Building A Revolutionary Brand.

In Blog, Culture, Politicsby Paul Doyle50 Comments


With the release of his latest book has Russel Brand missed his chance to do something truly revolutionary? Paul Doyle thinks so and here he puts his manifesto to the testo.

Brand’s purported magnum opus, ‘Revolution’, could have been given away for free online. For no charge, it could have been available to all on Brand’s website, torrents, and anywhere that wished to host it; a beautiful statement about working outside the system from a multi-millionaire who seriously does wish to tear down the walls of his own golden palace.

It could have spread like the plague, ‘Have you read Brand’s new book? He’s giving it away for free you know’. It could have been released with no copyright, so that anyone who wished to print it and spread the word themselves could do so.

Brand, finally, would have un-cuffed himself from the chains of celebritarian clownery he so happily shackled himself with a few short years ago. His long sought after socialist credentials would have finally been obtained.

None of that good stuff happened, though. The book has a recommended retail price of 20 pounds, and is on sale in shops everywhere pretty soon. A large media tour will almost certainly ensue. Russell, if you’re a celebrity who claims you’re trying to end global capitalism and inequality, you should probably make sure the working class people you claim you’re trying to emancipate from the drudges of abject poverty can afford your Manifesto Westo.

Gulliver’s Foibles

Even after getting one up on Paxman, slating Fox News, and openly mocking the unnecessary pageantry and fakery of an MSNBC news show, Russell Brand is still, it seems, not really taken very seriously as a political force by a lot of people. This is not, as he would have you believe, because those against the revolution seek to discredit him – it is because he for so many years has so often discredited himself.

In a recently published abstract from his book, Brand, discussing a series of events that lead him to the belief that he needs to change the world (he was at a celebrity fundraiser for the victims of the Haiti earthquake), actually pretty succinctly articulates the reason that his cause is treated with such suspicion.

“It is just unfortunate that when philanthropy meets the machinery of celebrity, it acquires such an unpleasing hue.”

Although this remark was a comment regarding the perception of other celebrity philanthropists, it is in fact Brand’s image that the unpleasing hue, no matter how hard he seems to try, or how noble his intentions may be, will not leave.

Indeed, the dismissive sniggering directed at Brand is not unlike the mockery aimed at Gulliver, who, after returning from the land of the tiny Lilliputians, demanded that horses and carriages get out of his way, lest he crush them with his mighty size.

Brand, who, was undoubtedly a formidable intellectual force in the superficial and vacuous world of celebrity he has spent so long a time in, now finds himself in the world of serious political discourse – and his good natured egalitarian expedition an object of scorn.

In the province of serious political discussion, it is the minuscule Brand who will be mown down if he does not watch his step – not those he seeks to cumbersomely race by toward his vague conception of utopia.

The Politically Charged Jester

A few years ago, I was sitting in the audience for a public debate about abortion in UCD. When the debate was opened to the crowd, one young man did, verbatim, a George Carlin bit about abortion – ‘Why is it that when it’s a person it’s an abortion, and when it’s a chicken it’s an omelette, AMIRITE’ – much to the confusion of the audience.

Since Lenny Bruce, there has always been a category of young people who inform their politics via the wisdom of comedians. Young men who have adopted a Hicksian demeanour, a Carlinesque swagger, and now a Brandian antipathy toward the establishment, are easy to find, and ever ready to regurgitate a condensed version of their comedian anti-hero’s political aphorisms.

Brand’s bizarre attempt at some kind of revolutionary propogande par la fait has one sure-fire result: young people who buy his message will discuss loudly their disillusionment with the system, yet rue actually doing something about it. And, as with Hicks and Carlin, Brand’s followers are no more versed in politics after hearing his message; they can just echo his sound bites. Viva La Revolution!

While Brand has, to his credit, done better in terms of creating some serious conversation about politics than Hicks and Carlin, his positions are still, like those of political comedians before him, reducible to sound bites and buzzwords.

During an interview with the Huffington Post, one of Brand’s numerous blind spots was embarrassingly shown when it was revealed that he did not know who Bashar Al-Assad was. Brand had previously been on television waxing about what should be done with regard to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Syria.

A Radical Socialist Media Darling

If they were to respond to criticisms of his chosen method of disseminating his message, I’m sure defenders of Brand’s brand of revolutionary politics would say that one must work within the system on a certain level if one is to change it – as they do when his high ticket prices and advertisements for multinationals are brought up. Fine.

But then, why, must poor people work outside the system (they are encouraged by him not to vote, as it ‘won’t make a difference’), while he actively engages with it, making millions from tours, books, and television appearances?

It’s a pretty bad idea to encourage the poor, weak, marginal and vulnerable not to vote – reducing the volume of their already dulled and virtually unheard voices to absolutely zero. Noam Chomsky, who Brand often cites as an influence, says that when one is dealing with a power system as large as the US or the UK, it’s often important to vote – because the smallest of differences in policy can be of massive consequence.

The powers that be, the government, the man, whatever, are not stupid, and will hum merrily along as young people grow apathetic and unengaged and cynical with politics. Realistically, don’t vote – nothing changes.

Here lies the biggest problem with Brand; when you take away all the pageantry and lacquering of celebrity that he claims to so loath, what you’re left with is a rich, famous, powerful white male encouraging young people who want change not to vote; a terminus of vacuity in which the apparent answer to our cultures problem with celebrity and the superficial is merely a new category of celebrity he has created for himself – the disillusioned revolutionary.

And that’s just it; for all of the attempts made at iconoclasm, Brand does everything in his power to portray himself as some kind of saviour. No?

Make a visit to the website in which he advertises ‘BRAND: The Film’, and see for yourself how the comedian views himself as ‘a troubled visionary who embraced the superficial and doped up times in which we live, only to find it was an empty proposition’.

It turns out that the unpleasing hue, the unpleasant stench, the inescapable irony, is that Brand’s crusade against global capitalism has garnered him unprecedented money and fame. The revolution will be televised, apparently.

Brand will continue to appear on talk shows as a media darling, he will continue to live a celebrity lifestyle, and if he is listened to, the poor and marginalized will remain apathetic and uninterested in politics. In this sense, how will the outcome of his mission differ from that of Fox News, an organisation he so despises?

When the narcissism, the buzzwordery, and the questionably profitable methods of disseminating his revolutionary socialist message are eventually curtailed, then perhaps Brand’s words can be heard without a full faced cringe being induced.

Those in the UK who desire real, palpable change, or at the very least to keep the likes UKIP and the BNP away from meaningful positions of power, should, I dunno, probably go out and vote in elections, or something.


  1. “Those in the UK who desire real, palpable change, or at the very least to keep the likes UKIP and the BNP away from meaningful positions of power, should, I dunno, probably go out and vote in elections, or something.”… Was that last sentence suppose to be that infuriating??

  2. Do people not realise he is a manipulative attention seeker he just jumbles together other people’s populist ideals and makes up this nonfunctioning utopia of ideas and pushes it on anyone who is against the current political structures while massaging his megalomaniac ego. If you follow brand you are an easily manipulated moron equal to the same morons that follow farage.

  3. Tatchell has dropped out. Brand has cancelled Easeman. Everybody else laughing at an ‘Anarchic Fayre’ that managed to invite a fascist.

  4. Yes keep engaging with the lesser of two evils, antiquated form of democracy that is designed to be overridden by financial and corporate interests. Brand doesn`t claim to be in possession of any great masterplan, but if people read his book and go read Chomsky, David Graeber and co. they will certainly be better off. He`s going to reach an incredible amount of young people and engage them in `politics`, which certain types of people, leftists in particular, wish to keep as the preserve of their insular intellectual circles.

  5. This entire article is an ad hominem tu quoque: a logical fallacy which asserts that just because someone is hypocritical their position is untenable. Such poor reasoning certainly does not belong within the province of “serious political discussion”.

  6. Ah he s doing a lot right, if I was in UK I wouldn’t vote either and about 60% Dont either in fairness. The proceeds of his book aren’t going to him and his trews is available freely for everyone. Dont ascribe to all he calls for but his head and heart are in pretty much the right place. I think if you’ve something legitimate to add then engage with him, he seems pretty open to discussion and ideas etc

  7. Brands book isn’t released until tomorrow (according to Amazon), presumably Paul Doyle hasn’t read it?

    I might be going out on a limb here, but I’d generally suggest reading the book before writing a hatchet job on its merits.

    Since the article author hasn’t read the book, he has to find other ways to attack Brand. In a “gotcha” moment reminiscent of a first year L&H debater, Doyle points out that Brand is an anti-capitalist who is selling a book.

    That Brand lad, what an idiot. Real “serious” anti-capitalists wouldn’t sell books, like Chomksy and Graeber…oh, wait.

    That Brand lad, what an idiot, with his manifesto-westo language. How can anyone take that seriously? It’d be much better if he learned from the serious left to articulate ideas in either archaic language from the 19th century, or polysyllabic post-structuralist jargon.

    That Brand lad, what an idiot, going on tv and writing books advocating organising collectively from below in communities, workplaces and unions. Doesn’t he know that “if he is listened to, the poor and marginalized will remain apathetic and uninterested in politics”?

    That Brand lad should sit on the naughty step for having the audacity to try and take advantage of the audience he has to articulate left-wing ideals.

    If you want “palpable change”, don’t listen to that Brand lad about being politically active in your community and workplace, go vote for an MP.

    Serious politics is for the po-faced left only.

  8. His message of apathy REALLY helped UKIP take hold in England. He’s going to make damn sure that the only voters in the country are racist zealots, thus perpetuating his new career as “revolutionary”- manufacturing a platform for him to be some kind of messiah figure. It’s disgusting, and the worst thing is I don’t even think he knows he’s doing it.

  9. You want change…then when someone offers it you knock it….what the f*%k d d you people want??????????

  10. lol, the firs argument is that he is trying to make money off the book. lol. cost of publication, then the rest goes to charity. its easy to hate brand, but this article is immediatly wrong.

  11. Working class people can’t afford a book that cost twenty quid, or get a library card or download off the internet a book for free? These people sound worse than Roma gypsies Paul Doyle.

  12. Great article, shame you compare him to Hicks and Carlin… I also believe that there is an important place for the ‘politically charged jester’ … Brand just aint walking the walk …

  13. revolutions made sense when most people were self sufficient now we are all, whether we like it or not, totally interconnected. We are, for example, still importing €6billion worth of fossil fuels every year. we would still need to be a part of a global monetary system to continue getting this. the only viable way to transform our society is a combination of getting people into positions of power through elections who will assist in change and the creation of a new system from the bottom. people are truly naive if they think that this will only happen from the ground up. if there was a revolution there is a chance that we might end up with an even worse system. politics does not offer all the solutions but is the best system we have and represents the will of a large percentage of the population, compulsory voting as they have in Australia, would mean that politicians would spend more time dealing with the concerns of people other than the old and greedy who are the brackets of people who vote the most now. Brand is good at educating people about what is wrong in our society but much like anti wind turbine environmentalists is as doing as much damage as he is doing good with his anti voting stance. it has been my experience that those who are the most radical come from comfortable backgrounds, whereas people who can barely pay their bills would be happy with a left wing government that makes their life a little better

  14. Have to laugh at all the haters saying Brands in it for the attention. He’s already got plenty of attention. Having an outspoken social conscience is not really attention seeking. Does he have all the answer? Of course not. But then who does. He might go on a little at times but when you listen you know that if nothing else, he’s passionate about the topics he speaks about. Brand gets attention he doesn’t need to seek it, he also gets a lot of women and I suspect this is probably a key ingredient in the Brand hating. He means well and seems a decent sort so you shouldn’t feel so threatened by him,

  15. feck it Rabble, youve put this song in my head so might a well give it a blast 😛

  16. Paul your point about the book being 20 pounds is a good one. Btw how much was your copy of the comunist manifesto? The rest just sounds like begrudgery. people who love Hicks and Carlinn are the closest thing to allies people like you have. By attacking them you show a lack of empathy and humanity. Thats why people like you can nwver bring people along with your ideas and why brand actually has a hope of awaking a new generation of activists. Dont hate, congratulate.

  17. Wow this article writes off Bill Hicks and George Carlin and their fans in one swoop of the pen. They did more to push me into really questioning and seeking truth than any “political” writer or journalist. Pretty stupid to write off political comedy like that. Brand ain’t perfect nor is he claiming to be but he is doing more to open people to alternative views of the world than pretty much anyone else at the moment. Bravo I say. But we prefer our celebs to be of the Garth Brooks variety don’t we.

  18. I’m really interested in the idea that Brand could have given the book away – something that definitely would have fitted with the ethos he advocates in the book, I think. I believe he’s giving all profits to charity, but that obviously still means the publishers, etc. will be taking a nice cut for all the sales to would-be revolutionaries. I wonder if giving it away free would have helped spread it wider (meaning it didn’t hit the big stores, etc.) – it might well have done, but equally, I expect it’s been pirated already and can be downloaded for free if anyone really wants it. Besides which, Brand seems to be doing a pretty good job of going viral with his Trews anyway, which pretty much sum up his position anyway. Ah well, all (probably pointless) speculation on my part. Interesting post, thanks.

    My review: Revolution by Russell Brand

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