Branding Brand

Not so long ago Russell Brand was one of those pointless celebrities known chiefly for his boorish antics. Of late, though, he’s undergone something of a transformation and re-entered my own particular consciousness when he spoke movingly about Amy Winehouse’s death a couple of years back with references to his own one-time drug addiction.

Then in September I heard about the Russell Brand world tour in which he had plenty of surprising things to say about life and politics. Now he’s gone viral on Youtube for his interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight in which he called for a revolution.

I’ve been astonished at the controversy this has provoked, with newspaper columnists and broadcasters queueing up to trash him. Nonsense, trivial, half-baked have been some of the kinder things said of his views.

But they do protest too much. The truth is, Brand has touched a nerve by talking about subjects that are never talked about on prime time TV – like the “economic disparity” that exists in society, the “politicians who are apathetic to our needs and only interested in servicing the needs of corporations”, and the “impoverished and disenfranchised” populations.

By ridiculing him, Brand’s critics refuse to countenance the idea that he is merely expressing widespread public opinion. People are fed up with what’s on offer and no longer accept the explanation for the lack of jobs, rising utility bills, falling wages and ever increasing bank bonuses.

And it’s not just a generational thing. There are plenty of parents who agree with Danny Dorling’s assessment in the latest edition of the New Statesman that the young are being systematically defrauded. They are genuinely fearful for their children’s future.

So people can go on all they like about Brand’s so- called celebrity tantrum. Yes he is a celebrity, that’s why he got a spot on Newsnight. And because he’s a celebrity he can say the word revolution and address Paxman as “darling” in the same breadth. But Brand is not so daft as to imagine he’s going to be leading the overthrow of the status quo.

By failing to see beyond Brand the brand, commentators show how, like politicians, they are completely out of step with what people are thinking.

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