Last week’s Newsnight interview between Jeremy Paxman and Russell Brand needs no introduction, as Gawker, Buzzfeed and indeed the entirety of social media have rubbed it viciously into our faces like it’s some kind of profound, philosophical wet-wipe. Brand explains to a somewhat sceptical Jeremy Paxman – with his trademark stunning vocabulary – the flaws in the current political system, the elitist paradigms it creates, and the increasing need for a revolution. Such a revolution would be to create what Brand describes as a “Socialist egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth and heavy taxation of corporations.”
Now that sounds all well and good, and take nothing away – Brand puts forward some fantastic arguments, perfectly articulated and very poignant. Unfortunately, if the reaction on social media is anything to go by, the majority of Brand’s supporters have no concept of what this actually means, and have instead taken away one message and one message alone as the central bullet-point of Brand’s political magnum-opus:
I fear that this is most likely the only significant outcome of what is becoming known as “Brand’s Revolution” – a widespread resurgence of apathy from younger voters. Here is the problem with the current political paradigm, and why a revolution is not possible when you break down what Brand is actually saying: Revolution requires revolutionaries, and revolutionaries are passionate people – and the political class will pay no attention to those who do not play ball. Brand’s tirade against the current political climate is more a call to apathy, than a call to arms. This is the last thing we need.
I mean, seriously: all of Brand’s supporters – the late teens and twenty-somethings who jumped on the social media bandwagon, do you think any of them would have ever written a letter to their local MP, taken part in a demonstration, or indeed, voted in a general election? Now, as a result of Brand’s beautifully delivered monologue, their apathy and failure to engage with the issues that affect their lives has been reinforced. Then, no doubt, they’ll all curse the horrible world that they live in when politics is populated by nothing but the puppets of archetypal Mr. Burns types, perpetually voted in by the affluent middle-age, middle-classes who actually do bother to turn out for their local Conservative/UKIP/BNP representative come election day.
News flash: we need all of YOU to keep those bastards out of office. Just because you’ve decided not to play does not mean the game stops. Even if your guy doesn’t win, you can still make a difference. Public debate and communication has seen a renaissance through email and social media, but a minority actually engage. Usually, the only people who engage are lobbyists and media types, because they know that just by turning up, they are an influence. Here is a handy diagram to explain this:
The key difference between those in the green circle and those in the red circle is that, whatever their means, be they rich blood-sucking money men, or desperate banner-waving activists, they are getting involved. Proudly flying the flag of apathy and disengagement is a great way to change absolutely nothing. There’s no grand conspiracy designed to keep you subdued at your production line job – at the end of the day, the political class are all a bunch of office drones trying to get through the day without screwing up in the eyes of the media. If you shout loud enough, they will listen.
So please, for the betterment of society, ignore Russell Brand and write a fucking letter.
Article by Chris McSweeney
Chris is a big voice on the world wide webs and is a man of many talents. Find him via @chrissmcsweeney on Twitter
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