Russell Brand, Hypocrisy and Populism

Earlier this week the Sun newspaper branded Russell Brand a hypocrite, citing a Sun/ YouGov poll that surveyed the grand total of 574 members of the public showing that “68% say he’s a hypocrite” and “64% say he’s not funny”.

These attempts at tarnishing his name came after the Sun’s attack on his renting procedure, noting that the company he pays rent to is based in the ‘tax haven’ of the British Virgin Islands; however most people realised the logical flaw that Brand’s paying the company does not signify that he condones their financial proceedings, even highlighting at one point that payment is made through an estate agent, rather than directly to the company.

Many have raised issue with Brand, such as his call to engage the youth of the nation in politics, by telling them not to vote because politicians don’t care (more on that later) and his calls for a ‘Revolution’ without really explaining how it will pan out.

However, if you consider Brand a hypocrite because he is considered to be wealthy ask this question, posed by the libertarian economist Milton Friedman (in order to provide a complete juxtaposition to Russell Brand): “Would you not want a doctor to treat you for cancer, unless he himself has had cancer?”.

It is absurd to suggest that purely because of Russell Brand’s current wealth, he is immediately exempt from exercising his right to protest and fight for the working poor. This example of absurd logic from some aspects of British society shines a greater light on identity politics as a whole, and Brand’s earlier revolutionary sabre rattling also makes him guilty of this sin.

The current trend in British political life is to scorn the so called ‘Career Politician’. The politician who has never worked outside of the political realm comes under constant scrutiny and ‘Career Politician’ is the debating equivalent of Zeus’ bolt, giving the wielder the perceived aura of omniscience that comes with any deity, and the victim turned into a pile of smouldering ignorance in the eyes of the populace. It is a tool used by both the disenfranchised left and right to advance arguments either sincerely or with an air of malevolence.

Let’s consider the true nature of the ‘Career Politician’; these are people who have dedicated their adult life in the pursuit of, or fulfilling the role of, public service, driven by a personal ideology whether it’s liberal, socialist or Tory in the belief that they might make a difference. That decision to become involved in the political game comes with the full knowledge that modern politics places the politician in a shooting gallery with the public taking out their collective fury downrange, and at times rightly so, based on good evidence.

However the perceived notion or conundrum that arises is that the ‘Career Politician’ could never understand, or even want to sympathise with working people or other disenfranchised groups simply on the merit of their career choice. Once again, I refer you to the Friedman quote, with the concept that this person has been so driven by an ideology that they believe may help other people, as to place themselves in the public gallery.

To caveat this, one must admit that politicians are of course well paid (not to mention expenses, hence the good reason of collective public firepower) which acts as an incentive to become involved in political life. This does not by default stop them from wanting to help the disadvantaged; whilst balancing the needs and interests of the rest of the country, and to suggest so is equally as absurd as branding Brand a hypocrite because he wants to help the poor from his position of wealth.

This trend of blind politician bashing is summed up in a ‘meme’ that recently circulated social media (and was eventually debunked by Isabel Hardman of the Spectator). The meme contrasts a collection of photographs showing the Chamber of Commons packed to the rafters when discussing MP’s pay and an empty chamber when debating motions such as disability benefit. It was eventually revealed that the meme either outright lied about the photos or used the ambiguity surrounding how MPs go about their business to dupe people into thinking that they didn’t care about the poor or disabled. Whilst mostly being shared by my friends who would consider themselves on the disenfranchised ‘left’ of politics it would be important to note that one’s individual scope is limited and it is likely that members of the ‘right’ agreed with it also.

The examples above go to show how far people are willing to lie, or accept without question, bias surveys, memes or other anecdotes that immediately subscribe to their world view and this collective march of left and right is beginning to dilute politics to a zero sum game, rather than a colourful debate.

On Thursday the modern monoliths of the disenfranchised left and right, Russell Brand and Nigel Farage respectively, will meet on Question Time and it is expected to be quite the clash. Calls of hypocrite and racist, amongst others, should be expected but as the above has shown you; the populism of both the right and the left should be brought firmly under a microscope and the clash of these two spiritual leaders of the disenfranchised masses should be the rational thinker’s lab experiment.

[Doug Jack – @DougKeithJack]

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