Who is This “They” of Whom You Speak, Russell Brand?
This weekend, a story broke about Russell Brand’s appalling behavior with women (sorry; there’s paywall; here’s a gift link to the NYT’s coverage). Four women have accused him of rape and sexual assault, including one who apparently began a relationship with Brand when she was 16 and he was 31 (the age of consent in the UK is 16).
Brand is a British comedian and actor. For American audiences, you probably know him best as a guy who married Katy Perry and provided the voice of Dr. Nefario in the Despicable Me franchise. He has, over the last few years, been, uh, re-branding himself as a free-thinking personality. That translates into English as someone who espouses some views — COVID “skepticism” and opposition to the war in Ukraine — that the Far Right likes, although his politics are mostly very left wing.
The response has mostly been revulsion. The Onion made probably the best joke about the situation. What was completely unsurprising was the people who lept to Brand’s defense. Elon Musk defended him. Andrew Tate, himself facing rape charges, threw his support to Brand. But a lot of Far-Right personalities also jumped to his defense, probably encapsulated in this tweet by Ian Miles Cheong.1
And the question I’m beginning to ask more and more when I see this sort of thing is: who the hell is this “they” you’re talking about?
Let’s go through this, one by one:
- “They” did not come for Tucker Carlson. Fox News fired him because he pushed lies that cost them nearly a billion dollars in legal settlements, with more to come.
- “They” haven’t really come for Joe Rogan. He still has the most popular podcast in the nation, one he was paid $200 million for. Specific people, like me, have criticized him for pushing COVID misinformation. But I doubt he loses any sleep over that.
- “They” didn’t come for Jordan Peterson. Peterson was briefly booted off of Twitter and had a couple of videos demonetized for some pretty brutal anti-transgender comments. But he’s also a best-selling author and has massive social media followings despite having the insight and wisdom of an empty fortune cookie.
- “They” didn’t come for Assange and Snowden. Two Administrations — one Democrat, one Republican — have come after them for revealing US secret info to our enemies.
- “They” haven’t come for Elon Musk. He’s destroyed his own brand by slowly changing Twitter from one of the best places to get real-time information on current events into a cesspool of conspiracy theorists and far-right twerps.
- “They” aren’t coming for Russell Brand. Four women have accused him of sexual assault. Maybe they’re lying. Maybe they’re mistaken. Maybe they’re misremembering. But these are real women with real accusations, not chimeras created by “they”.
“They” of course usually refers to some elitist global cabal of liberal interest who secretly control the world and coordinate attacks on personalities who “challenge the narrative”. There’s no evidence of this supposed all-powerful cabal. And it’s never exactly clear who is in this cabal, which seems to an amorphous mass of media, academia, Democrats and whoever is criticizing the latest hero of the Right Wing.2 But it’s, you know, “they”, some mysterious force that comes after the always-victimized “we”. It’s the Right Wing’s version of “the man” my Left Wing friends used to complain about keeping them down.
But even if there were such a cabal, it seems to pretty incompetent. I mean, why waste time on an earwig like Russell Brand? His influence is extremely limited. If anything, this will probably drive more attention to him. Why isn’t it going after people with, you know, actual influence over world events? Why does it allow Fox News, OANN and Newsmax to flourish? Why did it allow Musk to take over Twitter? Why does it allow Right Wing politician to get elected? This is the most incompetent cabal since the Galactic Empire decided that putting a lid on the exhaust port wasn’t worth the hassle.
Most of the grifters pushing the line are well aware of this, of course. But there’s money to be made in scaring people over a vague, ill-defined, non-existent hobgoblin that could come for you at ANY MOMENT!3
Back here in reality, the Brand accusations are just that: several women claiming that Brand engaged in a pattern of violent non-consensual behavior and want him to be held accountable to some degree. We are only at the beginning of this story and there is doubtless more to come out — both in Brand’s favor and to his disfavor. That’s not the work of some shadowy conspiracy; that’s just how these things play out. And I’ve had just about enough of (alleged) rotten behavior being glossed over as the work of some non-existent “they”.
- Cheong is among a number of Right Wing Brand defenders who has previously made disturbing comments about age of consent laws.
- It’s not specifically Jews. Yet. But there is more than a whiff of antisemitism in a lot of this, especially given that the most recent “they” being demonized was the Anti-Defamation League.
- I also suspect Brand, who has told this story would be coming, has been feeding this stuff to those now promulgating it.