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Brand Vs Paxman
October 24, 2013 5:17 AM   Subscribe

BBC Newsnight's political bulldog interviews English comedian Russell Brand.

While promoting his upcoming Messiah Complex World Tour 2013, comedian Russell Brand sat down with the host of the BBC's flagship current affairs show Newsnight, Jeremy Paxman, an interviewer perhaps best known for his on-air mauling of British political heavyweights. Beginning proceedings by challenging at his guest's right to guest-edit this week's edition of New Statesman magazine, the discussion rapidly became what The Independent newspaper's Independent Voices described as "a downright masterclass in forthright and intuitive persuasive-speaking." and "Britain’s most trivial revolutionary at work."

Previously.
posted by Caskeum (121 comments total) 42 users marked this as a favorite

 
Revolution! To the barricades!! Clever guy that Russell.
posted by JiffyQ at 5:37 AM on October 24, 2013


First Fox & Friends, now Paxman. Russell Brand is quite growing on me.
posted by like_neon at 5:44 AM on October 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Paxman comes across as quite irritated in that interview - I think he's used to winklepicking the truth out of wheedling politicos rather than trying to stem Brand's barrage of pseudo revolutionary spew.

This interview, of course, stems from Brand's last encounter with the Paxman (as seen in the Previously link), where he said some very clever stuff about the nature of celebrity and aspiration. This stuff? Not so clever. A bit derivative. But refreshing to see mentioned, even if Paxman's interrogation went down the boring "what would you replace it with" route often used by less skilled interviewers.
posted by The River Ivel at 5:58 AM on October 24, 2013


They probably both earn more in a year than all the people who are about to comment in this thread put together.
posted by colie at 6:09 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


They probably both earn more in a year than all the people who are about to comment in this thread put together.

And?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:11 AM on October 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Derivative? Certainly. But the thing here is that Brand is sitting there on Newsnight and getting his message out. It's growing. Everyone knows about the banks, the corporations, the surveillance, the 1% and all that now. Now it remains to see what, if anything, is going to happen about it.
posted by Harald74 at 6:11 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Everyone knows about the banks, the corporations, the surveillance, the 1% and all that now.

Did we not know it before?
From 2008/09 of not, you know, before, especially from the the '80s on.
posted by Mezentian at 6:21 AM on October 24, 2013


I really don't want to like Brand. But I do.
posted by birdherder at 6:22 AM on October 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


I just mean that both men are part of the establishment and would not be where they are if their messages were not amenable - even advantageous - to ruling elites. Brand is a classic decadent liberal, not in any sense a revolutionary.
posted by colie at 6:23 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just mean that both men are part of the establishment and would not be where they are if their messages were not amenable - even advantageous - to ruling elites.

Oh, I think they're fine with him when he's the top-hatted ex-druggie who makes kids laugh. But when he starts talking revolution, he's gone so far off the reservation, and out come the Paxmans of the world to remind us that he doesn't even vote and he's so silly, why should be listen to him?
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:25 AM on October 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


out come the Paxmans of the world to remind us that he doesn't even vote

...which is why there is absolutely no point in his going on Paxman's show, which is itself a relic of pre-social media days.
posted by colie at 6:27 AM on October 24, 2013


How odd. His interview is explicitly spreading through social media. We're discussing it now on a form of social media.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:28 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Fair point.
posted by colie at 6:28 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


The final two minutes of this - especially from 10:00 onwards in which Brand brings in Paxman's ancestors - is marvellous.
posted by cincinnatus c at 6:29 AM on October 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


Brand is electric.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:35 AM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Can't watch video at work, and I don't even know who Paxman is.

But based on previous observation of him at work, my money's on Brand.
posted by Naberius at 6:40 AM on October 24, 2013


Did we not know it before?
From 2008/09 of not, you know, before, especially from the the '80s on.


I had 2008 onwards in mind when I wrote "now". Before that I can't remember any of this getting much exposure in mainstream media. My impression is that it's much more in the public consciousness than before.
posted by Harald74 at 6:41 AM on October 24, 2013


It always astonishes me why anyone even listens to Paxman. Don't you remember the 80s, when he would just run around that fucking maze all the time being chased by ghosts? And then he would eat a power pellet and suddenly it was all, "Who's eating who now, ghosthole???" These days he hardly eats anyone at all. Pathetic - vote #1 frogger.
posted by the quidnunc kid at 6:42 AM on October 24, 2013 [64 favorites]


At least it's not bloody Hardtalk.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:44 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought when Paxman went down the voting line he was bowling a loosener to let Brand get into his stride, but he sticks at it; our heavyweight interviewer (or whoever writes his questions) seriously has a model of social power that imagines it all derives from the ballot box. Could have explored that more fruitfully.
The thing about Paxman weeping over the exploitation of women in his family's past also brings to mind the fuss about his live-in Romanian maid he paid less than minimum wage while she lived in his garage.
posted by Abiezer at 6:50 AM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Dismissing Russell Brand just because he makes a lot of money is not particularly different from someone saying that Donald Trump would make a good President because he's rich.
posted by Etrigan at 6:52 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm more interested in the invisible iphone Paxman seems to be holding in his left hand.
posted by Think_Long at 6:54 AM on October 24, 2013


His first question is how dare Brand edit a political magazine. Not for nothing, Brand wrote for The Guardian from 2006 to 2009, is a frequent guest columnist in a variety of publications, and has two well-selling books behind him. He's been writing explicitly political work since 2009. So, you know, he's not entirely without experience.

Nonetheless, it's followed up by a "how date you not vote?" question. Which distills it for me. The only way Paxman seems to be comfortable with democracy is through the ballot. You may vote -- which, as Brand points out, frequently means choosing the candidate whom you find least odiously ignorant and uncaring of your circumstances -- but any other participation in politics requires extensive bona fides.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 6:57 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Don't sell the hippie short. Russel Brand is quite possibly the most charismatic person that I've ever been around, and I say that as someone who has met Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan.
posted by Optamystic at 7:00 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Russell Brand is a buffoon. The reason why public opinion divides on whether he is a Learish jester or just an idiot is because I don't think Brand knows or wants to decide.

Paxman is a relic. He wasn't once. His persona is that of the cynic-with-licence-to-not-play-the-game-of-understanding-your-bullshit. The problem is he's now made the transition from a professional cynic to a grumpy old man who doesn't fully understand modern society.

The interview is a mess. Both characters are playing caricatures. Paxman wants to not get it and expose Brand as a buffoon. Brand needs Paxman to not get it to expose him a relic and so he can subvert authority.

Personally, I find Brand overrated as the idiot savant. He is fantastic at dodging rhetorical bullets and subverting convention. Good for him. But does he actually say something coherent? Sometimes the long words he loves are just long words, not some amazing higher truth:
Brand: No, I don't vote.

Paxman: How do you have any authority to talk about politics?

Brand: 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 an alternative that might be of service to humanity.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:02 AM on October 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


At this point, if you go into an interview with Russell Brand expecting to excoriate a lightweight, someone on your staff has made a critical error in research and preparation.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:04 AM on October 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


But does he actually say something coherent? Sometimes the long words he loves are just long words, not some amazing higher truth:
Brand: 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 alternative that might be of service to humanity.

I don't know MuffinMan, I think this bit is pretty coherent and unwordy. Russell leans on his wordy rhetorical style in all forums of his expression - and he can sustain his breath so long he can string a lot of long sentences together, creating such a whirlwind of energy that is not entirely due to his wild vocabulary.

He's a smart buffoon - performing a dervish dance with language that is a helluva lot better than what he describes as the rest of TV's emotional porn.
posted by honey-barbara at 7:10 AM on October 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Sometimes the long words he loves are just long words, not some amazing higher truth:
See, for me, that was a point in the conversation where Paxman could have asked Brand to expand on ideas of political legitimacy that don't derive from the currently prevailing structures - there's credible responses to that and Brand might or might not have had one but Paxman carries on wielding his blunt instrument. Never been much of a Brand fan but can see why he ends up sounding platitudinous when there's no room to expand on the points he does raise.
posted by Abiezer at 7:10 AM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was won over by Brand in this "interview" with the folks on Morning Joe, who at one point had such trouble talking to him, that they started talking about him like he wasn't there, and he called them on it. No high-falutin' big words, just trying to get people to talk to him like a normal human, instead of an outlandish carnival freak.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:41 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Russell Brand is smart. He has a real and compelling story. He understands that stirring the pot is just as important as providing the answers. He's having fun poking bears, and I like him.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:44 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I like Brand. He talks intelligently about alternatives to capitalism without veering off too far into Zeitgeist territory. And that gleeful little grin he gets out of Paxman at 06:22 is GOLD.
posted by creeky at 7:47 AM on October 24, 2013


I still think Brand should vote and so should you. His defense of that is basically "I don't like XYZ plus it is boring". Voting changes some things, and disregarding those things disregards real improvements, however minor, that can literally save lives. Voting got us, say, Obamacare. Yes it's a mess, and yes it's not enough and yes it's going to cause problems too. But I've heard enough real people say they're going to get it, finally, that I know it will probably keep one of them from dying of self-neglect. You can still be a revolutionary if you vote. Even if it's 99% useless that 1% decrease in suffering and venality is worth it. Cuz what are you gaining by not voting? Snappier talking points? Not a good trade.

But yeah, the rest of the interview is awesome. Rand nails him to the fucking wall in the last 30 seconds.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:50 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


MuffinMan: Sometimes the long words he loves are just long words, not some amazing higher truth:
Brand: 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 an alternative that might be of service to humanity.
OK, here's his bit, rephrased in shorter words:
Voting isn't the only way to have "authority to talk about politics."
It's not an "amazing higher truth," but an honest response to the question, and one that points out that politics is bigger than voting. Could he have said it in such simplistic terms? Yes. Is his verbose nature part of his persona? Probably. Is it terrible? Not really, but it can obfuscate the point he is making.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:52 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Brand has a television show of his own. About a year ago, they decided to try out a new segment where two people with opposing viewpoints come on to debate. For their trial run, they brought in a libertarian who had just written a book on the subject, and my girlfriend, who is a relatively well-known socialist.

Brand introduces both parties to the audience, and libertarian dude says his bit. Then, as soon as my girlfriend starts talking, Brand interjects that he can't concentrate on what she's saying because he keeps thinking about how much better it would be if they were both naked. Every time she tries to steer the conversation back to the topic at hand, Brand keeps the conversation firmly in the realm of how much he wants to have sex with her. When she points out that he's undermining her, he can't fathom how she could see things that way.

Russell Brand, you guys: He totally cares about social justice unless you have breasts.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:00 AM on October 24, 2013 [34 favorites]


The only way Paxman seems to be comfortable with democracy is through the ballot

It's a bit hard to imagine a model of democracy in modern states with populations in the millions which somehow bypasses the ballot. I'd be interested to know what your model is.
posted by yoink at 8:03 AM on October 24, 2013


Parasite Unseen: do you have a link to that show?
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 8:05 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Russell Brand, you guys: He totally cares about social justice unless you have breasts.
This I've heard too from several sources but not really followed his career enough to know.
posted by Abiezer at 8:10 AM on October 24, 2013


Rand nails him to the fucking wall in the last 30 seconds.

AIEEEE! B! B! B, man, B! B-R-A-N-D not R, R-A-N-D oh god the vomit it tastes bad, so bad!

I know it's just a typo but it made my stomach weep into my mouth.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 8:11 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


This I've heard too from several sources but not really followed his career enough to know

...yeah, likewise. It's definitely colored my view of him, so I would like to be proven wrong.
posted by aramaic at 8:12 AM on October 24, 2013


Election night 2020: Boris Johnson versus Russell Brand. It's Thatcher/Foot again, and who's going to own the next forty years?
posted by alasdair at 8:13 AM on October 24, 2013


So we need to keep Russell away from the Cenotaph in any sort of top-coat that could be construed as manual work wear?
posted by Abiezer at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't know that it ever aired. I've never actually watched his show. I do know that they were filming, and that it was done at a bar in Hollywood (I don't have any idea if that is how his show is normally filmed). His production staff seemed pretty embarrassed by the whole thing, so it may not have made it to television.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 8:16 AM on October 24, 2013


He's quick and compelling, but kind of lost my sympathy at calls for a "massive redistribution of wealth" and "profit is a filthy word".... When he's out promoting a tour where tickets are $60.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 8:21 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, here's his bit, rephrased in shorter words:

Voting isn't the only way to have "authority to talk about politics."


That's not what he's saying though.

He's sidestepping the question. His response is to challenge the legitimacy of voting because of the the government you get. Sorry, but to my ears that's high school debate level. It's dressed pretty but a pretty facile response.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:22 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I agree but to be fair he was defending himself specifically against the charge "Why should we listen to your opinions about politics when you don't vote?" which is as stupid as saying "Why should we listen to your opinions about nutrition when you don't bake?"
posted by Potomac Avenue at 8:26 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


He's quick and compelling, but kind of lost my sympathy at calls for a "massive redistribution of wealth" and "profit is a filthy word".... When he's out promoting a tour where tickets are $60.

sure, but another thing he said in the interview was that there should be a huge increase in tax rates, which would presumably include himself.
posted by Mach5 at 8:26 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I was busy being a drug addict" is such a wonderful response.
posted by srboisvert at 8:28 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think we are still too early in the Brand career arc to determine whether he's a genius or buffoon. We'll know in another decade.

Half the time you see him you are convinced he's legit, and then something will catch your eye in the checkout line at the grocery store and you'll have to reassess some of your new-found respect.
posted by Keith Talent at 8:29 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


"sure, but another thing he said in the interview was that there should be a huge increase in tax rates, which would presumably include himself."

Well, ok, but if he was such a man of the people why not just charge less / donate more and take the taxman out of the equation?
posted by BlerpityBloop at 8:32 AM on October 24, 2013


Brand is a classic decadent liberal, not in any sense a revolutionary.
posted by colie


I give up--what is "a classic decadent liberal"?
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:33 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I agree but to be fair he was defending himself specifically against the charge "Why should we listen to your opinions about politics when you don't vote?" which is as stupid as saying "Why should we listen to your opinions about nutrition when you don't bake?"

I think that's a poor analogy. Voting is exercising a civic right, perhaps even a civic duty, to choose and influence your government. It is absolutely a pertinent question in the context of editing a journal about politics and which also has an influence on government.

There isn't a direct analogy. But if there was it would be more like why should we listen to your views on tax when you don't pay it?
posted by MuffinMan at 8:34 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, ok, but if he was such a man of the people why not just charge less / donate more and take the taxman out of the equation?

The economics of ticket pricing are pretty difficult -- if a performer charges less (which, remember, he may or may not be seeing that much of personally), the secondary market (scalpers) will hoover up all the tickets and sell them at "market value" anyway. Using ID schemes tends to push people away and costs extra anyway (money for the system used, paying more people to check names at the door or have huge lines), so you're raising the prices either way.
posted by Etrigan at 8:36 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


There isn't a direct analogy. But if there was it would be more like why should we listen to your views on tax when you don't pay it?

Because a viewpoint is valid or invalid regardless of the personal behavior of the person who expresses the viewpoint.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:48 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


OK, but the right to take a position of authority in which one can advocate isn't independent of behaviour.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:53 AM on October 24, 2013


Authority comes from the quality of the opinion, not the quality of the man. I can't understand the point you're making except one of pure ad hominem argument.

Just because somebody is a hypocrite doesn't make them wrong.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 8:58 AM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


"The economics of ticket pricing are pretty difficult -- if a performer charges less (which, remember, he may or may not be seeing that much of personally)"

It's actually not that difficult (i worked in the music industry for half a decade so have some basic knowledge). Brand is one man with a microphone - relatively little crew set up and road costs compared to, say, a Pearl Jam stage show which charges more or less the same amount.

Brand prices his tickets based on what he can charge, not some complex algorithm to weed out scalpers. Profit (which he calls a 'filthy word') is absolutely a part of the price. He's not setting his price to break even. Which leads me to:

"Just because somebody is a hypocrite doesn't make them wrong." - of course it doesn't make someone 'wrong', but it doesn't help your argument for the underclass and massive redistribution of wealth when you are skimming a large amount of profit off of your world tour.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:13 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Authority comes from the quality of the opinion, not the quality of the man

OK, then. In this case, I'd absolutely question Brand's coherence, and quality, of opinion given that he does not believe voting is worthwhile but still wishes to advocate for change.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:16 AM on October 24, 2013


MuffinMan, while I agree that Paxman raising the question about voting was legitimate, I think you go wrong if your comment:
He's sidestepping the question. His response is to challenge the legitimacy of voting because of the the government you get.
does in fact represent your entire understanding of his response.
What Brand said was certainly a bit hand-wavy, but doesn't have to limit Brand's objections to just the administrations our present set-up generates. There's numerous critiques of, for example, the failings of representative democracy as vested interests have become ever better at playing the system and perhaps he has a version of that and some model of a new mass democratic social movement from the grassroots to challenge it. Of course, perhaps he doesn't and he is just blowing hot air.
As I said before, I think the onus there was on Paxman to explore that if he wanted a fuller response, as he's now asked his question, got something resembling an answer (pretty vaguely, I grant you), but doesn't follow up and instead just repeats the objection as if he (Paxman) has never conceived of any other possibility.
posted by Abiezer at 9:16 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd absolutely question Brand's coherence, and quality, of opinion given that he does not believe voting is worthwhile but still wishes to advocate for change.

He makes a completely coherent argument that voting doesn't change anything. You may disagree with his opinion, but he's behaving consistently with his opinion by not voting, and would be a hypocrite if he did.

And there are a ton of ways to effect political change that don't involve voting.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:18 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Just seen a link on a thread elsewhere to a bit of appalling behaviour from Brand I dimly recalled that fits with what Parasite Unseen was saying above.
posted by Abiezer at 9:24 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


it doesn't help your argument for the underclass and massive redistribution of wealth when you are skimming a large amount of pr

Do you have any idea what he does with that money? There seems to be a presumption that he's making that money and just, I don't know, putting it on a bed and rolling around on it. He apparently spends $1500 per month helping homeless people, he donated to the Hillsborough Family Support Group, and he's donated to Amnesty International, Mines Advisory Group, and the Noreen Frader Foundation, that we know of.

Unless I actually know what somebody is making and spending, I do not presume to count somebody else's money and judge them for it. This is the trick that the right tries to use against Michael Moore, discussing how much he has made from his films, or discussing how much Al Gore travels, or whatever can paint somebody a hypocrite. And they are. They all are. Everybody is a hypocrite. None of it affects whether or not their argument is sound.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 9:28 AM on October 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Just seen a link on a thread elsewhere to a bit of appalling behaviour from Brand I dimly recalled that fits with what Parasite Unseen was saying above.
posted by Abiezer at 5:24 PM on October 24 [+] [!]


That story isn't true, according to Billy Connolly:

"That [widely reported] story," says Connolly evenly, "is a total invention. A complete fabrication. It's total bollocks. It never happened. Russell was very well-behaved, and I found him very interesting." Did he find him funny? "Oh aye. I really enjoyed his company. I liked his vocabulary, and his stance. He poses and… stances around all the time, and I like that."
posted by cincinnatus c at 9:32 AM on October 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


Ah, my bad then.
posted by Abiezer at 9:33 AM on October 24, 2013


"Unless I actually know what somebody is making and spending, I do not presume to count somebody else's money and judge them for it. "

No one is discounting Brand's charity efforts, we are talking about 'profit', which Brand calls a 'filthy word'.

Unless he is setting his ticket prices to break even with absolutely zero profit motive (or if he donates all profits to his charity efforts), he is, yes, being very hypocritical. Keep in mind he went on Paxman's show while promoting his world tour. Promotion implies you seek more profit.
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:36 AM on October 24, 2013


Now we apparently know what happened to the souls of Joe Strummer and George Carlin.

I'm going to go watch that video of Brand on Morning Joe again. I love watching him run circles around them.
posted by dry white toast at 9:38 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


What Brand said was certainly a bit hand-wavy, but doesn't have to limit Brand's objections to just the administrations our present set-up generates. There's numerous critiques of, for example, the failings of representative democracy as vested interests have become ever better at playing the system and perhaps he has a version of that and some model of a new mass democratic social movement from the grassroots to challenge it. Of course, perhaps he doesn't and he is just blowing hot air.


Brand in 2012:
"Actor-comedian Russell Brand is fed up with politics, he said while hosting the MTV Movie Awards on Sunday night.

“These awards are truly special as every category is voted for by us the public,” Brand said during his opening monologue at the Los Angeles show. “I say us — obviously I don’t vote as I believe democracy is a pointless spectacle where we choose between two indistinguishable political parties, neither of whom represent the people but the interest of powerful business elites that run the world.”

Brand stopped himself there, telling actor Charlie Sheen to cause a distraction if he "starts getting political" again."


posted by Bwithh at 9:42 AM on October 24, 2013


Unless he is setting his ticket prices to break even with absolutely zero profit motive (or if he donates all profits to his charity efforts), he is, yes, being very hypocritical. Keep in mind he went on Paxman's show while promoting his world tour. Promotion implies you seek more profit.

On the other hand, Brand may see getting several thousand people to shell out $60 for a luxury good like Russell Brand tickets as a redistribution of wealth to things like support for the homeless and Amnesty International that may overshadow his own distaste for profit.
posted by Etrigan at 9:47 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"On the other hand, Brand may see getting several thousand people to shell out $60 for a luxury good like Russell Brand tickets as a redistribution of wealth to things like support for the homeless and Amnesty International that may overshadow his own distaste for profit."

Well that certainly explains his insightful commentary on the evils of wealth in his movie "Arthur". :-)
posted by BlerpityBloop at 9:50 AM on October 24, 2013


Brand 2012 interview of lizard-people world domination conspiracy theorist David Icke ( Brand "embrace[s]... some of his magnificent ideas")


9/11 truther/moon landing truther conspiracy theorist Alex Jones' 2012 interview of Brand
posted by Bwithh at 9:58 AM on October 24, 2013


This stuff about how much money he makes is ridiculous.

You can be opposed to the game, whilst still being forced to play it.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 9:59 AM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


what is "a classic decadent liberal"?

Anybody who expresses a viewpoint different from my own that I can't be arsed to attack with a proper argument.
posted by flabdablet at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


Well that certainly explains his insightful commentary on the evils of wealth in his movie "Arthur". :-)

In fairness, one of the best western movies I have ever seen is The Outlaw Josie Wales, starring (and mostly directed) by Clint Eastwood, a Republican, and based on an epic poem by Forrest Carter, who was a segregationist and member of the KKK.

I usually disentangle people's politics from the movies they make, as they often seem to have only a passing familiarity with each other.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:00 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's a bit hard to imagine a model of democracy in modern states with populations in the millions which somehow bypasses the ballot. I'd be interested to know what your model is.

I guess you're not the guy Brand is searching for.

Brand isn't a revolutionary. Revolutionaries have a plan for what they want to replace the current system with. Brand is a herald, calling attention to the problem but without a clear image of what he wants to replace it with. He uses the tools he has: humor, wordplay. His hope is that somebody else can come along & fill in the other half.
posted by scalefree at 10:02 AM on October 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


speaking of revolution, from the Turchin FPP: "our current experience also reflects something new: technology has brought about the emergence of a complex, networked society, one that, he argues, existing democratic institutions are too simplistic to govern." viz. The Future of Democracy?

from a (UK) FT editorial comment: Humanity's problems are too big for nation states to solve
Our planet is growing warmer. International travel spreads diseases that are resistant to old cures. Global trade and finance create wealth but expose us to faraway storms. The problems of the industrial revolution called for stronger national government. But the world's challenges are now too large for a single state to solve. The US is losing interest in many of the international institutions it helped found after the second world war. China, no longer disposed to play by America's rules, is nonetheless unwilling to fashion a new order of its own.

The commission – which is chaired by Pascal Lamy, the former director-general of the World Trade Organisation, and counts the editor of the Financial Times among its members – wisely eschews utopian solutions, proposing a series of focused initiatives. A world statistical agency would improve standards and cast light on places such as Africa where number-crunchers have feared to tread. An alliance of countries, cities and companies would commit to use energy more efficiently.

The commission also puts forward some broader principles. Pointing out that none of the 20 or so agencies set up under UN auspices has ever been shut down, it suggests subjecting such bodies to "sunset clauses". That would prevent bureaucracies from outliving their usefulness. Yet the current stalemate in Washington attests to the drawbacks of obliging politicians to fight periodic reruns of old battles. The commission also laments the absence of a shared vision for global civilisation. But such consensus is difficult to imagine, let alone achieve.

Still, the commission has put forward some constructive proposals and advanced an important debate. The institutions that the world is now outgrowing were themselves fashioned by practical and optimistic men and women. That same spirit animates the commission's report, and remains humanity's hope.
cf. Now for the Long Term: Oxford Martin Commission for Future Generations
posted by kliuless at 10:11 AM on October 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


what is "a classic decadent liberal"?

He's a liberal because his concepts of freedom and class are wholly bourgeois, and he's decadent because of all the look-at-me sex 'n' drugs 'n' addiction stuff, and because his personal wealth comes from Hollywood crap while claiming to despise profit. It's partly this environment - which he has been part of for years now, combined with the even worse music industry - which has led to his very high opinion of himself at present, since I imagine he is 100 percent surrounded by sycophants and people who want to have sex with him.

I'm British so his accent means nothing to me.
posted by colie at 10:27 AM on October 24, 2013


So that's so common in the world of liberalism as to be an identifiable type?

You've created a caricature of the man and decided to critique the caricature. Classic decadent web user behavior, that.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:30 AM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


You've created a caricature of the man and decided to critique the caricature.

Maybe... I'm not completely against him, I just don't like the way he behaves in the interview and found nothing he said convincing. It was a pantomime, and I just feel that both he and Paxman like it that way.
posted by colie at 10:37 AM on October 24, 2013


Whether Russell Brand is a buffoon or not, he does raise the important question of whether voting (by humans) has become a meaningless gesture when it puts politicians into power who do not represent most human voters.

The problem that he illustrates is the slow, but inexorable progress of corporate, transnational elites who game the system with something that could be described, for lack of a better word, as "megavotes", which offset and silence participatory government, placing power in the hands of elites while preserving the facade of democracy and the legitimacy of decisions that the elite make on behalf of the public.

I can't blame Brand for not having a solution to this. I can't think of one, either. I can't see the current system deliberately healing itself because the powers-that-be have no interest in that outcome. So it's either more of the same and worse, or revolution.

Brand seems too optimistic not to support a revolution, whatever that entails. His energy and intelligence about that seem infectious. We should give a shit about exploitation, instead of enjoying the "exploitation porn" that television feeds us all the time. While I do see the need to evaluate why I think Brand is charismatic, I don't see anything bourgeois about acknowledging other people's humanity and right to exist without being ripped off.

One thing I love is to see Paxo get put on the spot. It happens so rarely and as he has the editorial control you really have to listen for it. When Russell comes back and asks him — almost as an aside — about whether he tires of interviewing the same crooked bastards year after year, I was so hoping to hear an honest answer to that. But Paxo jumped the noose, as he so often does, and moved the interview forward.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:39 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


. . . we are talking about 'profit', which Brand calls a 'filthy word'.

This criticism strikes me as a bit disingenuous. I don't think it takes a great leap of logic to understand that Brand wasn't speaking of the notion of making any profit whatsoever on one's professional activities. Rather, it seems like he is speaking to the philosophy that profit is the end-all/be-all, and the practice of pursuing maximum profit at the expense of "paying back" the society and people who contributed greatly to making that profit possible. In other words, "profit" is a "filthy word" to the extent it's used to justify political and economic systems biased in favor of a small number of zillionaires and profit-maximizing corporations at the expense of most everyone else.
posted by slkinsey at 10:42 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I really don't want to like Brand. But I do.

Oddly, I feel the exact opposite.
posted by IndigoJones at 11:04 AM on October 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Every time I hear the name Russell Brand, I think of Stewart Brand, and wonder how anyone could hate him.
posted by blue_beetle at 11:10 AM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Brand leads off his NS issue with:
When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me. I chose the subject of revolution because the New Statesman is a political magazine and imagining the overthrow of the current political system is the only way I can be enthused about politics.
posted by Bwithh at 12:36 PM on October 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


That is a quite cogent essay. He addresses some of the issues brought up in this thread, too. ( And, he is obviously, in temperament and philosophy, a Yippie.)
posted by Benny Andajetz at 1:20 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Previously, their first interview from 2010, similarly surprisingly good.
posted by lazaruslong at 2:42 PM on October 24, 2013


I like Russell Brand and I generally agree with him, but I don't on the voting issue. He says that he doesn't vote because he's facing reality - reality being that the politicians don't do anything for us, which is often true. But I take the opposite view in that by voting, facing reality is exactly what I am doing. Because the reality is there are lots of things wrong with our system and we have to work with what we have. As much as I would love a utopian, egalitarian society, it is just. not. going. to. happen. It has never happened. That's the reality - not this idea that if it's fucked up and corrupt we should refuse to play and that will somehow make things better. If I don't vote, I'm not doing anything*. If the no voting idea that he espouses catches on and only say, three people in the entire country vote, with Candidate A getting two votes and Candidate B getting one vote, then Candidate A wins. And we're back to where we started, with one person who was voted in by a minority and represents a minority interest. So what has that accomplished? Not to derail, but we don't need to go back very far to see how voter apathy makes a very real difference.

If I do vote, there's a good chance something similar will happen anyway. But at least there's a chance of trying to effect some positive change, even if it's only baby steps. A small chance is better than no chance and as long as we have a first-past-the-post election system, that's probably the only way things are going to get done.

*I know he's not saying voting=doing nothing. But the closest thing we've had to a "revolution" and certainly the biggest protests we've seen since the Iraq War started is the Occupy movement. Which while I think it can be lauded for changing the public consciousness on these issues, has not had any real impact on anything, really. Not Wall Street, not corporate power, not inequality, not campaign finance, not anything. And as far as a real, actual revolution happening? I think things will have to get a lot worse for everyone before enough people are motivated to do something in a way that reaches a critical mass. Will things get to that point? I hope not. But there's a small part of me that's worried they will. And the only way that even gives us half a fighting chance to do something before things reach that point is by working within the system we have. Which means voting.
posted by triggerfinger at 5:16 PM on October 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


I think what I most liked about the interview was Brand's steadfast refusal to be shoehorned by Paxman into current acceptable political discourse - and Paxman was legitimately incapable of imagining and interview any other way. It really exposes the poverty of our political discourse and media, I feel.

I mean, I disagree with Brand about voting - and I think a lot of leftish (and rightish, I suppose) people grossly underestimate the power of incremental, small change, and how effective change can come about from working in the current, maladjusted system. And it's true, that complaining about shit is much easier than positing genuine reform; public policy is very hard, let alone genuinely democratic public policy.

However. Brand's passion is invigorating. Paxman is unable to get Brand to acquiesce to the established mode of these kind of interviews - or even to use the language of political interviews on television - and is unable to progress past that. His attempts to delegitimise Brand (and Brand's worldview) are literally all he's capable of in response - Paxman is afraid to have a genuine conversation about ideals and substantive critique, unaccustomed as he is to such things in political interviews. And he's so invested in the current, moribund status quo, that he can't even understand the basic point that Brand's illegitimacy strengthens his argument, and his legitimacy to those he is truly speaking to.

So much of current political discourse is constructed, for and by insiders. The public are viewed only in the most abstract sense, and then as stunted morlocks incapable of participating or thinking about this great game in anything but the most myopic, selfish ways: itself a deeply undemocratic and unfair perception.

Brand is a direct refutation to this: someone outside this system, yet who understands it, cares about it, and is critical of it. Paxman's inability to successfully engage with him illustrates Brand's points quite artfully - and captures why current public attitudes to politicians, media, governance and even the very idea of a big "society" are so negative, suspicious, and despairing - and the rise of parties and individuals like Brand on both sides of the political spectrum who are dedicated to breaking this neoliberal compact at a microlevel, and the reason why they're resonating even if they aren't articulate, don't make sense, can't fit comfortably into the existing discourse of politics.
posted by smoke at 5:46 PM on October 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


So it's either more of the same and worse, or revolution

False dichotomy, surely? Show me one revolution in human history that hasn't (a) fucked everything up massively for everybody involved and then (b) settled back into effective control being placed in the hands of a tiny elite. To my way of thinking, revolutions fit firmly inside "more of the same or worse".

Because here's the thing: any system can be gamed. Therefore every system will be gamed, and the people who get really good at gaming it will end up running it. If I ever think of a way around that, I'll be sure to let you know.

Many have tried.
posted by flabdablet at 7:16 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I am increasingly finding watching Brand like being heckled by Jack Sparrow with a book of Chomsky quotes.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 10:11 PM on October 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Good article by Paul Mason: Worlds collide as Russell Brand predicts a revolution
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:08 AM on October 25, 2013


I don't get the Russell Brand love, I just don't.
I can't see anything appealing about him. I feel like the last square in the world.
posted by Catch at 2:09 AM on October 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is great. Great that someone is speaking up in a big way — this vid is getting shared like mad on my Facebook feed. Not revolution, but talking openly about the Big Problems is a big step.

The nitpicking about what Brand stands for (the voting bit, especially) makes sense if he's to be our leader, but what we need, truly, is lots more folks speaking frankly about the Big Problems so we can collectively begin to imagine a bright future.

In his New Statesman bit brand breezes past what I think is needed for a strong movement. Brand writes
I did a job with Billy Connolly and Eddie Izzard not long ago and the three of us shared a dressing room. Eddie believes in democracy and spoke sincerely of his political ambitions. “One day I’d like to be a politician . . .” he said. I spoke of my belief that change could only come from within. “I’d like to be a spiritual orator . . .” I said grandly.

Billy eyed us both, with kindly disapprobation. “I’d like to be a nuisance,” he said. “I want to be a troublemaker, there in the gallery in parliament shouting RUBBISH and PROVE IT.” Who am I to argue with The Great Trickster Connolly? I will never vote and I don’t think you should, either.
Aye, Brand, but we need all three!

The Politician
The Preacher
The Prankster
posted by wemayfreeze at 3:07 AM on October 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


It doesn't warm my heart to see people all excited about not voting and sharing that idea on Facebook, when I also saw this on "The Daily Show" two nights ago. Voting means so little, I suppose, that people in power in southern states have been spending much of their time and energy on attempts to disfranchise entire groups of people, almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed. And they've been succeeding.
posted by raysmj at 7:32 AM on October 25, 2013 [5 favorites]


He's a liberal because his concepts of freedom and class are wholly bourgeois, and he's decadent because of all the look-at-me sex 'n' drugs 'n' addiction stuff, and because his personal wealth comes from Hollywood crap while claiming to despise profit. It's partly this environment - which he has been part of for years now, combined with the even worse music industry - which has led to his very high opinion of himself at present, since I imagine he is 100 percent surrounded by sycophants and people who want to have sex with him.

Ah, someone you don't want to attack based on the arguments who you suspect is having more sex than you. I suppose it's at least a traditional stance.
posted by jaduncan at 8:26 AM on October 25, 2013


Voting does seem like the crack in the oligarchy's armor. It would be hard for it to continue to masquerade as a democracy if it failed to allow the change that a successful attack via that weak spot could demand.

I've been wondering on and off for the last thirty years just how shitty things are going to have to get before enough chickens finally twig to Colonel Sanders's shell game to make organized mass resistance to it workable, and the answer was and remains* "much, much worse"; the propaganda machine has worked very very well for a very long time.

The wide acceptance of the ideas that Government Is The Problem and that Voting Can't Change Anything strike me as two of its strongest victories: together, they keep the likelihood of a well organized and genuinely egalitarian alternative party even forming, let alone becoming electable, quite satisfactorily negligible.

I also wonder whether Russell Brand has thought through the implications of the CADT model as applied to the construction and maintenance of political systems. I suspect not.

*There was a nice little moment of hope as I allowed myself to be fooled for a while by the first Obama campaign, but that's long since scarred over; drones, the perpetuation of Gitmo, the vast increases in public surveillance and the transfer of ever more public wealth to the architects of the GFC are all signs that business as usual remains firmly in the driver's seat.

Various Green parties, and criticism factories like Avaaz and MoveOn and GetUp, exert a small but worthwhile force in the necessary direction. So far, though, it's been no huge problem for the mainstream media to keep them safely marginal in the public mind.

Organic turfing is more expensive than astroturfing and looks much nicer, but the intent and effect are the same.
posted by flabdablet at 9:14 AM on October 25, 2013


I feel like some of the pro-voting comments here ignore the UK historical experience. As Ed's dead dad Ralph Miliband wrote in his pol-econ classic Parliamentary Socialism the single strongest ideological commitment of our Labour Party (putative representative of workers' interests) has been to parliamentarism and working within the existing system, but mild as their reformism has always been, as the reviewer I link writes:
In this way Labour has found itself not transforming capitalism, but shoring it up by frantic efforts to avert crises of sterling or to resolve some industrial dispute or other, while vainly attempting to appease vocal, especially business, opinion. Thereby, far from offering an alternative to capitalism, Labour has consistently found itself adapting to its exigencies.

The odd thing is that, while all this was going on, business interests never hesitated to act in extra-parliamentary ways, from making runs on the pound, withholding investment, avoiding taxation, and, of course, mobilising opinion and measures against anything coming from Labour (pretty well everything) of which they disapproved. And the more they subverted Labour's plans by these actions, the more Labour in office modified them in order to assuage the business world. And the more they did this, the more Labour moved away from socialist policies.
And he doesn't mention the frequent threats of capital flight and so forth either.
posted by Abiezer at 9:34 AM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm Gonna Take A Pass On Russell Brand's Bloody Revolution
posted by triggerfinger at 4:15 PM on October 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


I feel like some of the pro-voting comments here ignore the UK historical experience.

but the experience described is hardly unique to the UK and all kinds of political interests and groups act in "extra-parliamentary ways" in liberal democracies. I'm trying to imagine a parliamentary system where effective extra-parliametary actions and "mobilising opinion" were forbidden, and it doesn't seem to be like a very free place.
posted by Bwithh at 7:44 PM on October 25, 2013


It's not saying that the UK was unique (far from it, Italy especially springs to mind) but that we had a broad-based social movement wanting the sort of changes that Brand is on about and the more it went down the parliamentary road the further it got from its ostensible goals.
posted by Abiezer at 10:10 PM on October 25, 2013


As for voting, I am in total agreement with Brand that it does little to nothing to alter the status quo. However it is sometimes useful for averting abject catastrophe. In the U.S., that is all that voting has been good for pretty much all my life. I am very, very angry over the broken promises of the Obama administration, particularly with respect to transparency and whistleblower protections, which were explicitly promised. I worked hard to get Mr. Obama elected, and I am real mad. But every time I think about the bare possibility of a President Palin I immediately begin to fan myself with relief and all my regrets vanish instantly. Sometimes it is worth voting. Faute de mieux! Isn't that basically the mantra of adult life?
This unwillingness to let go of a local optimum that manifestly falls short of an easily imagined global optimum is exactly what's kept a tiny minority in charge since the whole idea of "in charge" was invented.

It's also exactly why burning down the whole landscape and starting over never works: the tendency to defend to the death whichever little ideological hill we find ourselves fighting on is a human political fundamental, regardless of aspirations about tops of mountains.

The creation and building of a competently organized egalitarian political movement would undoubtedly sap energy and people from the present oligarchy's opposition and allow it to dominate politics even more overtly, probably for a couple of decades.

But considering the rate at which it's already driving the world to hell, giving the oligarchy a chance to overreach might actually be the smartest thing to do to it. Because the combination of a well-organized political party set up with the explicit expectation of spending decades in the political wilderness while honing the ability to stay cohesive without letting go of its egalitarian, compassionate and well-informed founding principles, and a voting population so sick of being blatantly ripped off that it no longer cares whether the wrong lizard gets in, could be formidable.

Near as I can tell, this appears to be the game plan of the Australian Greens (as evidenced by their principled refusal to vote for Rudd's original greenwash emissions trading scheme, and their refusal to be complicit in any of the disgusting arrangements the major parties have made for efficient refugee abuse).

If the only way to the mountain is via the lake of shit surrounding the bottom of this hill then it might pay to contemplate getting a bit of shit on us, is what I'm saying. Think about that the next time somebody puts it to you that voting for a minor party is wasting a vote.
posted by flabdablet at 11:05 PM on October 25, 2013


Ah, someone you don't want to attack based on the arguments who you suspect is having more sex than you.

I don't see why Brand can pepper almost everything he says with boring sex references (the very first line of the first thing he writes for the New Statesman is some crap about a 'beautiful woman' yada yada) - but you expect me to assess his (barely coherent) call for revolution in a solemn and serious way.

If he was doing a job like any of us and not working in the entertainment industry he would likely be facing sexual harassment lawsuits.

And yet he's now a 'revolutionary.' Did Lenin and Trotsky behave like this?
posted by colie at 12:51 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not saying that you have to take him seriously. I'm saying that one has to take the ball rather than the man. If you believe that the actual arguments are so weak, it shouldn't be too much trouble to dispose of them in a way that isn't just a weak ad hom.
posted by jaduncan at 9:09 AM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]


The "First Past the Post" implementation of Democracy has a few technical flaws and Brand may just be the type of personality that can successfully promote popular awareness thereof. cf CGPGrey. If that counts as revolution I'll dig out my Phyrigian cap.
posted by headless at 6:29 PM on October 26, 2013 [2 favorites]


Who is this 'Lenin' and how did he behave?
posted by headless at 6:35 PM on October 26, 2013


BlerpityBloop: Well, ok, but if he was such a man of the people why not just charge less / donate more and take the taxman out of the equation?

Because the UK has 63 million people living in it? He could hand over his entire fortune and it'd be a drop in the ocean. If all the millionaires in Britain (there are a lot of them) were taxed more, that'd actually have an effect on society.

As for the suggestion that he should charge less for tickets, well, are you a taxman-hating libertarian or not? That's the free market for you. Enough people are willing to pay what he charges. Don't like it? Can't afford it? Don't go. It's no great loss to miss a comedy show. It's not like he's hoarding all the food in the country and gouging the hungry. (Besides, the more he charges, the more sales tax is raked in.)
posted by Sys Rq at 9:24 PM on October 27, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'll second Russell Brand on revolution piece liked upthread.
"Apathy is a rational reaction to a system that no longer represents, hears or addresses the vast majority of people."
posted by jeffburdges at 8:45 AM on October 29, 2013


And we've a facebook page for "Russell's Revolution".
posted by jeffburdges at 10:05 AM on October 29, 2013


And there are a ton of ways to effect political change that don't involve voting.

And those are? I keep hearing people say this, but beyond being a huge corporation or insanely rich, good luck on getting any influence to affect change. Protests? Right, look all Occupy has gotten done... Oh, the bankers still have no punishment.

Voting means so little, I suppose, that people in power in southern states have been spending much of their time and energy on attempts to disfranchise entire groups of people, almost 50 years after the Voting Rights Act was passed. And they've been succeeding.

This right here. Sure, i know plenty of people who go on about not voting, and posting this brand interview and how great it is, but if it's so true, lets just not let minorities or women vote. Nothing would change, right?

The problem with voting, as i see it, is people are too easy to sway with "Omg taxes!" or "Support our troops!" or "2nd amendment!" rhetoric. I've seen people on facebook complain a lot about the shutdown, but i can guarantee that they will vote for the exact same people, or almost the same, just because of ideology, but then are shocked when they act like they really are.
posted by usagizero at 9:08 PM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I tried to read the New Statesman piece, couldn't get through it all, it struck me as too smug and rambling.... But I did sort of sense an intent behind it. And I can sympathize with the idea that the entire political system is screwed up.

But "I don't vote, and you shouldn't either" is totally only something a white heterosexual male has the luxury of saying. None of Brand's essential civil rights is at stake. None. Many of us do not have that luxury. Many of us are up against a political party that's been thoroughly co-opted by apocolyptic Dominionist Christians who REALLY WOULD like to stone to death or burn at the stake a whole lot of us for any number of reasons - gay, bi, kinky, female, skin color, daring to enjoy sex... It's possible that, at a national level, elected officials are smart enough to not actually want to vote on those things, but the party's method, increasingly over the last decade, has been to start by taking over school PTAs, school boards, city councils, and work their way up. This is how we end up with elected Congressmen who do not believe science is true, who do not believe economics has consequences in the real world to real people, and think only wealthy people who vote appropriately deserve health care.

EVERY DAY I surf my blog RSS feeds and theres' some new loon with some new way of saying that I don't deserve to live, because I'm gay. And that's who the Republicans are turning to to drum up more votes. I don't have the luxury of not voting. BELIEVE me I wish I could ignore the whole drama - politics drives me right up a tree, I can't even watch Rachel Maddow, even though I agree with her, because it's just all too angering and disgusting - but I cannot afford to ignore it or pretend it has no effect on me or the people I care about.

Now, if Brand and his fans want a "revolution" of people creating their own grassroots systems and structures to look out for the common good - like how the Occupy Movement has done some work to buy up peoples' bad debts and forgive them - then absolutely I'm ALL for that. That's exactly what we need. Just don't pretend that "Vice President Palin" would have been meaningless or had no effect on our lives.
posted by dnash at 9:26 PM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


Did Lenin and Trotsky behave like this?

'Revolutionary' and 'womanizer' are practically synonyms.
posted by empath at 2:53 AM on October 30, 2013


The world has big problems, medium problems, and small problems. Brand is focused on the big problems and is 100% correct that voting will do nothing to help solve them. Voting will, however, help solve some the medium problems and it's a bit unfortunate that he seems to be ignoring that. The smaller problems are solved by boots-on-the-ground action and donating time, money, and support directly to the folks doing that. Brand may or may not be helping in that regard.
posted by rocket88 at 10:03 AM on October 30, 2013


Robert Webb re-joins Labour in protest at Russell Brand "if you want to be a nuisance to the people whom you most detest in public life, vote. And vote Labour."
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:14 AM on October 30, 2013 [5 favorites]


All this sounds academic without discussing the primary system in the U.K., and Labor's self-serving take on the Alternative Vote referendum. AV might've actually helped address the big issues, unlike the current Labor party.
posted by jeffburdges at 10:58 AM on October 30, 2013


That Webb letter is AWESOME
posted by Bwithh at 6:03 PM on October 30, 2013


All this sounds academic without discussing the primary system in the U.K.,

Do you mean first-past-the-post voting in general elections (for which they are cons and pros, of course)? Labour and the Liberal Democrats already use AV in their parties' selection of leadership candidates. The UK doesn't have "primaries" in the way that the US does because of the difference between the presidential and prime minister/parliament roles
posted by Bwithh at 6:06 PM on October 30, 2013


And there are a ton of ways to effect political change that don't involve voting.

And those are?


I don't know how things are in England, but in America, strong unions, good journalism, and lawsuits have effected more long-term political change than a vote ever did.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 10:35 AM on October 31, 2013


You say that, Bunny Ultramod, but consider that the Supreme Court has no enforcement power of its own. Brown v. Board would not have been carried through completely, for instance, without the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Most southern schools didn't face desegregation orders until the late 1960s. Journalism and strong unions were less directly tied to that than having a Democratic president and an overwhelming majority in Congress (as well as president who knew how to twist arms, albeit ones in his own party). Meanwhile, you're not going to get gay marriage all the way through without legislation at the national level and, more likely, the state level. Success there ultimately depends on organization and engagement with individuals and voters, not federal justices. Enforcement of the law depends on someone around who is accountable to the public, regardless.

Another example of voting at work vs. the courts that I could give you is the defeat of the "Personhood" amendment in Mississippi, where a tiny group in Jackson decided to organize a campaign against it, and succeeded in getting it overwhelmingly defeated--this, before the courts ever stepped in. The results of that, it appears to me (legislators have tried to bring up a "personhood" bill again, without success), are final. If the courts had ruled alone, I think you'd still have lawmakers able to rail at the courts. You can't rail at voters quite as easily and get away with it.
posted by raysmj at 11:13 AM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Robert Webb has it. I like Russell Brand quite a bit, but this was not one of his better appearances. Vague fantasias about revolution are not the best. His injunction against voting is totally, utterly 3edgy5me. (If I was opposed to Brand's politics, I would be delighted that he had said as much.)

As always, I turn to Alan Keenan:
The "cynico-moralism" of liberal and conservative partisans, then, takes on a particularly destructive power in a political context, like today’s, in which there is a large pool of disengaged citizens, for whom the discourse of cynical detachment is both readily available and a comforting palliative for their feelings of political disempowerment. For many spectator-citizens, the unmasking of the hypocrisy of the politically engaged and powerful acts not only as a way to justify their own political inactivity, but also a means of claiming a small amount of apparent power: to write off the entire field of political action as hopelessly contaminated with power and self-interest is to assert that at least one isn’t a sucker; one has seen through the illusions of the powerful and now knows the score. One won’t be so stupid as to be taken in by the system or by the naive dream of thinking it can be fundamentally transformed.

[...]

What would it mean for such a basically compromising - never fully democratic - political condition to be acknowledged in one’s calls to responsibility? It would mean, first of all, not treating the inevitable implication in political and ethical impurities as evidence of the corruption of one’s own or others’ moral or political character. Rather than appealing to others to change their behavior in order to remove the stain or guilt of their present implication in suffering, or injustice, or unfairness, one would appeal to the positive possibilities of constructing a more just, or democratic, commmunity, possibilities that actually reside in the very fact of our being situated within systems and relations of power…. A nonmoralistic appeal[…]would say something more like: “Look, the world is a messy and dirty place and we are all caught up in its injustices and suffering. Becoming more aware of our precise situation within these impurities, though, should allow us to act together more effectively to bring into being a better community, enhancing our own lives and the lives of our fellow citizens. It will take some hard work, but look at the possibilities available to us through shared political action."

[...]

A moralistic language, then, tends to speak to others as relatively static and clearly defined persons whose basic moral character is already largely defined by the content of their past actions and thus must often be wholly transformed in order for them to act more justly or democratically. A nonmoralistic practice of political engagement, on the other hand - not being content simply with taking the “correct” stand for the sake of the democratic actor’s own sense of purity - is especially careful to consider the effects of its appeals on its audience and to make them in a way that makes it easier to political opponents and the unconvinced to change their minds. It thus speaks to others as *sites of possibility*. It asks what each of us can do with the power and potential granted us by the specific way we are presently situated, rather than asking us to be adequate to an abstract, contextless set of rules. It thus wagers, in an apparent paradox, that a fuller acceptance of where we are at the present moment can help open up space in which *new* political and ethical arrangements - a new *new* - becomes imaginable and seems worth struggling for…. Rather than being backward-looking and focused on the calculation and rectification of past injustices and “sins”, a democratic language of responsibility must for this reason be future-oriented, appealing to the positive possibilities that reside in those who still need to be convinced.
The tl;dr version is that it's very easy to write off the Whole System. So easy, in fact, that this is essentially an apolitical position. Much more interesting and effective is being able to reach out to make some changes actually happen. This is messier and requires more compromise, but the reward can be matched to the challenge.
posted by Sticherbeast at 2:42 PM on October 31, 2013 [1 favorite]


Let us also not forget that federal judges are nominated by elected officials, then confirmed by appointment by other elected officials. So even with the judiciary, elections have consequences, at least in the US.
posted by raysmj at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2013


Russell Brand: we deserve more from our democratic system. Following his appearance on Newsnight, the comedian explains why he believes there are alternatives to our current regime
posted by homunculus at 12:47 PM on November 9, 2013 [2 favorites]


'Disengaged' Voters Reject All Of Britain's Political Parties
posted by jeffburdges at 2:57 AM on November 15, 2013


'Can I have my house back?' JPMorgan cancels Twitter Q&A after receiving 'offensive' questions

The moral case for [the IMF supported] one-off wealth tax is compelling
posted by jeffburdges at 3:01 AM on November 15, 2013


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