In: Uncategorized27 Oct 2014
There is something profoundly disturbing about the reaction to Russell Brand’s rants but it has nothing to do with his garbled slogans or juvenile demeanour. It is rather that many influential people seem to respect the middle-aged comedian’s views.
His recent appearance on the BBC2 Newsnight programme was more of a tirade than an interview. Much of it consisted of him stringing together catchphrases such as “creative direct action”, “corporate hegemony” and “built-in obsolescence”.
He evaded questions more shamelessly than any politician. Instead of engaging in reasoned debate he simply shouted down Evan Davis, the interviewer. Such behaviour points to a profound intolerance on Brand’s part.
It would perhaps be naïve to expect anything else since he is a comedian and he is trying to promote his new book on Revolution. But the fawning response from Davis was truly cringe worthy. The interviewer conceded that Brand “has a lot to say”, had written “a very interesting book” and had “engaged more people in thinking about these issues than any politician”.
Jeremy Paxman was more negative in his Newsnight interview with Brand a year earlier. The TV veteran called him “facetious” and a “very trivial man” but also said he agreed with many of Brand’s preoccupations.
Nor is it just the BBC which has indulged the comedian. The Paxman interview was prompted by Brand’s stint as guest editor of the New Statesman, one of Britain’s best-known weeklies. The Guardian newspaper has also fawned over him. Even the Financial Times has indulged him with an interview by Lucy Kellaway , one of its leading columnists, in its weekend “Lunch with the FT” slot.
No doubt some readers will argue that some of these outlets represent the usual left wing suspects but that is the wrong way to look at it. As I have argued extensively elsewhere there is nothing inherently radical about complaining about extreme inequality or the destruction of the planet. On the contrary, both are compatible with conservative views.
For example, both Barack Obama and Warren Buffett, one of the world’s richest men, have used the spectre of extreme inequality to promote the idea of “shared sacrifice”. In other words they have tried to persuade the public to accept curbs on their living standards on the grounds that wealthy people should too.
Similarly calls to tackle climate change are also often used to promote popular sacrifice. Ordinary people are hectored to use less energy, eat less meat and rein in consumption more generally for the sake of the planet. There is nothing radical, let alone revolutionary, about campaigns to lower popular living standards.
In any case there is nothing coherent about Brand’s diatribes. He simply rushes from one cliché to another like a petulant teenager.
The earnest acceptance of such statements by prominent individuals speaks to deep intellectual disarray. It shows a lack of confidence even in basic norms such as an attachment to the importance of prosperity.
In a way this is reminiscent of Hans Christian Andersen’s tale of the Emperor’s New Clothes. It is about time that Brand is called out for spouting gibberish.
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