Is Russell Brand a conspiracy theorist?

May 27, 2021
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Russell Brand is not a conservative, or a booster of the Republican Party, or a guy who has a lot of time for, say, Rudy Giuliani.

The comedian said as much when he introduced the latest guest on his podcast — journalist Glenn Greenwald — a couple of days ago. But what they discussed was one of the major Trumpist talking points of the last twelve months: did the media coordinate with Big Tech companies to censor a pre-election story about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in Ukraine?

On the face of it, the story represented a major scandal. But it never became one. The Post‘s Twitter account was banned for over two weeks after the story broke. Facebook blocked users from sharing the Post‘s report.

Brand, like Greenwald, is a Left-winger who has probably read Noam Chomsky’s classic work of media criticism Manufacturing Consent more than once, and argues that this is a classic case of censorship:

We’re talking about sleaze, corruption, financial misdemeanours, and relationships between corporations, big business, and politicians — let’s face it, unless you’re bloody stupid, you know that’s going on all the time. For me, revelations that there are financial connections between energy companies in… Ukraine, energy companies in China, and the Biden family are troubling. That should be public knowledge.
- Russell Brand

In the end Brand’s position on the Hunter Biden laptop story places him firmly in the camp of the populist and conspiratorial Right. It was a cover-up. Information wasn’t allowed to circulate through the digital networks because it was inconvenient, and might have damaged Joe Biden’s ability to win last November.

I don’t think Donald Trump’s the answer, but I’m sad to realise that I can no longer even claim to believe Joe Biden or the Democratic Party might be the answer, because look at how they behave. And look at the relationships between media, social media, and that party.
- Russell Brand

Are Left-ish personalities like Brand and Greenwald becoming more Right-wing as they get older? Unlikely. Figures like Brand, who was calling for a revolution in the United Kingdom, hanging out with Owen Jones, and guest-editing the New Statesman less than 10 years ago, embody increasingly old-fashioned Left-wing values. These include moral relativism, a commitment to an abstract ideal of truth, a freewheeling critique of institutional power, and a belief in the importance of free speech.

None of these values are championed by the contemporary Left. Today it is far more interested in intellectual police work. As Ross Douthat put it the other day, the Left’s goal is “to find new rules, new hierarchies, new moral categories to govern the post-Christian, post-patriarchal, post-cis-het world.” Anything that gets in the way of these new rules — like an annoying and embarrassing story about Hunter Biden’s laptop — will be squashed.

Douthat argues that the old Left was interested in Brand-like criticisms of institutions and their hegemonic power. In America the Left no longer makes such criticisms — it is the hegemonic power.

Conservatives — and oddball almost allies like Russell Brand — find themselves condemning modern power in the terms that used to belong to the Left. Expect Russell Brand to be called a conspiracy theorist very, very soon.


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