Monday, 17 November 2014

Russell Brand, Jesus - Basically the Same Person, Right?

by Will Dry

When a meteor crashes into the world, obliterating the dominant species for a second time – and much of what we built, a higher life form will descend upon Earth and begin to study our once great civilisation. As they slowly draw back the curtain and begin to develop an understanding of our culture, they may be unfortunate enough to find only three artefacts: a New Statesman magazine, a Bible, and a copy of Hello! magazine. In this scenario, the aliens would suffer a great setback in their attempts to decipher our history. They would, however, recognise a recurring theme in all three historical articles; a bearded fellow, with long tousled hair, and a zeal for life, is key to any history we did once have. They will marvel at the remains of our cathedrals, and analyse the decaying Twitter database, and may conclude that this figure attracted much attention, transcending many ages of our history.

Russell Brand not only looks a bit like Jesus, but is now beginning to sound like him too. Jesus spoke through the mysterious medium of parables; Brand clearly outdoes him on this front. This quote is from the most recent New Testament of Brand called Revolution: “The attitude of the churlish indifference seems like nerdish deference contrasted with the belligerent antipathy of the indigenous farm folk, who regard the hippie-dippie interlopers, the denizens of the shimmering tit temples, as one fey step away from transvestites.” Only when a scholar wields a wheelbarrow of thesauruses, coupled with a few mind maps, spider diagrams, and hallucinogens for good measure, can he achieve enlightenment and translate the message to the people.

Jesus fought against a corrupt religious class and outdated principles; Brand fights against a corrupt political class and outdated principles. They also share the power to ignite contempt among the establishment – Jesus was crucified by the powers that were, Brand is crucified by the political commentators of today. Of course, the differences that separate Brand and Jesus outstretch all of the similarities, the point is that the sheer audacity of the comparison can only be matched by the audacity of Brand’s ‘revolution.’ There are many versions of Russell: Russell the Junkie, Russell the Celeb, and now we are blessed with Russell the Revolutionary – who the public arguably first encountered in his famous interview with Paxman last year. 

Back then Russell stood accused of failing to think things through, and, like a lazy student, he has failed to rid this incoherence from his work - namely his new book, Revolution. In a left wing commentator’s review of the book, the writer claimed that “(the book was) filled with references to books Brand has half read and thinkers he has half understood.” The title of the book connotes the ambitious image of a book which predicts the proletariat rising up against the increasingly disengaged bourgeoisie, and then details how this could be achieved. OK, I will concede that nobody was expecting comprehensive blueprints from Brand, but this does not excuse the fact that there is a content-shaped hole in this book. “Where are we all to meet Russell?.. Russell, what time!?  Ah, damn, my mum can’t drop me off till 8.30.. Can we do it tomorrow instead?..”

So, if it is not a articulate vision of an alternate system for the governing of this country, or the outline of the revolution, what actually is in the book? Brand should be credited for raising important problems that the world faces, such as the extreme inequality of wealth (he screams from the balcony of his $2.2 Hollywood Hills mansion). But the occasional sensible comments are drowned in the sea of vacuous nonsense that floods the 321 pages of Revolution; “(the economy) is just a metaphorical device. It’s not real, that’s why it’s got the word ‘con’ in it.” The book is also littered with misquotes, and, accompanied with his new revelations about the economy, Brand creates a new type of mal-quote: Brand argues that “the United States said there was an ‘increased threat from Third-World nations who were developing technology’”. Not only is the wording shadowy (“the United States said”) but also the quote seemed to exist only in Russell Brand’s book, as Michael Moynihan, an American book reviewer points out. 

This is merely the tip of the iceberg. 

There are similar mishaps regarding Nazi history, and outrageous claims about how Cuba, a country where fundamental freedoms are still under attack, is a rallying cry to other nations that corporatism can be beaten. Perhaps to compensate for his historical inadequacy, every other page seems to include a distasteful joke or a conspiracy theory that is, unlike the jokes, laughable. Brand compares Murdoch to Hitler, misunderstands George Orwell regarding collectivism, a key component of socialism, makes a casual remark alluding to a view that JFK was assassinated by the Secret Service, and, in his dramatic zenith of idiocy, he notes that the collapse of the Twin Towers looked ‘controlled’, before defending his tomfoolery by quipping that he is ‘just asking questions, people.’ The inaccuracies in Brand’s book can be explained by the fact it was researched by a disgraced journalist, Johann Hari, who had once been a successful left-wing commentator in journalism, before he was exposed for inventing quotes and whole interviews to defend and build his arguments.

The inaccuracies, the misquotes, and the jokes, do lead to the inevitable questions about how seriously Brand is taking this whole revolution thing. He wants to be treated seriously as a political activist, and promotes this image by attending Guy Fawkes-masked protests in London. But then he ruins it by leaving early to attend an exclusive celebrity event in the evening. Noel Gallagher, a friend of Brand’s, told the media that Brand genuinely believes there is going to be a revolution, before adding that Brand “does half talk a lot of shit,” and jokingly concluded that Brand has his support as long as he “promises to make me (Noel) the Duke of Manchester.” I remarked earlier that Revolution, failed to stimulate an image of a revolution, it does however, promote a different image, as pointed out by Marina Hyde:the Game of Thrones title sequence, with Brand’s Landing mushrooming down south on the map, and House Gallagher rising up in the north.”

A large portion of this article has been tongue in cheek, so forgive me if you expected that trend to continue right to the end. Firstly, I want to point out that it is a wonderful thing that Brand can bring the topic of politics, and problems facing this country, to the forefront of the nation’s (in particular the younger portions of the population’s) mind. However, there is another side to this coin: how deep is the malaise in British politics that it relies on the likes of Brand, or needs the potential break up of a 300-year-old union, to trigger any interest? It raises a deeper question: why is it that we are willing to listen to Brand but not to genuine thinkers who undoubtedly offer more developed analysis than Brand’s ‘the economy is a con because its got the con in, innit’? Maybe this malaise has actually been born out of the boredom of the population, and politics is the poor infected victim. 


  1. Another excellent article.

  2. Your article raises an interesting point over how Russell identifies some key flaws to the current political system. Surely there is only a limit to how much the government can do, what and how should policies be edited without pushing to the extremes of a 'revolution' and without causing a sufficient opportunity cost in other areas concerning politicians?

  3. a friend of Brand20 November 2014 at 22:43

    Nice article, especially the conclusion. Maybe soon we'll decide to calibrate time in accordance with Brand's date of birth. As he was born in 1975, 1974 would be 1 BB (before Brand). 2014=AB 40.

  4. Brand wouldn't approve as he believe in this new calibration of time as he stated on an episode of trews that 'number's are an illusion ... we have invested too much time in.'
    Very well written article and interesting article with many sharp quips à la 'you know who'. Only criticism is that you've picked an easy target in Brand. Roy keane doesn't deprecate John Obi Mikel and tom cleverly he picks bigger targets like Fergie, Viera ... be more roy keane and less piers morgan picking on poor old arsene !!!


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