From #MAGA to @AOC: Reflections on Radical Media in the Trump Era

I presented this paper, co-authored with Katie Arthur, at MIT’s Media in Transition conference in May 2019.


That social media both “giveth and taketh away” is not a new idea, but it is one that came to the fore in the tumultuous 2016. As the events of that year showed, while technological advances have afforded new space for radical media strategies—helping advance goals such as climate justice—so too have they created opportunities for political candidates from outside the mainstream to leverage populist resentment in the successful pursuit of political power. In this paper, we will explore how the use of civic media has evolved in the two years since our CMS Masters theses were submitted. While Donald Trump has, as President, consolidated his hold on mainstream media attention via his Twitter account, other voices have also emerged from the very different tradition of civic organising to share space on the “platform” of Twitter. Among the most prominent of these new voices is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose political experience as an organizer for the Bernie Sanders campaign and as a supporter of marginalised communities such as the residents of Standing Rock, helped propel her to the U.S. House of Representatives, as the youngest woman ever elected to Congress. In the paper we will explore Ocasio-Cortez’s rise, with a focus on her visibility on social media. As we will show, the rapid rise of “AOC” holds lessons for the prospects of both the “Green New Deal” policy she has trumpeted, and for whichever Democratic candidate is nominated to challenge Donald Trump in 2020.

Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’

“Just exist?” laments the title character in the Coen brothers’ latest treatise on American society. Yet existing is the most appropriate – perhaps the only appropriate – description of the character of Llewyn Davis. Pervasive ennui is not, of course, anything new for a Coen brothers’ film. But here it is taken up a notch – Davis has none of the piety of Larry Gopnik in ‘A Serious Man’, nor the brash self-confidence of The Dude in ‘The Big Lebowski’. Llewyn Davis’s raison d’etre is music – folk music, to be precise – and the film contains probably an album’s worth of heartfelt renditions, most performed as live. Continue reading “Review: ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’”

How Buzzfeed Could Save Politics


The political journalist Ben Smith surprised many when he joined Buzzfeed as its editor-in-chief in 2011. Buzzfeed has become almost synonymous with the sort of entertaining online ephemera that has spawned such neologisms as ‘lolcats’ and ‘listicles’, costing offices around the world countless hours in lost productivity. Continue reading “How Buzzfeed Could Save Politics”

Creative Licence – the case for a bold BBC under George Entwistle


The BBC today announced that its Director of Vision, George Entwistle, has been appointed as its new Director-General. The man he will replace in the role, Mark Thompson, has not had an easy eight-year tenure. All manner of controversies – from outrageous comedians to erroneously-named cats – have provoked gleeful tabloid furore, some of which may have contributed in 2010 to the freezing of the licence fee for six years at the government’s behest.

Continue reading “Creative Licence – the case for a bold BBC under George Entwistle”