If Facebook shares had audio to accompany the multitude of posts, the latest commentary surrounding Russell Brand on Newsnight would be littered with loud, smug and triumphantly-toned exclamations from people saying, “Yes! Finally, somebody is speaking the truth! Look at Jeremy; he’s being rendered almost speechless!”
Fresh from his guest-editing spot on The New Statesman, Brand bounced into the recent Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman like the messianic man he is positioning himself to be. Brimming with energy and armed with a vocabulary that would rival the average person (and possibly journalist), Brand is a powerful figure and completely aware of his influence and charisma, especially when combined with his comic-laced verbosity. However, while many are applauding Brand’s impassioned efforts atop the political soapbox, it’s important to step back and shake off the utopian glitter, in order to completely consider the repercussions of some of Brand’s proclamations.
Brand does not vote, and while his reasoning has depth, it is not without consequence. Suffrage is not something to be taken lightly, my father was unable to return to his home country due to the war, and he watched his family suffer under a totalitarian regime – he was a passionate advocate for not wasting a vote, especially considering that there were people unable to exercise that right.
The right to vote is a governmental reflection on the expression of human rights, and it is the most singularly powerful act an individual has with regard to shaping their future and the world they live in. It was only 2008 that saw a celebrity-heavy, American PSA urging people, particularly young people, to vote – the message was that of empowerment and how apathy towards a human right could be detrimental to their future, and that of their children. Choosing not to vote – when the option is available – is somewhat equivalent to the bystander effect en masse.
Brand is opening the political dialogue to people who may have never before paid attention, and this kind of conversation starter is not without merit. However, his PR campaign (and yes, this is a campaign) should also be balanced with a moral yardstick – if he is holding politicians accountable for their actions and impact, then he too needs to be cut from the same cloth. Passion is a wonderful thing, however, it needs to be tempered with clear-thinking solutions – an intense gaze and verbal elasticity will only take you so far in the revolution.