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Russell Brand: Not the little man he'd like you to think he is (illustration by Michael Daley)

Across Europe there has recently been a rash of popular and populist books explaining the various crises through which our continent is going. No such work has emerged in Britain. Here the populist "state of the nation" books are coming from a quite different political angle. These books claim that "we" ordinary people are being held both down and back by an "establishment". They ride on feelings of inequality, powerlessness and the undeniable failure of many of our institutions. As with their continental counterparts, one reason for their success is that they are not onto nothing.

At the end of 2014 two books were released in the UK which covered the disgruntled politics of the moment from this peculiarly British angle. Owen Jones's The Establishment: And How They Get Away With It has a front cover endorsement from the author of the other book, Russell Brand, author of Revolution. Through cross-fertilising puffs and events the authors have helped each other to attain enviable sales and to dominate the non-fiction bestseller lists in Britain.

Both play the "us" versus "them" game without irony. If our continental brothers and sisters are blaming recent incomers for much of their strife, these British authors return to the old British underdog tune of blaming "the powers that be". By the end of The Establishment Jones even tries to resurrect the "working-class boys spilling their blood for the establishment's wars" theme. Surely not heard for a century at least?

Both works are, it should be said, littered not only with falsehoods but with sloppy and basic errors. At the less serious end Jones has Andrew Neil as the "owner" of the Spectator (he is Chairman of the company which publishes the magazine). At the other extreme there is a serious muddle over statistics, percentages and dates so that his most incendiary "original" figure (over the percentage of the top 50 publicly-traded UK firms with parliamentarians on the board) turns out to be simply wrong.

Nor is he any better on definition, a problem he is careful to absolve himself from blame over in his introduction. The establishment, he warns us, is a "shape shifter, evolving and adapting as needs must". Journalists are part of the "establishment" if they ever worked for the now-defunct News of the World, but not if they work for the Guardian. Think tanks and pressure groups which favour free-market economics are "establishment" because they are funded by people with "special interests". The pressure group Hacked Off, on the other hand, is not part of the establishment, despite being secretively funded by rich celebrities seeking to keep their personal failings out of the public eye. Goldsmith family money is capable of an especially noteworthy transmogrification. In the hands of the late Sir James, the family money creates "establishment" entities. Groups funded by Goldsmith's left-wing heiress daughter Jemima, however, miraculously become "not establishment".

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April 27th, 2015
10:04 PM
Part of the problem is that most politicians have had no challenging experiences. The days when most politicians had combat experience in WW1 or WW2 or both are long gone. Even to have had to take part in the Malaya Emergency someone would have to be 80 years old. Another aspect of the problem is that not many of the population want experienced leaders as politicians as they challenge infantile narcissistic view of life.

February 19th, 2015
5:02 PM
That's your answer? "Human agency?" What you're doing by attacking the books is human agency. What the authors are doing by writing them is human agency What I'm doing by responding is human agency. If human agency were the only necessary ingredient, surely we wouldn't need to be having this discussion right now. After reading your pages of self-righteous puffery, nitpicking, and ad-hominem attacks, I suppose it was misguided of me to expect it to end with anything resembling a solution.

Tony G
January 10th, 2015
12:01 PM
Douglas Murray , you do a vital job in showing up the dark underbelly of Islamo fascsim , and you are very brave and a hero for all those who are awake to the real threat to our freedom and values in the west.. One request , dont take the invitations to speak on the so called torture or Enhanced interrogation techniques. I watched that interview with Andrew Neil and that horrendous inverted racist Dianne Abbot. and the lady I watched it with thought you were an aweful man with a bad soul.. which I know to be very untrue.. You are a hero of mine and I send you all my support and respect.. It upset me that you exposed yourself to needless reproach , there is a saying "choose your battles wisely" and you area great intellectual warrior fighting for all our rights, freedoms and values and i dont want you to be lose all credibility as you are a vital component in the fight against islamist fascism.. Please dont waste your time with minor battles you cant win and stick to what you do best .. exposing the elephant in the room with rapier like wit and devasting repartie.. Je Suis Charlie .. Respect.. Tony G

December 23rd, 2014
5:12 PM
Douglas Murray and Nick Cohen are throwing out the baby with the bathwater.Russell Brand has practically helped the New Era Estate tenants secure their tenancies. There it is in todays Independent. It was Julie Burchill who noted the slow learning Left. And now the Right displays it too. The Dickensian scrooge/villain/gobshite George Osborne and his cocaine- bankers, career-friends deceitful gruel-propaganda is not `drug-wrecked` ideology ? Yes it is. Botox the Economy-Vote Tory.

December 22nd, 2014
10:12 AM
I'm actually a little more sympathetic to him after the whole New Era housing estate debacle where the media were more concerned about blaming him for the misdemeanors of his landlord rather than the actual story about people being thrown out of their homes so a multinational could make a buck. He comes across as someone frustrated because he can clearly see that something it wrong, but lacks the ability to convince people that they're focussing on the wrong problems. The rest of the left is fixated with trivial issues and ignoring the actual working classes.

Tyler Cassidy
December 21st, 2014
7:12 PM
Russell Brand is a recovering drug addict who has been clean and sober for more than 10 years. The author of this piece descends to denigrate Brand's views on the basis that they are those of an addict, implying that Brand still uses drugs. How is this different to Brand's criticism of politicians, based on their appearance? I used to be a huge fan of Russell Brand, but he lost me by the way he treated his then wife, Katy Perry, which conduct resulted in a divorce. Every body is entitled to an opinion, but, must be prepared to back that opinion up, with facts. Russell Brand fails, and is now just a preaning, ignorant bully.

Jabba the Cat
December 20th, 2014
8:12 PM
Douglas nails those two idiots perfectly...

The Laughing Cavalier
December 20th, 2014
8:12 AM
Are you sure it was brand doing the writing and not his ghost-writer, Jonathan Hari?

Mark Lambert
December 18th, 2014
3:12 PM
Spot on about Brand and his hiding with "I'm just a comedian," when that suits. And that Newsnight "interview". What were they thinking? Evan Davies *was* effectively treating it as a laugh as well as a total capitulation to what "might be funny to viewers." There was nothing remotely serious about it at all. I wondered why Newsnight bothered and what was their actual point? To show Brand as an idiot, or to show how their interviewer cannot handle him? Or to get viewers? What type of viewer? Brand can say what he likes, but what bothers me the most is that supposedly intelligent people fawn over him and his "views."

December 18th, 2014
1:12 PM
Young Jones and Brand certainly aren`t as good as old Zizek,TJ Clark and Camille Paglia (all on Youtube too). Zizek thinks the 21st century will be the century of philosophy,engaging in philosophy will become more and more important to people. Waldemar J`s enthusiastic review (in the Sunday Times Culture magazine) of conceptual artist Joseph Kosuth`s exhibition at SpruthMagers ,London suggests it might also be the century of Art. The `islamification` of the Left and Right in Britain remains insidious. Apart from banning Islam there seems no real solution. Non-muslims are banned from Mecca.

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