Friday 24 April 2015

Of #Milifandom

It's my party and I'll be late if I want to. News of the unexpected #Milifandom around comrade number one, Ed "Milibae" are chip wrappers humming in the nation's bins alongside tea bags and gravy-speckled LibDem leaflets, but a conspiracy hatched by campaigning and a dud internet connection has blocked yours truly from commenting. Until now.

1. How short political comment's memory is. The rise of Miliband fandom, and its entirely confected and useless Tory countershove, the "Cameronettes", are not without precedent. Recall last November when, for the best part of a month, #webacked and #CameronMustGo topped trending topics like a boss. Then, it was plots and rumours of plots against Ed Miliband that, again, emerged spontaneously from pissed off Labour people and used the collective power of Twitter to challenge the media common sense. The same is here too. Except this time, against some of the most scurrilous attacks ever mounted on a mainstream politician, young women and teenage girls have led a fightback in their own inimitable fashion.

2. This is 2015, not 1992. The lesson the Tories and their media friends won't learn is that the media landscape has changed irrevocably. The right wing press still have a mass audience, but it's shrinking. As they drop anywhere between five and ten per cent year on year, their reach and influence shrinks. Even worse for them, social media is more demanding and often more rewarding for many of its younger readerships. The diet of propaganda masquerading as news that once addressed its audiences more directly are now effectively filtered/stymied by one's social media networks. Sun editorial ranting about Ed Miliband in increasingly desperate tones? When one pops onto social media, one is likely to at least note the trends, status updates, tweets, etc. offering alternative viewpoints. There is no reason why social media should challenge dominant narratives - anyone venturing into poverty porn-related chatter can tell you that. However, when something goes viral in response to a Tory attack - as Miliband fandom has - the more likely it will impinge on a reader's extended networks, become a talking point, and offers access to opinions the right wing press are unsuccessfully trying to crowd out. The more egregious the smear, the stronger the backwash.

3. I haven't been on t'internets too much these last couple of days, but I am surprised the fangirling around Ed Miliband hasn't brought forth a ripple of snarks. What's going on here is a double subversion/appropriation of the leader's image by intellects both warm and sympathetic. Yes, it is ridiculous to photoshop Ed's face onto ripped, muscular bodies but at the same time, in each case, the juxtaposition serves to underline his quiet strength. Instead of the tired Wallace comparisons gifted us by our unimaginative press, the choice of bodies are about a can-do attitude. Some might even say "hell yes". It's a laugh, but if you like this is a more authentic Ed because the images are the results of grassroots collaboration and sharing. They're not the contrived offspring of party press'ers or beleaguered editors getting the hairdrier treatment from their overseas gaffer. These, just like what came before, are reclamations of the Labour leader. The affectionate joshing is proprietorship, identification, and a flowery, soft-focus middle finger to Labour's enemies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece.