I watched the new Channel 4 series, Benefits Street last night. To say that this is the laziest example of the medias pointing and laughing at the poor while making those people’s lives entertainment for the masses, or to make middle class readers of ‘quality’ newspapers tut and type off a few Tweets bemoaning the ‘benefits culture’ before enjoying a glass of nice wine, is an understatement.
This was designed (under false pretenses if the residents are to be believed) to be a day by day portrayal of life on the margins where you do wake up thinking whether to pay a bill or eat that day. Instead it was made into a freakshow, a Grand Guignol for the 21st century in Britain where we’re being made to point down at mock, laugh at and despise those in a less fortunate situation to us, even though the reality is that for most of us, we’re two or three bad months away from being in the same situation.
It’s a programme made by people who’ve never had to live with no money. It’s an affluent person’s view of poverty or what it’s like to survive on benefits. Yes, of course people fuck their lives up and of course there are a minority who do abuse the system, but programmes like this aren’t nuanced. They’re all about pointing and shouting ‘LOOK AT THE SPOUNGING FREAKS’. It also acts as political propaganda for the current government, and allowed to go ahead unchallenged while the people in this programme are demonised and threatened.
This programme is morally fucked and factually inaccurate. All in the name of ‘entertainment’ and easy ratings. Channel 4 used to stand against crap like this, now it backs it.