As I write, today is the last day of Big Brother and the day before Pastor Terry Jones decides whether to burn Korans. The radio hums with disapprobation.

“Celebrity should be earned not given”

“How can this man’s disgusting views get world wide prominence?”

The “Prolebrity” , the otherwise anonymous member of society who springs to a nation’s attention through mass media– whether on or off-line is a very modern phenomenon.

What is distinct about Prolebrity is that it gives ordinary people a voice which articulates undercurrents of sentiment that can and are listened to by “government“. Jane Goody’s rant on Big Brother created a nationwide debate on our attitude to race, Terry Jones’ polemic is inspiring a debate in the USA which is likely to have profound implications for Christians and Moslems.

There is a self-correcting mechanism in societies which allow  free-speech. The new media which allows the views of the many to be articulated through Prolebrity creates an equilibrium that is positive- it has been described as “the wisdom of the crowd”.

These new voices are distinct because of social media. They both inform and threaten established orders.

The established order in UK pensions has been focussed around a number of  institutions – the NAPF, the PMI and the various institutes that govern the activities of pension practitioners. Power has been concentrated in the large actuarial practices, fund managers and among an elite group of pension dignitaries whose celebrity has been earned over years.

Within these organisations, hierarchies are of great importance. Protocols have been developed whether formal or unstated that ensure that these hierarchies are observed both internally and externally. Partners of professional practices are appointed as spokespeople, positions established within trade bodies through committee and delivered through press offices.

This oligarchy of opinion is self perpetuating. It costs a great deal of money to hear the “great and the good” speak at the NAPF conference at Liverpool this October. Attendance is a privilege accorded to those whom an organisation will pay for- no doubt the next generation of speakers.

“The mute inglorious Milton” of Gray’s elegy, the genuinely free-thinker who can articulate the wisdom of the crowd is however making his or her voice heard. Take Glen Mckeown who I knew nothing of till yesterday take  Marian Elliot of Atkin & Co, take the on-line pension community at mallowstreet.

It would be unfair to pluck a couple of names out of the air as there are literally thousands of people who everyday use social media to further their understanding of pensions, link with others to share their knowledge and contribute to the great debates of our time.

My point is that in social media there are no celebrities as there are no hierarchies, the crowd does not differentiate between partner, associate or secretary and in its inclusivity gives the opportunity for all to participate and share in a truly democratic process.

About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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