Until Wednesday I couldn’t decide whether Russell Brand was a fatuous buffoon or a misunderstood genius. But then nor, I think, could he. I’m still unsure, although I suspect that he is a lot smarter than some of those who were going into raptures on Wednesday evening because Newsnight featured a guest who was spouting a few banalities about revolution.
If this seems like sour grapes on my part then so be it; but considering Brand apparently wants to be taken seriously then I think it’s only fair that his ideas are scrutinised on their merits, rather than on the fact that they came out of the mouth of a celebrity comic named Russell Brand.
Indeed, Brand’s words seem to have struck a chord with many for no other reason than the fact that they were Russell Brand’s words. Celebrity often allows half-baked hot air to pass as profundity (look at Bono); and in Brand’s case a comedian who won fame by sexually humiliating a woman on the radio and who apparently thinks it normal to harass every woman in his vicinity is now Che Guevara because he uses words like ‘pre-existing paradigm’ in conversation with Jeremy Paxman. Oh, and because he makes a public show of spurning a right that people died for.
The strangest thing of all is that nothing Brand said on Newsnight is remotely new or interesting. It has always been fashionable to want to chop down the tree in the revolutionary-despotic manner because trimming it effectively (reform/voting) is slow, tedious and unglamorous. And who doesn’t know that there are vast inequalities in the world and that it is in the interests of certain people for things to remain that way? (Those who have looked into this will also be aware that ‘the system’ has dragged 20 million people out of poverty in the past two decades, many of whom understand a bit about revolution).
I certainly believe in a more equal society; which is why I suggest that, if we're going to have a revolution, we begin with Brand's new $2.224 million dollar mansion in the Hollywood Hills.
But seriously, the central objection to Brand’s desire for ‘revolution’ and ‘an egalitarian system’ is familiar to anyone who has read their George Orwell: how can complete equality become a reality without force? And if there is to be an enforcer, what is in place to make sure that person remains equal to everyone else?
A grown man whose entire approach to politics boils down to “If I were in charge...” is not the messiah, and he’s not a particularly naughty boy either. He is the Jeremy Clarkson of the left: a narcissist who is smart enough to realise that he can draw an audience by playing the radical populist.