Mark Steel: Deriding Russell Brand and his views is now compulsory by law

November 16, 2014
Russell Brand at a protest to support wage rises for nurses, which is a well-known tactic to win over Hollywood.

This week, by law, I have to deride Russell Brand as a self-obsessed, annoying idiot.

No article or comment on Twitter can legally be written now unless it does this, so by the weekend the Sunday magazine recipes will go, “Goose and marmalade paella, serves six ― unless one of the six is Russell Brand in which case he can make his own dinner as he’s such a rebel I suppose he doesn’t agree with ovens”.

One of the common objections to his book Revolution ― for example from columnist Craig Brown ― is that while he claims to be anti-establishment, “the book is published by Penguin Random House”. Well you’ve got him there, because if he was a proper rebel he’d have written the book in crayon on his ceiling, or spelt the words out using fallen cooking apples so as not to damage the environment.

All these so-called lefties are the same. Look at Tony Benn, who said he was a socialist but didn’t mind drinking tea, which is made by PG Tips, which is a capitalist company, the hypocrite.

Similarly, if Brand is such a man of the people why has he still got both his kidneys? I don’t see him giving those away to a family in the slums of Mexico.

Another observation made by the witty is that “he’s only going on about all this because he’s got a book to sell”. This is another fair point, because the genuine radical writes a book, then puts it in the bin so no one can ever read it. Truly great figures in history declare: “I have written out my manifesto, but now the task is to make those views known to as few people as possible.”

This is why the most honourable people don’t need a book to promote their ideas. For example you won’t find any book that’s all about Jesus, because he’s above all that.

So, as many people have pointed out, Brand’s call to revolution is a ploy to boost his career. Because if you want to become accepted in Hollywood and creep round the people who run the media in the US, everyone knows the first thing to do is write a book called Revolution and support strikes by the staff of Walmart. Doris Day was exactly the same.

This also explains why he went to a picket line of striking firefighters in Essex, because of the unsavoury and dominating influence in Hollywood of the Essex region of the Fire Brigades Union.

Poor Tom Hanks was told his career was finished unless he signed a petition supporting regional walkouts over shift patterns in Southend, and daren’t whisper a word of complaint to anyone.

But it may not be just the haphazard and scatty call to rebellion that upsets his critics. What appears to have annoyed many writers is that the book isn’t proper writing.

Nick Cohen in The Observer calls the style “long-winded, confused and smug”, concluding that Brand and his book “discredits the left”.

So it’s a shame Brand didn’t learn from Cohen, whose own book was in no way confused, insisting the left should have supported the war in Iraq, deriding anyone who didn’t as an “apologist for fascism”.

It would bring much more credit to the left if it followed people like George W. Bush instead of idiots who opposed the war, such as Nelson Mandela.

Other columnists agree that lines such as the one referring to deputy prime minister Nick Clegg as “Reneggey-Cleggy” makes a mockery of genuine political writing.

Because proper writing about politics is the sort of article that starts: “As we enter an uncertain pre-election period, one is drawn inexorably towards the dilemma of the Liberal Democrats as outlined to me by a spokesman for their senior adviser on geology,” until you’re in such a trance you wouldn’t notice if it went, “so a two per cent swing in the Cotswolds amongst those with erectile dysfunction towards a left-of-centre cautiously pro-Europe agenda could result in a coalition between the Conservatives and the Provisional IRA”.

This is why Brand’s book will engage young people in political ideas less than other publications, such as A Compendium of Daily Telegraph Columns That Refer to Danny Alexander, and My 40 Days Working in a Nearby Office to Iain Duncan Smith ― the Official Story.

It’s also why the correct way to inspire young people is to follow the Labour model. Poor Ed Balls can hardly get out of his car in a town centre for being mobbed by youth, eager for him to sign their copy of Why We’re Sticking to Tory Spending Plans for the First 250 years of a Labour Government.

The most effective complaint about Brand’s call to arms is that it’s confused. Of course it is, it’s all over the place.

“He poses only questions but has no solutions,” it’s claimed. Which is also true, but in a world in which it’s accepted by all big parties that banks and giant corporations and vast inequality are inevitable and can’t be curtailed, the most radical act can be to ask, “Why?”

Similarly, if the house is burning down, you can yell, “Oi! We need to scarper from the smokey-wokey or we’re destined to become victims of the old asphyxiation my lovelies!”

Or you can reply: “Oh how long-winded and confused. In any case I don’t see you offering any solutions as to how you would wire the electrics more safely. Sod you, I’ll stay here where it’s cosy.”

[This article first appeared at The Independent.]

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