.

The psychological perspective

“Every relationship. . . implies a definition of self by others and other by self. . . A person’s ‘own’ identity can never be completely abstracted from his identity-for-others.” From Self and Others – R D Laing.

The human mind is social. Through a process of symbolic interactions, beginning as children, humans begin to define themselves meaningfully within the context of their socialisations.

The looking-glass self is a social psychological concept, first mentioned in Human Nature and the Social Order by Charles Cooley in 1902. It’s basis is that a person’s sense of self-hood arises from social, interpersonal interactions and the perceptions of others. We internalise those interactions. The term refers to how people shape their self-concepts based on their understanding of how others perceive them.

People tend to conform to how they think others think them to be,  especially children, since they don’t have the necessary experiences and inner resources to reject labels, and it’s difficult, or arguably impossible, to act differently from how a person thinks he or she is perpetually perceived. Individuals use language and thought as the basis of their self concept.

Cooley said: “The thing that moves us to pride or shame is not the mere mechanical reflection of ourselves, but an imputed sentiment, the imagined effect of this reflection upon another’s mind.”

Self-fulfilling prophecy is the behavioural confirmation effect, in which behaviour, influenced by expectations, causes those expectations to come true. People react, not only to the situations they are in, but also, and often primarily, to the way they perceive the situations and to the meaning they ascribe to their perceptions.

Sociologists often use the Pygmalion effect, interchangeably with self-fulfilling prophecy, and the effect is most often cited with regard to educational under-attainment, social class, race.

“When teachers expect students to do well and show intellectual growth, they do; when teachers do not have such expectations, performance and growth are not so encouraged and may in fact be discouraged in a variety of ways. How we believe the world is and what we honestly think it can become have powerful effects on how things will turn out.”  James Rhem, executive editor for the online National Teaching and Learning Forum.

In the context of race, gender and class, negative labelling is often associated with  socio-political control mechanisms and prejudice. Stereotypes and labels estrange us from our authentic possibilities. The attributions and labels that people exchange on a symbolic level, also have the function of instruction or injunction, this function may be denied,  giving rise to one type of “mystification”, rather like hypnotic suggestion.

“Pain in this life is not avoidable, but the pain we create avoiding [our own] pain is avoidable.” Ronnie D Laing.

It’s almost impossible for individuals – especially children – to avoid experiencing changes to their psyche and  subsequent actions following repeated emotional abuse (and physical abuse, psychological violence is so very often a precursor to physical violence).

Research consistently shows that children subjected to verbal aggression, may exhibit a range of serious disorders, including chronic depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, dissociation and anger. Words Can Be Weapons is a powerful multimedia campaign based in China that illustrates how words may be turned into weapons, to illustrate that what we say can hurt and damage others, very literally.

The number of crimes committed by juveniles has doubled in China, and the Centre For Psychological Research in Shenyang says its studies link juvenile crime to childhood emotional abuse – a taboo subject in China. The centre partnered with the Beijing office of advertising agency Ogilvy and Mather. Six teenagers were interviewed in Shenyang Detention Centre about negative, hurtful statements their parents had said to them in the past, such as “moron” and “You’re a disgrace.” The video then transforms these words, powerfully, into replications of the actual weapons these young people later went on to use to commit crimes.

Juggi Ramakrishnan, Ogilvy and Mather’s executive creative director in Beijing, said, in a press release: “Verbal abuse of children is like setting off a time bomb. It explodes only much later, long after the original perpetrator has left the scene. And it is society that pays the price, as is evident from the rising rate of juvenile crime. We really needed to tell this ‘cycle-of-violence’ story in a way that will make people sit up and take notice.”

One young person begins his interview by saying:  “I guess my world must be a dark one… My mother would yell at me every day, often telling me to go away and die.”

When he heard these words again, this time from his manager, he lost his self-control and stabbed him. The campaign took the words that had haunted him his entire life, and turned them into a knife, like the one he had used in his assault.

The campaign, in the English language version of the video was published on YouTube in April but has only recently garnered the attention it deserves. It has all the content from the project, including full interviews with the young people who are residents in the Detention Centre, at: wordscanbeweapons.co

We know from extensive research that victims of emotional and psychological abuse may also become perpetrators, particularly if no support has been available for the victim. Though many do not.

Damaged self-esteem and psychological injury destabilises us, it may lead to learned, created and distorted or false behaviours as a defence against further psychic injury. Abusers distort our sense of self, lower our self-worth, disorder our emotional responses to others, destroy our faith in our own judgements, skew our perception of others, and erode our personal boundaries.

For children and young people especially, there’s a risk of victim or victimiser roles being normalised, because the experience of alternative  interactions is limited.

In psychology and sociology, internalisation is the process that involves the integration of attitudes, values, standards and the opinions of others into one’s own identity or sense of self.

Studies suggest that young people who have internalised a view of their self as “positive and good” tend to have a developmental trajectory toward pro-social behaviour, those with damaged selves are more likely struggle with the social rules, codes and norms of conduct, empathic affects to others, and adaptive behavioural strategies.

Our selves may be either authentic or false. False selves tend to be an adaptation to false realities.(As opposed to fake selves, which are contrived to manipulate others).

We live in times when the media constructs such false realities every day, with the UK government directing a scapegoating and vilification process which targets vulnerable groups, because of Tory traditional prejudices, in order to justify their ideological inclinations to dismantle the social gains of our post-war settlement, withdraw publicly funded state support for those in need. We have a conservative social order built upon bullying, abuse and coercion from the aristocratic top down: it’s a hierarchy of control and power. And the only authentic quality David Cameron has is his inauthenticity. He’s a typical public school bully, and his atrocious role-modeling gives others permission to bully.

As a consequence, everyday untenable situations arise for those least able to cope with them, because we internalise identity, and through a process of attribution, this currently involves political pretence, dishonesty, illusion, elusion, delusion, and media collusion. This is a government that has normalised abuse on every level, and the consequences of that inflicted psychic trauma will be with us for several generations to come.

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Gaslighting
is a form of  mental abuse in which false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity. Instances may range from simple denial by an abuser that previous abusive incidents ever occurred, to the staging of  events and using a narrative with the intention of disorienting the victim, and “invalidating” their experience. The UK government uses gaslighting techniques, by calling critics “scaremongers”, by claiming cuts to services and provisions are “reforms”, and that coercive welfare sanctions “support” people into work, or “make work pay”, especially given the largest fall in wages ever.

Pictures courtesy of  Robert Livingstone 

 


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How to deal with an Atos mole and cunningly fake, complex Messiahs.

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I’m an ordinary person who happens to be ill, and like many others, I also happen to have a few strong principles, a strong sense of fairness, justice and I am clear on what’s decent, right and wrong. I don’t want to be a leader of any kind, nor do I see myself as an “expert” on disability issues. I don’t believe we should be looking to individuals for answers, to speak for us, or to take responsibility for us. One size does not fit all: our individual challenges vary greatly, and so, therefore, will our individual solutions, and the level of support we may need.

So we need a broad variety of spokespersons to reflect a wide spectrum of needs within our community, and we ought to welcome such a pluralist approach and recognise our diversity as a great strength. Furthermore, much campaigning is about issues around social exclusion, we can only approach this effectively by making sure our own principles are inclusive.

Some campaigners are far from inclusive, however. My own experiences recently of online bullying and trolling have led me to conclude that some of the militant far left and some of the more nihilistic anarchists are as divisive and brutal as the right, and every bit as damaging to our unity, collective sense of purpose, and motivation.

Furthermore, some of these are people claiming to be “real socialists” but I’ve yet to witness any genuine cooperative spirit amongst them. The same group of bullies tried their utmost to have me excluded from campaign groups on Facebook, they gossip-monger with malicious relish, tell whopping lies (apparently I’m a “snout” for the establishment, I work for British Intelligence Services) and troll my own groups, all of this is ultimately because I happen to support the Labour Party.

Two of the groups of people concerned are part of well-known, large campaigning organisations, and these groups claim to support people who are disabled, and speak out for our collective rights. That should never be conditional or contingent on specific political affiliations. One of these groups is simply a front for the Scottish National Party. Their hostility and bullying behaviour towards Labour supporting disabled people has earned them some notoriety.

The group of rather hard line Narxists have no inclusive principles, they aren’t tolerant, nor do they acknowledge diversity; there is no acceptance of alternative views to their own, no open-mindedness, or willingness and capacity for debate, or critical thinking.

And since when was socialism hierarchical? Or about bullying, or being so exclusive? I’m seriously concerned that many people claiming to be “more socialist than you” fail to recognise fundamental socialist principles, such as cooperation, mutual aid, collectivism, tolerance, inclusion and solidarity.  And the absolute importance and necessity of democratic dialogue and exchange.

We ought to be suspicious and wary of those that try to isolate and alienate others. That is very divisive authoritarian behaviour, usually reserved for the far right and has got nothing to do with socialism. We have to BE the change we want to see. Practice what we are preaching, as it were.

Recently, many campaigners supported a man who claimed he was on hunger strike because of his bitter and degrading experience of Atos – one so many of us are all too familiar with. We were to find out over time, however, that he had another agenda, which was more about self-publicity, the promotion of rather unpleasant views founded on misogyny and homophobia (under the guise of “Christianity”) and a variety of other extremely right wing inclinations and views. I witnessed fellow campaigners bullied and abused online by this previously apparently meek and mild character.

Though I had recognised early on that he did not like to acknowledge the work of fellow activists, and he seemed just a tad ego-bound, I said nothing, and watched, bemused, as he was pushed to the forefront of disability campaigning for a while. When people like this let themselves down, they tend to pull a lot of others with them, unfortunately.

A lesson to be learned, perhaps, is that we need to be wary of people that are not inclusive in their approach to campaigning. This man struggled with including a whole social group – women. This character also declared that he hates “lefties”. He ran a bit of an exclusive club for a while.

He also employed very divisive tactics: he exercised some expertise in setting up campaigners to squabble and fight with fellow campaigners. That’s a skill that the Tories have shown excellence in, too. The man’s behaviour online showed early signs that ought to have informed us to proceed with care. Nonetheless he had a huge following for a while. Not that I would ever endorse withdrawing support regarding his experiences with Atos on the grounds of his political inclinations, but we should not tolerate divisive individuals manipulating others for personal gain.

As activists, we can each help inspire others to feel strong, to participate in leading themselves, to become interested and responsible enough to want to join in a community and mutually champion and promote positive changes, based on an outward-looking collectivism. There’s a lot of value in group work, reciprocity, mutual support and the principle of cooperation.

None of us are alone.

It really struck me recently that being disabled doesn’t in itself necessarily engender compassion for others, or empathy: we don’t come especially designed with a philanthropic outlook on life or with a ready-made awareness of the issues others face with their own disabilities. Nor of how to fight for equality, or transcend stigma and prejudice.

We each face a combination of unique challenges and solutions, which are not easily compared and many of our solutions will need to be individually tailored. However, we also face commonly experienced social barriers to equality because of specific legislation (or a lack of it), many of the same prejudices and the same social, economic and political processes.

We currently have very justified anxieties regarding the marked increase in disability hate crime that the Tory-led propaganda campaign has resulted in, many sick and disabled people have also stated that they feel harassed and bullied by the Department for Work and Pensions and Atos. Many in our community talk of the dread they feel when they see the brown Atos envelope containing the ESA50 form arrive through the letter box. The strain of constantly fighting for ESA entitlement and perpetually having to prove that we are a “deserving” and “genuine” sick and disabled person is clearly taking a toll on so many people’s health and wellbeing.

Many families of those who have died have said that the constant strain, anxiety and stress of this revolving door process has contributed significantly to their loved ones’ decline in health and subsequent death. The figures from the DWP, and the marked contrast between the ESA and IB death statistics certainly substantiate these claims. But every medical professional knows that stress exacerbates chronic illness.

FoI request to the Department for Work and Pensions showed that people having their claim for Employment Support Allowance (ESA) stopped, between October 2010 and November 2011, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ceasing, who were until recently claiming Incapacity Benefit, totalled 310. Between January and November 2011, those having their ESA claim ended, with a recorded date of death within six weeks of that claim ending totalled 10,600. 

Bearing in mind that those who were successfully migrated to ESA from IB were assessed and deemed unfit for work, (under a different assessment process, originally) one would expect that the death rates would be similar to those who have only ever claimed ESA. This is very clearly not the case.

The significant quantifiable increase in deaths over this period coincides with the Government’s almost totalitarian styled rapid-fire austerity legislation aimed at the marginalised groups –  the Welfare “Reforms”, which were hammered through parliament in the face of protest, horror, disbelief, fear and mass opposition. The Tories cited “financial privilege” to trample over opposition, and drown out the voices of protest. Those protesting and challenging this Bill notably included many from the House of Lords.

Few activists would disagree that this sets the stark context of our current struggle. We really don’t need struggles among ourselves as well.

Well, except for one activist, who says:

“I am tired of the way a minor [sic] of extremists who portray themselves as disability activists feel they can make libellous claims against ATOS without taking any accountability for their actions. They claim ATOS kills thousands of disabled people with no evidence, no formal investigation or logic. In fact, their lies are designed to cause panic and distress amongst real disabled people to the point they are pushed towards suicide, so the activists are in reality the killers.” Simon Stevens.

By “extremists”, this person is talking about the likes of me and Atos Miracles, who offer support and share information for sick and disabled people. The evidence of our “claim” comes from the Department for Work and Pensions – their own figures. Furthermore, we have demanded a formal investigation into the deaths, and so far the Government have refused, using arguments to justify that refusal which sound remarkably similar to the ones that this man is trotting out.

We need to ask ourselves why the Government won’t investigate the substantial increase of deaths of sick and disabled people, if this is all about “extremists” like us “scaremongering”. After all, you’d think they would welcome the opportunity to demonstrate any validity of their theory. Instead, the DWP are now refusing to release further information regarding the number of ESA-related deaths. I wonder why, anyone would think there is something to hide.

And “libellous claims”? More than 40 per cent of the reports carried out on disability benefit claimants by the back-to-work assessor Atos are flawed and unacceptable, according to an audit commissioned by the Government. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that the Atos contract was written by this Government, to include targets that direct the removal of benefit to sick and disable people, however. Atos are something of a facade, and the real problem is this Government’s policy and intention.

Following months of complaints about grossly unfair and nonchalantly slapdash decisions made by Atos, the Department for Work and Pensions  audited around 400 of the company’s written reports on disability claimants, grading them A to C. Of these, 41 per cent came back with a C, meaning they were unacceptable and did not meet the required standard. Looks like the Government are buck-passing, to me.

“If I was the government, I would not tolerate these obsessive paranoid fuelled [sic] attacks and simply exclude the abusers from the benefit system, same with those who attack ILF, because why should they tolerate people’s anti-social and destructive behaviour because they are disabled and society fears making them accountable as equal citizens. No other group would be tolerated but disabled extremists are celebrated by the media despite the harm they do to real disabled people.

It is time the government got a backbone and protected real disabled people from the extremists who abuse the system in their name.” Simon Stevens

So, anyone questioning or challenging the Government (and this campaigner, for that matter) isn’t a “real” disabled person, and “paranoid and extremist”? Actually I work with others to support many people who are not activists, but are sick and disabled. Many are suicidal and terrified long before they speak to us. Why do so many people need support in the first place?

Furthermore, it is common knowledge through our shared experiences of assessment, and from information that Atos whistle-blowers have furnished us with that every single question asked by Atos is designed to justify ending our claim for ESA and passing us as “fit for work.” That is what Atos are contracted to do by the Government. This is not a genuine medical assessment, but rather, an opportunity for the DWP to take away the financial support that we are entitled to.

The person I quoted is a self-appointed “disability consultant” and advisor to Atos. However, he has learned that there are consequences for his appalling treatment of other genuine disability campaigners. He will no longer be sponsored by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD) who had selected three disabled campaigners to attend this autumn’s Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative party conferences as part of a new scheme trialled last year by Leonard Cheshire Disability (LCD). Many of us wrote to LCD to complain because of this campaigner’s abusive and incredibly far-right comments to other disabled people.

This campaigner, who recently wrote an article for the Huffington Post praising Atos while conveniently forgetting to mention that he worked for them – has been dropped by the charity after we complained he was abusive to people with illness and disabilities. Quite properly so.

This man does not reflect the diverse range of needs within our community, nor was he elected or chosen to represent us. And as a spokesperson for Atos, he has nothing to say about the systematic removal of our lifeline benefits by this Company, or the consequences of that. Those are our very real collective experiences, and this man is trying to invalidate those experiences.

Many of his messages have been aimed at campaigners protesting at the Government’s welfare cuts and “reforms”, particularly those angry at the standard of the work capability assessments (WCAs) carried out by Atos Healthcare.

He told one activist: “Get off your computer, how dare you use a computer and claim [you are] unable to work you fake git”.

And he told another: “I can guess you are either fat, abused alcohol or drugs with your many illnesses”.

And another: “How the fuck can I represent bitter and twisted miserable sub humans like you? Proof you exist”.

He has also asked:

“Why do we bother educating disabled people?  So why do we not go a step further and use ATOS to assess people to see if they were worthy of an education if they will never be able to work? Using this logic, it means fair not to waste money educating people who will not benefit from it!”

He seems wilfully oblivious to the fact that Article 2 of the Protocols of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for the right not to be denied an education, regardless of anyone else’s toxic bigotry and prejudiced opinion on the matter. It’s also worth bearing in mind that equal opportunity principles and the core idea that we each have equal worth, regardless of ability, are fundamental to disability rights campaigning, and that there are laws in place that don’t permit the kind of spite and discrimination that he proposes, thankfully. Yet.

Education is not simply a vocational issue, either. There is no rule that says it has to be so.

This “campaigner” has been busy today emailing fellow campaigners who have challenged him and shamefully threatening them, he has claimed that when people are assessed by Atos he will ensure that their benefits are taken from them. This man is a deplorable bully.

I don’t think I have ever seen such an unlikely and dangerous “disability consultant”, or such a shamefully prejudiced mole …self-appointed “spokesperson” for disabled people. I don’t think this man represented any of the wide array of needs and interests of the disabled community whatsoever, nor did he understand the experiences of other ill and disabled people, clearly. He displayed a remarkable lack of empathy and compassion for others. In fact he is downright callous.

And there’s a thought: we have no way of knowing how many other people within our community are plants, shills, moles, agents provocateurs and so forth. That there ARE such damaging tactics to disrupt campaigns and fragment our movement is well-established.

Remember how Margaret Thatcher and her cabinet were desperate for victory against the miners? And prepared to go to any lengths. For the first time in a post-war national strike the police were openly used as a political weapon. Agents provocateurs and spies were deployed and the state benefits system used to try and starve the miners back.

Former Tory chancellor Nigel Lawson subsequently admitted that preparations for the strike were, “just like re-arming to face the threat of Hitler in the 1930s”. Evidence emerged – after the event – about the role of MI5, MI6, the CIA and ultra-right wingers like David Hart and Tim Bell, who advised Thatcher during the dispute.

The Tories used agents provocateurs following the Six Gagging Acts 1819, when “every meeting for radical reform is an overt act of treasonable conspiracy against the King and his Government”. They do have a lot of previous form.

The Act restricted the freedom of the legitimate press. Radical publications simply went “underground”.

The Tories historically fight dirty and have a history of devious tactics such as infiltrating the far left, to provoke and manufacture toxic divisions to fragment us and recently we have been witnessing such fragmentation within our community.

Anne Rae, chair of Greater Manchester Coalition of Disabled People, said that the campaigners challenging Government policies had become “pretty fragmented”, so there was a need for a national organisation with the “confidence and credibility to speak for disabled people with a strong voice”.

Rae is a former member of the Union of the Physically Impaired Against Segregation (UPIAS), which is often credited with giving birth to the social model of disability in the 1970s.

She said:

“There has got to be discussions about how we can form a national network, if not a national organisation, which has the confidence and credibility to speak for disabled people with a strong voice, because at the moment the voices against the Government are pretty fragmented. We need to have a recognisable voice.”

She also said that disabled people attacking the Government had to understand the need for a well-argued case against the oppression they were fighting against.

She said: “People will respect you if you have a reasoned, structured argument for what you are asking for.”

Rae said the disabled people’s movement had been weakened by funding cuts by local authorities, with the lack of “core funding” for disabled people’s organisations – rather than just project funding –  a “big problem”.

But she said she also believed that the Government had “head-hunted” people from the movement, who had then been forced to “water down their radical views”.

“My view is everybody who is funded by the Government is going to protect their continuity and you cannot bite the hand that feeds you.”

She said that no organisation would “stand by their radical principles” in such a situation, because they knew their funding would stop.

Rae was speaking to Disability News Service at an event held to debate the future of the social model, organised as part of Reclaiming Our Futures, a week of action led by Disabled People Against Cuts.

She also said she was “very suspicious” of the Government’s Office for Disability Issues, which she said was “giving the impression of supporting disabled people”  but was actually destroying people’s “radical mindset” and turning them into “effective speakers but empty speakers full of empty rhetoric”. (With thanks to John Pring, who spoke with Anna Rae.)

We do need to take care here, however, because not all campaigners can be described as “radical”, but that doesn’t make them “wrong” in any way. There’s a whole debate to be had, anyway, about the merits of amelioration versus revolution, about what is feasible, and about precisely how we may proceed with our attempts in making essential positive changes. We do have a political system and parliamentary processes that are simply not amenable to radicalism. Furthermore, we also have an authoritarian Government that does not tolerate even healthy debate and criticism, let alone revolutionary ideas.

There is certainly a need for some strategic thinking here to circumvent the Tory barriers to genuine political dialogue. Perhaps, therefore, one option we have when directly facing Government Ministers is to prioritise and take care assessing what is most likely to be a realistically achievable outcome. That approach doesn’t make a person unsympathetic to more radical aims at all, and the reality is that we need both approaches to fulfil what are essentially commonly shared ideals, aims and goals. We can endorse the credibility and value of both approaches within our community, because both are necessary, both have merit and ultimately share the same aim. We must do what we can do.

Again this is also about valuing inclusivity, pooling our resources and skills, valuing diversity, and about recognising the worth of every effort whilst being mindful of the Tories penchant for dirty tricks and manipulation.

These are extraordinary times. It’s truly incredible how circumstances may transform us. Three years ago the only articles I wrote were about philosophy, sociology, psychology and my various other interests. My own struggles were mostly about how to work, be there for my boys, care for my terminally poorly father, spend some quality time with him, and manage my illness, though I wasn’t as ill back then.

My father was a strong trade unionist, and staunch Labour supporter with an incredibly strong sense of social justice and fairness. In a way, I am glad he cannot see what is happening now to all of the civilised policies and supportive social structures people of his generation, and before him, fought so hard to establish, it would break his heart. He always did loathe the Tories, did my dad.

I used to use Facebook to talk psychology, philosophy, art, poetry and science, and to simply chat. Now it’s all about awareness-raising and sharing information about our dire situation here in the UK. We have an extremely corrupt and authoritarian Government, many are suffering extreme hardship, and many have died because of the imposed ideologically – driven austerity measures here in the UK.

I know I am not alone in that all of this has deeply affected me. Were I not sick and disabled, this would STILL affect me, because it is offensive to my own sense of decency, fairness and social justice. And I know that if one social group is persecuted, and is denied their rights, this affects US ALL. I am reminded once again of “First they came ”  by Martin Niemöller.

I’ve met some extraordinary people through our mutual struggle, though. Some bright beacons of strength and courage, both in real life, and on Facebook. And I don’t know about anyone else, but I have learned that resilience comes from finding the strength to face the despair of our circumstances.

My best satirical one-liners come from bitter responses, not that I’m particularly gifted that way, as others here are. The writing that I do springs from shock, indignation, anger, sorrow and pain – because of what is being done to my friends, to our people and OUR Country. I’m not a professional writer, (though I have had work published before,) but I do bear witness as best I can. As do so many others.

There are many of us doing what we can, when we can, in our own way. I respect and admire every one of you, and acknowledge your personal struggles in a bigger battle here.

Each contribution is equally valuable, precious, and I want to see people uniting more, supporting each other, and recognising the worth of each and every effort. That means putting aside those issues that have led to divisions amongst us, and weakened us in our opposition to this tyrannical Government of Bullingdon brats. Now is the time to be standing together, strong, not one for petty squabbles, interpersonal politics, or allowing others to create divisions.

So stop it.

Upwards and onwards. In unity, mutual respect, love and solidarity!

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Many thanks to our Robert Livingstone for his outstanding memes and art contributions

 


 

I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

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