Russell Brand is famous for being rather funny on stage and on TV. That is all. So imagine my surprise when this erstwhile comedian began to be consulted on matters of note. He once rather liked heroin - quite a lot by all accounts - and this may justify his input to the debate about drugs (but only if someone more serious, and less ostensibly verbally ostentatious, is busy at the time). Beyond that, though, he has no remit: his opinions on an issue are derived from little experience, or even apparent interest.
The first sentence of his 'Editorial' in the issue of the New Statesman he guest-edited was indicative of the rest. "When I was asked to edit an issue of the New Statesman I said yes because it was a beautiful woman asking me." And with that, Brand demonstrates his propensity for triviality, causal objectification and moral laziness. Not a great start. It was also interesting to note that the only description of it that the New Statesman could use for this "essay" was its length: "4,500 words" was apparently the stand-out point here.
With regard to his actual 'editorship' of the magazine, it did not appear that Brand was very hands-on. In reading from a jaunty cardboard mock up of the prospective cover image, Brand appeared to forget the names of contributors he had supposedly signed up. All of it was rather slapdash and weak - which pitifully denigrates a political weekly of some repute.
It is genuinely hard work to decide - below the affected accent, and the lexicographical obfuscation (see what I did there?) - whether Brand is actually saying something worthwhile. In his interview with Jeremy Paxman, Brand managed to say very little. The vague aim of 'revolution' is obvious - being as it was the theme of his one-off magazine editorship.
However, no actual policies came out of this self-indulgent exercise. We are still none the wiser as to what Russell Brand actually thinks can be done to improve the world: he just hasn't got a clue. Writing in the Observer, Nick Cohen is eloquently scathing:
"I don't doubt either that to call his thought "adolescent" is to insult teenagers everywhere. He writes as if he is a precocious prepubescent rather than an adolescent: a child, born after the millennium, who can behave as if we never lived through the 20th century."
Cohen's piece skewers blind, idiotic populism - of the sort which Brand is now a proponent - and (while I am a little uneasy with the allusions to 20th century fascism) does a sterling job. This sort of pernicious silliness presents a major danger: that it might be taken seriously. Brand himself is a keen self-promoter, and in the most vainglorious reaches of his over-inflated ego - broadcast to millions via Twitter - he is the only smart guy in the room. Let us hope that there aren't enough deluded fools who sycophantically agree.
In reality, with this idiotic intervention, he is doing incredible damage to the nature of political discourse in this country. By cluttering up the airwaves with this vacuous rubbish, Brand is doing the opposite of what he claims to want. Instead of making the world more open or transparent, he is, in fact, polluting the public consciousness with an ocean of opaque blather.
Brand also harms the causes he evangelises about with his platitudes. Environmentalism - one of his favourite issues (if he is to be believed) - will now have his silliness to contend with: perfectly intelligent individuals will now need to justify his stupidity when campaigning, for example. I myself have some sympathy with those who would seek to protect the environment and combat climate change - and this moronic contribution from an obvious ignoramus appals me.
Robin Lustig, in his blog for the Huffington Post, explained that he thought Brand to be: "Not Only Daft but Dangerous". In it Lustig attempts to emulate Brand in writing as if he had "swallowed a thesaurus". While this bid to outdo a professional comedian in petty wordplay does not really work, his assessment of the technique does: "it's neither as difficult, nor as impressive, as Brand seems to think."
But Brand's writing is worth commenting on. It is certainly more worth my time (and yours too) than his drippy quasi-spiritual political babble. His skill at the written word is quite considerable: but a good hack does not a tactician make. His writing is often a strange blend of endlessly alliterative sentences, with never-ending sub-clauses, and unwieldy political junk - which feels almost grafted on to a piece which appears to have begun life as something more humorous and gentle.
My suggestion to Mr. Brand is to drop the political pretence. If you want to write about politics, do so from the comedic side, become a particularly zany sketch-writer or something. Do not -- ever -- try to change things. You will just come out of it looking like a pseudo-intellectual berk - when you ought to be trying to conceal that fact.
If Brand expects silliness and a lack of political concentration to catalyse a revolution, then he is mistaken. I can confidently predict that this will all come to nothing after all. Far from being the defining moment at the vanguard of a new revolution, this issue will, in fact, be remembered as a momentary publicity-hungry lapse in the history of a great magazine - if it is even remembered at all.
James Snell is a Contributing Editor for The Libertarian. This article first appeared on Trending Central