Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: A unique brand of narcissism

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Russell Brand's portraiture just lacks a crown of thorns.
Russell Brand's portraiture just lacks a crown of thorns.

At some point in the past couple of years, comedian and actor Russell Brand, a man of middling talent and intellect but with a forceful personality, has come to be regarded by people who should know better as one of the world's great thinkers - a sort of cross between Socrates, Oscar Wilde and Gandhi, despite lacking the first's grasp of logic, the second's way with words or the third's ability to pick an age-appropriate hairstyle.

Instead of using his time to do what he should be doing - apologising for Arthur - he has taken it upon himself to tell us how the world should be run.

That he is an actor doesn't necessarily mean he's not able to offer a penetrating analysis of what is wrong with the world. It just makes it extremely unlikely.

Most recently he guest-edited an edition of the New Statesman on the theme of revolution, including a ramble on the topic by himself. To promote this he appeared on the BBC's HardTalk in an interview with Jeremy Paxman that numerous websites picked up - usually between the link where the pianist recovers after the orchestra starts playing the wrong concerto and the list of the 10 most offensive Halloween costumes.

Brand takes all of 4,500 words of mind-bending banality to say nothing, but that's what happens when you give a narcissist the run of your magazine. If you harbour any doubts about the narcissism, note that a first-person pronoun appears 15 times in the piece's first four sentences. You might then want to wander over to the Russell's Revolution Facebook page and note that the only thing missing from his portrait picture is a crown of thorns.

Brand's pontificating would be easy to ignore, except he's making a habit of it. The last time he managed to throw the wittering classes into an orgiastic frenzy of enthusiasm was when he appeared on an American talk show to get free publicity for his Messiah Complex tour. Such appearances come with rules that all the participants know before they start. You acknowledge, for instance, that you will be consorting with dunces. To appear surprised when this indeed turned out to be the case was disingenuous of Brand, who refused to play by the rules and rounded on his hosts.

But instead of being excoriated for being petulant, ungracious and unfunny, he was widely lauded for demonstrating that American television is superficial and brain dead, as if there was a soul alive who didn't already know that.

So what is this cut-rate Chomsky's central theme this time around? What does he mean by revolution? Unfortunately, he doesn't know. Asked repeatedly what he would do, he answers by saying what he wouldn't do. He wouldn't "destroy the planet" for instance. Ta, Russell.

Paxman is shocked that Brand can pronounce on politics despite never having voted. I don't care whether he's voted or not. I care that he says something coherent and constructive. He does not.

The system is ruined, says Brand, so should be brought down. Governments are in thrall to big corporations, work to increase the wealth gap (which he's just noticed) and allow an environmental holocaust to play out.

There is no point voting, let alone trying to work from within for change. But Greens work within the system, and corporations don't think the Greens will be putting their needs first.

Russell Brand's biggest mistake is that he fails to realise he can enjoy the childish self-indulgence of not voting only because he lives under a political system where all the alternatives are relatively benign.

- Herald on Sunday

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