Friday 16 December 2016

White Men Can't Grump

Writing about dicks last night, I may as well carry on doing so. Graun journo Simon Jenkins caused ripples in the social media pond yesterday after suggesting white (middle class) men are the new oppressed minority. Of all the groups making up the rich tapestry of British social life, Oxbridge pedigree caucasian blokes of a certain age are getting squeezed out of all the plum jobs in the media and politics. That's right, you can't move for black women editors, producers, columnists, panellists, cabinet ministers.

I suppose it's natural for old journalists to have a Status Quo moment. From rockin' all over the world one minute, the next it's like having your latest material dropped by Radio 1 for the Justin Biebers of politics.

The obvious point doesn't bear labouring. White men still hold the cards when it comes to wealth ownership and holding down the top jobs. The people who matter, the key establishment opinion formers are mostly white men. Both Houses of Parliament find an over-preponderance of the buggers and, as we say in Derbyshire, board and senior management positions are snided out with them. Jenkins is completely wrong, but we'll return to him in a moment.

Nevertheless, he has articulated a sentiment that has a wider currency. There are men and not a few women who share similar views. For a generation that knew more rigidly defined gender roles and seldom came across people from non-white backgrounds, the shift in British culture toward state-sponsored equality and the growing public presence of people other than white men can be a jarring experience for some. If everything else was fine and dandy, it probably wouldn't matter. Unfortunately, almost 40 years of market fundamentalism has seen deindustrialisation and the destruction of traditional "manly" jobs. Not only have they been replaced by occupations that appear as effete as they are bewildering to a whole layer of Britons, men increasingly have to compete as equals in the job market. There is still gendered special treatment and jobs for the boys, but that increasingly tends towards the top. The de facto sexual division of labour in working class and graduate jobs is dissolving.

The so-called GamerGate controversy, the vilification, stalking, and doxing of women and non-hetero, non-white men, for daring to employ the tools of cultural critique to video games paved the way for the diffuse current of hipster fascists and Neo-Nazis credited with powering Donald Trump to the White House. The screeching of a rising tide of YouTube-based man-babies found resonance with a wider audience discomfited by the upending of gender and race relations, and obliteration of the class-based social compacts that used to legitimate capital. It is also a clear factor in the surge of right wing populism here in Britain. There is a reason why Nigel Farage and UKIP tended to appeal to (white) men of a certain age.

There is something going on, and it requires a political response that strikes at the roots of this gender-based discontent. It might mean getting to grips with how the economy is structured and driving out the anxiety and radical uncertainty that is the lot of too many people. That is not pandering to or empathising with these sorts of concerns, but understanding them so they can be dealt with. I know it probably isn't as satisfying as writing something for The Graun attacking millions of people as bigots, but then again that's one reason why I'm not a liberal.

None of this excuses Simon Jenkins. His moans might carry some social currency, but he knows as well as anyone that it's all bollocks. I'm no groupie or even a regular reader of his musings, but he's capable of taking a dispassionate, analytical view of things. He's sneered at people who've shown less ignorance. This, I'm afraid, is little more than shit stirring from someone peripheral to the social media-powered age of comment. He is trolling the hip young gunslingers of now to pay him the dues his sagely ego thinks he deserves and, annoyingly, it worked. But for what? As Jenkins winds down into retirement, as attention moves quickly onto something else, he'll be remembered - if at all - for being a deeply stupid, dishonest man.


Speedy said...

93 per cent of senior Guardian editorial staff had private schooling, percentage-wise one of the highest on Fleet Street. What i also find interesting about this statistic is that it is the precise inverse of the national picture: 93 per cent of Britons went to state schools.

This tells you everything you need to know about Britain in the 21st Century.

Speedy said...

In case you were wondering: Editor Alan Rusbridger (Cranleigh); political editor Patrick Wintour
(Westminster); leader writer Madeleine Bunting (Queen Mary’s,
Yorkshire); policy editor Jonathan Freedland (University College
School); columnist Polly Toynbee (Badminton); executive editor Ian
Katz (University College School); security affairs editor Richard
Norton Taylor (King’s School, Canterbury); arts editor-in-chief Clare
Margetson (Marlborough College); literary editor Clare Armitstead
(Bedales); public services editor David Brindle (Bablake); city editor
Julia Finch (King’s High, Warwick).; environment editor John Vidal (St
Bees); fashion editor Jess Cartner-Morley (City of london School for
Girls); G3 editor Janine Gibson (Walthamstow Hall); northern editor
Martin Wainwright (Shreswbury); and industrial editor David Gow (St
Peter’s, York); Seumas Milne, an Old Wykehamist (Winchester College)
and at Balliol; the Observer’s Andrew Rawnsley (Rugby School and
Cambridge U); George Monbiot (Stowe); Zoe Williams (Godolphin and

Anonymous said...

"As Jenkins winds down into retirement, as attention moves quickly onto something else, he'll be remembered - if at all - for being a deeply stupid, dishonest man."
Sadly, of late your own posts are becoming more abusive and less informative: penis bones? Give me a break! Simon Jenkins is a journalist whose posts are sometimes interesting, at other times not. Whilst he's not Daily Mail or of standard tabloid ilk you call him 'stupid and dishonest'? You are an ageist philistine. Take that!

David Timoney said...

It's December. The papers are full of seasonal filler, from "best of the year" lists to by-the-numbers pieces on the joys/horrors of Xmas. I suspect Jenkins had already gone on holiday, leaving a template for an intern to fill in with some topical references. Best to ignore.