"Is this what you all do for a living?": How Russell Brand put the US news establishment in its place

The clip of "Willie Brandt" has to be seen in the context of broadcasting policy

Share

Russell Brand has made the news again – literally.

Appearing on the US talk-news programme Morning Joe on Tuesday, Brand offered his hosts an object lesson in the process – criticising his hosts’ questions, their manners, their dress, their superficiality and their competence. (“Is this what you all do for a living?”, he demanded at one point). The clip of the interview has had 3m views on YouTube.

The hosts deserved all the acidity Brand threw at them. Mika Brzezinski opened by saying she’d never heard of him (“I’m not very pop culture”) but had been assured he was a big deal. The panel proceeded to comment on his dress, his accent, got his name wrong (astonishingly, one repeatedly called him “Willie Brandt”), and tried unsuccessfully to match wits with someone who challenged each of their conversational gambits, and was unscrupulous about one-upping them. The result was a fascinating display of cultural politics, in which Brand showed how brinkmanship works, seizing the upper ground wherever he found it. Unfailingly cheerful, he was a smiling assassin.

Online commenters were quick to offer their perspectives, which tended to focus on differences between the US and the UK: it was a savage satire of the vapidity of US television news, an egotistical bit of British grandstanding, an exposé of bad American manners, or of Brand’s own discourtesy. In the UK the feeling was more that the segment demonstrated the superiority of the British educational system over the American. This seems a trifle self-congratulatory, not least because Brand was expelled from three UK schools, and one of his hosts was herself British.

If the incident reveals anything meaningful about the difference between the US and UK, rather than simply showing that Brand was much smarter than the people trying to interview him, it may, instead, be national broadcasting policies.

From 1949 until 1987, the US had a “Fairness Doctrine”, requiring broadcasters to present controversial issues of public benefit and to do so in a manner that balanced conflicting viewpoints – in other words, precisely the mandates that still control UK broadcast news. In 1987, Ronald Reagan abolished the Fairness Doctrine in the name of free speech, just as Rupert Murdoch was setting up his Fox television channel. Anyone in doubt about the deleterious effects of 25 years of parti-pris echolalia and commercial advertising masquerading as “debate” – or about the benefits of a broadcasting policy that insists upon balance as well as controversy – should watch Russell Brand run rings around the hosts of Morning Joe.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Take a moment to imagine you're Ed Miliband...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

Letters: No vote poses difficult questions – so why rush?

Independent Voices
Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits