The now infamous Paxman interviewzennie62

It’s little wonder that people have mistaken Russell Brand for the embodiment of what’s wrong with Britain. We’re full of empty fear, joy and righteous outrage, spurred on by tabloids and terrible TV, but simultaneously lacking in sensible or motivating popular thought; he’s a seemingly vacuous star talking vaguely but energetically about “revolution”.

It looks like a match made in heaven. Brand is vain, flippant and at times downright rude, and his career in the public eye has included all the drugs, sex and shamelessness a goggling modern mind could want. Even his serious speeches about Transcendental Meditation and unity often sound like the ramblings of a man who took too much acid in the 70s. But a complex era is going to produce complex heroes; beneath the whimsy is a very bright mind which recognises that those who benefit from a corrupt system are not going to be the ones who change it.

When I watched that Newsnight interview I didn’t see an apathetic narcissist being shamed, I saw someone who genuinely thinks drastic change is a viable option being effectively told to shut up by an embodiment of the establishment (though Paxman himself is hardly the worst of it). Say what you like about Brand, he may be funny and flippant but he is not trivial. Being rude, funny, and engaging has allowed him to give interesting and inspiring speeches to people from all walks of life. If it has meant a loss of support from those who believe that to say things of value you have to look earnest and not make jokes, that’s not the end of the world.

However, it is possible to go too far – as Colm Murphy mentioned there is a point where daring sexual simile gets repetitive. And a little further along from that point is the point where using gay slurs is unacceptable. It’s worth noting of course that Brand has a very different background to most of the people who were at the Union that night, and in all likelihood there was no malice whatsoever behind his use of the word ‘poofs’. In the context of a funny retort, it doesn’t exactly scream homophobe. But I was sorry to hear that he’d used the term; it doesn’t do justice to his ideals – he knows that he presents himself as an enlightened liberal, so why perpetuate hate speech, even if he didn’t mean it himself? It will now inevitably be the main topic of discussion - as opposed to, say his call for “a broadening of democracy…a more holistic and inclusive ideology”.

For all his irritating mannerisms and terrible role-modelling, it’s worth suspending your disbelief and taking what valuable lessons you can take from a complicated (and evidently at times inconsiderate) man. If his inane grin is too rage-inducing, feel free to peruse his beautifully expressed articles for the Guardian and the New Statesman. When Margaret Thatcher died I couldn’t find anyone who expressed my thoughts as well as he did, and his put-downs of The Sun during their stand-off made for great reading. Admittedly he doesn’t have all the answers and is often very wrong (I do think abstaining and creating alternatives is a better idea than just not voting), but it would be wasteful to dismiss him out of hand.

I have seen few people in the public eye talk sense as much as he does, even if I did have to pick it out from between poo jokes. As Nafeez Ahmed put it, in the wake of all the stone-throwing media responses to Newsnight, “It is a sad reflection of the dire state of politics and the media that it falls to a celebrity comedian such as Russell Brand to speak truth to power - and an even sadder reflection that mainstream cultural commentators find themselves incapable of even understanding his key message”.

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