The Young Turks are coming

13th July 2016

The combined forces of a rigged media landscape and a throttled generation of 20 somethings has spawned an online champion 

“Come join us, and change the world”. With these words, Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks signed off his video diary celebrating TYT’s three millionth subscriber to its YouTube channel. The internet network will hit 3,000,000,000 (that’s three billion) lifetime hits for its online content sometime this summer. Something is happening, and these guys are at the centre of change.

Since I quit my cable / satellite supplier more than three years ago, I have had no access to any TV channels in the normal way. It is striking how fast some habits die, and how others take life. I am now so unused to turning on the television, that when I stay in a hotel, it simply never occurs to me to find the remote and turn the damned thing on.

I have moved my media consumption entirely to the internet, and my media diet is, as a result, entirely of my own curation. That is to say, I have built up my podcast collection like a library of fine books which I lovingly admire and interrogate every single day. I have Apple TV and Netflix, which allows me to binge in drama and shallowness, depending on my desires of the moment. And I have about eight news apps on my phone because, being a junky, one never knows where the best quality narcotic is to be found.

And then there is YouTube.

The Young Turks, based out of Los Angeles, is dedicated to the voice of independent media and independent, liberal thought. It broadcasts live for two hours every day on its main channel, and packages that content into digestible, focused, 8 – 15 minute slots. I have come to love its tone, its characters and its mission, even if I am sceptical sometimes of its stances.

At the centre of the TYT universe is founder, Cenk (pronounced Jenk) Uygur, a Turkish-American bloke in his mid-forties who had a past life as an MSNBC anchor, and an education in law. Cenk has created the network as an expression of his essence: liberal, smart, blustering, incisive, witty, engaged, real and compassionate. He’s also got claws.

Uygur, with his team – notably a smart lady called Ana Kasparian and a cool guy called John Iadarola – decode the world with an acid, insightful and liberal lens. Importantly, they base their video content not on news, but on the analysis and opinion of what makes news. TYT is a derivative media organisation which recycles BS into good earthy soil, and does so with bravura.

I think I have been watching them, on and off, for over 8 years, but this American election cycle has made them more relevant and salient. Their trenchant support for Bernie Sanders – a man who, for them, represented a movement, a repudiation of mainstream media waffle and mainstream politicking driven by donor power – caught the zeitgeist of an American 20-something generation, disaffected by a system which seemed stacked against them. There has rarely been a generation with so little power, and TYT has become its mouthpiece.

The rise of such an online organisation, unfunded by corporate dealmakers and unbridled in their ability to say what they fucking think, is the canary in the coal mine for the old world order.

Big media institutions, such as ABC, or BBC, or CNN, or most any letter grouping you choose, must surely find the meaning of TYT unsettling. The internet is the valiant pimpernel of the night, which has freed those long held in bondage. So long, that we have forgotten that we were in bondage at all. So long, that we have forgotten that we don’t need to consume News at 6pm if we do not wish. So long, that we have forgotten we do not need to listen to one single mouthpiece that speaks one single point of view. So long, that we have forgotten how big the world is, how fascinating its panoply of opinion, and that we may gambol through its fields and pick the primroses of our choosing.

When I watch TYT, the overriding sense I get from its tone is one of emancipation. I do not feel talked at; I do not feel voiceless; I do not feel like a statistic helping their revenue stream. This, then, is the tone of real conversation. And by keeping it real, even I can change the world.


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