Shepard Fairey’s New Statesman cover
[TL;DR takeaway? Watch the video. Just watch it. Watch it all the way to the end because it builds towards an amazing climax in the final minute.]
Admittedly, upon my first exposure to British comedian Russell Brand, he did not win me over. He was a panelist on Rob Brydon’s Annually Retentive sitcom, a Larry Sanders-esque pisstake of UK panel shows like Mock the Week or Nevermind the Buzzcocks. I asked a Scottish friend of mine who the arrogant prick with the long hair and the large vocabulary was and he told me that Brand was a “human punchline” who had something to do with Big Brother. Tabloid tales of his drug and sex exploits were a bore to me. And a comic who looks like a member of The Libertines? Not for sir.
But over the intervening seven years, I’ve grown from a grudging respect for Brand to something resembling outright admiration for the articulate way he expresses his disdain—even hatred—for the world’s ruling elites. He’s a bit of a sleazy dude, sure—that’s part of his smarmy charm—but he’s got a first rate mind and he’s fucking fearless, as only a man who has emerged from the very depths of drug addiction (and fucking one—if not actually several—of the world’s most desirable women) could be. I don’t think he’s a guy who ever thought he’d be living in a mansion in the Hollywood Hills, let’s just say.
This morning everyone is talking about the absolutely smoking hot interview Brand gave to veteran BBC broadcaster Jeremy Paxman promoting the issue he guest-edited of The New Statesman, Britain’s long-running socialist journal. Paxman, a formidable man who has been the public undoing of many a politician, is nearly helpless at the barrage of words that Russell Brand sprays him with. It’s a riveting piece of television and everyone seems to be freaking out about it on Facebook this morning. It’s well worth your time, trust me.
And so is the Brand-edited issue of The New Statesman, which features contributions from Oliver Stone, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Judd Apatow, Graham Hancock, Noel Gallagher, Alec Baldwin, Rupert Everett, David Lynch and many others (you can buy a pdf of the issue at The New Statesman website)
Here’s an excerpt from Brand’s long, but beautifully composed letter from the editor:
I have never voted. Like most people I am utterly disenchanted by politics. Like most people I regard politicians as frauds and liars and the current political system as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites. Billy Connolly said: “Don’t vote, it encourages them,” and, “The desire to be a politician should bar you for life from ever being one.”
I don’t vote because to me it seems like a tacit act of compliance; I know, I know my grandparents fought in two world wars (and one World Cup) so that I’d have the right to vote. Well, they were conned. As far as I’m concerned there is nothing to vote for. I feel it is a far more potent political act to completely renounce the current paradigm than to participate in even the most trivial and tokenistic manner, by obediently X-ing a little box.
Total revolution of consciousness and our entire social, political and economic system is what interests me, but that’s not on the ballot. Is utopian revolution possible? The freethinking social architect Buckminster Fuller said humanity now faces a choice: oblivion or utopia. We’re inertly ambling towards oblivion, is utopia really an option?
The letter is a rambling thing of gorgeous beauty and power. Read the entire thing at The News Statesman.
Below, the full Paxman-Brand dust-up… it’s riveting television