BY STEPHEN BOAKES, Editor-in-Chief
“Politics students are gold dust!”
Up-and-coming journalist and self-proclaimed “social media snowflake from London” Julia Belle exclaimed when addressing students at the University of York on the 5th October.
Politics students doubt themselves because more often than not, they study BAs and not a BScs. But this is fallacy according to Julia.
“Politics is ubiquitous… When did you last see a trending tweet about mathematics or a televised debate about dentistry?”
Everything is political and everyone, particularly politics students, are asked for their views and explanations for current affairs. The private sector is increasingly interested in politics students, particularly from Russell Group Universities such as York, to help them translate and navigate the minefield that is our ever politicised domestic and international society.
It is not yet compulsory for schools to teach politics, a big shame exclaims Julia.
“The youth have to do their own homework to be engaged and to get involved. There is currently a pressure to have an opinion and cherry pick bits to project their views without much logic or truth.”
Thus, “politics students are gold dust” in the battle against fake news and ill-informed social media rants on Facebook or 280 characters on Twitter, often characterised by vitriol, intolerance and misunderstanding.
While studying politics at the University of Warwick, Julia decided she wanted to raise awareness and engage people in politics. Starting with her own radio show in 2nd Year, then accepting any advert or TV work possible once graduating. She began uploading videos to YouTube in 2017 with videos explaining the House of Lords and how Trump became President despite losing the popular vote. Brands began to get in touch for her to make content and sponsor her. She has since made videos explaining Blair, Putin, Trident and many more, but she is more ambitious and eyes investigative journalism as her next step. Her latest video aims to raise awareness of fast-fashion and the damaging effects our favourite brands have on the exploitation of workers abroad, including forced and unpaid overtime, sexual harassment, and a lack of maternity leave and sick pay.
Julia recommends the ‘Good On You’ app to help you shop ethically and draws attention to the good work of ‘Labour Behind the Label’ in working to make this issue mainstream. While accepting the financial burden of shopping ethically and the risk boycotts place on foreign employment, only we as Western consumers have the power to make the change and put pressure on multi-national corporations by raising our complaints, by making fast food a mainstream issue, and by making it a question of company PR.
Her interest in the politics of fashion has had her judged on her looks as not being a typical political person, yet she influences thousands of people through her videos. Producers cast experts with charm, not lookers, they seek legitimacy. The kind of legitimacy that political experts can provide, that politics graduates can provide.
Her mentor and friend Jolyon Rubinstein, The Revolution Will Be Televised star, now acts as her mentor. Keep an eye out for the two to appear together this coming Winter on Channel 4 for a new political satire.
The event was proceeded by an audience Q & A:
What drives Julia?
The burning injustices and standing up for the little guy, bullying does not stop after school but continues into adulthood.
With her aim to engage the youth in politics, does she believe the voting age should be reduced to 16?
“Certainly!” Politics should be taught in schools, the youth should be educated and allowed to vote. Julia has run events in schools for 11-year-olds, they are very keen to be more engaged with 11-year-old girls enraged at the tampon-tax. It can be done.
Should the youth get involved in politics or get more experience?
“I would vote for someone who was 26 or 27… Young people should try and get involved in politics now… they don’t need more experience as the ones with experience are f*****g it up already!”
What does she make of Politicians use of social media and Theresa May’s dancing onto the stage at Tory Party conference?
Julia believes politicians come across too fake on social media, it is obvious that their social media is run by PR teams who understand how to use the platforms. She believes Theresa May was “clearly” told to dance onto the stage by her PR team and looked uncomfortable doing it. It is a serious time in British politics and she is dancing onto stage.
Is she optimistic about politics?
“You have to be optimistic about politics, what other choice is there? Every generation feels f****d over by the generations that came before. It’s the same now except bigger because the baby boomers have sh*t all over the environment!”
Would she ever consider going into politics?
She would love to but finds the prospect of media dirt dragged up daunting, jesting that she would publish a big photo of herself smoking a joint upon entering politics. Get the dirt out there, own it, and control the story rather than let the media use it against you.
How would she like to see politics change in 10 years time?
“No-longer intimidating and exclusive. A cool open thing.”
“Like music,” people have different tastes and that is ok.
Does she ever feel a conflict of interest with her sponsors and her activity?
Early on she did an advert for Coca-Cola, just had to be honest with them and was ensured that the advert would involve physical activity. If her investigations into fast-food damage her relationship and sponsorship with JD Sports, then that is a risk she is willing to take.
How does a budding social media star and up-and-coming journalist stand out from the crowd?
“Don’t worry or focus on view counts but send videos to high profile and influential people to amplify your voice and influence.”
What are her favourite content creators?
“Loved BBC 3 and Stacey Dooley.” She prefers “long-form TV documentaries”, that is where she wants to be and feels the shorter online content provided by Vice and Vox can do a story “injustice”.
How should one fight the London centricity?
“Media City in Manchester, Glasgow, Bristol, Cardiff. Just as we’re asking, things are changing… there is increasing regional accents.” She notes, however, that smaller production companies understandably have no desire to move, especially for politics, away from Westminster and White Hall.
Is the growth of social media increasing the toxicity of politics rather than improving engagement and dialogue?
“Inevitable,” with fake news and the sensationalising of stories. However social media cannot be stopped and so must be used for good.
How can media attention remain on topics?
“Think about Grenfell, everyone forgot about it. However, you can’t keep revisiting topics because trend sells, unfortunately.”
What message would you give any young person going into a very chaotic next 6 months for the UK?
“Keep holding everyone to account! Brexit has gotten so confusing and every single change has been so minute. Labour are doing a terrible job of holding the Tories to account. The job is on us to keep an eye on it because what they’re hoping is that they’ll confuse the sh*t out of everyone and everyone is gonna get disengaged… it’s being fudged, neglected and done badly… lack of accountability and it’s our job to hold them to account!”