On the Recent Question Time
This was written (almost) immediately on the tail of watching a clip from the recent Question Time, the one that featured Russell Brand and Nigel Farage, inveighing in their particular way on the subject of immigration. Or, more to the form, “Is Britain really Overcrowded?”
There isn’t much to be said about Farage – he’s the leader of a petite bourgeois party, buoyed by populist rhetoric and the idiocy of that subclass. His nascent success has everything to do with Thatcherites realizing, post 2008, that the Tories don’t actually care about shop keepers.
No, what deserves discussion is Brand and his delivery. I’ll grant you, he’s got a solid platform – in the physical sense – on which to stand. He’s a charismatic fellow, with a penchant for prose. What he doesn’t have, seemingly, is the theoretical background on which to deliver. This has been the crux of it from the Paxman interview forward.
I’ll not disagree when it comes to his earnestness – he does seem to genuinely want to help. However, his methods won’t work. I’m not putting this forward as a mere nay-sayer, but rather based on historical proof. The unsystematic approach he endorses, it’s nearly the same thing we saw in the 1960’s – all righteous anger, all slogans and grandstanding, which got us nowhere fast. It’s the same utopianism we saw further back, in the 1800’s, with people like Owen or Saint-Simon. The vision is good, but the system to get us there, the nitty-gritty, the stuff that actually gets shit done, is absent.
It’s the reason why, when confronted as to why he doesn’t stand for government himself, all he could respond with was a gutless “I don’t want to become them.” As much as I might disagree with it, why not some critique of parliamentarism? Why not some description of ossification of standing power, of the way that our government quells lone voices?
Russell Brand is neither the leader, the speaker, we need, nor the one we deserve. I love that he feels motivated to speak out on these issues, more people should. However, to come at complex issues without the necessary facts, without the necessary systematic thinking, only leads to defeat. The position Russell Brand holds does a disservice to his program. Too many people will look to him, and become excited, and yet, their nervous energies, stirred, will dissipate when they realize he has no answers for them beyond the soft peddled aphorisms about collective governance and love.
Because he has no real position to speak from, Brand comes off as bad, as sly, as any careerist hack. You could see it in the discussion – he doesn’t address the actual question because it doesn’t fit with his nebulous talking points. He can’t pin-point these issues, because he doesn’t have the framework to do so. It’s no wonder that some in the audience felt preached at, felt patronized.
If this is all that people see on the scene, if this is the only leader they can point to, they will inevitably become saddened, and bereft of the will to fight. And the situation will worsen. The lack of any rigorous thought on Brand’s part is a liability. He cannot be our mouthpiece. We need someone better.
Look, this isn’t some prostration in front of the educated elite – I’m not coming after Brand because he was born working-class, or because he hasn’t been to some top university. He seems to have been able to sense some of the frustrations of the larger mass of society, without which, no amount of abstruse scholarship will get anywhere. However, having your finger on the pulse is just one part of it. You need to have a way of channeling that emotion, that anger, productively. And, from what I’ve seen, he has yet to find one.