June 22, 2022 - 11:00am

Commenting on Jimmy Dore’s recent appearance on Tucker Carlson Tonight, comedian Russell Brand took to his own YouTube channel to make a bold claim:

Fox News used to be a channel that we continually berated and baited when it was Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity. We used to torment them about their stances on numerous issues. But nowadays, if you want a channel that’s going to criticise big business, big tech, big corporations, and the mainstream media, you’re most likely to find that on Fox News….Why don’t we have a Leftist mainstream media outlet that would showcase a voice like Jimmy Dore’s? Why is that? What has become of the Left?
- Russell Brand

Brand — an inescapable part of the pop-culture firmament between his 2008 star-making turn in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and a widely-panned performance in the 2011 remake of the 1981 film Arthur — has spent much of the past decade becoming an increasingly strident and heterodox social critic. The actor’s praise for Fox rested primarily on the relative openness of the forum afforded by host Tucker Carlson, whose willingness to smirk and nod through interviews with the likes of Angela Nagle and Glenn Greenwald has infuriated many on the Left while helping his show dominate prime-time ratings among viewers age 25-54 for weeks on end. 

Brand’s praise for Fox was far from unqualified, with the comedian wryly observing that “someone once called [Tucker Carlson] a human boat shoe” and reminding viewers that Rupert Murdoch remained executive chairman of News Corporation, Fox’s parent company. He also explained that, although he and other Left-libertarians such as Greenwald and Dore shared Carlson’s reservations about support for the war in Ukraine and other narratives, “there will be cultural and indeed political points of disagreement” among them and Carlson’s other regular guests.

Implicit in Brand’s remarks is the nexus between disagreement and brand differentiation. Due to a hard division on particular issues within Left-liberal spaces, dissenters from the party line will have to choose between toiling in obscurity or casting their lot, however tentatively, with the “other team” in America’s binary Democrats-versus-Republicans paradigm. Brand seems to think the solution to intractable cultural and political differences between these strange bedfellows can be resolved by “decentralisation” mindset that, like so many libertarian conceits, has considerable surface appeal — “live and let live” and all that.  

However, there will probably be rough waters ahead for some of those who leave the safety of the Left-liberal mothership. Many other rising political groups are using Carlson’s show to gain influence, from testicle-irradiating “based” anons deploring the death of masculinity to New Right populists looking to use government powers to infuse society with a healthy dose of morality-driven legislation

Greenwald, Dore, and Brand most likely don’t share those aims, but they are now sharing this space — and as art critic Brad Troemel’s recent work on conflict-driven marketing shows, shared conflict provides the content that builds community, and new communities tend to cultivate their own orthodoxies and enumerate their own heresies. For how long will this prove acceptable to Brand, an individual who by his own admission is no fan of Donald Trump and who has shown a willingness to jump from issue to issue as it suits his whims? 

I understand the desire on the part of Brand, Dore, and Greenwald to have their voices heard. After all, I might be the only person on the planet who has appeared on MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, and the Killstream. But Dore and Greenwald, whose incomes are underwritten by subscribers and patrons, face challenges that a mere writer of content does not. 

Over time, they may find that their messages are being changed, however subtly, by the medium through which they choose to convey them. They may end up either inadvertently cosigning certain ideas with which they disagree, or else adrift in the marketplace of ideas, casting an eye around the ossified and degraded media landscape and wondering what’s left.

Oliver Bateman is a historian and journalist based in Pittsburgh. He blogs, vlogs, and podcasts at his Substack, Oliver Bateman Does the Work