Saturday, 18 October 2014

Dunno what to say about this, really

Donald Trump and Russell Brand are having a spat on twitter.  It puts me in mind of Oscar Wilde's quip about fox hunting - "The unspeakable in pursuit of the uneatable."  Though in this case, more a matter of the despicable in affray with the punchable.  You can choose who is which.  I recommend alternating them as the mood takes you.
The digital fight started when Trump tweeted that the Forgetting Sarah Marshall star is a 'major loser.' Brand, however, hit back - and eventually suggested that Trump is not the entrepreneur he has claimed to be, by linking to an an article that mentioned his multi-million dollar inheritance and financial aid from the US government. 
'I watched Russell Brand @rustyrockets on the @jimmyfallon show the other night—what the hell do people see in Russell—a major loser!' Trump first wrote. 
Trump's comments came three days after Brand appeared on 'Late Show with David Letterman' on Monday. Brand is not scheduled as a guest this week on 'The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon'. 
Trump then published another tweet, which read '.@katyperry must have been drunk when she married Russell Brand @rustyrockets – but he did send me a really nice letter of apology!' 
It was not immediately clear what 'letter of apology' Trump was referring to.

Perry and Brand were married in 2010 and divorced two years later, with Perry telling Vogue in June 2013 that Brand announced his intention to divorce in a 2011 New Year's Eve text message. 
Brand soon retaliated and responded to Trump's second message with jokes about Trump's sobriety and his much-lampooned hairline.
Smells like two sad publicity whores staging a phoney fight for attention.

Meanwhile, John Lydon, of Sex Pistols, PiL and buttermongering fame, sums up Brand pretty well in a typically bracing Q&A session in The Guardian:
The youth of today have every possibility as being as smart or a stupid as the youth of past. So long as you remove Russell Brand from the agenda. I think he's absolutely clarified himself as arsehole number one. It's not funny to talk nonsense. I think his words are the words of somebody else. Misconstrued.
Excellent.  Elsewhere in the Q&A he advocates voting, no matter how dire the options, as "everybody should try to make the best of a bad situation, and for me I despise the entire shitstem because it is corrupt, but that corruption has only come about because of the indolence of us as a population." Which is about the polar opposite of Brand's recent (well, recent-ish) whiney call for mass apathy in the face of drab, uninspiring or actively corrupt or malevolent politics.  Brand justified - nay, bragged - about his disengagement from politics:
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.
Well, that's nice, Russell.  You really showed those nasty corrupt venal self-serving troughers, didn't you!

Incidentally, Brand was born in 1975, the year after I was.  That would mean the first election he would have been able to vote in was in 1997 (probably).  That was a big one, and anyone who couldn't see a difference between John Major's corrupt, exhausted Tories and Labour (even with Tony Blair in charge) was being wilfully blind.

It is staggering how willing people are to discount the impact of democracy on their lives. Born in an NHS hospital? Had NHS treatment? Enjoyed a free schooling? Voted out the Tories in 1997? Worked in a safe environment, with the right to join a union (which you probably ignored) and with recourse to the courts and law when you needed them? These are not rights but privileges, and they need to be defended as there are powerful people who want to destroy them. I'm going to hazard a guess that someone who can't be bothered to vote would make a fairly piss-poor revolutionary. Brandism, a political creed of shrugging ones shoulders and doing nothing, would help people who want to attack the privileges he - and you - are taking for granted.

Someone who can't be bothered to vote isn't going to accomplish much as a revolutionary, no matter how much he styles himself on vaguely remembered 60s icons.

And authoritarian governments fear an active citizenry. They aren't scared of passive refuseniks who bleat about how "nothing works," how "they are all the same" and how they are "giving up on political parties." That's the sort of thing Thatcherites love to hear. It gives them free rein and forces the opposition to appeal more an more to the pool of active voters.

So if "They are all the same" as Brand calims, it is because people are passively enabling that evolution.

Brand qualifies his stance slightly by saying it is "current" politics and political parties he is disillusioned with.  But political parties can be reformed. We saw this, negatively, in the 90s when Blairism subverted the Labour Party, or in New Zealand in the 80s when the neo-liberals infiltrated Labour.  Or in the 2004 when ACT tried to take over the National Party.  Just because the obvious examples are negative, showing parties going the wrong way, it doesn't have to be that way.  And sitting on your hands saying, "But I don't like this, give me some parties I want to vote for," isn't going to work either.  Because if you're not in the game, why should they care what you think?

And no matter how dire, there's always ther stark reality of choosing between 'bad' and 'worse.'  Standing aside and letting others decide for you might be a superficially noble act, but it's a bit shitty, really, for all the people who aren't Russell Brand and have to live with the consequences of 'worse.

The fact is, politics and political parties can make people's lives better (or worse).  Comedians, with an amplified idea of their own importance, don't.  From the 1940s to the late 70s things were moving in the right direction.  Leftwing political parties made the country better.  Comedians told some funny jokes.  Then the crises of the 70s gave the ruling class a chance to reverse the progress made over that time, almost back to pre-WW2 days.  Comedians told some funny jokes.  Some of them were even political.  But they didn't change anything.

(As an aside, the reversals suffered in the 70 illustrate something too many on the left have failed to grasp. Progress is not made in times of crisis. The assumption that 1927, or 1977, or 2008 (love those Kondratiev long waves!) would lead to the final demise of capitalism is naive. A crisis gives the ruling class the chance to re-establish control. Progress is only made during times of plenty and relative ease, when people are able to worry about more than what they are eating for dinner tonight and whether they will have somewhere to sleep next week.  That is why the French and Russian revolutions ended so badly - they were a desperate convulsion that played into the hands of the bandits and psychopaths who wanted power for themselves, not for the powerless.)

Brand's message is a naive bit of posturing, couching basic ideas in preposterous language (He really should read Orwell, particularly 'Politics and the English Language,' or at least look at the five rules of good writing at the beginning of The King's English by the Fowler brothers.)

It appeals because it justifies people's indifference - getting involved in politics and actually making the Labour party (or, if you are That Sort Of Person, the Conservative Party) into a properly functioning, distinct political force, is hard, tiresome and not very well rewarded. We'd much rather watch TV.

Or follow him on twitter, because berating someone about his hair is so revolutionary and daring.  Well done, Russell!  That showed that unspeakable oligarch!  He'll think twice before he garners even more wealth!

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