Tony Benn once made the seemingly foolish decision to appear on Da Ali G Show. In typical fashion, Ali G attacked Benn with a barrage of absurd questions, such as: 'Is it called the welfare state because it is well fair?' and 'Does welfare not just encourage young girls to go out and get jiggy with Mr Biggy?' Ali G, despite his ostensible stupidity, possessed the rare ability to make his guests look incredibly foolish. The ever-argumentative Benn, however, somehow managed to answer Ali G's crude questions with powerful arguments regarding social justice.
In later years, Benn recounted the impact of his appearance on Da Ali G Show: 'Lots of young people came up to me in the street, or wrote in to say how much they had enjoyed the programme and how glad they were that I had stood up to him.' Benn claimed that, by appearing on Da Ali G Show, he was able to spark political discussions in sixth form classrooms. It might have started as a simple attempt to belittle a famous politician, but Benn's interview with Ali G resulted in politically apathetic young people actually engaging in politics.
The state of political apathy among the young in society today is still a cause for concern. The Liberal Democrats were the last party to inspire hope among the young and they oversaw the systematic betrayal of all those who gave them power. So, once again, the politics of hope have been destroyed, and young people are left feeling politically apathetic. And you can't really blame them. Why would the young waste their valuable years watching a load of wealthy, elitist politicians argue about which shade of black is the best? Why would they engage in politics if they have been constantly let down by the political elite? In fact, why would they even bother voting?
This, of course, brings us to another individual who, much like Sacha Baron Cohen, seems to be playing something of a character. And, like Ali G, the character that Russell Brand has recently embraced is challenging political apathy - particularly among the young.
Brand's emergence on the political scene began with an unexpected discussion with Jeremy Paxman. In this now famous interview, Brand claimed that he had never voted as there didn't seem to be anything worth voting for. This, understandably, proliferated across social media and the politically apathetic young had found something of an unexpected hero. Brand continued his political crusade by appearing on television programmes, writing articles in national newspapers and attending protests and demonstrations.
The latest leg of this intriguing journey sees the publication of his third book, Revolution. This book is full of talk about the disparity of wealth; it's very ecologically aware; and, more than anything, it indulges in populist platitudes about how we need to love more and hate less and so on. This kind of campfire idealism should be welcomed, of course, but it is hardly convincing, as Brand doesn't support his mantras with any plausible solutions. Love over hate might be a great slogan, but in itself it does little to cure humanities problems.
Unsurprisingly, Brand has been criticized by those who seek to maintain the status quo. Brand is an easy target as he's not quite 'political material'. He's wacky, controversial and over-indulges in the aforementioned hippy-platitudes and thus he takes a beating from so-called 'proper' political commentators. And, of course, they are right: Brand doesn't have all the answers - or barely any answers for that matter - but, it should be remembered, neither do they. Brand's strength, however, is that he's asking the right questions and his popular appeal will consequently entice many others - particular the previously apathetic - to ask similar questions.
Brand has undoubtedly empowered some of the politically apathetic young to criticize and question - like Tony Benn did on Da Ali G show - and such an achievement shouldn't be denigrated simply because one man doesn't have all the answers. The reality is that the young are often disinterested in politics and it might just take someone weird and wacky to offer them some sense of hope. Ali G once strangely brought questions of social justice to the young - utilizing the ever-wise Tony Benn - and now we have another bloke who puts on an insane cockney accent to bring new and important questions to light. For that, if nothing else, we should thank Mr Brand.