God, Revolution and Birthday Presents

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Was I off the day the celebs took over? In the last few months it appears that Myleene Klass has become the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Russell Brand has become a political spokesperson and Stephen Fry has become the Philosopher Laureate.  The last one I’m fine with, the man can do little wrong in my view, but why do we look more and more to celebs than to academics or politicians.

I know it’s easy to find fault with our politicians and the political system in general – but ultimately the politicians are our fault because we voted for them, if we want change then it’s easy to make happen. If we want a revolution as Mr Brand promotes then it doesn’t come from vomiting thesauruses all over our tellyboxes  it comes from you and I getting involved and voting.

Myleene Klass is a prime example of someone who has found herself in a position where, because she made Ed Miliband look like a confused Aardman character (not a difficult achievement), she is now being listened to. Today she thought it was a good idea to publish emails she received about a kid’s party and the expected present. It’s being discussed on Radio 2 for the love of sanity. Last time I checked she was a pop star for a couple of albums, a DJ on Classic FM and an occasional Loose Woman not a political commentator.

Brand continues to surface on Question Time, Newsnight and other media outlets professing to be the saviour of society demanding revolution but when pressed cannot formulate what that would actually mean. He is not a bad comedian and should stick to that.

Stephen Fry seems to be the “go to” guy for the media when they want opinion – mostly because he has read books, something which many of the journalists have never done. I am a big fan of Fry and his response to Gay Byrne’s Question about God was brilliant. As he admits himself though these are opinions that many have held for years and can be found in any decent Philosophy 101 textbook. Just because he’s intelligent doesn’t mean he is the only voice on this subject; media outlets appear to have the same handful of famous faces for the carousel of news soundbites.

Instead of the news on TV and on Facebook we tend to see opinion from famous people and not experts. Be it gun control and Piers Morgan, voter apathy and Alex Brooker, Scottish Independence and Bob Geldof or Sting and the rainforest we seem to prefer being informed by a famous face rather than someone who might actually be fully informed on the subject.

Look at the current issues in the West with the increase in Measles: In the US and across Europe we’ve seen a sharp rise in the illness due to parents being idiotic and not vaccinating their children against it. If you did ten minutes research online, you’d discover that the negative press about the vaccine was disproved years ago – dismissed by everyone. No links to autism, aspergers or mental illness. But we listen to uninformed people like asking politicians what they would do with their kids or what a celebrity would do, why not maybe ask your doctor who will have the facts.

There are real experts out there with years of knowledge  and research yet people would rather listen to reality stars and comedians. Everyone has the right to an opinion – I wouldn’t have a blog otherwise – but we need to be careful whose opinion we take in future. Is it better to have fame or facts?

JD

Is it Me? Russell Brand

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I have long stood up for Russell as he received a lot of hate from the press in his early days. mostly due to his over confidence and very public sex life – but I’ve reached the point where he is really pissing me off. The pseudo-intellectual, thesaurus swallowing Brand thinks that he is deserving of a spot on programmes like Newsnight – and even worse they think that he is a good booking. The truth is that he’s wading in well above his pay grade into matters he either doesn’t understand or is bluffing very badly on.

The call to revolution we all heard in his interview with Jeremy Paxman was an embarrassment. The fact he was proud of the fact that he didn’t vote and was encouraging others to follow is the exact opposite of the action required. We saw last month in the Scottish Referendum, that people power only counts if you stand up to be counted. Regardless which side you were on you had to admire the power and passion and percentages that got out to vote that day – we need to learn from that not say “let’s not bother voting”. If every disillusioned UK voter went out and all voted for the Green Party they’d likely be in government – even in the form of a coalition. When the turn out in UK elections ranges from low thirties to mid sixties there are enough people left to make real change in politics. Brand misses that point and stands and shouts and stomps his feet in Trafalgar Square – using verbose language but really not saying anything at all.

Another point is that we shouldn’t listen to the rich revolutionaries like Brand anyway – they can afford to rebel, they can pay their bills. A true revolution in UK politics would come from grassroots as the Yes campaign proved last month. People on the ground not mouth-pieces make the real difference. Getting more “normal” people to stand for elections and reduce these “professional” politicians would be a true revolution in the commons.

Then there is the conspiracy theories about 9/11 he spouts, his deliberate ignoring of facts – on his most recent visit to Newsnight he moaned when Evan Davis tried to show him a chart exploring the history of UK wages. He is able to point at things and say they are wrong but is not willing to discuss the details involved. If you are going to move from being a comedian to a political figure (in any sense of the word) you need to accept that people will question, challenge and disprove your ideas – Brand’s only response to this in interviews is to talk over people and make silly jokes to avoid answering the questions. Ironically for a man who is about to work with Michael Winterbottom on a project called “Emperor’s New Clothes”, he has missed the fact that he is the emperor.

Just because you use big words doesn’t make you more intelligent – ask any secondary school pupil about the teacher’s who do that deliberately to make them feel stupid and see their response. I’ve nothing against a good vocabulary but engagement of ideas needs to be spoken about in a common understood language. Just because you shout loudest and over others doesn’t make you important, it makes you look like a self-indulged narcissist with only themselves in mind. Just because you call out issues in society does not make you a social commentator, it makes you the same as the rest of us. Try doing something about these things – stand for election rather than write a book about it and then ignore all criticism.

He seems to think that he is above criticism in all areas from “Sachsgate” to his books, but perhaps the real revolution we need is against public figures like Brand who use their “celebrity” to spout off about things we don’t think are legitimate sources for these ideas. He has no real credentials and I could name a dozen more educated, intellectual, trustworthy and interesting comics who I would listen to on all these subjects before him. I don’t deny him the right of speech, but I don’t have to listen to it and it doesn’t belong on our national news programmes.

JD

Russell’s Revolution

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This interview with Russell Brand has been doing the rounds over the last couple of days and I thought I’d throw my tuppence worth into the pot.

Paxman is right and Russell is almost right, but as usual he misses the fundamental point. What Brand is saying is true and Paxman agrees that there needs to be something drastic in politics – but not voting and not knowing what the revolution would be like is as bad as the corrupt and self-serving politicians we have in charge of us. We do need something radical to happen as more and more those in power are there under the say-so of a small minority of the public. Maybe we need something really different.

I can’t remember who it was but I heard a suggestion not long ago that Parliament should be filled every four or five years by members of the public – and it should be done much like jury duty where you are chosen at random to do the job. Perhaps if it were a staggered thing so it allowed people to enter an already established group. this way the group would really have to work together, would be a fair representation of the public as it was random and would stop the long-term corrupt nonsense that we have to put up with currently. You can almost guarantee that it wouldn’t have so many people who were as rich, privately educated or connected to business as the current lot so you’d see a much more “people focussed” politics.

Then on the other hand as today’s telegraph points out, perhaps having the main three parties all bunched up in the middle with feet in left, right and middle actually is a good thing because there is no lunatic fringe anymore and most of the policies will be largely accepted by the public. Also if you consider that there are those parties on the left and right of the main three and they are not gaining any real ground – if any MPs at all so even the few who do vote are not choosing a wildly different option.

My main issue with Russell’s point is tat the disaffected voters have the most power out of all the groups as they could easily put anyone forward as a prospective MP and get them elected. In many areas the turnouts are so low that it wouldn’t be difficult to change the system radically this way. To say we shouldn’t vote because we don’t like the politicians is like moaning we’re buying Wholemeal bread instead of a White loaf – there’s a really simple solution to the problem and apathy it ain’t.

JD