SARAH VINE: No army has ever matched the massed ranks of keyboard warriors backing Russell Brand online. I fear he may end up becoming an even bigger monster
Postponed, canceled, suspended: the Russell Brand scandal follows a now familiar trajectory.
First, the world is responding to growing accusations of sexual harassment, assault, coercion and rape. Since the Channel 4 documentary and newspaper’s initial investigation, more women have come forward with complaints.
Then Brand’s promoters, publishers, former colleagues and even some members of his own family – but not his father, who gave his son his first taste of depravity by paying to lose his virginity to of a prostitute – distancing themselves from the disgraced star. .
Of these, the most important by far is YouTube. Yesterday the streaming platform announced it was blocking Brand from making money from his 6.6 million subscribers, who earn him up to £1 million a year.
“If a creator’s off-platform behavior harms our users, our employees, or our ecosystem, we take action to protect the community,” the company said. “This decision applies to all channels that may be owned or operated by Russell Brand.”
SARAH VINE: Postponed, canceled, suspended: the Russell Brand scandal (photo) follows a now familiar trajectory
In other words, the company does not prohibit him, but simply from making money. It’s an interesting approach, writes SARAH VINE (photo)
Oddly, however, YouTube has not indicated that it will remove his content – or whether this will prevent him from uploading further videos. Brand appears free to continue releasing new films to protest his innocence – like the one he released last Friday, before these allegations became public.
In other words, the company does not prohibit him, but simply from making money. It’s an interesting approach.
In the past, people in Brand’s situation — accused of heinous crimes and convicted in the court of public opinion before a single arrest has been made — have been erased on social media.
In the case of Twitter/X, their accounts were suspended or outright banned, and the same goes for Meta platforms (Facebook and Instagram).
This is all part of the “guilty until proven innocent” culture that has taken hold in recent years.
But not this time. Brand’s Twitter/X account is still up and running, with 11.2 million followers. He is still on Instagram, with 3.8 million followers. Find him on Facebook, with 5.9 million fans, and add another 2.3 million on TikTok. Add YouTube and the total approaches 30 million. This represents almost half of the UK’s population.
Of course, there may be some degree of overlap. And people who follow other people don’t always do it because they agree with them, but rather because they just want to know what they’re doing.
But even if we disregard all that, the man still has the kind of influence that any politician would sell his firstborn child for – and throw in his grandmother for free.
By the way, this is not a defense of Brand. As I’ve said in the past (as far back as 2013, in fact, when I started writing for this newspaper), I’ve always considered him a loathsome lothario.
I found it mystifying that intelligent, beautiful, successful women like Jemima Khan and Kate Moss could even entertain such a lowdown, let alone marry him, as Katy Perry did.
As my daughter said to me the other day when this story broke: “Mom, it’s a man wearing black eyeliner, what more do you want to know?”
And she’s right. This idea that this predator was “hiding in plain sight” is completely absurd. Brand did not “hide”: he signaled very clearly – and at every opportunity – his very practical nature. There are endless clips and quotes to prove it.
SARAH VINE: Brand was not “hiding”: he signaled very clearly – and at every opportunity – his very practical nature. There are endless clips and quotes to prove it
The scandal is why so many people were seduced by his flashy charm and why he was allowed to become so powerful in the entertainment world.
In particular, the BBC and the Labor Party, under the leadership of Ed Miliband, legitimized him not only by allowing him to indulge in his crude behavior (e.g. Sachsgate, in which Brand and Jonathan Ross made lewd references to Brand’s brief fling with Andrew Sachs’ granddaughter during a prank call). to the late actor in 2008, ultimately costing Brand his job at Radio 2), but also supporting him as a person of merit.
It was all part of a bad boy culture of the 2000s, in which anyone who didn’t “get the joke” was considered a stuffy old reactionary.
For example, The Mail on Sunday, which picked up the Sachsgate story, believing (rightly) that the behavior of Brand and Ross was unacceptable, was widely ridiculed. Just like the young woman in question, Georgina Baillie.
Marina Hyde – of the Guardian, no less – wrote an article telling Baillie: “Please let it go. They were real bastards, but it’s over. OVAH.’
She concluded that “the world can now be divided between people who genuinely think it’s important to care about this s**t, and people you might want to know socially.” So much for brotherhood, eh?
Personally, I wouldn’t even have taken an elevator alone with Brand. But can we really blame women for thinking he was safe when not only a major political party offered him their unwavering seal of approval, but also highly respected and influential commentators – and even grand old aunt herself ?
When trying to determine who is dangerous, isn’t it okay to trust people supported by respected, publicly funded organizations? No need to clutch your pearls now, Miliband, the BBC, Hyde et al (whose headline in yesterday’s Guardian was: ‘Brave victims of Russell Brand’s misogyny deserve full support’). You were all part of the culture that allowed this person to work in the first place.
This is why I think YouTube and others are making a big mistake. Either you think these allegations warrant censorship or you don’t. Silicon Valley can’t have it both ways: keep the clicks but ditch the bullshit.
But perhaps even they cannot ignore – or, for that matter, control – the power of their own creation.
The truth is that Brand (pictured) has spent years carefully cultivating – some might say nurturing – a cult-like online following. Who knows, maybe he foresaw that something like this would eventually happen to him and smartly decided to put together an insurance policy.
The truth is that Brand has spent years carefully cultivating — some might say grooming — a cult-like online following. Who knows, maybe he expected something like this to happen to him one day and smartly decided to put together an insurance policy. Either way, it pays off.
Whether its supporters are fanatics and conspiracy theorists or simply open-minded and curious individuals who believe in free speech, they are legion. They dwarf any television or newspaper audience.
No army in history has ever matched the massive ranks of keyboard warriors ready to support Brand online. Even the cursest glance at the posts on his YouTube channel confirms this.
“Stay strong and stay free”; “Truth teller”; “Don’t let them stop you”…message after message of challenge and encouragement, an unwavering belief that these accusations are nothing more than a “mainstream media” conspiracy to bring down a brave man – in fact , a martyr for the truth. – whose only crime was to expose the sinister forces that are supposed to rule the world.
And while they may not be quite ready to take up arms to defend their leader, they’re not all loners holed up in their mother’s basement either: glamorous TV presenter Beverley Turner , who presents a daily breakfast show on GB News alongside my colleague Andrew Pierce, vigorously defended Brand, calling him a “hero” and saying he stood up for ordinary people, the excluded and the forgotten.
All of this rather awkwardly reminds me of another charismatic populist with an eye for the ladies and a tendency to dismiss any criticism of questionable behavior as part of a plot to bring him down: Donald Trump.
A man whose supporters were so unhappy with his impeachment via the democratic process that they stormed the Capitol building, emboldened by his claim that the 2020 election was rigged by the “radical left”; a man who only seems to draw his strength from his detractors, for whom every accusation, every indictment, every judgment against him only fuels the fire in the bellies of those who consider him their savior.
The more he is attacked, the more they love him.
Judging from the past few days, Brand is very similar. He may or may not be guilty of the crimes he is accused of. But it may also be that it no longer matters. By telling their stories, his alleged victims could have hoped to finally obtain some form of justice. The tragedy is that they might discover that they simply ended up creating an even bigger monster.