The ‘genuine v fake’ narrative – applied to child refugees, disabled people, anyone asking for help – not only erodes empathy, its goalposts are ever shifting
In the darkness of Calais, as the British government looks on, refugee children huddle in blankets on the ground. More than 1,000 remain in shipping containers, stranded in the demolished camp that billows with smoke. At night, volunteers had to watch over the children as people traffickers and men who exploit girls for sex stalked the site.
But are they genuine? That’s the real issue. As Conservative MP David Davies put it: “I don’t want to vilify anyone, and I would like to see genuine children being brought in, but I think we have got a right to raise this question.” We are now firmly in the politics of “the genuine”: the political and media narrative that says some people who ask for help are real and others – the vast majority – are fakes. This implication is not confined to one instance, but rather is increasingly how Britain responds to any group in need: from foreign children begging for refuge to disabled people struggling without benefits.
The genuine v fakes narrative can stigmatise whole groups of individuals under the guise of trying to help them