The cult of personality surrounding Russell Brand started to emerge straight after the eponymous interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. It was after this interview that people, including several of my close friends, began to laud the comedian for his alleged articulacy and insight. The interview went viral and became bafflingly popular – most likely because it involved a famous loved comedian as opposed to a grey suited, unknown politician – and at one point I even heard someone refer to Brand as a “genius.”
I remain perplexed by the way in which so many people were duped and even impressed by Russell Brand’s semi-literate rhetoric. I have often found myself going against conventional wisdom when it comes to pop culture. I still haven’t properly figured out why people are content to listen to the awful dross of the top forty charts that is pumped out of Radio One and Kiss FM every day. Seeing as conventional wisdom ceases to be wise as soon as it is indeed convention, I was able to see past the charming celebrity veneer of Russell Brand and actually listen to what he was saying. It turned out that he wasn’t saying much. Beneath the mixture of complex, Latin derived, multi-syllabled words and his “cheeky chappy” provincial colloquialisms, are some very conventional opinions. He, like the great majority of people who care, is frustrated with British politics and the glib politicians who are contemptuous of the genuine views of their own electorate. He, again like most of us, would like to see a serious change in the way the country is run. This change in constitutional power is what Brand is deeming will be a new “revolution.”
As Russell Brand’s cult following grew, so did his own thirst to become a public intellectual. He began to appear more regularly on shows like Newsnight and Questiontime, reiterating his predictable leftist spiel that people so love. He started up his own news channel video blog called ‘Trews’ (“True News”) and has now published a book entitled Revolution. The trouble with Russell Brand, and his pseudo intellectualism, is that it is not original in the slightest, nor is it profound. More or less everything he says or writes sounds like a very poor impersonation of Noam Chomsky. Brand does indeed reference Chomsky every now and then, and has described him as “a linguist, political theorist and name you’d better start saying at gatherings if you want to be taken seriously.” Well I must say that I find it quite hard to take Russell Brand seriously. He reminds me of one of those introverted teenagers who discovers Marxism or Richard Dawkins for the first time and likes nothing more than to plagiarise their arguments in the ‘dull’ corner at parties. It is incredibly frustrating that writers like Chomsky remain unread by the majority of the population – as well as journalists who have opposed the establishment for years – whilst Russell Brand can amass a huge support base after one interview.
Russell Brand is a populist. People love him for who he is. What he says though, is actually quite irresponsible. Despite arrogantly comparing himself to the most successful public intellectual of our time with a cringe-worthy sense of hubris, Brand fundamentally contradicts Chomsky. I wonder how aware of this Russell is. A fundamental belief that Chomsky holds is that political change can be made within the existing political structure. He hates apathy, which is exactly what Russell Brand advocates. Whilst he goes on about how the establishment is only interested in itself and wants nothing more than to be left alone to run things – something with which I actually agree, he says don’t vote. Don’t vote, don’t get involved, and boycott the elections. It is a ridiculous and contemptible proposal that would do nothing to make any change and would serve to continue the way things are currently run.
I am very pleased to see Russell Brand being taken down a peg or two in the media lately. His book has been very poorly reviewed, despite being quite shamefully advertised all over the BBC. His writing has been derided and he is being mocked on social media. Some very clever and funny person came up with the idea of appending ‘Parklife!’ to the end of every Russell Brand tweet, drawing comparisons with the complex lyrics of the Blur single. Hopefully people are beginning to realise that Russell Brand is not as clever and profound as they once thought. Don’t waste your time with him. Go and read the work of some real writers and thinkers, not a former addict comedian.
Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi