If you want to understand the ideas that motivate the insurgent left here’s a guide to the websites, documentaries and podcasts that’ll do just that…
Jacobin has in recent years become a go-to website for an American left that has become far less willing to play ball with the Democratic establishment since Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 Presidential Election to Donald Trump. It is also impressively independent, at times taking on commonplace left-wing shibboleths.
Founded by Glenn Greenwald in 2014, the Intercept tends to focus on issues like surveillance and political lobbying. Funded by Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar, the Intercept claims to “hold the most powerful governmental and corporate factions accountable”.
Alternet is an American website which sees the dark hand of ‘the establishment’ behind almost everything. The American establishment, that is. In contrast, Alternet treats hostile foreign governments as unusually benign, and has attracted criticism in recent times for casting doubt on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons against civilians. If America or Israel aren’t responsible then Alternet is unlikely to care.
Founded by the British political activist Aaron Bastani, Novara is one of the most professional of the so-called ‘alternative media’ websites that have emerged in the UK in recent years to throw their support behind left-wing Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The Canary, The SkwawkBox and EvolvePolitics
Purporting, respectively, to be ‘fearless’, ‘truly independent’ and following the leads that ‘will rarely make it into the mainstream media’, these three websites (The Canary; Skwawkbox and EvolvePolitics) are popular examples of the rise of highly partisan activism masquerading as journalism. Relying on a clickbait model of content, the sites revel in the fact that nonsense can spread like wildfire on Twitter and Facebook as long as it taps into a person’s pre-existing prejudices. An equivalent on the right would be Breitbart.
The New Socialist
A theory-based look at politics from the left of the left, The New Socialist is a recently-founded blog which aims to provide Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party with the kind of intellectual sustenance once provided to the party by groups like the Fabian Society. Often stimulating, more often turgid and impenetrable.
A film by British Channel 4 economics editor Paul Mason and Greek filmmaker Theopi Skarlatos, #ThisIsACoup looks at Syriza’s 2015 election victory in Greece and subsequent disappointment when leader of Syriza and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras signed off the austerity measures he had been elected to oppose.
Política, Manual de Instrucciones (Politics, a Handbook)
A documentary on the left-wing Spanish party Podemos, documentary maker Fernando León de Aranoa follows the party’s leading figures over 15 months, from the formation of the party in 2014 to the General Election of December 2015, where the anti-austerity party won 69 seats with a 20 per cent share of the vote. The documentary looks at the role of social media in Podemos’ rise, but also at the anger and frustration in a country where at one point nearly half of all young people were unemployed.
Presented by American actor Matt Damon, Inside Job is a look at what caused the 2008 financial meltdown and subsequent global recession. Available on Netflix, the film laments the fact that none of those responsible for the biggest banking crash since 1929 are behind bars. Something that we know – from YouGov polling for UnHerd – is a deeply shared regret on both sides of the Atlantic.
Comrade Corbyn: A Very Unlikely Coup by Rosa Prince
An objective look at the unlikely rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the summit of the Labour Party by experienced biographer Rosa Prince.
Politics in a Time of Crisis by Pablo Iglesias
Written when Podemos was little more than a group of likeminded academics fed up with the direction of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE), Politics in a Time of Crisis by the leader of Podemos, Pablo Iglesias, is a stimulating read which looks at recent political turmoil in Spain and the failures of the establishment left (as well as European institutions) to offer solidarity to those suffering under austerity. Unlike so many of the books written by politicians, this one is actually interesting and forthright.
Our Revolution by Bernie Sanders
Just a few years ago Bernie Sanders was a relatively unknown Senator from Vermont. A self-described democratic socialist, Sanders’ campaign for the 2016 presidential election galvanised a section of the left fed up with the political mainstream. Our Revolution is a look by Sanders himself at how the momentum built up during his ultimately doomed campaign can be used to shape the future and continue the Sanders ‘revolution’.
Fools, Frauds and Firebrands by Roger Scruton
This is an impressively lucid take down of some of the most fashionable left-wing thinkers of the past 50 years. As some of these thinkers come back into vogue, Scruton’s book is worth reading even for those not predisposed to agree with his conclusions. Scruton may be far too sweeping in his generalisations about the left (and correspondingly too generous to the right), but his brutal dissections of an ephemeral and faddish ‘radicalism’ are often on the money.
Chapo Trap House
As with some of the left-wing websites that have come to prominence in recent times, Chapo Trap House has received a boost from the failures of the centre-left in hanging on to the White House. Offering a humorous and ironic take on American politics, Chapo Trap House is part of what some have called the ‘dirtbag left’, and is tapping into a growing discontent among younger, Bernie Sanders-supporting voters who are fed up with neoliberalism and a Democratic establishment seen as hopelessly compromised.
Daily Kos Radio
An entertaining American progressive podcast, Daily Kos Radio is hosted by Daily Kos contributing editor David Waldman.
The New Statesman Podcast
Stephen Bush and Helen Lewis offer an irreverent look at events in Westminster. This weekly production is one of the best British podcasts out there for those interested in the internecine ups and downs of the political village.
And worth adding a mention of UnHerd’s new weekly podcast at this point. Recorded on Thursday, the special guest was Sam Tarry, a staunch and closely-connected supporter of Jeremy Corbyn.