Tag: Infrahumanisation

Eugenicist adviser leaves eugenicist government of ‘misfits and weirdos’

In 2016, I wrote a critique of a very controversial book called The Welfare Trait: How State Benefits Affect Personality, by Adam Perkins, a lecturer in neurobiology. He claimed that generous welfare states create an “employment–resistant personality profile”, and that social security is “warping the personality profile of the population”. This, he argued, is because children of claimants ‘inherit’ the personality trait. He also stated his concern that people with ‘desirable’ traits of ‘solid citizenship’ were having fewer children than those in receipt of welfare, a view threaded though other works he produced. 

The Adam Smith Institute had posted a gushing endorsement of the throwback eugenic text. However, the review was removed after Perkins’ book met a wall of criticism from many of us. Andy Fugard, for example, pointed out Perkins’ inappropriate and inept application of statistical techniques and flawed methodology more generally, and the misreporting of results.

I wrote more than one critical article about the essentialism, ideological bias and other issues raised in Perkins’ book.

Nothing is ever really removed from the internet, so I have updated my article with a hyperlink to an archived copy of the review. It was written by none other than Andrew Sabisky. His eugenic credentials were already archived, hidden in plain view, in 2016.

I’ve been writing critically about the re-emergence of eugenic beliefs in the UK for the last decade, and warning of the consequences. 

The current controversy around Sabisky

Sabisky

The prime minister came under increasing pressure to sack Sabisky, after it emerged he had said that young people from poor backgrounds should undergo compulsory contraception to prevent “a permanent underclass”. Sabisky isn’t the only government advisor who holds the eugenic belief, like Perkins, that selective breeding in human populations will promote ‘desirable’ characteristics. 

Sabisky has since resigned. But the government have so far refused to condemn his eugenic comments.

The controversial government ex-adviser also claimed that rich people are more intelligent than poor people. He told an interviewer: “Eugenics are about selecting ‘for’ good things.” Speaking to Schools Week in 2016, Sabiski also said: “Intelligence is largely inherited and correlates with better outcomes: physical health, income, lower mental illness.”

If that deterministic argument were true, the government would have no grounds for formulating policies to punish poor people for their ‘irresponsible choices’. Because people wouldn’t have any choices to make. Having enough money to meet your fundamental survival needs ‘correlates’ with better outcomes’, too. There’s a whole history of empirical evidence to verify that, and none that demonstrates inherited IQ is or ought to be the reason why some people have wealth and power and other people are starving and destitute.

In the same interview, Sabisky proposed giving all children modafinil, a highly risky ‘mind-enhancing’ drug that cuts the need for sleep by two-thirds, even at the cost of “a dead kid once a year”. Why would ANYONE do that? The drug is known to cause Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and life threatening condition, often caused by an unpredictable adverse reaction to certain medications. 

The syndrome often begins with flu-like symptoms, followed by a red or purple rash that spreads and forms blisters. The affected skin eventually dies and peels off. Stevens-Johnson syndrome is a medical emergency that requires treatment in hospital, often in intensive care or a burns unit. This scary government advisor is clearly riding the fabled rubber bicycle. He lacks coherence, but he makes up for it with his brazen advocacy of despotism. 

The Conservatives have always been fond of Charles Murray’s ranting white supremicism, I’m sure Sabisky fits right in with the elitists in power. Murray, an American sociologist, exhumed social Darwinism and gave the bones of it originally to Bush and Thatcher to re-cast in the form of a poverty of political responsibility and the ideology of blame. Murray’s culture of poverty theory popularised notions on the right that poverty is caused by an individual’s personal deficits; that the poor have earned their position in society; the poor deserve to be poor because this is a reflection of their lack of qualities, poor character and level of abilities.

Of course, this perspective also assumes that the opposite is true: wealthy and “successful” people are so because they are more talented, motivated and less lazy, and are thus more deserving. This is a view shared by most Conservatives.

Sabisky is merely a symptom, not the whole disease.

Just like the widely discredited social Darwinism of the Victorian era, proposed by the likes of Conservative sociologist Herbert Spencer, (who originally coined the phrase “survival of the fittest,” and not Darwin, as is widely held) these resurrected ideas have a considerable degree of popularity in upper-class and elite Conservative circles, where such perspectives provide a justification for privilege in the context of a population that is becoming increasingly impoverished. In addition, poor communities are seen as socialising environments where values such as fatalism are transmitted from generation to “workshy” generation.  

Perish the thought that government policies, which shift public funds to private, well-filled bank accounts under the guise of austerity may be a key cause of growing poverty and inequality. The Tories have taken a lot for nothing in return.

Boris Johnson also claims rich people are more intelligent than others. And so does Dominic Cummings, who recently called to sign up “misfits and weirdos” to help him “transform government.” This is a government that so utterly despises ‘ordinary working people’. The same people the government needs the vote from to stay in power. The vote is gained through dishonesty, dividing the population, using diversionary scapegoats and ‘enemies of the people’ to ensure people direct their anger at others rather than at a government whose policies have created the massive inequalities and increasing absolute poverty that the public are angry about.  

Who can forget the “unpleasant, careless elitism” of Boris Johnson, displayed in 2014, when he mocked the 16% “of our species” with an IQ below 85 and called for more to be done to help the 2% of the population who have an IQ above 130. This flawed, deterministic, eugenic view of people is shared by many in the Tory party, who fail to recognise that IQ tests reveal only how well people perform IQ tests.

A third of wealthy people inherited their wealth, they didn’t earn it by having alleged fabulous personality traits. In act from what I have seen over the last decade, being very rich is correlated with a malignant superiority complex, a malicious contempt for the public and ‘ordinary people, an obscene and obsessive hoarding trait and a psychopathic level of ruthlessness, manipulation, dishonesty, indifference, lack of empathy and a lacking of compassion. 

Johnson made the remarks about the ‘virtues’ of ruthless greed during a speech in honour of Margaret Thatcher, declaring that inequality was essential to foster “the spirit of envy” and hailing greed as a “valuable spur to economic activity”

Downing Street has declined to say which policy area Sabisky is working in, but confirmed he was a contractor working on ‘specific projects’ rather than in the team of permanent advisers. The government have refused to comment on the controversy provoked by his recruitment. I bet Dominic Cummings has urged the party to remain silent. After all, it doesn’t pay to dig a hole even deeper when you want to escape it without being noticed.

Downing Street have also previously declined to comment on eugenic comments written by Johnson’s chief adviser, Dominic Cummings. His comments, in a 237-page essay written in 2013, were disclosed by the Guardian long before Cummings was installed in Downing Street.

cummings-gove

and:

cummings-herit

The bottom line is that this is how the entire government thinks. The Conservative’s culture of entitlement is propagated by the employment of arrogant like-minded strategic ‘advisors’ that design justification narratives to prop up the elite, to protect the balance of power and to present polished lies and excuses regarding draconian policies aimed at disempowering and dispossessing the bulk of the population. That is the current status quo.

Sabisky demonstrates all too well that bigots are gifted with a multi-tasking trait, when he also controversially claimed that women’s sport is is more comparable to the Paralympics than it is to men’s.

This deep black hole of human kindness also suggested more black people are “close to mental retardation”. Crass misogyny, crass prejudice towards disabled people. Class prejudice.

sabisky

It gets worse. Sabisky’s comments on Reddit, according to the National Scot newspaper, include ‘advice’ given to a correspondent on ‘rewiring’ his Mormon wife into “39 flavours of slut on command”: Under the username thedovelamenting, Sabisky responds by urging him to try to “rewire” her brain “to the point where she no longer, consciously or subconsciously sees a conflict between a good Christian woman and serving you up 39 flavours of slut on command.” There were other similar comments from his account.

It’s reported that Sabisky deleted the posts after being contacted for comment.

Sabisky is profiled on ResearchGate as being a member of University College London (UCL) in the Department of Psychology and Human Development.  

His presence at the secret Intelligence conferences held on UCL grounds is unsurprising, given it is mostly attended by scientifically semi-literate cranks, who are white supremacists pretending to be something else – not just ‘weird’, but ignorant and bigoted. Sabisky is listed as a speaker at the second Conference on Intelligence in 2015, on ‘The efficacy of early childhood interventions in improving cognitive outcomes’. That is when he first proposed the ‘intervention’ of mass-medicating children with modafinil.

Speakers at the conferences had included blogger Emil Kirkegaard, who has advocated the rape of sleeping children by paedophiles as a way to relieve “urges” (he later said he did not support the legalisation of paedophilia but advocated “frank discussion of paedophilia-related issues”), and Richard Lynn, who has a long-term association with Mankind Quarterly, a journal that has been criticised for support eugenics . 

The conferences had been booked, as external events, by UCL lecturer Dr James Thompson, and held in secret, until Toby Young – who has previously written about “progressive eugenics” – attended one and after being told not to write about it, wrote about it. Sabisky, like Cummings, has no formal training or record of study in the disciplines that they both claim to understand. Earlier this month Johnson claimed that his government “will be governed by science and not by mumbo-jumbo”.

The Tories are absolute masters of mumbo-jumbo and pseudocscientific bullshit. To date, the government have propped up justification of draconian policies on the scaffold of pseudoscience, with no evidence to support their policy decisions. Or their superiority complex.

The Conservatives are only interested in weaponising such pseudoscientific nonsense for political gain and power. The role of advisors like Cummings and Sabisky is to break down traditional ethical boundaries and push the public towards compliance with the government’s  ill intent.

Sabisky, who calls himself a “super-forecaster”, has also ridiculed the “net zero” climate change target. I think he’s more of a far right super-authoritarian, neoliberal numpty, personally.

Sabisky wrote on Cummings’s website in 2014: “One way to get around the problems of unplanned pregnancies creating a permanent underclass would be to legally enforce universal uptake of long-term contraception at the onset of puberty.

“Vaccination laws give it a precedent, I would argue.”

Super-authoritarian, as I said.

In another blogpost, discussing female genital mutilation, he claimed: “It is still unclear to what extent FGM represents a serious risk to young girls, raised in the UK, of certain minority group origins. Much of the hue and cry looks more like a moral panic.”

Seems like the master of creating folk devils and generating moral panic about population ‘traits’ is a self serving, rank hypocrite.

Jon Trickett, Labour’s Cabinet Office spokesman, said: “There are really no words to describe Boris Johnson’s appointment, as one of his senior advisers, of a man who is on record as supporting the forced sterilisation of people he considers not worthy.

“He must of course be removed from this position immediately.” 

Cummings, once senior adviser to the UK Secretary of State for Education, provoked a a lot of complaints by allegedly claiming that “a child’s performance has more to do with genetic makeup than the standard of his or her education.” In response, he insisted that he had “warned of the dangers of public debates being confused by misunderstanding of such technical terms.” He’s a technocrat who thinks we should re-model our society based on his theories of bullshit and lip curling, supremacist pseudoscience.

Now, Cummings’ eugenic approach is dangerously affecting public policy, imposed by an emboldened authoritarian government that blatantly makes eugenic association of genes with intelligence, intelligence with worth, and worth with the right to rule.

Steven Rose, Emeritus Professor of Biology, a detailed analysis of Cummings’ comments in New Scientist, concluding:

“Whatever intelligence is, these failures show that to hunt for it in the genes is an endeavour driven more by ideological commitment than either biological or social scientific judgement. To suggest that identifying such genes will enable schools to develop personalised educational programmes to match them, as Cummings does, is sheer fantasy, perhaps masking a desire to return to the old days of the 11 plus. Heritability neither defines nor limits educability.”

Intelligence isn’t something you have, it is something you must do. All an IQ test can demonstrate is how good someone is at performing IQ tests. 

The eugenics of indifference

One of humanity’s greatest assets is our diversity. History shows us that the results of elitist ‘selective breeding’, narrowing the gene pool has been provably disastrous – from the “Habsburg jaw”, incapacitating disabilities amongst the rulers of ancient Egypt to Prince Waldemar of Prussia’s death from his wounds on a battlefield in 1945having bled to death because inherited haemophilia from Queen Victoria’s genetic line.

Hitler’s operationalization of eugenics with such terrible consequences convinced post war societies that such steps were inhumane, unethical, and totally unacceptable. Universal human rights were drafted, so that such events as the Holocaust would never happen again. 

Suella Fernandez and fellow MP John Penrose opposed the EU Charter of Rights because, among other things, it disallows eugenics. The Conservatives have imposed two eugenic policies on the poorest citizens: the restriction of child tax credits and universal credit to only the first two children in a family, and the other being the benefits cap, which discriminates against larger families. Both policies were explicitly designed to “change the behaviours” of poorer families, to stop them having ‘too many’ children. It seems that Perkins’ book persuaded a small scientifically illiterate but very technocratic minority, after all. 

Ministers promoted the policy, along with the benefit cap, to make households ‘take responsibility’, by teaching them that “children cost money” and discouraging them from having a third child, and from assuming that a mythically discrete class of people – ‘the taxpayer’ – will ‘let you avoid the consequences of such choices others have to make’. Presumably by ‘funding’ welfare – a state provision that is and always has been funded by the public for the public. Most people who claim financial support have worked and paid into the social security system, many move in and out of insecure, low paid jobs. 

Working families on low wages have been hardest hit by the policy changes.  

The hardworking taxpayer myth is founded on a false dichotomy, since it is estimated that around 70% of households claim benefits of one kind or another at some point in their lives. In the current climate of poor pay, poor working conditions, job insecurity, and high living costs, the myth of an all pervasive welfare-dependent something for nothing culture is being used to foster prejudice and resentment towards those unfortunate enough to be out of work. It also serves to bolster right-wing justification narratives that are entirely ideologically driven, which are aimed at dismantling the welfare state, while concurrently undermining public support for it.

Infrahumanisation

A few years back, one Tory councillor called for the extermination of gypsies. In their manifesto last year, the government have pledged to target the Roma, gypsy and travelling community, to confiscate their belonging and drive them from their homes and off their land.  

More than one Tory MP has called for illegal and discriminatory levels of pay for disabled people. Apparently we aren’t worth paying the minimum wage. A Conservative deputy mayor said, unforgivably, that the “best thing for disabled children is the guillotine.

And who could forget Ben Bradley, the Tories’ youth supremo for ill-advised blog posts advocating vasectomies for the unemployed, more recently.

These weren’t “slips”, it’s patently clear that the Conservatives believe these comments are acceptable, and we need only look at the discriminatory nature of policies such as the legal aid bill, the wider welfare “reforms” and research the consequences of austerity for the most economically vulnerable citizens – those with the “least broad shoulders” –  to understand that these comments reflect how Conservatives think.

This is a government that is using public prejudice to justify massive socio-economic inequalities and their own policies that are creating a steeply hierarchical society based on social Darwinist survival of the fittest neoliberal “small state” principles.

The Tory creation of socio-economic scapegoats, involving vicious stigmatisation of vulnerable social groups, particularly endorsed by the mainstream media, is simply a means of manipulating public perceptions and securing public acceptance of the increasingly punitive and repressive basis of the Tories’ welfare “reforms”, and the steady stripping away of essential state support and provision.

The political construction of social problems also marks an era of increasing state control of citizens with behaviour modification techniques, (under the guise of libertarian paternalism) all of which are a part of the process of restricting access rights to welfare provision and public services, and nudging the public to accept the destruction of the social gains of our post war democratic settlement .

Hannah Arendt wrote extensively about totalitarian regimes, in particular Nazism and Stalinism, which she distinguishes from Italian Fascism, because Hitler and Stalin sought to eliminate all restraints upon the power of the State and furthermore, they sought to dominate and control every aspect of everyone’s life. There are parallels here, especially when one considers the continued attempts at dismantling democratic processes and safeguards since 2010, and the introduction of behaviourist strategies (nudge, for example) to align public perceptions and behaviours with politically designed outcomes, without the public’s consent.

Many policies are aimed at ‘incentivising’ certain behaviours and perceptions of citizens, using psychology, particularly behaviourism, to align them with political and defined economic goals. Citizens are increasingly seen by government as a means to an end.

Jacque-Philippe Leyens coined the term infrahumanisation to distinguish a form of dehumanisation from the more extreme kind associated with genocide.

However, I don’t regard one form of dehumanisation as being discrete from another, since studies show consistently that it tends to escalate when social prejudice increases. It’s a process involving accumulation.

According to infrahumanisation theory, the denial of uniquely human emotions and qualities to an outgroup is reflective of a tacit belief that they are less human than the ingroup

Disabled people, poor people, homeless people and welfare claimants are the frequently outgrouped. It is these most stigmatised groups that some people seem to have the most difficulty imagining having the same uniquely human qualities as they do. This removes the “infrahumanised” group from the bonds, moral protection and obligations of our community, because outgrouping de-empathises us.

This would explain why some people attempt to justify the cuts, which clearly fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable citizens. This may be why fighting the austerity cuts is much more difficult than simply fighting myths and political propaganda. I think the government are very aware of the infrahumanisation tendency among groups and are manipulating it to create and sustain division, because growing social inequality generates a political necessity for social prejudices to use as justification narratives.

During a debate in the House of Lords, David Freud described the changing number of disabled people likely to receive the employment and support allowance as a “bulge of, effectively, stock.  Not people, but stock.

After an outraged response, this was actually transcribed by Hansard as stopped”, rendering the sentence meaningless.  He is not the only person in the Department for Work and Pensions who uses this profoundly dehumanising term. The government website describes disabled people entering the government’s work programme for between three and six months as 3/6Mth stock.

This dehumanised stock are a source of profit for the companies running the programme. The Department’s delivery plan also recommends using  credit reference agency data to cleanse the stock of fraud and error”.

Cleanse the stock. Horrific, dehumanising language.

This type of linguistic downgrading of human life requires dehumanising metaphors: a dehumanising socio-political system using a dehumanising language, and it is becoming familiar and pervasive: it has seeped almost unnoticed into our lives.

Until someone like Johnson, Sabisky, Cummings or Freud pushes our boundaries of decency a little too far. Then we suddenly see it, and wonder how such oppressive, prejudiced and discriminatory comments could ever be deemed acceptable and how anyone could possibly think they would get away with such blatantly offensive rhetoric without being challenged.

It’s because they have got away with less blatantly offensive comments previously: it’s just that they pushed more gently and so we didn’t see.

It’s also the case that the government distorts people’s perceptions of the  aims of their policies by using techniques of neutralisationAn example of this method of normalising prejudice is the use of the words “incentivise” and “help” in the context of benefit sanctions, which as we know are intentionally extremely punitive, and people have died as a consequence of having their lifeline support withdrawn.

As Gordon Allport’s scale of prejudice indicates, hate speech and incitement to violence and ultimately, genocide, start from often subliminal expressions of prejudice and subtle dehumanisation, which escalate. Germany didn’t wake up one morning to find Hitler had arranged the murder of millions of people. It happened by a process of almost inscrutable advances, as many knew it would, and was happening while they knew about it. And many opposed it, too.

The dignity and equal worth of every human being is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equal worth of all human beings.

As a so-called civilised society, so should we.

Allport's ladder


 

Boris Johnson Leaves For PMQs

Here’s a list of some of the controversial things Boris Johnson has said:

In August 2018, he wrote a column in the Telegraph opposing Denmark’s ban on burqas and niqabs in public spaces, though he still believed it was “absolutely ridiculous that people should choose to go around looking like letter boxes.” 

He added that if a constituent came to his surgery wearing a burqa or niqab, he would “feel fully entitled to ask her to remove it so that I could talk to her properly” and added female students who turn up to school or university “looking like a bank robber” should be asked to uncover their faces.

He told LBC: “Keeping numbers high on the streets is certainly important. But it depends where you spend the money and where you deploy the officers.

“And one comment I would make is I think an awful lot of money and an awful lot of police time now goes into these historic offences and all this mullarkey.

“You know, £60m I saw was being spaffed up a wall on some investigation into historic child abuse.”

In 2002, Johnson wrote in the Telegraph: “It is said that the Queen has come to love the Commonwealth, partly because it supplies her with regular cheering crowds of flag-wearing picaninnies.”

The word “picaninnies” is a racist term used to describe black children.

In the same column he also talked about then prime minister Tony Blair, and wrote: “They say he is shortly off to the Congo. No doubt the AK47s will fall silent, and the pangas will stop their hacking of human flesh, and their tribal warriors will all break out in watermelon smiles to see the big white chief touch down his big white British taxpayer-funded bird.”

Johnson later apologised for these comments.

Writing for The Spectator in 2002, he suggested: “The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”

“Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. The British planted coffee and cotton and tobacco, and they were broadly right. If left to their own devices, the natives would rely on nothing but the instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.

“The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers, or their citizens, scrambled once again in her direction; on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.”

He has been criticised for allowing a number of articles deemed racist by some, to make it on to the website, including one article about racial eugenics that said “orientals” had “larger brains and higher IQ scores” while “blacks are at the other pole.”

Johnson was force to apologise for comments he made about the country in 2006: “For 10 years we in the Tory party have become used to Papua New Guinea-style orgies of cannibalism and chief-killing, and so it is with a happy amazement that we watch as the madness engulfs the Labour Party.”

After then US president Obama removed a bust of Winston Churchill from the Oval office, Johnson wrote a column in The Sun in which he claimed the move was “a symbol of the part-Kenyan president’s ancestral dislike of the British Empire – of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.”

He was accused of racism for this comment, unsurprisingly. 

In May 2004 he wrote a column for the Telegraph about obesity titled: “Face it: it’s all your own fat fault.”

When he became the new foreign secretary, Johnson inaugurated his new position by penning a poem about Erdogan after an attempted coup in Turkey that left more than 161 people dead.

In the poem that indicated Johnson’s woeful lack of diplomacy, he called the president a “wankerer” had wrote that he “sowed his wild oats with the help of a goat.”

There’s something missing from Boris Johnson. He has no moral boundaries, empathy or remorse.


 

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

Rosemary Carroll

Councillor Rosemary Carroll

A Conservative councillor has been suspended for her sneering racism and despicable prejudice regarding welfare claimants. Some media outlets have described the comments as a “joke”. It wasn’t.

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

She was Mayor of Pendle until last month but was suspended from her party after the post appeared on her account this week.

The local Conservative branch posted a statement about the “inappropriate post” on Facebook after the allegations came to light.

Councillor Joe Cooney, leader of the Conservatives on Pendle Council, said Councillor Rosemary Carroll was suspended pending an investigation.

The comments, which have now been deleted, compared an Asian person claiming social security support to a dog. 

Speaking before the suspension was confirmed, Carroll said she had meant to delete the post but ended up publishing it “by mistake”.

Philip Mousdale, Pendle Council’s corporate director, said he received two formal complaints about the post at the time.

He said the complaints against the councillor, who represents Earby Ward, allege she had breached the council’s code of conduct.

“As monitoring officer for the council I’m looking into the complaints,” Mousdale added.

Cooney said: “We will not tolerate racism of any form. Rosemary Carroll has been suspended from the Conservative Group on Pendle Borough Council and the Conservative Party with immediate effect, pending a full investigation in due course.”

Carroll claims she planned to post an apology for her bigotry.

However, this is not an isolated incident, and the Conservatives continue to show utter contempt for both people of colour as well as people who need welfare support, as this extremely offensive post from one of their Councillors shows.

Conservative councillor 'posted joke comparing Asian people to dogs'
Damage limitation

                        The obscene and extremely offensive original post

This isn’t a one-off, it’s how many Tories actually think

When it comes to displays of prejudice, the Conservatives have a long history. It’s no coincidence that the far right flourishes under every Tory government, from Thatcher in particular, to present day.

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.

Social Darwinism, with its brutal and uncivilising indifference to human suffering, has been resurrected from the nineteenth century and it fits so well with the current political spirit of neoliberalism. As social bonds are replaced by narcissistic, unadulterated materialism, public concerns are now understood and experienced as utterly private miseries, except when offered up to us on the Jerry Springer Show or Benefit Street as spectacle.

Conservative policies are entirely ideologically-driven. We have a government that uses words like workshy to describe vulnerable social groups. This is a government that is intentionally scapegoating poor, unemployed, disabled people, asylum seekers and migrants.

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 beliefs and 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 peoples support and services – which were unthinkable before 2010 – and to research 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.

The fact that dog whistle politics – political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted and prejudiced subgroup, maintaining plausible deniability by avoiding overtly racist language – has been normalised by the likes of Lynton Crosby, and is intrinsic to Conservative  campaigns, indicates clearly that the Conservatives want to appeal to racist groups.

Crosby created a campaign for the Conservatives with the slogan “Are you thinking what we’re thinking?”: a series of posters, billboards, TV commercials and direct mail pieces with messages like “It’s not racist to impose limits on immigration” and “how would you feel if a bloke on early release attacked your daughter?” which focused on “hot-button issues” like dirty and over-stretched hospitals, “landgrabs” by “gypsies” and restraints on police behaviour.  

In the 2016 London Mayoral Election, Conservative candidate Zac Goldsmith ran a dog whistle campaign against Labour’s Sadiq Khan, playing on Khan’s Muslim faith by suggesting he would target Hindus and Sikhs with a “jewellery tax” and attempting to link him to extremists.

That 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. 

This is a government that is creating and manipulating public prejudice to justify massive socio-economic inequalities and their own policies that are creating a steeply hierarchical society based on social Darwinist survival of the wealthiest neoliberal “small state” ideology.

The dispossession of the majority to ensure the relentless acculation of wealth for an elitist and greedy minority.  

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 and in engaging prejudice and generating moral outrage from the public:

“If working people ever get to discover where their tax money really ends up, at a time when they find it tough enough to feed their own families, let alone those of workshy scroungers, then that’ll be the end of the line for our welfare state gravy train.” James Delingpole 2014.

Delingpole was a close friend of Cameron’s at university. Apparently, they would get stoned and listen to Supertramp regularly, whilst hatching their profoundly antisocial and anti-democratic obscenities. Their plot sickens.

Poverty cannot be explained away by reference to simple individualist narratives of the workshy scrounger as the likes of Delingpole claim, no matter how much he would like to apply such simplistic, blunt, stigmatising, dehumanizing labels that originated from the Nazis (see arbeitssheu.)

Poverty arises because of the consequence of political decisions, and structural conditions.

Climbing Allport’s ladder

Gordon Allport studied the psychological and social processes that create a society’s progression from prejudice and discrimination to genocide. In his research of how the Holocaust happened, he describes sociopolitical processes that foster increasing social prejudice and discrimination and he demonstrates how the unthinkable becomes tenable: it happens incrementally, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries, and propaganda-driven changes in our attitudes towards politically defined others, that advances culturally, by almost inscrutable degrees. 

The process always begins with political scapegoating of a social group and with ideologies that identify that group as the Other: a common “enemy” or a social “burden” in some way. A history of devaluation of the group that becomes the target, authoritarian culture, and the passivity of internal and external witnesses (bystanders) all contribute to the probability that violence against that group will develop, and ultimately, if the process is allowed to continue evolving, extermination of the group being targeted. 

Economic recession, uncertainty and political systems on the authoritarian -> totalitarian spectrum contribute to shaping the social conditions that seem to trigger Allport’s escalating scale of prejudice.

In the UK, the media is certainly being used by the right-wing as an outlet for blatant political propaganda, and much of it is manifested as a pathological persuasion to hate others. The Conservatives clearly have strong authoritarian tendencies, as I have been pointing out since 2012, when the welfare “reform” act was pushed through parliament with unholy haste, with the excuse of “economic privilege”, despite the widespread opposition to that bill. The authoritarianism of the Tories is most evident in their anti-democratic approach to policy, human rights, equality, social inclusion and processes of government accountability.

Vulnerable groups are those which our established principles of social justice demand we intervene to help, support and protect. However, the Conservative’s rhetoric is aimed at a deliberate identification of citizens as having inferior behaviour.

The poorest  citizens are presented as a problem group because of their individual faulty characteristics, and this is intentionally diverting attention from wider socioeconomic and political causes of vulnerability. Individual subjects experiencing hardships have been placed beyond state protection and are now the objects of policies that embody punitive and crude behaviourism, and pathologising, coercive elements of social control.

After seven years of Conservative governments, our most vulnerable citizens are no longer regarded as human subjects, they have become objects of the state, which is acting upon them, not for or on behalf of them. 

This has turned our democracy completely on its head.

It quite often isn’t until someone Carroll, Freud or Mellins push our boundaries of decency a little too far. Then we suddenly see it, and wonder how such prejudiced and discriminatory comments could be deemed acceptable and how anyone could possibly think they would get away with such blatantly offensive rhetoric without being challenged. It’s because they have got away with less blatantly offensive comments previously: it’s just that they pushed more gently and so it wasn’t obvious, we simply didn’t see.

During a debate in the House of Lords, Freud described the changing number of disabled people likely to receive the employment and support allowance as a “bulge of, effectively, stock”After an outraged response, this was actually transcribed by Hansard as “stopped”, rendering the sentence meaningless.  He is not the only person in the Department for Work and Pensions who uses this term. The website describes disabled people entering the government’s work programme for between three and six months as 3/6Mth stock.

This infrahumanised stock are a source of profit for the companies running the programme. The Department’s delivery plan recommends using  credit reference agency data to cleanse the stock of fraud and error”.

The linguistic downgrading of human life requires dehumanising metaphors: a dehumanising socio-political system using a dehumanising language, and it is becoming familiar and pervasive: it has seeped almost unnoticed into our lives.

As Allport’s scale of prejudice indicates, hate speech and incitement to genocide start from often subliminal expressions of prejudice and subtle dehumanisation, which escalate. Germany didn’t wake up one morning to find Hitler had arranged the murder of millions of people. It happened, as many knew it would, and was happening whilst they knew about it. And many opposed it, too. It still happened.

The dignity and equal worth of every human being is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equality of all human beings.

As a so-called civilised and wealthy society, so should we. It’s time we said goodbye to austerity, the right-wing politics of inequality and prejudice.

This is a government that thinks that PEOPLE are a disposable commodity – “collateral damage” of a failing neoliberal mode of organisation. People dying as a result of austerity cuts are passed off by Tory ministers as “anecdotal evidence.” The government claim there is no “provable causality” between their policies and premature deaths. Yet there is a well-established correlation, that requires further investigation, which the government has so far refused to undertake. But it is very clear that Conservative policies are driven by traditional Tory prejudices.

It really is time to say not one day more.

And never, ever again.

Image result for allports ladder of prejudice

Update

A Tory Brexiteer has 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.

After saying just 7% of financial services in the UK would be affected by Brexit, Morris said: “Now I’m sure there will be many people who’ll challenge that, but my response and my request is look at the detail, it isn’t all doom and gloom.

“Now we get to the real n****r in the woodpile which is in two years what happens if there is no deal?”

Morris said: “The comment was totally unintentional. I apologise unreservedly for any offence caused.”  

She has been suspended.  

However, such supremicist, hierarchical thinking and language is entrenched in Conservative rhetoric and practices. This is far from an isolated case of an offensive, racist, prejudiced speech act.

 

 


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Aktion Arbeitsscheu Reich, Human Rights and infrahumanisation

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The European Convention on Human Rights, which came into force on 3 September 1953, guarantees a range of political rights and freedoms of the individual against interference by the State. The Convention came about as an international response to the horrors of World War Two, and the Holocaust.

Before the incorporation of the Convention, people in the United Kingdom could only complain of unlawful interference with their Convention rights by lodging a petition with the European Commission of Human Rights in Strasbourg. That all changed on 2 October 2000 when Labour’s Human Rights Act 1998 came into force, allowing UK citizens to sue public bodies for violations of their Convention rights in domestic courts.

David Cameron wants to scrap the Human Rights Act and has pledged to leave the European Convention. Human Rights are the bedrock of any democracy. He also wants to scrap consultations, impact assessments, audits, judicial reviews: all essential safeguards for citizens and mechanisms of democracy. 

Government policies are expressed political intentions, regarding how our society is organised and governed. They have calculated social and economic aims and consequences.

How policies are justified is increasingly being detached from their aims and consequences, partly because democratic processes and basic human rights are being disassembled or side-stepped, and partly because the government employs the widespread use of propaganda to intentionally divert us from their aims and the consequences of their ideologically (rather than rationally) driven policies. Furthermore, policies have become increasingly detached from public interests and needs.

A clear example of an ideologically-driven policy is the Welfare “Reform” Act, which is founded on a stigmatising, Othering narrative: benefit recipients are portrayed as the enemy that battles against fairness and responsibility. The mythological economic “free-rider,” a “burden on the state.” The “reforms” left people in receipt of lifeline benefits much worse off than they were, the word reform has been used as a euphemism for cuts.

Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions  (DWP) has launched a new propaganda scapegoating  advertising campaign encouraging people to phone a hotline if they suspect somebody they know is fraudulently claiming benefits.

I’m sure that serious fraudulent claimants inform their friends and neighbours of their every activity, including holidays, sleeping arrangements, moments of intimacy and all of their benefit payment details, all the time, so that makes sense…

Mark Harper said: “Those who cheat the system need to know we will use everything in our power to stop them stealing money from hardworking taxpayers.”  

Yet we know that there isn’t a real distinction between benefit claimants and hard-working taxpayers, as the Tories would have us believe. Many people on benefits are also in work, but are not paid a sufficient wage to live on. Most people claiming benefits, including disabled people, have worked and contributed income tax previously.

It’s worth bearing in mind that the poorest citizens, including people claiming benefits, pay proportionally more indirect taxes than the wealthiest citizens, such as VAT. The strivers/skivers rhetoric is simply a divert, divide and scapegoating strategy. Growing social inequality generates a political necessity for prejudices.

The real cost of out-of-work benefits is over-estimated in relation to the welfare bill for pensions and in-work benefits such as tax credits and housing benefit, obscuring the increasing role that the British state plays in subsidising the scandalously low wages paid by increasingly exploitative employers, in order to meet a minimum standard of living for the hardworking.

The hardworking taxpayer myth is founded on a false dichotomy, since it is estimated that around 70% of households claim benefits of one kind or another at some point in their lives. In the current climate of poor pay, poor working conditions, job insecurity, and high living costs, the myth of an all pervasive welfare-dependent something for nothing culture is being used to foster prejudice and resentment towards those unfortunate enough to be out of work. It also serves to bolster right-wing justification narratives that are entirely ideologically driven, which are aimed at dismantling the welfare state, while concurrently undermining public support for it.

As the Huff Post’s Asa Bennett points out, there are much bigger costs to the taxpayer that the government are reluctant to discuss.

For example, the tax gap, charting the estimated amount of taxes unpaid thanks to evasion, avoidance, error and criminality, soared to £34 billion, according to HM Revenue and Customs. This equates to £1 in every £15 owed in taxes not being collected last year.

The National Audit Office found that the Department for Work and Pensions had made £1.4 billion in declared benefit overpayments, an increase of nearly 6%.

Meanwhile, the DWP estimate that between £7.5 billion and £12.3 billion of the six main benefits it administered were left unclaimed in 2009/2010. On top of that. HMRC suggest that several billion pounds more is most in unclaimed tax credits, with childless families missing out on £2.3 billion worth. That’s a grand total of 22.1 billion that ordinary taxpayers aren’t claiming, even though they are entitled to do so. 

Iain Duncan Smith’s Department have wasted an estimated total of £6,221,875,000.00 of taxpayers’ money on the implementation of Universal Credit and private company contracts, amongst other things. (See We can reduce the Welfare Budget by billions: simply get rid of Iain Duncan Smith ). 

Duncan Smith’s claims that his policies are about fairness and saving taxpayers’ money, simply don’t stand up to scrutiny. 

The policies are entirely ideologically-driven. We have a government that uses words like workshy to describe vulnerable social groups. This is a government that is intentionally scapegoating poor, unemployed, disabled people and migrants. One Tory councillor called for the extermination of gypsies, more than one Tory MP has called for illegal and discriminatory levels of pay for disabled people. A conservative deputy mayor said, unforgivably, that the “best thing for disabled children is the guillotine.”

These weren’t “slips”, it’s patently clear that the Tories believe these comments are acceptable, and we need only look at the discriminatory nature of policies such as the legal aid bill, the wider welfare “reforms” and research the consequences of austerity for the most economically vulnerable citizens – those with the “least broad shoulders” –  to understand that these comments reflect how conservatives think.

This is a government that is using public prejudice to justify massive socio-economic inequalities and their own policies that are creating a steeply hierarchical society based on social Darwinist survival of the fittest neoliberal “small state” principles.

The Tory creation of socio-economic scapegoats, involving vicious stigmatisation of vulnerable social groups, particularly endorsed by the mainstream media, is simply a means of manipulating public perceptions and securing public acceptance of the increasingly punitive and repressive basis of the Tories’ welfare “reforms”, and the steady stripping away of essential state support and provision.

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) all of which are a part of the process of restricting access rights to welfare provision and public services.

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

“If working people ever get to discover where their tax money really ends up, at a time when they find it tough enough to feed their own families, let alone those of workshy scroungers, then that’ll be the end of the line for our welfare state gravy train.” James Delingpole 2014

Delingpole conveniently fails to mention that a majority of people needing lifeline welfare support are actually in work. He also fails to mention that while this government were imposing austerity on the poorest citizens, the wealthiest got generous handouts from the Treasury, in the form of tax breaks – hundreds of thousands of pounds each per year. 

Poverty cannot be explained away by reference to simple narratives of the workshy scrounger as Delingpole claims, no matter how much he would like to apply such simplistic, blunt, stigmatising, dehumanising labels that originated from the Nazis (see arbeitssheu.)

This past four years we have witnessed an extraordinary breakdown of the public/private divide, and a phenomenological intrusion on the part of the state and media into the lives of the poorest members of society. (For example, see: The right-wing moral hobby horse: thrift and self-help, but only for the poor. ) Many people feel obliged to offer endless advice on thrift and self help aimed at persuading poor people to “manage” their poverty better.

Hannah Arendt wrote extensively about totalitarian regimes, in particular Nazism and Stalinism, which she distinguishes from Italian Fascism, because Hitler and Stalin sought to eliminate all restraints upon the power of the State and furthermore, they sought to dominate and control every aspect of everyone’s life. There are parallels here, especially when one considers the continued attempts at dismantling democratic processes and safeguards since the Coalition took office.

Many policies are aimed at ‘incentivising’ certain behaviours and perceptions of citizens, using psychology to align them with political and defined economic goals. Citizens are increasingly seen by government as a means to an end.

Further parallels may be found here: Defining features of Fascism and Authoritarianism

Between February 1933 and the start of World War Two, Nazi Germany underwent an economic “recovery” according to the government. Rather like the “recovery” that Osborne and Cameron are currently claiming, which isn’t apparent to most citizens.

This economic miracle, sold to the people of Germany, entailed a huge reduction in unemployment. However, the main reason for this was fear – anyone who was found guilty of being “workshy” (arbeitssheucould then be condemned to the concentration camps that were situated throughout Germany. Hitler frequently referred to the economic miracle, whilst people previously employed in what was the professional class were made to undertake manual labour on the autobahns. People didn’t refuse the downgraded status and pay, or complain, lest they became Arbeitsscheu Reich compulsory labor camp prisoners, and awarded a black triangle badge for their perceived mental inferiority and Otherness.

Behaviour can be controlled by manipulating fear, using a pattern of deprivation. Benefit sanctions, for example, leave “workshy”people without the means to meet their basic survival needs and are applied for periods of weeks or months and up to a maximum of 3 years.

That the government of a so-called first world liberal democracy is so frankly inflicting such grotesquely cruel punishments on some of our most vulnerable citizens is truly horrific. It’s also terrifying that the media and the British public are complicit in this: they fail to recognise that the Social Darwinism inherent in Tory ideological grammar is being communicated through discourses and policies embodying crude behaviour modification techniques and an implicit eugenic subtext .

There were various rationales for the Nazi Aktion T4 programme, which include eugenics, Social Darwinism, racial and mental “hygiene”, cost effectiveness and the welfare budget.

The Aktion T4 programme used the term euthanasia as bureaucratic cover and in the minimal public relations efforts to invest what was essentially eugenics. It is clear that none of the killing was done to alleviate pain or suffering on the part of the victims. Rather, the evidence, including faked death certificates, deception of the victims and of the victims’ families, and widespread use of cremation, indicates the killing was done solely according to the socio-political aims and ideology of the perpetrators. The Nazis believed that the German people needed to be “cleansed” of the so-called racial enemies, but the Aktion T4 programme also included people with disabilities, the poor and the workshy.  

Although many were gassed using carbon monoxide or killed by lethal injection, many more of these people deemed “life unworthy of life” were simply starved to death.

The Holodomor – “extermination by hunger” –  was Joseph Stalin’s intentionaly inflicted famine, designed to destroy  people in the Ukraine seeking independence from his rule. As a result, an estimated 7,000,000 people starved to death. The attitude of the Stalinist regime in 1932–33 was that many of those starving to death were “counterrevolutionaries”idlers” or “thieves” who “fully deserved their fate”. In 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that recognised the Holodomor as a crime against humanity.

Implementing policies that lead to members of vulnerable social groups starving, which is an INTENTIONAL political act, however, is not currently included in the UN Treaty definition of genocide. Nor are disabled people amongst the categories of groups protected by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of  Genocide.

While I am very aware that we need take care not to trivialise the terrible events of Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany by making casual comparisons, there are some clear and important parallels on a socio-political level and a psycho-social one, that I feel are crucially important to recognise.

Gordon Allport studied the psychological and social processes that create a society’s progression from prejudice and discrimination to genocide. In his research of how the Holocaust happened, he describes socio-political processes that foster increasing social prejudice and discrimination and he demonstrates how the unthinkable becomes tenable: it happens incrementally, because of a steady erosion of our moral and rational boundaries, and propaganda-driven changes in our attitudes towards politically defined others, that advances culturally, by almost inscrutable degrees.

The process always begins with political scapegoating of a social group and with ideologies that identify that group as the Other: an “enemy” or a social “burden” in some way. A history of devaluation of the group that becomes the target, authoritarian culture, and the passivity of internal and external witnesses (bystanders) all contribute to the probability that violence against that group will develop, and ultimately, if the process is allowed to continue evolving, extermination of the group being targeted.

Economic recession, uncertainty and political systems on the authoritarian -> totalitarian spectrum contribute to shaping the social conditions that seem to trigger Allport’s escalating scale of prejudice.

In the UK, the media is certainly being used by the right-wing as an outlet for blatant political propaganda, and much of it is manifested as a pathological persuasion to hate others. The Coalition clearly have strong authoritarian tendencies, and that is most evident in their anti-democratic and behaviourist approach to policy, human rights, equality, social inclusion and processes of government accountability.

Vulnerable groups are those which our established principles of social justice demand we intervene to help, support and protect. However, the Coalition’s rhetoric is aimed at a deliberate identification of citizens as having inferior behaviour. The poorest citizens are presented as a problem group because of their individual faulty characteristics, and this is intentionally diverting attention from  wider socio-economic and political causes of vulnerability. Individual subjects experiencing hardships have been placed beyond state protection and are now the objects of policies that embody behaviourism, and pathologising, punitive and coercive elements of social control. Vulnerable people are no longer regarded as human subjects, the state is acting upon them, not for or on behalf of them.

People are still debating if Stalin’s Holodomor conforms to a legal definition of genocide, no-one doubts that Hitler’s gas chambers do, though Hitler also killed thousands by starvation.

Our own government have formulated and implemented policies that punish unemployed people for being “workshy” – for failing to meet the never-ending benefit conditionality requirements which entails the use of negative incentives, coercion and behaviour modification to “support” a person into  work –  by withdrawing their lifeline benefit. We also know that sanction targets have led to many people losing lifeline benefits for incoherent and grossly unfair reasons that have nothing to do with an unwillingness to cooperate or work.

Since benefits were originally calculated to meet basic living requirements – food, fuel and shelter – it’s  inconceivable that the government haven’t already considered the consequences of removing people’s means of meeting these fundamental survival needs. Of course, the Tory claim that this draconian measure is to incentivise people to “find work” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny when we consider that there isn’t enough work for everyone, and certainly not enough work around that pays an adequate amount to actually survive on.

Furthermore, the Tories “incentivise” the  wealthy by rewarding them with more money (such as the £107,000  tax break that was handed out to each millionaire every year from our own taxes by Osborne). It flies in the face of our conventional and established wisdom that reducing people to starvation and desperation will somehow motivate people to do anything other than to try and survive. (See Maslow’s Hierarchy, and two tragic accounts of the consequences of imposed sanctions.)

Tory austerity is all about ideology – the dehumanisation of the poor, and the destruction of public services and provisions – state infrastructure – and nothing to do with the state of the economy. It’s also about cutting money from the poorest and handing it to the wealthiest. Many economists agree that austerity is damaging to the economy.

There has been a media complicity with irrational and increasingly punitive Tory policies. But why are the public so compliant?

Decades of  research findings in sociology and psychology inform us that as soon as a group can be defined as an outgroup, people will start to view them differently. The very act of demarcating groups begins a process of ostracisation.

As well as the political and social definitions of others, there also exists deeper, largely unconscious beliefs that may have even more profound and insidious effects. These are related to whether people claiming benefits are even felt to be truly, properly human in the same way that “we” are.

This is called infrahumanisation. Infra means “below”, as in below or less than fully human. The term was coined by a researcher at the University of Louvain called Jacque-Philippe Leyens to distinguish this form of dehumanisation from the more extreme kind associated with genocide.

However, I don’t regard one form of dehumanisation as being discrete from another, since studies show consistently that it tends to escalate when social prejudice increases. It’s a process involving accumulation.

According to infrahumanisation theory, the denial of uniquely human emotions to the outgroup is reflective of a tacit belief that they are less human than the ingroup.

Poor people, homeless people, drug addicts and welfare claimants are the frequently outgrouped. It is these most stigmatised groups that people have the most trouble imagining having the same uniquely human qualities as the rest of us. This removes the “infrahumanised” group from the bonds, moral protection and obligations of our community, because outgrouping de-empathises us.

This would explain why some people attempt to justify the cuts, which clearly fall disproportionately on the most vulnerable. This is probably  why fighting the austerity cuts is much more difficult than simply fighting myths and political propaganda. I think the government are very aware of the infrahumanisation tendency amongst social groups and are manipulating it, because growing social inequality generates a political necessity for social prejudices to use as justification narratives.

During a debate in the House of Lords, Freud described the changing number of disabled people likely to receive the employment and support allowance as a bulge of, effectively, stock”. After an outraged response, this was actually transcribed by Hansard as “stopped”, rendering the sentence meaningless.  He is not the only person in the Department for Work and Pensions who uses this term. The  website describes disabled people entering the government’s work programme for between three and six months as 3/6Mth stock.

This infrahumanised stock are a source of profit for the companies running the programme. The Department’s delivery plan recommends using  credit reference agency data to cleanse the stock of fraud and error.

The linguistic downgrading of human life requires dehumanising metaphors: a dehumanising socio-political system using a dehumanising language, and it is becoming familiar and pervasive: it has seeped almost unnoticed into our lives.

Until someone like Freud or Mellins pushes our boundaries of decency a little too far. Then we suddenly see it, and wonder how such prejudiced and discriminatory comments could be deemed acceptable and how anyone could possibly think they would get away with such blatantly offensive rhetoric without being challenged. It’s because they have got away with less blatantly offensive comments previously: it’s just that they pushed more gently and so we didn’t see.

It’s also the case that the government distorts people’s perceptions of the  aims of their policies by using techniques of neutralisation. An example of this method of normalising prejudice is the use of the words “incentivise” and “help” in the context of benefit sanctions, which as we know are intentionally extremely punitive, and people have died as a consequence of having their lifeline benefit withdrawn.

As Allport’s scale of prejudice indicates, hate speech and incitement to genocide start from often subliminal expressions of prejudice and subtle dehumanisation, which escalate. Germany didn’t wake up one morning to find Hitler had arranged the murder of millions of people. It happened, as many knew it would, and was happening whilst they knew about it. And many opposed it, too.

The dignity and equal worth of every human being is the axiom of international human rights. International law condemns statements which deny the equality of all human beings.

As a so-called civilised society, so should we.

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Pictures courtesy of Robert Livingstone