BY DOMINIC WIGHTMAN
According to the later versions of the Brothers Grimm tales, when Rumpelstiltskin – the imp who spun straw into gold in exchange for a girl’s firstborn – was rebuffed:
Rumpelstiltskin is a fairy tale that illustrates how confused values can lead to problems. Unfortunately, just as the Pied Piper became real with Corbyn, so Rumpelstiltskin is playing out before our eyes.
The ability to spin straw into gold seemed like a fairy tale until social currency came along as a force to be reckoned with.
Since social media companies surfaced as potent entities, we spend far too much of our precious time donating them our attention and data, while allowing those who have become masters of the social media age to play with our emotions, giving them the power to spin real currency from the social currency they accumulate.
There has been some positive use of social currency – one thinks of Marcus Rashford in his early days as a social campaigner pre-sainthood, using his pile of football-derived social currency to achieve the extension of free school meals for the poor, or of Jeremy Clarkson the Farmer pointing out the stupidity of farming policies dreamt up on townhouse desks using his social currency accrued over many years on Top Gear. There has been honest manifestation of the phenomenon – there are plenty of possessors of social currency who have failed to convert social into hard currency, whether through lethargy or failure or preference.
Then there are the political grifters who have found their niche on Patreon and coin it as best they can. Whether or not they believe what their caricatures are saying is debatable. Some think, calculatingly, that their increasingly outlandish stances will inevitably lead to book sales and paid appearances. There are the environmental and animal rights shysters who harvest cash via emotionally bulimic tales of animal cruelty and doomsculting, cashing in via crowdfunding and merch, peddling all kinds of tat to followers with flip-top heads, from books to Tee-shirts made in Bangladesh sweat shops to signed cuddly badger toys made in dog-eating Shanghai. Perhaps worst of the lot are the airhead Love Island types who flog harmless cosmetics and fashionwear but then find their social media operations inveigled by boiler house bitcoin scams and unregulated gambling companies which their celeb-addled sheep buy into with their hard-earned cash.
Those who have been involved in a Twitter pile-on know all too well the pressure that can be generated by those holding social currency. Their sheep can be made to baa very loudly indeed. Oppressed advertisers ring up the targeted publications and the puny will always bail. Smears may be powderpuff but in the minds of companies and clients, who try to build and protect their own social currency, the danger of collateral damage at that particular moment of maximum pressure appears real – even though a dissection later shows it’s a storm in a teacup generated by a sad bunch of trolls and anoraks who are deft at using multiple bots and fake accounts.
Social currency can thrive by playing the Hate-Victim dialectical and by emoting anger and hatred in followers to hone and manifest power.
Far more worryingly, the police are hesitant to act when celebrities or politicians with large social media audiences need thoroughly investigating, thus disrupting our system of justice. These days institutions and organisations often buckle before the well-oiled social media machines of the trans and Black Lives Matter lobbies, forcing them into injustices which negatively affect now old mores of meritocracy and talent. Company boards often include token ethnic and female members to avoid losing social currency overnight yet lose executive efficacy by sacrificing talent and diluting focus in the name of diversity.
Recently the West has too often become skewed by identity politics yoked to social media, whereby Truth, Justice and Power lose foundation as they are determined not by realities – such as having a penis or committing a crime – but by the damage limitation strategy adopted by cowards in positions of power in deference to those holding social currency.
The West used to laugh at Russia and its skewed Pravda ‘free press’. How we Brits used to cackle at the crooks running lesser democracies like Italy. Now we cannot laugh so loud while we make key judgements in the court of opinion based on social currency rather than in the court of law where Truth should determine and permeate all. Lose Truth, Justice and reporting objectivity in your key institutions and your civilisation is infirm – lose the guts to be the one standing up to a million followers and you may as well turn off the illuminating lights of freedom we once defended with our blood as a nation.
Whereas once we made key choices based on fact, now we too often tend to be blinded by the crowd, whether the crowd is right or wrong. Why allow what made us strongest to be trampled in the sake of progressiveness gone wild?
Yes, we still have a choice:
Succumb to the mirage of social currency which cares not a jot about what is true or real – to Facebook bots and Twitter pile-ons. Or take a stand for our freedoms and infuriate Rumpelstiltskin whose fat, hairy feet right now stamp all over what we should be holding most dear – Truth, democracy, order, justice, conservatism, meritocracy, small government, the market, the rights of the individual, the well-balanced trade-off, free speech and the right to offend.
Expose the Rumpelstiltskins’ gold as fool’s gold – denude its malignant amassers as Jim Jones cultists, as hypocrites and pretenders whose emotive rationales are cynically conjured from straw – and we stand a fighting chance.
Dominic Wightman is Editor of Country Squire Magazine.