does ed miliband's fandom tell us more about the media than politics?
He became a meme last week as teenage girls rushed to tell Twitter of their undying love for Ed Miliband, but the media's reaction show us how little they know about teenage girls.
It was an offering from the PR gods that no one at Labour Party HQ knew quite what to do with. An aqua-jet foot spa of gifts: unexpected, exotic and apparently useless. When an army of teenage girls took to Twitter to announce their love for Red Hot Ed, you could almost feel the emergency crisis talks, from the long silence to the eventual issuing of a few, very measured thank yous.
Not even the main parties in their fawning attempts to win over 'young people', can afford to cosy up too enthusiastically to a group of teenage girls. Though the student named Abby who coined the phrase 'Milifandom', didn't seem too aware of the potential publicity minefield she'd created. Her intentions seem legit, but ironically fancying someone is the fall-back joke of teenage girls everywhere (even if Abby protests to the contrary) and it wasn't long before hundreds more had jumped aboard the bandwagon and were declaring their undying love for the leader of the opposition.
If the broadsheet media had ever met a teenage girl, they might have understood this. Instead they embarrassed themselves by declaring the arrival of a new generation of politically engaged adolescents. Patronising said demographic by suggesting that prior to this, teenagers were somehow indifferent to the outcome of the election until they realised how hunky Ed was. While the phenomenon itself tells us a very limited amount about teenage sexuality in Britain or the future of the Labour party or indeed, the election as a whole, it tells us a lot about the media and its tragic need to extrapolate non-existent trends from even the most minor of Twitter's trending topics.
Can we put paid to a school of 'journalism' that takes advantage of busy, working people and feeds them false information about the world they live in? Some papers ran more than four stories on this event, often repeating the same facts and drawing the same, predictable conclusions. It suggests disproportionate levels of importance, at a time when many, bigger issues are at stake for British politics. If there is anything to take from the Milifandom, it isn't that teenage girls are the saviours of left-wing politics in Britain, or that no charisma is the new charisma or that this election is fundamentally different to any other. It's that comment culture is eating itself faster than you can say 'guffaw' or 'shudder' or any of the other phrases deriving from its dumb lexicon.
The only thing to take from this is that the evil genius of teenagers is real, and we should be grateful to them for creating one of the more interesting and conversation-worthy moments of this election so far. Teenagers are society's unsung comic heroes and their grasp of language, their insight into contemporary culture and their understanding of society far surpasses the majority of paid professionals whose job it is to report on these issues. Don't patronise them with whoops and cheers for doing a good job promoting your beliefs despite their age and inexperience. Concede to the fact that you are ten steps behind them in terms of understanding the world and putting its plethora of emerging communication tools to good use.
Which isn't to say that the Milifandom thing definitely didn't help the Labour campaign and maybe even ignited a few loins. Britain doesn't do Adonises after all. We're the country that lusts after Robson Green and Conor Maynard. Our modest self-esteem is satisfied by a man like Ed, who famously struggles to eat a bacon sandwich, runs like a maimed rabbit and is awkwardly geeky in almost everything else he does. Better than being the kind of so-called alpha that has his own name embroidered on the inside of his socks. Plus who can deny that there's a certain sumin sumin to a man who ruthlessly slays his own brother?
But in all seriousness: kudos to Miliband for making absolutely no attempt to look like anything but the neek (a cross between a nerd and a geek, obviously) he is, and still landing an army of fangirls. Even if it is a joke. Shame on the media (myself included, perhaps) for having so little else to write about.
Text Nathalie Olah