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Spurred by a dissatisfaction with political systems and a desire to do things their own way, radical movements have grown in both size and intensity over the last few years, challenging perceptions of what it really means to be on the fringe. Following our Breakfast Briefing led by Jamie Bartlett, author of Radicals, we explore the insights behind why the ideas of radical outsiders are gaining mass appeal.

Canvas8 hosted Bartlett at the latest in an ongoing series of Breakfast Briefings that connect our members with thought leaders from across our network. We invited some of the best creative and strategic minds in London to sit down and chat radicalism with Bartlett, as he discussed his new book Radicals: Outsiders Changing the World. During the session, he touched upon his escapades with free-love evangelicals, neo-Nazis and psychedelic drug users, honing in on three tales of radical behaviour pulled from his latest book.

Bartlett began by explaining how comedian-cum-politician Beppe Grillo exploited the internet to appeal to Italy’s frustration with the government, creating his own political party that attempted to expose corruption via an online blog. Next was Transhumanist Party leader Zoltan Istvan, who travelled around America in a coffin-shaped ‘immortality bus’ as he ran in the 2016 presidential election campaign. He was running as an independent candidate and his party wasn’t registered, but his sensational ideology blinded journalists, who failed to pick up on his illegitimacy and inadvertently gave credibility to his campaign. Last (and perhaps, most radical of all) was Czech libertarian Vit Jedlička, who claimed a piece of land on the Croatian-Serbian border as his own nation state Liberland. With no forcible taxation, central government, or contractual law, the land is run in opposition to how other nations govern themselves, but is yet to be recognised officially as its own country.

Within radical causes are the roots of change Within radical causes are the roots of change
Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design (2017) ©

A common thread among these stories is each individual's ability to push their agenda to the masses by hijacking political structures and re-appropriating the media to amplify their cause – causes which supposedly have people’s best interests at heart. With 79% of Americans and 72% of Britons saying they prefer to buy from brands that show their commitment to and understanding of consumers, perhaps it’s not surprising how their movements began to gain mainstream appeal.

For Transumanist Zoltan Istvan, it was “his presence that created an illusion that something was actually happening, which in turn gave journalists more to write about,” says Bartlett. And while radicalism is nothing new, the internet has facilitated these groups to help them communicate and coordinate action. As business and innovation expert Peter Fisk puts it: “Newness is created in the margins, not the mainstream.” We may not all be booking flights to Liberland just yet, but businesses may learn something by paying attention to some of the world’s most radical minds.

You can read the full thought leader piece here.

Hannah Callaghan is an account executive at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. When she’s not helping clients navigate the deepest layers of the Canvas8 Library, she’s probably binge-watching RuPaul’s Drag Race or befriending other people’s dogs.


04 Oct 17
3 min read

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