Perhaps we should start calling him Russell Firebrand.
On Wednesday, the cheeky British comedian sounded off to BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman on his complete and utter dissatisfaction with England’s current political system.
The discussion – less Socratic dialectic than heated diatribe – began after Paxman asked Brand about his experience guest editing latest issue of The New Statesman, a British current affairs magazine.
The 38-year-old, self-confessed former drug addict penned a 4,500-word essay around the subject of revolution.
Paxman quickly cited the part in the piece where Brand admits he has never voted. And just like that, he lit Brand’s powder keg.
“I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity.”
Among other points made in the 11-minute tête-à-tête, Brand proposed a “socialist egalitarian system based on massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations and massive responsibility of energy companies and any companies exploiting the environment.”
At one point in the conversation, Paxman provoked with, “You don’t believe in democracy, do you?”
Brand retorted, “The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we are exploiting poor people all over the world, and the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.”
At times, it was difficult to tell whether Brand was expecting us to take him seriously or not. Paxman, meanwhile, seemed amused.
“You are a very trivial man,” he said.
“Jeremy, don’t ask me to sit here in an interview with you in a bloody hotel room and devise a global utopian system,” Brand fired back, just as the show’s captions appeared with the word “comedian” under Brand’s name.
To Paxman’s accusation of being facetious, Brand countered, “Facetiousness has as much value as seriousness… We’re not going to solve [the world’s problems] with the current system. At least facetiousness is funny.”
Maybe – although it’s not necessarily a personality trait of most political leaders.
Wednesday’s tirade is not without precedent. Brand wrote a column for The Guardian in 2001 following London’s riots in which he questioned what “would make young people destroy their communities.”
In that piece, he also conceded that he was once arrested for criminal damage by participating in an anti-capitalist protest.
Of all the reactions his proselytizing has generated on Twitter, a comment by Scott Bixby, the social media editor for Bloomberg News, was easily the cleverest: “Russell Brand is part Robespierre, part Rimbaud.”
To Brand’s credit, he held strong to his convictions throughout the interview. “There is going to be a revolution. It is totally going to happen. I ain’t got any flicker of doubt. This is the end. This is time to wake up,” he told Paxman.
So now the question is, do we laugh or believe him?