Remain Skeptical: Russell Brand, Revolution, and the Adbusted Occupy Meme
It’s good to remain skeptical, especially when celebrities are calling for revolution.
Russell Brand is using his celebrity to speak more intelligently about politics than any of his interviewers apparently expect. You would think after he ran circles around the Morning Joe talking heads that the BBC would at least be somewhat prepared. Apparently not.
Brand also acted as guest-editor at the New Statesman, where he wrote this piece, which is worth reading. Here is an excerpt:
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.
Russell Brand talks about being conned. He is also a supporter of the Occupy movement, which on the surface seems great. The problem with that, though, is my own increasing concern that everyone who got caught up in the Occupy movement got conned as well. Like I said, it’s good to remain skeptical.
Instead of reading Brand’s piece, which he only did “because it was a beautiful girl asking me,” I suggest reading something far more intriguing: an article that appears in Jacobin, written by Ramon Glazov, titled Adbusted: behind the bizarre ideology that fuels Adbusters.
The article focuses on the magazine’s odd support of Beppe Grillo, an out-there Italian politician described as follows:
This March, Adbusters jumped into what ought to seem like a marriage made in hell. It ran a glowing article on Beppe Grillo – Italy’s scruffier answer to America’s Truther champion Alex Jones – calling him “nuanced, fresh, bold, and committed as a politician,” with “a performance artist edge” and “anti-austerity ideas… [C]ountries around the world, from Greece to the US, can look to [him] for inspiration.” Grillo, the piece gushed, was “planting the seed of a renewed – accountable, fresh, rational, responsible, energized – left, that we can hope germinates worldwide.”
Completely unmentioned was the real reason Grillo is so controversial in Italy: his blog is full of anti-vaccination and 9/11 conspiracy claims, pseudoscientific cancer cures and chemtrail-like theories about Italian incinerator-smoke. And, as Giovanni Tiso noted in July, Grillo’s “5-Star Movement” also has an incredibly creepy backer: Gianroberto Casaleggio, “an online marketing expert whose only known past political sympathies lay with the right-wing separatist Northern League.” Casaleggio has also written kooky manifestoes about re-organizing society through virtual reality technology, with mandatory Internet citizenship and an online world government.
Adbusters could have stopped flirting with Grillo at that point, but it didn’t. Another Grillo puff-piece appeared in its May/June issue. Then the magazine’s outgoing editor-in-chief, Micah White (acknowledged by the Nation as “the creator of the #occupywallstreet meme”) recently went solo to form his own “boutique activism consultancy,” promising clients a “discrete service” in “Social Movement Creation.” Two weeks ago, in a YouTube video, White proposed that the next step “after the defeat of Occupy” should be to import Grillo’s 5-Star Movement to the US in time for the 2014 mid-term elections:
After the defeat of Occupy, I don’t believe that there is any choice other than trying to grab power by means of an election victory … This is how I see the future: we could bring the 5-Star Movement to America and have the 5-Star Movement winning elections in Italy and in America, thereby forming an international party, not only with the 5-Star Movement, but with other parties as well.
It might be cathartic to watch Russell Brand out-wit some stodgy BBC reporter, but his call for revolution, though probably well-intentioned, is, I think, very misguided. Same thing goes for the Occupy movement.