Wednesday 20 September 2023

The Way This Is All Playing Out

Ricky D. Hale knows what’s what:

This article is not directly about the allegations against Russell Brand, but it’s important I clarify my position: credible allegations have been made and they should be taken seriously. It is not appropriate to declare Brand’s innocence because if you get this wrong, you become an enabler of horrific crimes and deter victims from coming forward.

While I don’t want to get into the case itself, I want to discuss something else which is problematic and will give rise to conspiracy theories: the media response.

It has not been enough for journalists to discuss the allegations against Brand, they’ve seen an opportunity to politicise the story and that’s exactly what they’re doing.

Love him or hate him, Brand has become one of the most influential anti-establishment voices on the planet with 6 million YouTube subscribers and 11 million Twitter followers.

Personally, I was never a huge fan. I saw Brand as a mixed bag with some good takes and some dreadful takes. But the media is pushing the narrative that not only is Brand a predator, not only are his political views dangerous, but so are the views of everyone who is anti-establishment. We’re all dangerous crackpots, even if we have no affiliation to Brand and have offered no defence of him.

Trust in the media is at an all-time low so they are putting themselves forward as the trustworthy voices who oppose rape, whereas the alternative media are the dodgy ones who defend it.

What they are actually going to achieve is undermining victims of sexual assault and rape.

People aren’t going to suddenly trust the mainstream media. Many are going to assume they’re being lied to again. Even more people could look at the cynical politicisation as evidence this is a plot to bring down Brand. In other words, this could backfire and if it does, the media won’t do introspection, it will demand censorship. It will say look at how influential these dangerous alternative voices are becoming, we need to stop them.

Here are some examples of what journalists have been saying on social media:

“Anyone who thinks “the media” plots Machiavellian global schemes should spend a week in a newsroom. Once you’ve witnessed news and features forgetting to talk to each other and Xmas taking us by surprise Every. Single. Year., you’ll realise we're incapable of what you imagine.” Rosie Taylor, Twitter

This is a strawman argument, but it’s a clever one. I’m not sure anyone is making the suggestion of “Machiavellian global schemes”, but it’s an argument that should be effective against anyone who is only half-listening. It’s a way of programming people to be dismissive so they can tell themselves they’re being sensible.

I doubt anyone thinks journalists plot in this way. Most of us think the mainstream media is controlled by a handful of billionaires who will further the interests of billionaires by promoting likeminded people to do their propaganda, often unwittingly. It’s like Noam Chomsky once told Andrew Marr on the BBC: 

“I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying, but what I’m saying is that if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.”

Only people who fall within the acceptable range of views will reach high places in the BBC or any other media organisation, and someone like centrist Emily Maitlis is as left-wing as it gets. Here is what Maitlis had to say:

“It’s called populism. You set up an elite that don’t understand you and the people. And whether it’s Russell Brand saying the elite is the mainstream media, but my lovely followers on YouTube, the wellness guru followers will all believe in me or follow me, or whether it’s Liz Truss ... this idea there is conspiracy everywhere is really dangerous.” Emily Maitlis on The Newsagents Podcast

I don’t even know where to begin here. Set up an elite? What, like the elite didn’t already exist and Brand just invented them? That sounds like a conspiracy theory to me, Emily! And this idea there is conspiracy everywhere? There is conspiracy everywhere in politics. Politicians conspire all the time about all kinds of things. If you don’t understand this, please look at Wikileaks!

Liz Truss, who Maitlis mentions in the quote, probably conspired to crash the economy and told her hedge-fund mates to bet against the pound, for crying out loud.

It takes a breathtaking level of ignorance to not understand there is conspiracy everywhere, but people like Emily don’t need to understand because they are insulated from the political reality. People like Brand will always find an audience because those in the mainstream media are hopelessly out of touch with ordinary people and dismissive of valid concerns.

And many of them are nothing more than pathological weirdos, like Oliver Kamm, a hate-filled nut-job/journalist who has been obsessed with Jeremy Corbyn for years.

This take is interesting because I, as a Corbyn supporter, never saw myself as politically-aligned with Brand. I always saw Brand as someone who is politically all over the place and not quite sure what he believes. Think how Joe Rogan backed Bernie Sanders then got behind Ron DeSantis.

The Brand allegations are extremely serious, but all that matters to people like Kamm is they have an opportunity to attack their opponents. The problem is they never think their arguments through.

Brand endorsing Corbyn means Corbyn is linked to rape somehow, but Sir Jimmy Saville being mates with Margaret Thatcher and King Charles and receiving a knighthood is not such a big deal. And don’t even get me started on Prince Andrew…

These political games could easily lead fans of Corbyn to suspect that Brand is getting the same treatment that Corbyn did, especially if they’ve not bothered looking at the evidence. You see how politicising this story undermines rape cases?

I can’t say Russell Brand is guilty, only a court can do that, but I can say that when witnesses are still coming forward, the least we can do is hear them out before screaming liar and accusing them of being involved in a media plot. Similarly, the least so-called journalists can do is focus on the story itself, instead of seeing this as an opportunity to attack the alternative media and anti-establishment voices.

The way this is all playing out is an absolute dumpster fire. No wonder victims of rape are terrified of coming forward.


  1. Caroline Dinenage has been writing to the tech companies to order them to remove Brand.