There has been a vast unexpected emotional reaction to comedian/actor Russell Brand’s interview-gone-viral with the BBC’s Jeremy Paxman. If you haven’t seen it, you must, if only to see how it makes you feel. Mr. Paxman fired a first salvo at Mr. Brand by asking why he deserved to be guest editor of the political magazine, NewStatesman, with, “What authority do you have?” Mr. Brand pointed out that “qualifying” as someone worthy to contribute to the political dialogue is an erroneous state of mind and responded: “Well, I don’t get my ‘authority’ from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”
Where is it written that only certain individuals must be properly sanctioned to speak in public on the critical issues that affect humanity at large? I think when we are subjected to outrageous and ridiculous blitherings on a daily basis uttered by the likes of elected officials such as Michele Bachmann and Ted Cruz, the bar has been lowered sufficiently to allow someone like Brand the leeway to offer his thoughts. He is a public figure, like it or not, so he is in a fine position to be asked for his views and articulate them and he does it so well.
In the interview he dances like Muhammad Ali, deflecting and countering Mr. Paxman’s predictable barbed statements, such as “You don’t believe in democracy, you want to start a revolution, don’t you?” Instead of listening to Mr. Brand he is maneuvering for optimum sensation and titillation for his perceived audience, even as Mr. Brand is clearly pointing out, blow by blow, what is wrong with that very paradigm that is the current model we are forced to survive within.
He goes on to explain to Mr. Paxman that he doesn’t have all the answers and can’t solve the world’s problems in a ten minute interview, but he does say what shouldn’t be acceptable. “We shouldn’t destroy the planet, we shouldn’t create massive economic disparity and we shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people.” All of which are rapidly increasing in severity.
Another predictable result of this subversively enlightening interview is the negative and fearful reactionary response by the very entities Russell Brand is exposing. The smear campaign was immediate. Because Mr. Brand attacked the One Percent for their greed and destruction of the environment in their pursuit of never-ending riches, they countered with the “damning” information of Mr. Brand’s net worth of fifteen million dollars. As if to say, again, he is disqualified to speak to the issues of massive income disparity and the horrors of poverty in the world, because he is “rich” himself.
I think a great distinction can be made between an actor/comedian that made his money by making people laugh and the corporate ghouls now making literally BILLIONS of dollars poisoning our food, water and air, with no regard to anything but their quarterly bottom line. The environment and the general population be damned.
The overall sense of this interview that I come away with is that Jeremy Paxman is highly condescending in his approach to someone or something with which he is unfamiliar: a true free and critically thinking interviewee. He really doesn’t know how to triangulate the position of someone who is actually thinking for themselves and not regurgitating the usual hegemonic pabulum he and his fellow corporate media brethren are so comfortable with. The marriage made in Hell of media and corporate is complete and Mr. Brand is having none of it.
What Mr. Brand is clearly stating, in spite of Mr. Paxman’s posture of incomprehension, feigned or real, is our species very viability is in jeopardy due to the last-man-standing-winner-take-all capitalist ideology that views the planet as a “thing” solely designed for exploitation and profit. Mr. Brand is not alone in his world view; he is just more visible than journalists like Chris Hedges or Henry A. Giroux that have been speaking truth to power for decades. Russell Brand’s visibility and popularity is what frightens the Oligarchs the most, because for every person that follows the likes of Hedges and Giroux there are a thousand that follow Russell Brand’s exploits. Watch your back, Russell, but keep articulating truth to power!
Alex lives with his wife, Anna in Key West, Florida. He enjoys writing poetry and prose and making the complacent uncomfortable.