Russell Brand is right about one thing: he is a twerp.

6 November 2013

Oh for the love of God, he’s back. Russell Brand, Britain’s sophomoric revolutionary-in-chief, has written another call-to-something. At least this one is shorter than his previous manifesto. Alas it makes no more sense. What is interesting about Brand is not novel and what is novel is not interesting.

Tom Chivers is right to note that:

But those of you who are bothered, the Russell Brands and Occupy Wherevers of the world, don’t pretend that the political system doesn’t offer anything for you. It does. It offers lots and lots of things. The trouble is, most people don’t want it. Almost every time someone says “mainstream politics isn’t giving the people what they want”, what they actually mean is “mainstream politics isn’t giving me what I want, so we need a different system which does”. And the sound of rattles being hurled was heard throughout the land.

Brand wants to be taken seriously. Which is fine. But the difficulty is that his views are profoundly unserious. He lambasts politicians as crooks and liars in the pocket of Wall Street and the City of London. He complains that they’re all just the same and that there’s no difference between any of the rival political parties. It doesn’t matter who wins elections, nothing changes. And, anyway, they don’t or won’t or can’t address any of the real problems, can they?

Russell Brand hates politics and politicians but is oddly blind to the fact that the problems he spies can only be solved by politics and politicians. All the shouty tosspottery about revolution can’t change that.

Not that Brand is interested in hearing what his critics might have to say. His mind, which pretends to be open to creative solutions, is closed. His critics, you see, “have a vested interest in the maintenance of the system”.

Well, perhaps we do. All things being equal, I’m quite keen to keep liberal democracy going. It’s had a pretty good run and there may be life in the old girl yet.  If there’s something worth being vested in, the peaceful prosperity that’s been among liberal democracy’s greatest virtues seems something worth hanging onto. But, hey, I guess that just makes me another dupe of the shady, globalised, financial elite.

Brand might be more convincing if he was capable of being at least a little more honest. With himself, I mean. He writes:

I don’t hate anyone, I judge no one, that’s not my job, I’m a comedian and my job is to say whatever I like to whoever I want if I’m prepared to take the consequences.

So, all this talk about lying politicians and corporate shills and everything else about the way politics is done in this country is just a joke not to be taken seriously? So why waste everyone’s time with it if it’s just a sillyness, a bit of fun, a laugh? Hey: look at me! But, hey, don’t think I’m harshing on anyone, don’t make the mistake of thinking I’m judging anyone! That would be uncool.

Claim your gift

Except, actually, why won’t anyone listenYou see:

As long as the priorities of those in government remain the interests of big business, rather than the people they were elected to serve, the impact of voting is negligible and it is our responsibility to be more active if we want real change.

[…] The only reason to vote is if the vote represents power or change. I don’t think it does. I fervently believe that we deserve more from our democratic system than the few derisory tit-bits tossed from the carousel of the mighty, when they hop a few inches left or right. The lazily duplicitous servants of The City expect us to gratefully participate in what amounts to little more than a political hokey cokey where every four years we get to choose what colour tie the liar who leads us wears

[…] The reason not voting could be effective is that if we starve them of our consent we could force them to acknowledge that they operate on behalf of The City and Wall Street; that the financing of political parties and lobbying is where the true influence lies; not in the ballot box.

[…] I realised then that our treasured concepts of tribe and nation are not valued by those who govern except when it is to divide us from each other. They don’t believe in Britain or America they believe in the dollar and the pound.

[…] The people that govern us don’t want an active population who are politically engaged, they want passive consumers distracted by the spectacle of which I accept I am a part.

This is tinfoil-helmeted stuff. If I understand Brand (which, I concede, I may not), he doesn’t want you to vote and, blimey, the politicians don’t really want you to vote either. They’d rather you remained a “passive consumer” (whatever that is since it seems hard to be a consumer without making at least some choices).

But even if you do vote, you poor sap, you’re being conned. Because politics changes nothing. It’s not even supposed to change anything. Nothing matters! Because, hey, it’s only about serving the already rich and powerful.

Never mind that most of the world really has never had it so good. There is, of course, a long way to go. But that should not prevent us from appreciating what has been achieved. Millions of people across the developing world have been lifted out of absolute poverty. Disease has not yet been banished from the globe but astonishing progress has been made in tackling these matters. The average man on planet earth lives a life of length, comfort, security and prosperity greater than at any previous point in human history. The world really has become a better place.

Many things have contributed to this relative cheerfulness. Trade, obviously, but also, equally obviously, politics. Indeed the former is part of the latter.

Russell Brand either ignores this or simply takes it for granted. Of course inequality persists (how could it not?) and of course there remain many problems but, most of the time (and, certainly in the western world, in most places) these problems are less dreadful than those confronted, and in many instances, solved by past generations.

If we are experiencing a crisis of confidence – even of faith in democracy – this is at least partly, perhaps, because too many people share Russell Brand’s rancid, destructive, nihilism.

Like any ship, the ship of state sails best when it makes only modest corrections to its course. Violent upheaval or over-reaction retards the pace of progress. That’s not dramatic enough for Brand but that’s his problem, not the fault of politics.

Brand claims he’s interested in a debate of some sort. But he isn’t. Not really. Because it is impossible to have a debate with someone who refuses to grant the good faith of his opponents. Brand has delivered his judgement even before the evidence has been heard and the evidence, no matter how compelling, will not, cannot, change his opinion. In that sense, it does become a pointless discussion but this particular well has been poisoned by Russell Brand, not by his critics.

Take, for instance, his presumption that the only reason banks received a costly bail-out was to protect the interests of global fatcats. It may be that the financial system should have been left to collapse. It is possible that the bail-outs were mistaken. That’s a matter that may be debated.

But it is infantile – to put it kindly – to suppose that George W Bush, Gordon Brown and the leaders of every other western nation were solely motivated – all of them! – by their desire to do their financial benefactors a favour. It is ridiculous to presume that the interests of their peoples played no part in their decision-making process. And it is asinine to suppose that “the interests of those in government remain the interests of big business rather than the people they were elected to serve.”

Asinine because there is rarely any such clear divide. You need to live in a state of some startling ignorance to fail to see this. Consider, to take but one of a hundred recent examples, the brouhaha over the fate of the Grangemouth refinery. You might complain that elected officials failed to “stand up” to Ineos and that the company received an undeserved hand-out from the state but a fair or reasonable person might at least admit that doing whatever it took to keep Grangemouth open reflected at least some concern for the interests of the people who work their, some concern for the other companies that depend on the plant, some concern, in fact, for the interests of the people politicians were elected to serve.

Perhaps the politicians got it wrong. That, for the purposes of this argument, is beside the point. Brand, and those who agree with him, have no interest in the detail of any of this. They do not care whether good or bad decisions were made. They assume, without the scantest piece of supporting evidence, that no good or honest decisions can ever even be made. Nor can they recognise that choices often require making the best of an imperfect situation. The world is not always as we would wish it to be. But rather than recognise, far less accept, this it is better to throw a tantrum. Since not everything is the way I would wish it to be, everything must be rotten. This is pathetic.


Give the perfect gift this Christmas. Buy a subscription for a friend for just £75 and you’ll receive a free gift too. Buy now.

Show comments
  • Paul W. Pomplun

    This article is pretty terrible, Russel Brand might not have the solution but he clearly knows the problem…

  • Joseph James

    Brand is a comedian nothing more nothing less, the only thing equal to if not worse than comedians involving themselves with politics is when musicians come along and try their hand. What is most unfortunate is the amount of sway and influence the counter culture has and has had on the young. I agree with gerontius that while these types need to be put in their place the media should stop writing about them

  • George

    Alex, as long as you see things through the looking glass of Capitalism you will never understand what Brand is saying.’s out of your experience and I suppose it always will be.

    • mightymark

      Capitalism? Brand is loaded!

  • wakasam

    Brand’s usual standard, sub-6th form ranting

    • JEK68

      Exactly, its like a student who has just learnt about politics and think he knows more than he does.

  • AgeUke

    ‘we might do well, at least occasionally, to recall the usefulness of treating the man and the ball as separate concerns’.

    I see the author failed to heed his own words!

  • Suada

    Russel Brand, sticking it to ‘the Man’,×437/pa-5403210.jpg

  • Andrew Whitehead

    The choice of trundling along with our liberal democracy is no longer a viable one as the current system is leading us head first into environmental disaster. While it may be true that most of us in the West have ‘have never had it so good’ (although many predict that we are about to witness the first generation in american history that is less wealthy and less educated that their parents) an increasing proportion of us are being left behind. Labour is receiving an ever decreasing proportion of income and this effect is compounded by those at the top increasing their share relative to the rest, so in the words of The Economist ‘workers are getting a smaller morsel of a smaller slice of a slow-growing pie.’ The two factors of impending environmental disaster and ever increasing income inequality mean that a change to the system is unaviodable

  • arnoldo87

    Brand identifies correctly some of the causes of our current ills.
    What he needs to explain is the road map from his “revolution” to what he believes is a better system than we have now.
    Only then can we take him seriously.

    • Beth Swain

      Why leave it to Mr Brand to devise a road map? He has flagged up the problems and it’s up to the rest of us to find some solutions.

  • jazz606

    I find Brand pretty irritating, not least because I’m forced to concede that he is right about a lot of stuff, particularly politicians and bankers.

  • Appstar Financial

    article is mind blowing I read it and enjoyed. I always find this type of
    article to learn and gather knowledge.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Don`t dignify these Mickey Mouse elections by voting. Elections are simply to counter, “No taxation without representation”. I`d happily relinquish the privilege of voting if I didn`t have to pay tax. Because it doesn`t matter how you use your vote, it won`t make a blind bit of difference. It`s all a fix where the result is decided ahead of time. Revolution is the only way to get a real change.
    Cue, “The Internationale”.
    Jack, Japan Alps

    • Wessex Man

      Revolution, what sort would you like, Russian? Chinese?

  • Beth Swain

    It seems that Russell Brand wanted to get a debate started, which is now happening. An interesting piece by Alex Massie, who seems to be shooting the messenger rather than understanding the message.

  • Ray

    Most of the world has never had it so good.What most is this?
    Problems can only be solved by Politicians. That’s because they cause the Problems. So they won’t be solved !

  • allymax bruce

    It seems you are the ‘twerp’ Massie; or, the greedy super-rich fatcat bankers traitor-to-humanity lackie! Russell Brand is right; we, the tax-payer, did ‘bail-out’ the greedy factcat bankers, only so they can stay greedy fatcat bankers!
    They, the fatcat greedy bankers, have £25 Trillion, stashed away in offshore tax-havens; but they demanded we, the poor public, pay for their massive collosal gambling losses; and the Labour government forced us into this evil theft-‘bail-out’! Think of it this way, I get adverts on my tv everyday showing how 8 year-old girls, from a third-word underdeveloped country, are married-off to grown men. That’s horrendous, but it’s the norm in MSM tv brainwashing us; abandoned starving animals, endangered species, £2 per month to send a little kid to school, £3 per month to feed & water a whole village; and we, the upstanding morally complicit people, must send in our money, or these inhuman happenings will continue to happen. Here’s a thought, what about the super-rich greedy fatcat bankers actually giving their money to these poor people, instead of us! They could wipe out hunger, ill-health, and any ‘immoral’ happenings in our world tomorrow, simply by handing over their massive amounts of ‘stashed-cash’; but they don’t. They are Zionists, and Zionists always get us, the poor, to pay for their super-extreme wealth; that’s what Zionism is all about; they force into the public discourse that class separation is neccessary, and that the upper class pay nothing, while the poor classes pay for everything. They are parasites, living off our means of production! I mean, just look at Manchester United; the Glasers bought the whole club ON TICK ! Yes, that’s right, £800 Million the Glasers bought Manchester United for, but they never paid a penny! They bought it on credit, where the turnstile punter attending the matches pays for the whole whack of £800 Million! The Glasers never paid a penny for Man Utd! So, Massie-lacki, when Russell Brand says fatcats are the problem in humanity, I agree with him!

    • RaymondDance

      You forgot to mention the lizards from the planet zarg.

      • arnoldo87

        Isn’t that the Zionist planet?

        • RaymondDance

          Of course, that must be what he meant! Silly me.

          • allymax bruce

            Hey; where’s my flying car? Is it on Zarg? Do all the Zionists on Zarg have their flying cars yet?
            You all promised us we’d be flying round in cars, in this 21st century, but only the Zionists can afford them..

      • Wessex Man

        I was beginning to hold out hope for these couple of weeks but he’s reverted back to allymax halfwit agaain.

        • Kennybhoy


    • James Strong

      All the turnstiles punters at Old Trafford part with their money willingly.
      I wouldn’t pay even £5 to watch a football match, and I think footballers’ pay rates are ridiculous.
      I also think it’s ridiculous to wear replica shirts at £40 or £50 pounds each, but for the people who do these things there is no coercion involved so I don’t see why it’s right to blame the Glasers for providiing something the customers want.

      • jazz606

        Actually, whatever it is that the punters want was being provided before the Glasers turned up and put it in hock.

      • allymax bruce

        James, you miss my point; Russell was saying the bankers shouldn’t have been ‘bailed-out’ with Public money; they have their own super-massive loads o’ munny stashed offshore to pay for their own gambling banking mistakes! Why should the tax-payer pay for the mistakes of Zionist bankers?
        Because that’s how the Zionists think; they actually believe they are better/superior to us, & entrench this ideal of a Class system into Society, thus find it incredible we don’t want to pay for their gambling losses! The ‘example’ was how Glasers ‘bought’ Manchester United with no money, but only with the ‘credit’ of the punters coming through the turnstiles.
        We must disenfranchise this evil Zionist Class-entitlement system where the poor pay for everything, and the Zionist reprobates live of our blood, sweat & tears; this Westminster system is so outdated & evil the most popular thing these Zionists, & their Zionist MSM, Journos, (Massie-lackie), and brainwashing tv stations BBC, ITV, C4, Sky, etc, is “The pizza is delivered”, and “The chicken is in the pot”! They see nothing wrong with the evil they do, because they think they are franchised, by us, to do it!

        • Wessex Man

          You really do need to let up on the racist stuff or one day soon The Spectator will ban you and I personally will miss your other jolly little rants.

          As for Manchester United, try supporting a club near you there are plenty.

        • Beth Swain

          However one might feel inclined to agree with some of what you say, the ranting and the racism are counter-productive to the case you make, being offensive, unacceptable and tedious.

          • allymax bruce

            Check my ‘flow’; I wasn’t talking to you.
            And, how you discern ‘ranting’ and/or ‘racism’ from a comment that is certainly not ranting, nor racist, but an reply-explanation, to another commentor, of how economic wealth is used, controlled and functions, the disproportionate oppression of the 99%, by the 1%, shows you have no idea what you’tre talking about, but smear & sneer complusively. Your personal attacks shows more about your ‘disposition’; it’s ignorant people like you that collude the oppression of the middle-class, impoverishment of the working class, and the despotism of the underclass, by the Zionist-Marxist elite. If you think disagreeing with my arguments of Zionists & Marxists oppressive rule, are representive of your super-moral fixations of your superior ideals, then you are on the side of the continued oppression of the 99% by the Zionist Marxist 1%. I noticed you posted your comment after ‘The Village Idiot’ posted his; so I’m inclined to think that ‘led’ you to your smearing & sneering of another commentor. Just because you don’t understand how deleterious this economic system is, doesn’t give you the right to intervene into other people’s intelligent, informed discussions. If all you’ve got is smearing sneering attacks, then talk to people on your own ‘level’; like The Village Idiot above your comment.

  • The Blue Baron

    Russel Brand is a symptom of a problem but far too incidental a figure to be in any way causal. The fact that people born into the Western world in the 21st century should enjoy greater prosperity and liberty than at any other time in human history suggests that the nihilistic cynicism embodied by poseurs like Brand is something to be countered.

    Many of those ‘revolutionaries’ of the past have realised, whilst sitting in the ashes of the last world, that cultures, institutions and societies are far easier to tear down than they are too build back up.

    • Beth Swain

      ‘People born into the Western world’ may indeed ‘enjoy’ greater prosperity, etc etc, but one might wish to consider who controls the resources and why it might be that poverty still exists for many. (And why is it that the majority of resources remain in the hands of a few?) But what about the rest of the world?
      Brand has a brain, and perhaps he perceives that some ‘cultures, institutions and societies’ deserve to be replaced by something better. What that something might be is the subject of a debate waiting to be held.

      • The Blue Baron

        People are perfectly free to express what that ‘something better’ might be. The fact that they have not established any credible alternative to our mixed economy liberal-democracy, in spite of ample opportunity, suggests that their whines are not to be taken seriously.

        • Beth Swain

          Perhaps, except it is not clear what that ‘ample opportunity’ was. Is this not the moment for those who are in a position to put ideas into action to be responding to a wake-up call and come up with some fresh modi operandi?

          • The Blue Baron

            Not clear what the ample opportunity was? We live in a free society and anyone is free to put forward ideas and alternative ways of doing things. Did you not notice? Nobody needs to give you or anyone else permission to suggest or champion better ways of doing things. What I am pointing out is that none of these ‘revolutionaries’ have any clue what they would replace our current system with once they had finished tearing it down.

    • allymax bruce

      Here’s an idea, Blue Baron; let’s put your ‘premise’ to the vote, and I bet my 99% will outvote your 1% ideals.
      When the shiites hit the fan, your r’s is grass baby!

      • The Blue Baron

        Great idea. There’s an election coming up in 2015. I’ll see you then.

        • allymax bruce

          It’s not an election Russell is talking about, like you said yourself, it’s a Revolution of the ‘political system’. You have to admit, Baron, the Westminster ‘political system’ is so outdated, oppressive, unrepresentive of a Modern world, economy, social ideals, that it’s actually an embarrassment yoos-lot still use it.

  • Steve Doran

    I wouldn’t mind Russells misguided advice nearly so much, if he actually believed it. But he doesn’t live by his own advice. He claims there is no point in engaging in a corrupt system, and yet he addressed the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee on Drug treatment opinions. He didn’t wait for the revolution when it was something he cared about. He didn’t mind engaging with these ‘corrupt liars’ when he thought he might make a small step forward, it wasn’t pointless or meaningless then.

    Oh, and on the point of hypocrisy, Russell Brand doesn’t want to be written off as ‘frivolous’ or barred from the debate simply because he’s an actor – when we’re talking about him, we have to see past our preconceptions, judge the individual. But he can generalise about all politicians. Has he met them all? Could he back up those accusations if asked about an individual? Or is he just insisting his vague prejudice of the whole industry is true, because he thinks so?,

    • Beth Swain

      Well, Russell Brand could hardly have met all politicians, any more than the rest of us might have. Surely what he’s talking about is the actions taken by politicians collectively?

      • Steve Doran

        Which would have been fine if he’d only complained about those collective actions, if he’d limited his criticisms to laws and systems. But went on to apply personal accusations like ‘liar’ and ‘treacherous’. This goes far beyond saying parliament did the wrong thing – that doesn’t assume particular blame or motive on behalf of the individuals involved. That wrong thing could be the result of inexperience, misjudgement, fear etc. But he labels all polticians as being self interested. And I think that’s a bit rich coming from someone who doesn’t want actors to be labelled as frivolous. I mean, I could comment on my impressions of the actions taken by white men at the BBC collectively, but I wouldn’t tar Russell with that brush.

        • Beth Swain

          The language is in places extreme, but that can be a way of alerting people to what’s being said. Which apparently it has. I agree that generalisations about politicians, actors and any other group are dangerous and usually unfair.

  • kingkevin3

    only in the UK and Italy can a comedian be take as anything else other than a joke

    • Jambo25

      But Brand isn’t, in the least bit, funny.

  • willshome

    He doesn’t “want to be taken seriously”, he wants the issues to be taken seriously. So, obviously, do the millions who sent his original interview viral. But by all means focus your attention on the illusion of celebrity – “look, don’t worry about global warming, let’s mock this comedian instead”. On a day when CO2 levels pushed through the limit of a reading that hasn’t been reached since before humans were alive on the planet, that’s clearly the right approach. Suggesting your own answer to tackling world poverty and mending our broken economic system, in opposition to his naive take on it, is less pertinent than scoring points against someone who doesn’t purport to have all the answers.

    • Trofim

      Try googling russell brand hollywood home. The man who wants to save the planet urgently owns at least one multi-million dollar house which is big enough for several families. He commutes between London and Los Angeles regularly for starters, emitting huge amounts of CO2. But I think it very likely that he really sincerely doesn’t understand that popping backwards and forwards over the Atlantic is powered by the very oil which produces the CO2 which he condemns. Why else would he do it? Perhaps he is also unaware of the basic golden rules of human life – one of which is “practice what you preach”.

      • Beth Swain

        Just because someone has been successful does not mean he is incapable of intelligent thought, or indeed enlightenment on a road to Damascus.

        • Trofim

          “Just because someone has been successful does not mean he is incapable of intelligent thought, or indeed enlightenment on a road to Damascus”.
          How interesting. Has someone suggested otherwise then?

          • Beth Swain

            I thought you just did.

        • BillYeager

          Just because someone has been successful does not mean he is capable of intelligent thought. . .

          There, fixed it for you.

          • Beth Swain

            Oh very droll. And unnecessary.

    • Daniel

      When do you anticipate that the record level of CO2 emissons will finally have an effect on global temperatures?

  • Shazza

    Russell Brand epitomises everything that has gone wrong in this country.

  • Dingthing

    Is a recognition of regulatory and legislative capture by Corporations, and the existence of a political elite which doesn’t appear to align it’s interests with anyone below the middle class “rancid, destructive nihilism”? Elector apathy is a bigger threat to democracy than Russel Brand and that certainly isn’t his fault.

    • Tim Reed

      “Elector apathy is a bigger threat to democracy than Russel Brand and that certainly isn’t his fault.”

      …and yet, he urges people to abstain from voting – the very effect of the electoral apathy that you think is such a threat.

      Brand’s shallow, lefty, populist nonsense might appeal to naive, idealistic students and those who failed to grow out of such a mentality, but it’s just a heap of verbose wankery for faux-revolutionaries. He seems to know what he’s against – just about everything – but is a lot less forthcoming when describing what he’s for. On this matter, his language becomes even more nebulous.

      • Dingthing

        Fair do’s, but you don’t think the apathy is an issue?

        • Tim Reed

          Yes, I agree with you there. When a large proportion of the electorate either doesn’t vote or can’t be bothered to pay attention when they vote, it lets scoundrels (Labour especially) into power without much of a mandate.

          People need to vote, but just as importantly, they also need to know exactly who and what they’re voting for.

  • Daniel Maris

    Why take a sledgehammer to crack a numpty?

  • prickyleaks

    “Because it is impossible to have a debate with someone who refuses to grant the good faith of his opponents.” Sounds like a certain P. Hitchens not too long ago…

  • gerontius

    “Oh for the love of God, he’s back”

    Look, I don’t want to sound too bad tempered about this, but the only reason that “he’s back” is because media bunnies keep writing articles about him. Stop doing it and he will vanish.

    • tastemylogos

      He won’t disappear when the BBC consider it relevant that a comedian should have 10 minutes on its flagship news program with its most eminent presenter, where, rather than his argument being tested, he (the man who recently paid $3 million on a mansion) was treated with tickles and undertones of empathy. Neither will he disappear when the Guardian, NS and Indy put him on front their front covers, reaching hundreds of thousands with his childish prognoses for Western society and where his student politiking is lauded – not challenged.

      There needs to be a counter to this kind of moronic, dangerous and hypocritical lest the bandwagon bulges with support.

    • Shinsei1967

      Well, he’s back because after his infamous Newsnight performance a couple of weeks ago and his editing of the New Satesman last week, this he has a prominent column in the Guardian.

      He is actually being given plenty of high profile (sic) vehicles to expound his twerpish schtick.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here