“The revolution will not be televised,” rapped African-American poet and musician Gil Scott-Heron in 1971. “The revolution was televised,” boasted North African youths in 2011 after the Arab Spring revolts were driven on by coverage from Al Jazeera and other international networks. Of course, social networks played their part too. “The revolution was tweeted,” some might claim.
Although the media may be different, not much has actually changed in the 40 years since Scott-Heron, who died on Friday, left an indelible mark on popular music and popular conscience. In fact, the themes that Scott-Heron touched on in his song are just as relevant today: callous capitalism feeding the discontent of the disadvantaged and disenfranchised. Four decades on, it remains one of the most dominant threats to our democracies and societies.