Flatter, Mythologize, Rinse, Repeat
October 13, 2014
Yes, I know, we’re all missing this blog’s unofficial mascot, Ms Laurie Penny. What with her recent elevation to loftier moral planes in the bosom of academia, where she will soon be anointed a “leader in journalism.” Luckily, over the weekend, commenter svh spotted a review of Ms Penny’s latest book – this one – in the hallowed pages of the New York Times. Given the radical chest-puffing, there’s much to ponder. For instance,
But beyond the politics of the (white) body, Penny is an elegant writer, and she deconstructs the issues of the day with an eye to how neoliberalism has filtered into our intimate relationships (“Under late capitalism, love has become like everything else: a prize to be won, an object to be attained, a commodity to be hoarded until it loses value or can be traded up for a better bargain”).
Apparently, an unsupported, question-begging claim is what now passes for elegant deconstruction. But such is Laurie’s world. She asserts so much and substantiates so little. A talent evidently shared by the reviewer, Latoya Peterson, a self-described “hip-hop feminist” and Guardian contributor, whose opening paragraph offers a shred of comfort to those missing Ms Penny’s signature hyperbole and disregard for reality:
The feminist scholar Donna Haraway defined cyborg writing as “the power to survive, not on the basis of original innocence, but on the basis of seizing the tools to mark the world that marked them as other.” That term describes so much digital scrawl on the Internet today — voices screaming from the margins, searching for connection. The British journalist Laurie Penny’s words seem to have secured her just that; she has found a devoted audience for her blog and three previous books.
By all means take a moment to realign your mind with the notion of Ms Penny as a “cyborg” writer and in some way marginalised – “marked as other” – and struggling against the pressures of not being heard. Except of course when she’s on TV, or Five Live, or Radio 4, or when airing her various and bewildering concerns in the pages of the Guardian, the New Statesman and the Independent.
Yes, this privately educated middle-class leftist, lectured at Wadham by other middle-class leftists and steeped in all of the “privilege” she so readily denounces in others, is “screaming from the margins, searching for connection.” A woman who was all but waved through the doors of Channel 4 and the BBC, our nation’s state broadcaster, by people who find her mouthings either titillating or congenial. A woman who is currently boosting her social status with a year at Harvard, studying journalism free of charge (thanks largely to petitioning by those same middle-class leftists in the establishment media), and is now sitting through lectures on “economic justice” given by middle-class leftists, while surrounded in large part by middle-class leftists. Oh yes, she’s such an outsider.
As commenter Nikw211 points out, Ms Penny is so marginalised, so suppressed by The Hegemon, a massively enlarged projection of her face currently graces the walls of the Victoria & Albert Museum, barking revolutionary instructions to the little people below. So, no establishment penetration there.