FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Brand X and the Absurdity of Celebrity Culture

by DOUGLAS VALENTINE

Russell Brand is a celebrity, one of those pretty faces you see on ragged magazines at the check-out counter and think: “Who gives a flying f what he’s screwing this week?”

At one point he was screwing Katy Perry, a teeny-bopper who makes recruitment music videos for the US Army.   They were married in a traditional Hindu ceremony, near a tiger sanctuary in India – which is just so cool!  Except they divorced a year later, right after Brand, the cad, twittered an unflattering photo of Perry for all their fans to see.

Brand meditates, but prefers transcendental medication.  According to Wikipedia, he “has incorporated his notorious drug use, alcoholism, and promiscuity into his comedic material.”   And he certainly has a talent for casting himself as a rebel (there’s a poster of him floating around the internet depicting him as Che Guevara) and for shameless self-promotion: something of a serial flasher, he’s been arrested numerous times, often, ironically, for throwing punches at paparazzo.

On Facebook he is adored by millions of millennial girls for his “gorgeous beard” and for being a vegetarian, which equals a reverence for all sentient beings.   And yet, simply because he’s a celebrity, he must constantly defend himself from charges of being “trivial,” which really hurts when you’re a sensitive guy like Brand.

And he is sensitive, and has convictions, as well as arrests.  Brand has publicly condemned Israel’s assault on Gaza, and the “cruel and massive loss of life of the citizens of Gaza.”   He has taken other principled stands as well.

But he drenched himself in glitz, and acted like a fool, to get to the point where people would look at him and listen to what he says.  And that is the irony of Brand’s karma-challenged life: he suffers for the fame and fortune he brought upon himself.

Don’t you get it, Russ?  You can’t speak authoritatively against corporate and economic oppression if you’re a wealthy glamour-boy, featured regularly in GQ and Esquire.

This is the trap all our modern heroes fall into.  The first (paraphrased) words Dan Ellsberg spoke to me were: “You can’t understand me because you’re not a celebrity.  Being a celebrity changes everything.”

Danny was absolutely right.  Being a celebrity does change everything.  Ask Zimmerman, who stopped pretending to be a champion of the poor, once he became rich.

Celebrity changes everything, yes, but not like being an unwed mother changes everything.   Being a celebrity makes you publicly absurd.  It makes you another Brand X on a shelf overflowing with commodities packaged and sold by money-grubbing corporations.

It’s like a prominent libertarian using the oxymoron “billionaire philanthropist” to describe Glenn Greenwald’s sugar daddy Pierre Omidyar, and then calling on libertarians everywhere to implore their Congressional representatives (like Rand Paul?) to pave the way for ex-pat Greenwald’s safe-return from self-imposed exile.   Forget the 11 million undocumented aliens in the country (which libertarians are doing their best to deport), trying to stay here for a chance to work and exist in noble anonymity; you must expend your time and energy on one celeb who, single-handedly, is going to make “us” understand “what kind of country we’re turning into.”

Give me a break.  Celebrity-making in the hands of venture capitalists and social-service wrecking libertarians renders Greenwald absurd – like he made himself absurd for taking Omidyar’s blood money; like celebrity-seeking made devout Maherist-Lenoist Jeremy Scahill absurd; like it makes every other denizen of late-night comedy shows, hosted by millionaire racists, in a word, absurd.

In this spirit, Russell Brand has reached new heights of absurdity by predicting a coming revolution.  The poster of him looking like Che has done more damage to his brain than all the dope he pumped into his veins; but his adoring fans believe his rubbish and, for 24 hours, happily imagine themselves as revolutionaries.

They do, after all, identify with him, and his brand of consumer absurdity.   And in modern America, money and an adoring fan base are what matter.

From down here in the trenches, I wonder what Russell’s brand of revolution looks like?  A civil war, perhaps, in America, with well-armed Tea Partiers surrendering by the score?   Or will it be a worldwide uprising of the lower classes against their corporate oppressors? (Didn’t someone already suggest that?)  Will Brand’s revolution involve people killing and being killed, or simply pretending they have the courage of their convictions, assuming they have any convictions (or critical thoughts) at all?

In any case, the powers-that-be are thanking Russell Brand X for reducing the on-going struggle for freedom and justice, once again, to the absurd.

Douglas Valentine is the author of five books, including The Phoenix Program.  See www.douglasvalentine.com or write to him at dougvalentine77@gmail.com

More articles by:
May 31, 2016
Miguel A. Cruz-Díaz
Imperial Blues: On Whitewashing Dictatorship in the 21st Century
Vijay Prashad
Stoking the Fires: Trump and His Legions
Patrick Howlett-Martin
Libya: How to Bring Down a Nation
Uri Avnery
What Happened to Netanyahu?
Corey Payne
Reentry Through Resistance: Détente with Cuba was Accomplished Through Resistance and Solidarity, Not Imperial Benevolence
Bill Quigley
From Tehran to Atlanta: Social Justice Lawyer Azadeh Shahshahani’s Fight for Human Rights
Manuel E. Yepe
Trump, Sanders and the Exhaustion of a Political Model
Bruce Lerro
“Network” 40 Years Later: Capitalism in Retrospect and Prospect and Elite Politics Today
Robert Hunziker
Chile’s Robocops
Aidan O'Brien
What’ll It be Folks: Xenophobia or Genocide?
Binoy Kampmark
Emailgate: the Clinton Spin Doctors In Action
Colin Todhunter
The Unique Risks of GM Crops: Science Trumps PR, Fraud and Smear Campaigns
Dave Welsh
Jessica Williams, 29: Another Black Woman Gunned Down By Police
Gary Leupp
Rules for TV News Anchors, on Memorial Day and Every Day
May 30, 2016
Ron Jacobs
The State of the Left: Many Movements, Too Many Goals?
James Abourezk
The Intricacies of Language
Porfirio Quintano
Hillary, Honduras, and the Murder of My Friend Berta
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes on ISIS are Reducing Their Cities to Ruins
Uri Avnery
The Center Doesn’t Hold
Raouf Halaby
The Sailors of the USS Liberty: They, Too, Deserve to Be Honored
Rodrigue Tremblay
Barack Obama’s Legacy: What Happened?
Matt Peppe
Just the Facts: The Speech Obama Should Have Given at Hiroshima
Deborah James
Trade Pacts and Deregulation: Latest Leaks Reveal Core Problem with TISA
Michael Donnelly
Still Wavy After All These Years: Flower Geezer Turns 80
Ralph Nader
The Funny Business of Farm Credit
Paul Craig Roberts
Memorial Day and the Glorification of Past Wars
Colin Todhunter
From Albrecht to Monsanto: A System Not Run for the Public Good Can Never Serve the Public Good
Rivera Sun
White Rose Begins Leaflet Campaigns June 1942
Tom H. Hastings
Field Report from the Dick Cheney Hunting Instruction Manual
Weekend Edition
May 27, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
Silencing America as It Prepares for War
Rob Urie
By the Numbers: Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are Fringe Candidates
Paul Street
Feel the Hate
Daniel Raventós - Julie Wark
Basic Income Gathers Steam Across Europe
Andrew Levine
Hillary’s Gun Gambit
Jeffrey St. Clair
Hand Jobs: Heidegger, Hitler and Trump
S. Brian Willson
Remembering All the Deaths From All of Our Wars
Dave Lindorff
With Clinton’s Nixonian Email Scandal Deepening, Sanders Must Demand Answers
Pete Dolack
Millions for the Boss, Cuts for You!
Gunnar Westberg
Close Calls: We Were Much Closer to Nuclear Annihilation Than We Ever Knew
Peter Lee
To Hell and Back: Hiroshima and Nagasaki
Karl Grossman
Long Island as a Nuclear Park
Binoy Kampmark
Sweden’s Assange Problem: The District Court Ruling
Robert Fisk
Why the US Dropped Its Demand That Assad Must Go
Martha Rosenberg – Ronnie Cummins
Bayer and Monsanto: a Marriage Made in Hell
Brian Cloughley
Pivoting to War
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail