The comedian-turned-activist styles himself as a pupil of Chomsky, but his new book only furthers the cause of the establishment he rails againstby Robin McGhee / October 30, 2014 / Leave a comment
Read James Robertson’s response, In defence of Russell Brand
Revolution by Russell Brand (Century, £20) Masters of Mankind: Essays and Lectures 1969—2013 by Noam Chomsky (Haymarket, £7.99)
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.
Chomsky has, to paraphrase Orwell, turned political ranting into an art, and apathy is one of his favourite targets. For Chomsky, even in ostensibly hopeless situations, an individual can make a difference using existing political means. Without voting you have zero chance of changing anything. By taking action to exploit the system’s weaknesses, the chances are increased, at least somewhat. A favourite Chomsky example is the US activists who worked to get international action against the Indonesian government, which from 1975 began a campaign of genocidal violence against the population of its tiny neighbour East Timor. Chomsky maintains these activists were around a dozen people. They lobbied politicians and the mass media for a generation. By 1999 they had succeeded in getting the United States to withdraw support from Indonesia. The activism of a handful of dedicated people had saved thousands of lives.
Why is that while serious political thinkers languish unread, a TV presenter can get a reportedly six-figure…