Sunday 17 September 2023

Exposing Russell Brand

Like many of the celebrity sex predators who were outed before him, Russell Brand paraded his disgusting behaviour in plain sight. And a lot of us, me included, did not see what was obvious. From his jokey shagging references on EFourum and Big Brother's Big Mouth, to grossly inappropriate harassment via his BBC radio shows, and stand up routines furnished with references to violent sex, in the context of the post-ironic 00s many were quick to - wanted yo - assume this was an anarchic act in the British tradition of near-the-knuckle cheeky chappies. A persona as affected as Michael Pennington's permadrunk alter ego, Jonny Vegas. Unfortunately, this was not the case.

Saturday night's Dispatches and the accompanying Times article were difficult to stomach. In painstaking detail, the joint investigation established repeated patterns of behaviour in which women were groomed and gaslit, subject to sexual assaults and, in one case, rape. Among them included a 16 year old whom, it was alleged, was seriously sexually assaulted. Accompanying the grim details was not just the weight of testimony, but corroborating witnesses, character references, admissions by Brand himself in his multiple autobiographies, and text messages that came from his phone number. If anyone has any doubt after wading through overwhelming and credible claims which, remember, would have been vetted by the notoriously twitchy libel lawyers in C4 and Times employ, then they were either reading or watching something different, or had concluded out of hand that Brand was innocent of the allegations.

Take Britain's self-described working class hero, Paul Embery, for example. He immediately said that Brand was entitled to the presumption of innocence. A typically stupid response from a very stupid man. Firstly, there are no charges and we do not live inside a court case. Second, what does it say about someone who, confronted with overwhelming evidence that a celebrity is a danger to women and has been given a free pass from a succession of broadcast controllers, prattles on about "innocence"? And then we have a clutch of right wing misogynists closing ranks around their man. If you have Elon Musk, Jordan Peterson, and Andrew Tate - backed by the usual horrors from British right wing media (who were not so reticent about the Huw Williams allegations) rushing to provide a defence, then surely that should give anyone thinking about defending Brand pause. But there's never stopping Chris Williamson, who not only retweeted Brand's own conspiracy-mongering defence of his conduct ("all my relationships were consensual", as if that's the issue here), but also the just asking questions response of Jackie Walker. A reminder, as if it was needed, that this pair and their supporters would be the kiss of death to any left project.

A common theme of Brand's conspiracy-inflected support is that their man is a "threat" and therefore needed taking down. But how is Brand a threat, exactly? To whom? Because he incoherently rants about media bias? Or that his snake oil bullshit of wellness retreats, talking therapies and motivational mantras, and ice baths threaten the scaly grip of big pharma? Brand poses the status quo less of a threat than a GCSE media studies class. Indeed, the so-called cosmic right with its anti-vax rubbish and faux anti-authoritarianism fits right wing governance strategies hand-in-glove. Brand threatens the powers-that-be not a jot. He reinforces them.

The more convincing explanation to the "why now" comes from turning the conspiracy theory on its head. The allegations against Brand have had an airing precisely because he's not a threat. Or, to be more accurate, because he's an irrelevance. Since disappearing up his own spiritualist backside, his mainstream entertainment career has more or less withered. He still does stand up, but most of his money comes from his very anti-establishment business interests. In other words, no one in the media has any capital tied up in his celebrity. This is different to, for example, Noel Fielding whose inappropriate relationships have circulated extensively around social media. Yet with a new series of the Great British Bake Off in the can, C4 won't be inviting the spotlight to play on his affairs. Until at least the season wraps up. Similarly, the case of Dan Wootton is instructive. A proper sexual predator and no mistaking, his behaviour has been covered in the Byline Times and has since received coverage in the more liberal sections of the media. Yet his berth at GB News looks secure, even if his position at The Mail is less so. And shall we mention Nick Cohen as well? All three are protected to a degree because of the investments sunk by different media institutions into their person. If Brand was still a significant figure with a hit TV show or series of films currently under his belt, then chances are these allegations would not have had an airing.

Brand's long history of sexual abuse and mistreatment of women has justly caught up with him, and the women who have had the courage to speak out about their awful experiences should be listened to and believed. Likewise, the work sunk into this exposure of Brand's shitty behaviour reflects well on The Times and the Dispatches team. But the forces that enabled their work are the same ones that enforce a pall of silence where other TV and radio personalities are concerned. Brand is not the only sexual predator to have prowled around the celebrity circuit, and even now there are commercial interests working to ensure other allegations about other men remain nothing more than whispers and rumour.


Anonymous said...

I missed the first 20 minutes of the Dispatches and I may need to rewatch given I understand the must serious accusations were at the beginning. I didn't share your view that the evidence was overwhelming to the point of certainty, but given your work and the usual level of your analysis I will seriously think again. I do think the tabloid approach of taking clips out of context has diminished the women's accusations and it shouldn't have been mixed up with him treating women poorly and not calling them I think, it undermines the really serious and criminal activity he's been accused of.

Anonymous said...

I think this hits the nail on the head. There is plenty of talk of yet more money-making exploitative celebs who have not and are unlikely to be similarly exposed.

Many men (and some women) in a position of power act precisely the same - Boris 'Shagger' Johnson FFS? There is a strong Victorian whiff about all this piety.

Following on from Róisín Murphy, and BBC Radio 6 controller Samantha Moy's positive evocation of John Peel of all people, I was struck by how the Establishment is quick to persecute working-class people who stray outside their accepted fields (sports, showbiz, market trading-style business). That doesn't excuse Brand, but the casual way in which Moy can cancel a woman who in private challenges the establishment perspective, and in the same breath evoke a tremendously privileged ex-private schoolboy seems to say it all.

Anonymous said...

Mark Fishers vampire castle has aged well I see. In it he praises Brand to the hilt denouncing the ‘left wing moralisers’ for condemning his known behaviour at that time. Alas the recent allegations made against him are much more worse.

JN said...

Honestly, sexual abuse seems to happen wherever men have power or influence over other people. Not to say that it's all men, but it's a significant percentage of men, given the opportunity, in whatever context.

The example that particularly shocked me recently was Justin Geever (AKA Justin Sane) of the punk band AntiFlag, given that this is the singer/lyricist of a band that's very explicitly left-wing and socially liberal (very "woke", if you will) and still this prick is a blatant sexual predator and has been for decades.

Coatesy said...

Great post Phil.

I recall Brand at the People's Assembly Demo in 2014 and his rubbish in his 'book' Revolution, a mate here was going on about it (got it from the library I add).

I really liked some of Fisher's stuff and know Exiting the Vampire Castle, not least because a central part is about a People's Assembly meeting held just around the corner from me in Ipswich around that time. I apreciated it for a number of reasons notably because Mark, whose loss is still there, said good things about us lot in Suffolk.

Sure you're right but I've managed to forget the Brand bit.

Andrew Coates.

Kamo said...

No particular interest in Brand in any of his incarnations, I think he is a twat. But, I am uncomfortable with trial by media. If there are allegations of criminal behaviour they should be investigated by the Police. I also think employers have a responsibility for what happens on their premises and via the commercial resources they provide, but not necessarily what happens outside of the workplace between an employee and someone who is not an employee or someone with commercial links. I actually believe that personal relationships between colleagues or people with commercial links should be declared, I realise that may be embarrassing for illicit relationships, but I don't believe such policies infringe the right to a private life and they at least guard against conflicts of interest and abuse of power.

Ken said...

“”I am not comfortable with trial by media.” says Kamo.
Back in the day, The Bradford Telegraph and Argus published an investigation into the business dealings of the developer Poulson. The editor moved to World in Action where he investigated further. The then version of Ofcom, the ITA, banned the programme when it was ready, so Granada broadcast a blank screen for the duration of the programme.
Finally, the Met investigated him, I know, the irony, and Poulson went to jail for bribing officials for contracts. (See “Our friends in the North” for a fictional version of this)
However, the three Tory MPs who accepted money from him were never charged with anything. The most senior, Reginald Maudling, was the Home Secretary in charge of the Met. His job was to lobby for a £1.5 million hospital in Gozo, a part of Malta, populated mainly by goats. He threatened to sue Granada and kept the civil case on the books for years, which prevented Granada publishing anything else. He never carried this threat out, merely kept it live.
Trial by media, there should be more of it.

Blissex said...

Alex Salmond, Julian Assange, Russell Brand

Kriss said...

Kamo. You are 'uncomfortable with trial by media'. I think in general this response is pretty glib when you look at what people face when they report it.

There is a 1.5% rate of reported rapes to convictions, so you still have to go through the intimate exam, interrogation and hand over your phone and social media access for the CPS to eventually say there isn't enough evidence - or like some women, try to report it to be turned away with no record made of your complaint. Then there's the culture of the police - unchallenged creepy behaviour that concealed police rapists or abusers like Wayne Couzens or David Carrick - a joke to their colleagues. There's a higher number of police who commit DV compared to the average population, so god help you if you're complaining about one of their own or their mates. Rape and sexual assault in police stations is not unknown, there’s a case going on at the moment, Zayna Imam's police cell video footage ‘disappeared’ for the time she complains the rape occurred. And we haven't even started on what happens to men who get raped. Trust needs to be deserved, and very often it’s not - often enough for women to think twice about the high barriers to reporting, and for what result?

JN said...

Listening to Novara Media, they played a bunch of clips of Russel Brand from various radio and tv shows, and this stuff alone is enough to be very clear that he's definitely a horrific misogynist (and I don't mean "a wee bit sexist"; I mean he shows a pathological hostility to women, like Andrew Tate). That's before you get into the allegations that have just come out.

For a start, Brand blatantly, publicly, and on record sexually harasses his female colleagues (like the newsreader during his show). Nobody on the left should be defending that.

As for the cries of "innocent until proven guilty", absolutely! Give the man a fair trial. I haven't heard anyone saying otherwise. But what that doesn't mean is that we're all obligated to dismiss the multiple, credible accusations, with supporting evidence, against him. And if anyone is going to get a fair trial, it's the rich guy who can afford really good lawyers. Welcome to capitalist society.*

And the idea that he's being framed because the mainstream media and the powers that be are terrified of him, that's fucking ludicrous. He's not that important. He's a celebrity flake whose politics are all over the place and who has no significant, immediate political influence. He has a Youtube channel. So does fucking Pewdiepie. Big deal.

*The irony here is that we have so many people imprisoned, under appalling conditions, without charge or trial, and those people are not rich or famous. They're refugees. Those are the people being denied habeas corpus and other basic legal rights. You know who gets railroaded by the legal system? Poor people. The plebs.

JN said...


For a start, you're comparing apples to oranges in terms of political significance. Salmond and Assange are significant political figures in a way that Brand has never been.

Regarding Assange, I don't think accusations of rape should ever be dismissed out of hand (speaking as a former member of the SWP here), and some of Assange's ostensible supporters (EG: George Galloway) did him a huge disservice by diverting the specific issue into a debate about what they personally consider to constitute rape. The question was: did Assange do the things he's been accused of or did he not? The question was not: hey, what are George Galloway's failings to understand the concept of consent?

I think the position of the left (and this is real "being able to walk and chew gum at the same time" stuff) should have been to not dismiss the accusations of rape out of hand, but to demand that Assange should have guarantees against extradition on unconnected charges of espionage.

Regarding Salmond, obviously the British state is against him*, but that doesn't automatically make him innocent of accusations of sexual harassment. Again, we should be able to walk and chew at the same time.

*The state was also clearly against Nicola Sturgeon, IE: your husband is suspected of misappropriation/fraud so we're going to dig up your garden like you're suspected serial killers. Aye, I don't see that happening to any Tory politicians, strangely enough.

Zoltan Jorovic said...

I understood that the sexual case against Assange had long been dropped. What he faces now is purely political and that is why he is under threat of extradition to the USA.

Brand being a sexist misogynist is no surprise. The extent of his predatory behaviour is, but after the last few years and since #MeToo, shouldn't be. We know that this is rampant in the 'entertainment' business (this includes most of the media, which is not about informing people, much).

I don't like "trial by media" either, and I do find the schadenfreude being exhibited a bit distasteful, but I accept Phil's arguments. The problem is that victims probably won't get justice as a result of this, and the system won't reform itself. As Phil says, this has only come out because nobody high up is interested in protecting Brand. We need to attack the whole edifice, not just the grotesque progeny of their world view.

Kriss said...

Zoltan, the statute of limitations on all but one of the rape cases ran out while Assange was in the Ecuadorian embassy. The remaining one was dropped because of the difficulty of prosecuting nine years on.

Anonymous said...

Sorry I am late to this.
I agree the testimony against Brand looks damning, and his stage persona is sinister in retrospect.

We should accept allegations as serious and in need of investigation, and then keep an objective mind to any developing evidence.

In the Assange case, the lead complainant alleged Assange had manipulated a condom so tricking her into unprotected sex, when she had consented to protected sex only.

She provided the condom to the Swedish police.
However forensic testing of the condom she supplied found none of Julian Assange’s DNA

This was approximately the point that the statute of limitations ran out in Assange’s case.

So the allegations against Assange were never tested in court, but surely we are allowed to evaluate the evidence available with the same acuity and tacit knowledge we should use to assess what we have just learnt about Brand.

The allegations against Alex Salmond were tested in court. The jury found him unanimously not guilty, and a number of female witnesses supported his defence by testifying some of the accusers simply were not at the location they claimed to be at with Salmond on the occasions they alleged he assaulted them

One charge against Salmond was “not proven”, relating to a drunken cop off with a younger female staffer which both parties stated was consensual.

And the court saw evidence of text messages between the complainants suggesting they knew each other and were motivated to conspire against Salmond (“I have a plan…”)

Again, the allegations of victims should be taken seriously, and there should be a sympathetic assessment of the available evidence and consideration of their resources and circumstance.

But that ability to consider evidence should remain turned on