Think of the British Broadcasting Corporation and your immediate sense is probably not of an organisation that revels in the ideals of activism and revolution. Fawlty Towers perhaps, or the shipping forecast, maybe. Possibly a romping period drama even, but not of activism.
That is probably because you have not yet encountered Paul Mason, economics editor for the BBC’s Newsnight television program.
This lad is a bit of a hero.
Alongside his work as a reporter, he has written extensively on the subject of global revolution and, at the beginning of last year, released a book entitled Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere. Here he argues that a global protest movement is here to stay.
The dramatic events of 2011, from the Arab Spring to the student protests in Santiago De Chile, he says, do not represent merely a flash in the pan. Instead, they herald the dawning of a new and, in some ways, a savvier and more sophisticated type of protester.
“People have a better understanding of power. The activists have read their Chomsky and their Hardt-Negri… Young people believe the issues are no longer class and economics, but simply power: they are clever to the point of expertise in knowing how to mess up hierarchies and see the various ‘revolutions’ in their own lives as part of an ‘exodus’ from oppression, not – as previous generations did – as a ‘diversion into the personal.”
The reason I have chosen to mention him today is that I have recently read a few reviews giving him a hard time for supposedly allowing his own political ideolgies to get in the way of deeper and more objective readings of the subject matter that he covers. Daniel Knowles of The Telegraph even goes as far to dismiss Mason’s argument as “nonsense.”
Well of course he does. For what Mason is saying is highly critical of the world’s current economic model, the type of which our friend Knowles does extremely well out of, thank you very much. Unfortunately for Knowlesy, however, Mason cannot be so easily dismissed simply as a ranting “Lefty.”
Mason is an experienced and shrewd correspondent who has been there on the ground in Egypt, in Athens, in the Yemen as people took to the streets. If you are interested in his credentials, check out his blog to get an idea of the places the guy has been and the sights he has seen, for it was upon this blog that his last book was based. Whether you agree with his perspectives or not, at the very least it makes for interesting reading.
That is not to say he perfect, by any stretch of the imagination. Some of the older generation are a bit put out by his representation of them as sometimes being rather technologically retarded. Meanwhile, some of the young’uns feel like he is making the situation look bleaker than it is. Furthermore, it is clear he struggling to understand the paradox between neoliberal oppression and the newly enjoyed freedom social movements and young people enjoy as a result of technological advances developed by a capitalist system.
One thing is for sure, however, Paul Mason is a character and an interesting one. For those of us who have witnessed with abject disbelief the BBC breakfast news become more akin to an after school special for the under-sevens, to have someone with half a brain and strong ideals on staff is a small beacon of hope that real, controversial and principled journalism lives on.
* As it turns out, there is also a Paul Mason in the US who made his name by losing a phenomenal amount of weight. When googling Paul Mason pictures, I was subsequently faced with image after image of swathes of loose skin. If you find yourself with a spare moment, this is fascinating stuff.