Robert Webb has slammed Russell Brand over his call for revolution, encouraging him to read George Orwell's 1984 and saying the comedian's plans would inevitably lead to “death camps” and “repression”.
Webb, writing in the New Statesman on Wednesday, accused Brand of political "timidity" for not voting and suggested that he should better educate himself by reading "some fucking Orwell".
Webb, best known as one half of the comedy double act Mitchell and Webb, castigated Brand for an essay he wrote as guest editor of the New Statesman, which he ended by stating: "I will never vote and I don't think you should either."
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Webb's destruction of Brand's argument comes after Jeremy Paxman accused the comedian of being a "trivial man" in a fierce exchange on Newsnight last week.
Brand took on Paxo... and the established social order
It also follows the journalist Robin Lustig branding the comedian "not only daft but dangerous," in an exclusive blog for the Huffington Post UK.
Brand wrote that “imagining the overthrow of the current political system is the only way I can be enthused about politics”.
He dismissed politicians as “frauds and liars” and the political system “as nothing more than a bureaucratic means for furthering the augmentation and advantages of economic elites”.
Writing a response piece in the current edition of the magazine, the Peep Show actor criticised Brand for effectively "telling a lot of people that engagement with our democracy is a bad idea".
Webb said Brand's article had had the opposite desired effect on him, as he decided to rejoin the Labour Party after reading it.
“What were the chances, in the course of human history, that you and I should be born into an advanced liberal democracy? … That we can say what we like, read what we like, love whom we want; that nobody is going to kick the door down in the middle of the night and take us or our children away to be tortured?” he said.
“The odds were vanishingly small. Do I wake up every day and thank God that I live in 21st-century Britain? Of course not. But from time to time I recognise it as an unfathomable privilege.
"On Remembrance Sunday, for a start. And again when I read an intelligent fellow citizen is ready to toss away the hard-won liberties of his brothers and sisters because he's bored.”
He said that one lesson from history was that revolution “ends in death camps, gulags, repression and murder.”
“In putting the words 'aesthetically' and 'disruption' in the same sentence, you come perilously close to saying that violence can be beautiful,” Webb said.
Webb expressed particular concern in Brand encouraging his mostly young fans not to vote. Brand was giving politicians “the green light to neglect the concerns of young people because they've been relieved of the responsibility of courting their vote”.
“Why do pensioners (many of whom are not poor old grannies huddled round a kerosene lamp for warmth but bloated ex-hippie baby boomers who did very well out of the Thatcher/Lawson years) get so much attention from politicians?” he wrote. “Because they vote.”
The comedian praised Brand for being "a wonderful talker" but wryly noted that "on the page you sometimes let your style get ahead of what you actually think".
Webb concludes by questioning Brand's avowed belief in God and his desire to find a "luminous connection" beyond himself through revolution. "We tried that again and again, and we know that it ends in death camps, gulags, repression and murder. In brief, and I say this with the greatest respect, please read some fucking Orwell."
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