Death and Judgement

Controversial Rapper XXXTentacion, who has been shot dead.

“I like it when bad people die.”
– Christopher Hitchens

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.”
– Romans 12:14, King James Bible

Jahseh Dwayne Onfroy is dead. He was 20 years, four months, and 26 days old when he died, shot dead while leaving a motorcycle dealership. There is a photo circulating on Twitter of him propped in the back of a car, mouth agape. Apparently he had no pulse as the photo was taken.

Onfroy was better known to most as the rapper XXXTentacion (ten-tah-see-yon). X, as he was called, was a controversial figure – the kind of controversy that makes Kanye West look like The Fresh Prince. The day before his debut album released, X posted an Instagram video of him hanging himself. His concerts have become centres of violence and disorder. He has been arrested three times, and charged with gun possession, robbery, assault with a deadly weapon, false imprisonment, witness tampering, and aggravated battery of a pregnant victim. The pregnant victim was his ex girlfriend, Geneva Ayala. She has described a history of abuse and torment – physical and psychological. There is a photo circulating on Twitter of her eyes swollen shut and her lip split and bleeding – the handiwork, she says, of her ex-boyfriend. X responded by releasing a song named after Ayala. The lyrics read “She showed me fake love, can’t forget how it hurt, no. Made a list of my regrets and you were first, love”.

I believe Ayala. I have no reason to doubt her. X did nothing to contradict (let alone convincingly counter) her accusations. He expressed openly antifeminist sentiments in a recent interview, and his entire image traded on the idea of loathsomeness – self loathing, loathing others, being loathed, and doing loathsome things. Yes, I believe Ayala. I believe XXXTentacion beat his pregnant girlfriend and tormented her, that he broke her phone and threatened her life for complimenting another man on Snapchat, that he pummelled her again and again, to the point where she needed $20,000 worth of surgery to repair the damage. I believe that XXXTentacion was an abusive, cruel, and stupid young man, who showed every sign of glorying in that image, and no signs of redeeming himself.

And now he is dead.

And I do not know just what to feel.

It’s hard to know how to respond to the deaths of people you despise, especially when that death is tragically unexpected and completely unnecessary. Deaths of truly evil people in wartime (or something like it) – those are easier to square. The circumstances made it necessary, we tell ourselves. A sane utilitarian calculus demanded it. We may be right, and it may quiet the pit gnawing at us somewhere deep within. But even with the death of Osama Bin Laden, a monster, a reprobate, a vicious reptilian bastard, a man who unquestionably deserved Seal Team Six and more – I find it difficult to glory.

I do not, through this position, wish to assume some moral authority. I am not one. I just know that XXXTentacion is dead, and I am not happy about it.

To be clear, I despise X. I always have and I always will. I am lucky in that my simple and unqualified loathing of him as a person wasn’t complicated (as I know it was for many – and that’s perfectly fine) by a love for his music. I found it, on a superficial level, a trite emulation of what other folks (Death Grips and Dälek first among them) have done so much better. Lyrically, his preoccupation with how hard it was to be an abuser was sickening. I hated him as an artist and despised him as a person. I did so long ago and will continue to do that. It is an easy position to take.

But I didn’t want this. I don’t think anyone really wanted this.

X, for all his controversy, was a seriously popular figure in American hip hop. His death will raise a great many questions. Some will come already answered, like the link between aggressive music and actual violence (tenuous at best), or the terror of gun crime in America (it remains, shockingly, a problem). Others, like how we should evaluate the artistic legacy of someone like X and what the emotional response to his death should be, have no clear answers.

I call myself a Christian. I’m not quite sure why. I think it’s a longing for a comfort I had as a child – the security of religion, the connectedness it provided. The act of prayer is absolutely a source of relief and release. I do not think I would have made it through my university years did I not have some faith in the words I whispered to the sky. But my faith doesn’t extend indefinitely. God, do I have doubts. The existence of the divine is… unlikely. At the very least it is incomprehensible. There are a thousand different questions I have about my professed faith, and in all likelihood almost none will ever be answered. But I focus now on one area: the Christian doctrine of forgiveness. “But I say to thee, resist not evil”, Jesus tells us in the King James Bible: “Whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

This is not the part where I implore my readers to forgive XXXTentacion his trespasses. That would be wholly inappropriate for me to ask. When it comes to cases such as these, turning the other cheek seems impractical and undignified, if not downright mendacious and ignorant. Some people, of course, are capable of extraordinary feats of forgiveness – Michelle Knight, one of three women abducted by Ohioan Ariel Castro, managed, through years of meditation, therapy, and prayer, to forgive the man who held her prisoner and raped her repeatedly for 11 years. Her journey is chronicled in her remarkable book Finding Me. My admiration for her strength and grace is boundless. She is a better person than me, and a better person than I expect anyone to be.

But that is not to imply those who cannot forgive X are bad or worse people. Forgiveness is terrifyingly personal, and most Christian traditions premise it on heartfelt redemption made in good faith. To say XXXTentacion did not attempt this is an understatement.

Another complication to my faith is my near-unceasing admiration for Christopher Hitchens, an extraordinary writer, and in my view the late 20th century’s greatest political journalist ( at least as far as the English language is concerned). Hitchens is renowned for his antitheistic atheism, accompanied by his erudite vitriol. After Jerry Falwell (a truly sick and odious creep) died, Hitchens wasted no time in decrying him on CNN. “If you’d have given him an enema”, Hitchens said of the gluttonous Falwell, “you could have buried him in a matchbox.” He endured great criticism for his disrespect of the dead, but remained unapologetic, as the epigraph herein contained shows.

In many ways, I have no problem with Hitchens’ attitude to Falwell. Deifying the recently passed and forgiving them their failings is careless towards anyone said failings might’ve hurt. For a man such as Falwell, who suggested that 911 was the direct result of the United States recognising the LGBT community as human, those failings (and their accompanying hurt) are so great that they transform carelessness into cruelty. Hitchens called this a “grotesque offence to truth and morality”. He was right. And he was right to do it just after Falwell died.

But where I take issue is glorying in his death. There is a line – a fine one – between refusing to sanctify the deceased, and celebrating their demise. And death isn’t a punishment like anything else. It is final, and terrifying, and grotesque. The fact that it is natural and inevitable does nothing to numb its effect or still the terror it inspires. Death… death is too often dismissed as another unfortunateness, frequently by political extremists, who adore the notion of human life sacrificed at the altar of ideology.

XXXTentacion was scum. But he was only 20 year old scum. Who knows what his future held before him. Human beings are capable of the most amazing transformations and tales of redemption. X will never get his.

I am not sorry that he is no longer with us. But I am sorry – painfully sorry and ill – that he died as he did, and that his death, for some, is cause for celebration. I cannot imagine the relief his victims must feel knowing that he will never touch them again. I don’t want to invalidate or criticise that. Not for a second.

But I do want to caution against those who imagine that, because of what he did, his life was forfeit. Death is not yours to deliver, and certainly not yours to celebrate. A 20 year old kid has died. A stupid and cruel kid, but a kid.

“Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement.”

– Gandalf the Grey, from The Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien


For more hip-hop related posts, read my retrospective review of Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, or my profile on Unkle Adams.

Trump Withdraws from the North Korea Summit: Now What?

A coin intended to commemorate the North Korea deal
A newly released, ill-fated commemorative coin. Source:

Regularly, on the campaign trail, President Trump promised to disrupt Washington politics. In a rare move, it would seem he undersold himself. His snap decision to withdraw from the proposed June 2 summit with Kim Jong-Un of North Korea has birthed disruption on a global scale. Disruption, confusion, and shock.

The cancellation was classic Trump – equal parts muddled, brash, and careless. He hinted at it two days prior, enigmatically intoning that “we’ll see what happens”, and that there was “a very good chance” it would all come to nothing. And then, two hours ago, nothing was come to – arrived at thanks to an open letter by Mr Trump to Mr Kim, which declared that the meeting would be “inappropriate” thanks to North Korea’s displays of “tremendous anger… in [their] most recent statement” (said statement being a pointed rebuttal of Vice President Mike Pence’s invocation of “the Libya model”). A press conference followed, and more contradictions with it.

“A lot of things can happen”, assured Mr. Trump. “Including the fact that, perhaps, it’s possible the existing summit could take place, or a summit at some later date… Nobody should be anxious. We have to get it right.” In the meantime, of course, there would be “very strong sanctions”, together with military chest-puffing – “we are more ready than we have ever been before”. The overall sentiment was this:
“This meeting couldn’t happen because North Korea has been rude. That naturally doesn’t rule out the possibility of future meetings, which would be lovely. Alternatively, of course, war is always an option. Cheerio!”

Three immediate and necessary questions are hereby raised:

  1. How did we get here?
  2. Whose fault is the withdrawal?
  3. Where do we go now?

Let us begin at the beginning.

How did we get here?
If any sort of peace process does emerge from this mess, the real hero will not be Donald Trump, but sport. Prospects of talks began with a New Year’s address by Kim Jong-Un, which floated the possibility of a North Korean delegation at the Seoul Winter Olympics. As much was agreed upon a week later at the first set of bilateral talks in three years. With Spring came a timely diplomatic thaw, and on March 6 Kim floated the possibility of denuclearisation talks with the United States. Two days later, President Trump agreed.

On March 27, Kim Jong Un met with Chinese President Xi Jinping. We shall return to that date later. Next came two meetings between Mr Kim and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and, on April 20, the announcement that North Korea no longer wished (or needed) to carry out nuclear tests. All seemed set for a historic moment.

Then John Bolton happened. On April 29, the national security advisor appeared on Face the Nation and invoked “the Libya model” of total disarmament as the essential goal behind any negotiations. This infuriated North Korean officials, who recalled a different Libyan model – that being 2011’s “how to publicly kill a dictator, featuring sodomy-by-baton” – the aftermath of the Arab Spring. Furious diplomatic responses escalated tensions, particular when Vice President Pence made the same invocation, and was called a “political dummy” in reply. The next day, the meeting was off.

Who’s fault is the withdrawal?
At first glance, the blame would lie almost entirely with the President Trump. First glance is, of course, probably right in this case, but it’s worth examining the withdrawal in greater detail.

First, North Korea’s aggression. Mr Trump implied that the DPRK’s harsher tone was the result of coaxing by Chinese President Xi Jinping, following the aforementioned March 27 meeting. Obviously, it’s impossible to know for sure what was said between Messrs Xi and Kim, but persuasion of the kind Trump refers to seems unlikely.

Brian Wong, a Hong Kong native and Vice-President of Economists Without Borders – Oxford, finds it implausible that Mr Xi interfered. Firstly, they say, because the Chinese President wishes to minimise instability on China’s North-East, and secondly because he wished to pivot away from the Korean peninsula and on to greater affairs.

This sentiment is echoed by Dr Hyun Bang Shin of the LSE, who argues that the confrontational North Korean remarks don’t represent “anything new”, but rather a longstanding “geopolitical tactic” which should have been expected. He attributes them firstly to the repeated invocation of the Libya model, and secondly to North Korean angst over ongoing military drills in the South – drills which included F-22 fighter jets and very nearly included B-52 bombers. The latter were withdrawn after the North complained that they were “a provocation”.

Dr Shin described the Libyan allusion as “a great insult” to North Korea, whom he characterised as pursuing a Vietnam-style transition model, wherein the communist party maintained power whilst opening their nation up to the world. He believes that in comparison to this fracas and the tensions which sprung up from training exercises, President Trump’s theories about Xi Jinping have “low credibility”.

Where do we go now?
The summit’s cancellation is a blow to hopes for global nuclear deproliferation. Mr Trump’s flirtatious attitude to nuclear weapons is on display in his letter, where, in between passages of wistful regret, he reminds Mr Kim “You talk about your nuclear capabilities, but ours are so massive and powerful that I pray to God they will never have to be used.” In his subsequent press conference, the President returned to the possibility of military intervention if necessary. Of such conflict, Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT, told Vox “Make no mistake, that would mean attacking a nuclear weapons power, and someone in the region or even in the United States may eat a nuke.”

When asked whether China may enter the game as a moderating force, Brian Wong deemed it unlikely. They said Mr Xi would “keep Kim ‘tame’”, but outlined that, as his goals regarding North Korea centred on maintaining a status quo of small skirmishes and low-level tension so as to encourage dependency on China, there was little incentive to pick up where America had left off.

Dr Shin is yet more uncertain about what lies next. When asked he admitted to still being “a bit shocked”, before opining that the strongest onus now lay on the shoulders of South Korean President Moon Jae-In. He had been a central mediator, and still enjoys the support of the South Korean people, who had rallied behind his commitment to signing a peace treaty with the North.

President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo have all repeated that a later summit remained on the table. But this ghost of a promise withers in the light of today’s events. The optimism of early 2018 has vanished from the table, and has been replaced by confusion and angst and bruised egos. The immediate fate of the Korean peninsula is uncertain. Its long term fate doubly so. Mr Trump closed his letter by remarking that “This missed opportunity is truly a sad moment in history.” Yes, Mr. President. So it would seem.


Read my article on what Donald Trump’s election meant in 2016 here.

The Left’s Jewish Problem

Originally written for Smoke Magazine, June 2017

British Police To Step Up Patrols In Jewish Communities

On March 30, the former mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, insisted (again) that “Hitler supported Zionism”, and that there was “real co-operation” between the fuehrer and attempts to establish a Jewish state. Livingstone contends that Zionist groups (who were calling, in desperation and fear, for Jews to leave a continent which had routinely attacked and murdered them for 1000 years) were supported by the emerging fuhrer. He claims, then, that the political movement responsible for Israel’s creation was once supported by the ultimate villain – Hitler – and thus, by implication, that same movement must also be suspect.

We have seen outcry, and outrage, and calls for Livingston’s expulsion from the Labour party, but this response is not universal. Many socially conscious members of the British left have rallied to defend the former mayor, arguing that he was just stating a fact.

Let us, for the moment, set aside how absurd the idea of Hitler supporting a Jewish state is. Let us also disregard the blatant perversion of history (in truth, Hitler encouraged the deportation of Jews to Palestine as a means to get them out of his country, and when that didn’t work fast enough, he gassed them). Let us focus, instead, on the fact that this story is not new.

Last year Malia Bouattia was elected NUS President. She had called Birmingham University a “Zionist outpost” and, speaking at a conference on “Gaza and the Palestinian Revolution”, had claimed that “mainstream Zionist-led media outlets” were falsely portraying “resistance… as an act of terrorism”. When Jewish students objected, Bouattia refused to apologise, saying “that for me to take issue with Zionist politics is not me taking issue with being Jewish.”

Let’s ignore, for now, how precisely the descriptions of “Zionist-led media” echo claims of a grand Jewish conspiracy. Let’s forget, also, how that legitimate “resistance” includes enough suicide bombings to have a wikipedia page dedicated to them. And let’s return, again, to how this story is not new.

A 2016 report by the AMCHA Initiative found nearly 100 more antisemitic incidents on American college campuses than in 2015. Meanwhile, in Australia, the NSW Young Greens are boycotting the nation’s largest Jewish student organisation (AUJS), on the grounds that it supports Israel.

Let’s gloss over how AUJS is an explicitly Jewish (not “Zionist”) organisation which continues to proudly advocate for a two state solution. Let’s brush aside a footnote from that AMCHA report which informs us that rising antisemitism correlates directly with “anti-Zionist” activity on campus – and let us be reminded, as we seem so prone to forget, that this story is not new.

It is here that an obvious qualifier is needed. Israel is not perfect. There are too many instances of Israeli authorities abusing Palestinians; of its government flouting international decrees on settlements; of conservative politicians refusing to even consider negotiation. All without mentioning Hafrada – the forced separation of Palestinian and Israeli populations in the occupied territories.

Neither is Israel evil incarnate. It is the most liberal, democratic nation in the Middle East. Israeli forces have a historical goal of ending violence (because they fight for their right to exist). By contrast, their enemies’ goal remains destabilisation, and, as a result, terrorist tactics are frequently employed. Finally, even policies like Hafrada are complex – it is responsible for a substantial drop in fatal terrorist attacks.

The point here is that the Israel/Palestine conflict is a complex one. A simple narrative of innocent victims and evil Zionists doesn’t cut it. Yet the left (supposedly the more nuanced side of politics) frequently, happily, returns to this image. And, in turn, this obsessively simple vision bleeds into plain old antisemitism.

It takes many forms, this antisemitism. It hides in the carelessly loaded language which you just wouldn’t use with other minorities. It clothes itself in the lies and fraudulent history used to justify hating Israel. It’s at its most open when Jewish students across the world are made to feel unsafe by leftists who call them Zionist pigs and write declarations of war signed “love, Hamas”.

It’s hard to overstate how much of Western history is tied up with hating Jews. The Catholic Church did not absolve the Jewish people of the collective crime of deicide (killing Christ) until 1964. Martin Luther wrote fervently and frequently on the vileness of the Jewish soul. The Holocaust was only new in that it industrialised what was previously the domain of a few dozen peasants armed with pitchforks. The Western response to it marks the first time the governments of Europe came even close to squaring with their history of antisemitism. That it took six million deaths to achieve this should give us pause.


Critiquing Israel does not require antisemitism. But too often, in too many spaces – the Labour party; university campuses; even the NUS – it excuses it. If the left is serious about its doctrine of “privilege” – that the consequences of past sins reverberate through the modern day – then surely on this, of all topics, a tad more awareness of the ground on which they tread (and the words they speak while there) would be advised. Then, maybe, this oldest and saddest of stories would begin, at last, to end.




Gorillaz Retrospective

A look back on the “career” of the world’s most successful virtual band, written in anticipation of their fourth album. Originally published 28 March 2017 for Smoke Magazine.

Please do yourself a favour and watch the first 30 seconds of this video:

That terrifying, LSD-infused facsimile of wholesome family entertainment is the intro to a half forgotten television programme called The Banana Splits. The show focused on the titular (fictional) band; a pop/rock group comprised of four actors (who presumably dreamed of doing more with their lives) dressed in funny animal costumes. They sang songs, went on adventures, and generally continued to prove it was a miracle that any child came out of the late 1960s remotely well adjusted.

Why bring up this bizarre piece of pop culture ephemera? Well, when Damon Albarn left one of the biggest and best rock groups of the 90s, Blur, to start a “virtual band”, this was the precedent he had to go off.

It is easy to forget just how weird and revolutionary Gorillaz was when they first began.

First, the concept: An animated band consisting of a satanic bassist, a possessed drummer, a Japanese tween, and an (apparently) eyeless Britpop singer.


Next, give them a massively, furiously convoluted backstory which involves fractured eyeballs, ghost rappers, and guitarists being sent through the mail.


Now, make the music a complete and total mish mash of genres, spearheaded by an alt rock star and incorporating pop; RnB; hip-hop; rock n roll; and literally whatever else we feel like.


Oh, and make super heavy use of that newfangled internet thing as a promotional tool, with cryptic puzzles and hidden websites which, after much decoding and sleuthing and puzzle solving, allow one to see a photo of the bassist’s stolen Winnebago.


As it turned out, it was. All comparisons to the likes of The Banana Splits were thrown out the window immediately upon the release of Gorillaz’ self titled debut – the album which won them the title of “most successful virtual band” from Guinness World Records. And over the next decade or so, Damon Albarn’s eclectic side project became just as successful, influential, and iconic as the band which made his name.

But why?

The answer is twofold.

First, Gorillaz was designed to be a band of a type which hadn’t really existed for decades – one which combined the personality driven relatability which boy bands had co-opted with the serious artistry of less, ahem, ‘vibrant’ acts like Radiohead or The Smashing Pumpkins.

(Don’t get me wrong – I adore both those groups, but it’s hard to imagine either one starring in anything like A Hard Day’s Night.)

It’s always fun to immerse oneself in the lives and stories of our favourite celebrities and artists. Autobiographies and reality TV are based on this fact, but long before they came along, pop stars came pre-packaged with their backstories and multimedia adventures – recall that The Beatles had a saturday morning TV show, while Sonny and Cher once solved mysteries with Scooby Doo – to say nothing of The Monkees. This trend withered throughout the 70s as rock bands began to take themselves more “seriously”, but it clung on to respectable and critically acclaimed acts like the Jackson 5 and Diana Ross, whose screen personas filled television and film alike, just as their music filled the airwaves. But, like it did so many things, punk killed this trend, consigning the notion of pop stars as fictional heroes with backstories and adventures to the world of the kitsch and the forgotten. And when it was resurrected by the likes of the Backstreet Boys and the Spice Girls, there wasn’t exactly any sense of artistic credibility behind it. (I say this with love, as I (in particular) adore Backstreet’s Back, but neither of those groups will be remembered as among the most artistically innovative of the late 90s.)

Gorillaz combined the inherent fun of tracking the adventures of a group you like with genuine artistic ambitions. Damon Albarn had been writing nostalgic alternative rock under the britpop banner for a decade, and it was clear he wished to branch out.

This brings me to the second big contributor to Gorillaz’ success: their tunes were, for lack of a better word, banging.

The first taste of Gorillaz the world got was an EP called Tomorrow Comes Today, most of which soon appeared on their debut, self titled album. But the song that really launched them into the popular consciousness was this:

It’s not hard to see why. Gorillaz created something that sounded like nothing and everything on the radio at the same time. It was a clear descendant of the amorphous blob we call “pop” music, but when it came to its specific parents, things got murkier. That bassline was distinctly funky, while the harmonicas, strummed guitar, and vocals all heralded from alternative rock. And then, the verses were two fantastic bits of rapping from Del The Funky Homosapien (seriously, everyone remembers where they were the first time they heard “that it’s all in your head”). This is weird, edgy pop music at its very best – something you can groove to while discovering new lyrical and textural surprises with each listen (“I ain’t happy/I’m feeling glad/I got sunshine/In a bag” – now that is an ambiguously inviting chorus for you).

And the trend continued.

Feel Good Inc is, justly, one of the most remembered songs of the 2000s. That groove; that beat; that bass; that laugh; that “shake it shake it”; that hook; that video, that De La Soul verse – this is perfect pop music. Demon Days, their second album, continued to prove that musical eclecticism didn’t have to mean self indulgence – this is music that is meant to listened to. Gorillaz achieved something which only the very best pop artists do – I’m talking here of the lineage of The Beatles; The Beach Boys; Outkast; Marvin Gaye; Kanye West – to combine genuine musical innovation and experimentation with traditional pop formulas in an entirely successful way. Nothing we’d heard sounded like Gorillaz, and that new-ness was palpable with every song, but it was never inaccessible. They took the parametres of pop music and used them to create songs everyone could appreciate – tunes which belonged in your hi-fi headphones as much as in the club, and they did it while crafting a wholly unique musical identity.

Their third album, Plastic Beach, shifted away slightly from their alternative hip hop/RnB aesthetic, featuring Beach Boys and Phil Spector influenced lush orchestration and composition. If it wasn’t quite the commercial monster its predecessors were, it compensated by, arguably, being even more interesting, earning further critical acclaim, and continuing to be far, far better than a cartoon band had any right to be.

If Gorillaz had a real flaw, it was the wait between albums. Years of emptiness passed the time between quick and sudden bursts of creativity. When albums came out, they came as part of a new “phase” – replete with villains, backstories, and allegorical music videos. And yet, they never dated. Despite their debut being indelibly associated with a pre-Myspace internet; despite Demon Days being overstuffed with potshots at George W Bush, and despite each album being as much about adding to the Gorillaz mythology through viral marketing and cartoon adventures as about new music; the first Gorillaz songs sound as fresh and important as ever. But, naturally, such creative flourishes being interspersed between years of nothingness creates a sense of… abandonment. Having been seven years since the last major Gorillaz release, and with the weight of 2016 (God, what a year) hanging over us, not only did Gorillaz seem forgotten, but when Damon Albarn casually slipped that he wouldn’t mind giving his virtual band another go, it was hard not to wonder what relevance this relic of the age of Howard Dean and friendster could possibly have in the modern pop landscape.

And then the first single dropped.

Some dismissed its crooning, synthy neo-soul as “not Gorillaz”. Apparently they longed for the funky dance grooves the “band” had built their name on. These people missed the point. Gorillaz had delivered exactly what they were expected to: the unexpected.

Musically, Hallelujah Money blends genres with the best of them, while its lyrics’ gorgeous and ephemeral metaphors ensure that its message won’t fade the moment its politics cease to be immediately relevant. Damon Albarn had blindsided us once again.

And so, now, here we are. Four further tracks from Gorillaz’ upcoming album Humanz have been released. They range in style from slippery, insidious neo-funk (Saturn Barz) to aggressively lonely edm (Andromeda) to rock influenced alternative hip hop (Ascension) to sheer glorious power pop (We Got the Power). I love every single one of these songs for the same reason I love all Gorillaz – hell, for the reason I love pop music. There’s nothing wrong with music that invites and requires concentration – I dig jazz and prog as much as the next guy – but pop affects you on the most elemental of levels – hooking itself into your brain and refusing to let go. It is musical instant gratification, and when this is combined with the genuine artistic aspiration of someone (Damon Albarn) who thinks his listeners are as smart, as discerning, and as interesting as he is, and deserve to be entertained, not just distracted – well, then you get a special kind of great art.

Gorillaz, we love you. And we are very, very glad you’re back.

Teenage Wasteland

Originally published 16 December 2016

What Brexit means for millennials

A rush and a push and the land is ours

You’d be forgiven for relaxing. Four months on, and the sky hasn’t fallen. The economy has continued to grow, and yes, the pound has dropped, but it’s still short of its lowest rank against the Euro back in 2008. Consumer confidence remains not just high, but comparable to pe-GFC levels, and retail sales have stayed strong. The UK doesn’t feel like it’s on any kind of precipice – cultural; political; or economic, and while Brexit continues to dominate political discussion, it does so in the abstract, as the political affair of the day, the new thing to be spoken of in Westminster. And with a supreme court hearing and (potentially) a parliamentary vote still in its way, the reality of Brexit seems further off than ever.

But all is not quite so well. If Brexit is a divorce, it is one which is yet to go to court. Solicitors; tribunal fees; alimony – all these have yet to be paid, and, much to the disappointment of the great and learned teacher K. West, no pre-nup has been signed. In short, the reality of Brexit depends entirely on Theresa May’s negotiating prowess. Assuming the supreme court and parliamentary voting do not conspire to kill the policy in its crib, the Prime Minister will push for a “best-case-scenario” where Britain has trading access to the European single market, but can set its own rules on immigration and product standards. Given that every nation in the EU has veto power over the terms of Brexit, such an outcome seems unlikely, particularly considering their incentives.

Nigel Farage proudly declared that he hoped Brexit would spell the beginning of the end for the European Union. This is precisely what Donald Tusk and his fellow bureaucrats fear. They have strong political incentives to deny Britain a favourable trade deal, and thereby sustain the consensus that staying in the EU is the preferable option for places like Greece and Catalonia, which have flirted with the idea of leaving in the past.

Nor can Britain depend on German manufacturers to come to its rescue by lobbying for a unrestricted trade deal so as not to lose British export revenue. Angela Merkel has made it a feature of her administration to be willing to ignore business’ demands – having implemented a minimum wage, early retirement, and quotas for women despite lobbyists’ objections. Moreover, manufacturers may not even want such a trade deal – Mathias Wissman, president of the German Association of the Automotive Industry described “keeping the European Union together” as “our priority”.

None of this means that a successful Brexit resulting in Theresa May’s much-vaulted “global Britain” is impossible, just that many barriers stand in its way. If things do not go to plan, Britain could find itself subject to debilitating trading costs with its former closest partners; with financial services and business (currently responsible for almost a quarter of the nation’s tax revenue) having fled to now-more-global cities like Frankfurt; Paris; or Barcelona. Either way, the consequences will be most strongly felt by young people.

It’s the best years of your life they want to steal

Millennials voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, and it’s not hard to see why. The sheer uncertainty generated by Brexit is probably its greatest risk. We don’t know what the final negotiations will look like; we don’t know how said negotiations will be conducted; we don’t know how business will respond to the process; and, apparently, not even MPs know how the reality of Brexit should be pursued. And for a generation only now emerging into this globalised world as either students or young professionals, such uncertainty is deeply troubling – in many ways.

It’s worth, then, breaking down the ways Brexit affects young people specifically – the direct intersections between millennial concerns and Boris Johnson’s political crusade. This section aims to do just that:


  • Universities: University fees will not rise in the next two years. Universities’ incentives are to maintain the £3.7billion revenue brought by foreign students, and have no need to raise fees (thereby driving down applications) at least until Brexit occurs. Even then, their priority will be to maintain an international focus – making it as easy as possible for European Union students to access British education. However, the realities of politics mean that when Britain is no longer part of the EU, EU students will become international students, and a resulting change in fees of some kind is inevitable.
  • Employment: Thus far, Britain has avoided recession. But, as described above, the economic future of the nation is uncertain. If trade is hurt by Brexit a recession is unmistakably on the cards. This is bad news for young people. Under 30 year olds commonly bear the brunt of economic downturns – their relative inexperience and low standing within the corporate ladder makes them among the first victims of corporate downsizing, and businesses routinely lower their intakes of graduates during economic turbulence.
    The long term consequences are also troubling – research from Harvard and the Universities of Toronto and Columbia has shown, repeatedly, that there exists a sustained income gap between graduates who enter the economy during prosperous and turbulent times. Those who find themselves newly in the job market during a recession can suffer from lower wages for up to twenty years as a result.
    In addition, the cyclical unemployment likely to result from such a recession can become structural if Brexit is not carefully handled. If business drifts to more globally accessible cities on the continent, the consequent downturn could create a generation trained for jobs no longer found in the UK. A glimmer of hope here comes in the form of ideas like the one offered by German MP Sigmar Gabriel, who proposed offering young Britons EU citizenship if they chose. Such pathways to European connectedness may prove a lifeline to British millennials, unless the negotiations are handled masterfully.
  • Housing: The UK’s housing market has continued to grow in value thanks to  a sustained increase in demand which remains unmatched by supply. While some, like Chris Grayling MP, argue that Brexit’s consequent reduction in immigration will create greater opportunities for young people to enter the housing market (by reducing overall demand), monthly mortgage approvals remain at less than half their pre-crisis levels – a factor unlikely to be changed by Brexit’s uncertainty. Indeed, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit could well cause homebuilding to slow as investment ebbs, compounding the difficulty in entering the housing market. Moreso perhaps than any other, the future for young people in housing depends utterly on the nature of Brexit’s negotiations.
  • Free Movement: A key argument for Brexit was greater control over the UK’s borders. This means clamping down on immigration, and, consequently, on free movement through the UK’s borders.


All in all then, little good news. The vote on Brexit was proposed by a Prime Minister who never believed in the process. This curious reality means the policy became official before any planning or organisation had been done at all. None of the loudest voices for the leave campaign were national lawmakers at the time – they were lobbyists, and lobbyists do not diplomats make. Such uncertainty leaves many young people asking, in the immortal words of Axl Rose, “Where do we go now?”

Only time will tell.

The Conch Shell Shatters

Originally published 13 December 2016


Fighting for democracy in the age of Trump

So this is how liberty dies.

“I want to be a President for all Americans.”

If not for the emotional exhaustion of the past year, it might have been funny.
For Donald J. Trump – bully; racist; grabber of pussies of pussies; mocker of the disabled; a man who thinks building casinos is comparable to losing one’s son in war –  to speak of unity is so ironic that one expects Alanis Morisette to blare from the nearest set of speakers.

But perhaps that was the trouble – we laughed too much. It is now clear that liberals world-over vastly underestimated American malcontent.

The question of why Trump won will be puzzled over for decades to come. In a talk on “Global Trumpism”, Martin Blythe argues that the same economic conditions which birthed Golden Dawn in Greece have loosed Trump upon America. The state-driven decimation of the working classes throughout the developed world bears much blame for today’s populist backlash.

The great irony is that no matter what Trump promises, those jobs cannot be brought back. It will always be cheaper to manufacture overseas than in America, and tariffs cannot halt mechanisation. Instead, Trump, whose Republican congress wishes a moratorium on regulation and fiscal spending, will usher in an age where the government does even less to help its poorest citizens, while scapegoating minorities to maintain “unity”.

Trumpism, then, is not the answer. It is the rose-spectacled yearning for an economic era now functionally beyond reach. It is also the return of open and ghastly racism. But, above all, it is the shattering of traditional democratic norms.


All you have to do is follow the worms

Trump’s election has upturned our understanding of how democracy works. During his campaign he cheerfully violated every electoral convention – courting the Klan; mocking the disabled; open racism – these “gaffs” alone should have rendered him unelectable; to say nothing of his overwhelming opposition from the nation’s newspapers. Trump’s economic policies, they rightly pointed out, were incoherent on an unprecedented level. He literally lied more than he told the truth; considered trade as a boxing match; and promised horrors the presidency is (thankfully) incapable of (for instance, “opening up” libel laws – no such laws exist on a federal front).

But none of this mattered to the people who voted for him. Why? Well, in desperate economic circumstances it makes sense that they’d happily ignore his flaws if they thought a candidate would at last listen to them, but the real answer runs deeper.

The OED has chosen “post-truth” as its word of the year, and it’s not hard to see why. The term is an apt description of today’s world. While people have voted on intuition rather than facts for decades now, what makes the post-truth world unique is that politicians now campaign on this basis –  relying not on facts, but on what feels true – that Barack Obama is a Kenyan Muslim who founded IS; or that Hillary Clinton has murdered dozens of subordinates. These claims are reinforced by a media climate which panders to echo chambers and falsehoods – Facebook is the largest source of news for most Americans, but as it produces no media, it claims no fourth estate responsibility.

There is a culture of “news” pages on the left and the right which routinely and unashamedly publish falsehoods. These stories pander to people’s suspicions about the world and, thus (as it’s a biological fact – confirmed by dopamine levels – that the human brain prefers “facts” which reaffirm its convictions to those which challenge it) they are inimitably shareable.

Couple that with a climate where the traditional media is considered perennially dishonest (a claim repeated by Trump himself) and the stage was set for an election where his tax returns or allegations of sexual assault simply did not matter, as his supporters sooner believed his Tweets than the Washington Post.

Where, then, does that leave those of us who believe that facts should matter in democracy?


Shall We Overcome?

The path to victory against Trumpism is steep and multifaceted. The first and most critical step is galvanising political involvement. If the 41% of eligible Americans who stayed home on election day had instead turned out to vote, Hillary Clinton would likely have won. If Democratic voters were as routinely motivated as Republican ones, not only would the senate be blue-er, but local policies which have allowed Republicans to maintain unrepresentative support (voter ID laws; gerrymandering) would not have passed. This principle applies across the post-truth world: Only by opposing regressive policies at every turn can we kill them in the crib.

The next step is to rebuild an empathetic political culture. The victories of globalisation (which are, let’s be clear, huge – over a billion people lifted out of extreme poverty in the last twenty years is not to be sniffed at) have allowed us to forget those who are left behind. Rural America feels, accurately, that its urban neighbours have forgotten it; while manufacturing workers see themselves as the last of a dying breed. The cures for these maladies are not to be found in Trumpism, but in a greater emphasis on retraining programmes (on which America spends a pittance) and, most of all, in a political culture which values such perspectives.

Equally valuable are the perspectives of minority groups. To Kill a Mockingbird remains among the most important books in American history because it unmasked racism to people who had chosen to ignore it. Similar jolts to middle America are required now. Make no mistake, artists from minority backgrounds have been telling extraordinary stories of their experiences for many years now – from Do the Right Thing to Transgender Dysphoria Blues – but the burden lies with “liberal allies” in power to share such testimony. A staggeringly high number of Trump supporters have simply never met a Muslim. When shown human experiences, empathy will, in most cases, overwhelm exclusion.

Finally, fake news must be fought. Facebook employees have set up a taskforce to monitor and dismantle false stories on the site. This is an important but minor step – it would be wise to lobby the company to take an official stand thereon. Facebook can no longer pretend it has no fourth estate obligations. 2016 has proven that it does.

These steps seem daunting, if not impossible. It is easy to assume that in our bifurcated political sphere, all attempts at outreach are futile. This is not true. Grassroots political work can mitigate Trumpism’s damage. If Facebook tackles fake news, its largest platform will be removed. Respecting blue collar voices will keep them from resorting to racism. And while we might not reach sexteganarian Trump supporters who believe Barack Obama was born in Kenya, their grandchildren are statistically likely to be on our side. And even if they’re not, minds can be changed – just look at the modern consensus on marriage equality.

Donald Trump does not respect democracy. He considered a fair loss impossible; played fast and loose with the obligations of the US Constitution; and peddled conspiracy theories designed to undermine the rationality of voters. His underhanded tactics have won him an election. But he has not yet won the war.

If those who stand against his demagoguery and falsehoods do so openly and consistently, the fight for liberal democracy may yet be won. But the battle must be hard fought. We have far too much to lose.


My honours thesis – an investigation of efforts to cross online polarisation.


This paper investigates the efficacy of different approaches to bridging online polarisation. It analyses four case studies (Read Across The Aisle; Fiskkit; The Guardian; and Buzzfeed News), applying expert elicitation to obtain insight into the goals and challenges these endeavours face. It synthesises the findings with prior research to advance an initial optimised approach in overcoming online polarisation. This paper found that definitive conclusions in the field are currently vexing: The recency of research is characterised by a paucity of data as a result of the field’s developmental currency. It concludes that online polarisation is likely to exist, informed by user choice, and that strategies which prioritise behavioural change are likely to be the most effective means of nullifying its outworkings.


Download here: Dissertation (1)


Career Plan

The Changing Media Landscape

There’s no doubt that my ideas about journalism and my career goals have shifted over the course of my degree. But the shift hasn’t been about deciding to work in a different style of journalism – rather, it’s been a slow and steady process of deciding that this is actually the career I want, and adjusting my skills and expectations to best meet the requirements of the modern media landscape.

It goes without saying that the internet’s effect on journalism has been seismic. The disruption is comparable only to the printing press – if we lived before in Mcluhan’s Gutenberg Galaxy; we now inhabit the Berners-Lee Black hole. Past technological advances (radio; television) added new platforms from which to tell the news, but the web has absorbed all previous channels, and is threatening the sustainability of each.

Print, in particular, is hard hit by this transformation. American newspaper circulation has almost halved since its heyday in 1990 – from 63 million to 35 million weekly copies sold.

This has tremendous bearing on the nature of reporting jobs – in all media. Two years ago, Alex T Williams wrote in the Columbia Journalism Review that “the number of journalists at digital-only publishers [has] plateaued… reporters are becoming increasingly concentrated in coastal cities [and] investigative journalism and local statehouse reporting is declining”. Reporter and blogger Brianna Hand writes that news outlets want “jack-of-all-trades journalists who can write, take photographs, tweet, blog, publish stories online, take video, and record audio”. In short, there’s less stability, less money, and more for every reporter to do.

The effects hereof on my career plan are twofold:

First, I had to address the fundamental question of what kind of journalism I wanted to create. And the answer was… well, a bit of everything. I have a passion for narratives, for making sense of social, political, and cultural moments. I’m attracted more to a style or an idea than a field. I have a long-standing passion for political journalism, equalled by my love of good arts coverage. I adore longform’s literary aspirations, and am fascinated by the determination and quasi-religious service of investigative journalism. I’m equally at home before a camera and behind a laptop, discussing the Tate, the Commons, or the housing crisis. It was said of Christopher Hitchens that he wrote about everything except sport. For me, that sounds just about right.

Of course, thanks both to this goal and the very nature of modern journalism, I’m pushed to constantly expand my skill-set. I’m a naturally talented communicator – both in person and on paper – but that’s not enough. The course taught me how to work in multiple media, and I’ve tried to make the most thereof – qualifying myself as a video and radio editor, a writer, a presenter, a graphics designer, a copy editor – whatever I need to be.

Given that I can’t point to one particular field of journalism, the question then becomes one of medium or style. And that leads to my second point.

Media transformation made me radically reassess where and how I would likely be employed. I’m a longtime reader of magazines like Slate, The Atlantic, and The Economist, and find myself drawn to their approach of “journalism as analysis” rather than emphasising breaking news. That process of analytical understanding is what I think I’m best at – unpacking the stories behind an event, rather than conventional reporting.

That said, as my first point proves, I have to be prepared to work in a variety of ways – particularly when considering how media will change. As such, I think it’s likely I’ll hold jobs at multiple media outlets simultaneously for a while – writing for online publications while working in the newsroom of a broadcaster or newspaper. This is line with most projections about where journalism is heading – online readership si growing, but it’s harder to make it pay without firewalls. As a result, some of the safest bets about what publications will stick around include places like Slate, The Atlantic, or The Economist – because they offer a unique brand of analysis and editorial voice that you cannot get elsewhere. Consequently, they cultivate a lowal cabal of paying readers. Conversely, newspapers find themselves in trouble – partly, in my opinion, because readers consider them more fungible. But the stability of these institutions means neither that I’ll have job security, nor that the types of journalism I aspire towards (arts; political; longform; investigative) will carry on unchanged.

Arts journalism is in trouble. Some years ago, Variety fired Todd McCarthy, who had worked as their chief film critic for 31 years. Editorial reasoning was that a full time critic was a cost not worth paying. Film and music criticism have migrated online and away from institutions – with youtube channels and blogs dominating the field. I love discussing art, and I intend to do so – but on a blog. There’s too little security in being a permanent in-house critic. If I get employed herefor, it’ll probably be on a freelance basis.

Political journalism remains healthier. There is no shortage of demand – to the extent that this is itself something of a problem. Political reporting is so constant, so eternal, that it can envelop you – particularly in an age of up to the minute digital news updates, where being first is more important than ever.

Longform journalism exists in an odd space. Never the most profitable format, it found a niche audience through magazines and books, and largely exists in the same format online. It’s probably rarer than in the heyday of “new journalism”, but not much rarer than in the 80s or 90s. It remains a labour of love for its practitioners, dependent on a particularly committed audience. The internet has also changed the presentation of longform journalism, with multimedia integration (a la Snowfall) becoming far more constant. Thus, I am reminded yet again of the importance of a wide skill set. It has also provided websites like – dedicated homes for longform journalism which might find itself unwanted elsewhere.

Finally, investigative journalism is either growing strong or shrinking fast, depending on the publication responsible. Established outlets like The Washington Post, The Guardian and Australia’s Four Corners continue strong in their investigative reporting on Trump, Windrush, and juvenile detention respectively. But these are national outlets dealing with national crises. Smaller outlets are struggling to remain afloat – particularly in the US, where groups like Alden Global Capital have bought and decimated local papers nationwide. The internet has also changed the way investigative journalism is conducted, with a new focus on online records and data mining. Unfortunately, I missed the opportunity to attend the Uni’s course on this, but I do intend to educate myself on these practices as best I can over the next year.

With all these forms being changed or threatened by the internet’s advent, I return to my first point – a multitude of skills will be necessary. If I’m to become invaluable to any publication, I’ll have to stick around long enough for my writing and/or presenting (my greatest assets) to be made clear. During that time, it’s more than likely I’ll take on any number of necessary jobs to keep my foot in the door.

As to any new jobs that might develop, the constant rise of social media and AI are fascinating portents for journalism. The Economist now has a Snapchat editor, and the possibility of AI copy-writers might warrant a whole new kind of editorial oversight. There are smaller changes too. With multimedia formatting continuing to rise, it’s very conceivable that my background in writing and video editing could position me as some kind of multimedia editor, in charge of integrating video, audio, and text. This training could also position me to create packages designed for social media consumption – short videos or image sets that communicate the essentials of a story in a facebook or instagram friendly format.

The fundamental world of journalism is changing. The nature of marketing, audience appeal and interaction, reporting jobs, and even what a journalist is – these are all in unprecedented flux. I cannot pretend to know how they’ll continue to change. I also know that my attitude and skill set come, in a way, from an earlier age. I like to write and I like to talk. I like having clear beats and remits, and a simple clear way of reaching an audience. But that’s not what journalism is anymore, and I have to accept that. All I can do is to equip myself as broadly as possible, maintain my flexibility, and never lose sight of my goal.

What Have I Learnt?

This degree taught me the practical realities of journalism. It taught me what was newsworthy, how to write for print, for online, for radio, and for television, how to edit a TV or radio show, how to format a magazine, how to integrate multimedia into my reporting, how to monitor and address legal and ethical worries – how to work as a journalist.

The modules which most affected me would probably be Magazines and Broadcast Journalism. In both of them I assumed positions of real importance in putting a project together – sub editor; editor; and presenter. I felt, for the first time, like I was working as a journalist, and this simple fact – that I had a product I had to deliver at the end of the day, one which I had to supervise, and eventually be proud of – taught me more about coordinating people and making serious journalistic decisions than any lecture ever could.

As to how the degree affected my career aims – well, I came to the conclusion that I was good at and enjoyed reporting. I excelled as an editor and presenter of broadcast journalism, found ample opportunity to express my passion for writing, and grew intrigued with the sheer range of things to cover. I felt like I belonged in this world, and thus committed to it.

More specifically, the degree fostered in me a passion for broadcast and longform journalism which was entirely new. A long-time political animal and lover of the arts, I’d been a follower of these journalistic forms for some time, but the experience of manically creating broadcast journalism, and discovering the beautiful, storied tradition of longform writing – I fell in love.

Of course, the degree only provides so much. Experience is often the greatest teacher, and two London based journalism internships offer proof thereof.

Interning for the BBC’s daily news programmes (on the World Service and Radio 4) involves much of the same work as I was entrusted with in the Broadcast journalism module. You have to contribute ideas, locate interviewees, and brief presenters – in short, all the de rigeur business of putting a news broadcast together. The internship covers a number of programmes – from Newshour, Newsday and OS on the BBC World Service, to World at One and PM on Radio 4. The target market behind the two outlets is similar, but maintains slight differences – with Radio 4 being UK-centric, while the World Service is a far reaching international broadcaster. Each particular programme has a slightly different focus, but in general, those on Radio 4 strive after in-depth coverage of British news, together with revealing interviews on subjects of importance to the British public. The World Service’s broadcasts, by contrast, employ a similar combination of reporting and interviews to tackle a decidedly international purview – Newsday in particular features an explicit focus on Africa. Each programme transmits daily, for anywhere between 45 minutes (World at One) to two and a half hours (Newsday).

Each experience thrusts interns into the midst of broadcast journalism, and more or less asks you to work as a researcher on one of these programmes – offering contacts, story ideas, or research assistance in any way it might be needed. That experience is invaluable, and provides interns with the energy, know-how, and initiative you need as a journalist – all in very immediate way. It can be accessed at

The Financial Times, by contrast, offers newsroom internships which focus on being immersed in a print newsroom. It offers experience in four different categories – special reports; comment and analysis; career internships; and UK news. Each internship operates within a slightly different purview of print journalism. Nevertheless, all revolve around the need to interact with, inform, and assist journalists in putting the best possible work together. Rather than actively participating in putting a broadcast together, this internship focuses on the learning that can occur through one working on more specific projects with particular reporters or editors. There is a degree of interpersonal learning promised through the internship, as well as the opportunity to immerse oneself in the world of financial journalism. The Financial Times is a targeted newspaper, dedicated to a specific kind of coverage. It has 130 years of experience writing on business and economics news, and is an international publication which targets 2.2 million businesspeople and economists worldover. It is split into two sections – the first operating much like an ordinary newspaper, with news, opinion, and analysis, while the second summarises market data and provides business-specific insight. Its newsroom internships would provide particular insight into business journalism, and can be accessed by emailing

Over the past two years, I’ve fallen in love with journalism. As described above, I realised my skills as a communicator were suited to this profession – one which gave me the opportunity to communicate in a number of ways about even more subjects. My natural passions could be covered through mediums I was passionate about. On top of that, the exhilaration of the newsroom, the joy of storytelling, and the rapture of great writing – I experienced all these at Westminster, and they sent me on my way.

But my education is nowhere near complete. I find networking and job-seeking awkward, which I absolutely need to overcome to forge a career in this competitive, uncertain field. And the feedback for my extended individual project highlighted another trait I need to polish – humility.

Two of my favourite journalists exist on opposing ends of the spectrum of arrogance: Christopher Hitchens was a brilliant analyst and poetic essayist, and he knew it. And he made sure you knew he knew it. Meanwhile, John Dickerson, a man who has quietly emerged as one of America’s most effective political reporters and interviewers, is consumed by humility and fair-mindedness. Hitch was never short of an opinion, and often flaunted contrarian ones, just to see how they fit. He loved to debate, and loved being right. Dickerson, by contrast, is religiously fair minded. Stephen Colbert describes him as Elven, invoking Tolkien’s warning to “Ask not the elves for advice, because they will tell you both ‘yes’ and ‘no’.” Dickerson prizes humility as a journalistic trait, sublimating himself before the enormity of his subjects, and asking quiet, surprisingly penetrating questions – like a journalistic Columbo.

My temperament is more Hitchensian than Dickersonian, and while that has its advantages (I can spit pointed prose with the best of them), it has the unfortunate requirement that anyone who tries it needs to be absolutely on top of their intellectual game – or else they risk a very high and humiliating fall. Hitchens was a genius with intimate knowledge of history and politics the world over. I am, as of this writing, not. Sublimating myself and my tone in a Dickersonian fashion – favoring subtle penetration over bold declarations – this is something I think I’d do well to learn, and will strive towards.

Where Do I Go From Here?

My long term career goals are something in the fashion of Anderson Cooper, or John Dickerson. I’d love to work as an anchor and television/radio presenter one day down the line, but such a career would be prefaced and complemented by a great deal of writing. That writing would take place in many forms – I’d be happy working as a political correspondent; a cultural critic; or an investigative reporter. But the crucial, constant commonality is this: narratives. I consider the world in narrative terms – I always have – and my strength as a journalist would be placing individual stories in the context of a grander narrative. In other words – what happened; why did it happen; and what’s going to happen next?

As such, I think knowledge about our world’s grander narratives is a fundamental prerequisite. I’m very aware of artistic and cultural trends in the West; and of most big political concerns. I have, too, some basis of historical knowledge. Where I can definitely  improve is in my understanding of the minutiae of laws and governance. So many of today’s great crises – British housing; American opioids; global finance – stem from small, seemingly innocuous policy decisions made years ago. Understanding these decisions in greater detail would be crucial in shaping the type of journalism I aspire towards.

As such, my immediate career goal is to enroll in International Social and Public Policy at the LSE. The degree takes an international approach (useful as I intend to work in at least two different countries – Australia and the UK), and teaches how government policy shapes ordinary lives, and how to identify key policy changes before they become felt.

At the same time, I intend to pursue a number of internships – a few potential options are listed below:

  • The BBC’s journalism trainee scheme
  • The Economist’s digital internships
  • CNN News Internships
  • The Financial Times Newsroom Internship
  • The Guardian’s annual internship programme

These represent my ideal options, but obviously that’s aspirational. I intend to pursue as many opportunities as possible, and write for as many outlets as I can. I’ve uploaded my CV onto Indeed, CV Library, Monster, updated my LinkedIn, and have recently secured a work experience position at a startup app – Drank – writing copy about London nightlife. These efforts  accumulate, and I intend to use them to get work in a serious newsroom one of these days.

From there, I have two paths. The first is to return to Australia, and try to secure two jobs – with the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Association), and in a newspaper. These jobs will no doubt be entry level, but will provide me with a foot in the door to work my way up.

The second is aspirational and wishful, but worth mentioning. I would love the opportunity to cover the 2020 American Presidential race. My love of American politics is lifelong, and the opportunity to report on it would be something of a dream come true for me. How I would do so I’m unsure – I could offer myself as an assistant to a correspondent for a British or Australian outlet – but I intend to pursue it as vigorously as possible.

Furthermore, I want to use the website we’re developing for this module as an offshoot from which to pursue blogging. I only recently discovered Andrew Sullivan’s The Dish, and was rather taken by his insightful commentary and essays on politics and culture. Blogging would let me write on my passions while still working entry level jobs (as I’ll have to for a time) and provide me with a significant back-catalogue, in addition to my published reporting.

In five years time, depending on the results of next year, I hope to a published reporter either in America, Australia – or perhaps even still in the UK, working towards my long term journalistic goals bit by bit by bit. I’ll see where the road takes me.