Russell Brand…irresponsible revolutionary?

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October 26, 2014 by Paul Goldsmith

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I have always been rather wary of people who wait until they become multi-millionaires before they start complaining about inequality. I have also been rather wary of someone who waits until multi-national corporations have given him a platform to sell millions of copies of his books and market his films to millions before railing against the pernicious influence of corporations. So you won’t be surprised to find that I am finding myself rather wary of the words and actions of Russell Brand.

And yet, and yet…his voice must be heard. His views on the way that the capitalist system is creating a worldwide ecological crisis and creating massive amounts of inequality are not actually that controversial and are backed up by plenty of evidence. If he wants to use the fact that the media will widely report what he says because of his profile to say what he feels is important and do what he feels he should be doing with his fame, then that is a fine use of our pluralist democracy.

But where I become a bit more concerned is when he insists on the corruption of the very democracy that is airing his views. Last year, he famously opined on Newsnight that he has never voted and never will. This was because of his “absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations”. Given that one of the reasons why the people who listen most to someone like Russell Brand are the young people whose lack of turnout at elections has caused successive governments to abandon taking care of them with their policies in favour of older people, this is rather irresponsible.

Brand, for his part, accepts this. He doesn’t feel, given how corporations rule governments, that a gradual, democratic change is possible. So instead he is demanding a revolution. This revolution will result in a new administrative system based on the ‘massive redistribution of wealth’ (including, I assume, but am suspicious, HIS wealth). He has written a book, entitled ‘Revolution’ and has been touring the newspapers and TV shows to market it.

His book raises issues that need to be addressed, but it also contains elements that shoot it, and him, in the foot. To suggest, as he does, that 9/11 was a US government conspiracy, makes anything serious he has to say be taken less seriously. Sometimes, people should be judged on the company that they keep, at other times peoples’ ideas should be judged on the company those ideas keep. This may seem unfair on Brand, who, as I have said, raises some important issues that deserve to be addressed, but it has to be said.

Some complain that Brand comes up with no actual policies. But that isn’t his job. He is a comedian, not a politician. Some argue that anyone who responds, when shown a graph with some actual facts in the Newsnight interview that “I ain’t got time for a bloody graph. This is the stuff people like you use to confuse people like us.” needs to learn that actually, facts are important and would help him with his arguments. Some argue that he is taking the easy road, which is to just throw out populist complaints because he doesn’t have to implement any solutions (a bit like Nigel Farage). But Brand could take an easier road, and not raise any of these issues at all. I argue that, much as the irresponsibility of his rhetoric frustrates me, people like Russell a Brand pay an important part in our pluralist democracy, and I hope he continues to do so.

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7 thoughts on “Russell Brand…irresponsible revolutionary?

  1. richmalpass says:

    Brand’s fortune does make him worthy of suspicion. However, I know an awful lot of people in the UK who have taken an interest in politics because of him that had been turned off of it for years prior to that.

    http://lovelanguageloveliterature.com/2014/10/29/whos-afraid-of-the-big-bad-brand/

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  2. jdowling9 says:

    Criticising Brand for becoming active after his mony is harsh. Clearly he needs the fame to give himself the publicity to get his views across. Also at least he is expressing anger at the inequality, rather than just giving no opinion and living in an LA mansion, like most millionaires do.

    On the point that he is discouraging the young from voting, Owen Jones raises the point that someone of his stature talking about politics, has brought the issue to a forefront of young peoples minds rather than making them more disenfranchised from politics. He is getting people talking.

    In the end he is right, make politics in the UK about the people. Plain and Simple.

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    • I agree mentioning his money is harsh, which is why I admitted I was wary of it but I do say that it didn’t disqualify him. I haven’t read his book and I am not clear whether the massive redistribution of wealth he talks about includes HIS wealth though but I have to assume he would set a very good example of how others in his position would act.

      I also say that what he is doing is very important and potentially useful, but some of his tactics aren’t. Telling people not to vote and arguing for a revolution with no real ideas about how the political culture afterwards would be implemented is a bit irresponsible. It essentially says ‘everything is wrong, let’s smash up our bedrooms’ which then would leave us all sitting in a massive mess but nothing much gained.

      He cannot continue to attack anyone who questions him or tries to come back to him with facts by saying things like ‘that’s what people like you use to confuse people like us’ because then he is effectively admitting he doesn’t understand the consequences of what he is saying and he is also thinking extremely poorly of people like him.

      His message has a lot of merit, but he could deliver it better

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  3. Patrick Wolstenholme says:

    I recently heard about an somewhat innapropriate joke made by Russell at the GQ awards in his acceptance speech, for the ‘oracle award’ where he said something along the lines of “Hugo Boss (the main sponsors) can trade under the same name they flogged uniforms to the Nazis”. Obviously this is a pretty offensive joke to make, however in his account of the night, which you can read here http://www.theguardian.com/culture/2013/sep/13/russell-brand-gq-awards-hugo-boss
    He proceeded to then blame the nature of the corporations for his joke and the fact that this comedic moment was met with such a frosty reception.
    I think he has taken this whole controversial stance on the “media and corporations” control too far and is now just using them as an excuse for pretty much everything

    He is beginning to create links between things that are just far too irrelevant from each other, for example one paragraph that struck me from his account of the GQ evening was when he said
    “if you can’t criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event, do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party? Will that affect government policy? Will the relationships that “politician of the year” Boris Johnson has with City bankers – he took many more meetings with them than public servants in his first term as mayor – influence the way he runs our capital?”
    How on earth does criticising a big label clothing brand link to government policy?
    He hides behind these big questions in an effort to protect himself
    I think Russell brand needs to step off his high horse and tone down his ridiculous accusations

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    • Why can’t he ask these questions? Before he did this, how many young people that he influences were looking at the establishment like he is asking them to do? He is pointing out the nature of corporate “ownership” of things – such as awards, and extending it to government politicians. Why is there a problem with that?

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  4. LK says:

    I began watching Russell Brand’s ‘The Trews’ ( in which he claims to give a true account of global events ) a while ago and was initially surprised by both the care he clearly had for those who are struggling in our society and his actions of aid. Very recently in Newham Council he helped a group of young mothers gain back council housing which was taken from them, for example.
    I would disagree with you that he has waited for the publishing of his new book ‘Revolution’ before criticising corporations as he was rallying against these and bigots such as Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly long before his book was released.
    On the other hand I believe it is fair to say that his wealth does make his views and motives questionable. Furthermore I agree that he never comes up with any suggestions on realistic improvements to our society; instead he only preaches the negativity of the world around us.
    However – regardless of whether he is an ‘irresponsible revolutionary’- he has stimulated the younger generations to seriously question society which can only be positive for the future in my opinion.

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    • I have little doubt he genuinely wants to help people. I have little doubt that he is awakening young people politically. But he has unilaterally decided we don’t have a democracy that works so he advises the young not to vote but to revolt. If you revolt you MUST have a plan for what happens afterwards. Because the young don’t vote they are taken advantage of. Because the old vote, millionaires get the Winter Fuel Allowance and free bus pass. Political awakenings are fine, but the irresponsible bit is what he tells people to do now they are awake

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