Russell Brand: edgy dilettante or bogus revolutionary?

Comment: Donald Trump, Piers Morgan are latest to vote on Brand’s revolutionary politics

British comedian Russell Brand attends the Britain Needs a Pay Rise march in London on October 18th last. Photograph: Hannah McKay/EPA

British comedian Russell Brand attends the Britain Needs a Pay Rise march in London on October 18th last. Photograph: Hannah McKay/EPA

 

Poor Russell Brand.

Not only has he been (to use the vernacular) “threwn out” by the biggest pop star on the planet (Katy Perry) and the super posh “heiress, campaigner and journalist” (Jemima Khan) - he’s now caught up in a threesome with two men with bad hair.

Piers Morgan, thwarted by US TV and now with the Mail online, has called stand-up comedian Brand a “bogus revolutionary”.

Morgan is, however, enjoying the current Trump vs Brand Twitter fight (Twatfight?).

Brand had called Trump a “bit daft” in a radio interview. “It’s not like he’s a person who’s a super guy or anything. He’s just good at Hungry Hippos, and we live in Hungry Hippo land,” said Brand, being quite daft himself.

US Apprentice hirer and multimillionaire Trump was ready on the oche with a 140-character response. “I watched Russell Brand @rustyrockets on the @jimmyfallon show the other night-what the hell do people see in Russell-a major loser!”

Aiming for a spot below Brand’s belt, he continued: “.@katyperry must have been drunk when she married Russell Brand @rustyrockets - but he did send me a really nice letter of apology!”

Cue Russell. “.@realDonaldTrump are you drunk when you write these tweets? Or does that foam you spray on your bald head make you high?”

So far, so puerile.

Morgan said he’d rather be stuck on a desert island with Trump than Brand.

“Yet they are more similar than either would care to admit: two rich, successful, teetotal white men with healthy egos and a penchant for beautiful women, appearing on television, writing best-selling books and saying controversial things.

“The difference is that whereas Trump is supremely comfortable in his own skin, fame and wealth, 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.”

Trump retweeted Morgan’s article.

No surprise there.

No surprise either that Brand’s latest book, Revolution, has got some people shooting from their hips.

“If you can’t be arsed to vote, why should we be arsed to listen to your political point of view?” Jeremy Paxman famously asked Brand on Newsnight.

Brand is an outspoken ballot-box refusenik, who is driving many in the media and political worlds apoplectic. “Revolution is a text that will help politicise a generation. It’s just a shame he doesn’t incentivise them to vote,” writes Eamon Sweeney in the Irish Independent.

Why on earth should Russell Brand incentivise anyone to vote, though? Do comedians/celebrities have that obligation to fulfil?

I lived in England for my first 22 years and although I was technically entitled to vote in at least one general election, I honestly just couldn’t. There was no incentive to vote (first-past-the post electoral systems are a passion killer) and no one to vote for (the constituency was a safe Tory seat that would just add to the numbers of seats Margaret Thatcher would notch up in the House of Commons).

It was anarchy in my UK then and it’s anarchy in Russell’s UK now.

Not everyone agrees with all this anarchy, however.

Sex Pistol Johnny Rotten aka John Lydon says: “You have to vote. You have to make a change. You’re given lousy options, yes. But better that than nothing at all.” He has earned the right to a hearing.

But isn’t Brand doing people in the UK a favour, pointing up the intransigence and unrepresentative nature of their political system?

“When I was poor and complained about inequality they said I was bitter; now I’m rich and I complain about inequality they say I am a hypocrite,” Brand writes in Revolution. “I’m beginning to think that they don’t want me to talk about inequality.”

Of course people who don’t vote are often the worst off in any society. Being disenfranchised is a state people reach when they’re in a bit of a state, one might think.

Last weekend, Russell Brand took to the streets of London with the Britain Needs A Pay Rise march, demanding wage increases for public sector workers. The TUC, which organised rallies in Belfast and Glasgow as well as London, claimed up to 90,000 workers had attended. The week before he joined thousands of Occupy protesters in New York.

Whatever else Russell Brand is - and one feels that an afternoon spent cuddled up with him and a few seminal feminist texts on a comfy sofa might just do the trick - he is bringing energy to the struggle to find meaning in a time of huge confusion and massive inequality.

There were tens of thousands of people on the streets of Dublin protesting about water charges the other weekend. One suspects that Russell Brand would have joined them.

“Politics needs to be cleaned up, not thrown into disarray by irresponsible populists or by cool, sexy, edgy dilettantes,” Yasmin Alibhai-Brown wrote in the UK Independent.

That sentiment might just be worth abstaining on.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.