Saturday, 7 February 2009

MCP Watch: Farrar blows the fat lady alert whistle

I feel like David Farrar and I have been playing blog-chicken for a while. Sooner or later one of us was going to have something on our blog that would result in a direct response by post from the other. I wondered if Jacinda Ardern's great guest post earlier this week might have got the usual linkage that Farrar gives to any MP blogging anywhere. As it didn't, I guess I am cracking first.

Because putting up this post yesterday, with the picture he used, was always going to get a comment thread full of misogynists sharing their lady-hate, with some added bonus Fat People Suck on the side.

Some lowlights:
d4j:Is that what the Mob call a hot spare tyre around that things waste line? Yuck bro!

side show bob: She was barking you say, funny, it doesn’t look like she has worms, maybe it’s distemper.

KiwiGreg: Fat, ugly and insane. Any 2 of those 3 will make you hard to employ.

Glutaemus Maximus: Hadn’t realised that it was Mob ‘Bikini Season’

mara: I have unseemly visions of the straining button popping off the waist of the jeans and all the suety stuff falling to kneecaps level. Aren’t policemen supposed to carry blankets in their cars anymore? If not, why not?

Patrick Starr: I’m more stunned that somebody got pissed enough to get it pregnant
The post is ostensibly about whether the woman in question, Victoria Stevens, should be entitled to an Invalid's Benefit. Because we can all make a medical diagnosis just by reading one article about a person, and viewing one photograph, Farrar determines that it's a fail for Work and Income. Steve Pierson at The Standard has called him out on the ridiculousness of this (unfortunately the comment thread is not so enlightened). And when a reader on the Kiwiblog thread does the same, this happens:
billyborker: There are many reasons one can be on an invalid pension, and bot all of them relate to a physical ailment. Perhaps she sufers froma mental disorder, thus making her fair game for the Rottweilers of the Right.

[DPF: There really is no limit to what you will defend is there?]*

There are many many things you can be on an Invalid's Benefit for and still be physically active, as Steve and billyborker both mention. The lack of decency on the thread Farrar started shows some serious hate towards not only women, not only those of heavier weight, but also beneficiaries, the poor, parents whose children stuff up, and generally anyone who isn't in a high tax bracket. There's a total lack of compassion or understanding, from most commenters, of how someone can end up on a benefit, or involved in crime, or the extreme stress of facing the fact your son is on trial for murder. (I'm not offering excuses; I believe that if we can't understand why someone is doing what they are doing then we will fail to come up with any effective way to change that behaviour.)

Farrar's been running Kiwiblog for a long time now, and he knows well what to expect in his comment section. Rather than write a post about what Victoria Stevens had done, why she was in court, he focused on her beneficiary status, and put up a picture bound to result in a comment thread full of nasty comments about her size. Sad, sad, sad.


* This indicates that Farrar edited billyborker's comment to add this bit in himself.

70 comments:

Anna said...

What is wrong with these people? Are they mentally trapped in fourth form or something?

The irony is that d4j wonders why women don't like him much.

I comfort myself with the fact that these people are not representative. Blogs do have an appeal to a certain painfully immature bunch of rabid right wingers, who find an opportunity to mouth off in an environment where no one will have a go at them for it. It's really an exercise in cowardice that tells us a lot more about their personal problems than what the public thinks, I believe.

Brett Dale said...

I think the point he was trying to make was the abuse of our welfare system, and no Im not saying that all people on welfare are abusing it.

Tidge said...

Maybe he was trying to make a point about the welfare system and not the physical appearance of the qwomen in question - after all, DPF, from the pix I've seen of him, would be rather hypocritical in attacking anyone elses' physical appearance. Not that him being in triathlete shape would excuse it, BTW.

But the fact remains, the comment on the welfare system was superficial and uninformed, and involved knowingly and unfairly opening up a woman he knows nothing about to the vile scrutiny of the Kiwiblog commenters.

The only person I have ever known on an invalids benefit, WAS suffering from mental illness, and he had weight issues due to the massive amounts of medication he was on. There was nothing system abusive about it. The medication required to keep him in a stable, not-self-harming condition, otherwise crippled his mental and physical function.

Mental health care worldwide is a) appallingly bad and b) very hit or miss, trial and error. Some understanding of that fact is in order. But I suppose that was asking too much of DPF? You can still walk, so just suck it up?

backin15 said...

Yeah, he knows the responses he'll get for sure. He posts these items so that the commentators say the things he wants to say but knows he can't.

millsy said...

Disgusting.

Some people really need to look at the Mirror.

Hey Brett,

What do you think about the comments in that thread on kiwiblog. Or do you think that she is a fat pig as well? Do you get off on saying nasty things about people.

Brett Dale said...

Its human nature for some people to make a bad comment on someone's physical appearance, its just an easy thing to do. When it came to this particular story, people saw an overweight person, who had physically abuse a police officer, and thought "Well she is fit enough to attack a Officer she should be working and also thought, well she also has enough money to eat.

Personally, I don't know her medical condition.

Judging by the press report, she has gang connections and she abused the family of the man who her son is accused of murdering.

So yes, for some people on the right, she is not going to be their favorite person.

By the way, I don't get off by saying nasty things about people.

Tui said...

Oh, well, Brett, if it's human nature that's OK then! How SILLY of us to be offended by assholes who can't control their own "human" nature!

For the record, it's more expensive to eat healthily.

Brett Dale said...

I didn't say it made it right, I just said its human nature.

Healthy food can be inexpensive, it can be really cheap if you grow your own veges.

Tui said...

Right, because people living on benefits usually have plenty of garden space to grow their own veges, not to mention a freezer so they can feed themselves during the year and the spare time, energy, and physical health to actually maintain that vege garden.

Don't get me wrong, I think growing your own food is great. But I think that with some exceptions (for example I know there are some socially-funded initiatives which get beneficiaries etc in community garden growing which I think are fantastic) growing your own food is a privilege, not a tool for whipping overweight people with.

The Paradoxical Cat said...

The rabid right wing boys, permanently stuck in sniggering adolescence, emotionally and it would seem intellectually too, were emboldened in the lead-up to the 2008 election, by the fact that they allowed each other to call Helen Clark "it".

So the attack dogs of the right think sexism is OK. They have approved it in each other.

I wonder what do the leaders of National Act and the Maori Party think of their most vocal wing referring to any woman as "it"? (Whether that woman is the most high-status woman in the country, as Clark was, or someone from the bottom of the heap?)

Hugh said...

For the record, it's more expensive to eat healthily.

This fact really can't be emphasized enough.

Brett Dale said...

Some pasta and noodles are cheap, thinking out of the box helps in these tough time.

David Farrar said...

1) I fully intend to link to Jacinda's post. I've just been saving it for a weekday post, when there is a bigger audience.

2) I never commented on Stevens weight. I used the photo the newspaper used. It is not that I had a choice of photos. Are you suggesting because she is fat I should not have used her photo? Incidentally Pierson makes references to my weight on a very regular basis, so I wouldn't get to sanctimonious when you quote him.

3) I did not conclude that she should not be on the Invalids Benefit. I said WINZ should ask for an independent medical examination as she certainly seemed capable of work.

4) I have lived with someone on the Invalids Benefit. For those who genuinely need it, there is almost no limit to how much support I want them to get. My flatmate used almost every hour he could not do paid work, doing voluntary work for charity. Not mocking the widow of someone just murdered.

5) I am sure you will continue to strongly disagree with me on this issue. I appreciate the ability to respond and thank you for it. I always find the posts here thoughtful, even if areas of agreement are few.

Tui said...

@Brett, yes, thinking outside the box is indeed helpful, and I admire your determination to do so by suggesting that pasta and noodles are healthy foods - very outside the box!

Anna said...

Hi David

Thanks for responding to this thread. I guess the issue of Stevens' beneficiary status is a valid one, although not one we're likely to see eye to eye on.

I think it's highly likely that this woman has a mental illness, and as such should be treated with compassion. The invalids' benefit is not, after all, that easy to get or stay on - Stevens has been certified as ill by a qualified medical professional, so without good reason, there are probably no grounds to second-guess that person's/people's diagnosis. Stevens could defend herself by releasing her private medical details to the public, but I don't think she should have to.

Because of the world we live in, I don't think you can put a picture of a fat woman (particularly one in this woman's circumstances) on a blog and not expect misogynist or mocking comments. I for one would feel much more comfortable if you moderated those.

Cheers
Anna

Brett Dale said...

Actually pasta, cooked in the right way is very healthy for you and its cheap, Noodles can be used for a light lunch, or maybe just a piece of fruit.

Anyone been to fast food restaurants lately? its very expensive

Giovanni said...

For the record, it's more expensive to eat healthily.

Eating a mediterranean diet, which is considered one of the healthiest around, has always been and remains very cheap. I only have to compare the weekly consumption in my household to the Otago food survey to see that. Pasta, rice, extra-virgin olive oil, seasonable vegetables are chepaer than the meat, dairy, butter and processed foods. The only item in the mediterranean basket that has gone up in price in recent years relative to the overall cost of groceries is fish. So I'd say it's more a matter of education than money. Changing habits is hard, though, end information is not available to all, which is why it's the people with the most means who eat more healthily (and spend less).

On the subject of the tenor of the discussions over at Kiwiblog, it's amazing how much less offensive I've been finding them since I stopped reading them altogether. I thoroughly recommend it.

Hugh said...

David

It's unlikely you'll respond to this, but here goes.

2) Why did you need to accompany this article with a photo when most of your posts don't have photos? What did you feel it would bring to the discussion?

3) Why should they review her case because she got into a fight with some policemen? Do you really think the skillset needed to get into a fight and the skillset needed to do a job are that similar? Why do you regard the possibility of her being on the invalid's benefit due to mental illness so unlikely?

4) If your flatmate could do voluntary work, why wasn't he able to do regular work?

Julie said...

Weak, weak, weak Farrar. Thanks Anna and Hugh for their comments in response. And Giovanni, I usually don't read the comment threads at all, but sadly when I saw that particular post I was afeared of what would ensue, and unfortunately I was not surprised by the contents.

By the by, I don't think comments about Farrar's weight are ok either. I don't care what he looks like. I just care about the culture he promotes on his blog, and by extension in the broader political blogland of NZ. As Kiwiblog is the biggest blog in our little pond it does set the tone for elsewhere, and as The Paradoxical Cat so eloquently put it, those who comment in a nasty vein there give each other permission to be pricks, and not just on Kiwiblog either.

Brett Dale said...

Rice is quite cheap and very good, then there is always soup, Kenny Bania may not agree with Seinfeld, but it is a meal.

Giovanni said...

And Giovanni, I usually don't read the comment threads at all, but sadly when I saw that particular post I was afeared of what would ensue, and unfortunately I was not surprised by the contents.

Personally, I've given up on DPF's posts as well, I cannot pretend the un-moderated racist echo-chamber that they sustain doesn't exist regardless of whether I click on "comments" or not. But I see that as a progressive blogger you might feel that Kiwiblog needs to be engaged to and taken to task. I'm glad somebody's doing it - it sure as hell ain't going to be me.

Anita said...

David Farrar writes,

For those who genuinely need it, there is almost no limit to how much support I want them to get. My flatmate used almost every hour he could not do paid work, doing voluntary work for charity.

Ah... your flatmate was one of the deserving beneficiaries.

When undertaking beneficiary bashing the "one of my friends is/was a deserving beneficiary" argument is de rigueur. While on the surface it pretends to be pro beneficiary it is yet another form of bashing as by stating that some people deserve benefits it implies that others don't.

People on the invalid's benefit get it because they are too sick to work and they are a member of our communities, not because they meet some moral test for deserving-ness and spend their benefit funded life working to show their gratitude.

David Farrar said...

Anna said "Stevens has been certified as ill by a qualified medical professional, so without good reason, there are probably no grounds to second-guess that person's/people's diagnosis."

DPF:I think her vigorous physical activity is grounds for someone at WINZ to check why she is on the Invalids Benefit and if necessary seek an independent assessment.

Hugh: I thought the photo showed a vigorous able woman - so able it needed four officers to handle her.

As for skillset, that is the wrong word. it is incapacity. To get the Invalids Benefit you basically are permanently incapacitated and can't even do part-time work. It is not a benefit you get just because no one will hire you. Many people have mental illnesses. To make you absolutely unable to even do part-time work is very very rare.

As for my flatmate, he had a very rare neurological condition, so couldn't work more than certain number of hours a week. He was able to do a few hours a week teaching remedial reading at a local school, just so he was doing something and contributing something.

Anita - we will never agree on this, but in no way do I accept everyone on the Invalids and Sickness Benefit deserves to get them, and/or should be getting them. Of course the majority do. But the minority who do not are not a miniscule 1% or so. It is well into double figures I would say. Almost any Doctor will confirm this, but probably say it is even higher than what I say.

I know you will never accept this is anything but nasty beneficiary bashing, but allowing people to choose (as opposed to forced to) to spend their lives on welfare is very much linked to outcomes such as your son joins the mongrel Mob and kills someone.

Now again, of course most people on welfare (esp those two benefits) have genuine temporary or permanent incapacity and must be helped. And yes I am sure they can feel stigmatised by the attacks on those who are not genuinely in need. But I don't think pretending there is not a problem is the answer.

Anna said...

David, I think you're sailing close to the wind with your diagnostics. If almost every doctor will tell you that people fraudulently claim sickness and invalid's benefits, who's signing off the fraudsters' applications? And when you make that accusation, you're calling into question the ethics and professional judgement of people more qualified to diagnose illness than you are. Why aren't Work & Income recognising this large scale fraud? After all, they have a clear mandate to prevent beneficiary numbers growing and take fraud prevention very seriously.

Vigorous physical activity is simply not a reliable sign of good health. Antonie Dixon passed your test of vigorous physical activity, and he quite clearly had mental health issues. It is quite possible to be incapacitated by mental ill health - I know this from personal experience.

If you can produce any credible research which shows a causal link between benefit receipt and criminal activity I'm interested to hear it, but I'm pretty confident you can't. It's an incredibly complex issue and has a lot to do with other markers of socioeconomic status. Likewise, I'd be interested in any evidence that the checks and balances which Work & Income use when granting benefits aren't working, and that fraud is rife. Again, I simply don't think there's evidence to support this. If you want to say derogatory things about people in a public forum, I think you owe it to them ethically to be able to substantiate what you're saying.

And last but not least, saying that a good proportion of beneficiaries are fraudsters quite clearly casts doubt on the integrity of all beneficiaries. It seems to be OK to look on beneficiaries as a pool of potentially dishonest drains on society. We don't regards other people outside the workforce - pensioners, stay at home mothers - in this way.

Anita said...

David Farrar writes,

To get the Invalids Benefit you basically are permanently incapacitated and can't even do part-time work. It is not a benefit you get just because no one will hire you. Many people have mental illnesses. To make you absolutely unable to even do part-time work is very very rare.

Nope, you have to be "unable to regularly work 15 hours or more" according to Work and Income. Being able to work only part-time doesn't prevent you from getting the Invalid's Benefit.

Anita - we will never agree on this, but in no way do I accept everyone on the Invalids and Sickness Benefit deserves to get them, and/or should be getting them.

We agree on this, what we disagree on I think is how we define "deserves", you are implying an "is a good person" standard in addition to sufficient limitation through illness, sickness or disability, I am not.

Hugh said...

David:

I'm not seeing anything in that photograph that shows a high standard of physical health.

You've said:

As for skillset, that is the wrong word. it is incapacity. To get the Invalids Benefit you basically are permanently incapacitated and can't even do part-time work

Are you sure that the incapacitation must be permanent? Is it your understanding that those whose incapacitation will not necessarily last their lifetime are not eligible to receive the benefit? If not, what do you mean by 'permanently'?

You've also said:

Many people have mental illnesses. To make you absolutely unable to even do part-time work is very very rare.

Of the people who I'm aware of who are or have received the invalid's benefit, the vast majority have done so due to mental health issues, usually depression. Perhaps this is not representative, but doctors seem relatively receptive to the idea that mental health prevents one from working.

You may feel that these people have successfully defrauded their doctors, or that the doctors in question have an unrealistic idea of how depression effects people. But I think it's also possible that mental health does render people unable to work, and it is appropriate for them to receive support if this is the case.

As for your flatmate, I'm confused. I don't mean to pry into the poor chap's privacy, but was the remedial teaching paid work, or voluntary work? If the former, what was the voluntary work he did, and how did his neurological condition permit him to do it when it prevented him from doing more teaching? If the latter, why did he only do a few hours of remedial teaching, when his condition didn't prevent him from doing more?

If there are any doctors or nurses reading this thread, I, for one, would be really interested in your opinion on this.

Anita said...

Hugh writes,

Of the people who I'm aware of who are or have received the invalid's benefit, the vast majority have done so due to mental health issues, …

You may feel that these people have successfully defrauded their doctors, or that the doctors in question have an unrealistic idea of how depression effects people. But I think it's also possible that mental health does render people unable to work, and it is appropriate for them to receive support if this is the case.


Yes, it absolutely does and they absolutely do. Sadly many people just believe depression isn't a "real" illness and think most depressed people just aren't that sick. Which is very much the way DPF has sounded so far.

Two stories:

1) Someone in her early twenties who went on the sickness benefit for two years suffering from depression after the end of her first long term relationship

2) A woman with a brain tumour who spent two years on the sickness benefit (working a few hours a week whenever she could) when the worst of the symptoms started, but who has since then managed with lots of medical support to work at least part time and has been in well paid jobs for over a decade.

People knee jerk at the first of those stories as it sounds like laziness or fraudulent use of the sickness benefit, while the second is considered the perfect example of why we have a sickness benefit and how good people deserve support.

They are the same story: the first major symptom of my tumour was crippling depression and I spent two years on the sickness benefit while doctors sorted out a medication regime that managed the depression while leaving me capable of working.

One of the hardest things about being on the sickness benefit was the impression that people just didn't believe depression was "enough" to deserve the benefit. Oddly being unable to work because of medication side effects was considered more acceptable.

It's why I find it so hard to hear that kind of beneficiary bashing; people that disabled by depression really don't need anyone sticking the boot in for political points.

Psycho Milt said...

This thread just gets more and more surreal. Yes, absolutely, it's quite within the bounds of possibility that an enthusiastic supporter of and contributor of offspring to the Mongrel Mob is entirely legitimately on an invalid's benefit, despite being in good enough physical shape to need several cops to restrain her. But on the balance of probabilities? Really?!? I'm sorry, I'm just not that generous a soul.

Bottom line: if you don't want right-wingers being nasty about you, a good start is to avoid publicly supporting a criminal gang, and to avoid making a public spectacle of yourself backing said criminal gang in a murder case of national media interest. Most of us seem capable of managing that.

That aside, yes - DPF's retinue of performing imbeciles will be nasty about you anyway, because that's just the kind of stunted creatures they are.

Anna said...

Psycho, don't you think it's possible that some of the anti-social behaviour stems from the mental illness? Or that anti-social people get sick too?

Psycho Milt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Psycho Milt said...

As I said, it's entirely possible. I just don't, in this particular instance, rate it very high on my personal "balance of probabilities" sheet (which each of us constantly maintains and updates in our dealings with the world, whether we wish to or not).

How about a counter-view? Is it really any more charitable to assume this woman has some kind of mental illness than to assume she's simply good at ripping off the system? Frankly, I'm not convinced.

Giovanni said...

Is it really any more charitable to assume this woman has some kind of mental illness than to assume she's simply good at ripping off the system?

What a bizarre thing to say. Why assume that somebody who appeared to be off her rocker is in fact off her rocker, when we can assume instead great manipulation skills on her part, or incompetence in a state official, or both?

Anna said...

Agreed. If this woman is that duplicitous and clever, I reckon she'd find a more lucrative career than going on the benefit, barking like a dog and being manhandled by the police.

AWicken said...

What I find interesting is that somebody can read a story about a disruption at a murder trial and the only thought that springs to their mind is whether a particular person's benefit should be reviewed.


And as for the 'some of my friends [flatmates] have been ...' and the 'some are genuine, but many aren't, (so when one maligns group X with an ignorant generalisation and you come up with a contradictory example one can say "maybe not *that* person, but a lot are")' lines . . .

Well, they have been used by people to defend bigotry for decades.

Psycho Milt said...

Why assume that somebody who appeared to be off her rocker is in fact off her rocker...

Maybe you've never seen someone who hates cops resisting arrest before, Giovanni. That's all I saw.

Also, it takes no particular genius to get a sickness or invalid's benefit, merely a doctor who can be intimidated. Which isn't to say that's what I believe about this woman with strong Mob connections, simply to say that it's not as implausible as you wish to make out.

Anyway, why exactly is it a bizarre thing to say? You look at a photo and a blog post and say "Most likely suffering a mental illness." I look at the same and say "Most likely a professional malingerer." Frankly, neither assumption is very nice.

Tui said...

So, psycho milt, what you're saying is that suggesting that someone's suffering from a mental illness is as bad as a suggestion that someone is a thief and a con artist.

Except surely you can't be saying that, because surely you know that *having a mental illness* is not the same thing as *being a criminal*, and you know that being accepting and honest about mental illness is really important and the best way to make it easier for people with mental illnesses to be fully integrated. So you definitely definitely can't be sayin that. Right?

Psycho Milt said...

I'm saying neither of them is a very nice suspicion to have of someone when you have no evidence for it. Perhaps there's some alternate hippy-dippy liberal universe in which sane people aren't insulted when others suspect them of being mentally ill, but in this one it's still an insult. It's also not necessarily an inconsequential one: deciding that an "antisocial" attitude is indicative of mental illness has proved a handy tool of totalitarian govts - ie there's nothing particularly generous, warm-spirited or liberal about it.

But is it as bad as suspecting them of being a criminal? Depends on the person, I guess. In this particular instance, we at least have the fact of her support for a criminal gang as a logical prop for the unfair suspicion she's a criminal, and the fact of... what? Nothing, for the unfair suspicion she's mentally ill.

Hugh said...

Psycho, if you feel she's physically fit and yet receiving a sickness benefit, I'd say that's a strong indicator that she's mentally ill. Unless you agree with Farrar that the sickness benefit isn't intended for the mentally ill...

Julie said...

Well this thread has ended up a long way from my original point about the hating on large women. But it's turned into a very interesting discussion about invalid and sickness beneficiaries, so that's good!

Meanwhile the hating has continued on the Kiwiblog thread. No visible efforts by Farrar to moderate it, that I can see. I'd post some examples but they're pretty vile and I'm not sure there's anything to be gained :-(

I do have some thoughts on sickness beneficiaries (and invalids) which I need to think through a bit more before commenting.

Anna said...

I'd love to hear your thoughts on sickness and invalid beneficiaries, Julie. I'm always amazed at how it seems OK to treat them as a different species, with utterly different values (or lack thereof) to the rest of us.

It's customary (and an important ethical value) to give people the benefit of the doubt unless there is good reason not to. Accusing someone of fraud is normally considered slanderous - unless that person is a beneficiary. Then it's open season.

And the justification for this is 'common sense', because we all know what 'those people' are like. And yet those who have the strongest opinions about what beneficiaries are like tend to have the least contact with them. You seldom hear a mental health or social service worker making black and white generalisations about beneficiaries.

Giovanni said...

Accusing someone of fraud is normally considered slanderous - unless that person is a beneficiary. Then it's open season.

Yes, that is the sense in which I found Psycho Milt's comments bizarre - I shouldn't have, it's very common thinking. But Anita's point about the deserving beneficiaries is key I think to understanding a more insidious kind of descrimination: being a beneficiary is like being black in America at the time of Guess Who's Coming to Dinner: something you had better have a good excuse for, and pay off by being an utterly exceptional person in every other regard* - like Farrar's friend with his charity work. But this woman doesn't fit that particular mould, so to hell with her, and let's withdraw her benefit.

(*cue the recent Chris Rock comment about Obama: blacks have always been recognised for excellence; whites don't need to be excellent to become president)

Psycho Milt said...

Is this wilful misreading of my comments, or simply poor reading comprehension? For the record:

1. I don't recall accusing anybody of benefit fraud. I have an opinion as to which of fraud or mental illness is more likely in this case, but that's simply an opinion. Everybody has them.

2. That opinion is based not on a bigoted view of beneficiaries being "a different species" or "those people" or "like being Black in America" (WTF?), but on the not-insignificant fact of the woman in question being involved with a criminal gang. If you're looking for a beneficiary-basher, head over to Kiwiblog, there's plenty there to argue with.

Giovanni said...

I don't recall accusing anybody of benefit fraud. I have an opinion as to which of fraud or mental illness is more likely in this case, but that's simply an opinion.

Oh, this is utterly priceless. "I didn't accuse her of being a benefit fraudster: I simply happen to think she probably is!"

Psycho Milt said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tui said...

Yes, Psycho, being mentally ill remains stigmatised. But funnily enough, looking at someone who is receiving a benefit and then saying "she looks physically fit to me, an untrained and ignorant punter, so she's probably receiving the benefit because she's got a mental illness" is a pretty different kettle of fish to "she looks physically fit to me so she's probably receiving the benefit because she's a thief and a fraudster." You do *see*, don't you, that the former constitutes an attempt to give this woman the benefit of the doubt and that all the latter achieves is calling this woman a bad person from a position of complete fucking ignorance?

Psycho Milt said...

Please at least attempt to bring some precision to your thinking. No, believing the balance of probabilities lies more one way than the other is not the same as accusing someone, and I expect you know it very well.

Try it this way round: you haven't accused her of being off her rocker, you just happen to think she probably is. Based on?

Giovanni said...

Besides which, it's Psycho Milt who's doing the stygmatising all by himself. Nobody here has intimated that there's anything wrong with being mentally ill. He thinks that it somehow reflects your ethics, like being a fraudster.

Psycho Milt said...

The above comment was addressed to Giovanni, not Tui.

"she looks physically fit to me so she's probably receiving the benefit because she's a thief and a fraudster."

If I were thinking that, I would indeed be A Bad Person. But I'm not - I'm thinking, "she looks physically fit and she's connected with the Mongrel Mob, so she's quite possibly ripping the benefit system off." See that second bit in there? That doesn't make me A Bad Person, it makes me Not Quite As Naive As I Used To Be.

Psycho Milt said...

Are there any of my comments you don't care to wilfully misrepresent, Giovanni? It's probably easier if we do it that way.

Giovanni said...

You're the person who asked the following question, right?

"Is it really any more charitable to assume this woman has some kind of mental illness than to assume she's simply good at ripping off the system?"

Just checking.

Anna said...

I too see a difference between saying someone is a victim of an illness beyond their control, and saying they are a possible fraudster.

I think it's quite possible to be ill and have criminal associations at the same time. Criminal associations clearly aren't a good thing, but I don't think they nullify a person's entitlement to humane treatment, medical care and a means of subsistence.

I also don't think having criminal associations means a person should have their health scrutinised any differently to any other person on an invalid's or sickness benefit. One sufficiently stringent set of rules for everyone seems just fine to me.

And I'm still waiting, ever so patiently, for any basis for suspicion that the medical expert/s who diagnosed this woman, the Work & Income officials who processes her application or the many checks and balances which W&I practice were all wrong.

Giovanni said...

And I'm still waiting, ever so patiently, for any basis for suspicion that the medical expert/s who diagnosed this woman, the Work & Income officials who processes her application or the many checks and balances which W&I practice were all wrong.

Oh, don't be daft Anna. We all know that cheating the system is a doddle, and that the percentage of fraudsters is well into double figures. Why, almost any Doctor that David Farrar speaks to on a daily basis confirms this, but probably say it is even higher than what he says. Or something.

Psycho Milt said...

I think it's quite possible to be ill and have criminal associations at the same time.

Is there someone on the thread who doesn't?

Giovanni - you wrote:

He thinks that it somehow reflects your ethics, like being a fraudster.

Either wilful misrepresentation, or a basic lack of comprehension. Which is it?

Giovanni said...

And again I am forced to ask if you wrote this or not:

"Is it really any more charitable to assume this woman has some kind of mental illness than to assume she's simply good at ripping off the system?"

If assuming mental illness is no more charitable than assuming fraud, then being a fraudster is "as bad" as having a mental illness, no? It could be that I'm willfully misunderstanding or as dumb as a post, naturally, but the rules of language being what they are I don't think my reading is outlandish.

Julie said...

Is it just me or is there a whiff of testosterone on this thread? ;-)

(Did my somewhat silly attempt to lighten the mood succeed?)

Giovanni said...

(Did my somewhat silly attempt to lighten the mood succeed?)

Oh, my mood is very light, I assure you, I'm a veritable Harpo Marx. Nothing wrong trying to get to the bottom of what people mean, though, surely. Besides, you started it.

Psycho Milt said...

Is it just me or is there a whiff of testosterone on this thread? ;-)

More of a stench than a whiff - fair cop. OK, I shall assume a genuine interest on Giovanni's part in "getting to the bottom of what people mean," and a regrettable lack of clarity on my part in previous comments.

Let's step through it then:

I wrote:
Is it really any more charitable to assume this woman has some kind of mental illness than to assume she's simply good at ripping off the system?

Giovanni seems to have understood this as a declaration that mental illness is on a par with crime. It is a false understanding, perhaps due to a lack of clarity on my part.

That understanding of my comment is based on a non sequitur: that if it is uncharitable to assume one thing about a person, and equally uncharitable to assume a different thing about a person, they must therefore both be uncharitable for the same reason.

That just doesn't follow. For example, suppose I look at someone and suspect they're a liar, and you look at them and suspect they're of very low intelligence. Neither of us has formed a particularly charitable opinion of them, and the person in question would be unlikely to react favourably to hearing either of our assumptions about them. My suspicion assumes defiency of character, yours assumes a condition for which the person would bear no fault and could do little about, but which they would still find insulting, particularly if they were in fact of average or better intelligence. The fact that both assumptions would be considered insulting by an average person is not an indication that the average person considers low intelligence to be a deficiency of character on a par with lying, rather that the average person considers low intelligence an undesirable attribute and one they'd rather not have attributed to them without reason.

You can call this "stigmatising" if you want, but the fact that most of us would rather not be mentally ill, rather not be blind, quadriplegic, diabetic etc etc does not imply any character deficiency or moral turpitude on the part of those who are.

Giovanni said...

Well, assuming any form of disability that a person doesn't happen to have could be construed as offensive. The thing is that we know this person is disabled in the eyes of the state. So either that's fraud, or the problem is not entirely physical. Assuming that because she's physically able (not that a scuffle with police would necessarily prove that conclusively, but hey) then she's a fraudster seems to me more insulting than saying "she could have other problems". But I accept your good faith.

Danielle said...

I have a relative on the invalid's benefit. Trust me: it is not that easy to get. Even if you do have both mental illness and a chronic physical illness, and you're a recovering addict (which is my relative's situation). There are very regular doctor's visits and ongoing assessments.

(I really hate this 'deserving beneficiary' thing and it's so insidious! I find myself doing it all the time and have to give myself a quick mental rark-up for it.)

Julie said...

Is it good that some of the commenters at Kiwiblog are homophobic as well? Good to see quite a few people in that thread calling them on it.

Julie said...

And because I am too incompetent to remember to put this all in one comment, readers may be interested in Anita's post on the deserving poor element of all this.

anita said...

Psycho Milt,

I don't believe it is insulting to suggest someone may have a mental illness any more than it is insulting to suggest someone has arthritis or limited vision.

The fact that people use it as an insulting is insulting to people with mental illnesses., but that doesn't make it an insult.

Anita said...

Julie writes,

Is it good that some of the commenters at Kiwiblog are homophobic as well?

Well it's kinda convenient that all the bigots are together for when the revolution comes :)

P.S. Thanks for the linky! :)

Psycho Milt said...

I don't believe it is insulting to suggest someone may have a mental illness any more than it is insulting to suggest someone has arthritis or limited vision.

Well, sure. Likewise, it isn't insulting to suggest someone may have low intelligence - after all, it's a bell curve and somebody's got to be down the low end of it, no matter how noble their character. Nothing insulting about it unless you choose to make it an insult. That said, don't expect anyone to thank you for suggesting it's them.

It's one thing intellectually to accept that there's no insult intended in assuming somebody's mentally ill, quite another to establish what you would actually and honestly feel about that assumption if you were the person on the receiving end of it.

David Farrar said...

Aargh I did a few hundred words responding to various people, but something must have gone wrong as it has not shown up, and it is too demoralising to try and recreate it all.

The very very short version is I have never said that mental illness does not qualify for Invalids Benefit. Of course it can.

Paul said...

Real insults are assumptions made in ignorance. That someone would presume to judge you without any understanding says far more about their limited frame of reference. Philosophy is all well & good and I've enjoyed reading this discussion, but can I remind people that this world works on the smaller picture; take the time to help people who you are close to who have problems, rather than speculating what problems strangers might have.

I guess i post this as much to remind myself...

Julie said...

Roger Nome, that comment is not acceptable on this blog, and I direct you to our comment policy so you can work out why and perhaps try again in a manner that's acceptable. I'll be deleting your comment once I can get the right things to work, as I'm on someone else's computer at the moment and need to do some jiggery pokery before I can do so. You are welcome to comment, just keep within our community rules thanks very much.

Roger Nome said...

Yeah - i expected as much. It was a parody you realise?

Julie said...

Nope, did not realise it was a parody, you may need to stretch your parodic muscles a bit more before exercise next time RN ;-) That kind of comment isn't ok here whether it's a parody or not, for future reference. But I'm sure you could rewrite your sentiments in a manner that was.

Roger Nome said...

Julie:

i was parodying the uncaring, ignorant, pious, and sanctimonious attitude that the far right (such as Farrar) have toward beneficiaries.

I do admire your ability to care for such uncaring people however. You are a saint.