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Russell Brand: From Hero to Zero

Russell Brand was once hailed as a champion of the left, a charismatic and witty provocateur who challenged the status quo and inspired young people to engage with politics.

He wrote columns for The Guardian, guest-edited The New Statesman, appeared on Newsnight and even earned praise from George Monbiot, who called him "the best thing that has happened to the left in years" in 2014.

But today, Brand is a shadow of his former self. He has abandoned his radical critique of capitalism and inequality for a series of tired and discredited conspiracy theories.

He rants about the World Economic Forum, Bill Gates, Covid vaccines, smart cities and "the globalist masterplan". He promotes dubious treatments like ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine for Covid.

He endorses Graham Hancock's pseudoscientific claims about ancient monuments. He supports anti-lockdown protests like the "Freedom Convoy" in Canada. He spouts nonsense about fertiliser regulations being a scam to grab land from farmers.

What happened to Russell Brand? How did he go from being an estuary Che Guevara to an estuary Joe Rogan? The answer may lie in his personality and his addiction to attention.

Brand has always been a narcissist who craves validation and fame. He used to get it by being outrageous and controversial on MTV, then by being edgy and rebellious on comedy shows, then by being radical and revolutionary on political platforms. But as his popularity waned and his ideas became stale, he needed a new way to attract attention.

He found it in YouTube, where he has over 3 million subscribers who watch his daily videos. YouTube rewards sensationalism, clickbait and controversy.

It also exposes its users to a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that feed their paranoia and distrust of authority. Brand has fallen prey to this algorithmic trap, regurgitating whatever nonsense he finds online without any critical thinking or fact-checking.

Brand's downfall is not only sad but dangerous. He has a large and loyal fanbase who may be influenced by his misinformation and disinformation. He also contributes to the erosion of trust in science, journalism and democracy that fuels extremism and violence. He is no longer a hero of the left but a useful idiot of the right.

Brand should be ashamed of himself for betraying his principles and his audience. He should also be challenged by those who once admired him for speaking truth to power. As Monbiot wrote in his recent mea culpa: "If politics takes a very dark turn in the next few years...it will be partly as a result of people like Brand."

March 19, 2023 |

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