Friday, 31 October 2008

Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross: a modern lynching

Martin Rowson gets it right

Okay, I hate myself. I didn't want to but they made me do it. London Mayor Boris Johnson accused the Chinese of being incapable of original thought and here I am proving his halfwit point by blogging on the sodding Brand 'n' Ross stormette just like every other mofo and his dog.

But I am so furious. FURIOUS, I tells ya. Just when everyone was waking up, smelling the coffee, swallowing the red pill and dusting down the tumbrils for the long-awaited fate of the greedy overpaid city hotshots who've sucked all the money out of our economy, their mates at the Daily Mail swing it around and chuck two celebrities into the lions' den to draw all the flak that should have been zeroing in on the real fat cats.

Two silly little middle-aged boys go bullying the sainted Andrew Sachs on the radio over the sex-life of his granddaughter (yes, it was wrong, stupid and sexist and deserved a dressing-down — hey, make them wear polyester for a year, that'll learn 'em) and suddenly it's like Satan walked in and ate all the babies. Even poor old Sachs seems embarrassed by the whole pantomime and has called for calm.

With £18 million of publicly funded BBC dosh, Jonathan Ross is hugely overpaid. But I'd rather see someone who brings a modicum of pleasure to people's lives getting lots of lolly than the Masters of the Universe who merely shove money around and asset-strip rather than actually producing anything.

Bankers are still getting their bonuses despite receiving huge state hand-outs following years of hedge-funded short-selling avarice, but a couple of celebrities are being thrown to a torch-bearing, pitchfork-wielding mob, taking the heat off the proper thieving swine. And the BBC is made to kow-tow yet again for completely the wrong reasons! Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?

Sense of proportion, much?

STOP PRESS: For anyone puzzled by events and wondering wtf Ross and Brand actually did, there's a thorough precis at New Internationalist.
... So when Gordon Brown insists, that the illegal invasion of Iraq, which has cost tens of thousands of lives and is paid for by the British taxpayer, is to ensure that ‘the new Iraqi democracy is properly safeguarded’ – where are the 30,000 complaints to the BBC when that that particular obscenity is broadcast on Newsnight? ...

Russell Brand responds to the Daily Mail

Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand's original offending phone message to Andrew Sachs


rustbeltradical said...

Can someone explain to this far away Yank why this incident has gotten so much attention from everyone? From the outside it seems so trivial and yet it is the main topic of conversation (not minding the breather from the US elections, mind you). A serious question.

Madam Miaow said...

Hi Rustbeltradical,

It must look nuts to anyone outside the country. It's a blatant diversion from the economic collapse, buck naked sleight of hand by the Right while the public do a Homer Simpson with the attention span of a goldfish. I believe similar tactics were practised by the ancient Romans in the Colosseum.

Even Gordon Brown tossed in an opinion and must be delighted to see such an effective diversion from his crisis. The bankers are laughing all the way to their bonuses while our attention's on the two tossers.

The paper that set this under way and whipped up the feeding frenzy is the right-wing ultra-conservative Daily Mail which a) has always had it in for the BBC and b) is not best known for sympathy for the poor, powerless and underprivileged.

What the Mail and the rest of net-curtain land tapped into is a widespread revulsion against greed and bullying, both qualities championed by successive governments since Margaret Thatcher promoted her bloated management class in the 1980s.

The whole episode's been an effective safety valve for mounting anger over the economic crisis.

Renegade Eye said...

I'm out of it. I heard about it here first.

Madam Miaow said...

Pleased to be of service, Renegade Eye. :-)

Jon said...

You've hit the nail on the head here. When the media start to obsess about banalities like this, it's time to reach for your wallet, because someone's trying to pilfer from it.

Brand will just fuck off to C4 with an even more lucrative contract, anyway.

harpymarx said...

Tis the silly season and the issue of distraction ("don't look over there where there are repossessions sky rocketing, redundancies, unemployment and sheer misery...lets look at them two"!)

That said, it does unnerve me the sexist double standards thrown at Georgina. That fact (shock! horror!) that she is a sexual being. I mean, would she get more sympathy if she was virginal young woman living in a nunnery..

The virgin/whore dichotomy still doing the rounds.

Mick Hall said...

I feel some on the left are missing the point, what motivates the Daily Mail is for it and its readers, but just because they mount a hate campaign against the Beeb does not mean we should refuse to enter the fray, surly?

Anna is correct in that much of this is about peoples dislike of bullying and rich people doing what they wish and never facing the same consequences reserved for working class people.

To withdraw from commenting on this issue, as some on the left have done or even worse pretend to come at with a long spoon is sheer middle class arrogance.

Millions of working class people, along with members of other classes, have been talking about this subject, sure it is not the most important thing in their life, but they understand that the bullying arrogant behavior of Ross and Brand and the BBC executives who not only tolerate, but encourage such wretched behavior, typifies that of the ruling elites who have brought us to the brink of economic disaster. Whether they be in the media, politics, business etc.

To stand back from this debate is yet another example of the left refusing to interact with the daily lives of working class people. We still go about our business, seemingly certain in the belief that crying the workers united will never be defeated will be enough to one day bring the workers to our cause.

It is time we woke up to the realities of working class life and understood that politics is about engaging with all walks of WC life, whether they be cultural, political or recreational etc, not just going to the odd picket line to sell papers or attending demos and public meetings.

Best regards to all.


claude said...

Hi Madam Miow,

while I agree with your main point about the obscenity of the banking system that is carrying on regardless (as it's being swept under the carpet), I don't think all this Brand/Ross hoolabaloo is happening because the Daily Mail orchestrated it.

That's giving the Mail too much credit.

The bastards are certainly pleased, no doubt, but I think it's also a case of this 'celebrity culture' gone wrong reaching the point of saturation and a certain genuine distaste finally coming to the surface.

Given that TV (and radio as an annex in this case) have now such a massive relevance in our life (alas), such an oddly spiteful behaviour from two superstars was bound to cause mass outrage.

Obviously it's made worse by their pay cheque. And also by the fact that it's a time of crisis.

But in my book, Brand and Ross's was bullying.
I've always been a fan of what people call 'black humour', and I'm all for comedy that stretches beyond Mr Bean, but the fact of the matter is that theirs wasn't comedy. It was bullying.

People have hopefully had enough of 'popular culture' turning into an invasive affair centred on public humiliation, general nastiness and malevolence.

Finally, I agree with harpymarx about her remarks about sexism and the press treatment of Gergina. That was vile. I wrote an article about the subject here:

Madam Miaow said...

Hi Mick and Claude,

Yes, it was bullying and sexist to bring into the public arena a private relationship, and to do it through the grandfather. Reinforcing the current culture of might is right, the lack of empathy, and cruelty (all having social causes beyond the power of these entertainers, incidentally) it shouldn't have been ignored and warranted a reprimand of some kind, and maybe a fine.

And Harpy is absolutely right that, because of Bross's antics, a young woman has fallen foul of the virgin/whore dichotomy.

But I question the way it has been used to divert anger over the above issues away from the real villains.

For Gordon Brown, a chief supporter of the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent deaths of an estimated million civilians, the man who raised taxes for the poor with the loss of the 10p tax band while sucking up to the rich and powerful, for him to come out and take the moral high ground is a bad joke.

it's just emerged that Tony Blair is currently the highest paid public speaker in the world, on £12 million a year off the backs of what he did to all of us over the past decade. Where are those complaints? Where's the tabloid ire over his taking $2 million a year from JP Morgan, the bank (with a racist past) with perhaps the biggest income from the Iraq war that Blair helped start?

We have to be alert to the way our genuine concerns are being manipulated so we take our eyes off the ball.

rustbeltradical said...

Madam Miaow and Harpy Marx:

""don't look over there where there are repossessions sky rocketing, redundancies, unemployment and sheer misery...lets look at them two"!
"We have to be alert to the way our genuine concerns are being manipulated so we take our eyes off the ball." Sounds like the US elections!

I suppose that all elections are safety valves, that's why the have them. It is, however, fortuitous that during this gigantic economic crisis and the real unease felt by everyone everywhere "change" is presented as just about the most passive political act one can take: voting for someone else.

Thanks to all for shedding light on these obscure goings on. Hoodwinking and hypocrisy: what would life under capitalism be without 'em?

Madam Miaow said...

The episode is of interest as a litmus test of the public's sensibilities, a snapshot of where we are now and what we'll tolerate.

But these two entertainers are easy targets and convenient scapegoats. While it's right to analyse what's gone wrong in our society, we shouldn't forget why. Brand and Ross are just symptoms of something bigger breaking down.

Reaching for my baby Marx, this is a clear sign that the cultural superstructure is collapsing into the economic base. But it's also positive in that most of us are still appalled by abuse of power. It's just a shame that so many on the left (excluding Mick who has been consistently kind, principled and supportive) tolerate active day-to-day bullying in their own ranks but only kick up when famous people are doing it at a distance.

splinteredsunrise said...

Well, that's more or less what I think. Where Brown's concerned, I think he has to speak out because he's in thrall to the Mail. But even with the Mail kicking up, this wouldn't have got to the proportions it had if it hadn't touched a real popular chord. It's like the racist bullying on Big Brother in that sense.

That's a very good point about how too many progressive minded people will happily tolerate sexist or bullying behaviour right under their nose yet be appalled at it from a distance. I agree as well with Harpy about the treatment of Georgina - she's obviously of loose morals (just look at how she dresses!) so she must be fair game.

I have a feeling that a lot of people can instinctively put themselves in this position, whether it's through their own experience or just empathy. Jonathan Ross is very protective of his kids - I'm sure it will sink in to him that in a few years he could be getting calls like that.