Thursday, 24 October 2013

Russell Brand: not only daft but dangerous

I think perhaps the best way to describe the actor, comedian and writer Russell Brand is as "a Halloween-haired, Sachsgate-enacting, estuary-whining, glitter-lacquered, priapic berk … a tree-hugging, Hindu-tattooed, veggie meditator."

It's the best way, because it happens to be his own description of himself -- in a 4,750-word revolutionary rant in this week's issue of the New Statesman, guest-edited by, you guessed, Russell Brand.

The Brand manifesto has caused quite a stir in some circles, not just because of his celebrity and skill in making waves, but because of a probably well-founded suspicion that his anger and contempt directed at the entire political class is widely shared among young people who care about the country they live in but see no way to do anything about it.

I imagine there are a lot of people who can identify with the Brand view of politics: "Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites."

So I propose to take what he says seriously -- which may be a mistake, but what the hell. A lot of it will be curiously familiar to anyone who remembers, as I do, the hippies of the 1960s: "Make love, not war … down with the man … Power to the people."  Beguiling, attractive slogans, with their wonderful certainty that there are simple answers to complex questions.

What Brand says is not only daft but dangerous. It's dangerous because he is a clever man with influence, and when he says: "Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people", there is a real risk that some people -- especially young people -- will take him seriously.

The core of his message is: "I will never vote and I don’t think you should, either." He presents it as a message of hope, when in fact it is precisely the opposite. It is a message of despair.

Voting doesn't change anything? Tell that to the millions of Americans with no health insurance who, once the Obama administration have sorted out their IT problems, will, for the first time, have access to decent health care. They wouldn't have it if no one had bothered to vote.

Tell all those tens of thousands of British workers on the minimum wage (yes, I know, it's disgracefully inadequate, but it's still better than no minimum wage at all), introduced in the face of fierce opposition by a Labour government after the Blair victory of 1997. And it wouldn't have happened if no one had bothered to vote.

Tell the millions of black South Africans who voted for the ANC in 1994 and elected Nelson Mandela as their president. It wouldn't have happened if they hadn't bothered to vote.

Apathy is cowardice. It's a way of saying "I take no responsibility for what happens in my country." I can understand people being reluctant to vote because they feel a sense of disgust, but the rational reaction to that is not apathy, but to find candidates -- or become a candidate -- in whom one is more prepared to have faith.

Brand brands himself a revolutionary. "Revolt in whatever way we want, with the spontaneity of the London rioters, with the certainty and willingness to die of religious fundamentalists or with the twinkling mischief of the trickster ...  Take to the streets, together, with the understanding that the feeling that you aren’t being heard or seen or represented isn’t psychosis; it’s government policy."

I wonder if he's noticed what's happening in Egypt, or Tunisia, or Libya, where hundreds of thousands of excited revolutionaries took to the streets to topple hated dictatorships. They achieved their goal -- and then what? So far, it's not easy to argue that what has followed is any better than what went before. I would have thought that the lure of the barricades might have taken a bit of a knock -- but perhaps careful consideration of other peoples' experiences is not Brand's style.

In a hilarious, but also deeply depressing, interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight on Wednesday night, he demonstrated his utter inability to offer any concrete example of what he believes we should do instead of vote. He wants fundamental change but has no idea how to achieve it.

The closest he comes in his New Statesman manifesto is: "To genuinely make a difference, we must become different; make the tiny, longitudinal shift. Meditate, direct our love indiscriminately and our condemnation exclusively at those with power." At which point, I can merely offer another quote from the same piece: "First and foremost I want to have a f***ing laugh."

Indeed. And here's what worries me most. If Russell Brand was content to be a highly successful comedian, a jester with a pig's bladder and bells on his multi-coloured hat, I'd leave him alone with his mashed up mind and pantechnicon of platitudes. (Oh yes, I too can write as if I've swallowed a Thesaurus -- it's neither as difficult, nor as impressive, as Brand seems to think.)

But by writing thousands of words of political junk in a respected weekly magazine, he sets himself up as someone with something to contribute to an important debate. The truth is that he has nothing to contribute, other than the self-satisfied smirk of a man who knows he'll never go hungry or be without a home.

If he really wanted to encourage the development of a genuinely revolutionary movement, he would start organising one. He would knuckle down to do really, really boring things, like handing out leaflets on street corners, lanching petitions, holding meetings, just like the early trades unionists and labour activists he professes to admire so much.

But of course that's not what he's about. "First and foremost I want to have a f***ing laugh." Which is fine, as long as no one is tempted, even for a moment, to take him seriously.


Anonymous said...

I agree with your article in terms of Brand's call to apathy. But I fear that you downplay the importance of his raw visceral anger at the elites who've run the west's economic policy in recent years. Financial inequality and the crisis of the environment are existential issues for how democracy works. Sure, he's just having a laugh in terms of his student attitude to what in practical terms he proposes. But his anger at the utterly self serving elite is important. It's more than a straw in the wind that can be dismissed as typical Brand smugness.

big fat fred said...

Mr Lustig, Brand is becoming more and more relevant. He says what many, many people feel. Just give him some time - his own political movement will surely follow when enough people have woken up to the fact that the current political system is democratised slavery. The times, they are a changin'

Eric Brown said...

You have completely missed the point. All of current politics exists within a structure that centralises power and wealth for the benefit of a few. The mininum wage and obamacare are just scraps given to the little people by the elites. Your generation caused this. You are history, please leave the stage and make way for people who care about their fellow man.

Anonymous said...

People like this writer are daft and dangerous.

Anonymous said...

I agree with brands view to a degree but its sort of crazy to think that not voting is a real means of protest. Its like saying i cant stop someone being a evil git so im not gonna even bother trying. Its a bit like laying down to be trodden on and not trying to atleast wriggle away.

Unknown said...

These elites have run things for more than the last few years, centuries more like. Lustig's argument is not a reply, it's the same old smug imbedded "in crowd" media ("I've been drinking with these chaps you know. They can't all be bad.")Political/media/entertainment/military/industrial complex. Lustig seeks to protect his own privilege, he works for the BBCrown. He wouldn't want to bite the hand that feeds him. And his reply? "You are a silly boy, I'm going to ignore you." Brand doesn't say what people feel, he says what all of us know. The Govt is a call centre; sit down, shut up, don't talk to each other (the lesson of television) be afraid, be very afraid. Do you want the gangs of youths stealing your pension or do you want Santa with a cattle prod to come round and bugger you wearing a badge and a suit, send you the bill and float that fear on the stock market? Better the devil you've known, since 1545. I'm Robin Lustig, it's 8 minutes past 8 and here is another privately educated numpty to tell how to breath.

Brambo of Salopia said...

Doing your job well Robin, keeping a comfy Auntie-compliant lid on things; but not quite the journalist you started out to be? So enjoy your BBC-padded pension in your retirement and sooner rather than later I hope.

Matthew Hopkins said...

When faced with the post-democratic system that is entirely geared to the accrual of wealth and power for the elite apathy is a perfectly natural reaction.

More and more people realise the game is rigged. A million can demonstrate on the streets of london to zero effect. Every poll says the electorate want a say on the EU to zero effect. Eventually the ignored just say to hell with it and concentrate on living of the radar of those that would tax them to death as much as possible.

Want to blame someone for the disengagement and contempt politics are held in? Start in Parliament with the baying morons who consider themselves above the law.

Robin Lustig said...

A reply to "Unknown" & "Brambo": I no longer work for the BBC, therefore the hand that I'm not biting no longer feeds me. And as I was freelance for nearly all the time I worked there, any pension I may have is certainly not padded. And numpty I may be, but, just for the record, not a privately-educated one.

Anonymous said...

A quick glance at Facebook shows Brand's message has a great deal of resonance. It's quite simple : the distribution of wealth is grotesquely unfair and the environment is going to hell in a hand-cart. So, there needs to be change. Most people, if not Mr Lustig, seem to recognise that.

Anonymous said...

Total tripe.

Unknown said...

By the same logic - John Lennon was a Womble, Bill Hicks & George Carlin were just comedians and Band Aid was just a concert.

What a snobby lot of tosh. Yep - Brand speaks about a world that sounds like a it's from long time ago in a galaxy far, far away - but it also sounds better, fairer and more humane than the one we live in today ... and far more appealing than the one that we are heading towards.

I am a strong believer in that people (particularly the disgruntled) should vote - and I remain a strong believer that people (particularly the disgruntled) should vote - as the consequences of not voting will bring a Conservative government ... and this would be horrific. The Tories simply would not care if only 5% of a nation voted - if it meant they were in power ... they would be just as unfair, just as brutal and possibly even more as hateful.

Though - the ideology and attack of Brand's argument is one that you cannot dismiss. The way the world is run is wrong and becoming more wrong almost daily now. The status quo is going to have to change drastically or a revolution will come ... it is just a question of time.

Isn't it important - that people of influence should challenge those who govern us? Musicians, comedians, writers, poets, you and I all have that responsibility to do this - otherwise our music will be made up of X-Factor contestants and our comedians will be as meaningless as James Corden, Michael fucking McIntyre, Lee Mack, Jason Manford, Russell Kane and Miranda Hart.

Brand is an incredibly intelligent and passionate soul - who appeals (not brainwashes) to other intelligent and passionate souls.

He is neither daft nor dangerous ... and far more worth listening to than David Starkey.

Anonymous said...

"Down with the man" ? This is the first time I ever heard that !

Anonymous said...

Comments from the heart of Chatham House indeed. I would be more interested in hearing about an "insider" view of the institutions you have worked for rather than dismissing a free thinking individual. It is the responsibility of Journalists to challenge authority and established thought. Lets see some Robin. RB has shown that it is safe to do so.

Matt said...

>the rational reaction to that is not apathy, but to find candidates -- or become a candidate -- in whom one is more prepared to have faith.

You can't rebut his argument by simply repeating the point he is himself rebutting. Paxman asked him this question directly and he replied.

You should engage with that reply!

Paul said...

And Mr Lustig's only response to the fairly lengthy list of detractors so far? Nothing more than a piece of pedantic nit-picking about his employment status. Perhaps if your piece was more than a littany of ad hominem attacks littered with the odd straw man fallacy you might garner some measure of respect for your views. As it is you have little to offer in response to Brand's (admittedly sparsely detailed, but nevertheless, heartfelt) call to arms other than another dose of "never mind sonny, go away and play and leave the nig people to sort everything out". Quite pathetic.

msrajjc2 said...

Great post, articulated some of my thoughts on the subject better than I could have hoped to. I think this faux-outrage expressed by Brand and people of a younger generation in general is symptomatic of the fact that, for a lot of them, life hasn't turned out to be as good as they hoped. They want to blame somebody and naturally they point the finger at those who are better off, those with power. Invariably the people I know who talk about having a 'revolution' (while managing to keep a straight face) are those that underachieved at school, university, or where ever, and now they're facing the consequences - and they don't like them. Instead of thinking it might have something to do with them, they blame the 'elites' for their problems. Much like Brand blames poverty for driving people to drugs. Only problem with that theory is that everyone in poverty is not addicted to drugs, so there must be another factor involved. Anyway, much as I think Brand is talking shite, he certainly has struck a cord, which is distressing. I think those that admire him see themselves in him: grossly uninformed but extremely opinionated. I don't deny that some people are disenchanted and fed up, but Russell Brand won't do anything about it. Change is possible, but only with hard work. And that's the problem I think, hard work isn't fun or glamourous, it's boring; a revolution on the other hand, now that sounds exciting...

Robin Lustig said...

Perhaps I didn't make myself clear: my main objection to Brand's article is his insistence that there's absolutely no point in voting. I gave some examples to show why I disagree. I regard a call to apathy as daft and dangerous. Do you disagree?

Dave Cohen said...

True the piece is rambling, and lacks the coherence of certainty, but that's part of the point.

You have either misread his definition of apathy, or are being disingenuous in your selective quoting of it. If there is one clear point in the piece, it is that apathy serves the status quo and is no solution.

While I disagree with his mantra that you shouldn't vote, I understand why he's saying it in the context of the wider point: that, compared to the destruction of our planet, it makes no difference. I'd say he's wrong, but to answer your own point, how can people on the streets of Egypt hope to gain anything if there is no world left for us to gain in?

Anonymous said...

Should I even respond here? A response gives traction and more publicity...should I even care about this guy?

I think there is a flaw in some of your argument Sir. Using the vote to explain the South Africa "transition" is not quite right. I won't even touch on Egypt as that is for the "experts".

There are generations who are yet to vote that have seen first hand what misplaced intentions can cause. I speak of places like Kenya where until 2007/8 was a relatively peaceful country. One has to acknowledge that it will be a challenge to get that boy or girl who lost his parent[s] to exercise that democratic right as a noble and worthy cause.

We cannot hide from the fact that there is a large section of society that is apathetic if not disinterested in politics. I remember watching a Saturday game show hosted on BBC by Gabby Logan where a celebrity (I think it was Greg Rutherford but stand to be corrected) was asked how many constituencies there are in the UK and he came up with a number in the tens.

The point here is that as much as we would like to jump in with both feet and criticize X and lampoon Y, there is a much bigger issue here that will need to be addressed.

Chris said...

The corrupt shambles that is the post-Mandela ANC surely adds further credence to Mr Brand's argument.

Anonymous said...

The analogy with the Hippies of the 1960's may be appropriate.

A key difference is the genuine and warranted disaffection among responsible adults today.

An action-oriented leader could produce much (perhaps way too much) change.

Anonymous said...

Come on, Mr Lustig - is this really the best you can do, picking out some of Brand's more self-deprecating and entertaining comments about himself, out of context, as evidence he is 'dangerous'? What I find dangerous is your own willingness to toe the line and your complicity, unwitting or otherwise, with those criminals in power. What gives you the right to comment any more than Brand, given your standpoint? Clearly, like so many who have manifestly failed to challenge anyone on the issues that really matter, you are rattled by this man.

Anonymous said...

Slightly interested in your comment about the black south africans voting for Nelson Mandel, did they also vote for democracy or was it achieved by other means.

Anonymous said...

He never suggested people should be more 'apathetic' (that's a straw man). If you take the Occupy Movement for example, there isn't a single politcal party that begins to reflect their views, yet they're prepared to sleep out and risk arrest in the name of highlighting economic injustice. This isn't 'apathy'. In fact they're far more engaged than those who turn up once every five years to vote. And their message resonates because people increasingly feel that mainstream politics is designed to protect the interests of the rich - the corporations, those who fund the politicians and own the corporate media. In the age of the internet and social media, people are beginning to see through this.

Anonymous said...

Billy Conn0lly once said (in a skit), "don't vote, it only encourages the bastards", living in Australia, I have a choice to not vote and accept a fine or attend the polling booth, have my name scratched off a list to show I 'voted'.
In recent years I have felt my vote meant nothing, seeing politician standards declining until now we have a so-called Prime Minister who is breaking international law and proudly flaunting his ignorance. Apathy? no, what I feel is contempt. Why should I give the best of myself to a country that is backwards? So yes, I feel I don't need to vote, this country isn't good enough for me to care to vote.
What Russell Brand said, that was missed, - he admitted he didn't have THE answer but will gladly support a person who does have a vision. For such a braggart, he showed humility, he doesn't know but he does know this system NEEDS changing and he will gladly follow a person with a true direction... AT least he is honest in his admission, instead of so-called 'leaders' who only have a clue to follow the money and no apparent desire to serve the majority of the people, the people who stupidly vote that person into office so they can line their pockets at tax payers expense AND that is all they DO!
yes, RB is brash and brazen but he is at least sincere. Yes he mocks that which he believes deserves mocking but he is genuine in those attributes he respects.
He is human and does not have ALL the answers and admits that, unlike the tax stealers citizens are forced to follow .. voting doesn't work in a system that is not democratic even when it claims to be. The only country that is close to a democracy is Sweden, the rest of us have Oligarchies.
What we need are communities that discuss and work together for the betterment of all, true discussion with free-flowing ideas being examined for advantages and disadvantages and then putting those into practice if they pass the test. People need to feel they belong and have a say in their communities and I don't think we do in this system. More people are becoming isolated from their neighbours, community and councils. We need to get out of our houses, stop being scared and start discussing.

tad bit feisty said...

I only came here through a link on a web message board that said this was a good rebuttal of what Brand said.
Oh dear! It could hardly have done a better job in confirming that voting is a waste of time for young people because the world of politics cares not a jot for their concerns. This was most clearly demonstrated to me when my son (17) and daughter (16) were arguing with their grandfather (80) about the merits of AV ... Only one of them had the vote as to how elections were to be decided for the foreseeable future. Same with the tuition fee increase ... Specifically, only those who wouldn't be directly affected had a vote, although the LibDems ultimately made that a moot point.
Apathy may not be the answer but it IS the logical reaction.

Anonymous said...

New paradigms needed - in today's world we have the tools for everyone to participate in a true democracy for the benefit of all. The current systems are ripe for collapse. The call for an abstention of voting in an unrepresentative and poorly functioning system is long overdue, 'tis one that works for only a few

Anonymous said...

You're right Robin that his message is dangerous, but your comment that his conclusions are too simple could also be said about your views on Obamacare and the minimum wage. They are not the rosy solutions you might think they are but lead to more public debt and a worse economy.

Rory said...

I am a 41yr old Brit. I have been left-wing all my life - until the last election that is, where I voted Liberal as a protest vote. I did not wish to see Gordon Brown continue with policies closer to the Tories and compound Blair's (what I saw as) non-socialist, right-wing mess.

So tell me please, as I do want to vote, who should I vote for? Who right now truly represents the socialist view? And more importantly who could I vote for that could implement real change?

There's no-one. No-one to vote for. The Tories, Lib Dems and Labour all look the same. Interchangeable policies which may or may not be implemented once they're in power.

This, for me, is why Brand's words have relevance to our younger generation and the political environment as it stands.

Twominuteplank said...

Ed Asner is a man of principles, who basically sacrificed his career in order to vocally side with exploited workers, oppressed peasants, and victims of Reagan's violent foreign policy.

Brand is , as so accurately described in this article, another wordy, empty celebrity who can afford to say much and do nothing from the comfort of his mansion(s).

Anonymous said...

Rory, there are more than three parties.

Anonymous said...

"What Brand says is not only daft but dangerous." Brand clearly states that he is not apathetic but that he does not vote for quite the opposite that he doesn't believe in the current political system.

"The core of his message is" mis-interpretation of the message, his message is one that has been stated many times before, that our political system doesn't benefit the whole of society, but a small section wishing to preserve their power and that something must be done about redressing the balance, this being revolution.

"Voting doesn't change anything?" Those millions of americans that now have to pay more for Obamacare than the cheapest insurance policies that were in place already, which have now been disposed of? That vote got them more of the same. Puppets in place, we all know that they are in the pockets of the 1% who in fact own all of the "public" amenities.

"Tell all those tens of thousands of British workers on the minimum wage" whoops again this is assuming that the current political system is working, it's not because the minimum wage isn't a living wage, in fact how about expanding your mind a little further than the capitalist model?

"Tell the millions of black South Africans" might give you that one?

"Apathy is cowardice." Apathy is not feeling able to participate in a system due to being let down by it, in areas such as education and force fed opinions from the media.

"I wonder if he's noticed what's happening in Egypt, or Tunisia, or Libya" Oh yes Libya that country that was destroyed by the elitists because Ghadaffi was about to set up an African trading system that didn't rely on the dollar but gold, ah yes that one.

"In a hilarious, but also deeply depressing, interview" He offers revolution as an alternative, anyway it's a short interview and as he stated many people have already offered solutions to the problem, but think about this, the first step to solving a problem, is admitting that we have one.

Anonymous said...

Although he clearly has a flair for the theatrical, I have found myself agreeing with Russell Brand throughout his career and remember this program he made while I was a student at Leeds. He has not really shifted his position throughout the years and I'm glad that he is using his position of popularity (or infamy) to start a debate. I'm not remotely worried about the idea that no one will vote, because people are more than capable of making their own mind up.

Anonymous said...

What a great discussion. Haven't read Brand's comments, not a fan of him either. But I would agree that we have increasing social instability. This is partly caused by changes in society happening too fast - there is a disconnect between cultures - there always have been but not to the current extent - generations, immigrants, religions, morals, wealth... And media is becoming more important just as it is fragmenting, many are feeling alienated from the dwindling mass media. Access to production and reception of media is booming like a mutant virus, with similarly unpredictable consequences - the Arab Spring won't be the last.

The other big driver is economic. It would not take too much of a jolt to create some real mass hardship - a rise in interest rate would be the obvious one.

Other potential jolts are pandemic, biological and terror/war dangers that could strike more suddenly now than ever before. What would the effect of a dirty bomb in London be on our economy? Or of another Spanish flu killing 10% of the world's population? These dangers aren't going away.

These all add up to an increasing sense of uncertainty from those in the firing line, isolation from the comfortable (mainly the rich?), numbness from those working 16 hour days and still not making ends meet and from those never working and not making ends meet.

It all adds up to a dangerous cocktail. The UK doesn't do revolution very well, (no like Greece, Le Pen, Arab Spring) but we do have UKIP. And even stoic Germany lost it after huge hardship when presented with an extraordinarily talented politician who they voted for in droves (A Hitler) - they don't happen often, but don't ignore the power of a democratic revolution.

I sympathise very greatly for those that want a revolution and, not believing that could ever come from the ballot box, long for any sort of radical change. In most cultures, in most of history, the likes of Blair, Brown and a few dozen bankers would have swung or lost their heads (I mean literally) for what they inflicted on this country. But nothing has happened - in fact they are richer than ever and that grates, badly, with most people. Perceived lack of justice is a huge driver in revolution - the USA, France, Russia, China, Germany, Arab Spring - and I sense that many, many people are seething with anger in the UK at what they see as injustice upon injustice. In fact many of these tortured souls disagree with each other - the uniting factor is the anger and desire for change. But there is no coherent ideology beyond 'change'. If Marxism hadn't been so discredited by the fall of the (non-Marxist) east, that might provide an ideology. In fact, there is a good case for saying that Marx got it right - we are nearing the end of the utility of the free market phase and revolution could bring a stable redistribution of wealth and means of production. I'm not a Marxist, but it would be naive to completely disregard his prophecies on socio-economic development.

Well, sorry for rambling. I enjoyed reading the article and all the comments, great stuff. A little scary, but maybe our smug, cretinous, dishonest ruling elite need a little scare.

Unknown said...

Is the political class failing us? Yes.
Is Brand expressing the views of a disillusioned generation? Yes.
Is he very good at remembering clever words? Yes.
But because he fails to offer any potentially effective alternative (think it through properly RB, before you get “too busy” editing magazines) he’s giving people the excuse to say “not my fault…nothing I can do….see? I’m a victim.” And that’s dangerous, as Robin Lustig correctly identifies.
“If liberty and equality, as is thought by some are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.” And that from a man who preceeded the BBC and it’s “Auntie-compliant lid” by more than 2000 years.

Chris Gelken said...

Declining to use your ballot can, as Brand suggests, be a conscious political decision. But it is an empty gesture. Nobody will know whether you are making a grand political statement, or simply can't be bothered to get out of bed. Spoiling your ballot, however, sends a very clear message.

Anonymous said...

In a thoroughly predictable move, Mr. Brand's reflection of the feelings of disenfranchised youth in the face of a future that has been handed lock stock and barrel to these economic elites is to blame the messenger. This simply will not do.

Anonymous said...

A very shallow and short-sighted post. Would have expected more from someone with worldly experience.

Just because someone is able to clearly highlight the problems with a situation, it does not make them an expert on how to rework them. Small steps Mr.

Anonymous said...

Voter turnout across all age groups is in decline. Centralised systems of governance, criminal justice and the London-centric fourth estate are percieved as rotten by those disenfranchised by their millionaire 'representatives', selectively unaccountable 'law' enforcers and judgemental scribes. Brand is merely voicing the disconnect people are feeling rather than leading the charge.

The Power report 2006 offered a whole chapter about the myth of apathy, people often do want to be involved in politics but the (representative lol) system needs substantial change to 'allow' this. For instance change is needed to the voting system itself which was scandalously put to the electorate in the form of AV and disintergrated into rude, elite bullying and name calling. Yeah cheers for that Gov+Media it was very gratifying to see...not.

Furthermore on three occasions during the interview Brand does offer alternatives in the form of social egalitarian and environmental solutions. Why is recognition of this so absent in people's understanding/recollection? Society needs reframing drastically if we are to survive what the IPCC report on climate change suggests is going to happen in the next thirty years. As the current crop of politicians are business as usual they really are not fit for purpose. Why vote for ecocide? No ta

Ghost Dog said...

Brand calls for a revolution. That's well and good. But who's going to do that revolution? Brand will be in Hollywood by the time and he's not suggested any positive action to be taken.

Mostly what's happening now is that people are "liking" this video on their Facebook accounts, marvelling at the rhetoric and agreeing with the message, then going on to "like" something else, like a new born panda in China. Revolution?

Ghost Dog

Anonymous said...

A lot of these "comments" confirm the suspicion I felt while reading Russell Brand. He is trying to be a cult leader rather than a real political contributor.

You can see the kind of debate we can expect from that stance by reading many of the comments. Admire Brand's anger and his desire for change but question his naivety. Is he an anarchist revolutionary, what?

That is my problem - the only thing he really offers is his celebrity. That power means he is heard. There are very many people with more coherent arguments and equally strong views.

I don't think Mr Lustig has missed the point one bit. Calling for an end to democratic protest and representation - which is really what is being called for - leads to entirely the opposite outcome of the stated goal.

What I see in many peoples answers is more "stars in their eyes" than actual consideration of what is being discussed.

Unknown said...

I think the important part of Brands argument that has been overlooked is that he is saying there is no alternative to the current system worth voting for.

I am sure he would vote if there was an alternative. I hope we can create that alternative.

Eva said...

As a Spanish woman who lived under Franco's rule and witnessed the Spanish transition to democracy, I saw how the democratic system can change a society for the better, to make it more just for everybody. Sometimes I feel that here in the UK, democracy is taken for granted and not value enough. Robin Lustig made a great point, if you do not like the system, get involved in order to change it. That is what you can do in a democratic system and we should never forget that.

Web design Leicester said...

You didn't listen to what he said instead, he said other people who DO have alternative solutions should be listened to. Besides you're part of the BBC a station which has groomed a nation in to false ideas of what Britain is about. You'd do well to change your URL to, you're part of the problem.

easytobecomplacent said...

I guess we really do see things as we are, not as they are. I found Brand's message quite empowering and not self-victimising at all. What he was suggesting to me was that out of this mire will emerge a credible alternative but not until we have collectively expressed our absolute disgust with the current paradigm, thesis, antithesis, synthesis. It would behoove you to wake up and smell the roses, sir.

Anonymous said...

old failed hippy knocks new young hippy.. pah! you sound like the majority of lecturers in our universities these day, failed, bitter and complicit. Part of the problem not part of the solution. Brand is starting a debate, he doesnt have the answers (and he doesn't have to, he's comedian) but at least he's unafraid to engage, all you old farts do is point fingers and pick holes, arn't you one of the people who should be coming up with ideas not denigrating them? but then youre just part of the establishment wth a vested interest, lazy, negative and devoid of any originality, in short, afraid. I dont see any alternatives in this piece.. other than 'I'm a lazy old shit with no ideas so lets just keep the status quo shall we.' It would piss you off no end for someone to succeed where your generation so completely failed, to raise real awareness, YOU and all your 60s chums sold us down the river, too busy trying to cop an easy fuck and score some blow, well youre going to come upon a generation that have had all the drugs, and some of the money and realised that non of it works so what now? better start thinking old man.

Gary said...

you wrote

"If he really wanted to encourage the development of a genuinely revolutionary movement, he would start organising one."

your whole commentary is testament to the fact Russell Brand is as you say "making waves", what better way to start a revolution of 'thought' than to enter the youth's conciousness, maybe you sir do not understand how a revolution begins.

JockHigh said...

Mr Lustig

Regarding your comment

"If he really wanted to encourage the development of a genuinely revolutionary movement, he would start organising one. He would knuckle down to do really, really boring things, like handing out leaflets on street corners, lanching petitions, holding meetings, just like the early trades unionists and labour activists he professes to admire so much.

Isn't it a bit early to be accusing Brand of not doing this when he's only just articulated his call to arms, to legs and the bits inbetween?

The ides that social & political change is achieved by standing on street corners handing out leaflets may very well have been the way to do it back in the days of the formation of unions and labour movements. However, I have to tell you that these days there are more cost and time effective ways of getting your message across to lots of people. The internet, TV appearances, editing a magazine - those sort of things.

Unknown said...

I was composing a response when I came across this, sums up my feelings exactly

Anonymous said...

You missed the point of what he's saying, obviously.

To not vote is still a choice.
If someone told you that you need to pick between two piles of crap to eat and your response is I don't eat crap...should you still pick one to eat? NO.

He's just telling it like it really is in the world...not what CNN and FOX are feeding you.

Have a nice day everyone. :)

Anonymous said...

The author seems to be very naive and narrow minded. Does he think everyone must have a solution before speaking out about inequalities and calling for change? So no criticising the energy companies, unless you've invented a renewable energy source?

And why would anyone who has huge media coverage suddenly decide that handing someone a leaflet would be a more effective way of communicating to the population? He does have meetings though, and thousands of people pay to go to them.

Unknown said...

I think the defense that "Democracy" still works, just look at the Affordable Care Act is just laughable. I don't say that with an opinion on whether the ACA is good or bad, but rather on the realistic knowledge that what is written into our law, is NEVER reviewed by the public before it is passed, and rarely, does public feedback influence legislation in any serious way. Even if 99% of Americans felt that Marijuana shouldn't be a Schedule I drug, and rather a Schedule II drug, that doesn't change the fact that our Government doesn't agree with that. And potentially the Supreme Court will even get engaged to inform all of us in a "Democracy" that even if we want campaign finance reform, the Constitution doesn't allow for that. Supreme Court and our Senate have no desire for the "will" of the people" and were put in there reason. Mr. Brand is pointing out that in a world where we vote for who is a celebrity on TV instantaneously, our political system is designed to keep any interference of it out and at healthy arms length. We are becoming less democratic every year. And if we become too anti-democratic, the NSA is there to spy on us.

Anonymous said...

Mr Lustig, I am somebody who spoils their ballot. I do so because my conscience won't allow me to vote for the labour party, whom I view as liars, war-apologists and crony-capitalists. It goes without saying that the conservatives have never attracted my vote.

With the utmost respect for democracy, I always submit a ballot, but I cannot vote for any of the crooks on the card. Am I wrong to spoil it? Would you recommend I vote for the least evil representative? Is democracy well served by the choices offered to UK voters? Can you suggest a morally sound course of action for those of us who do not feel represented by the government but have neither the funds nor the education to effect change by becoming a minister? For most of us it is, after all, a little late to attend Eton.

JVK said...

No, I'm sure Russell would vote, given the chance, for a party whose members were not self-serving liars controlled by lobbyists and plutocrats. Maybe the Greens, or are they no different.

Franjangle said...

Denigrate Brand all you want, comparing his celebrity commentary against all the successful and failed political systems, theories and movements, with followers and none all down the centuries. The difference this time is that we really have buggered up our one and only planet . As Brand points out. This is crucial. No commentator has put the problem so succinctly for me - an ageing survivor of the hopeful sixties. No answers but at least he's publicly distilled the problems, maybe 3 in total, and spelled them out loudly enough to make everyone pause. We haven't many straws to grab, let this interview provide one. THINK everyone.

Martin A. Egan said...

I totally disagree that apathy is cowardice and you as a supposedly informed and responsible Journalist should be ashamed of yourself. Apathy in my experience is despair. It boils down to "Whats the bloody use" I am one of the Hippies you dismissed as having and creating nice comfy slogans. Where did we learn about the Corporate Entities that now control the world. From the people that started them. All the Major Bands that became billionaires off the back of the very same class of people you so blitely dismiss. The very medium I am using to write this grew out of the longhaired hippie movement via the Whole Earth Catalogue and Strwart Brand etc and you if you are in any way in touch with current affairs know very well. The results of Voting for thieves and practitioners of Conservative right wing partes and the Lefties that now ape them in every way possible is that there is nowhere left for true innovation to express itself in a menaingful way. Solar Panels were invented by a couple of hippies that got fed up with lousy service and astronomical power Bills and also as a reaction to Nuclear Power. Obviously you were too busy with Politics to experience any of this and to document and maybe even laud it. An afternoon in the Library would have told u most of this. I like Russell Brand for the simple reason that he is not trying to use the same worn out old insults you are and most importantly of all. He's not frightened. I have seen despair take too many of my friends and relatives by their own hands over the last 10 years to accept that Brands slightly misguided use of Gandhi's principle of Ahimsa is worthy of your nice cosy middle class insults. Action through Inaction is as valid a way of bringing down a priveleged minority vusily draining every ounce of hope out of people who are too pressurised and frightened to do anything about it. M

Richard Lloyd said...

A good article, but perhaps over-rating Brand's influence.

I don't imagine large numbers of people are going to start meditating as a result of his New Statesman article.

Equally, maybe a very few people will change their mind and decide not to vote in 2015 because of Brand's appearance on Newsnight.

While the political parties are wedded to a neo-liberal free market economic belief system that doesn't work for ordinary people, pitch their appeal to hard-working middle-class families in the south-east and implement policy to order for multi-national companies it's hard to see why anyone turns out to vote for them.

I'm unemployed. Where's the political party promising to treat me with some dignity? Why should I vote for anyone who routinely rhetorically attacks me promising to get tough on scroungers on benefits?

There is a real disconnect between the political class, educated in a few public schools followed by Oxbridge, and the ordinary, everyday citizen.

Brand has - in his very long-winded and somewhat irritating way - articulated this. He has no solutions or political programme to offer. But then the people who do don't get interviewed on Newsnight or get to edit New Statesman.

Unknown said...

It is not a call to apathy, but a call to be apathetic to a system of governance that doesn't have inherent value to its voters so that you can focus your energies on doing on a real close-to-home solution to the situation instead of electing someone to be a solver. He is being the change he wants to see and he is promoting that example. "Be the change you want to see in your life and the world."

Anonymous said...

Brant may be a clown, but he is speaking the language of his generation, a language young people can relate too and can, hopefully, be inspired by. You sir remind me of some old army colonel who wants to give me the cane for being a bad boy in class. Your reply will only appeal to the fusty old buggers already in power and they will soon be dead or too old to care.

corneilius said...

Attack the man, avoid the discourse.

1. Voting for people who, once in positions of Power, act in the interests of Power is not democracy.

2. Democracy if it is to be fully realised requires that citizens have a direct and active role in those decision making processes that affect their lives. This has been rejected by the Political Classes out of hand.

3. The Power Inquiry of 2006 addressed this very issue in some detail, and it's findings revealed that many, many more people were, and are engaged in community and voluntary work that has an effect BECAUSE the of futility of voting under the current system. That is not apathy. That is working around an adverse situation to bring benefit to their communities.

David Cameron called the Power Inquiry 'impractical'.

Then he and his advisors, recognising the threat implicit in the Power Inquiry Report, sought to undermine the voluntary and community action, by defunding it and by privatising aspects of it. Had Labour been in Power, they would have done pretty much the same. None of the parties in power had much concern for the people of Iraq,much less the most vulnerable in the UK.

4. The sheer frustration of activists who have access to information that can be checked, tested and verified and to which Power, if it was being exercised for the peoples benefit, SHOULD respond with appropriate action, yet does not, is huge.

5. So write about actions that can have an effect, rather than criticise a public face who makes commentary.

For example, WHY is Tony Blair a free man? He is a War Criminal.

His actions broke 6 international treaties, including the Kellog Briand Pact of 1928 which was the basis of the Nuremburg Trials.

The same applies to the NATO bombing of Libya, which he supported fully and would also have applied had Cameron succeeded in his attempts to garner support for the bombing of Syria.

7. Young people SEE what is happening, and wonder why their elders are so ineffective, so feeble, in the face of avoidable calamities.

Unknown said...

I am but one individual American that is being forced to purchase a product, (ObamaCare health Insurance), that I cannot afford and do not want. You make it sound so wonderful. It is not as wonderful as you and the rest of your Liberal, Elite, Progressive, defenders of the established, corrupt corporations that own ALL politicians of both parties, make it out to be. ObamaCare is a complete snow job. It has nothing to do with providing affordable care for those who want it. It is all about forcing everyone to purchase it so that the GREEDY Insurance industry makes more money. It is a GRAND ILLUSION! I admire Russell Brand for making this bold step. I just discovered him on a Facebook posting several days ago and watched his interview. He is right on, hitting the nail on the head... We are led to believe that individual voting in America makes a difference. This is another complete illusion. Who better to point out the truth behind the curtains, smoke and mirrors than someone like Russell. The mainstream press has lost that drive and motivation for exposing the trickery. The ones that still have it are being pressed by the corporations and leaders like President Obama and his administration and the armed agents under them that are making investigative journalism a crime in America.

Joanie Reid said...

He dumped his wife by text message...
Apathy, perhaps?

John White said...

Ah, too see not voting as having no value is understandable but unimaginative. Assuming we buy into the notion democracy represents the people in a real sense, then those who represent us do so with our consent... otherwise what they decide and enact would be dictatorship... consent... consent... there is the power, the fountain, from which the legitamacy of democracy springs... now to not vote as part of not doing anything, that is taken as a tacit "dont mind whatever".... but of the majority (and yes, it is a majority) who do not vote organsised together and declared "we have reclaimed our consent and NONE of you can stand for us"... well then... at that point, no lawful government can be formed, until such time as one could be formed that DID have consent. This could be used to completely rebuild the entire dfemocratic system.. RECLAIM CONSENT... god help the cosyness of your world Mr Lustig if Brand got hold of an idea like that....

Anonymous said...

Russel Brand may have sounded trivial in that interview with Paxman, his call for electoral aparty is a dangerous proposition- especially in a world filled with copycats.

corneilius said...

If we use the Russell Brand story to discuss and explore the issues, rather than talk about Brand, we have a better chance of changing things...

None of us KNOW anything about him other than his media career, and the issue here is he is saying things we know are basically true on a public funded forum that refuses to admit those truths.

So the issue is what we need to discussing.

And that issue is HOW, in practical terms, can we shift Power from a Centralised Executive to the grass roots?

Do you have any practical suggestions on this, or insights? And would you like to share them?

Thulasy L said...

The backlash against Brands essay was predictable and is perfectly represented by this post. Of course people are taken aback by Brand’s insistence that voting is useless. Voting is the sacred ritual of any democracy, and to claim otherwise is tantamount to treason. But this is exactly Brand’s point; he’s calling for revolution, not piece-meal reform.

Herein lies the division in opinion. As your post asserts, it is better to have a flawed Obamacare program and a disgracefully inadequate minimum wage in the UK than to have neither at all. Our democracy is not perfect, says the well-meaning liberal, but the only way it’s going to get better is if we all vote.

This is where the revolutionary nods in gleeful agreement with Brand. The point is not improvement; it is principle. In the mind of revolutionaries, it’s actually better to have no health care or minimum wage at all than to have them be co-opted by political or corporate interests.

And so the age-old debate goes back and forth between the reformers and the revolutionaries. But there is a third more disquieting group, and they also agree with Brand. They read what he says and see no discord with reality, for they are the ones that are reaping great rewards from the way things currently work. They are grateful for people like Brand, because the truth in their impassioned arguments is discredited by their seemingly radical nature (and in Brand’s case, his oft times questionable tangents). They are also grateful to the well-meaning liberals for applying the label “daft and dangerous” all too readily. So while any discussion about change is caught up in an unproductive he-said-she-said, those who benefit greatly from the status quo just get on with it.

Our job is not to agree or disagree on Brand’s point about voting; it’s to engage in the uncomfortable discourse that precedes real change. “Art tells many people it’s OK to think and feel unpopular things,” says Rob Shetterly. Brand, the artist, is simply playing his role in this process.

Nick said...

Ad hominem attack piece that fails to address the real subject, why is there so much political apathy amongst young people?
Yes Brand's political diatribe was vague, but I think its a valuable conversation if it stimulates some thought, and inspires some debate! Bravo Brand for having the courage to voice an opinion! Brand may not vote, but that doesn't mean he isn't proactively engaged in making a difference. I am afraid that Lustig's article completely misses the point! Brand doesn't stand for nothing. He is advocating for direct action, and taking responsibility for grassroots change, as a means for subverting political power hierarchies that consciously marginalise the kinds of social and environmental movements that he seems to have a growing interest in. His apathy is reserved for political institutions which he feels are incapable of effecting the kinds of changes he is calling for, and does not extend to his own ability to initiate change outside of the political system. I think Brand has something valuable to offer. His documentary on drug abuse and abstinence based recovery is worth a look. Keep up the good work Russell! And most importantly, keep laughing!

Mondo said...

Amen to that. Brand is a Pied Piper without any tunes.. Full of puff, but lacking focus or foresight.

As Johnny Rotten once said of George Bush 'a good heart and an empty head don't make for good leadership'

corneilius said...

"Trying to make sense of the world"

Robert, you must go beyond trying and engage in a critical analysis, and using the data, describe the world as it is, to understand it..

To 'make sense' implies sense within the narrow boundaries of your personal ideological stance. It's something you are making up.

Our children, and their children to come deserve more effort more than you are currently offering.

Bob Thomas said...

Brand is not entirely right when he says voting changes nothing. A vote for any of the mainstream political parties is a vote for the continuation of capitalism. Brand has seen that society needs a complete change, a revolution that will overthrow capitalism. The Socialist Party of Great Britain advocate using the democratic process as a gauge of support for revolution, and to prevent the suppression of revolution by state forces (