Russell Brand: Revolutionary, Prophet, and Prettyboy
The thing is, it doesn’t really matter what Russell Brand says about politics or about anything else.
As with pop music, his fame and notoriety rest almost entirely on the fact that a lot of young people (of both sexes) find him attractive; as well as stylish and hip. (Some older people may too.) In other words, he’s today’s version of the Che Guevara t-shirt. I don’t mean that he’s today’s version of Che Guevara. No way: Guevara was an intelligent and ruthless killer. Russell Brand is only today’s version of the Che Guevara t-shirt. In fact, he’s all t-shirt.
Think of it this way: how big would Russell Brand’s (as well as Che Guevara’s) fan-base be if he looked like Ed Miliband and had the body of Eric Pickles?
Russell Brand makes a lot of his working-class credentials and claims that the reified Establishment is against him because of his “roots”.
He conveniently forgets that many members of the working-class have made into the Establishment; if not in very large numbers. Indeed they have even made it into the leading parts of the Conservative and Labour parties.
In any case, a lot of folks within Russell Brand’s Establishment -- whether lawyers, rights/race activists, members of the Church of England, journalists, civil servants, and even members of the Conservative Party -- actually believe many of the things he believes and also endorse and support many of his hip causes.
So when Brand talks about the Establishment, he must only be talking about those small sections of it which have the audacity not to uphold his own profound theories about the necessity of a Hip Revolution.
The other thing is that Brand isn’t particularly working-class anyway. And, no, I don’t have a complete least of necessary and sufficient conditions for what it is to be working class. “Class politics” only concerns me when people (disingenuously) grandstand their own working-class credentials in order to sell themselves politically.
And like the leaders of the SWP, Ed Miliband, Leftist lawyers, and many public-school boys in rock music, Russell Brand may be affecting (or simply exaggerating) a Mockney/Estuary English accent (“Parklife!”) in order to do so. (Though Brand is from Grays, a suburb east of London which he -- rather that others -- often classes as a “working-class area”.)
What Russell Brand appears to be doing is conflating being working-class with being from a dysfunctional background.
Brand’s parents split up when he was six months old. After that his father -- who was a professional photographer -- took his teenage son to use prostitutes. By the age of 16, however, Brand had attended Grays Media Arts School, the Italia Conti Academy, and a boarding school.
None of that seems particularly working-class; though, as I said, his background (on his own account) is clearly dysfunctional.
What drives Russell Brand’s recent conversion to The Revolution are the same three things which have always driven him: narcissism, hedonism, and exhibitionism.
Of course, I’m not being original when I call him a narcissist and an exhibitionist because countless other commentators have also done so. (Strangely enough, he’s also said the same about himself; if not in those precise words.)
Despite saying that, what has particularly annoyed me about the Russell Brand Phenomenon is the number of Leftist commentators and journalists who -- having once classed him in the very same negative ways I’ve done -- suddenly changed their minds about him. And they did so as soon as it became clear to them that he had thoroughly embraced The Revolution. Then he was no longer seen -- by these same hypocritical Leftists -- as a narcissist, exhibitionist, and a hedonist.
(This is especially true of certain Guardian journalists. Then again, literally anyone -- whether that be Muslim misogynists, Islamic terrorists and Islamists -- who can advance progressisocialism in any way whatsoever is fair game for Guardian patronization.)
Russell Brand is now, apparently, someone who “articulates the voice of youth” (do they all have the same voice?); who “speaks truth to power” (what a cliché!); as well as someone who’ll “reignite the people’s passion for politics”.
So when did Russell Brand convert to politics or, more specifically, to The Revolution?
Was it after or before he did transcendental meditation for a day (or Buddhism for a week)? He’s very much like Madonna in that, like her, he’s had almost weekly fashionable attachments to all sorts of different political and religious arcana. (Even Beyoncé, in her latest video, is Doing The Revolution; if dressed in a miniskirt and a niqab face-mask -- so deep, man!)
I suppose it can be said that Russell Brand converted to politics -- or to the platonic Revolution -- roundabout 2009; though, at that time, in extremely peripheral ways. (E.g., as a typical mindless political fashionista Brand simply had to embrace the Palestinian cause; which is now as obligatory -- for callow political hipsters -- as the Che Guevara t-shirt.) This isn’t to say he didn’t mention politics in passing before 2009: sure he (probably) did. However, his commitment to Total Revolution dates later than that: it basically began in 2013, when he was 38.
Indeed even in his last book of 2010, Booky Wook 2, there are virtually no political references. There are some tangential references to political issues; though it’s all in very much in passing.
So what about Russell Brand’s Revolution?
In his own words:
“My relentless pontificating on revolution and a new social order came in for a lot of deserved abuse.”
As I said, Russell Brand is -- or was -- an exhibitionist and narcissist who got bored after twenty years of flagrant hedonism and then -- when heading towards middle age -- realized that he had to find another market (or niche). And that market is The Revolution.
That’s not strange at all.
The Revolution has always been marketed. Large parts of the hippie (post-1966) and punk (post-1976) movements, for example, succumbed to capitalism within a year. And, more contemporaneously, capitalism has even gained controlled of sizable elements of the anthropogenic-global-warming show.
The thing about Russell Brand is that he doesn’t hide his vanity and narcissism -- at least he didn’t before his conversion to The Revolution.
What we have here is a 39-year-old who saying the things you’d expect to hear from 20-year-old (student) member of the SWP.
Basically, Russell Brand has had his fun. Hedonism and flagrant exhibitionism must have begun to bore him a little. Thus he thought that The Revolution would titillate him a little instead. Thus Brand is a little like the party girl who suddenly realizes she no longer has the looks to party and therefore chooses to become a sanctimonious prude instead.
A lot of narcissistic and hedonistic pop and film starts have converted to politics in their thirties or later. I presume it’s when they too have become bored with partying. The thing about these beings is that they may become bored with politics too if something else comes along to titillate them (e.g., Islam or something).
Since Russell Brand himself says that he “was born to be famous”, perhaps we should take him at his word and see his commitment to The Revolution as yet another means to further himself. Indeed since he has said that everything he did he did because he “really wanted recognition”, then perhaps his commitment to The Revolution is another way of securing that recognition.
In any case, his YouTube loyalty to The Revolution has no doubt taken him out of that “penitentiary of anonymity” he has fought so hard against all his life.
And just as touring, being on chat shows, etc. secured him sex (they were, according to Brand himself, proxies for his “biological drive”), so The Revolution may be doing exactly the same thing.