Yesterday morning I was awoken by a robin sitting next to my bed and singing at me. It had somehow managed to fly into my flat, no need to call the RSPB for me keeping a wild bird inside! This morning, however, I was faced with something a lot more unsavoury.
While for many years I have always had a low opinion of The Sun, never has it reached the depths that it has today with this headline:
I tried to give The Sun the benefit of the doubt at first. Thinking possibly that they were simply trying to help draw attention to the problems with mental health care in the country. Then I realised if that was indeed their intention, they had gone about it in one of the worst ways possible; by continuing the demonisation of the sick and disabled in Britain. The more I thought about it, even in my half-awake state, the more angry I became. The story is paywalled on their site. I wouldn’t spend 30p on a paper copy even if I was out of loo paper, let alone £1 to join The Sun+ and read more of their crap. A friend of mine shared the image of the front page herself and said that she had emailed her displeasure.
After some mulling on the situation, here was my email, knowing full well it most likely wouldn’t be read or even acknowledged, but it was better than silently fuming:
To whom it may concern,
I do not buy your paper as I consider it to be nothing better than cat litter tray liner, however I will admit that The Sun has a long history as a newspaper, a very large readership and attempts to pride itself on journalistic integrity. Considering your paper has had a Conservative slant for a long time, I, along with many others, have come to expect the small mindedness that’s generally printed in your pages. How you enjoy campaigning against various minority groups.
I have to admit that your ‘Shop a Scrounger’ campaign irked me as a great many people suffer from hidden disabilities and neither your paper nor your readers have any right to harass or cause distress to those who are genuine claimants, and that includes promoting the idea that everyone in receipt of ESA or DLA are doing so under false pretences. Had you actually checked statistics (government ones at that!) you’d see that DLA actually has one of the lowest benefit fraud rates.
Not to mention, there has been a government phone number to report benefit fraud for many years. Yes, back when Labour was in power! I remember seeing commercials for it on TV. The funny thing is, whenever people come out with these anecdotes about “this guy down the pub who’s on the fiddle”, they rarely if ever actually report it. For those who do, most of the reports turn out to be people with genuine conditions. Doesn’t this prove that your campaign isn’t really going to achieve much?
As a DLA claimant myself, I wasn’t even aware that I qualified for DLA until I was told by a therapist who helped me to fill out the forms which are incredibly demeaning as well as dispiriting. They make you talk about how bad your conditions are and for many people will illnesses, this can be incredibly draining and demoralising. Sometimes putting all those things into words can make you feel even worse and hamper any recovery you might be experiencing. That along with the intrusive assessments by ATOS which have been proven over and over to be unfit for purpose.
The other week, I was disgusted at the sale of two Halloween costumes that contributed to the perception that mentally ill people are ‘scary’ and ‘dangerous’. From what I understand, both Tesco and Asda have withdrawn the costumes. My problem wasn’t with the costumes, but with the labelling of them.
So, imagine my disgust when I see the front page of your newspaper today trying to create more scaremongering regarding those with mental health conditions. How about reporting how many people in those same 10 years had been killed by drink drivers? By alcohol? By black people? Oh wait, if you’d have said ‘black people’ that would have been racist, wouldn’t it? But you seem to think it’s perfectly ok to attack those who are mentally ill because it’s not racist. It’s the same bigoted thinking, it’s the same prejudicial thinking and it’s unacceptable. Even the government, as much as I loathe them, are making faint hearted stabs at trying to change the way people stigmatise the sick and disabled. I will admit that it seems vacuous from them given how their policies have caused the deaths of many sick and disabled people. Shouldn’t that be the headline you should be running? About how many people have died in the past 3 years of this coalition government as a result of the draconian policies on the sick and disabled? I would expect that a paper with your finanical backing would be more than capable of hiring journalists that can at least use Google:
I’m aware you probably won’t like to acknowledge what a rival publication has to say, but I shall quote the following in the hope that some sense sinks in:
‘We’ve used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that, between January and August last year, 1,100 claimants died after they were put in the “work-related activity group”.’
That’s the number of people who have died in a period of 8 months. People who you are intent on demonising with your headline. People who are the most vulnerable in society. People who need help the most in this time of hardship. You’re not helping us at all with headlines that only cause panic, fear and more persecution. Were you even aware that the mentally ill are more likely to be victims of crime and that the number of those has increased since this government came into power with its divisive policies which are aided and abetted by yourselves?
You are just as culpable as the government in those deaths and the hate crimes that happen towards the disabled. If you decide you have the responsibility to inform, you also assume the consequences of your actions. There is indeed a problem with mental health care in this country, however your newspaper’s headline is not the way to draw attention to it by causing yet more scaremongering and continuing to perpetuate the myth that all mental health sufferers are axe wielding psychopaths.
I will not only continue not to buy your paper, but will also take a more active role in campaigning against your odious little rag and small minded reporting. I know others will do the same and not just individuals like myself. The disabled community has taken far too much for far too long. Report on something more important such as David Cameron’s plans to scrap benefits for all under 25s. I’m sure that would be a great concern to your newspapers demographic considering how many of them are under 25 and buy your paper because it has tits on Page 3.
Yours not faithfully,
If anyone wishes to use my email as a template to send to The Sun, be my guest. For too long this sort of thing has gone on unopposed. The lions of Britain are waking and boy, are they pissed off.