A bit after 11:30am, Osman Faruqi walks up to me in The Shortlist cafe in Redfern, and he greets me with, if I remember correctly, a slightly broad “g’day.”
Meeting Osman is moderately surreal. Any young, Left wing Australian that uses Twitter probably follows Osman. He tweets a lot. At time of writing, he’s tweeted at least 58 600 times. He’s used these tweets to analyse the national political scene, and promote his articles. I’ve read his thoughts for years, tiny snippets of, generally, outrage, hot takes, and analysis. It’s easy to forget the people behind words on the Internet are real people, that they are complicated and contradictory, and not just the abstraction of their social media presence.
Osman’s speaking style is that of someone naturally confident and loud. It helps explain his very prolific career in the combative world of politics and opinion journalism. He’s one of the frontrunners of the new wave of young, internet-based, leftist, Australian “opinionistas”. He’s been published widely – including in The Australian, The Guardian, and The Drum – as well as featuring in radio and television appearances. Beyond journalism, he’s worked as a Greens staffer, was NSW State President of NUS, and recently co-launched MetaPoll, a super-accurate poll. From Osman’s apparent seniority, I’d assumed he was twenty-seven, or twenty-eight, but he’s only twenty-five.
The fact Osman is so young is the keystone of why he’s such an interesting force. There is a devastating lack of young voices in parliament, with only two under forty: Wyatt Roy and James Patterson. Osman describes them as “factional sycophants who have only worked as staffers and for think-tanks”. However, he won’t be running for election any time soon. “I ran for parliament last state election, not in a seat that we had much of a chance of winning, mainly because I cared about the issues in my area and I wanted to articulate them, but one of the reasons why I took a step back and decided I didn’t want to do that again, is, my whole life until that point had been, really, working as a staffer and a campaigner … I thought, fuck, I don’t wanna replicate those problems.”
When I ask him about how he got into politics, and whether his mum had much to do with it, he tells me she didn’t. This surprises me, considering Mehreen Faruqi is an elected Greens Member of Parliament. He tells me he became interested in politics at a young age, but it wasn’t until he went to UNSW that he began to get involved seriously. “To me that was one of the coolest things about student politics at that time, that you can come to university with very little idea about what you want to do, but you can meet people that feel similarly to yourself, … I, in hindsight, stupidly, got sucked into student politics, which, the more I got into it, the less fulfilling it was.”
Osman, however, is still committed to creating positive political change. To me that appears to be one of the driving forces behind his involvement in Metapoll. “The way that most political polls work is that they’re owned by media companies that have their own political interests, either in selling newspapers, or projecting a particular political narrative.”
Osman also laments the inaccuracy of the major polls – he points out that a margin of error of three points (which is the norm) on a 50-50 result, can describe the difference between a hung parliament and a landslide. To rectify these problems, MetaPoll has been designed to reduce the margin of error in polling results to less than one per cent, offer more policy-oriented questions, with the hope of elevating the standard of debate from mere electoralism to genuinely policy-centric debate.
For me this raises a question: Osman is a man that has described representative democracy as a device designed to reflect class interests and maintain the system of capitalism. If that is the case, it is interesting he has an interest in in working with it. When I put this to him, he tells me, “My approach has been, even if what you’re doing isn’t fundamentally reshaping society, if you can help some people, that’s better than not helping any others. And that’s not about getting sucked into it, that’s about saying, yeah, the system’s broken, but there are still things we can do within it, that actually are about helping people.”
However, Osman is not exclusively focused on domestic parliamentary politics. He also writes about pop culture, music in particular. A recent article he wrote for The Vocal about Kanye West was quoted by Lainey, a significant American pop culture publication. However, he’s concerned about the state of the music scene in Sydney at the moment, particularly the lack of politically dissenting perspectives. “I think there’s two things going on. When people are like, music is kind of reflecting like a generation generally, and it’s not so much that that generation doesn’t care about things, it’s that there’s less activism that’s going on that’s articulating like a clear political analysis and project, but then also like, we’re just working way more than older generations were, right? We’re kind of forced by necessity to work harder.”