Eat Your Cereal? Hipsters, Yes-men and the demonisation of journalism

By far the biggest news story of the week has been the opening of a café in Shoreditch which serves cereal, at a cost of around £3 a bowl.  The  volume of Facebook bickering regarding the endeavours of the bearded-twin hipsters who opened a café on Brick Lane seems somewhat disproportionate to the event.

On one side, there are those who say this is just a small business, like any other, selling things for a higher price than they bought them  for – and charging a premium for the experience – it‘s capitalism, get used to it.  On the other, some claim this represents galling ignorance of poverty, the infantisation of a broken society in which  residents of neglected areas like Tower Hamlets, where the café is situated, or Glasgow’s East End are driven out in a flurry of beards, art spaces, cereal cafes and ever increasing rents.

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So given the strength of feeling about bowls of cereal, what would the job of a journalist be in all this?  Step forward, Channel 4’s Symeon Brown, who went to the area to speak to many of the residents and business owners about the changes that are happening in their community  – some were positive, some negative.  He also went to the café and put it to the owners that given this was one of the poorest areas of London, 3 quid was a bit much for cereal.  One of the owners said he didn’t know it was one of the poorest areas, said poor people wouldn’t be able to afford it and called the interview to an abrupt halt.

The furious reaction from some quarters online, to a journalist asking someone a question, suggests that in our rush to condemn the “mainstream media,” we forget that journalism is something worth defending.

Far from doing his job, it’s alleged Brown was (among other things) a shill for big business, hated the men because they were working class/from Belfast/successful, a millionaire working for a huge conglomerate, try to force people into thinking they couldn’t achieve their dreams.

“It’s like what they did to Russell Brand” cried one angry man.  Exactly.  A journalist asked a question which, rightly or wrongly, those watching a mainstream news channel might ask, the person whose job it was to address those concerns refused to do so, and then loads of people on the internet started shouting about how it was all a huge conspiracy and  how much cleverer they all are than scum who believed what they see on the BBC or Channel 4 or the Daily Mail, which are all definitely the enemy we all have a responsibility to avoid.

jm10002This is the most politically charged cereal related story since #PatronisingBTLady and I can’t help but notice that Scotland currently has a disproportionate number of bearded and bruised types, stuck in a never-ending cycle of complaining about the “MSM” and saying we should all just storm off. That’s completely understandable, given the role played by the BBC/entire rest of the media during the referendum campaign.  But misunderstanding the media is getting us nowhere and we need to wise up to that.

The argument that we should all cancel our license fees and destroy public sector broadcasting due to the politicised decisions of the government/management or because we’ve now got Bella and the National make no sense.  What other public service would we treat this way?  We’re all dead caring in the Yes movement, let’s shut down the health service and National Collective can organise first aid courses instead, that’d show the NHS bureaucrats!

I’m also aware that the license fee, however much I’m against its regressive nature, has helped pay for Limmy as well as Jackie Bird, for Paul Mason as well as Nick Robinson.  We need investigative journalism, arts and cultural programs, things which make no sense on a commercial network but which are nonetheless worthwhile.

We can choose to shut ourselves off,  as we bravely sit about Shoreditch with our cereal, oblivious to the food poverty in our community or stroll down Buchanan Street with our copy of the National under our arms, making the world a better place with our consumer choices.  Or we can recognise we’re in a brutal battle with total bastards and we can’t afford to look away for one second.  If we abstain from the “mainstream” narrative, we can’t hope to be relevant to people who do dastardly things like buying the Sun or watching the news.

We need to understand the limits of the new media as well as its potential – and when given the rare opportunity to be badgered by a journalist in front on millions of potential viewers, we need to learn how to represent ourselves better – and not just complain afterwards about how the Iluminati/Westminster probably tied our beards together.

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The cereal café’s owner could have said that decades of government social policy were outwith his remit or that time would tell whether people could afford to eat there.  Russell Brand could have said that he was using his mainstream status helping those less fortunate than him.  And we could all have accepted that Brand and the café owners received exactly the kind of attention they wanted.

On a much bigger scale, we need to stop demonising journalists or expecting them to always want to write a puff piece about their amazing cereal experience or how seeing Nicola Sturgeon at the Hydro made them shit themselves – they’ll quite often say you’re a bunch of fucking hipsters or deluded losers. And not always because they’re working for the British state or the forces of global capitalism.  If we fail to recognise the difference between critique and propaganda and keep telling ourselves that everyone is against us, we will remain a bunch of hipster losers.

Running a national paper, being on Question Time and filling out the Hydro could be considered pretty mainstream activities.   If we don’t value the people who’re asking questions about what our new mainstream are up to, we could revert back to the old ways with new masters very quickly.  The battle for a truly free press may be a long way from won but it’s made no more free by shouting down journalists.

We have a chance to build a genuinely new kind of critical politics and a growing and diverse range of outlets which demonstrate the massive changes going on in Scotland.  But we need to be more switched on to how the mainstream – and the media – works if we are ever to make them work for us.

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Further Reading:

Is the East End of Glasgow the NEW West End of Glasgow

The Brand New Dawn with Russell’s revolution

Independence. For Now.

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Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/AThousandFlowers

Follow us on Twitter @unsavourycabal

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8 responses to “Eat Your Cereal? Hipsters, Yes-men and the demonisation of journalism

  1. Sorry but defending the ‘journalist’ in the Brand interview is a losing proposition. His contention (and it WAS a contention and not a question) that Brand didn’t have the right to defend the poor since he is now rich was offensive in the extreme and definitely took a political position. This is not journalism.

    • Isn’t that what Brand haters ask? What is the job of a journalist if not to put your opponents views to you?

      Paraic O’Brien, a journo who’s help many campaigns in the past, asked a question which gave Brand an opportunity to explain why he was there. Instead Brand shouted, both at the journalist and over the campaigners he was supposed to be representing.

      Massive cheer on Question Time from Brand fans last night when Farage was asked how a rich man could possiblly represent poor people. An entirely legitimate question to ask…

  2. Reading a bit further into this story, they say the Channel 4 news crew turned up unannounced on their first day of trading and they were mobbed.

    Two guys (bearded or not) start a business selling cereal for the same price as a bowl of soup probably expected some sort of fluff piece about the novelty value, instead they get the fifth degree about poverty in the area? I can’t see the point in targeting them in this context, its daft.

    Also, we shouldn’t conflate the activities of BBC journalism with commercial journalism, they operate under different rules.

    • How is ‘we weren’t expecting questions like that’ an excuse not to answer them, or at least to hold your hands up and admit that you hadn’t considered them and probably should give it a thought? Surely putting the questions you might not have thought about to you is exactly the job of a journalist, or else newspapers might as well just be endless regurgitated press releases saying nothing. There are plenty of ways this guy could have dealt with the question that would have been legitimate and considered responses, even if I might personally still think he’s a privileged tosser at the end of it. Shutting down and saying how dare you ask me a question isn’t respectful of your potential audience – especially when you’ve been inviting press coverage to garner a customer base for your business. They’re not even being doorstepped, it’s their business launch which they’ve sent out publicity for.

  3. Watched that clip of Russell Brand and thought held himself alright. The idea that the just because he’s come into money means he’s automatically removed from the conversation is bullshit. Ultimately the change he’s promoting will affect his own wealth should it come to fruition so he has as much right as Myleene Klass to say his piece on the issues.

    Also, I’m lost at the criticism of this business. Shoreditch has long been home to gentrification and niche business. How is this different from a cocktail bar, boutique hotel, clothes shop, club or restaurant in the area that’s charging over the odds for a a relatively cheap product?

    It’s a lovely bit of spin but you’ve been had. this is deflecting the attention from the true generators of poverty.

    • You seem to be deflecting yourself to be fair, this isn’t about people’s opinions of Russell Brand or the cafe owners really.

      That clip wasn’t supposed to be about how Brand represented himself vs a journalist, but about how successfully he raised the issues of the campaign he had chosen to speak for. He completely failed to achieve that. That’s not a matter of opinion, it’s what happened. A bad outcome. A mistake. Something to learn from.

      What was it about talking about how we need to better exploit the media leads you to the conclusion we’ve “been had” by spin, distracted, are doing the business of poverty generators? It’s about asking how people fighting for political change can achieve better outcomes.

      We must EXPECT the media to ask tough questions, questions we think are unfair, questions that are unfair, and have answers.

      Clearly many who work in senior positions within organisations like the BBC could hardly be said to be on our “own side” but people reporting things aren’t always the enemies we seek to make them.

  4. Pingback: Questioning a Declining Media – christophersilver.co.uk·

  5. Pingback: It’s Time to Question a Declining Media | National Collective·

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