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Jan 14, 2021
@Charleh Cunningham I would be the first to agree with you there, radical activism and direct action does create change. In the 1990s groups that really existed like the Disabled People's Direct Action Network were trying to achieve raise awareness using civil disobedience and today groups like the Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) are continuing their legacy. But instead of recognising those struggles, this exhibition claims that the 2011 protest outside the Houses of Parliament (which was actually organised by DPAC and WinVisible) was in fact the work of a made-up terrorist organisation called RAD. Then they claim that disabled protesters mocked the death of David Cameron's disabled son, and that RAD has infiltrated Extinction Rebellion. I get that this is art and so a certain degree of artistic license should be given, and the idea of re-imagining a more radical history of disability politics is perhaps an interesting one. But that isn't made clear at all, and the exhibition Facebook page is actively telling people that this is real history, and random people commenting are believing that. That is purely and simply spreading disinformation about the history and politics of disability. It will not do any favours for disability rights by pretending that the movement was or is full of violent and armed terrorists.
Jan 13, 2021
Interesting concept, but seems misguided. Instead of privileging actual disabled experiences and histories, Southbank Art Centre have chosen to distort and manipulate them. Not only that, but distort them in a way that misleadingly portrays the history of disabled rights advocacy as extremist, violent and actively engaged in terrorism. Edgar has written for the Guardian about his desire to document the 'proud, vibrant history, community and culture' which deaf people, and disabled people generally, have. Surely this exhibition could have documented and celebrated that? Instead he has created a trail of lies (misleading Facebook adverts, a fake Wikipedia page, an entire exhibition) to promote a project that ultimately says nothing about the history of disabled people or their political self-organisation, and actually makes a lot of people go home thinking it was a largely shameful affair. The real radical disabled rights groups in the 1980s and 90s engaged in peaceful direct action and civil disobedience, and helped create the demand which brought in the 1995 Discrimination Act and reasonable adjustment in British law. Those pioneers, not imagined terrorists fighting dreamed up eugenicist policies, are the real antecedents of the struggle that disabled people continue to make against austerity cuts to public services, lack of provision for those in need, discriminatory practices in the workplace and accessibility in public space. We don't need to lie about disabled history to make people think about how it might matter.
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