I’ve not written about Russell Brand’s book. It’s not that I’m indifferent towards him. I despise his cod radicalism and wrote many posts laying into his early forays into politics. But I just can’t bring myself to spend £6.99 on his new book and then sacrifice several hours to reading it. And I think that even Russell Brand deserves to have his work read before it is mauled.
There are, however,
masochists people who have plunged into this pit apparent of fatuous fallacies and returned to recount to the rest of us the horrors therein. My friend has Robin McGhee has contributed to this emerging sub-genre with an article for Prospect. He compares (or rather contrasts) Brand’s book with a recently published collection of Noam Chomsky’s work:
Russell Brand’s new book is a brilliant, if totally unintentional, defence of the establishment. On the one hand, he proposes the bankruptcy of the current political system. On the other, he gives victory to the establishment by suggesting the only way to fix it is by not participating in politics. Worryingly, Brand’s so-called ideas have resonated with the public: the Newsnight sparring session between him and Jeremy Paxman has had over 10m hits on YouTube and his own news show, The Trews, is up to 44m views and rising. He is a master populist, who is restyling himself as an “alternative” leftist voice. On several occasions he has professed his admiration for alternative thinkers such as Noam Chomsky, despite Brand’s anti-voting stance directly contradicting his hero’s arguments. Chomsky believes the corporate media fabricates narratives to suit the aims of the governing elite. The media’s job is not to inform the public: it is to massage them into being apathetic so the privileged can run the country in peace. While this conspiratorial message has been much derided, if anything proves it, it is Brand’s latest printed tirade.
For me the highlight is the following:
Where there is humour, it is gratingly predictable. His act of the streetwise hedonist playing with literary and philosophical concepts is, as usual, the main source of comedy. (“Amazing as it is that the brain can conjure up these neurological illusions, which on some subtle level are a physical reality, like they must be made of an electrical impulse which has a charge or a weight, it’s a fucking drag when I can’t voluntarily stop it.”) Other attempts at humour come out as surreal meta-ironic puns. Chomsky is “Chomskerooney” at one point, while Thomas Picketty is described like this: “Dear ol’ Thomassy Piketts, ol’ Piketty, Licketty, Rollitty, Flicketty, has been given a right kicketty by the right wing for daring to suggest that we need transparency around the wealth and assets…” The effect, besides bafflement, is padding. Brand has more of an eye on the word count than the words—or less on the spellcheck as the cheque.