THE ABSURD TIMES — STILL

The Absurd Times 11/18/2014 12:36:00 PM

Posted in Uncategorized by @honestcharlie on November 18, 2014

THE ABSURD TIMES

Revolution, Brand, and Voting

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Illustration: From Whatnowtunes.com by Kieth Tucker. We haven’t been able to use his work in some time as he is focused on internal matters. In addition, I have trouble contacting the site or even providing a link. There is one in the sidebar, however.

We have plenty of zealots telling us sanctimoniously about the importance of voting. Certainly, if Gore had beaten Bush back in his first election, we would not be faced with such an onerous Supreme Court, and to that extent, we can agree. We must point out, however, that with the current system such as it is, we will never see another William O. Douglas appointed, no matter who is President.

There are some subtle differences between the parties, granted. For example, we would never see an Affordable Health Care Act from a Republican (emasculated as it became in Congress to the point of being almost worthless) and we probably would have seen much more military action with a Republican President.

Beyond that, until some sort of funding limits are imposed (which out Supreme Court would not allow) or Public Funding (yeah, right), we will never see even a semi-democratic government. Sure, a Socialist Party is allowed, so long as they are not successful. The Tea Party, pardon the expression, actually started out as a populist movement, but was soon taken over by hugely rich and oligarchic powers and the “populace” involved became very stupid, saying things like “Keep your government hands off my Social Security.” No, other parties with real agendas are simply not allowed. An extremely old joke sums it up with an old woman saying “I never vote because it just encourages them.”

Before I go on, a personal note: I recently had a back strain and had to use a cane for the time being. Today I was shopping when my way was blocked by the most hideously ugly, rotund, woman I’ve seen in a long time. She also made use of her overloaded shopping cart to block the entire way. When I approached, she stared at me, viciously, as if to say “What ya goin to do about it?” Now, I at least have very good hand eye coordination and was able to toss the cane upwards and grab it, then draw it backward as if I meant to use it, and perhaps I would have as I was in some pain at the moment. She moved aside very quickly. Moral? Sometimes, if you look insane and threaten force, people will get out of your way. I intend to keep carrying a cane for some time. So now that the humor is set, we will move on.

At any rate, we usually feature writings by highly educated scholars and near philosophers of political reality, but here we have a self-educated man remarking on revolution in general. At times he seemed a bit hyper and over-defensive towards the host, perhaps not knowing who she was, or having heard some rumor about her reaction to one of Chomsky’s remarks about her father (I know nothing about this, but on the whole, it was an excellent interview and analysis:

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 14, 2014

Russell Brand on Revolution, Fighting Inequality, Addiction, Militarized Policing & Noam Chomsky

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For years Russell Brand has been one of Britain’s most popular comedians, but over the past 12 months he has also emerged as a leading voice of Britain’s political left. He has taken part in anti-austerity protests, spoken at Occupy Wall Street protests and marched with the hacker collective Anonymous. A recovering addict himself, Brand has also become a leading critic of Britain’s drug laws. He has just come out with a new book expanding on his critique of the political system. It is simply titled “Revolution.”

TRANSCRIPT

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMYGOODMAN: Today, we’re broadcasting from London, and we’re joined by Russell Brand. Up until last year, Russell Brand was best known for being one of the most popular comedians here in Britain. His résumé includes hosting the reality TV show Big Brother’s Big Mouth, a stint as a BBC radio host and starring roles in the films St. Trinian’s, Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek. He also hosted the MTV Movie Awards.
But in recent years, Russell Brand has emerged as one of the most prominent voices of the British left. He has taken part in anti-austerity protests, spoken at Occupy Wall Street and marched with the hacker collective Anonymous. A recovering addict himself, Russell Brand has also become a leading critic of Britain’s drug laws.
Last year, he guest-edited the New Statesman, a political and current affairs magazine here in Britain. The issue included cover art by Shepard Fairey and articles by Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, among many others.
He then appeared on BBC Newsnight in an interview with the well-known BBC host Jeremy Paxman. The video became a YouTube sensation.
JEREMYPAXMAN: Is it true you don’t even vote?
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah, no, I don’t vote.
JEREMYPAXMAN: Well, how do you have any authority to talk about politics then?
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity. Alternative means alternative political systems.
JEREMYPAXMAN: They being?
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, I’ve not invented it yet, Jeremy. I had to do a magazine last week. I’ve had a lot on my plate. But I say—but here’s the thing that you shouldn’t do: shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on the people with the power, not people who like doing a magazine for a novelty.
JEREMYPAXMAN: How do you imagine that people get power?
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, I imagine there are sort of hierarchical systems that have been preserved through generations—
JEREMYPAXMAN: They get power by being voted in. That’s how they get it.
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, you say that, Jeremy, but like—
JEREMYPAXMAN: You can’t even be asked to vote.
RUSSELLBRAND: It’s quite narrow—quite a narrow prescriptive parameter that changes within the—
JEREMYPAXMAN: In a democracy, that’s how it works.
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, I don’t think it’s working very well, Jeremy, given that the planet is being destroyed, given that there is economic disparity of a huge degree. What you’re saying, there’s no alternative. There’s no alternative, just this system.
JEREMYPAXMAN: No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying—
RUSSELLBRAND: Brilliant.
JEREMYPAXMAN: —if you can’t be asked to vote, why should we be asked to listen to your political point of view?
RUSSELLBRAND: You don’t have to listen to my political point of view. But it’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and which has now reached fever pitch, where we have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system. So, voting for it is tacit complicity with that system, and that’s not something I’m offering up.
JEREMYPAXMAN: Why don’t you change it then?
RUSSELLBRAND: I’m trying to.
JEREMYPAXMAN: Well, why don’t you start by voting?
RUSSELLBRAND: I don’t think it works. People have voted already, and that’s what’s created the current paradigm.
JEREMYPAXMAN: Well, when did you last vote?
RUSSELLBRAND: Never.
JEREMYPAXMAN: You’ve never, ever voted?
RUSSELLBRAND: No. Do you think that’s really bad?
JEREMYPAXMAN: So, you’ve struck an attitude, what? Before the age of 18?
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, I was busy being a drug addict at that point, because I come from the kind of social conditions that are exacerbated by an indifferent system that really just administrates for large corporations and ignores the population that it was voted in to serve.
JEREMYPAXMAN: But you’re veiling the—you’re blaming the political class for the fact that you had a drug problem?
RUSSELLBRAND: No, no, no. I’m saying I was part of a social and economic class that is underserved by the current political system, and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates. When you have huge underserved, impoverished populations, people get drug problems and also don’t feel like they want to engage with the current political system, because they see that it doesn’t work for them. They see that it makes no difference. They see that they’re not served. I say that the apathy—
JEREMYPAXMAN: But of course it doesn’t work for them if they don’t bother to vote.
RUSSELLBRAND: Jeremy, my darling, I’m not saying that—the apathy doesn’t come from us, the people. The apathy comes from the politicians. They are apathetic to our needs. They’re only interested in servicing the needs of corporations. Look at where—ain’t the Tories going to court, taking the EU to court? It’s because they’re trying to curtail bank bonuses. Is that what’s happening at the moment in our country?
AMYGOODMAN: That was Russell Brand being interviewed on BBC Newsnight by host Jeremy Paxman last year. Since it was posted online, more than 10 million people have watched the video. Well, Russell Brand has come out with a new book expanding on his critique of the political system. It’s called Revolution. When we come back from break, he’ll be sitting right here in front of Big Ben. Stay with us.
[break]
AMYGOODMAN: We are broadcasting from London. We’re just in front of Big Ben and also MI5, the British domestic intelligence service. And our guest has now turned around to look out the window to say, “Which one is MI5?” It’s the low building, Russell.
RUSSELLBRAND: It’s a secret. You’re not supposed to know that.
AMYGOODMAN: Russell Brand is our guest, Russell Brand who’s well known as a comedian and an actor, and also become a leading figure on the British left and has a new book out. It’s called, simply, Revolution.
Russell, welcome to Democracy Now! It’s great to have you with us. And even though there are a lot of obscenities in the world, please don’t use them on Democracy Now!today, or our stations will be taken off the air.
RUSSELLBRAND: You’re really concerned about that. Did they say, “Just say it to him on air”? Honestly, I don’t swear very often. This evening, I’m performing at the Royal Albert Hall, London, before an audience of children. I won’t swear, I promise. You’re perfectly safe.
AMYGOODMAN: Well, there are children who are listening and watching right now. There are adults. There are senior citizens.
RUSSELLBRAND: Stop worrying about it. I won’t swear. What do you need to know, Amy? There won’t be any swearing.
AMYGOODMAN: I need to know where you were born.
RUSSELLBRAND: Grays, Essex, where people do use obscenities a lot, as would anyone suffering under such dreadful conditions. If continue down the Thames in that direction, you will end up at Grays, and you’ll swim back rather than stay there. You’d rather live in the MI5 building.
AMYGOODMAN: So, talk about Grays. Talk about where you were born, Russell.
RUSSELLBRAND: Where I’m from is a suburban town with low expectations. So people in America understand, it’s a bit like Camden, New Jersey—low expectations, really, really cool people, fantastic people, but a kind of place where it’s difficult to engage with hope, where it’s easy to imagine that your life can just sort of trundle out like this low, grey River Thames.
AMYGOODMAN: Camden is one of the poorest places in the United States.
RUSSELLBRAND: Oh, it might be a bit better than that, then. It’s not one of the poorest places; it’s just not that nice. And growing up there, I think it sort of—I’ve had cause to reflect. I wondered why it was that I was so attracted to the idea of being so famous and living a sort of glamorous life and going to sequin-covered events and being in sparkly places with superficially attractive things. I think I put a lot of it down to the sort of mundanity of my early life. What was surprising when I went back there recently is, even though it was kind of ordinary to begin with and somewhat economically deprived, when I went back there recently, it had become much, much worse—like the sort of dodgy shops, payday loans, people living on welfare. And it really was the inspiration in the writing of the book to see how the place where I come from had deteriorated and where that money has gone, where those resources have gone, and why people don’t seem to think that they have any political purchase or any ability to change the situation.
AMYGOODMAN: So, you were talking about this with Jeremy Paxman, the clip we just played that went totally viral, from BBC Newsnight, where you talked about why you don’t vote. Now, that was a few years ago. Have you started voting?
RUSSELLBRAND: One year, I think.
AMYGOODMAN: Have you voted since then?
RUSSELLBRAND: No.
AMYGOODMAN: Do you think the system is changing at all?
RUSSELLBRAND: Do you?
AMYGOODMAN: Well, I don’t live here.
RUSSELLBRAND: I think this is an international problem. You’ve just had the American midterm elections, in which $4 billion was spent on the campaigning, when we’re told there’s not enough money to deal with what would seem to me to be more—like, you know, it was interesting recently, you know, like that FEMA, that U.S. agency that lent out money to people who were victims of Katrina and Sandy. They wanted their money back that they lent to people that had suffered in those hurricanes. And this is simultaneously, $4 billion has been spent on campaigning in midterm elections. And, like, we live in a system where tax breaks and tax avoidance are easy if you understand the law. So, the degree of systemic change required is so significant, I don’t see any point in voting for it. But no one’s saying, “We will do something about that.”
AMYGOODMAN: Russell, this gives me a chance to go to your show, called The Trews. And—
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah, The Trews is my TV show that I made with Gareth. It’s not on the television; it’s on the Internet.
AMYGOODMAN: So it’s a combo between “truth” and “the news”?
RUSSELLBRAND: It’s one of the cleverest puns in human history.
AMYGOODMAN: So, you talk about this issue of disabled and elderly residents in a assisted living center in Rockaway, New York—this is after Sandy, after Superstorm Sandy—being asked to return aid to FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Let’s go to that clip from The Trews.
RUSSELLBRAND: “Can we have our money back?” “But the hurricane, disabled.” “Money back.”
FEMAAIDRECIPIENT: I asked them, “Do we have to pay this back?” And they said, “No, it’s a gift from the president.”
RUSSELLBRAND: “You know that gift I gave you?” “Yes, we all appreciated it.” “Mmm, that makes it a little bit harder to say what I’m about to say.” “Oh, what is it?” “Give it back.”
AMYGOODMAN: There it is.
RUSSELLBRAND: I’m proud of The Trews because what it does is it gives us an opportunity to provide an alternative news narrative. What I’ve noticed since I’ve come in this sphere of public debate talking about politics, which I do in my book with, like, input from insightful and brilliant figures such as Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky, that, like, it’s sort of like people are having a go at me, like I’m not allowed to participate. You know, “Shut up! Look at your hair! Listen to your accent! Be quiet!” It’s like a really sort of fiercely guarded, like, realm—not just from the right, but from the left, as well. If you sort of go, “Hey, I’m actually from a background where people are affected by stuff like this. This is what we think. Can we talk about this in a different way?” people are so fiercely territorial and protective, it’s interesting. And it’s not difficult to see why there is such political stasis and such immobility, because people don’t welcome new debate. Not ordinary people. Ordinary people like it. Ordinary people are engaged and excited. But I would say there’s a kind of circuitous establishment that’s interested in a kind of peculiar circle jerk of exchanging opinions.
AMYGOODMAN: Explain what you did at Occupy Democracy and what it is, what it is here in Britain.
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, Occupy—the Occupy movement is a leaderless, decentralized campaign movement, so it’s the same in the U.K. as it is in America. There were a group of protesters occupying Parliament Square, a coalition of groups interested in issues such as, like, you know, fracking, animal rights, but primarily our inability to have any political purchase through democratic process, like that voting doesn’t make any difference. No one’s interested in presenting alternatives to draconian, restrictive trade agreements, whether they be European or TransAtlantic. And we have no—and these are the rules and regulations that affect people’s ordinary life. And so, I suppose something like Occupy Democracy is people venting that frustration and demonstrating their belief that there’s a need for change.
So I support that, because what I reckon is important, and what I talk about in my book, Amy, is that creative, local direct action is the answer, that we shouldn’t be looking for sort of glamorous new figures to lead us. We shouldn’t be looking to conventional politics. It’s not going to provide any answers to people, like the women of the New Era Estate in Great Britain, who were being evicted from their homes because their areas got trendy now, so all of the rents have gone up. These people were going to be evicted from their homes. They organized themselves. They campaigned. And now Richard Benyon, MP, the wealthiest politician in the houses of Parliament there, has packed his bags and run from the confrontation. But still, the Westbrook group, the developers that own 90 percent of the estate, still have to be confronted. Still, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, has to be confronted, because, you know, it’s difficult to get any political purchase. There are no political figures that are interested in representing ordinary people.
AMYGOODMAN: Might you run for mayor of London?
RUSSELLBRAND: I don’t think I would really want to be part of that political system. What I’m interested in is ordinary people being engaged, whether it’s for union activity in their workplaces, new coalitions or people that are taking control of the places that they live, Amy.
AMYGOODMAN: You have talked a lot about the power of corporations and also materialism.
RUSSELLBRAND: How come you’re allowed a glass, and mine’s plastic? Why am I not trusted?
AMYGOODMAN: You can have mine.
RUSSELLBRAND: Why am I having so many warnings about swearing? You get glass; I get plastic. This is America versus England, isn’t it? You’ve nicked our language. You’ve thrown our flag away, rejected our queen. And now you’re taking all the glassware. Come on!
AMYGOODMAN: Thank you, Russell.
RUSSELLBRAND: Cheers! To freedom.
AMYGOODMAN: Corporate culture and materialism—I mean, I want to talk about your book, because you talk about the kind of revolution you want to see. Talk about the revolutions in your own life, how you’ve changed over time.
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, the reason I have such faith in the capacity for change, for people to change their lives, is because my own life has changed radically. All a revolution is, really, is to create structures outside of the existing structures, to create change without using the sanctioned means for change. And me, I’ve gone from a life of being impoverished and drug-addicted to a life where I’m sort of affluent and free from drugs. So, that’s what gives me this belief that change is possible on an individual level.
AMYGOODMAN: Talk about how you beat addiction.
RUSSELLBRAND: I don’t know that I beat addiction. One day at a time, I surrender to the fact that I am a drug addict. And with the help and support of other drug addicts and the belief in a higher power, I’m able to get daily reprieve from drugs, that is contingent on me being available to help other people with the disease of addiction, taking advice from people that have got more time than me, offering help to those that have got less.
And I think it’s an important issue, because I think that actually drug addiction is people—like, the reason people are addicted to drugs is because there’s sort of a deficit of happiness, a deficit of community, a deficit of connection. Joseph Campbell talked about our problems being due the lack of a communal myth. I think all of us feel a little bit—or a lot of us feel a little adrift, that we don’t know how we’re supposed to live, we don’t know what we’re supposed to do. And in the end, some kind of anesthetic becomes attractive. Certainly that’s my personal experience. I recognize now that the thing that I was chasing after in my years of addiction was probably some sort of sense of communal connection or a connection to a higher thing.
AMYGOODMAN: You write very movingly about Philip Seymour Hoffman and also about Robin Williams, both dealing with addiction. Both died in the last year.
RUSSELLBRAND: Yes, well, I suppose those high-profile and sad deaths provide an opportunity to highlight how many lives are affected by addiction and the need to address it by different means. I think criminalizing and penalizing people that are ill, like Philip Seymour Hoffman or Robin Williams, is sort of pointless. It doesn’t work. People are using more progressive means to tackle the issue of addiction, places like Canada and in Portugal and Switzerland. I think that the only way for drug addiction to be correctly addressed is for it to be regulated, regulated properly, not left in the hands of criminals—decriminalized and regulated.
AMYGOODMAN: And overall, the drug war, overall, how this fits into that larger story?
RUSSELLBRAND: It’s even just as a piece of language, Amy. It’s a bit of an odd thing to say, isn’t it? We’re doing a drug war. Bill Hicks, the American comedian, said, “If there is a drug war, and we’re losing it, that means drug addicts are winning.” That’s really bad to lose a drug war to people that are high. So, like, it’s the wrong attitude to have wars on terror, wars on drugs. Stop making things worse.
AMYGOODMAN: Well, the amount of money, for example, that goes into—in the name of fighting against drugs. Like yesterday, our big special was on Mexico—
RUSSELLBRAND: Was it?
AMYGOODMAN: —and these 43 students who disappeared in the state of Guerrero. And it turns out that the mayor and the police turned them over to drug gangs. And the question is—
RUSSELLBRAND: Good, good.
AMYGOODMAN: —going right up to the president, the billions of dollars, for example, the United States has given the Mexican military and Mexican police, in the name of the so-called drug war, where has it really gone? And is it in fact a real war, but a war against people, particularly poor people and indigenous people?
RUSSELLBRAND: Some people would argue, like in that brilliant film by Eugene Jarecki, The House I Live In, he argues that what’s actually happening is that the bottom 15 percent of society are no longer needed because of the collapse of the manufacturing industry, so it’s a lot better to just criminalize them and put them in prison. So, yeah, it’s like it’s a proxy war on poverty. It’s a proxy race war. I certainly think that argument holds. I mean, I think addiction can affect people from any economic or social background, but those who tend to suffer most are those without money. And there’s no doubt that social conditions have a huge impact on people’s tendency to get addicted to substances. I think if people live in communal environments where they’ve got access to support and—forgive me for using the word—love, then they’re less likely to get addicted to drugs.
AMYGOODMAN: I want to go to an amazing moment you had in the U.S. media onMorning Joe.
RUSSELLBRAND: Do you?
AMYGOODMAN: But before I do that, I want to go to the Parliament right here.
RUSSELLBRAND: Do whatever you want.
AMYGOODMAN: This is the Parliament building, where you recently testified. You offered testimony on the issue of drugs?
RUSSELLBRAND: Didn’t offer it. They drag you in there, to go, “Will you talk to a committee?” And I think the reason they got me in there was to draw attention to the fact that they were having a committee to debate drug laws. Since then, of course, drug laws have radically changed in the country. They haven’t. They’ve done nothing. So, it was like a sort of a circus, you know, kangaroo court thing, when they just bring people in [inaudible].
AMYGOODMAN: So let’s go to Russell Brand in the British Parliament.
RUSSELLBRAND: It’s more important that we regard people suffering from addiction with compassion and that there’s a pragmatic, rather than symbolic, approach to treating it. And I think the legislative status of addiction and the criminalization of addicts is kind of symbolic, not really functional. I don’t see how it especially helps. I’m not saying let’s have a wacky free-for-all with people going around taking drugs. Didn’t do me—didn’t help me much.
KEITHVAZ: You’re a former heroin addict.
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah.
KEITHVAZ: Briefly, could you tell us how you got onto drugs and then how you managed to come off it, and how many years you were on hard drugs?
RUSSELLBRAND: I see you’ve incorporated the word “briefly” now into the question. As you already know, it’s my propensity for verbosity.
I became a drug addict, I think, because of emotional difficulties, psychological difficulties, and perhaps a spiritual malady. For me, taking drugs and excessive drinking were the result of a psychological, spiritual or mental condition, so they’re symptomatic. I was like sad, lonely, unhappy, detached, and drugs and alcohol, for me, seemed like a solution to that problem. Once I dealt with the emotional, spiritual, mental impetus, I no longer felt the need to take drugs or use drugs.
AMYGOODMAN: So that is Russell Brand testifying before the Parliament. And we’re going to go to break—
RUSSELLBRAND: Why?
AMYGOODMAN: —to a music break for a minute. But you said something right as we were going into this.
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah.
AMYGOODMAN: When I said, “Let’s go to Russell Brand in Parliament,” you said, “Get used to it”?
RUSSELLBRAND: “Get used to saying that.” I was being silly.
AMYGOODMAN: No, but are you?
RUSSELLBRAND: What do you mean? Go to Parliament?
AMYGOODMAN: Would you consider running as a member of Parliament? Would you consider running?
RUSSELLBRAND: No, I want to help the ordinary people of America and Britain dismantle their corrupt political structures and replace them with directly responsible, directly democratic organizations. I don’t want to help them lot continue to tyrannize people.
AMYGOODMAN: Do you think you could ever do that within the system, or do you think it’s much more effective to be outside?
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, I would take the advice of people that know a lot more than me—Lawrence Lessig and Naomi Klein, Noam Chomsky. Most of those people say that change within the system is prevented, impossible, futile, that we need significant systemic change.
AMYGOODMAN: We’re talking to Russell Brand. We’re going to go to break, and then we’re back right here in London, as we sit in front of Big Ben and MI5. Stay with us.
[break]
AMYGOODMAN: Our guest for the hour is Russell Brand, who is the well-known British comedian, actor and now really leading member of the British left. Last year—
RUSSELLBRAND: Am I?
AMYGOODMAN: —he edited a issue of the New Statesman. He spoke at Occupy Democracy—that’s what an Occupy movement here in Britain is called, in London. Tell us about that music.
RUSSELLBRAND: Oh, well, what happened was, is that a thing started in our country where people were like saying—in my book, they said I’m loquacious and verbose, because I use long words. I love long words. In fact, I love all sorts of different words. I like specificity of language. I like hip-hop. I like Shakespeare. I like things where people use language well. So people, I think, to try and exclude me from the debate, posh people went, “Well, when you hear someone with that accent talking and using long words, one can imagine ‘Parklife’ being shouted”—in a reference to a 1994 Britpop anthem called “Parklife.” So I thought, ah, all right, I’ll do this song. So, me and these lads, The Rubberbandits, these Irish lads, the hip-hop group, did a version of “Parklife” where we refocused on the issues, issues such as austerity, decline of public services and the ineffectiveness of our current leaders and system.
AMYGOODMAN: Well, your book is getting a lot of positive reviews. The New York Times Book Review
RUSSELLBRAND: And at times being savaged!
AMYGOODMAN: New York Times Book Review said “a relentless ride”—well, no, this was actually about My Booky Wook, your previous book.
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah, this one, people can’t wade into it hard enough.
AMYGOODMAN: “A relentless ride…The bloke can write.” And Dwight Garner ofThe New York Times said, “I laughed out loud at least a dozen times.”
RUSSELLBRAND: “Before I opened it.”
AMYGOODMAN: That was—
RUSSELLBRAND: That’s a Groucho Marx joke.
AMYGOODMAN: But I want to go to your moment in American media—you’ve had many, but this one was your appearance on MSNBC’s Morning Joe last year, with co-host Mika Brzezinski introducing you by saying, quote, “He’s a really big deal, I’m told. I’m not very pop-cultured, I’m sorry,” and another co-host—well, that was Katty Kay, your countrywoman here from Britain—she does BBC in the United States—Katty Kay continually referring to you as Willy or Willy Brandt, right, the former German chancellor. About six minutes into the interview, the bottom of the screen reads, quote, “Russell Brand Takes Over, Dominating the MJ Set.” This is a clip.
MIKABRZEZINSKI: OK, Russell Brand—
RUSSELLBRAND: This is what you all do for a living?
MIKABRZEZINSKI: Yes, yes.
RUSSELLBRAND: OK. But I’m here to—
MIKABRZEZINSKI: I’m a professional.
RUSSELLBRAND: OK, well, let me help you. I’m here to—
KATTYKAY: Russell.
RUSSELLBRAND: —promote a tour called “Messiah Complex.” It’s here for the people of America. I want the people of America to come and see me do stand-up. Go to RussellBrand.tv, where you can purchase tickets to see me. These people, I’m sure, are typically very, very good at their jobs. What are you? You’re conveying news to the people of America?
BRIANSHACTMAN: Yes.
RUSSELLBRAND: People of America, we’re going to be OK. Everything’s all right. These are your trusted anchors.
KATTYKAY: [inaudible]
RUSSELLBRAND: Is that news lingo? Here’s your papers. I’ll shuffle them for you.
MIKABRZEZINSKI: Oh, shuffle, shuffle the [inaudible].
RUSSELLBRAND: Give us that.
MIKABRZEZINSKI: That’s good.
KATTYKAY: Pen. You need a pen, Russell, definitely.
RUSSELLBRAND: OK, coming up later. Thank you very much, Kat. OK, we’re going to be talking about the situation with Edward Snowden, this whistleblower. Is it good what he’s done for America? Or are our sectrets being jeopardized by his intentions? We’re going to be talking about that.
AMYGOODMAN: And there you have just a moment on Morning Joe. What happened?
RUSSELLBRAND: Well, what happened was, I went onto the television, and I was trying my hardest to be nice, and everyone was rude to me. So I defended myself, under the protocols of Britain, by just saying, “Stop bullying me, you lot. And also be more professional. If you’re going to condescend to someone, don’t condescend from the gutter.”
AMYGOODMAN: And you took over the notes?
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah, oh, yeah, and then sort of just hosted the show.
AMYGOODMAN: Became a news reader.
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah, in, I thought, a professional way.
AMYGOODMAN: What do you think of the U.S. media? I mean, you’re there a lot.
RUSSELLBRAND: Some of it’s good, because this is U.S. media, isn’t it? So this is going well. I’m enjoying this. I don’t even think that there’s a national distinction. I think that what there is is media that’s dominated by corporate interests, whether it’s in Britain or France or America. So, like, when I’ve been there, I went on like—and I’ve been on some media, and everyone’s really lovely and friendly and open-minded. But I think that—I think it’s a commonly held view, and that is true, that debate is held within very narrow parameters, and if you try to stray outside them, you get into trouble. And that’s why I think it’s good to do it comedically and lightheartedly, not to respect the parameters of debate and not to stay—not to accept the frame of, “Oh, well, you can vote for this person, or you can vote for that person, but you can’t take money out of politics and have ordinary people represented.” Look, we can’t just say aloud that we live under a feudal system, we live under an oligarchy, and we have no political purchase. We have no purchase. We have no impact on power. America and Great Britain are not run for ordinary people; it’s run for corporations. But this time is coming to an end, so that’s a good thing.
Is it true your dad went to summer camp with Chomsky? And if it is true, I bet Chomsky was boring on summer camp: “OK, I’m not doing that. That’s childish. No, come on, sit down. This summer camp is corrupt. I refuse to abide by this system, while it’s quite clear that this summer camp is run by the interests of the leaders there, and we, the children, are not given any time to be free.” What about spring break with Chomsky? “Spring break!” “No, well, that’s—you’ve revealed there the truth there, the manufacture of the nipple consent.”
AMYGOODMAN: I actually think Chomsky was pretty playful at camp.
RUSSELLBRAND: Was he? Playful Chomsky?
AMYGOODMAN: Well, let’s go for a moment to Noam Chomsky. Let’s go to Noam Chomsky—
RUSSELLBRAND: Segue.
AMYGOODMAN: —just a couple weeks ago. I had this interesting experience of being able to do a public interview with him at the U.N. General Assembly.
RUSSELLBRAND: Was it good?
AMYGOODMAN: Eight hundred people packed in—ambassadors, people from the public all over the world. And I want to get your comment on what he has to say.
AMYGOODMAN: What do you think is the most—the single most important action the United States can take? And what about its role over the years? What is its interest here?
NOAMCHOMSKY: Well, one important action that the United States could take is to live up to its own laws. Of course, it would be nice if it lived up to international law, but maybe that’s too much to ask, but live up to its own laws. And there are several. And here, incidentally, I have in mind advice to activists also, who I think ought to be organizing and educating in this direction. There are two crucial cases.
One of them is what’s called the Leahy Law. Patrick Leahy, Senator Leahy, introduced legislation called the Leahy Law, which bars sending weapons to any military units which are involved in consistent human rights violations. There isn’t the slightest doubt that the Israeli army is involved in massive human rights violations, which means that all dispatch of U.S. arms to Israel is in violation of U.S. law. I think that’s significant. The U.S. should be called upon by its own citizens to—and by others, to adhere to U.S. law, which also happens to conform to international law in this case, as Amnesty International, for example, for years has been calling for an arms embargo against Israel for this reason. These are all steps that can be taken.
The second is the tax-exempt status that is given to organizations in the United States which are directly involved in the occupation and in significant attacks on human and civil rights within Israel itself, like the Jewish National Fund. Take a look at its charter with the state of Israel, which commits it to acting for the benefit of people of Jewish race, religion and origin within Israel. One of the consequences of that is that by a complex array of laws and administrative practices, the fund pretty much administers about 90 percent of the land of the country, with real consequences.
AMYGOODMAN: You’ve been listening to Noam Chomsky. He was speaking at the U.N. General Assembly before 800 people—ambassadors from around the world. It wasn’t the actual meeting of the U.N. General Assembly, but there were so many people who came out to see him that they had to move it into the largest chamber of the U.N. Our guest today is Russell Brand, who is a huge fan of Noam Chomsky.
RUSSELLBRAND: And as good as him at doing political analysis, I think.
AMYGOODMAN: And you bring him up in Revolution.
RUSSELLBRAND: Yeah, I do. But what’s more important, Amy, is you just admitted while that was on that Noam Chomsky bit your father.
AMYGOODMAN: Well, this is an ongoing debate—
RUSSELLBRAND: That’s a good quote. That should be on the New York Post front page.
AMYGOODMAN: —that we are having.
RUSSELLBRAND: “Chomsky bit my father!”
AMYGOODMAN: I’m not clear if it was—we should say—
RUSSELLBRAND: Especially if it’s called “Chompsky.” “Chompsky!”
AMYGOODMAN: They were bunkmates.
RUSSELLBRAND: “Well, there you go.”
AMYGOODMAN: I might have confused—
RUSSELLBRAND: Bunkmates? This is getting worse.
AMYGOODMAN: I might have confused—
RUSSELLBRAND: In my country, that means—
AMYGOODMAN: —him biting my father with simply Chomsky’s biting wit. I might have gotten confused.
RUSSELLBRAND: Which is exactly how the manufacture of consent and media manipulation of information happens, Amy. A real event concerning Noam Chomsky happens, and you manipulate it. All of his theories are right. This is a bit where I wrote about Noam Chomsky in my book.
AMYGOODMAN: So, read from your chapter—
RUSSELLBRAND: This is the Noam Chomsky bit.
AMYGOODMAN: Yes.
RUSSELLBRAND: Because I love Noam Chomsky. “Chomsky—who must have one of the most satisfying names to say in the world, which is apposite for a linguist—explains how [the Monroe Doctrine] has been used to validate U.S. terror”—no offense, Americans, I don’t mean you, mean your government, and our government, too—” domestically and abroad, since 1823. This is when the Monroe Doctrine was established. Because you are childish, you think that the Monroe Doctrine is a pledge to act all sexy and emphysemic, lifting up yer frock, going ‘poo-poo-pee-doo.’ It ain’t. It was a diplomatic commitment from a century and a half ago when the Americans decided that they intended to ‘dominate the hemisphere,’ which is an outlandish objective. It sounds like the sort of devilish intention that kept the British … establishment occupied: ’I’d like to dominate your hemisphere,’“—people say over there, and I’m using it as a sexual pun, and I had to drop a bit there, because you made me promise not to swear—”they hollered into hospital wards and children’s homes.
“The United States have achieved this domination primarily by scaring us all witless and starting wars either explicitly or by proxy, primarily in countries where they were really confident they would win.
“I’m not saying I’m as clever as Chomsky—that would be mad […]—but, as is always the case with a prefix of this nature, here is something that makes it seem like [I am trying to say that.”
So there’s a bit of it. Like, I use this brilliant essay from Noam Chomsky. I analyze it and try and put it in simple language so that people that wouldn’t normally listen to Chomsky go, “Oh, yeah, that was a laugh.” But now I know that he savaged your father with his fangs, I think I might scribble it out with a crayon.
AMYGOODMAN: I’m sorry, Noam. I’m really sorry—
RUSSELLBRAND: He’s a cannibal!
AMYGOODMAN: —that this got a little out of hand. But, Russell, in the headlines today, we talked about the Wal-Mart protesters around the United States, people in the Capitol who feed the senators, who just came back from break, calling for a $15 minimum wage, and this interesting study that found the six heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune make as much as the bottom 79 percent of black families in the United States combined.
RUSSELLBRAND: That’s a worrying statistic and an indication that you can’t claim to be the land of the free when that’s happening, not when people have got money just because they emerged from the correct vagina and having as much money as 70 percent of—well, what is it?—185 million Americans, but you’ve framed it racially, as well. It’s really, really quite worrying. I think there is sort of room for some kind of wealth distribution.
AMYGOODMAN: And this week has also been historic in Mike Brown’s parents going to Geneva and testifying around the issue of torture, a whole issue of police brutality. At any moment now, a decision is going to be made by a grand jury over whether the police officer who killed Mike Brown, Darren Wilson, will be indicted.
RUSSELLBRAND: It’s unfortunate. It’s a really scary, terrible incident, and what’s happening in Ferguson more broadly is frightening. But what I heard was that $4.2 billion worth of military equipment have been transferred to local police authorities across the United States. So the militarization of police forces in your country and in our country is terrifying. It’s almost like they’re anticipating further public unrest, and instead of placating members of the population through fairness, redistribution of wealth, not beating them up and shooting them, they’ve decided to just arm the police. “Well, we’re going to have to shoot them a bit, then shoot them some more.” It’s really sort of frightening. I think what’s happening in Ferguson, we’ll be seeing a lot more of that in countries all over the world, as this growing disparity between rich and poor, this gulf of inequality, continues.
AMYGOODMAN: You know, we have a law, Posse Comitatus, that says troops can’t—
RUSSELLBRAND: What? Hakuna matata? That’s from The Lion King. That’s not a law. What is it called?
AMYGOODMAN: Troops can’t—Posse Comitatus, that says—
RUSSELLBRAND: Why is it called that in America?
AMYGOODMAN: —troops can’t march through the streets of the United States.
RUSSELLBRAND: Hakuna matata?
AMYGOODMAN: And I wonder if the arming of police is a way of getting around that.
RUSSELLBRAND: Probably.
AMYGOODMAN: Because you then have police with military weapons, with tanks, rolling down the streets of the United States.
RUSSELLBRAND: That’s really worrying. That’s sort of—you know those people, survivalists, that live in a mountain with a rifle and say, “We want to set up our own society based on camo and eating squirrels.” Makes you think that they’ve got a point, doesn’t it? You know, if the government are trying to find proxy ways to militarize the police force and march them through the streets. But my hope comes from the fact that members of the police force that I know, in our country and in your country, they’re ordinary people from ordinary backgrounds that, somewhere in them, know that they’re there to protect and to serve the public, not to be the henchmen of the establishment.
AMYGOODMAN: I wanted to get your take, since you go back and forth between the United States and Britain, on—you talked about the U.S. midterm elections. So, now the Republicans are in charge in Senate, and so, when you look at the different committees, the new head of the Environment Committee is James Inhofe, who is the leading climate change denier. He’s the head of the Environment Committee of the Senate. Naomi Klein speaks a lot about him and also, of course, in her book, This Changes Everything, about the issue of climate change and what we can do—This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. You talk about Naomi Klein inRevolution. You actually just recently interviewed her, right?
RUSSELLBRAND: Yes.
AMYGOODMAN: Was it in The Trews?
RUSSELLBRAND: It was in The Trews, yeah. She was kind enough to come on, and I read some of her book, she read a little bit of mine. And from Naomi Klein, I learned that capitalism isn’t going to voluntarily change. Exxon, who have recorded record profits and can only $48 billion a year using the practices they currently do, are not going to change without a fight. They’re not going to start saying, “Oh, well, let’s go into renewable energy. Let’s have a windmill farm.” They are happy with the things the way they are. It’s only with creative direct action, it’s only with the application of pressure from ordinary people, that there will be any kind of change.
AMYGOODMAN: Russell, we just have a minute. What gives you hope?
RUSSELLBRAND: Everything gives me hope, because every—my hope comes from the fact that I know that everybody wants change. I know that people are not apathetic. I know that people are ready for change. I know that alternatives are possible and that you constantly see how hard the establishment has to work to maintain order. Look at all these institutions, the banks of the Thames lined with institutions to hold ordinary people down. Constantly through the media, they try to prevent different arguments emerging. That is because they know change is inevitable. Change is just a different story. We, people in the media, have an obligation to reframe this argument, to tell people that they can change the world, that we are connected to one another. We have more in common with each other. We have more in common with the people we’re bombing than the people we’re bombing them for. People that say the system works work for the system. We can change the world. The revolution can begin as soon as you decide it does in yourself, Amy.
AMYGOODMAN: So, there you have it. Russell Brand, his new book is calledRevolution.
RUSSELLBRAND: And Noam Chomsky is a cannibal.
AMYGOODMAN: That does it for our show, and I want to thank all the folks who have made this broadcast possible. Special thanks to Mike Burke and Renée Feltz and Nermeen Shaikh and Aaron Maté and Steve Martinez, Sam Alcoff, Hany Massoud, Robby Karran, Deena Guzder, Amy Littlefield, Julie Crosby, Becca Staley, Denis Moynihan.
RUSSELLBRAND: No, he was terrible.
AMYGOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report.
RUSSELLBRAND: Denis was useless.
AMYGOODMAN: I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us.
RUSSELLBRAND: Denis should be ashamed.

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