The Establishment vs Russell Brand
The excesses of the #MeToo movement — perhaps most evident in last year’s infamous Johnny Depp trial — seemed to indicate it was a fad that had run its course, a hysteria consigned to the history books.
But the recent jaw-dropping treatment of Russell Brand is proof positive the #MeToo is back with untamed vengeance.
Russell Brand, 48, is an English comedian, actor and commentator whose public life can be roughly divided into two halves.
During his first iteration, Brand starred in Hollywood films, wrote for mainstream news outlets, had a short, turbulent marriage to American singer Katy Perry, and struggled very publicly with addictions to sex, alcohol and drugs.
In more recent years, Brand has overcome his addictions, become a father, husband and faithful family man, and repurposed his podcast as a hub of dissent against mainstream discourse on Covid-19, the Ukraine war and the 2020 US election, among other topics.
In one of his more viral moments, for instance, Brand appeared as a guest on Real Time with Bill Maher, and told the host:
If you have an economic system in which pharmaceutical companies benefit hugely from medical emergencies, where a military industrial complex benefits from war, where energy companies benefit from energy crises, you are going to generate states of perpetual crisis where the interests of ordinary people separate from the interests of the elite.
Now — at the height of his personal reformation and with a burgeoning social media audience — decades-old sexual assault allegations have been levelled against Brand by a clandestine gaggle of his former consorts.
Notably, the allegations were not offered voluntarily by Brand’s accusers, nor were they reported to authorities. Instead, they were sourced by Channel 4, The Sunday Times and The Times from five women, four of whom remain unnamed.
Brand has said he “absolutely” refutes the allegations, maintaining that even though he regrets his formerly promiscuous lifestyle, his relationships have “always been consensual”.
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It is of course possible that Brand is guilty. But true to #MeToo form, before a single criminal charge has been brought against him, Brand has been branded for life. Presumption of innocence be damned, Brand’s trial-by-media jury has found him guilty on all counts. Even if his accusers are lying, the impression of criminality will never be erased.
As podcaster Matt Walsh has noted, there are obvious reasons to doubt allegations that surface a decade after the fact — and only after the accused comes out swinging against some of the world’s most powerful institutions. Walsh explains:
We’ve seen this time and time again. The moment somebody becomes a threat to the establishment, the accusations of sexual assault materialise from thin air. It is impossible not to notice this trend. We see it at the Supreme Court with Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh. We saw it with Trump: he was a billionaire celebrity playboy but was never accused of sexual assault until he became a threat to the Left. Even Tucker Carlson, it’s easy to forget, was accused of sexual misconduct at the height of his show’s success.
If you’re unconvinced, consider that American broadcaster Howard Stern remains a media darling, despite publicly bragging he wanted to have sex with Olsen twins Mary-Kate and Ashley when they had barely entered adolescence; and despite asserting the Columbine High School shooting victims should have been raped before they were murdered.
With Stern’s hideous remarks resurfacing this month, it’s no coincidence he insulated himself from cancellation by declaring his affinity for wokeness. “I am woke, motherf----r, and I love it!” he told his listeners last week.
Or consider that Cardi B is lauded as one of America’s greatest living musicians, despite admitting she used to drug and rob men before her rise to fame. Cardi B’s proud degeneracy, spewed forth in hit songs like WAP, ensures #MeToo will never come for her, nor will the authorities.
Or consider that millionaire makeup artist James Charles suffered no cancellation for admitting, in a monetised YouTube video no less, that he sexted minors.
No such immunity was offered to Russell Brand, icon of heterodoxy. YouTube immediately demonetised Brand’s 6.6-million-follower account. Then they went one better, demonetising streamers who used clips from Brand’s content.
Next, when TikTok, Signal, Gab and Rumble were not as swift as YouTube in cutting Brand off at the knees, the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee sent each platform letters, whose unmistakeable tone was, “Nice social media company you have there, would be a shame if something happened to it.”
TikTok’s response was that Russell Brand has never received income from their site in any case. To the credit of Signal, Gab and Rumble, all three platforms told Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, the Committee’s chair, to go pound sand.
Rumble’s reply was especially impressive. In an open letter posted on X, formerly Twitter, the YouTube rival wrote:
We regard it as deeply inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament would attempt to control who is allowed to speak on our platform or to earn a living from doing so. Singling out an individual and demanding his ban is even more disturbing given the absence of any connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble.
The letter explained that, unlike YouTube, which demonetised Brand based solely on media accusations:
Rumble stands for different values. We have devoted ourselves to the vital cause of defending a free internet — meaning an internet where no one arbitrarily dictates which ideas can or cannot be heard, or which citizens may or may not be entitled to a platform.
“We emphatically reject the UK Parliament’s demands,” the letter from Rumble concluded.
As if the week weren’t filled with enough petulance, petty powerbrokers at Burger King, Asos and Hello Fresh then pulled its ads from Rumble, as though the UK Parliament’s autocratic demands, or Russell Brand’s public crucifixion, was in any way reasonable.
Yes, the #MeToo movement is back. This time, it’s not just celebrities supporting illiberal agendas, but parliaments.
Kurt Mahlburg is a writer and author, and an emerging Australian voice on culture and the Christian faith. He has a passion for both the philosophical and the personal, drawing on his background as a graduate architect, a primary school teacher, a missionary, and a young adult pastor.
Image credit: Russell Brand YouTube channel / screenshot
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