In what might be one of the worst-kept secrets in show business, many people, including himself, reportedly believe that Russell Brand is a degenerate. In fact, Brand has seemingly made a career of abusing narcotics and interpersonal relations with impunity, was lampooned by many for it, and everybody reveled in it.
Anybody who watched Big Brother UK in the Brand Years witnessed the leering guffaws as he delighted in, prodded and championed the sexual tension that arose when contestants were cooped up like rabbits. The show was compelling but left one with the need for a very hot shower to flush away the grime.
It is hard to remain objective given Brand’s new fall from grace, as I’ve always found it difficult to appreciate the enigma of the man. I am not alone in never understanding why so many saw Brand as intelligent. Was it simply his ability to speak semi-eloquently in fluent cockney? It beggared belief that one who achingly strove to look like a narcotic-addled rockstar (less the ability to strum a chord or sing a note) attracted the likes of Katy Perry and scores of others. Brand presents as an unabashed anarchist, happy to jump upon any bandwagon that gives him airtime. The biggest surprise in all of the reporting is that he is deemed to be a comedian by trade. As I have drummed into my seven-year-old: a prerequisite of a joke is that it must be funny. Brand isn’t.
Having confessed my starting point, how does one approach the new-but-old allegations that Russell Brand abused his celebrity by treating women by the bushel as chattels and objects to serve his sexual cravings? The only way is on a case-by-case basis.
The lawyer and former criminal defense barrister in me seeks to sow doubt in every account. This would give Brand the benefit of every thread of “innocent until proven guilty”; that is how I am built. My current guise, which lives in Intellectual Property and First Amendment law, is deeply concerned with how YouTube is leading the cancel-culture prejudging by suspending Brand from monetizing his videos. First, it is an affront to society, which should be free to see, think, comment and debate in any way it wishes to within the confines of the law. Second, it has the potential to decrease the amount of funds available for a potential victim class.
The creeping cancellation of Brand once again exposes the gamble of making one’s living and therefore dying by the media. While I have no desire to hear a minute more of Brand’s whiny, profane monologues, he does have the inherent right to defend himself and provide a counter-narrative. Especially when there are so many other outlets seeding the search engine optimization with the accounts of Brand’s accusers. One of the most dangerous aspects of the desire to limit and cancel a voice is when a single perspective becomes a universally accepted truth, simply because no contrary voice is allowed. This is pre-revisionism at its core as it inhibits the recording of actual history and, in this case, will only serve to prejudice Brand.
The missing component in all of this is the failure of the safety net in the workplace—or is it altogether more sinister? Despite coming from a family of strong female figures, I would be a hypocrite if I said that my appreciation of entrenched chauvinism has not become more acute by virtue of being a father to daughters. If the allegations are true, where were the watchers on the wall? Those to protect girls from Brand or Brand from himself? It cannot be that Brand’s alleged behavior occurred in a vacuum. What is more likely is that, instead of blithe enabling and turning blind eyes, agents and producers became pimps, procurers and cover-up artists. The UK police investigation needs to cast its net much wider to ascertain if there was a culture of silencing those who sought to upset an institutionally approved gropefest.
If this matter goes to trial, it is likely that Brand will trot out a number of willing, consenting partners, of which I am sure there are many. But general promiscuity does not override the consent of the ones who were unwilling. Brand will likely also cast himself as a victim of drug and sex addiction. I am not sure how that will play out. The law does not permit the acquittal of kleptomaniacs on theft charges or excuse the assaults by those predisposed to violence. However, if the focus is solely on Brand and not those who were around him, the system that sired and nurtured Brand, which self-righteously calls for his head, will not be held to account.