Five years ago, when I realised the extent of what was about to happen, I was invited to speak at Oxford University. It was the night of the CCHQ protests when I arrived, and I was impressed by the commitment of the students I met. James Butler, Adam Ramsay, Laurie Penny, all in the same cohort as Owen Jones at Oxford, and their peers from many London Universities. These people were ‘the left’. A class who have emerged as a direct result of our democracy being absorbed by media. The left wing media class have flourished in think tanks, newspapers, and elite universities untouched by the challenge of democracy.
Over the next five years, I watched as the nonsense these children recite to themselves took precedence over discussion of the major economic and social policy transformation. Because they were the left therefore that discussion was not important.
We saw vacuous nonsense about intersectionality as their right to abuse, and heard dogma retained from trade unions they wont ever be a member of, revived from the seventies, because that was the nonsense they recited to each other while using the term comrade to remind each other of the class they were in.
To be fair this very small group of friends did well out of austerity. Adam Ramsay at one point needed a 100k for the movement building his school fees had already taken care of, sailing to the heart of the Green Party when all value had been milked out of the austerity he would never feel, now an editor shaping parameters of debate in ‘new media’ at Open Democracy. James Butler at the heart of Novara as he and Aaron Bastani try to convince anyone who will listen that the children at the fringes of elite media and politics cultures inheriting media power to shape institutions that govern the lives of millions by poking at journalists on twitter, is revolution. Our salvation comes from their careers.
They gave a glorious five year demonstration of how debate parameters are kept narrow by social network alone and demonstrated how schoolyard politics and class politics overlap. Criticism is sinful and who you know is all that matters. Novara is revolutionary if reversion to class structures lost in the 20th century and Downton Abbey is upturning the natural order of things.
The professional Oxbridge activist as route to control new media, not a problem, and nothing at all like the Bullingdon and Piers Gaveston dining societies where Cameron fucks pigs. The Charlie Gilmours and Heathcote Ruthvens mere comrades in arms in their glorious class struggle.
Anyway, the existence of people who came from the world they were entitled to represent, who understood the complex relationship between social policy, inequality, and our economic system was a bit too much for these poor wee souls. Especially if those people noted the role that left wing media cultures had played, providing a barrier to that discussion. Noticed them imposing career hierarchies on real life struggle. My discussion of the way industrial action works in institutions concerned with social reproduction and the vulnerable was too much for them. I spent weeks in fear, as Russell Group graduates desperate for media careers shouted scab to teach me a lesson in ‘class’ solidarity.
Novara are raising money at the moment and suggested that BBC money should be given to them so they can revolutionise media. I suggested that power being inherited by the youths waiting at the wings of existing elite media cultures, and occupying only the echochamber around them waiting for their careers, was not that revolutionary. That it was the same old same old. Oxbridge and Russell Group lefties are hardly an unrepresented group. Had this group never moved their offline social network online, we would not have understand the extent to which that class system is at the heart of media cultures. This did not go down well.
What I didn’t ask was how they were planning on being accountable as they inherit the power they envy in media, by becoming the next generation of that culture. Apparently they are not. They ARE your representatives if you are not the right, they have a right to inherit that power by vitue of social media giving it to them and it is not odd that the very same culture who sat round James Butlers kitchen table at Oxford University in 2010 on the night of the CCHQ protests are now at the heart of the new media who are entitled to inherit the power of old without question from the ungrateful proles.
Quite where that leaves the millions of people who work in or use institutions they dont discuss, in this bright new democracy run by twitter bubble, I don’t know. Maybe come the revolution we won’t need social policy, we will all be so grateful that power passed down through the same channels it always has and we should empty our pockets. As entitlement goes, ‘we have the right to inherit the power that media shouldn’t have because we read Marx at university instead of doing our degrees’ is up there with trashing restaurants and lighting £50 notes in front of homeless people. Their social network is the movement and the only democracy anyone needs. That it is a couple of dozen fairly obnoxious elite brats, neither here nor there if they use the term left.
As a lesson in entitlement, the Oxbridge left and the I know Laurie Penny/Owen Jones school of politics, is fairly useful. Had we not had social media, that lesson would never have been available. There is nothing wrong with working hard to get a media and politics career, but really dont pretend that exploiting austerity to do so makes it revolution. It isn’t. It’s not new at all, never mind revolutionary.