What to say about Russell Brand that already hasn’t been said (criticism from the Sun aside)
Well I feel I should lay my cards out on the table. I’m not a massive Brand fan, I loved him in ‘Forgetting Sarah Marshal’ and ‘Get him to the Greek’ and I respect him when he mentions drug abuse treatment. However for the most part I find him shallow, annoying and sounding like a first year Politics student who swallowed a thesaurus. Now his book ‘Revolution’ has been thoroughly deconstructed by people far better than me, and with more free time clearly. Usual criticism of the book is that it is devoid of content, riddled with factual errors and a waste of trees so bad it could be considered eco-terrorism.
Of course there is always more to this, for one it’s long been suspected that Brand didn’t write it and that accolade goes to Johann “I’ve changed” Hari, a man who would find impersonation very easy. Of course this makes it hard for the usual suspects on the Brand Bandwagon, take for example the Guardian.
The guardian must have struggled with this, for one they have an unhealthy obsession with Brand (although they seem to have flavour of the weeks anyway) Nick Cohen brilliantly reviewed the book here, but naturally it was a bit negative so what to do, especially since the comments from the readers went in a different direction.
Well they assembled a sort of bizarro avengers including Owen “Misinformation” Jones and a few other “of our young writers” the end result isn’t a surprise, they found ‘Revolution’ to be “a hopeful handbook of new ways of thinking.” While not agreeing with his call to “Not vote” (a message I hope returns if he decides to run for office.)
What annoys me isn’t Brand per se, I find him tedious yes, would I actively go out of my way to say, push him in a fountain?
probably not. My issue is with the media’s reaction to Brand, and the mentality of some of his followers.
Take for example the issues around the new era estate in Hackney, London. This is the story about an estate that was bought by a US firm Westbrook Partners who planned to refurbish the estate and hike rents from around £800 to £2000. Now this is a story that has been going on since March when Westbrook bought the estate. Now it’s worth noting that there were protests and 38 degrees were involved pretty much from day one. It was making news. However in marched Brand at the request of one of the organisers of the protest.
From then on the story the media picked up on wasn’t the shameful way this estate of 90 families were being treated, it was Russell Brand. The Sun leapt on him with the venom normally reserved for Paedophiles, or Ed Miliband.
Channel 4 gave up on journalistic standards and the golden rule of Journalism “Don’t be like the f*cking Sun” and decided to question him about his own house, because (and this is the rare moment I defend Brand) that is somehow relevant, because they clearly aren’t aware of Brands own background which isn’t exactly silver spoon.
The good news is Westbrook transferred ownership of the property to a social housing agent who has promised not to raise rents for a year and then assess the levels based on affordability (although a little piece of me still thinks we’ll be reading about Hoxton in a years time, pessimism prevails)
So this brings me to Act 2 of the Media Vs Russell Brand. Now the dust is settling how did they respond to the news that the residents prevailed. Well the Guardian went with the story, and mentioned Brand briefly, the Independent (whose demise will be welcomed since it’s been going downhill at great speed) went with the narrative the Brand saved it in the same way the US claim to have won WW2. The Metro (DM but free) went with “Did Russell Brands revolution work?”
Russell brands admirers however went with this being a massive victory for Brand, not for the residents, 38 degrees, or any of the local and national figures who spoke out. But Brand.
The truth is really, it was all of those things. Brand did bring a bit of attention to the campaign, although mostly so the media could get their claws out and savage him (for example there were more stories about C4 questioning his house value than the reason he was actually in front of the press. The reason wasn’t important he was just with the residents handing over a 38,000 signature petition) but his involvement came a bit too late for him to take the lion’s share of the credit, 38 degrees petition undoubtedly did some good, the protests at westbrooks london office would have also had an impact. Sidiq Khan, Labour and City hall calling on a reversal of the decision and the NY mayor lambasting Westbrook for their work in New York also added fuel.
But the real winners weren’t Brand, Khan, Labour or 38 degrees. It was the 90 residents of the estate who can after 9 months sleep in their houses free of the worry that they’ll be forced to move from their own homes, some of which they have lived in for decades. The losers though, have to be the media, they had a chance to help those residents, most didn’t until the prospect of settling a few scores got in the way.
As an aside it’s worth mentioning this, when “Brand’s” book was published a group I admin at over on Facebook were obviously mentioning it every 20 seconds (much to my protest) one person who never wrote or contributed chimed in saying Revolution was a serious book, full of good ideas and we should all read it and learn from it like she did.
She couldn’t answer one question about the book, or respond to criticism over the Book or Brand. Instead just went into personal attacks how we were just slaves to the system, anyway, it eventually came out that she hadn’t read the book beyond the first few pages so she got more and more personal until as admins we took the decision to remove the thread and her.
We thought that was the end of it but then some eagle eyed member saw her post in a Brand group that we were all fascists clamping down on dissent and opposing views, it had nothing to do with the drivel she was spouting or the personal attack. This is the sort of person who polluted the Hoxton stories on the Guardian for ignoring the contribution of the saviour and are claiming he won it single handedly.
So the problem isn’t really Brand, it’s the media who fawn attention/ attempt pathetically to discredit a man who doesn’t take that much effort to do that and the fanboys who think he’s the Moses coming down from the mountain.
When in fact as anyone who watched Brand on Question time knows, he’s a charlatan, a man who makes a lot of noise but lacks substance who until this week probably realised he was in way out of his depth and in the real world, it takes more than a cheeky laddish personality and a vocabulary Dr Johnson would be envious of.