The Kerfuffel over Russell

I’ve just seen a clip of Russell Brand being interviewed by Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight. It’s very interesting and it’s nice to see someone being passionate about our current political situation. A lot of people I know have posted the video of the interview on facebook and are saying how much they agree with him and that his ideas are brilliant. Which is fine I suppose, but I’m not sure what his ideas are. He puts across the complaint that our current government is corrupt and not serving the needs of the people, but then goes no further with it. It seems strange to be clamouring for revolution but not able to talk about what the revolution should bring about.

“But I say, here’s the thing I say, it shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on the people with the power.” – Russell Brand

Whilst not destroying the planet or ignoring people’s needs are admirable things for a governing system to do, they’re not particularly specific or helpful in determining how society should be. I believe very few people set out to actively destroy the planet, it just happens to be a side effect of particular behaviours and activities. So surely Russell’s revolution should look to the underlying structures and seek to change those so that these side effects don’t occur. A revolution can’t happen based on avoiding certain outcomes. Instigating revolution is a highly active and involved thing, it must have some purpose and meaning, and whilst Russell Brand is trying to inspire people (which is admirable) a revolution needs to have some core principles, otherwise after the dust has settled, it won’t go anywhere.

I personally am not impressed by someone who says they don’t vote. I think everyone should vote, it’s how we hold our governments accountable. Even if it’s just to spoil a ballot out of protest, I think voting is a worthy thing. Russell Brand says he doesn’t vote not out of apathy but, “I’m not voting out of absolute indifference, and weariness and exhaustion”. This sounds a lot like apathy to me. Voter numbers aren’t great in Britain, and an apathetic people are unlikely to take to a revolution. I’m not a fan of the idea that celebrities are responsible for other’s behaviour, but it doesn’t sit well with me that someone in Russell Brand’s position would essentially advocate not voting in this way, particularly as he seems to want change. If every eligible person in Britain voted, change could very well happen. Politicians pander to the groups who do turn out on polling day, and they tend to be the privileged. If everyone started to vote, politicians would have to try to pander to everyone’s needs, meaning those needs are more likely to be met.

I appreciate that Russell Brand is an entertainer, and that his thoughts don’t have to be fully formed political philosophies. But if he chooses to discuss these things publicly, by appearing on Newsnight, or editing a special edition of the New Statesman, he should be able to discuss them without having to descend into hyperbole, or fawning over Paxman’s beard.  At one point, Brand actually does say how he would like the world to be, “a socialist egalitarian system, based on the massive redistribution of wealth”. It’s a shame that this is the only definite statement of Brand’s politics in the whole interview. But it’s an interesting one at least.  Perhaps he’ll read John Rawls before being invited back to Newsnight, it might give him some ideas and maybe then that revolution might have somewhere to go beyond change.


The video of the interview can be found here:


About Jess Urwin

Lecturer in social work at De Montfort University, youth justice researcher, musician, crafter, constant reader.
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