Almost no one seems willing to hold their tongue on the latest claims. Here are my observations: not on the allegations, but on all the noise
By Jonathan COOK
There are times when we would all be best advised to keep quiet and wait. But given that almost no one seems willing to hold their tongue on the latest claims being made about Russell Brand, I feel compelled - wisely or unwisely - to make a few tentative observations: not on the allegations, but on all the noise.
Let me preface these comments with an additional observation: It should be quite possible to hold more than one thought in one's head at the same time. In fact, it is normally a pre-requisite for having anything interesting to say.
1. Allegations of sexual assault and rape are very serious indeed. They need to be investigated by police and, if found credible, tested in a court of law, where the alleged victims and the suspect are given the chance to make their case. Trial by TV is no substitute for such an investigation and trial. Pointing this out does not mean one is condoning rape or sexual assault.
2. Brand has admitted to his past as a sex and drug addict. The Dispatches programme appears to have intentionally conflated long-standing, and well-known, "bad boy" behaviour with far more serious, potentially criminal allegations. That conflation does not strengthen the case against Brand. It muddies the waters. Pointing this out does not mean one is condoning rape or sexual assault.
3. The media companies now fuelling the public mood via trial by TV are the very same companies that delighted in Brand's sex-addict persona. As the Dispatches' archival footage and testimonies make clear, those media corporations willingly exploited his persona - even allegedly at the risk of putting members of their staff and audiences in danger - to increase corporate profits. No one should regard them as good-faith actors in this latest development. Pointing this out does not mean one is condoning rape or sexual assault.
4. In recent years, Brand has often argued that he went on a long and difficult personal journey of redemption, and that he is ashamed of the way he behaved in the past. There is at least ostensible evidence to back up Brand's claims. There is zero evidence that the Dispatches documentary represents any kind of act of contrition by the media corporations now publicly reviling Brand for his behaviour. They haven't seen the error of their ways. They are simply cashing in on Brand again - this time by bringing down the very celeb they built up. It's all money in the bank for them. Pointing this out does not mean one is condoning rape or sexual assault.
5. It is deeply unhelpful to focus on why these women delayed for so long in coming forward with their testimonies. It takes a lot of courage to take on a celeb when he or she is the toast of the world's most powerful media corporations, and especially when the celeb in question is being celebrated by these powerful corporations precisely for flaunting their sexually predatory behaviour.
It does not follow, however, that the timing of these allegations is purely coincidental or of no interest. Most likely, these women are being listened to now, both because Brand is no longer the toast of Tinseltown, and, perhaps even more signifiicantly, because he has become an outspoken critic of the very corporations that once feted him. He speaks to many, many millions of young people with the authority of a celeb-turned-whistleblower. He is possibly the most influential critic of capitalism in the English language (depending on how one defines influential).
The fact that people over the age of 35 mostly don't feel this way about him - or capitalism - is irrelevant. Or at least it is irrelevant to someone like Rupert Murdoch, who once made lots of money off Brand, and is now using his papers to pretend that the Murdoch empire cares about Brand's alleged victims, rather than seeing them as a chance both to make more money from the Brand brand (this time without his consent) and damage an increasingly irritating high-profile critic of capitalism and corporate power. Pointing this out does not mean one is condoning rape or sexual assault.
6. There has been a long-running, and annoying, tendency on the left to treat Brand as "rightwing" because he refuses to stick to the Democratic party line. I have written about this preposterous "left" yardstick before. Brand is on the left because he consistently and publicly supports the key issues that concern the left, as I explained here. The fact that he demurs from some of the left's most unthinking, knee-jerk positions, and is prepared to consider some on the right as potential allies or listen to their arguments, doesn't make him rightwing, except to the most unthinking, knee-jerk devotees of the left.
But these allegations are being cited by sections of the tribal left as definitive evidence that Brand is rightwing - apparently because they have decided, absent a trial, that he is guilty of sexual assault. This is childish. People on the left can, quite separately from their politics, be sexual predators. Pointing this out does not mean one is condoning rape or sexual assault.