Saturday, 5 March 2011

Case #5: How To Be Autistic

Stop standing up straight, start slouching and don't wash. It's not like anyone ever compliments you for doing the opposite; it's like they expect you to look smart, alert and neat for no reason at all. If you're reading this at the same hour I tend to write these dispatches, you're probably already there. That's the hard bit over, seriously. But be warned that to be Autistic is to be a one-legged man winning every ass-kicking contest and depending on whether you're Autistic or Neurotypical determines your interpretation of that metaphor.

If you're not Autistic you think this means a person of disadvantage able to do what they shouldn't be able to better than those conventionally thought to be better-equipped for it. If you are Autistic you will immediately have cottoned onto there being no ass-kicking contests that you have heard of and if there are any, no one goes to watch them. No matter how awesome you are, you have to be awesome by yourself.

At my support group this week(like Fight Club but we don't like touching each other) we discussed our confusion when we first realised people don't think like us. We just assume of others as they assume of us that we are alike. This is why a groan when I hear some well-meaning people arguing for tolerance, understanding and the usual on the basis that 'we are all the same inside'. Actually, the very definition of what I am is that it's the inside that is what is different and the sameness of the outside that causes the problems. You don't need to know how we think(and if we ever play Chess I'd prefer you didn't), but if you did know you would already be asking yourself "What has this to do with Case file number five?". You'd be right as that file concerns the issue of distortion, the misuse of facts and data to support Coalition goals on welfare policy. Well, what about...


Have you guessed what it is yet? If your answer was words to the effect of 'typical muck-raking Mail article' then you can't be helped. If I ask you what is wrong with it and you say something like 'they're cherry-picking the one day where the court heard a load of cases' then you're closer, but still wrong, still not Autistic. Walk like an Autistic, do it right now: flap your hands, flick your fingers, make strange noises. Who owns the copyright on the photographs?

WITHOUT LOOKING, if you're Autistic you already know. The rest of you flick back to the tab or window you've got open of that article. If you have not yet even clicked that link and got this far, you probably do this with all my other dispatches too. Shame on you; I love my links.

The answer you are looking for is the Press Association and here is the image that was used.

If you're thinking like an Autistic you have some issues with this response. That is just one photograph, what about the others? What are those Autistics going on about ask the rest of you? Well, only one image in that article had a copyright label; the rest are clear. If you're Autistic you already know where I'm going with this. Write your answer down now to the question: Where am I going with this?

The answer: The Daily Mail must own the copyright to those pictures otherwise they would have to credit the owner, so they had a guy stand outside a Birmingham courthouse identifying people, putting faces to names and taking pictures of them of which he managed 12. This means the Mail would have had to have known what was going to happen on that date at that courthouse beforehand. Even if they just knew from local newspaper courts pages, they would still have had to have been actively searching for this which they almost certainly wouldn't have been doing. Whilst the Mail is in the habit of taking stories for local newspapers and blowing them up into national outrages or bloated human-interest stories(or cuddly animals and cuddly animals having horrible things happening to them), they do parse cycles, not detailed reading for this. Someone told them.

The Mail tries to sell it as if this was just one ordinary day where there just so happens to be 23 benefit fraud cases in the same courthouse and possibly the same court-room within minutes of each other, one after the other. They cover themselves with one quote from Emma Boon of the Taxpayers Alliance:  

"It’s shocking that the DWP is now having to block-book time in court to deal with scroungers."
Block-booking you say? There are so many people in court on that one particular day because the DWP booked them all for the same date? I'd say that was probably standard practice to save money, except that whilst searching for other information on the 23 cases heard that Birmingham Magistrates the Mail article was the only reporting on it and there were no other examples reported of many people being booked in blocks for hearings by the DWP. Benefit cheats are reported on so often in the media you would have thought that if they were frequently being prosecuted in blocks, the newspapers reporting them would have heard of it ages ago and already made a song and dance about it. But no, all reports of benefit cheats being prosecuted featured either single individuals or a group of individuals in single cases that because they are a group tend to be seriously criminal and referred to Crown Court. This could have been a whole month's worth of cases condensed into a single block-booked slot on that day for all we know. The chances of a Daily Mail journalist just happening on a courts page of consecutive benefit fraud cases look slim.

This is all a part of my on-going theme about distortion: this isn't Daily Mail distortion, this is Coalition distortion or DWP-under-the-Coalition distortion. I might be wrong; Birmingham politicians recently got a hard-on about tackling benefit fraud and perhaps thought letting the Mail know about the DWP scheduling was good publicity(except that the Mail tarnishes Birmingham by describing it as having one of the highest fraud rates in the country). Who ever has done it, someone told the Mail and the Mail did its job. The fact that Lord Freud was happy to play along with the charade...

"The large number heard in Birmingham just goes to show the mess the benefits system is in. That’s why we’re undertaking the biggest overhaul of the welfare state this country has ever seen."
..signals that he either doesn't know he's just agreed with a distortion or has shown there is no level the Coalition will not sink to. We have no idea what the average number of cases heard for benefit fraud happen at Birmingham Magistrates and what the Mail calls a 'snapshot' is more fittingly called a time-lapsed picture except in reverse; with the subjects being squeezed into the frame on a day where the shutter-closing was carefully planned.

Case file#5 finds that the readership of the Mail is probably not Autistic but the comments below the article should be monitored over a period of time rather than waiting for all the idiots to turn up and base the entire exchange on what happens in that narrow time-frame.


  1. in this instance Arec i dont think you can rely on the conclusions you have arrived at from the circumstances presented,, there may indeed be chicanery involved but its not possible to discern with any degree of certainty,, the stuff about copyright might be quite understandable to some one in the trade,,

    i found this article a bit harder to absorb as you are getting a bit twee with the bells and whistles of literature,, you dont do humour ,remember ?

    Stop standing up straight, start slouching and don't wash. It's not like anyone ever compliments you for doing the opposite; it's like they expect you to look smart, alert and neat for no reason at all.

    actually Arec most people do it for themselves,,
    the reason exists within the individual not those who observe,,


  2. Case file #5 is intended to be speculative. In this case I advance two:

    1. That the Mail had unique prior knowledge and interest in the Birmingham Magistrate court which is speculative, but based on facts. No one else, including Birmingham's local press have reported this, that is fact. The pictures cite no copyright, which is fact and which is an extremely important matter almost no newspaper overlooks, especially the Mail considering the restrictions they place on comment on their website. They are very legally aware. The pictures have to be their own.

    2. That the Mail is trying to convey to its usual readership that courts are awash with benefit fraud cases. The Mail makes only a single mention of the context and does so in a comment attributed to a TPA spokesperson. Such is the emphasis on the number of cases on that day that this fact, that the DWP block-booked these court hearings which could represent anything from a day to a month's worth of normal prosecutions for benefit fraud.

    Regarding my own reporting of facts and my own comments on them I'm ready to accept criticism and correction, but you offer none and leave me bewildered. I've got no idea what your complaint is.

  3. no complaints,, no critisism,,just feed back,,
    i only post because
    i like being supportive of fledgling ventures,,

  4. It just helps me if feedback is specific. If I can't learn anything from it, it confuses me.

  5. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  6. The removed post was a private message intended for me but which ended up in the spam folder I just discovered. The poster asked me to remove it.