Monday, October 7, 2013

What's it all about? *

I think that there is a significant number of Americans who believe that there's an epidemic of people either faking disabilities, or cynically appropriating the "disability" label, in order to bankroll their laziness or inadequacy. It's the common denominator behind Social Security Disability panic, outrage about Disney World line-jumping, scoffing and eye-rolling at people with chronic pain and other invisible disabilities, grousing about how many school kids are "labeled" as ADHD, and the incoherent rage dumped on people who have the temerity to walk, hobbling perhaps, from their cars parked in handicapped spaces. The vestiges of their grade-school morality won't quite let them hate on quadriplegics and blind people, but anyone else who says they are disabled is fair game.

I'm not saying there are no cheaters. Of course there are. But, it's all a matter of scale, and it seems to me that the level of outrage about these things is way out of proportion to their real prevalence and impact.

And in case we are tempted to think of this as simply a cultural or social issue, the same impulse has caused a wholesale restructuring of disability benefits in the United Kingdom, in which every disabled person has to re-prove in minute detail their disability and its precise extent … with a private, for-profit company paid to do the evaluations, by a government committed to rooting out "benefit scroungers."

* Note: Atrios, the lead blogger at often uses the title "What's it all about?" when he tries to give his broad perspective on what's actually going on with some political or public policy controversy or other.

Photo Of The Day

Black and white photo of Whirlwind RoughRider manual wheelchair
From the &*@^#$! Tumblr blog. The new Ironside's wheelchair, the Wirlwind RoughRider ... a subtle positive in the new "Ironside".

Nice Going, "60 Minutes"

Well, I guess I called it

Disability, USA, "60 Minutes" - October 6, 2013

The only upside to this media excretion is that it's managed to raise some outrage and incredulity from mainstream / non-disabled journalists and bloggers. They are generally on the liberal side, but none of them are people who typically write about the disability experience. Once in awhile, it's nice to see people other than ourselves defending us, and doing it with some wit and skill.

Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times - October 7, 2013
"Is it possible for a major news organization to produce a story about the Social Security disability program without interviewing a single disabled person or disability advocate?"
"That's the experiment "60 Minutes" conducted Sunday. The result was predictably ghastly."
Hannah Groch-Begley, Media Matters - October 7, 2013
"The myths pushed by 60 Minutes have been repeatedly debunked by experts. The report admitted that the vast majority of people applying for benefits are denied, but ignored the fact that the majority of appeals are also denied, and that award rates have actually fallen during the economic recession. In April, the Wall Street Journal called the claim that federal disability benefits were to blame for people leaving the labor force "exaggerated," explaining that disability was in fact the least common reason individuals left the workforce."
Charles P. Pierce, Esquire Politics Blog - October 7, 2013
"It simply has become reflexive behavior on the part of too many news organizations -- This American Life? Oh, Ira.-- to believe that we are beset by greedy poors who are gaming the good citizens. It is not easy to be poor in this country. That should be something our elite media takes as a given."
Atrios, - October 7, 2013
"When kicking the poors isn't giving you that buzz anymore, you have to start kicking the disabled poors."
Atrios, - October 7, 2013
"… but there must be a story behind how all the major media outlets are falling all over themselves to talk about the scourge of disabled people going through immense amounts of major red tape and legal hassles in order to maybe, just maybe, score the golden ticket of $1000/month benefits. I mean, what the fuck? What is wrong with you people? I bet most of you occasionally drop a grand on your wine bill at dinner."
On the other hand, there's, which first posted the "60 Minutes" story as a "Must-see morning clip", followed by a short and entirely uncritical summary, where the segment's conclusions were restated as fact. The article's author, Assistant News Editor, Prachi Gupta, later added an update referencing the LA Times's criticism, including two paragraphs from that article.