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Underestimate the Intelligence of Russell Brand at Your Own Peril

By Dustin Rowles | Videos | October 24, 2013 | Comments ()


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Most of the time, we know Russell Brand as the goofball douche-monster best known for his (former) drug use, promiscuity, and obnoxiousness (oh, and his brief marriage to Katy Perry). But when the guy gets up on his soap box, he can be lethal, as these MSNBC anchors found at in June when he humiliated them on live television. The guy can display moments of pure brilliance, and when he gets a head of steam behind him on social and political issues, he’s one of the most charming, eloquent, and thoughtful guys in the entertainment industry.

Take, for example, this interview with Russell Brand with Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman on the BBC yesterday. Paxman basically tries to shame Brand for broadcasting his political opinions despite the fact that Brand doesn’t vote, and Brand does a brilliant job of upending his argument, demonstrating why voting in this system doesn’t amount of a hill of goddamn beans given all the injustice of the economic disparities we are facing.

“It’s not that I am not voting out of apathy. I am not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery and deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations.”

Speaking to Newsnight, he suggested that politicians were only interested in “serving the needs of corporations” and that a administrative system based on the “massive redistribution of wealth” should replace the status quo.(via)

Brand is basically pushing for a revolution, and his opinions might otherwise teeter on the edge of nuttery, except for the fact that there’s thought and substance behind what he’s saying. In the last two minutes of the interview, I also think he also does an admirable job of making Paxman feel very small for essentially defending and playing into a broken system.

I think the interview is great in its entirety (warning: politics), but you’re on the Internet killing time on your coffee break, so I suggest jumping to nine-minute mark if you need to get back to your spreadsheets.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • googergieger

    Na, he's just a douche.

  • I'm not sure even where to begin with this, but it was awesome. First, British media > US media. They probe, follow up, call out the obvious contradictions, red herrings and unsupported false dichotomies. There's a willingness to 'have a go', where in the US we seem to think saying the same thing louder is the answer while not actually listening and 'journalists don't ask any followups. My god, David Gregory would have run for the hills within 45 seconds. So it's refreshing, if nothing else. Second, Brand is a celebration of messy humanity: in some ways he's an absolute joke, at the tawdry part of the celebrity spectrum, but he demonstrates not only an ability to engage and think on his feet, but an authentic sense of how his life experience relates to the polity (yes, we're using polity on Pajiba on Fridays). Third, his statements about corporatist government (pretty much the definition of fascism) is overly narrow, the political economy is far more complex than that even if this particular element is a dominant one in our current period (and remember, that element is far more established and subtle in the UK than in the US, where we have had periods of aggressive populism). However, he still manages to provide a non-trivial rationale for his place in the public conversation, and to both simultaneously advocate for something and recognize that he isn't the expert to act on what he calls for. His statement that there are far better qualified people to lead should not be overlooked, as it shows a respect for ideas and governance over thirst for power, which is something sorely lacking in our political system today. So, fun!

  • Robert Sanchez III

    Christ that was almost fox news like in that reporters single minded harping on one word/point of Brand's and then using it in an accusatory manner against them. what was his point in being so confrontational? They couldn't get a good dialogue on the issue because of him. Also, how are journalists still approaching Russell like he's some dipshit when he has been doing these things for year now.

  • NynjaSquirrel

    Oh - I think you completely missed what Paxman was doing there.

  • e jerry powell

    There are two Russell Brands. They're both clones. I like this one better.

  • Jim Slemaker

    Ah, the delicious hypocrisy of the Hollywood class. Those who feed so extravagantly at the very corporate trough they offer up as the bane of western civilization. It's getting so tiresome.

  • Parsnip

    Interesting, he makes some salient points, glad I watched it.

  • Nat

    I do enjoy watching Brand rip apart traditional political commentators, but not voting is the opposite of the solution. An informed voter is the most dangerous thing in the world.

  • Bad Superman

    Dennis, you misread this one mate. Paxman 1 Brand 0.

  • Who's Dennis, precious?

    I could see someone suggesting a draw (it was a fair exchange of ideas), but no way to watch that and think Brand didn't represent.

  • I never get tired of hearing wealthy celebrities talk about 'the redistribution of wealth', if only for the inherent irony. I do sometimes wonder if they listen to themselves, though.

  • SVR

    The people who think Brand is an idiot must have never seen him with
    Noel Fielding on the various Big Fat Quiz shows (seriously, google Noel
    Fielding and Russell Brand and enjoy youtube's offerings).

    That said (and I can't watch the video so I'm only going on the quote here),
    I'm not buying what he's selling. I agree with him completely that the
    system is fucked up and unequal wealth distribution is virtually
    unchecked. But I simply cannot agree that voting is irrelevant or
    doesn't change things. Even if it only makes things better at the
    margins of society, then the people who are living at those margins will
    feel its effects. Plus, apathy is pretty much typified by
    indifference, weariness, and exhaustion so I'm not understanding his
    distinction there at all.

    (And we can't sign in as guests anymore? Bogus.)

  • Your point here is the most legitimate criticism of his choice with regard to voting, absolutely. Someone with this sort of anger for the system would always do well to re-focus positive energy to more local affairs, where impacts can be achieved and services for the disenfranchised can be delivered, than to keep screaming at the monolith. But he's taken his role as the provocateur and someone has to do that job too.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Jay Z made the counter point to Brand's in 2008, when he talked about electing Barack Obama: representation matters. It's not just about voting for someone, but also voting for the idea of a voting population that then gets the advantages of being listened to by governmental electives.
    Brand's point is valid, though, because he knows he's not a political leader, and he says he's not a person qualified to actually sketch out a plan for governmental upheaval. He's only there to shed light on the situation in a way that would get to both people older than him, younger than him, and in the same age. He's one of the voices for people who had to get through a system that has failed them. He's not the only voice, and he truly works his way through Paxman to make him stop pigeonholing him and start listening to what he says. This was a verbal duel as much as it was a poli-social discussion.

  • Pajiba_Pragmatist

    First of all, I love Russell Brand when he writes, and when he focuses on issues other than the purely sexual. His books and columns are simply amazing, and a jarring juxtaposition to how he appears in public settings.

    That said, this tired trope that politicians are only in it for corrupt purposes and only serve corporate masters is just demonstrably false. In fact, I'll use the most cynical example to show why:

    If politicians could be so easily bought, there would be no need for grassroots campaigns, GOTV, TV ads on issues, or even lobbyists. If politics were a straight cash business, then big business would simply write the necessary checks and do away with all the overhead of writing issue papers, reaching out to constituencies, etc.

    I actually think the system is far less corrupted by business (which is, as a whole shockingly cautious and willing to accept regulation once they figure out how to pass the cost on), and more corrupted by the confluence of extreme gerrymandering and the 24 hour news cycle.

    No member can afford to be anything other than unflinchingly devoted to the 700,000 people who voted to him or her, or rather the 100,000 or so who end up being the ones who pick because they show up to vote in primaries.

    This means that if the district is configured in such a way that only one party can possibly win, and only a few people show up to select who gets that party slot, then those are the people who pick the winner.

    Their interests are rarely corporatist any more, but rather purely ideological. Therefore corporations now work to frame their boring business issues in a way that pushes the ideologue, who then holds the members feet to the fire.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    Round 20 of "Russell Brand, Good Social Commentator."

    I wonder when people are going to stop looking at him like a hairy sex monster and realize he's been making good, eloquent points (especially about the UK) for a while now?

  • koko temur

    i get such an errational annoyance with brand everytime he does something like that. "Its... Just... Damn! why cant you do that all the time instead of playing a bafoon, which you clearly are not? Whyyyy?". Yes, it is unfair. it is his choice, but im just saying, i would fangirl the crap out if him if he just been that eloquent in his comedy.

    Aaaaanyway. This interview was about this newspaper editorial job, and he wrote a marvellous article in it aswell. I strongly reccomend it.
    http://www.newstatesman.com/po...

  • JustOP

    I think I'd like to watch Russell Brand do a show around politics or social issues. He has such an amazing sense of off-the-wall humour which some pretty sharp wit.

  • Pants_are_a_must

    He did for a while on "Brand X." It wasn't a very focused endeavor, but he did have some beautiful moments talking about society there. I think you can find the videos online.

  • emmalita

    I thought this was a great interview. It makes me crazy when people behave as though you don't have thoughts worth discussing just because you don't have a working paper on the solution. I don't agree with Brand about everything he says here, but I do agree with the basic premise that there are problems that are not being addressed by the existing political structure .

  • Adam Hoy

    Is it just me or does this remind anyone of the King Arthur/Dennis conversation in Monty Python and the Holy Grail?

  • Exactly what I thought. Except that Brand is dead serious and preaching the kind of actual revolution that is desperately needed.

  • emmalita

    Dennis made some really good points.

  • $3647259

    Dennis, who is 37. He's not old!

  • Zirza

    There's some lovely filth down here.

  • Mrs. Julien

    It's really too bad he's being repressed.

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