Trashfuture (live podcast recording in London)

This review first appeared in the Morning Star newspaper

I am in the only room left in Britain where the mention of Matt Hancock gets a cheer.

I’m not at a masochistic Tory fringe event, or at the disastrous former minister’s birthday party. Instead, I’m at a sold out live recording of a left wing podcast, with many thousands more primed to listen online.

Trashfuture’s preposterous, ironic love of “human Labrador” Matt Hancock is one of the many in-jokes that makes it feel like a community or club, the secret of all successful gangs. 

Styling itself as “a podcast about business success and making yourself smarter

with the continued psychic trauma of capitalism”, Trashfuture is at the nexus of popular tech critical, economics and politics podcasts which aren’t afraid of a bit of dialectic materialism. 

Shows like This Machine Kills, Tech Won’t Save Us, and 10,000 Posts are internationalist, bring disparate people together, and look at the bigger picture of where late capitalism might be headed and what we should be doing about it.

Here you will find learned writers, academics and union organisers, in between the silly voices and returning characters. Comedian Milo Edwards (alongside Alice Caldwell-Kelly, when able to locate a functioning train down from Glasgow) provides the chaos element and prevents episodes from becoming too dry and worthy, a criticism one could make of some of Trashfuture’s competitors.

The show has been spookily prescient, particularly with tech industry predictions. Many terrifying, authoritarian, and borderline phrenological innovations have, it is joked, been lathed into existence in these episodes.

With Question Time unwilling to book anyone to the left of Gengis Khan, and social media platforms are algorithmic conveyor belts to fascist radicalisation, podcasts like Trashfuture are vital beacons.

The mood here is celebratory, as it’s easy to form para-social relationships with these nerdy podcasters, particularly during the bleak white-heat of the pandemic.

We’re here tonight to see Riley, the main host, torture comedian Nish Kumar by reading excerpts from a book on Liz Truss.

Out of The Blue, by Tory flunkeys Harry Cole and James Heale, is excruciatingly written and unintentionally revealing. It was commissioned to celebrate her rise, then, as calamitous events overtook, became an attempted explanation of her fall: a cut and shunt, welded together by hacks unwilling or unable to examine their own role in cheerleading this disaster.

As an ally of the Tufton Street network of libertarian and climate change denying Think Tanks and lobby groups, Truss was happy to espouse ideas as stupid and dangerous as privatising lampposts and further deregulating childcare. 

Having crashed the UK economy and made us all poorer, Truss might be gone but these people are still there, refusing to reveal who funds them, churning out crazy talking points, and pushing our politics ever rightwards.

Truss was exceptionally unqualified for power, failing upwards in a fug of booze, pork pies and bad instagram posting towards the top job. 

Producer Nate gets a laugh by describing her last days as PM as “Live Laugh Love Downfall” – her final, reassuring words to her teary staff worthy of Cameron: “at least I was Prime Minister”.

As with Johnson before her, these useful idiots receive zero scrutiny until their usefulness has expired, and there is zero self-reflection by those complicit in their rise. 

Our media and political class have all been drinking together since Oxford, all go to the same dinner parties, and know that to step out of line is to be ostracised forever.

This isn’t an issue for this funny, intelligent bunch of outsiders. 

Many see satire as a mere safety value, but this isn’t Armando Iannucci lampooning the interchangeability of our political parties in The Thick Of It then admitting he’d vote for more of the same. 

There’s an anger and a lucidity here that goes beyond merely laughing at the system, and towards an alternative structure with which to fight it.

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