I can't stand Russell Brand
But the media has a bigger problem...
The Channel 4 Dispatches investigation that uncovered multiple accusations against Russell Brand was shocking but not surprising. That has now led to a Met Police investigation which was announced after multiple historic complaints, which led to the UK’s Attorney General cautioning media about how they covered the story to avoid any risk of prejudicing any potential criminal trial.
Sadly, that kind of announcement plays directly into the hands of Brand, who re-appeared, waving those hands extensively as he preached to his captive streaming audience about how the Government and the Mainstream Media wanted to take him down.
If that all sounds like bullshit, it’s probably because it is.
“Hiding in Plain Sight”
Without stepping into any investigation or intending any contempt of court, Brand is in some ways the ultimate version of “hiding in plain sight”. We’ve seen him speaking on stage as part of his comedy about behaviours that he is accused of carrying out in real life. The intercut of the comedy pieces and the accusations was particularly effective in that Dispatches documentary.
Putting the criminal investigation to one side, from a radio point of view, seeing some of the content from back in 2008 and his chaotic BBC 6 Music show that somehow ended up on Radio 2, it was truly a cringe moment. The video of Russell and Jonathan Ross in the studio phoning Andrew Sachs was still truly disturbing, the childish nastiness designed to shock, but not checked in anyway by the BBC’s Editorial process.
The idea that Russell’s own production company was allowed to make shows for the UK’s biggest radio station without any form of editorial check speaks volumes about an era at the BBC where there simply wasn’t any control over the biggest talent.
Media’s Awkward Legacy
“Hiding in Plain Sight” is a phrase that seems to occur far too often in relation to legacy media personalities who subsequently ended up the subject of police investigations. There’s a long list of past presenters, particularly at the BBC who have found themselves the subject of serious criminal investigations.
Looking at it from a modern workplace, it can be difficult to understand how these people were allowed to get away with these kinds of things, it just seems extraordinary in the world we live in now. But, back in the early days of radio, the presenters were treated like rock gods, or more like members of a rock band, in terms of the fans, the attention and the careful ignoring of their worst excesses in pursuit of ratings.
I’ve seen some presenters of that era up close, and they seem like dinosaurs now, wandering around, making stupid remarks, doing comedy Irish accents, or rushing to provide unwanted hugs. It’s one of the things that I’m quite happy to see gone.
I think though, we all have more work to do in challenging those kinds of people, whether they’re presenters or personalities, the days of turning a blind eye to their excesses has to be over.
Forget the Dinosaurs…
Dinosaurs aside, there’s a whole other issue facing the media, and it’s more about Rupert Murdoch than Russell Brand.
Murdoch finally announced he was stepping down last week, having hung on until Logan Roy was finally dead… The question is whether or not his stepping back from an active role will make a difference to the tone of his media outlets.
One thing is certain, Murdoch and Fox News have had an absolute toxic effect on American media, and even if Fox changed tone, or took a radical shift like embracing fact based content, the genie has long since left the bottle.
The right wing media ecosystem has left a long and inglorious slick on the surface of American politics and American life.
The Right Wing Grift
Grifters and liars like Donald Trump have profited, and even without Fox as a platform, some of the worst graduates of that school of broadcasting continue to slither about. Tucker Carlson found himself a new home on Twitter or X, and promptly began spewing even more outrageous nonsense.
CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan had a documentary this weekend which looked at the impact that Trump and the MAGA / Q Anon conspiracy theories has had on families across America. A whole generation has been sucked into an increasingly violent and nonsensical world of hidden clues, conspiracies and just flat out rubbish.
Even in the UK, grifters like Russell Brand have been quick to adopt the language and the racist tropes like The Great Replacement Theory and eagerly spout fanciful nonsense to a hopelessly lost YouTube or Rumble audience.
The fans of MAGA / Q Anon have drifted entirely from mainstream media and now exist in what really looks like a cult. And on January 6th that cult was activated to violent effect.
It’s easy to see it as an American problem, but it’s not the case.
Ireland’s Far Right Problem
In Ireland last week, the first session of the new Dail (Parliament) term was almost closed down by far right protestors. They blocked the street, they threw urine at the security staff and they brought a gallows beside which they displayed pictures of prominent politicians.
There’s plenty of video too of angry people in leisurewear screaming and shoving Gardai, they shout “traitor” and “paedophile” but it’s really hard to understand what it is they’re actually angry about.
It turns out, it’s mainly about new legislation that will prohibit Hate Speech, in which case, they’ve probably done more to advance the bill than anyone in the Dail. But it’s also a mess of anger about Covid, conspiracies about paedophilia, fury about immigration and it’s all whipped up by “citizen journalists” and half baked online content.
In the mainstream media, we have a tendency to ignore the messy, angry, half baked nonsense that is streamed and consumed by people on the edge of society. But, I think that’s not helping matters.
Media needs to address some of this stuff, talk about the actual facts, provide insight and information for those who are trying to reel their friends or family back into the normal world. If we don’t start to pay attention to this stuff, the violence will escalate and tragedy can’t be far away.
This has been the 14th official edition of the RAudio Newsletter
Just to recap, each week I’ll be taking a look at big stories in radio, podcasting and audio.
Any feedback, questions or potential topics are welcome – you can get me on Linkedin https://www.linkedin.com/in/liamthompsonconsulting/ or on Twitter @Maxliam