Scapegoat: Why We Are Failing Disabled People
Every few months there's a shocking news story about the sustained, and often fatal, abuse of a disabled person. It's easy to write off such cases as bullying that got out of hand, terrible criminal anomalies or regrettable failures of the care system, but in fact they point to a more uncomfortable and fundamental truth about how our society treats its most unequal citizens.
In Scapegoat, Katharine Quarmby looks behind the headlines to trace the history of disability and our discomfort with disabled people, from Greek and Roman culture through the Industrial Revolution and the origins of Britain's asylum system to the eugenics movement and the Holocaust, the recent introduction of Ugly Laws 'in the US and the grim effects of Britain's hapless community care' initiative.
Quarmby also charts the modern disability rights movement from the veterans of WW2 and Vietnam to those still fighting for independent living, the end of segregation, and equal rights. Combining fascinating examples from history with tenacious investigation and powerful first person interviews, Scapegoat will change the way we think about disability - and how we treat disabled people.
`Shocking account of how society's most vulnerable are let down by the UK authorities - it must be read' --Sunday Times
'I cannot imagine reading a more important book this year' --Tom Shakespeare
'This fireball of a book is shocking, challenging call to action' --The Herald
`Genuinely authoritative' --Scotland on Sunday
About the Author
Katharine Quarmby is a campaigning journalist and an award-winning film-maker, as well as an associate editor at Prospect magazine. She has worked as a producer on Panorama and Newsnight, news edited Disability Now, and written for the Economist, Sunday Times, Telegraph and Guardian. She was the first British journalist to investigate disability hate crime and her report for Scope, 'Getting Away with Murder', has revolutionised thinking about the issue. This is her first book for adults.
14/15 people rated this book 5/5
normalising the unthinkable
A brilliant book by one of the UK's foremost investigative journalists exploring the pernicious impact of disability hate crime: on disabled people, their families and society at large. The author travels to the scenes of some of the most serious and notorious hate crimes committed against disabled people, and talks to bereaved families and friends who are struggling to come to terms with the brutal, and often sadistic murder of a loved one. Police Officers involved in some of the cases describe them as the worst they've encountered. The fact that many of these crimes were committed in areas of high density housing where neighbours were apparently able to tune out the horrific violence going on next door is particularly troubling, and brought to mind Hannah Arendt's 'banality of evil' theory which contests that the great evils in history were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths, but rather by ordinary people.
Has the hostility towards and baiting of disabled people has become so 'normalised' (as Edward S Herman has argued) that 'ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as 'the way things are done'?.
Disturbingly, whilst nothing new, the scapegoating of disabled people for society's ills has intensified and become more brazen in recent years, especially on internet. Cries of 'burdens to society', 'drain on taxpayers' and 'scroungers' eerily echo Nazi slogans used to condone the systematic murder of disabled adults and children during the Holocaust.
Many of those persecuted, tortured and executed during the witch-hunt era we learn, were disabled or vulnerable, and to this day in some cultures disabled children continue to be labelled as witches. Thanks to this landmark book, disability hate crime is a problem that can no longer be ignored.
A real eye-opener
Although a lot of the stories were upsetting, I loved this book as it really tackled some of the issues surrounding disability hate crime that the criminal justice system seem to be ignoring or missing. It really showed how people are getting away with this crime and that the people who suffer from it suffer on a regular basis which the police fail to recognise. Sadly, I feel most disabled people within the UK will be able to relate to this book at some point in their life.
The writer Katherine Quarmby looks at cases from across the UK and speaks to friends and families of the victims getting an in-depth account of the abuse suffered by many. It shows that some people's attitudes towards the disabled makes their life hell and that disabilism needs to be recognised in the same way that racism and homophobia is.
I do feel the book seemed to be largely focused on disability hate crime surrounding people with learning difficulties and failed to recognise disability hate crime surrounding other impairments such as people with physical impairments or sensory impairments.
I think this book is a must read for anybody interested in disability studies but also for anybody in general.
Pathology of indifference
Tom Shakespeare is right. This may be truly the most important book you will read, but not only this year. It is one of the most relevant documents investigative journalism has ever produced. It is also a test of our social skills and your personal psyche too.
For if this book won't leave you helpless and depressed, that means you are strong enough to join the ranks of those genuinely concerned about social justice and able to change something in the dysfunctional reality we live in. Equality-wise, we all live in a third world and democracy is only a baby that may grow up or not... It is all up to us, whether we decide to rare and nourish it or dump it in a well of indifference and complacency.
This precious book can help the fragile child by providing us with hopefully therapeutic news of horrors that occur right next to the nursery.