Is Russell Brand the victim of a media witch-hunt, asks Bev Turner

Russell Brand

Russell Brand has been accused of multiple sexual assaults

PA
Bev Turner

By Bev Turner


Published: 18/09/2023

- 21:42

Updated: 19/09/2023

- 07:41

'I believe in a society where we can defend someone’s current character whilst also being willing and able to condemn historic illegal actions'

Complicated and nuanced issues require careful consideration, not hot-headed mud-slinging.

And that’s why, following my tweet about Russell Brand over the weekend, I wanted to share this longer article so I could explain, in more detail, why I am concerned about the nature of the scandal engulfing him. And more importantly, I wanted to set out what I believe are some of its wider implications.


But before that let me make one thing crystal clear.

Amongst this noise around a man who has repeatedly admitted that he was “very, very promiscuous” we risk forgetting that in the UK 1.1 million adults experienced sexual assault in the year ending March 2022 (798,000 women and 275,000 men). In the US, 40 per cent of women say that they have experienced sexual violence with 80 per cent of female sexual assault victims experience their first assault before the age of 25.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand denies the allegations

YouTube/Russell Brand

Tragically, these statistics are of little interest to most people until a famous person is involved – and then it gets sufficiently spicy to make headlines.

I believe anybody who has been victim of sexual assault or rape deserves justice. All too often they are denied that justice by a flawed system. I believe women’s voices are too easily dismissed in a variety of settings including the workplace. But it is most significant when they are ignored in the sexual offences unit of a police station.

However, I also believe in a society where we can defend someone’s current character whilst also being willing and able to condemn historic illegal actions.

I’ve been accused of being hot off the mark with my defence of Brand on X (formerly Twitter) prior to the details of the allegations being made clear. Had he been arrested at that time, I would still have been suspicious of vested interests pulling strings, but my trepidation would have been more acute.

However, after speaking to several close sources of both media outlets and Brand himself on Saturday morning it was clear that although some of the behaviour being alleged is depraved, each instance is nothing more than ‘he said’ versus ‘she said’ through a decade-long time lapse. As usual, there is nuance.

Russell Brand leaves Wembley following assault allegations

Russell Brand leaves Wembley on Saturday night

PA

Obviously every human being deserves the right to refuse sexual or physical invasions of any type from another.

But this current trial by media is grotesque.

I’ve been urged to keep quiet; stay out of it. I don’t personally know Russell Brand. Why would I speak up? That’s simple - loyalty. I’m grateful to the emboldening narrative he has provided millions of us during the most tumultuous period of modern history. I don’t believe in ditching someone in their hour of need if you feel gratitude towards them. It is possible to feel sadness for the complainants and compassion for the accused simultaneously.

Brand has not been arrested. Perhaps with headlines now urging women to ‘come forward’ he may be.

Maybe I am wrong to be cynical that a smoking gun will be found. Maybe someone will emerge with forensic and visual evidence proving that he was indeed a rapist.

There are also several women taking to social media to explain that they too had sexual relations with Brand that were kind and consensual if a little perfunctory.

The early 2000s were a hedonistic time of pre-political correctness; lad’s mags, FHM calendars and sexual liberation that made the 1960s look tame. The Met Bar and London’s Soho House were hot-beds of dubious sexual proclivities and Brand was front and centre. I know – I was there.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand has strongly denied the allegations

GB NEWS

I was never a victim of sexual assault but was routinely told by TV executives that if I didn’t pose for lad’s mags in skimpy outfits I would not be offered jobs. It was the era in which Channel 4 created the trashy, voyeuristic world of reality TV that raised Russell Brand to prominence.

I worked on F1 for ITV and wrote a book about how motorsport was the land that feminism forgot. I called for Grid Girls to be consigned to history in 2003. The sport’s culture caught up with me when they were finally removed in 2018. I am a proud defender of the equal treatment of men and women.

So far, all of Brand’s accusers in the initial media investigation have communicated with journalists rather than the police and have retained their anonymity – free to paint one side of the story without the risk of others who were in attendance being able to counter their version.

I’ve been slammed for publicly calling him a hero. I don’t take that back. It is possible to defend someone’s current character whilst also condemning historic illegal actions – if indeed that is what these turn out to be.

Whatever transpires, I will forever admire the person he has been for the past three years.

Russell Brand arrives at Troubabour in Wembley Park theatre

Russell Brand, pictured on Saturday night, has alleged a mainstream media plot

PA

It frustrates me that whilst obsessing over what could be a criminal investigation, ordinary people don’t get to read newspapers featuring the UK’s punishing Energy Bill wafting through Parliament; unfathomable changes to our financial system and the potential for World War 3 in Ukraine. Look at the sex scandal folks!

But the absolutely critical part of this story is the context. It depends on whether you are familiar with Brand’s recent past; what he has come to represent to the lockdown sceptics; the marginalised and the cancelled.

I wasn't shocked during Britain’s Newsroom this morning that all of the guests condemning Brand had watched nothing of his prodigious online output from the last three years. But those who were aware of his courageous willingness to shine a light on corruption were not surprised by a concerted attempt to shut him up – if that is indeed what this is.

To the unaware, Brand is ‘that left-wing actor with crazy hair who made fun of Manuel from Fawlty Towers on a prank call with Jonathan Ross, got cancelled and disappeared.’

But to his 6.5 million YouTube subscribers, the 11.2 million X followers and countless others who consume his Rumble content (a platform to which he migrated to circumvent YouTube’s censorship of his covid-related conversations) he is a talismanic truth-teller who blends political analysis with spirituality; addiction recovery with humour; football analysis with meditation podcasts.

He’s a sesquipedalian wordsmith who delivers a rare intellectual perspicacity in a relatable cockney accent. And whatever they tune in to hear, he makes all of his followers feel less alone.

He hosts wellbeing festivals with world-renown experts and walks around the fields hugging people who feel hopeful that this one man might just have their best interests at heart when politicians do not.

Like Donald Trump, he has stepped into a vacuum of need for those who feel disconnected from, and oppressed by, the ruling elite class.

Team Brand generates hours of audio and video output from his family home in Henley-on-Thames and recently acquired a run-down village pub which he’s transforming into a community centre for media creation and yoga classes.

It is surrounded by fields; the doors are often open and he can be seen filming inside with his ever-growing team of employees; his wife with one of his two daughters (and a new-born son) playing nearby. Instead of being shackled to a creaky old TV station he works for himself in idyllic surroundings without the fear of corporate guidelines censoring his output.

He can speak from the heart and at the centre of his message - whether he is interviewing right-wing Americans such as Candace Owens, American Democratic Presidential hopeful Robert F. Kennedy or the Dalai Lama - lies a belief: that humanity is at a pivotal moment and we must prioritize freedom of speech, the fundamental rights of the individual and find a better political model which prevents the collusion of corporations and the State to suppress the ordinary person and their freedom.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand says the claims are a 'coordinated attack'

PA

Brand attempts to expose corruption and a new type of “fascism,” echoing early twentieth-century Italian dictator Mussolini’s own definition of fascism as “Corporatism” because “it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

He speaks to those who feel life is harder, not easier, in 2023.

It is a far cry from a shallow life as a drug-addicted Hollywood movie star using women for sexual gratification; a time in which he thought “the world was an amusement park made out of orgasms.”

Before American TV producers were fully aware of his fearlessness he was invited onto chat shows where he dropped uncomfortable truth bombs with shocking force. On CNN’s Bill Maher show he whipped out a piece of paper and despite Maher trying to silence him, breathlessly intoned facts about Moderna and Pfizer making “$100 million of profit in 2022…When it came to the profits they took the profits,” he looks to the audience, “when it came to the funding you paid for it. All I’m querying is this: if you have an economic system where the pharmaceutical companies benefit from medical emergencies, where a military industrial complex benefits from war; where energy companies benefit from energy crises you are going to generate states of perpetual crisis where the interests of ordinary people separate from the interests of the elite.”

He has a powerful group of similarly outcast allies in Jordan Peterson, Joe Rogan, Tucker Carlson and Vandana Shiva.

So unless you have followed Brand’s remarkable online journey to expose corruption, it is too easy to write him off as a rapist, turn the page of the newspaper and wait for the next celebrity sex scandal to come along.

Fewer people are engaging with legacy media and it is at a turning point: does it evolve at great expense, up-ending decades of advertising models and even risk losing the BBC license fee? Or does it destroy the radical, new competition?

I suspect that it is the latter, but I have no proof that this a coordinated attack. Brand himself “absolutely refutes” the allegations and says it makes him “question is there another agenda at play?”

It’s a bit of a stretch to imagine an editorial meeting in which producers throw back their heads with an evil cackle to plot the demise of the man who claims to steal their media crown. But there was a sad inevitability about corporate or political interests hoping to shut him up.

Of course a former sex-addict is low-hanging fruit for journalists who want something a little salacious and click-baity. I am increasingly persuaded that incompetence and corruption rather than conspiracy cause most eye-catching outcomes

Plus sex and celebrity sells.

Russell Brand

Russell Brand has built up a huge online following on YouTube and X

YouTube/Russell Brand

The potential demise of the world’s most powerful rival content-generators is probably just a happy coincidence.

Brand has not been arrested. Perhaps with headlines now urging women to ‘come forward’ he may be.

The investigative journalists have spent four years reading his therapy notes, private emails and interviewing hundreds of his friends and colleagues. He was clearly treating women horribly; was enabled to do so because he was the “talent” and got away with hurting the feelings of women who were swept into his orbit.

Maybe I am wrong. Maybe someone will emerge with forensic and visual evidence proving that he was indeed a rapist. At that point, I will hold up my hands and say that I was wrong about the unlikeliness of a conviction.

But until that happens I hope he can live by his own catchphrase and “stay free” because the message he is desperately trying to send around the world is designed to free every one of us.

I dearly hope that the complainants get a sense of closure and justice at what might be the start of a very long process.

But it would be naïve to think that entities with untold levels of money and power at stake, wouldn’t resort to dirty tricks to maintain that money and power – and we should all have the right to question that.

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