I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ve never actually watched it before (and with good reason), but having my breakfast I just accidentally caught five minutes of BBC’s Saints and Scroungers. My god, I just had to put finger to key and mash!
In about half an hour I have to catch a bus to town to do my shopping; how do I know there won’t be some DWP private dick hiding in a car watching me. How do I know he won’t be filing a report saying “well, he can walk and carry shopping, clearly he can work!” That’s the point: who else is the target audience but the daytime unemployed. The people the media criticise for consuming daytime media. Be afraid.
In the space of the five minutes I exposed myself to, I have gone from calm to shit scared. This is what this awful propagandist populist (you can tell, it’s hosted by Matt Allwright) rubbish has done to me. This is what black and white Third Man style stock ‘reconstruction’ footage of investigators with long lenses or sat in cars with clipboards has achieved. This is the aim: to create a sense of fear. This wouldn’t be out of place in a Philip K Dick novel: it’s almost pre-crime.
It’s easy then to imply that there are 100% of scroungers in the system because 100% of the ‘scroungers’ on the show are guilty. That’s what you are expected to think and to take away from this. You are meant to infer the same conditions in the real world: that 100% of claimants are scroungers.
Most of it seems to be pointless ‘reconstruction’ shots: the investigative montage, the closeup of a pen ticking a box the representation of the correct procedure of reporting things to the DWP. There’s even a DWP man on hand to recount the tale, in a tedious clipped monotone, of one particular scrounger who dared to claim while cleaning windows. Now to be fair, I had to switch off at this point because I couldn’t tolerate anymore of this fascist nonsense. It may be that the ‘scrounger’ was secretly trafficking children through his vast underground network of murderous window cleaners while claiming JSA as a front.
Or it may be that he just wanted to get on with his life and have a decent bit of money in his pocket. Compared to the likes of Eon, Amazon, Starbucks, Vodafone, and the countless array of corporate filth and rich scum that avoid and evade millions I can’t really find it within me to castigate this evil doer.
Yet the programme has served its purpose; make me scared. Frighten people from claiming what they might well be due, never mind breaking the law. Compare and contrast; that’s the point. Here’s a young lad that’s struggling to look for work (though they choose to show footage of him playing xbox with his cousin) who, no doubt, succeeded in the end (again I switched off). Then here’s another scrounger. The saints look all the more divine and the scroungers look all the more greedy and heinous. That’s the idea – and all it takes is a bit of elbow grease (though not cleaning windows) determination and diligence and you’ll succeed at finding a job. Though the real message is there’s now one less job in the economy thanks to that kid getting a job.
Never mind a flatlined economy. Never mind austerity. Never mind divide and rule. Never mind that the labour market is nothing but short term morsels and not careers and vocations. Just keep on applying. Do some workfare, we’ll call it work experience. That way people can see how committed you are. It’s the race to the bottom live on your screen.