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Saturday 11 January 2014

Playing Both Sides Of Benefits Street

There are some rules governing the media that never vary: one is that you should think long and hard before letting the cameras in, especially if there is anything you might find inconvenient if broadcast, and another is that you should never, but never, go to the Daily Mail if you expect to be treated other than just another pawn in the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre’s mission to sell more papers.
What's f***ing wrong with kicking benefit claimants, c***?!?

Both these appear to have been ignored by residents of James Turner Street in the Birmingham suburb of Winson Green, some of whom let Channel 4 in to make its latest documentary Benefits Street – many residents are out of work, or claim other social security assistance – only for others to then go to the Mail as the paper sent its hacks to dig as much dirt as they could find.

This documentary series reveals the reality of life on benefits, as the residents of one of Britain's most benefit-dependent streets invite cameras into their tight-knit community” says the Channel 4 blurb. Yes, the residents invited the cameras in, and there are a total of five programmes scheduled. But the Mail is in the business of kicking Channel 4, and also kicking the unemployed.

So Dacre’s finest first dug the dirt on as many of the participants as they could, unearthing a criminal conviction for one, before then playing the other side of the field and laying into Channel 4 for making the very series that is enabling the Mail to sell more papers because of the faux outrage already generated. As their unfunny and talentless churnalist Richard Littlejohn might say, you couldn’t make it up.

The scale of Mail misrepresentation is clear from the start: readers are fed the usual outrage-inducing “The ‘majority’ of residents in the 99 addresses are living off the state” before this is modified to “Ninety per cent of residents living in the 137-house street claim one or more benefits”. In other words, many are clearly working, and the Mail can’t even agree how many houses there are!

But this was clearly not enough for the Dacre doggies, and so a resident had to be found: “George Drummond is proud of his home, where he and his wife, a nurse, raised their three children. He is proud of his adopted country, having arrived here from Jamaica in the Fifties and spending the next 30-odd years as a bus driver, barely missing a day at the wheel”. He is therefore ideal Daily Mail material.

The upstanding Mr Drummond is an example of the kind of black people that Paul Dacre will allow into his paper, as he has worked hard, paid his taxes, owns his home, and most importantly can be used to shame his neighbours, not that he will have been told that was the deal. And that he may get stick for going to the Mail is something the hacks don’t care about. They’ve got their story.

And the Mail gets to kick its intended targets once more. No surprise there, then.

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