davidgillon: Text: You can take a heroic last stand against the forces of darkness. Or you can not die. It's entirely up to you" (Heroic Last Stand)
[personal profile] davidgillon posting in [community profile] spoonlessactivists

This is something I posted in response to [personal profile] randomling asking how people organise to resist when they're spoonies with available physical and mental resources compromised by disability, but in writing it I realised it has wider applicability, so I made it a post of its own in various places and it seems like there should be a copy here as well. This focuses on the disability side of things, and there's potentially so much more at risk, but disability campaigning is where my experience lies. It should hopefully be applicable to most areas of equality and human rights. Anyway:

The UK experience might offer some insights into how to resist the regressive forces that seem to be suddenly ascendant. Most of my disabled friends were fairly apolitical until near the end of the last Labour government, when we realised how bad the new Work Capability Assessment was. Then under the ConDem government, and now the Tories alone, things got rapidly worse, with a calculated plan to paint disabled people as lazy scroungers, and pretty much all of us radicalized.


The more active types formed Disabled People Against the Cuts and protested on the streets. The spoonies, my people, the ones who can't, who may struggle just to make it out of bed, went the web route. There were a couple of blogs/news sites which formed, and which became fairly influential, in documenting what was going on, analysing the reality, and reporting lived experience of harassment and the like. We started to get journalists following what we did, and recycling our news into national media. In some cases we were invited onto national media, and we even had government ministers refusing to appear opposite some of our spokespeople. There were also a small group of journalists who were themselves disabled, and working on social stuff, and who were very useful links.

A second prong was analysis of government proposals and data to show the reality. What became known as the ''Spartacus Report' showed that the government had lied in claiming that disabled people had backed their reforms in a consultation (it was actually c2000 against, 12 for). This forced the first defeat on the Condem government in the Lords since it had taken power, though they reversed it in the Commons. The Spartacus team followed it with a bunch more of influential reports (it helped to have a statistician and a mathematician in the core group). I've actually just posted some analysis of my own and one of the journalists mentioned above will have an article about it out tomorrow.

A third approach was using pro bono law firms to force Judicial Reviews on the government to rule on the legality of their policies (the sort of stuff ACLU and SPLC does in the States). This has rarely stopped them dead, but has been very useful for publicity purposes, so people see what policy actually means, and very good at forcing the government to produce Mark 2 versions of policy that are slightly less offensive than the initial versions.

Another route was activism within political parties, proposing disabled friendly policies at their annual conferences, and forging links with politicians who would give us a hearing. We also had the support of several disabled members of the House of Lords who sit as independents and are acknowledged as disability experts.

It may also be necessary to target supposed ally groups. There has been a very successful campaign to shame charities involved in the government's workfare scheme. I personally found it necessary to administer a public rebuke (it trended!) to the crowdsourced campaigning group 38 Degrees, which was deliberately ignoring disability issues, even when its own processes said it should be campaigning on them as a priority.

A necessary caveat is that most of us have burned ourselves out. Self-care is important, but burn-out is probably inevitable for a percentage of those involved, so take care of yourselves, and try to keep recruiting new blood.

Ultimately our protests haven't stopped the government, but they have ameliorated the effects, and we caused so much damage to the reputation of some of the firms involved in implementing policy at the point of delivery that one actually walked away from a contract worth hundreds of millions, because our campaigning was destroying the value of their brand.

Date: 2016-11-17 01:41 am (UTC)
sqbr: (up)
From: [personal profile] sqbr
This is really useful, thank you.

Date: 2016-11-21 11:52 pm (UTC)
randomling: A wombat. (Default)
From: [personal profile] randomling
Thank you so much for posting this!

I'd be really interested to find out if there's a way for me to contribute to this campaign, actually - is there someone I could email or a website I could visit?

(Late in the game, I know, but since you said something about looking for new blood...)

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