The most photogenic US politician at the moment is a charismatic young congresswoman named Alexandria OcasioCortez. She is a publicity sensation and her charm, and savvy with social media, has propelled her into the top rank of celebrity politicians. Also. She can dance.
She isn’t relevant to us in New Zealand, but she is newsworthy and one of the most interesting things she has said was in an interview with CBS’s Anderson Cooper.
‘‘Do you call yourself a radical?’’ Cooper asked. ‘‘Yeah. You know, if that’s what radical means, call me a radical,’’ she responded.
Ocasio-Cortez is wrong. She isn’t radical. Her brand of large-government activism and environmental alarmism is now mainstream. In New Zealand she’d barely be left-of-centre.
One of the great tragedies we face as a nation is a surfeit of radicals. Everyone from Marama Davidson to the coffee-person at The Spinoff considers themselves a radical.
Like Ocasio-Cortez they are mistaken. These lost souls are the leftovers of a revolution that was won decades ago; yet they fight on. Like Japanese warriors toiling in remote jungle, they refuse to lay down their arms.
They are a bit of a problem, these warriors battling against a Patriarchal Military Industrial Colonial Racist Rape Culture that, even if it ever existed, died long ago. We now live in a welfare state and no-one, not even the libertarian Act Party, dares question the state funding of health, education and welfare.
The problem with revolutionaries is that, after the battles have been won and the barricades dismantled and bayoneting completed, they don’t have many useful skills. What do you do with a parade of bright-eyed gender studies graduates who want to change the world but can barely spell much less use an Excel spreadsheet?
Few employers will touch them and they have a distain for honest toil. Their parents have told them they are special. And so right they are. For these darlings of the Ponsonby set, these cohort of comrades, are special. They are also unemployable. Well. Almost. The mainstream media has seen its revenue gutted by Facebook and Google and its ability to retain competent, objective and literate staff has gone with it. In desperation, the media has taken these entitled preening self-obsessed flotsam and given them all by-lines and Twitter accounts.
It’s been a disaster. To read the product of a modern newsroom requires an antenna to filter out the activism from the journalism. Anyone with any talent is promoted to management, scooped up by the PR industry or finds themselves doing communications work for Grant Robertson.
For those who believe the deadlines and grubbiness of the media is beneath them, there is always the soft couch of academia.
Between them these two lost battalions of yesterday’s war have been marvellously successful in shifting both public opinion and the political agenda. Their ideas dominate, almost to the exclusion of all other voices. They are, even if they do not know it, in power, if not in office.
They define the parameters of allowable discourse and define what is permissible yet fail to see their own power. Their identity is wrapped up in fighting the system, having failed to see that, today, they are the system.
Alas, for these contemporary radicals, almost everything demanded by the 1960s Left has been achieved. Out of necessity they now look for new
Anyone with any talent is promoted to management, scooped up by the PR industry or finds themselves doing communications work for Grant Robertson.
dragons to slay. The wage gap, global warming, child poverty, racism. The list of real or imagined social crises that needs to be fought against is endless.
Given their power, especially in the media, and the innate conservatism of commerce, most business leaders cower in the face of any criticism and fall over themselves fawning to the agenda set by these new commissars. Long gone are the glory days when a businessman would gleefully punch a journalist square in the face.
Frankly, it is pathetic the way our titans of industry refuse to confront the manufactured hysteria of 25-year-old journalism majors. We saw the appalling spectacle this year when the entire legal fraternity fell over themselves in selfcriticism rather than stand up to the shrill bullies of the #MeToo brigade.
Such acts of debasement are becoming common. The owner of the Powerstation caved in the face of a few angry tweets and Massey University vicechancellor Jan Thomas tied herself in knots in her determination to prevent Don Brash giving a speech on her campus.
Even something as simple as my fireworks display brought me to the attention of a gleeful mob of the self-righteously indignant, so it is small wonder that most business leaders prefer to keep their heads down.
This is a mistake. Business, individuals and academics have a responsibility to push back against this monoculture for the alternative is to surrender much of what we hold to be valuable.
Today’s radical isn’t the woke feminist railing about rape-culture or the campaigning Twitter activist ranting into the wind about the lack of state funding for transgender pre-teens. It is the handful, for that is all we are, who defy the increasingly oppressive strictures being imposed on us.
The radical of today does not believe that Tax is Love; they believe that Tax is Theft. They argue that collecting taxes by force to educate the children of the poor in government warehouses is not only ineffective it is immoral.
The real radicals are those who do not want to see New Zealand troops battling away in pointless battles over sand nor see tax money pay for Peter Beck to send rockets into space, Grant Dalton to sail his boats or Peter Jackson to make his movies.
The most courageous business person in 2018 was Denise L’Estrange-Corbet who magnificently decried the attacks on her business as ‘‘gutter journalism’’ and refused to apologise for some labelling snafu.
Being part of a baying mob – for that is what much of our modern commentary has been reduced to – isn’t brave and nor is it radical.
Standing up to them is.
Damien Grant’s fine that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is a dancer, but a radical? Nah.