Guardian Article about Thom’s “Today” Takeover

John Sutherland wrote an article in Monday’s G2 (media) section of The Guardian, regarding Thom Yorke’s appearance as Today (BBC4) editor.
“The greater part of the last hour of the show (as one must now call it) was devoted to “the world’s best hangover cure” – the “corpse reviver”. Yorke was announced as about to contribute to this piffle. There was a row off-mike and a mid-programme apology was issued. Yorke, the mystified audience was informed, dissociated himself from excessive drinking.
The item that the puritanical singer-editor had proposed for the programme came later. In it, the environmentalist George Monbiot was put up against a smooth-talking propagandist from the oil industry. Was the world, they debated, “running out of gas”?
The argument revolves around the “Hubbert” thesis. Marion King Hubbert, a mathematician employed by big oil, prophesied in 1956 that American dominance of his industry would soon end. Not because the stuff would run out, but because the rate of discovery of new sources was declining as demand rose.
Bankruptcy typically happens not when you lose all your money, but when you drop, marginally, below the threshold that enables you to service your debt. Hubbert forecast the “peak” in US domestic supplies of oil would occur in 1971. Which it did. The problem is now worldwide. There have been no new huge discoveries of easily accessible oil for decades. We are, globally, on the other side of Hubbert’s peak. Thoughts of this kind, Yorke said (when James Naughtie let him get a word in) had been “rattling about in my head for a year”. The impending oil crunch motivated the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq. Hence Radiohead’s 2003 album, Hail to the Thief. The thief of Baghdad, that is, and the president who stole the 2000 election. The ruthless rush for the world’s diminishing store of oil has begun. Top gun takes all.
“Are you such a dreamer,” sings Yorke, “to put the world to rights?” That is precisely what Radiohead dream. What is striking is that such groups, with their world-wide sales, have the political clout to back up their dreams. Arguably, Bono has done more to alert the west to crisis in Africa than the whole PR bureau of the UN.
The hottest group in the world currently is, one gathers, Coldplay. Chris Martin, its lead singer, insists that “fair trade” is brought up in interviews. The 10 million purchasers, worldwide, of A Rush of Blood to the Head are piously directed, having listened to politik, to activist websites. Many click as directed. Cynics see the political agitations of Yorke, Martin, Bono, and Damon Albarn of Blur (“We’ve got a File on You”) as T-shirt and Diet Coke protest by “knobhead students” (as the earthily unstudious Liam Gallagher calls them) who feel bad about being rich.
It’s more than that. The novelist (and sometime guest performer with U2) who most clearly apprehends the potential power of this constituency is Salman Rushdie. Rushdie calls the power of these musical evangelists “Orphic” – like Orpheus, their lyrics can change the world. Perhaps.
The politician who most clearly perceived the voting power of youthful music-lovers was Bill Clinton, who played the MTV audience as assiduously (and profitably) as he did middle America. Tony Blair is smart enough to do a Clinton when it suits him: eg, his assertion that “I used to like Oasis, now I’m more of a Coldplay guy”. Blair is also smart enough to get behind the warmonger Bush when required. He’s smart but is he, when push comes to shove (on fair trade, for example), really “a Coldplay sort of guy”?
“If there is hope”, wrote Orwell in 1984, “it lies in the proles.”
It’s 2004, and if there’s hope it lies, strange to say, in the “knob-head students”.
Dream on, Radiohead.”

(Thanks to At Ease.)