I personally have a soft spot for him. Being the long-haired hippy sort that I am (or try to be), I can appreciate the quirkiness and slight romanticism of his style. He’s not a complete moron either. Not that using big words in an interview makes you clever, as The Spectator has pointed out, but he does seem to possess a certain degree of self-awareness, thanking Mika Brzezinski ‘for the casual objectification’ when the MSNBC hostess referred to him as if he were a (forgive the pun) ‘brand’. But is his latest escapade into the world of politics a step too far?
The first thing we could note is that, depressingly, none of what Brand says is new. The woes of the world is a trumpet that has been played often enough. His appeal seems to lie in the idea that he has cut through the stiff and boring political discourse of the mainstream media and has pursued a no-nonsense approach to the issues that we face today. Looking at his 4,500 word essay in the ‘Russell Brand Issue’ of the New Statesman, there is a sense that he wants to connect with his readers. He admits to having not spared a thought for the misfortune of others in faraway lands and to feeling anger towards banks and bankers only when an ATM charges him to withdraw his money. He’s just a regular guy like us in that sense. But he is also aware of the ‘hypocrisy’ in his pontificating from atop his mountain of fame and fortune ‘like Kubla Khan‘, so does this mean that he has no right to express his opinion?
The apathy of the youth, environmental concerns, the disparity between rich and poor, and our relation to the rest of humanity are things that should concern us all. Brand says that ‘these things are not nonsense’. And he’s right. But is he just another celebrity trying to get those public brownie points? His sharp increase in popularity on the web in the form of memes and the Facebook page ‘Russell Brand for Prime Minister’ (currently at over 120,000 likes) was obviously the effect he and the New Statesman were going for, but should we look at this ploy with disdain? Surely the benefit is that people will actually engage with politics once again, even if it is to express how unhappy they are with it. His appointment as co-editor of the New Statesman for the week was clearly a publicity stunt and his refusal to vote, along with his appeal to others to do the same, was a point Jeremy Paxman would not allow to go unchallenged.
Born and raised in Cyprus but with a British upbringing (a fun mix of halloumi and tea), George studies History at MMU but thinks the present can be just as fascinating – only just though. Believing it can be a strange and wicked world, George tries to make sure he’s armed with a sense of humour. Follow him at @OdysseosGeorge