Brand: voice of a generation or his best role yet?
by Riley Frost
Russell Brand, a figure renowned for his outlandish ways has once again made headlines this week following his somewhat candid Newsnight interview. In the week that has since passed, the interview has gone viral and many have heralded him as the voice of an unheard populous. It goes without saying it has formed grounds for debate but hailing him a hero is perhaps a step too far.
[If you are yet to see the interview I implore you to do so before you read on(where you’ve been I don’t know) [the link is posted below] and likewise if you are yet to read Robert Webb’s reply in this week’s New Statesman then I encourage you to read it also.]
Brand to me, has always stood out as a wonderful anomaly; his ‘rags to riches’ story coupled with a happy-go-lucky vigour and uncanny level of articulacy have always struck me as wonderfully intriguing. I stop short of calling him a role-model, but have always been fascinated by his persona and have always viewed him with positive sentiment. It has to be said that when I first watched Brand push away Paxman’s well-known direct questioning I was somewhat enamored as I am certain a vast majority of my peers were. The rhetoric with which he spoke and the romanticism in which he described a ‘failing system’ was mystical and one would be forgiven for feeling as I did. But having since had time to reflect, re-watch and analyse the exchange I now feel that the facility with which he speaks is somewhat disconcerting.
It is not to say that I cannot empathise with his mode of thought; the man speaks truth, change is upon us, it may be easier to see from the viewpoint of twenty something but ways of thinking are changing. I have always found it frustrating that the youth of today are encouraged to hate the Daily Mail, that their journalism is slanderous, sensationalised bullshit. Even if it is slanderous, sensationalised bullshit many don’t see why this is – I have come across many peers who hate the Mail yet don’t understand why and this is why I feel the way that Brand puts his point across is dangerous. It shouldn’t be fashionable to be left, it should be a conscious decision based upon ones ways of looking at the world. Yes, we as a youth are thinking more liberally but if there is no backbone to this change in thought then the ‘revolution’ Brand is calling for simply won’t occur. Many are forgetting that Brand is a funny-man first, actor second and activist third. Of his 7.2 million followers on Twitter I would be interested to find how many are following him for the former two occupations in contrast to those following him for the latter. This is a point that Robert Webb addresses wonderfully in his response:
“When I was 15 If Stephen Fry had advised me to trim my eyebrows with a Flymo, I would have given it serious consideration”.
A vast majority of those within his sphere of influence are impressionable young teens with a view of revolution as a fuzzy cross between the Year 9 history and trashing Fortnum and Mason in a Che Guevara t-shirt. Many of his populous are unaware that revolution is a gradual change in modes of thought and ways of being not an excuse to cause anarchy and be violent. It is not to say that he hasn’t got the right to voice a very valid point but the level of articulacy with which he speaks may be unnerving to some and cause many to attribute far more scope for influence than perhaps he warrants.
The want to be part of something is inherent to human nature, never more so than when one is in their teens so the fact that the interview has gone viral does not surprise me. This inherent desire plays nicely with the fact that we’re living in arguably the worst economic conditions ever known; as much as many of his followers’ parents are finding it hard to make ends meet this is not as deep as it goes. Many feel deprived of a youth, an eerie gloom is hanging over their childhood as they can’t do what they feel they should be able to or at least what their parents did. I am not at all suggesting that they’re all acting a bit spoilt, what I’m saying is that regardless of the economic standing of one’s family, everyone is feeling like they’re getting that little bit less. Whether your parents earn £14,000 a year or £214,000 a year, whether your parents can’t afford to fund your school cricket tour to Barbados or they can’t afford to give you pocket money to buy sweets after school, many -whether they know it or not- feel aggrieved. [Both shocking examples that devalue my point somewhat but you get it]. This in combination with the media-gloom that has hovered over government in the past 5 years somewhat sours the beauty of democracy and thus brightens the notion of abstinence. What Brand forgets is that he is tarnishing the minds of many potential leftist voters, many leftist voters who could curtail the rise of the likes of UKIP if managed properly.
This youth does feel disenfranchised, this nation does feel disenfranchised but that is not to say that we should all throw in the towel and abolish democracy. All in all, I feel many have been enchanted by Brand’s rhetoric and charm and been carried along by his message in their subconscious. I am not discouraging anyone to listen to Brand, his point is valid, his passion is true; what I am asking is that you do not take his point at face value, you allow the points made to resonate and take a holistic viewpoint on his ways of thinking. Brand seems like a decent bloke, he went to my school and I like him but remember he’s no Guevara, he’s a professional actor and a professional comic. he is as much an activist as you or I.
Some interesting links:
- Hey Russell Brand: ‘Read some f*cking Orwell!’ (dangerousminds.net)
- Comedians: your job is to make us laugh, not write tetchy open letters (theguardian.com)