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Russell Brand: A "raging narcissist" (illustration by Michael Daley)
"Are you turning into neo-conservatives?" a friend asked after I and other leftish critics had hammered Russell Brand's new book, Revolution. With evident relish, he went on, you have laid into a celebrity who for all his garrulous follies is against plutocrats, media corporations and the degradation of the environment. You say you are left-wing, but like the original neo-cons or the type of "leftist" Rupert Murdoch is so fond of employing, you only ever offer comfort to the Right.

He asked a fair question to which the simple answer is that a bad book is a bad book whatever the politics of its author, and the honest reviewer must say so. Revolution (Century, £20) is an exceptionally bad book, one of the worst I have ever read. I doubt anyone who is not paid to review it can reach the end without skimming large sections, and many will throw it away. Brand is a raging narcissist, who treated as brilliant whatever thoughts entered his cloudy mind while he underwent a recovery programme from drink and drug addiction. His egomania is such he thinks he can transform the world because he transformed himself when he kicked heroin.

I've just opened my copy at random. The first line in front of me is: "When you get Richard Dawkins yapping menopausally at some poor hamstrung old archbishop, while we dismantle our environment due to the materialistic, pessimistic principles that the atheistic tyranny of the day is tacitly sponsoring, it is time to look for a new story" — a sentence which is simultaneously chaotic, untrue, and cowardly. (The only "atheistic tyrannies" are North Korea, China and Cuba. Brand means the United States and Britain, however, but lacks the nerve to make such a false statement openly.) Toss this book in the air, and let it fall where it may: you can perform similar dissections on every second sentence you find.

The wider reason for the disdain is that Brand is a creature of a malign culture, which is turning public debate into celebrity babble. When the New Statesman needs a circulation lift or the BBC needs a ratings boost, they turn to Brand. Because he is a star, not one of his friends or editors at Century told him that he couldn't write, and would not be able to write until he had mastered the skills of self-criticism and fact-checking. Stars expect and receive reverence, which is why it has taken so long for the legal system to prosecute celebrity rapists.

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January 27th, 2015
4:01 PM
Russell Brand has said he`d vote for Syriza so that`s now clear. Only the Green Party welcomes the Syriza victory. Cameron and Red Ed still clinging to austerity,recycling money to the rich and `fiscal waterboarding` the rest of the nation. No wonder the restored `beheaded` 8`, 4 ton marble statue of Mrs Thatcher has been shoved into an obscure corridor at Guildhall,London. 24hr CCTV surveillance and you need a Guildhall security guard to accompany you to see it in all it`s spotlit quotidian dreariness. As Syriza has formed an alliance with the Greek Independents Party so Labour can form an alliance with the Green Party.(The actual Greek Communist Party got hardly any votes.) The Tory Party `demoting` Louise Mensch and Michael Gove has suicided intellectually. Voting for a semi-islamified Conservative Party ? A complete waste of time. Watch them pour all their £millions down the drain in their election campaigning. It`s the only talent they`ve got left.

January 18th, 2015
6:01 PM
How To Start A Revolution is the title of the book by Nadya and Maria from the Pussy Riot art group to be published later in 2015. Bez (ex-Happy Mondays band/winner of tv jungle show)) has launched the Reality Party in Salford,Manchester. Cameron`s support for the cocaine drug-wrecked casino city bankers has destroyed the Tory Party . They`ve become a rent-a- useful idiots agency. Adam Curtis has it down to a "static culture" and a "zombie culture". On the front page of the Independent online a tearful little girl asks the Pope why God allows little girls to be forced into prostitution. He admits he doesn`t know. He can`t tell the difference between Charlie Hebdo cartoons and insulting his mother either. He`d punch anyone who insulted his mother. But he`d forgive the murderers,rapists,beheaders and crucifiers ? Not much of a self-education advocate is he? At least the Medici mafia Popes helped create Michelangelo`s and Raphael`s masterpieces. Today ? Absolutely nothing. Ditto Islam and Protestantism. Zizek`s book Less Than Nothing sells well for philosophy. In the best art the natural,modern and the supernatural co-exist and co-create .

January 7th, 2015
2:01 AM
Russell Brand is the perfect vehicle to enable the further castigation of the working class - in one sense learning the power of language is too dangerous an achievement - yet he remains tickled by the 'Guardian' and other onanistically orientated nodal points of expression. The history and legacy of working class auto-didacticism is,therefore, neutered, by those who profess to represent the interests of the downtrodden and dispossessed. Still, everyone needs a puppet and he sells Standpoint?

December 22nd, 2014
11:12 PM
He may be dry and drug free but his behavior says "I am not sober." Any successful recovery program involves ego-deflation (just read AAs 12 steps) and if the addict skips that part and assumes dryness equals sobriety he is inviting an eventual relapse.

December 10th, 2014
11:12 PM
Last year Will Self wrote in praise of situationist Guy Debord`s book `The Society of the Spectacle`. As yet WS has yet to `drift` pychogeographically into Mayday Rooms,88 Fleet St,London. Brand and Cohen don`t mention it either. The philosopher Zizek reminds us that the revolution must strike twice. Socialism for the rich and capitalism for everyone else is the necessary (and present) failure of the first revolution of both. Reformist human rights were established and cultural and scientific advances were also made. If Cohen,Self and Brand could co-author the book `The 2nd Revolution` there`s a nice roof garden and café with rooms for research and international networking at 88 Fleet St.

December 9th, 2014
11:12 AM
Your friend might equally well have asked if there was any chance of you turning into a real journalist.

December 8th, 2014
10:12 AM
Added to that, I'd not noticed Nick Cohen attacking Brand because he "would not be able to write until he had mastered the skills of self-criticism and fact-checking". Oh my. This from the Nick Cohen who repeatedly praised Hassan Butt in print - a man who admitted in court to being a serial liar who told people what they wanted to hear - and who Cohen has never mentioned again (so much for self-criticism). The same Nick Cohen who also repeatedly praised Ahmed Chalabi in print, only to go suddenly silent on him when it became clear - as indeed it was always clear to people who didn't lap up his propaganda - that he was a fraudster (so much for self-criticism). The same Nick Cohen who nowadays berates others for their belief in the MMR/autism link - but who also paid for separate shots back in the day as he was also taken in, yet never mentions this when returning to the topic now (so much for self-criticism). The same Nick Cohen who claims to have 'read Chomsky' but has actually only read one paragraph of Chomsky, which he saw via Twitter (so much for fact-checking). The same Nick Cohen who regularly berates Judith Butler for the incoherence of her prose, always using the same example - which is mistranscribed - because he goes for his 'intellectual debate' to press releases, seeing as he's so averse to checking his own facts (so much for fact-checking). And I could go on. But is it worth it - or is it not clear that Cohen is no paragon of writerly virtue and that he is about the least appropriate person to berate others for the low standards of their research and writing?

December 5th, 2014
9:12 AM
It's all well and good berating 'the media' and 'society' for liking its politics infused with celebrity, but Nick Cohen's completely guilty of this as well - preferring TV historians like Dominic Sandbrook and comedians like john O'Farrell to actual, proper historians, preferring PR people like Kate Fox to actual sociologists, and praising comedians like Dara O'Braian as the true heroes of British free speech (when he isn't insulting the exact same comedians, of course). But - crucially - the actual proof of cohen's commitment to true intellectual debate comes from his own fixation on Brand (bear in mind this is the second piece he's written on Brand in a month). If Cohen was actually interested in serious debate, he'd be writing articles about actual 'intellectuals'. But he knows what sells - celebrity - and specifically, he knows what his agein, right-wing readers want, which is attacks on figures that young people like (i.e. Brand). He's as guilty as anyone else.

December 1st, 2014
9:12 AM
All pretty good stuff until you started equating Farage with Galloway. You media people really do hate ordinary English people.

November 30th, 2014
1:11 PM
Hmmm... Mike. Never mind the "cowardly". Why doesn't Brand's assertion that "we dismantle our environment due to the materialistic, pessimistic principles that the atheistic tyranny of the day is tacitly sponsoring" strike you as "untrue at all"? Could it be that a few sloganistic anti-establishment assertions (however muddled) when uttered by a professional "rebel" will always get a thumbs up from those who like to think of themselves as independent minded. Our educated classes love a rebel. Our not-so-educated classes love a comedian and a few sneering HIGNFY one liners are all the political comment they need or want.

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