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Paper Monitor

12:36 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2012

A service highlighting the riches of the daily press.

"Rebel without a clue," is Melanie Phillips' assessment of the Trenton Oldfield who disrupted the Boat race on The Thames on Saturday. Newspaper opinion writers pour cold water on the 35-year-old's self-proclaimed campaign against elitism. "And what exactly was that grievance?" asks Phillips in the Daily Mail.

In the words of his online manifesto, it was that 'elitism leads to tyranny'. You really do have to laugh. This Australian anti-elitist was privately educated at the elitist Sydney Church of England Grammar School, went on to study at the elitist London School of Economics and is a Fellow of the elitist Royal Society of Arts. Clearly, Oldfield should be mounting a demonstration against himself.

Oldfield has answered criticism of his actions online, saying that there was a severe deficit in democracy. But the Mail's Steve Bird describes the saboteur as "ruderless and deluded, a very middle-class urban guerilla".

Bird says that first of all Oldfield blamed government cuts, then colonialism, then the destruction of the environment.

After appearing to think hard for a few moments, he then changes his mind and says it is all down to the fact that elitism leads to tyranny. Moments later, he announces another reason for his antics in the Thames: democracy is 'broken' and Britain needs his help to fix it.

But, for the Independent's Laurie Penny, the Australian's actions were "the only interesting thing to have happened in decades of the second-dullest sporting spectacle to come out of a nation that also invented snooker."

She acknowledges that the whole escapade was silly, with Trenton's solemn 2,000 word communique about the nature of elitism reading "like it was scripted by Monty Python". But she argues that it has been made even sillier by the amount of people who are taking it "seriously".

This was hardly an epic act of class war - a few disparate activists may have claimed it as such, but they are the sort of people who cannot make a sandwich without writing a communique. Nor was it a dastardly terrorist plot. It was a prank... Pointing and laughing at power has traditionally been one of the few sports at which Britain excels, but lately the practice has become less acceptable.

A number of readers offer advice about what to do with Oldfield if he is found guilty of the public order offence for which he has been charged. One suggests that he should "undergo the months of training put in by both crews before the race". While another simply recommends that, "Trenton Oldfield is deported to Australia in a rowing boat with a broken oar."

Paper Monitor noted that Trenton sounds very much like the name of the hound of Richmond Park fame. A quick internet search indicates that, indeed, a "mash up" now exists along the lines of "Trenton, get out of the water"...

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