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Press: Metropolitan Left seeks atonement after Russell Brand allegations

22 September 2023


ONE very minor thing to emerge from the Russell Brand fallout was the vindication of the decision of the Bishop of London, the Rt Revd Sarah Mullally, not to ordain Calvin Robinson, who went on to be ordained deacon in the Free Church of England and continue as a GB News presenter (News, 27 May 2022).

The Sunday Times, The Times, and Channel 4’s Dispatches reported this week that Mr Brand, a comedian and actor, had allegedly committed rape and sexual assaults between 2006 and 2013; Mr Brand denies all the allegations.

Mr Robinson’s reaction to the reports was: “Innocent until proven guilty. . . RB has a bigger audience than Channel 4 & The Times combined. Independent media is a threat to the Establishment.”

This does beg the question who, then, the mainstream media are; or what, indeed, is independent about YouTube, a channel owned by a giant advertising company (Google has 175,000 employees). Brand was estimated to make about £1 million a year from YouTube; not even editors on the supposedly mainstream media make that sort of money, certainly not columnists — and only the very best astrologers do.

There were two reaction pieces worth noting. One was Sam Leith, on the Spectator website, on the immediate defence produced by Mr Brand’s allies: “Social media filled with people wondering aloud why these women hadn’t complained back then, parroting the ‘innocent until proven guilty’ line as if criminal conviction was now the minimum standard of verification for a newspaper investigation. . .

“What’s more, the charge was led by a catalogue of high-profile or relatively high-profile media or social media professionals. Elon Musk and Jordan Peterson; Roger Stone, Alex Jones and Tucker Carlson; GB News’s Calvin Robinson (‘What is their motivation?’) and Bev Turner (‘This proves you are winning. You’re a hero.’); George Galloway (‘I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I smell a giant RAT’); even the Telegraph’s Allison Pearson, before the reports were aired or published, mused that ‘my first reaction is to wonder why They [sic] are trying to silence the person’. Laurence Fox, grotesquely, quoted Pastor Niemoller.”

THE second was Marina Hyde, writing in The Guardian. She looked back at the last big scandal around Mr Brand, in 2009, when he and Jonathan Ross, as part of their Radio 2 show, called up an ageing actor, Andrew Sachs, to boast that Mr Brand had had a sexual relationship with Mr Sachs’s granddaughter, Georgina Baillie — and then broadcast the tape.

“When the Brand expose broke last weekend, I found myself transported back to that time . . . I had this shaming suspicion I had treated it as a sort of media story — and so it proved,” Hyde wrote. “My mentions of it say Ross and Brand were total scumbags, but they chiefly ridicule the fact that people complained to Ofcom because of the Mail titles’ coverage, despite never having heard the original broadcast.

“In fact, Baillie sank into addiction and out of the public eye (barring the fact that the Brand story will probably be all anyone sees when they Google her for the rest of her life). . . Brand made millions with a standup tour in which he mined the incident and further humiliated her, while — among other desolations — her grandfather didn’t speak to her for eight years. She revealed [in a recent interview] that Brand had got in touch apologetically a few years ago, and paid for her stint in rehab. Georgina’s reflections were so without fury and blame as to be utterly heartbreaking. ‘For about 10 years after Sachsgate it was very hard,’ she said, ‘because I didn’t know whether I was in the wrong, so when he apologised it was a huge weight lifted off me.’ That quote floored me. She spent a decade thinking it was all her fault. That’s ‘the culture’ right there.”

WHAT makes Hyde’s column more remarkable is that she also points out that, at that time, Mr Brand’s public defenders were on the Left. Indeed, he went on to guest-edit an issue of The New Statesman, to write quite a lot for The Guardian, to lecture the paper’s morning editorial conference, and to do a Guardian-sponsored debate with one of the paper’s columnists, Owen Jones. Without in any way wishing to exonerate Mr Brand’s defenders on the Right, they do have the excuse that no one would expect better of them. There is nothing to learn from the laughter of hyenas.

But the past fawning on Mr Brand by the metropolitan Left explains a great deal about the backlash represented by his defenders. There was an enormous amount of snobbery behind it. There was the journalist’s conviction that the only real people in the world were those in our trade, and everyone else was put there to amuse us: the only people more despised than the writers of the right-wing tabloids were their readers. There was the unbridled enthusiasm for a free market in sex, which neither the State nor society had any right to regulate, and the assumption that Yes must always mean Yes. A strand on the Left thinks that poverty is virtuous (at least in other people), but that to be unfashionable is morally disgusting. This is related to a faith in progress. Quite apart from other considerations, that attitude is electoral suicide. The unfashionable must always be more numerous than the fashionable — that’s the point of fashion. And, in elections, numbers count.

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