Presenting political argument on Twitter, and the "prestige economy"



Here's a fabulous interview with activist Sarah Kendzior, a journalist and researcher who made a great, concise argument against unpaid internship as a series of four tweets last June. Policymic talks with Kendzior about her work on the "prestige economy" and the widening wealth-gap, and also talks about the theory of presenting arguments over Twitter, a subject on which Kendzior is every bit as smart as she is on matters economic and political.

Twitter is as effective as a blog for making concise, multipoint arguments. I am careful when I write these to make each Tweet stand alone as well as contribute to a broader point. It is tough to pull off. Umair Haque (@umairh) is the master of this style, but I see others embracing it too.

Twitter forces you to think aphoristically. Some say the character limit inhibits creativity, but I see it as a challenge that pushes you to carefully consider every word. It is a good exercise for any writer...

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In one generation, working for free for people who can pay you went from something laughable, to something wealthy people were doing in a few fields, to something everyone was recommended to do, to something almost everyone has to do. Entry-level jobs were replaced with unpaid internships. That same monopoly on opportunity reshaped lower-skill labor. Jobs that once offered on-site training now require college degrees. In response, universities ramp up tuition, knowing that students have little choice but to pay to compete. Instead of options, there is one path to professional success — one exorbitantly expensive path.

The values of the wealthy elite became the rules that everyone had to live by.

At the same time, the rising cost of living made it “normal” to pay a lot of money for basic things. Ordinary life has been redefined as a luxury good. Health care and home ownership are unaffordable for most young people. This makes them feel desperate, particularly when they begin adult life saddled with stratospheric debt. They feel they have no options but to play along, even if that means being party to their own exploitation.

What they have discovered is that even playing by the rules will destroy you in a prestige economy. Institutional affiliation is promoted as a way to advance professionally by building personal prestige, which is why people are paying to intern at prestigious companies or going into debt for prestigious schools. But these are hollow victories, designed to suck you dry and leave you even more desperate. Prestige decreed by institution means nothing when institutions are rotting.

Why You Should Never Have Taken That Prestigious Internship [Sam Bakkila/Policymic]

(via Making Light)