Brand vs Paxman

Submitted by AWL on 28 October, 2013 - 1:11

Brand’s outspokenness is to be admired. There are few people of his position who would risk taking such ardent positions that challenge power, and voice criticism of the same regime that sustains their celebrity affluence.

Brand’s verbal wizardry is not without content, but does lack coherence or completeness, although the context clearly doesn’t permit the elaboration sufficient to supplement such a call to action.

When Paxman probes Brand’s call for a ‘socialist egalitarian society’ he replies:

“I’m saying there are people with alternative ideas that are far better qualified than I am, and far better qualified, more importantly, than the people doing that job.”

While this wisdom demonstrates Brand’s awareness of the limitations of his own position, he does articulate one clear piece of advice: “don’t vote, voting is complicity”.

We should be careful here, his implication is that the system is maintained by people voting, or participating in it.

Electoral participation is not what sustains inequality, environmental destruction or exploitation, it is the movements of capital that do, and they have existed since before working class populations had won the right to vote.

We should recognize that in terms of parliamentary politics there are some situations that are much worse than others. Would you tell a Greek person not to cast their vote in order to keep the facist Golden Dawn party out of office?

This view seems to be based on the idea ‘ they are all the same as each other’, but it is a logical fallacy, albeit one that can be sympathetically understood.

In terms of elections, Noam Chomsky puts it best: “small differences in a big system can have massively different outcomes”.

Chomsky is an interesting person to turn to here. His ‘propaganda model’ theory might suggest that an elite-oriented media should have filtered out Brand’s voice.

However, Brand serves a useful purpose in this context. His prominence allows the spiel of revolutionary politics to be lost underneath the fixation of celebrity, and he is being wheeled out to offer opinions in place that could be filled by many other serious political activists or theorists whose hands are dirty from the hard daily grind of educating and agitating in their communities, sometimes risking arrest, isolation, or even their lives in the pursuit of the cause of social justice. These are the people that are filtered out by the elitist constraints of media.

Tapping into popular sentiments brings value for broadcasters, and Brand’s subversive, yet mostly impotent opinions enhance his status as a kind of niche commodity within the media culture he exists in. His assimilation into that culture means he can be little more than a mouth-piece for those who undertake the real task of changing the world from the bottom up.

It’s easy to bathe in a good feeling by watching people like Russell Brand make swashbuckling lunges at the establishment, but that can too easily become submission to a politics that are viewed, outsourced to others, or just for entertainment. Educating ourselves beyond the sound-bite or social media clip is the first step towards creating the ‘socialist egalitarian society’ that Brand wants to progress to, and the best way of learning how to change the world is by doing it.

The fact his sentiments resonate with people is a good sign, there are people who want to see change. Motivating ourselves, and harnessing the potential of others is what will get is there. We should use opportunities like this to cultivate debate and draw together people who identify with Brand’s view of the world.

Link to the interview: http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/23/russell-brand-v-jeremy-paxman_n_4151743.html