Why, in the UK, is the media, and to a lesser extent, the art establishment, so utterly dominated by the Middle Classes, I wonder?
This current state of affairs is not only caused by the evil Cun*servative government’s draconian, class-ridden policies and hence the top-down leakage of such bullshit attitudes and behaviours; obviously, such unfairness and disparity within society has been around for centuries. But such problems seem especially prominent within the contemporary media world, where, alongside the Upper Classes, the Middle Classes call all the shots. But it is the Middle Classes who hold sway in the general, ‘lower’ level, day-to-day running of things in the media and art worlds, so that is what I will talk about.
For me, the current state of the modern media is the perfect example of what is happening all around the country, and just shows up the continual, and increasing class division between those who can afford to go to university and apply for apprenticeships and internships (whilst well-off mummy and daddy pay through the nose for such privileges), and the Working Classes, who cannot afford to fund their teenage sons and daughters through a decent education and thus onto jobs at the end of it.
Let us be brutally honest here – we all know that the bourgeoisie usually find life a lot easier, in terms of having the right connections, in the first place, in order to acquire good jobs, and eventually life-long careers, and this is true across the whole socio-political spectrum, whatever kind of job we are talking about. But such utilisation of nepotism and ‘funny handshakes’ by the bourgeoisie seems especially prevalent in the media.
It must be said that the Middle Classes who run, say, the BBC, produce some excellent TV programmes, which sometimes focus on the poor and disenfranchised, along with all the other great programmes, in general (that is, once you have separated the chaff from the wheat, in terms of the TV schedule, which is still about 80% total guff!). But what is forgotten is that the Working Classes hardly get a look-in, from the get-go, so we just don’t know how a much more class balanced media landscape would look like, because such people effectively have no voice and are invisible, to all intents and purposes.
Take my own case, for instance: I am a more or less self-educated, Working Class person, whose schooling was minimal and who never had the chance to go to university (because my family was dirt-poor), and hence never had all those wonderful business connections, and so forth, laid at my feet, as I grew into manhood, and which so often are taken for granted by the bourgeoisie (I do actually possess an honorary arts degree, and that was very useful, one night, when I had run out of toilet paper!). Basically, I am an autodidact and am proud of such a moniker.
I have volunteered my services to the media, as a radio broadcaster and as a freelance journalist, for a few years now, all of it unpaid, unfortunately. I have worked my arse off, for no recompense, and little or no feedback, or even a pat on the shoulder, in most cases. It is extremely disheartening. I effectively started at the bottom, and have stayed there. I started off in the hope of making those ‘connections’ and getting those fabulous jobs, at the end of all the unpaid, hard work, but it didn’t happen. It is not for want of trying. It is, in fact, partly because I do not dress the ‘right’ way (I can’t afford designer labels – not that I would want to wear all that corporatised, trendy ‘sell-out’ crap, anyway). It is also because I do not ‘act’ in a certain way, as well as talk with a certain type of accent, which are both indicative of being ‘Middle Class’ and therefore ‘kosher’ to similarly Middle Class people and corporations who hand out all the media jobs. It is because I do not have the benefit of my parents’ bourgeois connections, which could have been handed down to me, all those years ago, and given me that jump-start in my career. And it is because I cannot afford to be an intern, for years on end, with my parents trust fund or whatever, supporting me, whilst I ‘do my bit’ and work my way up the ladder to an eventual glittering career in the media.
In a nutshell: Working Class people like me are deliberately kept out of most of the media (and art) jobs – and hence all parts of society which such careers would entail – in terms of making the uphill struggle to attain such positions 10 times harder than for the ‘higher’ classes. It is akin to a form of ‘racism’, or ‘sexism’, in that sense, but is nowhere near as talked about, in the media, as those two. Has the penny dropped yet?! The reason the issue of class is – in the main – kept out of the media, is because the Middle Classes who dominate said media have been trying their best for decades to keep the ‘lower’ classes, like me, out. Simples! But ask most media people about this and they will feign ignorance of such unfair and discriminatory practices. Well, of course they would – because it is their own prime positions and jobs, on the line, ultimately.
All well and good – Working Class people like me know where we stand, and have done, for many years. No surprises there. But what really gets my fucking goat is the patronising, precocious, pompous, preening, pretentious, (enough with the alliteration!), egotistical, disrespectful, snooty, nonchalant, arrogant, weirdly ‘precious’, distancing attitude which so many of the aforementioned people affect, whenever I meet them. As a cumulative effect, it makes me kind of nauseous. I can now spot such unpalatable pricks from a mile off, and steer well clear of them.
For example, I was covering a certain large film festival in London recently, as an (unpaid) member of the press, doing some reviews for a cool friend’s website, etc. I have been attending, on and off, for years, and I would say that at least 90% of the press there are Middle Class (it is more likely about 95%, believe it or not, but I am trying to be generous here). I know this, because I am a gregarious kind of guy and talk to many people and make new friends, and I ask people about their backgrounds, or jobs, etc, just in the general way of chatting. I can also ascertain this from the way these people ‘act’ (and I do mean act, here – so many press at the festival seem to have a pre-set role to play and one imagines that they would have a nervous breakdown, there and then, if their ‘mask’ were to suddenly slip and show some type of emotional vulnerability. This is yet another symptom of being ‘Middle Class’ – so much of social interaction is just another mind-game, or a means to an end, the end being even more status, more money and more comfort, all the way to the top).
Then you get the other bourgeois types who will always pretend to be your friend in order to get ahead, be it, in a roundabout way, through your connections (which you have attained through sheer hard graft or just being an especially outgoing person), or potential projects and job opportunities, which are then exploited to the full, whilst your back is turned. Then the so-called friendship can be effectively aborted, once such types have got what they needed. All of these cruel attacks and occurrences happened to me, many times, when I was a lot more trusting (and, yes, gullible) a few years ago, during film festivals, and during my tenure on radio, plus in the comic-book scene (in other words, ‘art’ world). It got so bad that I was finally shocked into awareness of the insidious manipulation, behind my back, and was forced to completely break off about 10 close friendships, overnight, all of them film/comic-book/press related people. I am sorry to say it, but all of these so-called ‘friends’, who were – in actual fact – real enemies of mine, were, more or less, the type of Machiavellian, devious, scheming, bourgeois people I am describing. For further proof; most of my Working Class media friends stood by me through the upset, and are still my close friends.
Obviously, there is always an amount of genuine, nice bourgeois people and acquaintances out there, in the media/art landscape, and, rest assured, some of those people have always been my friends, who I always talk to and spend time with. As with anything, one can assume a certain thesis about a part of the population, based on given facts or personal experience, but one should be careful of generalising, when it comes to actual individuals (as in, most of my friends, in general, are somewhere within the spectrum of ‘Middle Class’, but they are the ‘good’ ones, to put it simplistically – they are a million miles from the pompous dicks I am ‘naming and shaming’, above. Also, there are hardly any Working Class people left, with which to make friends with in London, because most of them are increasingly ‘socially cleansed’, being pushed out of the city because of the extortionate rents and low wages, etc).
The same malaise increasingly infects the London-set comic book/graphic novel scene, which I know well. Again, at least 90% of that demographic is bourgeois. And, to little surprise, a lot of them act in exactly the same way as most of the film journalists do – that horrible, disingenuous, kind of sneering, disgusted attitude, as if, when they are deigning to talk to you, they are terrified that you may have leprotic scars hiding under your sleeve jacket.
Of course, the ever-shrinking percentage of genuine, decent Middle Class press, artists, writers, etc, as well the eternally struggling Working Class versions, in such crowds, very probably think exactly the same about the ‘Others’, as I do. But many of them – from both classes – are way too terrified to say anything in public, or even to their closest friends, in case they are ‘found out’, and then the game would be up – they might lose that tenuous career connection they have been massaging for so long, and may eventually lose that long-distant, well paid job, at the end of it. They are ‘acting’ and playing their roles, too, in many ways, because it is all very akin to the kind of nasty playground tactics and manipulative mind games which were de rigueur in all our childhoods – albeit the games are much more subtle and seemingly innocuous, in the ‘mature’ world, now. Well, don’t believe it.
So: what have we learned from this little lesson?
1) If you happen to be Working Class and reading this, be aware of the ‘class warfare’ that is prevalent in most jobs, especially in the media and art worlds, and use your cunning, intelligence and awareness to subtly fight back, to the best of your ability. Some Middle Class friends and/or acquaintances will try and ‘shut you down’ over this subject, but you have a voice, so use it, when necessary. This is because they perhaps feel slightly embarrassed by their own unconscious complicity in such matters. But if they are your genuine friends, they will broach the subject with you. Just be on guard, at all times, and don’t get taken in by the weasily scheming and role-playing of such undesirables. These uber-careerists are, 9 times out of 10, ultimately only out for themselves, and any notion of loyalty or kindness means nothing to them when it comes to getting ahead and eventually attaining some form of higher status, over their (usually temporary) friends.
2) If you happen to become friends with such people, perhaps because you are unsure as to whether they are genuine, or not, then be extremely cautious, giving very little away, in terms of career opportunities or other life enhancing factors, until you are 95% sure they won’t eventually fuck you over, down the line – if you make a mistake in choosing the ‘wrong’ friend, they can be snakes in the grass and will gobble up your nest egg (or whatever other metaphor you prefer to use!) before you know it.
3) Once you have clocked such nasty, false feckers, don’t waste any time by partaking in their mind-games. Like most ‘hunters’, they will still hang around on the outskirts of any given opportunity, waiting to pounce at a moments notice, in whatever way they can. The best policy is to totally blank them, or at least engage in no more than a cursory ‘hello’, every now and again. This may be difficult for you to maintain, as the bastards will very probably turn some of your other friends against you, even though your ‘real’ friends will no doubt know the truth, beneath all the games and facades. Unfortunately, some of these ‘real’ friends can be extremely weak-willed and will eventually let their own greed or grasp for glory overturn their loyalty to you. All of this is basic 101 tribal psychology, or, in other words, playground politics, but many of us ‘goodies’ often forget about such nefarious tactics, or at least can’t bring ourselves to believe that such nasty things still go on, in the adult world. Wake up – I have been there, and they do.
4) Staying true to yourself – in all walks of life, not just in the ostensible subject of this essay, the sniveling bourgeois mediascape – can be a lonely business, and you have to be tough and totally believe in yourself, to avoid such trapfalls and survive, while so many around you are oblivious, willingly or not, to such dark and immoral machinations. Luckily, I have had such inner confidence and balance, since I was an ‘outsider’ hippy child, in the 1970’s (which stood me in good stead for future battles, in life) so many of these hurdles are old-hat, for me, basically. Par for the course, mate, innit!
5) In the media, especially, keep the few, true friends and connections (once you have thoroughly checked them out) close to you, and work as a team, against all the others. Remember, it is basically tribal warfare out there. I’m not kidding or being melodramatic here; humanity has hardly changed, in some ways, since we were apes hitting each other over the head with bones, and class warfare, along with all the other forms of one-upmanship, is just a modern version of that bone, about to knock you out. Stanley Kubrick’s masterful film sequence, the ‘Dawn of Man’, at the start of 2001, A Space Odyssey, says it all, really, and is still as relevant as ever. Underneath all the pretentious, manipulative bullshit they spout, all of those snooty media fakes are just aggressive apes with bone-weapons, and they will cross most ethical boundaries in order to beat you senseless, so they can scavenge that nutritious deer carcass on the ground, rather than you.
Be Well and Stay Strong!