Brand, Reconsidered.


A few days ago, I reveled in Russell Brand’s bashing of mainstream politics and ideology, as did countless others in the Blogosphere and on Social Media. While I still agree with what he espouses, and while its entertaining to see someone besides Stewart or Colbert taking the mainstream to task in their own domain, this thoughtful piece by Natasha Lennard for Salon made me reconsider, as I termed it, my desire to “continue living vicariously through” him.

“Brand is navigating the well-worn conflict facing those with a public platform in the current epoch (myself among them)” Lennard writes. “We have to be willing to obliterate our own elevated platforms, our own spaces of celebrity; this grotesque politico-socio-economic situation that vagariously elevates a few voices and silences many millions is what Brand is posturing against.”

Yet, as Lennard astutely goes on to note, when a celebrity like Brand rejects the prevailing elite ideology, an interesting thing happens:

“At the same time radical ideas might spread and resonate across mainstream and pop media platforms (and thus provide the potential for rupture), these ideas and images are recuperated immediately into capital. Brand calls for revolution, and online media traffic bounces, magazines sell, bloggers like me respond, advertisers smile, Brand’s popularity/notoriety surges, the rich, as ever, get richer.”

So in truth, a change to the system will never come from those at the top, even if they help raise awareness around the system’s failings.

Additionally, although Brand means well, and seems to be making an honest attempt to not be dragged down by the bullshit, he’s still affected by our modern paradigm (as we all our). While we’re not to blame for this, Lennard does point out that Brand fails as a progressive when it comes to issues of gender-equality.

“In our excitement for even a hint of revolutionary fervor ostensibly permeating mainstream debate, we’ve enabled misogyny and Great Man narratives to go unchecked,” Lennard points out. We can agree with Brand’s main points, but that doesn’t mean we have to ally with him as an individual, and agree with former and future statements of his. In Lennard’s words:

“The point of rethinking new political and social spaces together — as was felt profoundly by many of us engaged in Occupy’s headiest, fiercest days — was that we don’t need to align with, elevate, celebrate (nor indeed wholly reject or detest) any one person.”


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