Good morning you loser piece of dung, good-for-nothing, fraudulent drain on society … how may I help you?

bigstock-Not-Again--353104I subscribe to a Google News clipping service that delivers to my inbox every story in which the words “Social Security disability” appear.  I torture myself by reading them.

Reading them, I am engulfed in a fury that exhausts me.  Where do you start?  Do you dismantle point-by-point?  Do you indulge yourself venting spleen?   Do you cry?

Usually I just shake it off, put a smile on my face, and get back to work … good morning you loser piece of dung, good-for-nothing, fraudulent drain on society … how may I help you?  Yes, yes, I’m the money-grubbing attorney you’ve been reading about in the news!  Let’s get to work!”

Sometimes I can’t finish an article, even a short one, in one sitting because it’s so full of misinformation and mischaracterizations, and stereotypes – of disabled people, of the attorneys who help them, and of the Social Security workers and Administrative Law Judges who are tasked with trying to figure out if claimants meet Social Security’s legal definition of “disability.”

Reading these articles  I just want to … I don’t know what … … blog?   Throw Mason jars at a Empty Broken Glass Jarconcrete wall in my basement?  (These can be purchased for almost nothing at garage sales.  But … wear goggles.)

It appears members of the press breeze in for a short bit, upchuck a thousand unconsidered words, and congratulate themselves for really getting the nuances of disabled peoples’ lives, the complicated Social Security disability programs, and the complexities of how  society – including families – are affected by people who are too sick or injured to provide for themselves financially.

It is clear that journalists who write about Social Security’s disability programs do so without actually reading any of the statute, the regulations, not even the manageably-short decisions written by Social Security judges – most of which are under fifteen pages.   They’re like savants … they just know … without doing any of the hard work.

I Dont CareOh … was that a stereotypic description of the press as incompetent know-nothings who fail to do their jobs adequately and don’t bat an eyelash at leaving an enormous amount of hardship for vulnerable people in their wake?   Yes.  You’re right.  I’m sorry.  That must be rough.  Here, let me fix it:  I once read an article written by a decent journalist who did some actual work.  There.  Both sides of the story.  Fair and balanced.  Better?  If not, console yourself with the fact that you have a place to sleep tonight – unlike a lot of the disabled people about whom you write.

I’ve been representing disabled people for fourteen years – and before that I was a sign language interpreter for eight – so my brain doesn’t even have the capacity to conjure up a stereotype of ‘disabled person.’   I have known literally hundreds of disabled people.  When I read the stereotypes, it is made to seem so tidy and simple.   But it’s not.  There is not a simple mold … disabled people are just like … people.   Complex and varied.

The problem with doing battle on the turf laid by the rampant shoddy journalism which so offhandedly calls down from central casting a stereotype of a deadbeat, loser, good-for-nothing, fraudulent drain on society, and calls him “disabled” or calls him “entitled” – their stereotype is largely an indefensible person – a straw man.   And, that’s the battleground upon which we fight.   That’s the frame.

There we are – trying to have a conversation where the folks who have little information other Tug of war, isolated on whitethan what they read in the press have it all figured out.   And the folks who do know a great deal about the complexities of the world of disabled people, and their families, and the Social Security Administration’s massively valuable programs, and how efficiently they are run … sputter in utter frustration … and get back to work.

Flimsy journalism runs the table.  But the issues are too important to allow that.



6 thoughts on “Good morning you loser piece of dung, good-for-nothing, fraudulent drain on society … how may I help you?

  1. Anonymous

    Can you point me to a resource where I can learn more about the criticisms of the Planet Money/NPR/Joffee-Walt’s series on disability? I only heard part of one story, but it seemed fairly accurate and unbiased to me (a former journalist/lawyer who worked briefly in your line of work). Stories about the law are NEVER complete. I’m sure this is also the case for subjects I don’t know enough about to spot the misconceptions.

  2. Kevin

    An unavoidable side-effect of freedom of speech is the freedom to speak poorly or even with deception in mind. There have been no shortage of both on the Social Security disability issue lately. The only thing I wonder when reading some of those articles are whether the authors are ignorant of the facts or whether they know better and are delivering a snake oil sales pitch to cut the programs.

    What is heartening is to see people with disabilities and their advocates jump in and take action. The strong negative reaction to Joffee-Walt’s misguided and inaccurate NPR articles on disability provides a good example. She got, and deserved, a hit to her reputation for what she wrote.

    I encourage you to keep writing. You are playing an important part in the process. The most difficult task of those who want to cut SSD is to dehumanize people with disabilities, and get people to overlook the fact that making such cuts would have cruel consequences on people in genuine need. By showing the real plights of people in the process, you are making that harder for them and helping others get a more accurate understanding of what is really going on.

    1. disabilitydunktank Post author

      Thank you. I will keep writing. I really appreciate the encouragement.

      Sometimes though, I think it’s very, very easy to dehumanize people with disabilities, and poor people. It is easy to cast them off as mildly-impaired scammers, as people who could do for themselves but willfully refuse to. And, for reasons discussed in the “Shame of Disability,” disabled people are not in a good position to defend themselves. And because they are understandably unwilling to tell people/reporters, etc., the unvarnished truth about their impairments – the misconceptions persist and … … snowball.

      Much has been written and published about the fact that since 2009 the sole funding of Planet Money has been an entity who is bent on the privatization of Social Security, among other things. I will address that more in other posts.

      Thank you for reading, and for commenting. I appreciate it very much.

  3. stuart

    It’s not the disability program, or, at least, not exclusively the disability program. If you worked in or for some other federal program, you’d probably read the articles about them and shake your head and wonder how the journalists could have gotten everything so wrong and missed all the nuances. Or if you worked for a candidate. Or a major league baseball team front office.
    Issues involving human behavior are never simple. People want them to be simple. Most people seem predisposed to understand issues – except for those that they are intimately involved with – in black and white terms.


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