Twittering the end of Reagan-Thatcherism

A tale told via cryptic one-liners: 20th century ghosts are haunting the G-20 summit meeting.

Published April 2, 2009 2:09PM (EDT)

Of course the G-20 summit meeting has a Twitter feed! Who can deny our desperate hunger for 140-character-long updates from a gathering of the leaders of the twenty most influential nations on the planet? When struggling with a global recession, the breakdown of modern finance, the resurgence of protectionism and the changing balance of power between the developed and the developing world, cryptic one-line telegraphic ejaculations are obviously the best way to convey complexity and nuance.

Over the past 24 hours, the Financial Times' feed has focused mainly on protests capitalizing on the G-20 meeting as an opportunity to express diffuse anti-globalization and anti-capitalist anger. To wit:

# #G20 Scargill, Benn -- it's as if Twitter has gone back to the 1980s.
about 22 hours ago from web

# #G20 Arthur scargill tells protesters that bankers should be getting "brass handcuffs not golden handshakes".
about 22 hours ago from web

# #G20 Trafalgar Square: Tony Benn says that the solution to the global financial crisis must come from the people, not from the IMF
about 22 hours ago from web

Tony Benn is a legendary British socialist politician who served in the governments of Harold Wilson and James Callaghan in the 1970s. Arthur Scargill led the disastrous coal miners strike of 1984-1985 that was crushed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and is widely regarded as one of the low points for the global labor movement in the entire 20th century.

No question: It's odd to see Arthur Scargill's name popping up in a Twitter feed. But I wonder if the FT's Twitter correspondent realizes how resonant the "back to the 1980s" comment really is. Thatcher's successful annihilation of British trade-union power marked the true consolidation of the Reagan-Thatcher revolution. Market fundamentalism became entrenched as the dominant ideology, and deregulation and privatization were the omnipresent watchwords of the era.

We've all seen how well that worked out. Disagreements are rife as the leaders of G-20 nations squabble over how to re-regulate the global economy, but one thing seems pretty clear. Somewhere back in the '80s, the world took a wrong turn.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Globalization How The World Works Ronald Reagan Twitter Unemployment