Identity, ideology & culture in a neoliberal world
Presentation at Wigan Teach-In, 24 November 2018
Is culture only a tool for the 1%? What does a cultural strategy for an emancipatory movement look like? Beyond divide and rule – privileging and celebrating diversity.
The neoliberal form of capitalist globalisation has seen an unprecedented pace of technological and social change which has upended people’s lives.
We are living through a breakdown of old forms of social existence – culture and identity – individual, national and social.
The rejection of old political identities by masses of people has created a turbulent world. This is reflected and driven on through social media culture. The Brexit vote in UK was the form it has taken here. There is a need to redefine UK and its nations’ identities and affirm the right to self-determination.
The Brexit vote upturned the ruling class’ expectations and voters defied pressure from establishment parties.
The search for identity is not a reactionary thing. UK’s identity historically has been a site of class struggle, a beacon of fighting to attain democratic, social, cultural and gender rights. Landmarks include the Great Rising of 1381, the 1642 revolution and the struggles for suffrage.
Our culture is dominated by mass media owned by global corporations: Apple, Amazon, Alphabet [Google], Facebook and Alibaba. Instagram – Owned by Facebook which also owns WhatsApp. 2.27 billion monthly active Facebook users for Q3 2018 which is a 10 percent increase year over year. (Oct 30,2018)
Contradictions within today’s mass media cultures
Infiltration by trolls, terrorists and right wing organisations, and authoritarian states. Data mining for mass surveillance and control. Conflict between big techs like Facebook and Tencent and government regulators.
States are struggling to control the Internet – in China there is already a dystopian Big Brother system.
Net Delusion, Dark Side of Internet Freedom, author Yevgeny Morosov rightly says:
Problem: “Handing more data to state institutions that already thrive on excessive surveillance would not restore that [lost citizen’s] trust…Giving government institutions even more data will only fuel the “deep state” conspiracy theories of the fringe rightwing groups!
The “narrative” challenge:
- Right wing wing populists have cashed on the historic identity crisis of UK workers and citizens within globalised world (ignored by New Labour) promoting a backward looking nationalist xenophobic identities. Not the same in different countries of the UK.
- Narrative change” is where the reformist outlooks and organisations have fallen down. The Labourite Keynesian version (return to providing state, “caring”) type of capitalism doesn’t look different from what’s already on offer. The Leave vote proved that those with nothing to lose were ready to take risks.
Social media is widely used to oppose authoritarian rule and fake news
The rise of citizen journalism
Rejection of mainstream media by young people for better and for worse. Internet used for mass uprisings since 2010 – Arab movement, Iran, Occupy, XR, many other groups, such as ours.
Court case by CNN against Trump over Acosta even supported by Fox News and White House Press Corps. He had to back down.
Digital social media used for civil disobedience and democratic revolution. Examples: Vegan film-maker Jack Harries 1.5m followers on Instagram: Urged them to support Extinction Rebellion.
Artists, film makers, influencers and sports personalities take inspirational stands: Pussy Riot, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, Benjamin Zephaniah, Lady Gaga, Gavin Turk, even Dr Who. In the US, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael Moore, Susan Sarandon, Beyonce and Jay Z.
Find ways to subvert the fake news and rightwing with creative, solutions – e.g. Gaming “How to spot a fake?”
Help form a positive, 21st century narrative and identity
Link up with artists and personalities who are taking stands
Develop strategies for democratic ownership and oversight of media platforms
Push for alternative media platforms to be supported by possible Corbyn government
Encourage confidence in oppressed groups’ abilities and power to bring about social and political change
Show in theory and practice how individual aspirations can be realised through collective democratic revolution.