The following article, written by Mike Small, was first posted on bella caledonia. Using Russell Grant as an example, this article examines the the gallop to Right by many high profile men, particularly online. In the days of the Arab Spring, the Indignados in Spain and Greece, and the 2014 democratic revolution in Scotland many commentators originally moved to a more Left wing politics. Following a Right wing counter-offensive, many of these figures have shifted to the Right, some adopting Red/Brown politics, whilst other offer mealy-mouthed apologetics.
OFF BRAND: THE PROBLEM WITH EGO, CHARISMA AND CONSPIRACY
For some time now the charismatic and hyper-articulate Russel Brand, who for a long time seemed to speak to and from the dispossessed and marginalised has been shifting ever rightwards. It’s a phenomenon of paranoia that can be seen by high-profile men online for whom hidden forces are at play to undermine them. All these men talk of dark forces and conspiracy against them: Andrew Tait (the Matrix); Craig Murray (sex-negative feminism); Neil Oliver (the Silent War), Jordan Peterson (woke moralists), Douglas Murray (Cultural Marxism).
The debate is on about the extent to which these people are grifters or ideologues flirting with the alt-right algorithm. But some of these people matter and what their success reveals matters too. Brand operates his YouTube channel, publishing daily videos to six million followers. If Tait and Peterson are at the intersection of toxic masculinity/fragility and hyper-misogyny, Brand operates at the point where contaminated hippiedom meets anti-lockdown paranoia and the dubious libertarianism propagated by the far-right.
I have some real problems with George Monbiot’s takes on – particularly food and energy – but on Brand he is spot on, today arguing that “conspiracism is fascism’s fuel”.
Here he monitors Brand’s descent (‘I once admired Russell Brand. But his grim trajectory shows us where politics is heading‘):
“In 2014, he was bursting with new ideas and creative ways of presenting them. Today, he wastes his talent on tired and discredited tales: endless iterations of the alleged evils of the World Economic Forum founder, Klaus Schwab, the Great Reset, Bill Gates, Nancy Pelosi, the former US chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, Covid vaccines, medical data, the World Health Organization, Pfizer, smart cities and “the globalist masterplan. His videos appear to promote “natural immunity” ahead of vaccines, and for a while pushed ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine as treatments for Covid (they aren’t).”
Here he rails against the organic movement, which he claims is a gigantic scam …
As Monbiot explains: “Brand is repeating claims first made by far-right conspiracists, who have piled into this issue, claiming that the nitrate crisis is a pretext to seize land from farmers, in whom, they claim, true Dutch identity is vested, and hand it to asylum seekers and other immigrants. It’s a version of the “great replacement” conspiracy theory, itself a reworking of the Nazis’ blood and soil tropes about protecting the “rooted” and “authentic” people – in whom “racial purity” and “true” German identity was vested – from “cosmopolitan” and “alien” forces (ie Jews). Brand may not realise this, as the language has changed a little – “cosmopolitans” have become “globalists”, “aliens” have become “immigrants” – but the themes have not.”
Some of this is funny and ridiculous and harmless – some of the UFO chat is hilarious – as is the Bill Gates stuff: “Some of his many rants about Bill Gates are illustrated with an image of the man wearing a multicoloured lapel badge, helpfully circled in red. This speaks to another widespread conspiracy theory: those who wear this badge are members of a secret organisation conspiring to control the world (so secret they stick it on their jackets).”
But we know from Nancy Pelosi’s husband being attacked with a hammer, or the grotesque debacle of Alex Jones trolling the victims of the Sandy Hook massacre – and the general atmosphere cultivated by hate-blogs and conspiracism that this isn’t just ‘funny and ridiculous’.
Nor can you suggest that the current surveillance state isn’t rich and fertile ground for paranoia and the unprecedented conditions of war and virus adds to the mix with the background of political failure.
Now, instead of these groups fading with Covid into the background, they are so virulent they just get transferred to other crises.
There are other culprits at play other than just the narcissist grifters outlined above. The failure of western centrist political leaders to provide coherent radical alternatives to the populist right’s simplism is one, as is the demise of the mainstream media in public trust and standing.
Beneath much of the fear and paranoia is an idea that has come to take hold – that of the unity (or collapse) of any meaning between right and left, as portrayed here by Glenn Greenwald:
This in itself is a central myth that needs challenged over and over in an attempt to re-instate rational discourse intro the public realm.
A very unlikely story: Qanon movement – Paul Demarty, Weekly Worker
Fake news and conspiracy myths – Media Lens and Thomas Klikauer