Russell Brand! Remember him? I do.
I was scratching my head, trying to think up something new to write about. And I recalled that about three months ago it was all the rage to write a thought-piece about Russell Brand. Every blog, column and clickbait piece was in on it. And there I was just going on about Shrek or something.
So now that the smoke’s cleared, what’s the situation? Well, let’s start by going over the basics:
RB started off as a comedian (started off in the sense of his career as a celebrity, he did plenty before that). That took off pretty well, and then he became a general celebrity for a bit. Then he did the whole America thing and Katy Perry and Forgetting Sarah Marshall, etc. Now he’s back in Britain and basically trying to do politics.
It seems like a non-sequitur, but it’s not really. I’m an big fan of Rusty (if cookywook didn’t make that clear) and have been for a long time. I remember even back when he did his old radio shows with Matt Morgan, he’d frequently go off on one about love and the inevitable revolution. So at the very least we can’t say he’s being opportunistic or inconsistent, he’s had some sort of political leaning from the get-go.
Unfortunately, Russell’s entrance into politics happened at pretty much the same time as that other chap, Nigel Farage. And the fate of the two has become somewhat interwoven. Both figures are new on the scene, and trying to shake things up. They’re like the punk rock to the rock’n’roll politics as usual that we’re otherwise used to. They talk different to what them other guys’n’gals talk like. Farage is a smoking, beer-drinking lad who’s not afraid to ‘say it like it is.’ And Russell’s a famously promiscuous ex-drug addict, who’s not afraid to ‘say it like it is, using several thousand syllables to do so.’
And yeah Farage sucks. But let’s not tar Russell with the same brush, eh? I think he’s got far more going for him than most people give him credit for.
Remember that first Paxman interview where Brand wooed the interviewer with an effable charm?
Here, Russell comes across really well in my opinion. He’s charming, he’s funny, and making some good points.
But around this time the criticism of Brand begun. Being a bit different comes at a cost, it seems. Much was made of the fact that Russell Brand proudly declared that he didn’t vote. Says Paxman: I’m saying that if you can’t be arsed to vote, why should we be asked to listen to your political point of view? But I get it, if you don’t believe in a system it’s nonsense to continue to participate in it. (Though I’m a believer in social change through democratic means, myself). The point is, Russell’s position isn’t the incoherent mess that people made out.
And what of the fact that Russell didn’t have a positive alternative to suggest beyond the vague idea of a revolution? Well, that doesn’t make his criticisms of the system any less valid. Look at any comment column, it’s mostly just criticism of what the Government is doing. What’s the positive story being put forward there? There doesn’t need to be one.
Meanwhile the political parties are trying to put forward their own ideas, but they’re weak as hell. Everything on offer is a carbon copy of everything else. Cameron, Clegg, Miliband – they’re all boring nerds! Brand at least has a clear view, he stands for something. What does Clegg stand for? Caving in on tuition fees?
And people have a go at Russell for using lots of big words, as if that’s a bad thing. From the video: Well, I don’t get my authority from this preexisting paradigm, which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. Using the word “paradigm” doesn’t make your argument bad. It’s a word that has a meaning and Russell is using it in the correct sense. I haven’t yet found a case of Brand speaking where I haven’t been able to understand his point because of the words he’s used. In fact, I find him rather eloquent and at the very least a welcome relief from the tired mantras of the main parties. “Hard working British families” anyone? I’ll take fanciness over that any day.
Well, this has been a bit unstructured really. But I think I’ve made a good stab at my feelings. I like Russell Brand and think he’s a force to be welcomed in politics. Even if you disagree with every word he says – and feel free – you can’t deny that he’s something different to everyone else, and plurality is what the whole thing is supposed to be about. Democracy without a real difference between the choices on offer isn’t really democracy at all. Without it, you get an apathetic voting public (check) and the rise of fringe extremism (double check).
If anything, we need more Russell Brands. I volunteer myself.