|Why do we take Russell Brand’s interventions on politics so seriously?|
The British media seems to take a perverse satisfaction out of continuously airing the political views of celebrities, no matter how ridiculous or poorly thought out they might be. A perfect example of this phenomenon was the appearance of Premier League footballer and convicted criminal Joey Barton on Question Time earlier this year, in which he was introduced by David Dimbleby as ‘football’s philosopher king’ and managed to cause offense by describing UKIP as the best out of ‘four really ugly girls.’
It is this same obsession with the cult of celebrity which has propelled actor and comedian Russell Brand into the political limelight. Once upon a time, Mr Brand was simply famous for his past life as a drug addict, his dismissal from the BBC over a tasteless prank call and his short-lived marriage to pop star Katy Perry. However, thanks to the news media he has since become the de facto spokesman of radical socialism. Granted, he’s not exactly Tony Benn or Arthur Scargill, but Russell Brand fits perfectly into the mould of a thoroughly 21st Century revolutionary. You could almost describe him as the ‘philosopher king’ of the hard-left.
That doesn’t mean that he is a particularly convincing prophet of anti-capitalism, and indeed his entire political viewpoint fails to add up. After all, this is the man who rails endlessly against the evils of free-market neoliberalism, globalisation and corporate power whilst freely admitting that he doesn’t understand economics. Likewise, in his infamous Newsnight interview last year with Jeremy Paxman he described voting as a ‘waste of time’ and urged young people to stay at home on election day, but is now said to be considering running for London Mayor in 2016 as an independent candidate. For Brand, it doesn’t matter that his arguments don’t add up or are uninformed, he simply has a particular view of the world which he is determined to relentlessly propagate.
Of course, most people on both sides of the political spectrum can see past Brand’s glamour and bravado, and realise that his political philosophy (if you can call it that) is fundamentally incoherent. However, his message remains one which resonates with a certain audience, one which is far bigger and more diverse than many people realise.
In particular, it is the young who are more likely to be taken in by Brand’s populist rhetoric; after all, this is the age group with which he is most popular and well-known due to his prominent showbiz career. This is what makes the cult of Russell Brand so worrying – the media are basically giving him the perfect platform to teach young people not to take part in this country’s democratic systems. Never mind that women died whilst campaigning for the right to vote. Never mind that pro-democracy activists across the world are still imprisoned, tortured and murdered on a daily basis. As far as Brand is concerned, voting is not a gift and a privilege that we should cherish, but merely the legitimation of a corrupt and morally bankrupt socio-economic system.
Of course he is entitled to hold these views – after all, plurality and diversity of opinion are one of the great things about living in a liberal democracy! However, this does not mean that anyone should have the right to broadcast their views repeatedly in the national media, and when Brand is given such a loud megaphone with which to air his beliefs we should realise that we are simply fueling the growing trend of political apathy amongst young people. Additionally, his message is one which is riddled with inaccuracy and distortion, feeding common leftist stereotypes by describing Nigel Farage as a racist and David Cameron as only ‘marginally less racist,’ whilst also indulging in conspiracy theories by hinting that the US government orchestrated 9/11.
Russell Brand is a comedian, and as such his political interventions are always delivered in his trademark light-hearted manner, fusing often-crude slang with traditional revolutionary vocabulary. However, his lack of coherence and consistently surely begs the question of why we insist on taking him so seriously. Fame and prominence do not automatically make someone an authoritative voice when it comes to matters of politics, and the news media should therefore put an end to their superficial obsession with celebrity culture.