Commentary on Political Economy

Monday 18 September 2023

Encapsulated in this piece is how the Western bourgeoisie is digging its own grave. The very news tycoons who now expose (literally!) an imbecile like Russell Brands are the very people who (a) facilitated the herd of ignorant plebeians who are his followers and (b) made him know and relevant to that massive slime of followers!

The legal and political system simply cannot cope with such mass hysterical folly, as Trump or Bolsonaro or even Berlusconi showed abundantly.

"Sleep tight, you morons!"


Too many have got lost in the world of Russell Brand

Comedian’s alternate universe is a haven for the credulous — as long as you don’t question him

The Times

‘Ithink I’m worse than normal people,” said Russell Brand. It was October 23, 2014. The comedian was selling himself as a revolutionary. He still used the word “dickhead” all the time, but he was also the British Che Guevara. Within six months he would rank fourth in Prospect magazine’s annual list of the world’s 50 most influential thinkers, ahead of Jurgen Habermas, John Gray and Arundhati Roy. By May 2015 Ed Miliband was seeking Brand’s endorsement in that year’s general election.

Brand was joined on stage that night by the columnist Owen Jones; the event at the Emmanuel Centre in Westminster was streamed live in cinemas across Britain. He had just written Revolution, a manifesto that advocated eradicating the nation state and a wider social upheaval to overturn “corporate tyranny, ecological irresponsibility and economic inequality”. No corporation, Brand wrote, should have revenues larger than the nation with the smallest gross domestic product — Tuvalu in Polynesia at $37 million.

Jones and Brand did not discuss these ideas, perhaps because they did not make much sense. Mostly, Brand discussed himself: “I want attention. I want women. I want drugs. I want food. I want, I want, I want. I exemplify the problems of our culture . . . I’m a viciously authoritative, controlling man.”

An audience of sweet left-wingers in knitwear giggled and applauded. They were not really supporting Brand’s ideas. Beyond a do-as-you-please libertarianism, an abstract love for humanity and despising “the establishment”, Brand did not have any ideas to support. Instead, the crowd were saluting the idea that an individual armed with charisma alone could be the antidote to Britain’s supposedly broken politics. His avowed narcissism made them feel less guilty about their own selfishness.

On Saturday evening Brand performed at Wembley Park Theatre. Other than the location, all that had changed was the audience, and the fact that Brand had been accused of rape, sexual assaults and emotional abuse — all of which he has denied — in a joint investigation by The Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4’s Dispatches. But Brand was exactly the same. “Never trust authority in any circumstances,” he told the crowd, attacking “top-down elitist control”. He said traffic lights were a form of authoritarianism. The implicit message had not altered since 2014: nobody tells Russell Brand what to do.


Brand used to spread that message on comedy panel shows and in newspaper interviews. In recent years new platforms emerged. Brand constructed a social media empire. He streamed a daily show on Rumble, a video platform designed to be immune to cancel culture. He masterminded an alcohol-free community festival in Hay-on-Wye. He podcasted about “revolutionary politics and spiritual awakening”. Brand was much closer to his fans than in 2014. This communication was more intimate. There were no middlemen nor gatekeepers. Brand posted every day. His audience believed they actually knew him. He told them, always, to “question everything”.

• How The Times and The Sunday Times investigated Russell Brand

Except Russell Brand. He said the allegations against him made him ask: “Is there another agenda at play?” It is the same question Brand has been asking since 2014. You either question everything or you are on the side of the bankers, the big pharmaceutical companies, the warmongers. You either do whatever you want or you are an authoritarian. You are either with Russell Brand or you are against him. Online over the weekend thousands of people joined the audience at Wembley Park Theatre in being with Russell Brand.

From certain angles, scepticism really is about questioning everything. But it also means questioning yourself. “Que sais-je?” (What do I know?) was Michel de Montaigne’s beloved motto. The philosopher understood that our own faulty perceptions were the first thing we needed to be wary of. In Brand’s alternate universe there is nothing wrong with him, or any of his followers. Scepticism becomes a means of generating blind allegiance. No form of authority, other than Brand’s, is acceptable. “What do I know?” becomes “What are they hiding from me?”

• Russell Brand’s statement in full

Brand is only right about one thing. He really does exemplify the problems of our culture. On the same day the allegations against him were published, polling found that a third of British adults “regard the system as broken and are highly suspicious of those they hold responsible”. A similar poll in January found that 38 per cent of the British population agrees with the statement: “The world is controlled by a secretive elite.” This is Russell Brand’s Britain.

Endless excuses are made for that nation. If only they were not manipulated by social media companies. If only their manufacturing jobs hadn’t been obliterated. If only the elites had managed the fallout from the financial crisis better. These excuses treat this demos like a succession of media managers seem to have treated Brand — as a difficult and helpless child who needs to be abetted and soothed. Everything is somebody else’s fault. A blind eye is always turned.

Russell Brand is the same man he was nine years ago. Then his cheerleaders were Owen Jones, Vivienne Westwood and Jemima Khan. Today they are Jordan Peterson, Elon Musk and Laurence Fox. The market for nonsense solutions to non-existent problems has always existed. Credulity is a fact of human life. The difference from 2014 is how large that market has become, and just how many people are prepared to lose themselves in it.

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