education

Even the BBC’s house journal, The Guardian, thinks that Russell Brand’s appearance on Newsnight last Thursday to plug flagrantly his book Revolution was deeply worrying, showed signs of him ‘coasting on the adrenaline of his own Messiah complex’, and that his political beliefs ‘lack coherence’.

I am not sure what the diagnostic qualifications of the newspaper’s reviewer, Hadley Freeman, are, but she also clearly suggests that there are signs that Brand is actually suffering from hypomania, that is, showing symptoms similar to bipolar disorder.

I have shown the tape to highly-qualified assessment psychologist and her more considered – but perhaps just as alarming – verdict was that Brand does show ‘significant signs of a lack of psychological stability.’

That would perhaps explain why, five years ago, Brand, with his sidekick Jonathan Ross, took such obvious delight on BBC Radio 2 in tormenting the gentle Fawlty Towers actor Andrew Sachs about Brand’s sexual antics with his grand-daughter. His ability to understand the suffering of others is rather limited.

So what does it say about the BBC that they decided to go ahead with this latest Newsnight exchange?

In fact, this was the second Newsnight interview with Brand – last year, much to his clear discomfort and disdain, Jeremy Paxman was also forced by the programme’s editor, ex-Guardian newsman Ian Katz, into going through the motions of treating him seriously. Ms Freeman observes that the appearance led directly to the ignition of Brand’s political ambitions, such as they are.

No doubt Katz and his right-on stable of colleagues at Newsnight would argue that Thursday’s interview warranted 17 minutes of the programme’s airtime because he has a huge following on Twitter for his so-called True News website and has now written his book, in which he argues for a grass-roots overthrow of most governments as well as the smashing of capitalism and every ‘corporation’ that makes profits.

Where are the BBC Trustees when you most need them? In fact, what this ‘interview’ actually demonstrated was not only the fawning incompetence of new Newsnight presenter Evan Davis but also that the BBC – in its pursuit of the very same right-on causes that Brand so ineptly and weirdly espouses – has forfeited any right to be taken seriously as a news organisation.

You can see the wretched recording for the next 30 days on the BBC iplayer, and I have also had a transcript made so that should you wish, you can see in word-by-word detail just how low the BBC has sunk.

A major point here is that Brand totally dominated this exchange. To do so, he used every trick in the book including pontificating, grandstanding, brief sulking, not answering questions, gurning, menacing anger, changing the subject, hyperbole, and fake familiarity (he touched Davis’s knee no less than 20 times).

His approach reminded me of that other highly-damaged individual, the late Kenneth Williams, on Just a Minute. Brand, in effect, let forth a deluge of excited verbal incontinence and Davis was totally submerged.

But let’s also be clear. Part of the reason for Brand’s dominance was that Davis allowed it and then was unable to contain it. He deliberately gave him oodles of space to insult the BBC, to explain at length his naive belief that ‘direct action’ instead of voting would lead inexorably to the overthrow of nasty capitalists, as well as to expound his conspiracy theories about George W Bush and his family being responsible for 9/11.

As a yardstick of comparison, I have been monitoring appearances by Nigel Farage on the Today programme for almost 15 years, and never once in that time has the corporation given him more than the briefest of slivers of airtime to explain what his political views actually are.

In an equivalent appearance a few days before the European elections in May, Jeremy Paxman forcefully accused Farage of incompetence, cowardice, venality and racism, but asked not a single question about withdrawal from the EU.

Of course Farage is a grown up in the interview stakes and can more than look after himself. But the issue here is this: that Katz and his production team must have briefed Davis to give Brand the opportunity to spout at length the anti-capitalist rhetoric which they also support.

With Farage, the production mission was the opposite; in effect, to rubbish him to the maximum extent and give him no chance at all to talk about his views about the EU.

So to sum up, the Brand interview was a Newsnight exercise in which they deliberately wanted him to have the space to expound his views. Yes, Davis made a couple of rather feeble efforts to suggest that his views about big corporations were not fully coherent, but his manner and tone added up to a virtual endorsement.

In other words, the editorial intent was to give him 17 minutes of airtime to plug his book and his views. Even the Brand cheerleader Guardian has seen it was a totally over-the top exposure for a deeply damaged and ineffectual man who of course has the right to say what he wants – but not, surely,  through the medium of the BBC’s supposed television news and current affairs flagship programme. That the production team thought this was legitimate journalism is a disgrace.

32 COMMENTS

  1. Although, realistically, RB’s career path will be:

    Editor of New Statesman
    Head of Programming BBC
    Lord Brand
    UK Envoy to Africa
    Overdose

  2. Nothing wrong with the BBC – and please stop criticising them.

    They are perfect in every way… or will be when the License Fee is revoked.

    🙂

  3. …. I dont give a t_ss. It is my job to educate the masses on the benefits of left wingery.

    Best regards,

    I. Katz.

    • Well, I. Katz is doing a pretty rubbish job, then, even according to his own job description, because “the masses” aren’t watching “Newsnight”; nor is anyone else.

    • Well, I. Katz is doing a pretty rubbish job, then, even according to his own job description, because “the masses” aren’t watching “Newsnight”; nor is anyone else.

  4. That British political journalism offers any time and space to this man is deeply disturbing – he is an amalgam of David Icke, Marcus Brigstocke and Julian Clary

    Similarly, the BBC has, worryingly, lost all semblance of rational judgment. They are treating us like teenage fools.

  5. The BBC have never grown out of that puerile state of believing anything “edgy” (by their definition) is good. A complete failure to appreciate real “edgy” and to be locked permanently into the aspirations of 1968 predicates the sort of dreary repetition of their not-so-subliminal and archaic agitprop. The BBC needs drastic reform but won’t get it by hiring and promoting clones.

  6. Can’t comment. I stopped watching Newsnight even before Evan Davis. The influence of left wing Katz has destroyed credibility.

    • Yes, Newsnight used to be a great programme, required viewing even…….but when the BBC really started going to pot in the early-00s, it went downhill, and went downhill even quicker when Brown became PM……..now it is just a joke.

  7. The little prick was given the same leeway on Start the Week this morning. I turned it off. Which was a shame as one or two of the other guests had something vaguely interesting to talk about – the Peasants Revolt actually. (Which event as explained by the co-guest seem to explode the egregious Brands cod philosophy).
    Or perhaps we are all missing something here. Perhaps the BBC has given Brand all this airtime to hang himself……naaaaahhhh, they ain’t that smart.

  8. Surely even the BBC can see that the man is a half-wit, his brain has been addled by years of drugs and alcohol addiction.

  9. I suppose our Grandchildren’s description of Russell Brand would be a D@ckhead. Giving him BBC air time shows the immaturity of those producing this programme which is long past its sell by date, a waste of License money. Another waste of space is school boy Owen Jones, I turn off whenever a Labour or Left wing socialist appears.

  10. When will the BBC learn?
    Shouty middle aged man who uses baby talk and has a dodgy sexual history. That remind you of anyone?.
    Expect Brand to start running marathons some time soon

  11. Newsnight is something that would only be available on the uber liberal MSNBC in the US. The fact we have to pay for it through license fee is a disgrace.

  12. What do you expect from Evan Davies.Anyone sporting A Prince leopold, look it up on google,Is not fit to present main Channel TV.

  13. I watched Newsnight for years. Years!
    I listened to the BBC’s radio 4 morning show for years too.

    Then, one day, I had had enough of the dodgy interviewing techniques and the ‘making the news’ agendas. In one case it was Gordon Brown getting a surprisingly ill-deserved pummeling for something or other, that for once wasn’t his fault.
    The next was Cameron. IIRC the BBC were heavily pushing Labour’s let’s attack Tories about a remark about Auschwitz. It was the same kind of bollox that both tried last week over the disabled workers, minimum wage.

    I haven’t watched, or listened, to either in about 5 years..

    And sleep sounder as a result.

  14. It was an advertising junket interview for a product- in this case his “book”. As such, it breaches the BBC charter. They have no right to advertise commercial products. Even the BBC pimping its own products is arguably a breach, let alone empowering Brand’s Peter Principle fuelled meteor track.

  15. I have posted a comment on the Telegraph board regarding Brand’s book. Although I have not read it and am unlikely to do so, from the published extracts I recognise the style as emanating from a computer program designed to take the micky out of poseurs and bien pensants that first circulated on the internet in the early 90s. It was originally a joke, but some people have taken the joke to hilarious lengths such as a scientific version Sci-gen. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SCIgen

    Brand appears to have used a version of the Postmodernist generator http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Postmodernism_Generator
    Who’s having a laff now?

    http://thepaperthinhymn.com/2010/01/26/how-to-speak-post-modernism/

  16. What are you complaining about? Surely the fact that the British left has ceded its leadership to the village idiot is great news for conservatives. Isn’t it?

  17. Newsnight has become a joke under Katz. To be fair however, you could argue that Evans’ gave Brand just the right amount of rope.

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