By Jackson Cooper, Staff Writer
Published in print Feb. 25, 2015
Anthony Ridge-Newman may be, next to my editor, the most interesting man in the world. He is not only a respected UNCG alumnus, and a former News Editor of The Carolinian, but he has also successfully earned a PhD from the University of London. He became a UK councilor and published a book on British Conservatism and Technology that you can order off Amazon. That is probably not even scratching the surface of his accomplishments.
Newman’s new book, entitled “Cameron’s Conservatives and the Internet: Change, Culture and Cyber Toryism,” explores the nature of British Conservatism under David Cameron and the effects that technology has had on the party.
While United States conservatism is, in the most basic terms, rooted in an ideology of maintaining a set of ideas and way of life, UK Conservatism resembles what American Liberalism is like–pressing to put progressive ideas into action.
In the last six years, technology has been influential in politics, specifically American politics. Most notably, the Obama campaign used social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook to gain funding through supporters. Not only did the campaign achieve higher numbers in donations, but Obama supporters were found in a larger age-range. In the UK, a social media site called ConservativeHome has had the most impact, according to Newman.
“Blogs like ConservativeHome are breaking news and the more traditional media giants are reporting their stories in a secondary fashion. This has revolutionized the inner workings of the Conservative Party because the elites have had to submit to the fact that once privileged information will be leaked to ConservativeHome and other blogs, so the central party professionals might as well release the information themselves.”
According to Newman, the Internet has changed politics significantly, allowing “the once voiceless participants to have access to a platform that can sometimes rival the voice and message of the more prominent elites at the top of the party hierarchy.”
Newman is no stranger to politics. As a member of Sigma Phi Epsilon and a News Editor here at The Carolinian, Newman made a significant impact during his time at UNCG. He managed, as News Editor, to push his staff to focus on more campus-related activities that directly affected the students. Later, he said, he received letters complementing him on the work he did in advancing the quality of the news section. From there he worked numerous jobs as a writer before earning his PhD from the University of London and running for Councilor (same as a US Councilor) for an area which borders the Windsor Estate called Virginia Water.
Of his new book, I asked him what drew him to researching technology’s impact. “In the 2008 London Mayoral Election … I was intrigued to witness how young British Conservatives were using Facebook,” replied Newman. “Boris himself launched a Back Boris App on Facebook. Considering Facebook was a relatively new medium in the UK, this change within the party was significant.”
The book is worthy of repeated reads, as Newman manages to not only deliver a wide range of information in a very accessible way, but allow for space for us to consider the deeper questions about the ways social media affects our social and political motivations.
When I asked him about how important it is for students our age to engage in politics, he replied: “It is important that we educate ourselves about the issues that affect us. It is incumbent on students to participate and engage because they are the next generation and they can only shape the future if they take part in the democracy of the now.”
Newman’s book, “Cameron’s Conservatives and the Internet: Change, Culture and Cyber Toryism,” is available for purchase on Amazon.com.