The predictable belittling of Russell Brand begins.By E.F Nicholson
I have been following Russell Brand for some time now. A few years ago, I read his book about his struggle with addiction titled “My Booky Wook.” As someone who has dealt with their fair share of addictions struggles, I found it was a very personable, honest and insightful book. In the book, Brand demonstrated an honesty as well as vulnerability that isn’t too common in the public sphere. The fact that he has been able to remain sober and able to pen a such a relatable book, just for that alone I had some admiration for him. Since making his “comeback” so to speak, I have watched how the spiritualty he seemed to uncover in his recovery, has broadened to include a more critical view of mainstream media as well as our current social and political structures. That coupled with a witty, cheeky and flamboyant personality, his “celebrity” has allowed him a platform to share some conventionally speaking “radical” ideas. None of these ideas are original as such, which Brand would acknowledge, rather in mainstream media they just don’t get discussed. There is a very clear and demarcated line of acceptable debate that various established journalist, politicians and commentators discuss within. What I’ll be interested in knowing is how long within the mainstream media will Brand be allowed to continue to speak of “that which is not to be spoken”. Maybe we could call it the Voldemort factor.
What is most revealing is outlets, like the Guardian/Independent that are in theory the progressive voices, are the nastiest at policing who is and who isn’t allowed to debate what subjects. As we saw this with Julian Assange as he fell out of favour. Over time you witnessed the gradual progression of snarky belittling, all the way to the point that he seems to no longer exist. Julian Assange has been reviled into irrelevance. These Guardian journalists remind me of the “cool kids” at school who turn on the kid who was once cool but is no longer cool. This happens because it turns out he isn’t really one of them. This often entails going after the person’s supposed character defects, rather than the arguments or politics. You see this same thing happening with George Galloway as he is on the receiving end of the same caustic scorn. In Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman’s classic book on media “Manufacturing Consent” , this process is called Flak. It is one of the five filters which ensure the media stays within parameters that the prevailing state and cooperate power allow.
We see the processing happening almost to the letter constantly throughout the media. Now, Russell Brand is promoting his book, we can see the flak in action as various “commentators” start the process of belittling and undermining the person themselves, as opposed to the actual ideas put forward.
Piers Morgan recently wrote what I would consider a very condescending piece. Piers reminds me of a history teacher with an overinflated opinion of their towering intellect who thinks they are a bit of radical but is actually very conservative. This history teacher thinks his pupils’ idea of a “better world” is admirable but they are in fantasy land, unlike him, they are not grounded in the real world. When in reality the history teacher can’t understand the ideas of the pupils because he can’t see that he himself is part of the very problem they want to overcome. The history teacher can’t comment on the problem, as he is the problem. So we see an authoritative voice of Piers taking Brand down a peg or two, making it clear he is not part of the club, therefore whatever he says has to be dismissed outright with remarks like this
“I like Brand personally and enjoy his splendidly linguistic comedic romps on the airwaves as much as anyone. For someone with little formal education, he’s incredibly bright and funny. But this whole ‘revolution’ he’s trying to wage is a load of old sanctimonious hog-wash.”
How patronising can it get, as he writes “For someone with little formal education” it’s hard not to read that and think “Go fuck yourself Piers”. When did having a formal education have anything to do with making accurate observations about the problems in our society? In fact a formal education may inhibit the ability to see, as you have spent longer in the brainwashing mill of state approved schooling. Then he points out…
“But this whole ‘revolution’ he’s trying to wage is a load of old sanctimonious hog-wash.”
Piers doesn’t really explain why it’s hogwash or what parts of the argument make it hog wash, rather it is just a blanket of dismissal of the “whole” thing. Does Piers have any other ideas or alternatives of how to fix our broken society? Probably not because in his position and outlook society isn’t broken, the system is OK because it evaluates him to the top of societies’ best bullshit-artists. So he has no desire for radical change. Then he writes
Brand wants us to believe he’s now trapped in the vice-like grip of a tormented celebrity-loathing freedom fighter … Like most great revolutionaries, he’s quite happy wallowing in his own hypocrisy.”
Again no mention of his arguments or what exactly he is proposing. No explanation of what exactly makes, what Brand is saying, a hypocrite. According to Piers, Brand’s position of celebrity and privilege excludes him from having any real insights as to how to make society more fair and equitable. Yet based on the logic of that argument, Piers own privilege and celebrity status should dismiss him also from any authentic observation. The double standards are missed by Piers. Then the fact that his views and support by douche-bag extraordinaire Donald Trump you think would be serious worry but in fact it’s taken as fellow chums patting each other on the back.
This exercise in derision hasn’t been limited to Piers Morgan. Over the last few weeks, the Guardian has given a number of commentators a platform to belittle Brand. From comedian Stewart Lee, whose piece I actually had trouble working what exactly his point was, other than Brand is a person to mock rather than listen to. Unlike of course Stewart Lee himself. A response to the article in the comments section by GiulioSica aptly summed up the function of Stewarts article.
I understand what satire is, Lee is a master of it. But the object of satire is, in this case, someone who is asking us to look at our corrupt rulers and the reasons they remain above public accountability. And the only ones who consider Brand “sanctimonious” are the ones who prefer that these truths he highlights are ignored and that we meekly return to subservience. Brand is using his position to highlight inequality, and some are still preferring to focus on how he talks and how he dresses. That says an awful lot more about the motives of those people than you realise. The focus of Lee’s satire is horribly misplaced here.
Then former Sex Pistols front man John Lydon, who because he wrote a song about anarchy forty years ago (which he made a non-anarchistic fortune from), is somehow the authority to consult on who is or isn’t a real rebel. Listening to his response to Brand, I honestly don’t think he actually has read Brands book or really actually listen to what Brand is saying. We then have the bread and butter Guardian writers such as David Runciman and Polly Toynbee who add their own two cents as to why Brand needn’t be taken too seriously. Polly, who happens to “agree with John Lydon”, which says more about Rebel Rocker John Lydon than it does about Polly Toynbee. All these articles, although taking different angles, all come down to the same thing “Who are you to say anything?” or “How dare you say something”.
They are all bringing down Brand not because they are told to from “high above”, rather they have internalised the protocol and standards of debate and they just know instinctively when and who to condemn. As I wrote about a few months ago regarding an article by Deborah Orr about Denis Rodman’s visit to North Korea. There is a certain language of scorn that is only used for those who are considered by an unspoken agreement as “tainted.” She called Rodman “pathetic” and other put-downs that would never be used with respected politicians like Osborne and Cameron, who far exceed Rodman when it comes to being pathetic.
Now the fact that Brand has his own YouTube news analysis, it shows the “Trews” at least give him some voice outside of what the mainstream permits. Maybe this is part of a character attack, as he is playing outside their means of control. If Brand continues on the track he is on and goes deeper into anti status quo ideas, it’s hard to see him continuing to garner ancillary supported by vessels of the establishment such as the Guardian. Either they will turn on him or he will turn on them, which I hope it’s the latter.
Whatever the case I would like to think Brand’s voice is the start of something. We’re waking up to the way things are and it isn’t just something on the fringe. That a broader base of people see that change will come when we come together in a unified voice against the oppression and deceit that surrounds us. As a heart, it’s not Brand that is the threat, it’s the ideals he is propagating. He’s started stirring dissent, but it not the faux dissent of the Guardian but one that actually has the potential to be real. I hope it continues and I hope it really gains some momentum. As we know for sure the mainstream media is only built to ensure the status-quo and we need intelligent and charismatic voices speaking of ideas outside of those boring and safe parameters. So I say Go Russell Go!!
94 thoughts on “The predictable belittling of Russell Brand begins.”
If he’s talking about anti democracy world wide now that’s dangerous , but I assume he’s talking about western nations then? No one thinks everything’s ok, its just the way of changing it that is under scrutiny. The two examples : Stewart Lee and Lydon? They are very anti establishment figures. They fight for change themselves. They just do it within the current system (Peaceful protest ) and are simply criticising the way this movement is being put across. Essentially you have those who ought to be on the same side fighting each other, and anyone being fought against is sitting back laughing. In the UK we have an extreme right wing party (UKIP ) who are starting to attract a great deal of voters. If good people who would otherwise have voted against them dont vote , then they will steal a ton of seats. In effect Brands revolution will be a self fulfilling prophecy, because that may very well cause roiting and a public backlash.
Hi Mark, Thanks for contributing . Regarding what you’re saying, I do understand what you’re getting at but I am not sure If I fully agree with it. I find it hard for someone to be “Anti-Establiment” but attempting to make change within the framework that that very establishment has set up and made up the rules for. It’s like I am “anti-slavery” but I will try make sure slaves have better condition and working hours. What kind of changes do we from this approach? The truth things have got worse and therefore it calls for something radically different. As for UKIP if I see them bleeding anyone it’s the Tories, as they capture those Tories who have now decided the Tories aren’t right enough. Yet even if Labour manages to win, so what. Milband, Clegg, Cameron they are all cut of the same cloth and just give different version of the same thing. I think what Brand is tapping into is people are wanting more than just adjustment to the system but are wanting something different, some that empowers and can emancipates them from the life we have all been told we are just stuck with. In my mind the world is radically fucked up and so it requires radical answers and solutions.
Anti establishment means anti monarchy and the setup of the house of lords in UK primarily. I’d imagine in the US it ought to be about how there are only right and far right wing parties to choose from, but that is hard for me to discuss as American politics is quite entrenched in the amendments bill.The one written , you would think, by God.This is all stuff that is anti Democracy that exists within our supposed domocracy. There are legitimate and real targets yet this outcry from Brand seems to be unfocused. Thanks for the reply.
I do understand that point and a number of people are making it and it was also directed at occupy as well.The problem maybe that if Brand outlined solutions XYZ and we need to do ABC then more than likely that’s going to severely criticism.So there is a darn if does, darned if he doesn’t position he is in. There is also the point that its not up to Brand to outline solutions, despite many people calling him egotistical I see he is humble enough to know these solution have to come from some collective understanding regarding whats best for us.I think asking the right questions, to challenge the legitimacy of the status-quo is good place to start .Maybe the outcome will evolve and unfold, as there maybe some answers that are more lateral and organic then are fixed ideals that we then work to adhere to. These are massive issues, containing complex problems and interactions, I don’t think alone anyone could come up with anything close to what will be need.You might see it Brand is playing his role as firebrand or instigator of debate and dissent. Maybe that’s enough for now.
Dont forget the Green party! Seriously they do answer the call for , I’d imagine, most of the people who support Brand. Put it this way, if Brand was a Green candidate surely that would do a great deal of good? Best of both worlds possibly?
Good point, Mark. I have been thinking about this one too. I went along to hear Natalie Bennett the other night and am going to hear Russell Brand talk next week, so I guess am weighing things up in my own mind. The Greens seem to talk to many of my frustrations and I agree with all of their proposals, but is hoping they can change anything a waste of time because ultimately they are operating within a closed system (and media) where everything is stacked against real change? Or does hope lie in bringing the system down itself (through a combination of movements like Occupy / UKUncut & what Brand seems to be suggesting), ie some form of revolution? I don’t know the answer, but the more I learn about how the system is cynically and shamelessly perpetuated, almost by ITSELF as well as by the Establishment, the more I lean towards the need for revolutionary change. As Howard Zinn once said: “Civil disobedience is not our problem. Our problem is civil obedience.”
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Hi Mark, Yeah i think that something to seriously consider.This is quite a good article exploring that possibility. http://giuliosica.wordpress.com/2014/10/14/russell-brand-for-green-party-leader-is-the-only-way-to-tackle-the-rise-of-ukip-and-the-cult-of-nigel-farage/
Being an Australian, when Peter Garret from Midnight oil joined the labour party I couldn’t help feel it was bit of let down.That let down just gets called “being realistic.” Yet it’s good point you raise Mark 🙂
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Ha, damn beaten to it!
By the way http://giuliosica.wordpress.com is an excellent blog, really genuine guy.Has cross section stuff politics and spirituality really worth the read 🙂
Thanks, both of you – I’ll take a look at that… Steve
I agree with Mark wholeheartedly about the unfortunate aspect of recommending that people don’t use their vote, especially in the current climate; UKIP causing a kerfuffle in the polls, which in turn causes the tories to become more right wing, splits within labour about both immigration and whether to cater for old labour or a new labour audience, all that of course whilst the lib dems have haemorrhaged their own supporters by being in bed with the party that most of them had been working specifically to keep out of power.
It could potentially be a ripe time for a unifying alternative on the left, if there was one with the right message.
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What are “the actual ideas put forward” by Brand? He gets everyones attention, but then talks in riddles and contradicts himself. We know the status quo is a disaster, but he’s not making a single coherent point as to a viable alternative. His 15mins is almost up …..
First class assessment of Brand ‘against the machine’. How DARE he have the ‘chutzpah’ to voice what most of us know as fact, but lack the opportunity of a public platform ourselves from which to say so (other than social networking, with its obvious limitations). Brand (effectively) is stepping in and speaking up on our behalf, for which he deserves full credit, considering the flack he’s taking from those who have Jack Shit to offer themselves when it comes to mending broken Britain, but can’t find a good word to say for someone else who has. For those who don’t agree with Brands views, their prerogative. (You don’t HAVE to listen, any more than I choose NOT to listen to Nigel Farage, Nick Griffin or the entire UK / Bullingdon Club ‘government’ for that matter). But why attack the man personally? Russell Brand has as much right to speak HIS truth, as the liars in Westminster DON’T HAVE to spout their pathetic lies and ‘spin’ to the British public, but do anyway, just because they can. As for “not making a single coherent point” (depends on who is doing the listening) if that were true, why are so many paying attention – and acting upon it by coming together to discuss and organise in whatever way they can, pending the forthcoming circus we call an election? I was never a ‘fan’ of Russell Brand. (I don’t ‘do’ fan). But only those lacking in passion and sincerity themselves, could fail to see it in the Russell Brand of today. A wise woman changes her mind sometimes, a fool never.
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the thing you’re missing there Colm, is that ‘we’ know the status quo is a disaster, but not everyone’s paying attention as closely as you or I.
“The General population doesn’t know what’s happening… and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.” – Chomsky
Now word’s getting out, or rather, for those determined not to see it, it’s becoming harder to ignore the disaster as more people start to feel its effects. One good thing that can start to enlighten people is if there are voices, not on the fringes of politics or in the halls of academia, but right slap bang in the centre of the spectacle that is such a distraction or a palliative to so many, and is a big part of wrangling the narrative to one favourable to the power concentrations that like things just as they are.
Those that benefit from the status quo and its spectacle aren’t going to give up their privilege, dismantle the framework its built on and turn off the spectacle, it’s up to us to wrestle the narrative back to one that benefits us, educate ourselves and each other to turn away and to start organising ourselves to satisfy our own needs ‘outside’ that framework, taking more control over our own lives back until the status quo is crowded out and a new one, defined ‘by’, not ‘for’ ordinary people emerges.
That’s the key point; ‘by’ not ‘for’. Russell Brand can’t tell us what we want and need any more than Cameron or Blair, Obama, Marx, Bakunin or anyone, he can’t tell me how I should organise with you in our mutual benefit, only we can work that out by getting together to do it…he can suggest things, which he’s apparently done in his book, as have many others (he always says his ideas aren’t new, it’s just people don’t know about these ideas because they’re marginalised in favour of the status quo). Now if you’re imagining he can convey these in a TV interview or similar as fully fleshed out doctrines, you’re going to be disappointed…you need to look further, and don’t just look at Brand, if anything all he is is a messenger shouting from within the belly of the beast.
The question then, isn’t “what’s Brand’s alternative?”, it’s “What’s OUR alternative”
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Well said Tony, I couldn’t agree more.I see that been thrown about quite a bit, that Brands not providing “answers and solutions” as if somehow that his job to do so.If we are needing fundamental change, then I think it will require a fundamental shift in how we see and experience our power as citizens.As we see historically when one set of leaders get replaced with an other, turns out the just same shit different faces.Yet I think non-hierarchical power and organisations is a hard thing for people to get their head around, including myself.As we have been so en-trained to see there is one certain way of how “things get done”.So I kind of see that there isn’t a fixed answer , rather answers will unfold and come about laterally and collectively .To me what is exciting and something i take some hope from is how unpredictable life and people can be.When we least expect it strange and powerful things can happen.Although there is history of the baddies crushing the goodies there is no reason that can’t change and a new norm starts to come into effect.Here is hoping 🙂 Thanks for your insightful contribution Tony
sorry, that should have read “…start to enlighten people is if there are *dissenting* and *seditious* voices…”
Fantastic, Tony – I couldn’t agree more and you’ve put it way better than I could’ve done 🙂
Hate to be the first person in human history to say it. But Piers Morgan’s right on this one. Russell is just in over his head. He’s coming up against subjects that he doesn’t have a clue about and thinking just a positive attitude and some hacked together articulate rants are enough. They’re not. And that formal education is what you need to be able to see the problems. Go and get it.
I appreciate the fact you’re contributing to this discussion but I have to say you reveal less about Russell Brands lack of insight and more about your own limited views. It makes sense you agree with Piers Morgan, as it seems you are coming from the same snobby misguided ignorance. Like Piers, you make these sweeping statement about Brand that accuse him of being out of his depth , whilst offering no articulate response to exact “what” it is about his arguments, his views, his politics or his solutions you think in fact are incorrect. Which ironically is the very thing you accuse Brand himself of doing.
You seem to think the fact you and Piers have an “education” it excludes you having to go through the boring detail of responding to the arguments that Brand presents. Your attacking him on the basis of the same smug logic of the Guardian thought police, being “You’re not one of us so please shut up.”
Fair enough you disagree with Brand. fFair enough you think he is just prattling on, yet please give us an example, a quoted paragraph where Brand says this and you so that. You’re the one letting everyone know how more educated you are than him, and how that education gives you somehow a superior take on the political and economic realities that surrounding us. So please let us see the bounty of your academic superiority and cut Brands arguments down to size. Yet my guess is you haven’t read his book or watched too much of his Trews , as if you had you would see he is presenting arguments very much along the same lines as Chomsky, Pilger, Fisk and many other leading left wing progressives .In additional to that Brand also adds his own understanding of spiritualty and a view on the universe that I personally think goes a long way to humanising and adding more warmth to the dryness of most political discourse. Anyway please I invite you to go watch his latest Trews looking at corporate scroungers like HSBC
and tell what exactly it is about his views you find inaccurate?