Can Russell Brand’s awful choice of friends and colleagues explain what Max Wind-Cowie, writing in the Catholic Herald, calls his “dangerous ignorance”? Yes, I think it can, if he’s taking moral or intellectual cues from the sort of people who have been spotted sucking up to him in the last twelve months.
Consider two examples: his failure to distance himself from fraudster and fantasist Mo Ansar, after the two were the subject of an extended social media love-in by Ansar, and the revelation last week that disgraced plagiarist Johann Hari is not only Brand’s podcast producer but that he might even be ghostwriting Brand’s book.
It’s as if Russell Brand has surveyed the British media landscape for the most disreputable characters he could find, and whacked them on the payroll, like a sort of homeless shelter for the most terminally dishonest and wretchedly immoral figures on the political Left.
Lest we forget, Mo Ansar, formerly a frequent contributor to the BBC, Sky and other television networks, fabricated qualifications and lied about his work history. He has not appeared on British television since he was exposed by media reports in May of this year.
As for Johann Hari, you must read this exegesis by novelist and investigator Jeremy Duns, which explains why Hari, despite deceiving readers for a decade, bullying women online using aliases and conducting smear campaigns of his ideological enemies, is back with a book deal from Bloomsbury, acting for all the world as if he were rehabilitated.
Word is that Hari cashed in his gay mafia chips after getting busted. He is rumoured to have been financially supported by Elton John, with whom he penned an op-ed in the Huffington Post at the height of his public disgrace. (They really will publish anything.)
Since then, Hari has been executing dreary assignments for the British Airways in-flight magazine while he plotted his return. But he has never given a full account of the lies and fabrications in his articles, many of which remain online without any indication that their author was fired from his job at the Independent for serious malpractice.
Roping in Ansar and Hari as part of a white knight moral crusade against the scheming, bullying bad guys in high society is like asking Ilse Koch to join the writing team on the Geneva Convention.
Even his detractors admit that Russell Brand is a funny guy, and he has been astute enough to tap in to the public’s disaffection with the establishment, in a similar way to Left-wing polemicist Owen Jones, in recent comment pieces and YouTube videos. As a result, he’s now better described as a social activist than a straight comedian.
What’s mystifying about his reinvention, though, is that at precisely the time he ought to be surrounding himself with credible political figures, so his, shall we say, slightly self-indulgent 5,000 word guest essays benefit from a bit of intellectual heft, he is instead surrounding himself with people who, their opinions aside, have been proven to be dishonest, cruel, unprofessional and unapologetic about their shortcomings.
It’s considered churlish to point to Brand’s ill-fated marriage to Katy Perry as an example of his bad people judgment. Readers will recall that their marriage lasted only very slightly longer than Britney Spears and Jason Alexander’s 55-hour union. But does it say something about his credulousness?
Obviously, he’s wrong every time he opens his mouth. But I don’t believe Brand is a bad guy; just an irritating one, and perhaps a bit gullible. Mutual friends in Hollywood say he isn’t a monster – though, being Americans, they’re mildly horrified by his standards of personal hygiene.
I’m inclined to trust their judgment. Yes, his pronouncements about capitalism are tough to swallow, coming from a man who enjoys money as much as Brand does. But he’s not a crook, or a liar, or a bully. Just a typically compromised Lefty star. Apparently, he shares with many figures on the left the habit of turning a blind eye to the sins of people whose politics are alright, however bad their personal or professional behaviour.
If that’s not the case, why does he insist on bankrolling people who are so obviously impervious to right and wrong, and why is he, almost uniquely among A-list celebrities, getting into so many compromising situations with fakes, fraudsters and fantasists? Is there no one in his team with the wherewithal to spot a Walter Mitty and cut off their access to Brand before the mutual adoration mechanic whirrs into action?