In which I wonder whether it’s worth going over this same ground again

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I was going to blog about the Mail on Sunday’s piece* about Trussell Trust foodbanks that ran this weekend. I was going to point out that their account of a reporter being given food ‘no questions asked’ actually details the range of questions they were asked. I was going to rant a bit about the faux outrage that someone had had more than the usual 3 food parcels per year, as though it’s neither possible nor plausibly justifiable that individual circumstances might fall outside normal expectations. I was going to point out that as an exposé the whole piece is entirely misplaced. The Trussell Trust is a charity – so long as it’s acting legally and within its own constitution it isn’t governed by the need to avoid snivelling outbreaks of faux public offence. I would probably have finished by bemoaning the overall tone of the article – the view of humanity that says ‘these people who are different from me are out to get something, and they much be stopped.’

And at that point I decided to stop myself. Rather than expending anymore mental energy decrying the inhumanity of the Mail on Sunday, I’m going to take another path. I’m going to focus on offering some suggestions for how we might best deal with the Mail’s (and any other papers treading a similar path) spluttering fury in future. Essentially, the Mail (both Daily and on Sunday) is best viewed as an elderly and increasingly confused relative. The modern world scares them, and they’re becoming more and more convinced that the nurses are trying to take their jewelery. From time to time that confusion and disorientation comes out as anger, xenophobia, sexism and racism. The best response to this, given that we are dealing with a confused elderly person probably showing early signs of dementia, is to pat them politely on the hand and continue our conversation as if they’d never said anything at all. We could try to argue, but they won’t understand, and it would probably only add to their increasing paranoia and sense that there is some great rainbow-coloured evil out there that’s out to get them.

So that’s my new resolution, from now on I will view faux outrage clickbait articles in the media with a sort of weary patience. I refuse to get angry, because anger, like agreement, is a response, and it’s a market where any response at all translates into profit. Page hit figures don’t record whether readers were nodding in agreement or rolling their eyes. So instead of doing anger and outrage I shall do happiness and positivity. I shall remember that most people are perfectly pleasant and far too preoccupied with their own lives and families to be interested in hurting anybody elses. I shall remember that most people who use food banks do so because they’re in a really desperate situation and are thankful for whatever help they can access. I shall remember that most people who migrate to this country do so because they want the sort of stability and security that most people who already live here view as fundamental rights, and the accident of being born somewhere on a different side of some ocean shouldn’t remove those rights. And finally I shall remember that the nurses have no interest in stealing my jewelery.

But then, at some point, I’ll trip over some other article in some other rag that presents bile and venom as if they were actual news, and all my good intentions will fall by the wayside and I’ll be ranting on twitter with everyone else. And even though I’ve just established that that is Wrong, it will, in its own way, also be Right, because occasionally you do have to get angry and not turn a blind eye. Sometimes you do have to point out loudly and clearly how completely out of order a particular point of view is. It’s deciding when it’s worth the energy that’s the tricky bit.

 

*The article is here (http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2608606/No-ID-no-checks-vouchers-sob-stories-The-truth-shock-food-bank-claims.html). I’ll leave it to you to decide whether to click the link. It’s a click bait article, so if you’re clicking in order to be outraged remember that that’s what the paper’s publisher wants you to do.

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9 thoughts on “In which I wonder whether it’s worth going over this same ground again

    mandyblogger said:
    April 22, 2014 at 10:50 am

    I totally agree with every word you said, especially the bit about being born by accident in a less fortunate part of the world than ours. It saddens me that my octogenarian parents, especially my dad, read it and digest it whole, and then vomit out again at unexpected moments. I despise those ‘journalists’ who write hate into our everyday lives.

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    John Jackson said:
    April 22, 2014 at 11:05 am

    Briefly – No, Alison – it isn’t! This is, after all, the Daily Fail. The paper that has a cause of cancer, and a cure for cancer, every 2 weeks, alternating. The paper that specialises in faux outrage.

    There’s always just enough truth in their articles like this to appeal to their more reactionary readers. No doubt some people WILL be “taking food under false pretences”. – and equally, the majority will be cases of genuine need. In my own view, I’d sooner see food being used than wasted anyway.

    One facet that nobody seems to want to look at is how did people live BEFORE food banks? Times were just as bad, but nobody starved to death. There is a corollary – if food banks are there, people will use them.

    Perhaps the true answer is for everyone to just stop reading the Daily Fail!

    *sigh*

    John

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      Alison May responded:
      April 22, 2014 at 2:31 pm

      I think you’re right that there is a corollary. The dramatic rise in people accessing food banks has coincided with the end of crisis loans through the Social Fund. Crisis relief for people on v low incomes is now handled locally through individual councils and the schemes are quite variable from area to area in terms of how easy it is to get help. So that’s one thing that people did before food banks – use the social fund.

      People also opted not to spend on things like clothing/utilities etc, whereas now some people will get food from a foodbank and be able (for the short term at least) to be able to have food and heat/light for example.

      And then there’s the element of people using them because they’re there.

      And there have long been local charities that distributed food. Some of the advice agencies I’ve worked for have done it. Some local Salvation Army groups do. The difference now is that there are a lot that are run by the same charity (the Trussell Trust) so, for the first time, we’re seeing national usage figures in the press, which definitely is new.

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    bernimoonhouse1620 said:
    April 22, 2014 at 11:37 am

    I think renaming that paper the Daily Fail is the best idea I’ve heard in years. My parents always read it and believed every word too. My Dad would often quote from it.
    The only thing I will say in their favour, is, if any of us had a just cause to rant about something wrong in society – for instance – carers – then I think the Mail would be the one paper to take up the rant. Whether they would report it truthfully, I don’t know, but they would report it.

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      Alison May responded:
      April 22, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      The campaigning stances taken by some of the tabloids are interested and, I agree, can be one of the few examples of them doing something useful. Things still tend to fall into very black and white heroes/villains narratives though. Nothing (and nobody) is ever complicated or open to more than one interpretation!

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    bernimoonhouse1620 said:
    April 22, 2014 at 11:38 am

    I didn’t mean my comment to be so sweeping when I said carers of course! My mother’s carers were good. My Father’s carers were very definitely NOT. It’s a long story.

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    carol hedges said:
    April 22, 2014 at 3:11 pm

    At the risk of inciting rabid fury from some of your readers: The Mail is a right wing, Murdoch controlled, evil load of crappy and badly written journalistic rubbish. If you read it, you might as well vote UKIP. If you ever come across a copy, I’d advise you to do the following: 1)Do not read it 2) Shred it into little bits 3) Use it to line your cat litter tray.

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    electronicbaglady said:
    April 22, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    The problem I have with it is that my mother who reads it, and who has dementia, believes it and gets frightened. I don’t like people frightening my mother. It makes me green and Hulky. I wish I knew how to stop them.
    I did think about telling her the paper had gone bust but the alternatives are as bad. Sigh.

    Like

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