Russell Brand's latest incarnation as social commentator just makes me love him more than ever

He might not always get it right, but at least he tries

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The Independent Online

I’ve enjoyed a remote yet tempestuous love affair with Russell Brand. Like all love stories, ours has been defined by dramatic highs and lows. During his incarnation as the country’s most rock and roll stand-up, I lusted after him. Later, when he so magnificently campaigned for laws and attitudes surrounding drug addiction to be changed, I wanted to marry him. A brief period of red hot hatred followed, when I watched the now-infamous Paxman interview in which he seemingly encouraged his fan base not to vote. I confess: I considered dumping him.

But now, Brand has reinvented himself as a social commentator, and I’m well and truly re-infatuated.

For the uninitiated, Brand uploads daily Youtube videos (“The Trews”) during which he attempts to deconstruct the complex web of agendas, covert sponsorship, corporate interest and massive egos which is The Media. His channel has attracted viewers in their millions.

Cue much derision from the right-wing media, who in the early days attempted to paint Brand as an incompetent clown and, when that did little to diminish his popularity, have latterly drawn attention to the ‘hypocrisy’ of a multi-millionaire celebrity ‘whining’ about economic inequality.

The latest instalment of the saga sees Brand splashed across the front page of today’s Sun, following an encounter with a Channel 4 reporter. Brand was supporting a protest led by the residents of the New Era Estate, who may face losing their homes. In one of his Trews broadcasts, Brand encouraged the public to tweet Boris Johnson to draw his attention to the petition for more social housing in London. Yesterday, New Era Estate residents presented the petition to Parliament, with over 300,000 signatures.

A television news crew was sent to report the protest; something we can only assume would not have happened had Brand not been supporting them. During the subsequent interview, Russell was quizzed about the cost of his own private accommodation (which, incidentally, he rents). When he (quite rightly) responded that this had nothing to do with the protest, the reporter insisted that Brand’s own housing circumstances were relevant, in that the relative opulence of the same seemingly jarred with Brand’s socialist politics. Several times Brand attempted to move focus back to the plight of the New Era estate and was shouted down by his interviewer. Visibly angered, Russell called the reporter ‘snide’.

And it is ‘snidegate’ that, unsurprisingly, the mainstream media have focused on, using Brand’s (in my opinion, completely justified) indignation as yet another attempt to dismantle the hefty and potentially revolutionary support he is garnering.

Despite what Fox News and their ilk might have implied, Brand has never seriously claimed to be a Messiah figure, and he has never suggested that he is contemplating running for political office. He does not profess to have all the answers, or even a clear idea of what his revolution will entail.

But none of this is the point. Russell Brand is, like most people, a complex human being full of contradictory emotions. Unlike most of us, however, he has, by virtue of his worldwide fame, a huge platform on which to proffer and debate ideas. He has used this platform, not only to offer his own views for debate, but to shine a light on causes which otherwise would have received little or no media attention, just like the ongoing saga of the New Era Estate.

So, Russell, if you are reading this – thank you. In an age where it is relatively easy to whip up a social media storm of blathering, misdirected hatred, you might be tempted to believe that the world has misunderstood your intentions. Yet for myself and for millions of others who watch the Trews, you continue to encourage us to exercise our freedom to think, speak, question and debate. You don’t always get it right, but thank you for trying.

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