By Saswat Pattanayak
Red Monthly | October 2013
Russell Brand’s allegedly humorous attempt at explaining away his motivation for editing a political magazine is not just sexist (“asked by an attractive woman”), it is also inherently elitist. At the risk of spoiling the ongoing “revolution” party at social media, let me quickly get to the point.
Brand’s “attractive woman” fixation is nothing new. Earlier this year, he had called MSNBC journalist Mika Brzezinski a “shaft grasper” for the manner in which she was clutching a water bottle. Commenting on her cleavage, when Brzezinski leaned forward to repair a collapsing table, Brand justified his ogle in this manner: “I’m only flesh and blood, I’ve got instincts.”
One would think such overtly sexist behavior towards a media professional would cost Brand’s career dearly. Hardly so. Turns out, his critics merely call him “lazy” and his sexism “dull”. Instead what always work for him by the European standard of beauty are his “big hair”, “10-mile high charisma”, “look like Jesus” and “lovely cheekbones”.
White Jesus as he is, he could still have a career after the ‘Sachsgate’ scandal. He remains wary only because the broadcast was made, which apparently hampered his image, but not because he finds it not funny that he would have “fucked” Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter. But that reference did not end there. What the media largely ignored was what happened afterwards. In a patronizing manner of a classic male savior, Brand then left another voicemail on Sachs’ machine saying, “It was a mistake… The truth is I am phoning you to ask if I can marry – that’s right, marry – Georgina, the granddaughter”.
The dig at the “granddaughter” did not end right there. Russell Brand then furthers that, “I said something I didn’t have oughta, like I had sex with your granddaughter. But it was consensual and she wasn’t menstrual, it was consensual lovely sex. It was full of respect I sent her a text, I’ve asked her to marry me.”
Just as he out of full respect towards his wife Katy Perry, dumped her via a text message.
This was a while ago. And the Brzezinski episode was a few months ago.
But even farther were his days of drug addiction, that he brings up in his most recent interview to project himself as a revolutionary. Except that he cleverly makes no reference to his sexism, his white male privileges, his multi-millionaire attitude of indifference.
He can refuse to interrogate his “shaft”. And he will be called lazy. He can least care about anything that the masses participate in. And he will be called a revolutionary. Worse, he will say he doesn’t know anything about political alternatives. And he will be called a political theorist. He will say he is “doing a magazine for a novelty”. Novelty. And he will be called an editor of New Statesman to explore the theme of Revolution
His sexism is deeply embedded within his class status. He knows he will get away. By saying anything. His fans will laugh and cheer him. In 2008. In 2010. In 2013. He can refuse to interrogate his “shaft”. And he will be called lazy. He can least care about anything that the masses participate in. And he will be called a revolutionary.
Worse, he will say he doesn’t know anything about political alternatives. And he will be called a political theorist. He will say he is “doing a magazine for a novelty”. Novelty. And he will be called an editor of New Statesman to explore the theme of Revolution – while getting to edit the magazine that will have contributions from David Lynch, Naomi Klein, Amanda Palmer, Noel Gallagher, Alec Baldwin, Gary Lineker, Graham Hancock, among others.
All because, he was asked to edit the magazine by an “attractive woman”. This time, shaft grasper, or not. As he boasts to Paxman in his latest interview that has gone viral, he doesn’t even know “what the typical criteria are” when it comes to assessing an individual’s engagements and empathies, let alone qualifications. But there he is, the expert on revolution. The beacon of hope. The voice of dissent.
Or, maybe just a sexist, elitist actor who could dish out some emotions, much to the delight of the drooling audience, he claims to be despising. The audience that actually takes part in electoral process, many of who do so out of desperation. A greater desperation for social change than Brand possesses.
Brand accuses the people – the millions of voters who are not evidently as smart as him – of having created the narrow “pre-existing paradigm”. So he is looking for alternatives that will be of “service to humanity”. Humanity needs to be rescued by him. Except he doesn’t know of any alternatives. Let alone proposing any. But he still gets to edit New Statesman.
For all those who think Brand is any more socialist than Obama is, Brand plays right into Paxman’s game, and instead of arguing that revolution is indeed the democratic thing to do, or that, the communist societies are meant to be democratic societies, he goes along with Obama cliches
Paxman does not receive any credit for his questions, although between the two of them, he has a more critical and useful perspective. His big question to Brand “You don’t believe in democracy. You want a revolution, don’t you?” is of course outright silly. But that is the sort of question Brand probably deserves. For all those who think Brand is any more socialist than Obama is, Brand plays right into Paxman’s game, and instead of arguing that revolution is indeed the democratic thing to do, or that, the communist societies are meant to be democratic societies, he goes along with Obama cliches –
“Heavy taxation of corporations and massive responsibility for energy companies and any companies exploiting the environment…I think the very concept of profit should be hugely reduced.”
The only difference between Obama and Brand is that Obama is not implementing those words above, although he continues to parrot those very sentiments since a few years now. That, Brand – who owns multi-million dollars properties spread across continents – will even try to “reduce the concept of profit” (whatever the heck that means!), is a redundant question.
For, Brand does not really wish to do away with his own class. Not to do away with corporations. He actually has no problems with the class of haves. It’s just that he wants to tax those who are today richer than him. He has problems with only one class, which he calls the “political class”. He has so much problems with this so-called “political class” that he would not want anyone to vote anyone. What does this political class comprise? Does it also include politically radicals? Does it include the revolutionaries? Are there class divisions within this political class? Or, just like Obama and Paul Krugman, Brand with his $20 million now belongs to the “We are the 99.9%” club while gifting himself the pass into the oppressed celebrity underclass? Well, Brand doesn’t care, so long as he can take a dig at his enemy – the political class which indulges in politics. Maybe that’s not a relevant question. After all, he still gets to edit a political magazine.
For somebody who confuses revolution with taxation, and capitalists with politicians, he wants no government. So how will the corporations be taxed? By “Admin Bods”, he offers. Who are these Admin Bods? Are they political beings? And how will these Admin Bods get there? Again, irrelevant questions for a political theorist who is one solely because he is a celebrity. He need not explain. The onus is not on him. And then, Brand becomes all restless and impatient – much to even greater delight of his fans. So much passion in the revolutionary, and how dare someone ask him direct questions.
So he says, “Jeremy, don’t ask me to sit here in an interview with you, in a bloody hotel room and devise a global, utopian system.”
And everyone gets angry at Paxman, naturally.
After all, everything that Brand wants is a Utopia. Utopia as revolution? Well, Brand has probably no idea how to differentiate between the two. He is already living his utopia. And it feels revolutionary. And here he is being grilled simply because of that?
“You sort of have a go at me because I’m not poor anymore?”, Brand, the revolutionary finally travels Freudian.
It would all actually be funny, if Russell Brand were not a sexist, elitist white rich dude who refuses to interrogate his own privileges – including, that of political indifference.
And no, contrary to reports, revolution was not televised.
Saswat Pattanayak is a journalist, poet, photographer, social justice activist, academic non-elite, and a communist. He blogs at Saswat.com