HAVE you ever fancied a career in politics? All you need is a camera, a polemic and a YouTube channel.

Carl Benjamin, more commonly known by his online persona, Sargon of Akkad, has built a platform on his anti-feminist, anti-Europe, broadly right-wing views. Now he’s running as a Ukip candidate for the European elections for the South West England region.

In 2016, he tweeted “I wouldn’t even rape you” to MP Jess Phillips, an action that has been defended as “satire” by the party leader, Gerard Batten. He was also banned from Patreon for using racial epithets.

Far from being the only YouTuber-turned-candidate, Mark Meechan – Count Dankula – also plans to stand. Last year he was fined £800 for teaching his dog to do a Nazi salute in response to saying “gas the Jews” and “Sieg Heil”.

Benjamin and Meechan are joined by Paul Joseph Watson – an alt-right conspiracy theorist who worked as editor-at-large for InfoWars.

Quite a far cry from a typical candidacy, no?

Politics as we know it has changed forever. Donald Trump was no anomaly, and neither was Brexit. We have entered an age where technology and social media have disrupted the status quo, and will increasingly be leveraged to promote the interests of political candidates.

This, I believe, will become the new normal. YouTubers, with a following built on extreme views, will be able to shortcut their way into politics. Instead of the traditional route of the career politician, or a party member working their way up to candidacy, now anyone with a camera and little bit of marketing can do it. If they build a large enough loyal following – regardless of the veracity of their opinions – they can then be put to use for a political campaign. Access to technology and the internet is rewriting the rules of politics as we know it. I worry we’re not keeping up.

Add to this the problem of social media being largely unregulated space, and it’s not hard to imagine the implications for democracy. The information that populates a platform does not have to be true before it is available for mass consumption.

What’s more, these platforms engender a false sense the freedom with regards to speech. Anyone’s views are beholden to an algorithm and content preferences of companies like Facebook and Google. Let’s not forget that these giants are commercial entities, and for all their platitudes to the contrary, are ultimately motivated by making money rather than facilitating democratic discourse.

As our offline and online worlds continue to blend, how we do politics will necessarily change. Everything we do will be impacted and radically reshaped by technology. For too long we have relied on an outmoded political system, conceived of blindly, with regards to how it will need to adapt to a changed future.

We could not have predicted just how much the world change in such a short period of time, but we have not adapted our political system to the new reality. Politics as we know it is not future-proof; it’s not even sustainable now. We cannot continue to blithely ignore the ways social media and technology have impacted discourse, and I hope that our clapped-out system will somehow continue to serve the needs of the people.

There is a genuine risk of slippage here. Those using disruptive means of political participation to shortcut their way into power will have an advantage over those cleaving to a more traditionalist approach. Those who believe in building a platform ethically will likely recoil at this development. They may even double-down into the old-fashioned route, clinging to some inherent moral claim that politics should be done in a certain way, by a specific type of person.

Yesterday, I was at a science festival talk, and I put the question of YouTube politicians to Jamie Susskind, a political theorist, practising barrister and author of Future Politics. The celebrity politician is not an altogether new concept; though Susskind wonders about the impact of vitality on political discourse. He agrees the transformation from personality to politician is likely to become normalised, and that will shock the political classes.

In his chapter on public and private power, Susskind notes Lenin’s pithy distillation of politics into just two words: “Who? Whom?” He says we’ll need to give serious thought to the “who” and “whom” of power in the future.

This is a question worth pondering: if all parties fail to adapt to the changing state of political participation, then who will be in power, and indeed, who will be subject to it?

The rules of the game have changed. Trust in the political institutions of old has decayed to the point where ordinary people can make a claim to some of that power. Those on the right see this and are already putting it to their advantage.

Unless those in the left are similarly willing to put platforms to use in an ethical way, then they will be the “whom” in our near future.