My prediction proves correct: Brendan O’Neill claims that anger over treatment of unpaid stewards is just middle class paternalism
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Soon after it emerged that unpaid stewards at the Jubilee had been made to sleep under London Bridge, I tweeted the following prediction:
I wonder how long it will be until Brendan O’Neil explains that opposition jubilee slave labour is just middle class paternalism
— The Third Estate (@thethirdestate) June 6, 2012
Brendan, after all, has rather distinguished himself as a critical interpreter of political discourse. At the heart of every progressive, or egalitarian, campaign, Brendan manages to discover an ugly core of metropolitan elitism and middle class self righteousness (which he typically exposes by quoting fractions of sentences and mixing them with his own prose).
And thus, as surely as night turns into day, Brendan O’Neill has popped up to tell us what the outburst of anger over the disgraceful treatment of unpaid Jubilee stewards is really about:
“Partly this is about satisfying a burning need in commentators to feel outrage at modern Britain and pity for its poor inhabitants. The way you show you’re a good person these days is by wearing a Dickens-style sorrowful look at any mention of “the poor” – those apparently agency-less creatures “
He goes on to attack the “well off wailers”, “well connected activists” and “highly paid commentators” who he says have kicked up the whole fuss.
This line attack might provoke a moment’s thought, were it not for O’Neill’s tendency to perceive such middle-class hand-wringing every single time that somebody on the left open’s his or her mouth – and to demonstrate it through sparse evidence and manipulated quotation. Whether its feminism or Ken Livingstone, O’Neill see’s middle class snobbery everywhere.
Not long ago, I attacked the politics of social mobility, arguing instead that we should be pushing for equality. Brendan O’Neill quoted me in his piece:
[Miliband's] criticisms of social mobility have struck a chord with Leftists who have long felt uncomfortable with ambitious, materialistic working-class people (primarily because they don’t conform to the Full Monty model of less well-off people being hard-done-by but happy). One Labour blogger (SIC) spoke for many when he applauded Miliband’s comments by saying,“The politics of social mobility has always left me cold”.
Of course my piece expressed no discomfort with working class materialism, nor any desire that people be happy with their lot. Indeed it attacked the politics of social mobility precisely because of its limited capacity to fulfil most people’s material aspirations. Yet by mixing a short quote from me, with a bunch of assertions from him, Brendan provides the veneer of evidence.
Metropolitan elitism and middle class hand wringing clearly are real, and unfortunate, elements of our political and cultural life. And as a long time reader of O’Neill, I can say that he’s written some brilliantly cutting stuff on the subject. Yet by insisting on seeing everything through this prism (particularly everything of the left), O’Neill has become a rather predictable parody of himself – and a rather blunt battering ram for the Tory right.
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