The coverage of two news stories has annoyed me somewhat.
Firstly Caroline Flint, sometime last week, outlined ideas that social housing should be more than just handing over a set of keys once you get to the head of the queue. The suggestion was that the minority who sit comfortably on benefits while turning down retraining opportunities, and making no efforts to look for work should be made to feel less secure in their accommodation.
This is a terrible idea for many reasons. Firstly the benefits systems already keep tabs on whether claimants are making the effort to look for work, so this would be yet another New Labour law to tackle something that’s already being tackled. Secondly it will distress tens of thousands of genuine tenants, in order to get at a handful of recalcitrant.
But what I find worse is people railing against the idea calling it “work or lose your home.” I hear so often people summing up the proposal being that people should be evicted for being unemployed too long, rather than for not looking for work.
Then Rowan Williams suggested “some aspects of Sharia law could be inevitable”. BBC news ran the story with pictures of the more extreme aspects of Sharia with a commentary saying the pictures were obviously not of the aspects of Sharia Williams was advocating, but would be what people would be thinking. In that act the BBC legitimised having a shallow and knee jerk understanding of a situation. That sickened me.
All week we’ve had reactions that completely and utterly miss the point. We have people suggesting that he was advocating something more than simple mediation and contract law.
Now call me weird, but I feel if you want to rant against something, I think you should attempt to properly understand the details of the situation.
The Caroline Flint proposals were merely sensationalist and unworkable. The Rowan Williams idea was something much more worrying, but we cannot focus on the truly worrying aspects of his speech because the media is going “Waaah, waaah, separate law, waaah, chopping hands off, waaaghh, stonings and discriminatory treatment of women waaagh”.
And the hysteria over what was definitely and obviously not intended has obscured the rather worrying special treatment Williams was seeking for all religious groups.