Friday 5 December 2014

The Sun vs Russell Brand

"When I was poor and I complained about inequality, people said I was bitter. Now I'm rich and I complain about inequality, they say I'm a hypocrite. I'm beginning to think they just don't want inequality on the agenda because it is a real problem that needs to be addressed." Normally something to pin on your tumblr, this week it's become something of a prophecy. Russell Brand was ambushed on Channel 4 news (two million views and rising) for having the temerity to stand with New Era Estate residents against the sale of their homes to American-based property sepculators. Scenting an opportunity to shift a few papers, The Sun joined C4 with front page attacks on Brand on Wednesday and Thursday. And so it came to pass that the Dirty Digger's tabloid terriers went to war with Russell Brand.

I pity the fools.

Brand has segued from comedian to a campaigning voice-of-a-generation figure. He is a bit marmite, but I like him and so do quite a few yoof-types. And he's using his celebrity to raise awareness about working class struggles that would otherwise not have passed muster as far as the media's gatekeepers are concerned. Best of all, he's not doing the millionaire rockstar pretend-friend-of-the-poor thing while body-swerving taxes. He may be a touch narcissistic and have some notorious blind spots, but he's standing up for the class he comes from.

How does this compare with the self-styled paper of working class Britain? To be sure, on every movement, campaign and achievement of, by and for those people - our people; for every voice raised against the inequity, privilege and power; on every measure that has made a modest improvement in the quality and standard of living of working class people, time after time The Sun has set its lying, ugly face against them. Yes, they were even against the minimum wage. So for The Sun to call anyone out as a hypocrite demands an expansive memory hole large enough to swallow their previous multitudes of scabby deeds.

As Murdoch's minions take to the field against Brand, it's not their appalling record that will lose them the war. You don't have to be a sociologist of the media to know that tabloid campaigns against a new folk devil have a tendency of backfiring. What The Sun have done is take a popular, radical (and radicalising) celebrity, let off the heavy artillery and are moving in for the mop up. Yet their attacks are complete duds. For the kids who are having to grow up with The Sun - like I did - having the straight, dull world of parents and papers moaning about the antics of a dynamic, anti-establishment comedian is exactly the kind of publicity Brand's celebrity feeds off. Every shell The Sun fires off not so much rebounds on their own trenches, but falls haphazardly onto their supply lines. By attacking and rubbishing a popular youth figure the paper is alienating many hundreds of thousands of potential future readers. They're smashing up, churning up their own market.

The Sun has launched a war it cannot win. I therefore hope it continues for a long, long time.

1 comment:

Speedy said...

Not entirely convinced. What this does is reorientate the locus (if that is the right word) around Brand and away from the issue.

Is Brand a hypocrite or not? Not - look at these poor people being turfed off their estate to make way for the rich.

But yes, although his "revolution" is bollocks i think he is a genuine working class hero, very much the exception that proves the rule: he has maintained an authentic working class voice.

I don't doubt that many WC people rise up through the ranks, but they tend to assume the values of the MC. Brand has been able to do so without being "contaminated". Once it was union leaders, now only the entertainers are left.

Look at how the Labour Party (an exemplar of this rule) cringes from the debate around public spending.