Fleet Street hate figure Russell Brand has been predictably slammed by the tabloid media after suggesting Britain's "corrupt" system could have been partly responsible for the radicalisation of ‘Jihadi John’.
In an episode of his online news show The Trews, Brand asked: “Could I have been Jihadi John?”
It comes a week after the Islamic State (IS) murderer was identified as Mohammed Emwazi from West London.
Wednesday's Daily Star front page:
Jihadi John is all Britain's fault!— Nick Sutton (@suttonnick) March 3, 2015
The Brand broadcast cited alienation, apathy and isolation as the "fuel" behind the growth of the group known as Islamic State (IS).
He also read from a piece by Guardian columnist Kenan Malik which claims: "What draws most wannabe jihadis to Syria is, to begin with, neither politics nor religion. It is a search for something a lot less definable: for identity, for meaning, for 'belongingness', for respect," stating: "I can identify with that."
He added: “If we want to solve the problem we can’t solve it by condemning individuals (whilst obviously it’s wrong to behead people). The only way we can solve it is by dealing with the context in which it occurs.”
Asim Qureshi, research director of British advocacy group CAGE, set off a media firestorm last week after he claimed that Emwazi was interrogated by MI5 and subjected to security agency harassment before becoming the now-infamous militant.
Qureshi claimed he had come to know Emwazi as a "beautiful young man" before he fled for Syria.
Brand made reference to the CAGE press conference, playing a clip which showed Qureshi asking: "When are we going to finally learn that when we treat people as if they’re outsiders, they will inevitably feel like outsiders and they will look for belonging elsewhere?"
Brand then added:
“It’s not extremism full stop that we’re appalled by, it’s extremism that interrupts our myth, our cultural myth that consumerism and capitalism, free market radicalism, free market fundamentalism will solve our problems. Anything that gets in the way of that becomes problematic because the kernel of truth in the sprawling, bewildering bramble of ISIS madness is society isn’t working, the system isn’t working, it’s totally corrupt. That’s the thing that resonates in the core of young people, that pulls them into mad jihadism.
“If an ideology as mad as ISIS can appeal to a certain section of the population, we have a huge cultural problem and the reason returning and captured ISIS recruits aren’t paraded around schools saying ‘ISIS isn’t what I thought it would be, it’s worthless', that admission and acknowledgement is to start picking at the stitching of the broader problem.
"Our culture does not work. Consumerism has failed. Capitalism has failed. And the people who govern us do not know how to solve that problem, and until we the people become engaged in politics, society, mythology and our own cultural narrative in a new and direct way, this problem and all of the problems we are facing will get worse and worse and worse."
Brand also responded to the MI5 claims:
“The MI5 angle is interesting because it shows that a lot of these young people were on the radar but the developing news narrative in most of its permutations doesn’t address the core problem. For example, if Muslims have been here in significant numbers since the 50s, why is this only happening now? The World Cup in Britain in 1966 wasn’t blighted by endless terror threats was it? So what’s changed?
“What we’re seeing now is a new phenomena and I believe relates to something that’s felt way beyond the Muslim community. I think that white working class, white middle class, people in secular societies in general are feeling a sense of alienation. And the impulse that leads in extreme cases people to cross the sea and join ISIS, in less obvious cases leads people to take drugs, leads people to drink, leads people to consume, leads people to football violence, but our social narrative can incorporate those phenomena."
The Daily Star ran with a front page lead describing Brand as “bonkers” and accusing him of blaming the UK for the manufacture of “murderous scum.”
It also criticised the comedian for signing off his broadcast by jokingly urging viewers to subscribe to his YouTube channel, stating: “It’s better than ISIS.”
The Daily Express accused Brand of “provoking fury” and gleefully cited examples of Twitter users calling him and “idiot” and “deluded.”
Russell Brand claims BRITISH SOCIETY is to blame for Islamic State killer 'Jihadi John' http://t.co/QKF8IgYwk5— Daily Express (@Daily_Express) March 4, 2015
Allen Dart wrote: “You are a very deluded man! No matter how corrupt or failed society is it can NEVER be an excuse to decapitate innocent people.”
@rustyrockets you are a very deluded man! No matter how corrupt or failed society is.it can NEVER be an excuse to decapitate innocent people— Allen Dart (@Shadydart91) March 4, 2015
It also cited Twitter users ‘Ryan_UKIP’ as stating: “Russell Brand talking absolute rubbish yet again.”
Russell Brand talking absolute rubbish yet again pic.twitter.com/GR1fSRRpsC— Ryan_UKIP (@arsenalUKIPer) March 4, 2015
Kit Marsen wrote: “Russell Brand. How ridiculously idiotic can one person be? Why does anyone take him seriously?”
Russell Brand. How ridiculously idiotic can one person be? Why does anybody take him seriously?— Kit Marsden (@manek43509) March 4, 2015
The Daily Mail described Brand’s broadcast as “an extraordinary rant” and accused him of placing the blame squarely on the shoulders of Britain’s “corrupt” society.
The Mirror quoted Nara Hodge who asked: "According to Russell Brand the UK [is] to be blamed for the monster Jihadi John. And who is to be blamed for the tiresome irrelevant Russell Brand?"
It also cited Eugene Hollister who described Brand as "one sick-headed shit" and advised him to "stop drinking from your colostomy bag."
According to #RussellBrand the UK to be blamed for the monster Jihadi John. And who is to be blamed for the tiresome irrelevant Mr Brand?— Nara Hodge (@NaraHodge) March 3, 2015
A Metro poll even asked it's readers 'what do you think of Russell's rant?' which as of Wednesday afternoon yielded the following results:
Not everyone was as scathing however. 'Robin Hood' replied to Brand's original question with the following: "Very thought provoking indeed. Problems connected with #alienation #belonging #identity at the root for sure."
Brand himself retweeted a post from BBC Free Speech entitled: "#FSWatch @rustyrockets on ISIS, alienation and social tension in the UK. What do you think?"