Russell Brand vs the bloody liberal majority
A recent production of Ibsen’s An Enemy of the People at the Barbican theatre in London identified the ‘bloody liberal majority’ as the real problem. Comedian Russell Brand’s call for revolution has put him on a collision course with the establishment. The backlash has been ferocious. Piers Morgan of the Daily Mail took the first swipe.
But it is the response from liberals which is most revealing. One by one, they have queued up to have a pop at Brand. Stewart Lee wrote a piece in The Guardian satirizing him as a Christ-like figure. Next up was an unexpected attack from Johnny Rotten, formerly of the Sex Pistols, in an interview with Polly Toynbee. Rotten described Brand as ‘idiotic’ for encouraging young people not to vote. And now, the internet trolls are harassing him after he did not adhere to interview etiquette on BBC’s Newsnight.
Far from applauding his courage and integrity for speaking truth to power, liberals have cynically tried and failed to take him down. Brand is prepared to bite the hand that feeds him, unlike the platoons of self-serving A-Z list celebs. He is not satisfied to take the fame and money and pucker up.
If only more figures in our media would learn from his example. Piers Morgan does not really deserve a response. Brand’s own Messiah Complex tour had already pre-empted Stewart Lee’s satirical bent. And as for a so-called anarchist like Rotten, Brand was not encouraging young people to disengage from politics. In fact, he has galvanized thousands who had switched off from the Westminster farce.
Brand appears to be fully cognizant of the implications of this ambush from the liberals. At last week’s Guardian Live event in conversation with Owen Jones, he pointed to The Guardian logo behind him and jokingly announced: ‘This lot are the worst’.
The funny thing is that the venomous attacks against people like Brand are always personal, deflecting attention away from the real point. Take the character assassination of Julian Assange.
The intent was to neutralize any possibility of real discourse on the Wikileaks cables – for example, that the Iraq and Afghanistan logs reveal war crimes. In the case of Chelsea Manning, it was the old ‘Lee Harvey Oswald’ line: that he was an unstable loner seeking exposure. Which is why Edward Snowden managed his entrance on the world stage with a down to earth and likeable interview.
In the case of Brand, the charge is that he is a narcissistic egomaniac – as if our glorious leaders are somehow beyond reproach. Should we be surprised? Not really. After all, liberals have always fucked everything up.
Blair’s New Labour signalled the castration of Old Labour as the voice of ordinary people. Thatcher described it as her greatest achievement. Likewise the Lib Dems. The first whiff at power and they jumped into bed with the Conservatives, thus enabling the destruction of the NHS and the dismantling of the welfare state. All of which could not have happened without the votes of Lib Dem MPs.
As for the bloody liberal majority... yes, we are also part of the problem. As Brand puts it, if you are fed up with foreigners coming over here, taking freebies and not paying taxes then you’re right – just look at Amazon, Google, J P Morgan, Goldman Sachs. These are the real parasites.
We may eat organically and recycle, but we’re not prepared to get off our liberal asses because we’re too busy incubating our nest-egg cash-pile homes in the real-life game of Monopoly. Hoping to make it with the big boys – until we too begin to feel the heat.
Make no mistake about it, once the élite have finished feeding off the poor, they’ll be coming for the middle-classes, as Alex Proud pointed out in the Daily Telegraph recently. So engage, be the change you want to see in the world.
Like him or loathe him, Brand has the truth on his side. And people are suckers for the truth, bubba. In Britain today, the five richest families have as much wealth as the poorest 12 million. Around 5.2 million people are in low pay jobs. Over one million people have used food banks in the past year. There are more people below the poverty line in work than out of work. Poverty has doubled in Britain over the past 30 years according to the largest study of its kind by the Poverty and Social Exclusion Project.
Globally, the richest 85 people have as much wealth as the bottom half or 3.5 billion people. The top one per cent own nearly half the world’s wealth. More important than all this is climate change and the ecological catastrophe that is killing our planet. Ironically, it may be this that catalyzes the change needed to save us from turbo-charged capitalism.
In other words, the economic system is not working for ordinary people. And neither is representative democracy, which has been co-opted by the corporate élite through funding, lobbying and the revolving door.
So what is to be done, ask the cynical liberals, as if Brand’s failure to come up with an alternative socio-economic system signals ‘game over’.
The alternative Brand posits would be for us to organize, localize and collectivize. After all, world hunger can be solved through something as simple as local, organic farming. What stands in the way?
Agri-business and transnational corporations. Again Brand hits the bulls-eye: these corporations only exist because we allow them to.
Whatever we choose to do, we need to act fast. The Left needs to gets its act together. Another 10 years of capitalist crisis and economic stagnation and the political landscape may be unrecognizable.
If progressive parties do not seize the moment with alternatives that appeal to the majority, then the Far Right will – and the result will be not revolution but repression.
Help us keep this site free for all
New Internationalist is a lifeline for activists, campaigners and readers who value independent journalism. Please support us with a small recurring donation so we can keep it free to read online.