‪#‎FridayThread‬ – Corbyn’s networks as a modern digital ecclesia?

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By Matt Hack of @hackcartoons. Originally published in @tribunemagazine

Newsnight had a fascinating conversation (with not a little tension) between Charles Moore (the conscience of the British right, let’s call him) and Matthew Parris (ferociously bright and pragmatic) over the elevation of a Remainer to the head of a Brexit government.

Moore bemoaned the fact that in an age which the voters warm each time to a message of change, the new Prime Minister does not fit the bill of those looking for that change to become tangible.

The only visible change candidate on the Market is the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn. His gut instinct was apparently with the Leavers but politically he tied his horse to the Remain camp. Now, Labour is experiencing the worst of both worlds.

Although I am no fan of Corbyn’s democratic centerist machine (whatever they say in public the shutting down of branch meetings indicates a brutal and ruthless internal culture is at play), the mass movement it has spawned has been fascinating to watch.

The Labour resistence (172 MPs and counting) have not been able to tap into the discontent within their own constituencies to produce a coherent counter message to insurgents (who like all good Leninists) who have focused on taking control of the machinery of power.

In addition to these machinists is a large scale movement who are motivated by the whole idea of change. As Steve Richards’ excellent series on BBC Radio Four highlights this is experienced by its adherents as something close to religious.

As my colleague John Kellden notes, this is in part a characteristic of how social media works

“In a network, in our 21st Century, our emotions are increasingly under siege, being used as and turned into, social media channels.”

He goes on to list a whole plethora of characteristics of the human networks which form on social media (rather than that of the actual technology), some which fit the Corbyn movement perfectly (highlighted), along with a few which don’t.

– live, life is short
remember, dreams can come true
believe in bigger things happening
– remember, you matter, we matter
rediscover overlooked essentials
embrace unexpected twists
stay curious, everything tells a story
– walk along a journey, your unfolding evolutionary trajectory
– inspire yourself and others to action
remain open to what makes you and others laugh
remain strong and vulnerable enough to embrace and cherish what makes you and others cry
– explore, the universe now and zen provides glimpses of secrets
realize the value in what surprises us
persevere, never give up
– become your own best, unique version of yourself
– remember, there’s always more
confirm assumptions
– challenge assumptions
learn, adapt, play, participate
draw inspiration from as many others as possible
– remain openminded
– appreciate fresh points of view about common things [emphasis added]

Remember this is a shift in form, which is disrupting the historic Labour Party, not the actual content. How an old fashioned British Stalinist managed to attract an ecclesia of such power and magnitude is another related but separate question.

But the power of his network is beyond all doubt. Many, including myself, are judging from the effectiveness of Corbyn’s network in motivating people to act collectively and effectively rather than just click a ‘Like’ button.

Return on engagement has been its own reward. But the success of its call to join the Labour Party and change it is the key appeal. Mainstream Labour, which itself began out of a strongly felt need to organise to level up against large elites, is clearly stumped.

As we have seen from the Tory party this week, it is not always necessary to be ‘netted up’ to retain or gain power. Story trumps money and resources, even on the mainstream media.

Everywhere citizens (and in wartime, civilians) are rushing the field. The mainstream will either have to give them a proper place – and more importantly proper voice – if they are going to survive, never mind prosper, in the world ahead.

The real test of the Corbyn project will be whether it can turn it’s powerful and enthusiastic networks into something positive and sustainable, or like Nato in Libya just turn what remains valuable into mush?

Further thoughts from yesterday’s SluggerReport…