Manufacturing Victimhood? The Defenestration of Russell Brand
There may have been a long way to fall for Philip Schofield, Kevin Spacey and Huw Edwards, but Brand had been open about his promiscuity - and his humanity – forever.'
On the weekend of the 16th and 17th September 2023, Channel 4 series Dispatches broadcast a documentary titled Russell Brand: In Plain Sight. The following day, The Sunday Times published a long article, apparently four years in the making. A coordinated hit-job, these pieces alleged rape and sexual assault by four of comedian, actor and activist Russell Brand's ex girlfriends and colleagues.
One complainant was sixteen at the time of their relationship. This is not a crime in the UK. Another alleged a rape against a wall, an incident for which Brand appeared to apologise by text message afterwards. Online culture-watcher, That Umbrella Guy, has cast aspersions on the copy-paste veracity of this exchange, in which the complainant acknowledges that this 'wasn't one of my better decisions' - which does at least indicate that it was her decision.
If the 1990s were all about 'lad' (and 'laddette') culture in Britain, the 2000s were a confused hangover, as the justice and media systems rapidly emasculated following decades-long gender based campaigning. The same Channel 4 that twenty years later would so brutally defenestrate Brand, that earlier decade feted him as the new Goblin King of alternative TV, 'shagging' (Of The Year) and rude-cheeking his big haired way round London, then later the US.
Part of Brand's appeal was a lacerating honesty that assisted in his stand-up, and later his series of post-recovery self-help books. This post-recovery came following cleaning up from heroin and addiction, which he self-admittedly replaced with sex. An early nadir came when he and co-host Jonathan Ross called an elderly Andrew 'Manuel' Sachs, and Brand claimed to have had sex with the actor's granddaughter. This prank lost Brand this gig, and a good degree of establishment and public support.
More rehab necessary, during which Brand appeared to read a few Noam Chomsky books, and emerged blinking into the Brexit sun. Interviews on his new podcast channel with Ed Miliband and various other politicos found him weathervaning through the politically turbulent 2010s along with the rest of the nation, as the country generally applauded what looked like a phoenix-like - if relatively subtle - return to the national conversation.
The alternative media world, of which Brand quickly became a leading light, had become a force in every election since Obama in 2008; through to Trump in 2016, and beyond. Commentators such as Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, Winston Marshall and Laurence Fox amongst an embarrassment of others had sprung up in this time, capitalising on a creeping distrust of what felt like a media-political hegemony - and commenting boldly on what they were seeing.
The seemingly catastrophic social experiment known as Covid-19 landed in the middle of all of this and on the turn of the decades, stunting the confidence of the west (and elsewhere) in myriad ways. Brand's daily show started to ramp up reports with a brash fearlessness, the now happily married firebrand forthright with a heady zeal, his welcome tagline 'Hello you six million awakening wonders' followed by (highly verifiable) tales of corruption in the heart of the liberal democratic establishment.
This clearly couldn't be allowed to continue, and Brand's personal redemption/turnaround hadn't been checked with the newly progressive powers that be. So while Louis CK and Bill Cosby had felt the full force of the #MeToo movement - and Jimmy Savile and Harvey Weinstein had been apparently buried for ever - it was perhaps curious that Brand seemed to have got off so lightly. Ben Shapiro, in a robust online defence of Brand's position, said this was based on innate media hypocrisy. Text apologies and public admonishments of Brand's old self were not enough however; more blood was needed.
What was different about the cancellation of Brand was that his reputation with the public was already as chaotic and mixed up as any other aspect of postmodern culture: there may have been a long way to fall for Philip Schofield, Kevin Spacey and Huw Edwards, but Brand had been open about his promiscuity - and his humanity - forever. Maybe this was why the Edwards, Schofield, Dan Wootton and Brand stories all came out within a few months of each other, because the powers-that-be were recognising that the required damage wasn't being done any more. This was the law of diminishing returns: since Bill Clinton, it's been obvious how politicos can weaponise sex claims to bring powerful people down - but this wasn't inexhaustible.
The Dispatches documentary quoted Alice (16 years old no longer) as saying 'It should be illegal for a girl of 16 to have a relationship with a man in his 30s' - this presented behind ominous paedo-music as if it should immediately etched into Hansard. There is a creeping fashion in campaigning journalism on TV and in the papers for emotional manipulation to aspire to change policy: so goes the quote 'Give me control of a nation's media and I care not who makes its laws'. So #MeToo era power-feminism continues its long march through the institutions, ignoring its consistent 9% approval rating with the public, and presenting one-sided stories of alleged high-profile deviance.
Self-sculpted somewhere between Freddie Mercury and Robert Smith, Russell Brand has been a Puck-like force of nature since the millennium, telling and living his own story and being open about his own caddishness, almost as it happened. Did he suspect this grisly reckoning might come, even as he had his YouTube monetisation ended (in front of his estimated £20 million worth)? While Brand has already been crucified and cancelled multiple times, now Channel 4 'has a zero-tolerance approach to unacceptable behaviour'. Or even untried allegations of it twenty years after the fact, it seems.
Woke progressivism apparently finds it almost impossible to forgive: one man's adolescent growing pains reflected in the cultural behaviour of the institutions around him. Still, as Brand/Puck might say at the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream:
"Give me your hands, if we be friends. And Robin shall restore amends.'
By Sean Bw Parker
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