Every social movement needs to guard against the inevitable attempts of mainstream media sources to warp its message, defend its targets and recast its members as lazy, crazy or fringy malcontents. Luckily for the Occupy movement, British journalist Laurie Penny is more than capable of taking on, and taking down, the opposition—and that’s why she’s our Truthdigger of the Week.
Although perhaps her most high-profile display of journalistic prowess happened on the BBC just after the Occupy Wall Street protests Nov. 17, Penny has been plugging away on her widely read blog, Penny Red, about OWS and the political upheavals happening in her home country in recent months. She’s also put her “savage red pen of justice,” as author, artist and cultural commentator Warren Ellis called it, to work on the subject of consumer culture’s ravaging effects on women’s bodies and minds in her book, “Meat Market: Female Flesh Under Capitalism.” Somewhere in there, the 25-year-old self-described “journalist, author, feminist, socialist, utopian, general reprobate and troublemaker” has also managed to write articles for more established—though less establishment—publications such as the New Statesman, The Independent, The Guardian and The Nation. And here’s the link to her Twitter page while we’re at it.
Credentials aside, it was her total ownership of the situation that unfolded over the course of the BBC Newsnight showdown with anchor Emily Maitlis and former Goldman Sachs partner Richard Sharp that launched her to the top of this week’s list of Truthdigger nominees—which, we should mention, included the Egyptian protesters and UC Davis English professor Nathan Brown. Penny managed to call out both Sharp, for trotting out the woefully predictable argument that big, socialist governments caused the global financial meltdown, as well as Maitlis for temporarily taking Sharp’s side. That changes after about one round of the debate, and soon Maitlis is telling Sharp, “It’s a little bit rich, isn’t it, to hear a banker trying to blame other people for the crisis that we’re in.”
So, for shutting down the opposing arguments in a fair but firm manner, for injecting a healthy dose of reality into the chatter chamber and for pointing out that “change is something you have to stand up and take for yourselves” instead of relying on politicians’ promises, Laurie Penny gets our vote.
Here’s that clip again if you haven’t seen the BBC Newsnight exchange. —KA
BBC Newsnight via YouTube:
Penny, on the far right screen, faces off with Sharp (seated, left) and Maitlis on the BBC on Nov. 17.