Russell Brand will change nothing
Brand’s political brains don’t match his heart
Author: Liam Fitz-Gerald
It seems that Russell Brand is trying his hand at politics. The 39-yea-old author, actor, comedian and former husband of Katy Perry has been making noise in recent years over issues ranging from the problematic concentration of wealth in the upper classes to Israeli policies in Gaza. Within the last year he’s called for a social revolution of sorts and has written a book appropriately titled Revolution. In his treatise he calls for a transition from modern capitalism to a more egalitarian world where the environment humans will take care of each other and the environment. He’s also espoused the view that voting is useless because there’s nobody worth voting for.
Brand also took aim at Prime Minister Stephen Harper over his response to the tragic shootings in Ottawa in October; accusing the Tory leader of advancing a political agenda of increased militarization under the subtext of fighting Islamic terrorism.
When he’s not doing all of that, rumour had it that he was thinking about running for London’s mayoralty, giving the public a candidate worth voting for, it seems. According to the Telegraph, the star of Get Him to the Greek apparently confided in some friends that he was thinking of running for Boris Johnson’s job in 2016, although he commented earlier last week that he would not seek that job. So for the time being, Aldous Snow has ruled himself out for mayor.
Some critics have said there’s not much substance to Brand’s book or political views with David Runciman praising the book for some things but remarking that it’s “light on practical details.” The Daily Mail’s Craig Brown has opined that it’s interesting for an anti-establishment author to use Random House for book publishing purposes.
While many of Brand’s interviews have come across as incoherent and confused, there are times when he’s lucid, clear and concise about his message. He’s clearly well read and absorbed some subject matter on current events. Despite his transition from actor to activist, however, Brand will not really impact the political scene because his audience will probably dismiss him as a lunatic. Even if some agree with him, they will still be autumn leaves in a great forest of political and social apathy.
It’s safe to say that the political right has no use for Brand and will dismiss him as a former drug addict and an idiotic celebrity. Yet, Brand is also going to have this problem with the establishment left, many of whom have undoubtedly face-palmed whenever he’s spoken and have, understandably, distanced themselves from the radical nature of Brand’s message in fear of being associated with and tainted by his views. Don’t expect to see Ed Miliband and the British Labour Party actively recruiting him.
Even if some are inspired to take action by Brand, it’s going to make little difference because of societal apathy on political and social issues, which is precisely what Brand’s view of “nobody worth voting for” contributes to. In Canada, this can be seen from the decline in voter turnout, which was sixty-one percent in the last federal election. A Statistics Canada poll found that 28 per cent of eligible voters who did not vote claimed they ’just weren’t interested’ in voting. There are many reasons why people may be uninterested in voting, including being systematically unable to do so and having other priorities during the time of an election. However, Brand does democracy little service by saying voting is useless and he’s part of a much larger, collective self-fulfilling cultural prophecy of “it makes no difference, so I won’t bother.”