Why would ordinary people take to Twitter to advocate the firebombing of total strangers?

Residents angry at their portrayal by Channel 4 (published in The Independent)

Residents angry at their portrayal by Channel 4 (published in The Independent)

Answer- in response to the screening of a Channel 4 documentary purporting to follow the lives of people who receive their primary income from the welfare state. Controversial documentary “Benefits Street” , which was shown last night at 9pm, was presented as an attempt to:

reveal 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

The response from some Twitter users was immediate and vitriolic. Jess Denham, writing in The Independent today reported a selection of these tweets, which included:

“I want to walk down #BenefitsStreet with a baseball bat and brain a few of these scumbags,”

“Set fire to #Benefits Street”.

“Watching benefits street from last night, such scrounging bastards”

It has been stated that the police are investigating criminal activities which were filmed as part of the documentary, as well as exploring the threats made towards the residents who featured in the documentary. But why would people react so violently to what is, after all, a highly selective portrait of the lives of a tiny minority of those individuals who claim benefits? One explanation may be found in the number of popular myths which abound regarding the welfare state. A Trade Union Congress report, published in January 2013, highlighted common voter misconceptions regarding the use and abuse of the welfare state. The infographic produced as part of this report demonstrates that respondents, on average, over-estimated the percentage of the welfare budget spent on providing benefits to unemployed people by a massive 38%.  Perceptions of benefit fraud were even more grossly inflated, with the average figure given by participants for the amount of the welfare budget claimed fraudulently standing at 27%, in contrast to the actual figure of 0.7%. Lacuna’s second edition, Austerity and Prosperity, which is due to be published in May 2014, will explore the origins and persuasive power of these myths, and offer alternative perspectives on existing debates. To ensure you don’t miss out on this or any other exciting coverage, subscribe to our mailing list, “Like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @Lacunamagazine.

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Merry Christmas from Lacuna!

Merry ChristmasThank you to all our subscribers for your support this year. We hope you have a lovely Christmas and are looking forward to the exciting new content we will be posting in the run up to Lacuna’s launch in February 2014!

In the meantime, please check out this fantastic video from the Open Society Foundations, first published in March 2013.

To make sure you don’t miss any of our new content, subscribe to our mailing list, follow us on Twitter and like our page on facebook.

The 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration- A happy birthday?

Birthday CakeToday is the 65th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the world’s most translated document. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was published in 1948 in response to the events of World War II, sets out a broad range of fundamental rights and freedoms to which all people are entitled without distinction.

The European Court Blogspot writes:

After World War II and the creation of the United Nations, the international community vowed never again to allow such devastating conflict. World leaders decided to complement the UN Charter with a document which would guarantee the rights of every individual everywhere, always.

How close are we to achieving this aim? What barriers stand in the way? To read more about these questions, and to submit your own answers, subscribe to our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Should you be defined by the worst thing you’ve ever done?

Lacuna and Judge Joe Migliozzi Last week, Lacuna interviewed two people who have dedicated large parts of their careers to ensuring that  juries see beyond the worst thing that their clients have ever done. Through a painstaking process of researching and constructing the life history of the client they are defending, they are tasked with ensuring that those who have been convicted of capital offences are seen as humans first and criminals second. The exclusive interview, which will be published as two short films by Lacuna’s Head of Visual Content, Abby Kendrick, will be of interest to anyone who wants to understand what it takes to work on death penalty cases, or to learn more about why it is important that the context in which offending occurs is taken into account during sentencing. To make sure you don’t miss out, follow us on twitter and subscribe to our mailing list. 

Why do people write about injustice?

Lacuna Editor in Chief

Andrew Williams: Orwell Prize Winner and Lacuna Editor in Chief

In this piece, Orwell Prize Winner 2013 and Editor in Chief of Lacuna A.T. Williams, explains what motivated him to write his prize winning book: “A Very British Killing: The Death of Baha Mousa”. He also reflects on what George Orwell might have made of the death of Baha Mousa, a hotel receptionist, at the hands of British  forces in Iraq, and the reaction of the British establishment to the attempts of Baha Mousa’s family to understand what had happened. Andrew writes:

When A Very British Killing won the George Orwell Prize in May 2013, I wondered what Orwell would have thought about all this. Wouldn’t he have recognised the detachment of so many British army personnel and bureaucrats when faced with the system’s own injustice? Wouldn’t he have thought about his story of a hanging in Burma and hear again the awkward laughter of men who’ve participated, if only as witnesses, in something that is palpably wrong? Wouldn’t he have read the bureaucratic and political language of ‘lines of enquiry’ and ‘learning lessons’ and seen them as ugly and degenerate?

I don’t know. But I think he would have agreed that the writing of the story of Baha Mousa’s death and the failure to address the wrong was a necessary act. I think he would have agreed that political writing fuelled by anger is still an essential response. Orwell wrote once that ‘It seems to me nonsense, in a period like our own, to think that one can avoid writing of such subjects.’ His main target then was the evil of totalitarianism. But I would like to think his underlying aim was to challenge indifference to the suffering of others. That for me was the real devil which emerged amidst the detail of my book.

To read more of Andrew’s writing, and stories from other contributors who write to  challenge injustice, follow us on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook and subscribe to our mailing list

How one journalist’s chance encounter on New Years Eve uncovered a scandal that would strike at the heart of the Catholic Church

Philomena Lee and Martin SixsmithThe film “Philomena”, starring Steve Coogan and Dame Judi Dench, has received rave reviews for it’s portrayal of the relationship between the journalist Martin Sixsmith and Philomena Lee, a woman whose son was taken from her by the Catholic Church when she was an unmarried teenager and sold to adoptive parents in America. A chance encounter at a New Year’s Eve party led to Sixsmith travelling with Philomena, first to Ireland and then America in order to find out what happened to her son. In doing so Sixsmith uncovered systemic abuses of power perpetuated by the Catholic Church in the 1950’s against unmarried mothers and their children. Sixsmith’s moving first person account of the story is available here, although those who have yet to see the film should be warned that it contains spoilers.

The UK release of Philomena coincides with the Irish Council for Civil Liberties appearing before the UNHCR to appeal for an independent investigation into conditions at the Magdalene Laundries, institutions run by religious authorities where women who were deemed to be “fallen” were incarcerated indefinitely. The first edition of LACUNA, which will be published in February 2014, will feature writings on of the role of protest in uncovering the treatment of women and children in the laundries. To ensure that you don’t miss out on this or any other content, subscribe to our mailing list, like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Liberty, Fraternity, Equality?

ITN Correspondent Sophie Foster has reported on wildcat strikes that have seen thousands of students take to the streets in response to the deportation of two separate high school students. Foster reports:

Thousands of people have taken to the streets of Paris and blockaded high schools in protest at the seperate deportations of students Leonarda Dibrani and Khatchik Kachatryan.

Fifteen-year-old Leonarda, of Roma descent, has become the latest focus of France’s agonised debate over migration after being taken off a school bus and deported to Kosovo.

“We are against expulsion and we don’t agree that a person who is integrated is sent back to her country that she doesn’t even know,” said one student protester.

“Normally, our country is ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity’ but the problem is that there is a student who was thrown out of his high school, the police came to get him at the end of his classes, and normally they should not have the right to do that. More so, it was someone who was working, not someone who wanted to trouble people,” said another.

For the full story, please visit the ITN website here. For more content like this please subscribe to our mailing list.