Catherine Bennett discusses what she calls the ‘heightened vigilance about authenticity‘ in a comment piece about social mobility in today’s Guardian.
She points out the ways in which appeals to ‘authenticity’ can be used to attack people who are doing the right thing, and to protect people who are doing the wrong thing:
Nowadays, if Charles Dickens wanted to bang on about the poor from his whacking great house, his blacking factory and debtors’ prison credentials might be judged … far too distant to deflect accusations of selling out. The wealthy anti-slavery campaigner – but non-slave – William Wilberforce might also want to recall what happened to Jamie Oliver when, from his home in Primrose Hill, north London, the chef appointed himself the nation’s conscience.
But equally, for the effectively authentic, there may be much to gain from this literalism. Persuasive accounts of suffering can pre-empt criticism, win points in singing competitions, baking and film-making, earn the pope respect, even from non-Catholics, for stuff like washing the feet of prisoners.