July 23, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith
I met one of my heroes last night He’s about 30 years old, looks a lot younger, and I disagree with quite a bit of what he says and writes. But Owen Jones is one of the best writers of political columns I have ever read.
Jones rose to prominence when he wrote Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, a few years ago. Before that he had been ‘spotted’ by the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ editor, who had read, enjoyed, and been interested by his blog. After his book sold far more than he imagined it would, Jones became a regular comment writer for the Independent, speaker at peace and anti-austerity rallies, contributor on twitter and Facebook, and panelist on Question time and other political programmes. He recently joined the Guardian and has continued to hound the Government and those on the right with his excoriating rhetoric and refusal to back down. (Read him here and here, twitter @owenjones84)
I know he is good at what he does not just by my opinion of his writing, and he has come extremely close to changing my mind on areas I never thought I would change my mind on, but also because of the tactics used against him. Ghandi would have told him he had won by the amount of people who have resorted to fighting him. They do this by calling him names (‘a braying jackal’ according to Fox News), making comments about his looks ‘why have the Guardian let the paper boy write their columns?’, or, more seriously, making threats – as has happened when he took on the EDL. I noticed when this happened that Jones received support from all parts of the political spectrum, including people he had just had an online argument with. It’s because they recognise what an important voice he is for his generation but also for others who are powerless or don’t have the means to speak up.
He made a very interesting comment tonight. He spends a lot of time pointing out things that are wrong, but he is very careful never to just use fear if he can use hope. He said that if you tell people that injustice is like the weather, and there is nothing they can do about it, they might as well give up. Then you lose a reader of your column, and society may lose something more. So he tries to make sure he offers a way out of the problems he talks about. For instance, and on this I agree, if the problem is that the majority of people on benefits now are in work, then we need to pay people more.
Jones also came up with an interesting statistic. 71% of newspaper readers are Conservative supporters. But the Conservatives got 36% of the vote in the last election. So to say that newspapers reflect their readerships is not true, it means instead that the British press, in Jones’s opinion, is a mouthpiece for right wing capitalists, and it is only because of the power of social networking that journalists out of the mainstream like Jones get a hearing..starting with his blog.
Where he and I often part is on the economics of his solutions, which can ignore the effect of incentives on behaviour, and the unintended macroeconomic consequences too. But I still would read everything Owen Jones writes, and you should too.