Saturday, November 02, 2013

Webb snares Brand

Hot on the heels of Steve Coogan criticising David Mitchell for spouting "ill-informed and superficial dross on a serious issue" comes the news that Mitchell's Peep Show co-star Robert Webb has accused Russell Brand of much the same thing ("wilfully talking through your arse about something very important"). In this instance, the issue in question is Brand's proposed "revolution" and his dismissive attitude towards mainstream politics and voting.

Webb argues that Brand has acted irresponsibly in advocating not voting. A fair point, perhaps, but where his argument falls down is in the endorsement of Labour as a serious alternative to the Coalition. Sure enough, Miliband and co might have done things slightly differently, but somehow I doubt that those differences would have been too substantive - and in any case, like Joan Smith in her snide hatchet job on Brand in the Independent, he assumes with charming naivety that Labour would have honoured all of their manifesto principles had they got in.

What's worse, when he describes Brand as "an intelligent fellow citizen ready to toss away the hard-won liberties of his brothers and sisters because he’s bored", he misrepresents Brand's argument. No one could have watched Brand's Newsnight interview with Jeremy Paxman and come away thinking he's merely "bored" with the status quo - on the contrary, behind his rhetoric lay a genuine burning dissatisfaction bordering on (and boiling over into) anger.

Perhaps the most telling comment is unfortunately merely an aside: "There’s a lot that people interested in shaping their society can do in between elections – you describe yourself as an activist, among other things – but election day is when we really are the masters." This grossly understates the importance and value of pressure group campaigns, which are increasingly the most effective and direct way to influence public policy, and conversely overstates the importance of general elections. Earlier in the article Webb says: "If you want to be a nuisance to the people whom you most detest in public life, vote." I'd disagree. If you want to be a genuine nuisance, bombard them with communications and correspondence about specific issues that matter to you until they have to act, rather than waiting patiently until 2015 when you finally have the opportunity to vote them out.

(Thanks to Adam for the link.)

No comments: