London OCCUPY Protesters Arrested. Plus Bush, the Bin Ladens and 9/11 – It’s RUSSELL BRAND on Newsnight (Again)!

Posted: October 28, 2014 in (All Things) CULTURE, (Politics) CURRENT AFFAIRS
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It was that time again; for Occupy to make its presence felt in London, and for the police to show up in force and make its presence felt too. It was also that time again; Russell Brand on Newsnight time!

Something’s always going to get said. Something to provoke headlines and comment, mostly from people trying to portray something as ‘shocking’ that shouldn’t be shocking at all.
And more often than not it’s because TV hosts are actively trying to goad that little something out of him; all part of the clever game, Brand being the go-to guy for news shows on both sides of the Atlantic looking to liven up their usual repertoire. Well, Russell Brand is always going to have something to say, and then everyone goes home happy.

The notorious Brand interview with Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight last year was something of a joy to watch. On his latest Newsnight appearance, Russell said he is ‘open-minded’ to the possibility George Bush may have been behind the 9/11 attacks; though actually only because he was prompted into discussing it by the programme’s new host, Mr Not Jeremy Paxman.

After being questioned by Not Jeremy Paxman on a reference to the destruction of the World Trade Center resembling a ‘controlled demolition’ in Brand’s book Revolution, the verbose comedian said he was “open-minded” to the possibility that the US government had played a role in the atrocity. Brand was, however, quick to say that he wanted to talk about more pressing matters such as housing and his views about an “alternative to corporate hegemony” and that he didn’t want to get sidetracked into talking about conspiracy theories. He did say, however, that the relationship between the Bush and Bin Laden families was “interesting”, along with the way attack the was “used to enforce further controls” on US citizens.

There’s nothing shocking about someone suggesting a 9/11 conspiracy, of course; recent polls suggest more than 50% of the world doesn’t believe the official story put out by the American Government in the 9/11 Commission Report (a general misinformation exercise every bit as unconvincing as the legendary Warren Commission Report into the assassination of John F.Kennedy). But it is unusual for someone with a high ‘celebrity’ profile to openly say it. Credit to Russell Brand for being willing to do so on a platform as mainstream as Newsnight. And if anyone was going to do it, it was going to be Brand (a regular chin-wagger with the likes of Alex Jones and David Icke in the past) and a self-described revolutionary.

One gets the sense that mainstream producers prefer to re-direct Brand into saying things that might make it easier for  his views on other matters to be mocked. The sense is that Brand really can’t do anything to harm his ‘reputation’ anyway or undermine his career; assuming he would care about either of those things anyway. Most people in his position wouldn’t go near any of those subjects with a barge-pole. Russell Brand continues to be a breath of fresh air in an age devoid of meaningful ‘celebrity’; in his own way, Brand is like an heir to the Bill Hicks’s and George Carlins’ of former years, though in his own inimitable, Byron-esque fashion of course. We should be glad he’s around to speak honestly (and eloquently, at that) and to ruffle feathers in the palaces of the high and mighty, so to speak.

Execs, producers and hosts might want to use Brand’s presence for their own purposes, but he can just as easily use that platform to shed light onto subject areas that would otherwise be avoided. There probably won’t be a revolution; at least not on any effective scale. But at least he’s there, trying to poetically help something of the sort along.

And he remains, as far as I can tell, devoid of hypocrisy all the while. I wrote recently about the late Peter Ustinov in the context of today’s tacky celebrity culture; Russell Brand remains an exception in the world of modern celebrity, as someone with both substance and great intellect, a law entirely unto himself.
And he should be lauded for it. Because everyone else in his strata of fame is generally beholden to the standard policy of saying fuck all about anything.

And when ‘celebrities’ do express a considered or passionate view on something politically or socially significant, they leave themselves open to condemnation and ridicule and to alienating sections of their ‘fan base’; examples of this being the late Joan Rivers’ recent pro-IDF tirades or Ben Affleck’s recent statements about Muslims on Real Time With Bill Maher, which caused a media storm in the US.  The difference is probably, again, that Russell Brand is in a position now where is expected to say those sorts of things and so the shock value is less than it is with someone like Affleck, who is perceived as being more ‘safe’ and ‘mainstream’.

In a not-entirely-unrelated matter, Russell Brand also put in a show of solidarity with the week-long Occupy Democracy protests outside UK Parliament.

The Occupy activists have set out to confront government austerity, and poverty and inequality in society. Police reportedly arrested up to forty people, who have been charged under a variety of public order by-laws, including the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Among those arrested were high-profile activists such as Caroline Lucas, the Green Party MP, and the party’s London Assembly Member Baronness Jenny Jones.

“People are coming together to demand democracy peacefully, not violently,” Russell Brand told reporters. “People from different backgrounds with different beliefs are coming together to ask for a basic, fundamental right that we are told we already have.”

Regardless of the heavy police presence around their activities and regardless of the mainstream media’s tendency to portray their activities in an unflattering manner, the Occupy movement assuredly has a long life left in it and won’t be disappearing any time soon; no matter how much certain parties and institutions might want it to.

 

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