Monday, October 20, 2014

In Defense of Russell Brand

I don’t want to seem as if I have a one-track mind, because I very recently responded to an article from Forward Progressives, but the one I came across this time was probably one of the worst articles I’ve ever read, so the opportunity was too much to pass up. In fact, I’m not even responding, for the most part, to make a broad political statement (as I have before), but mostly just because this article is legitimately so awful I feel compelled to elaborate on it somewhere—and hey, that’s kind of why I have a blog to begin with. In any case, the article in question is from a guy named Manny Schewitz, who I once actually thought was (unlike his colleague Allen Clifton) a relatively credible voice on Forward Progressives. He’s writing about “Why the Left Needs to Reject Russell Brand.” That struck me as sort of weird to begin with, but believe me, it gets downright surreal as it goes on.

After noting Brand’s popularity among left-libertarian types, he goes on to say that he doesn’t “see the big deal about a guy whose greatest accomplishment otherwise is being married to Katy Perry.” Ouch—that’s a pretty brutal remark to make. I mean, granted, I didn’t really know about Russell Brand before he was married to Katy Perry, but that was mostly because I was in grade school for a lot of his career in comedy and TV. Obviously, it’s one thing if you don’t like the guy’s style—I personally don’t have much of an opinion, seeing as I’m not very familiar with it—but it’s a little harsh to say his biggest “accomplishment” is marrying a pop star.
Right afterward, Schewitz talks about a popular video where Brand rants against Fox News, and compares them to ISIS. Not surprisingly, Schewitz sees this as an absurd false equivalence. But I have to go with Brand on this one. Fox News devoted itself loyally to supporting the Bush administration, including the Iraq War—a war that killed, even by lower estimates, at least around a hundred thousand civilians. Oh, right, and which created ISIS. So yes, convincing the populace to go along with that sort of action is, in fact, worse than ISIS. You’d think as a so-called progressive Manny Schewitz might be eager to agree with that, but apparently he’s too caught up in his inexplicable vendetta against Russell Brand to care.

Next, Schewitz talks about a recent stunt where Russell Brand filmed outside of Fox News’s studio after his interview scheduled with Sean Hannity was cancelled. Schewitz complains, “I’m pretty sure that just about everyone on the left has realized that Fox News is little more than a conservative fear and disinformation machine, so why are we subjected to the latest ridiculous thing said on Fox on a daily basis?” Um, really? This from a guy who writes for a website that has an entire archive full of articles—sometimes multiple ones in a single day—mocking the stupidity of Fox News? If Schewitz has such a problem with people talking about the “latest ridiculous thing said on Fox on a daily basis,” he might want to bring it up to his pal Allen Clifton, who seems hell-bent on reminding everyone almost daily that dumb things are said on Fox News.

Schewitz then accuses Brand of using attacks on Fox News as a way to bolster his credibility among liberals and leftists. But he’s completely missing the fact that maybe, just maybe, Russell Brand isn’t talking about Fox News just for the sake of “everyone on the left,” but for relatively apolitical, maybe even conservative-leaning, people who might watch his videos and listen to what he has to say. It may be hard for Manny Schewitz to believe, but not everything written with a liberal or left-wing viewpoint is intended to be read by those who already agree with that viewpoint. I say it might be hard for him to believe because Forward Progressives is the source of endless, downright masturbatory articles for liberals to read and agree with without requiring any sort of thought.

Schewitz’s next charge against Brand? That “the conspiracy nuts love this guy.” Okay. And? Charles Manson loved the Beatles—does that mean Paul McCartney should be in prison? Furthermore, even if Brand is one of the “conspiracy nuts” himself (and Schewitz offers no convincing evidence that he is), if his views on society, politics, etc., are still good, who cares if he believes in some bizarre but essentially harmless conspiracy theories? As a non-religious person, the Christian belief that God became His own son, turned bread and wine into his body and blood, and then died and came back to life, seems like a pretty strange thing to believe (even if I used to believe it myself), but I would never avoid associating myself with Christians because of that.

Next, Schewitz quotes a passage from a column Brand wrote last year, where Brand says he doesn’t vote because he views it as “a tacit act of compliance.” Schewitz angrily (at least it sounds angry when I’m reading it in my head) counters, “Guess what? The same people who watch Fox News – which Russell Brand has used to continue promoting his image – those people also vote.” Fair point, I guess, but it’s not like Russell Brand is advocating just sitting at home and eating Cheetos instead of voting—he pretty clearly supports other forms of activism. And the people he’s really addressing aren’t mainstream liberals—obviously, the people who watch Fox News will go out and vote, but so will Democratic Party loyalists like Manny Schewitz; he’s addressing people who really do want the whole system thrown out, and who are willing to in some way be active for that cause. Plus, it’s a little hard to really hate someone because they advocate against voting—George Carlin did, and does anyone hate George Carlin? Because if there is anyone who hates him, they seriously suck. I’m just gonna throw that out there. 

And then comes the really low point of this article—yeah, it seemed pretty bad up to this point, but here’s where things go from stupid to reprehensible: “If we were to actually take this pretentious, narcissistic former heroin addict who was fired from his job at MTV for dressing up as Osama Bin Laden after 9/11 seriously…” I’m not sure what’s worse, trying to insinuate that Russell Brand deserves to be ignored forever because of something potentially offensive he did literally thirteen years ago, or attacking him because he used to have a drug problem. Oh, wait—yeah, I am, it’s the second one. Maybe it’s just because Philip Seymour Hoffman, an actor who I both liked and admired, died earlier this year because of his problems with drug abuse, but I can’t help but be offended on a pretty deep level when you insult someone because they once had a heroin addiction. I’m just going to hope Manny Schewitz just got caught up in his vitriol against Russell Brand and didn’t think that through when he was writing it. 

Schewitz wraps up by going on about how voting is important, things will just get worse if we get apathetic, and so on, but even though I’ve filled out an absentee ballot for the upcoming election, I don’t really buy what he’s selling. Russell Brand is onto something when he talks about the system being fundamentally rotten, and voting really isn’t about to fix that. That old quote about how if voting changed anything it would be illegal might not be entirely accurate, but it seems pretty close at this point. I myself do vote, and I don’t advocate against it, but it’s hard for me to blame anyone who stays home at this point.

But, to get back to the article—well, I didn’t really ever think I would say this, but this doesn’t even meet the standards I’ve come to expect from Forward Progressives, and that really says something. This article is downright baffling in how mean-spirited and unfair it is. I’ve honestly only read/watched a couple things from Russell Brand, but I still feel the need to defend the guy just because of how absurd this attack is. I don’t really know what Manny Schewitz’s problem with Russell Brand is, but he might want to talk to a professional about it. Because he sounds like he might have some issues he should discuss, and not the ones that’ll be on the ballot in November. 

EDIT: An earlier version of this post was edited to correct a misspelling of Schewitz's name as "Schweitz" throughout.

UPDATE: I've removed an accusation that Schewitz himself inserted a hyperlink in the part of the article when he mentions Brand's heroin addiction, as I don't know that he himself inserted the hyperlink. I apologize to Mr. Schewitz for the potential inaccuracy.

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