Russell Brand vs. Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight 2013 [Full Interview]
Jeremy Paxman: Russell Brand, who are you to edit a political magazine?
Russell Brand: Well, I suppose like a person who’s been politely asked by an attractive woman. I don’t know what the typical criteria is. I don’t know many people that edit political magazines. Boris [London mayor Boris Johnson], he used to do one, didn’t he? So I’m a kind of a person with crazy hair, quite a good sense of humor, don’t know much about politics – I’m ideal.
Russell Brand: Yeah, no, I don’t vote.
Jeremy Paxman: Well, how do you have any authority to talk about politics then?
Russell Brand: Well, I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere for alternatives that might be of service to humanity. Alternate means, alternate political systems.
Jeremy Paxman: They being?
Russell Brand: Well, I’ve not invented it yet, Jeremy. I had to do a magazine last week. I’ve had a lot on me plate. But I say, but here’s the thing you shouldn’t do. Shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on the people with the power, not people like doing a magazine for a novelty.
Jeremy Paxman: How do you imagine that people get power?
Russell Brand: Well, I imagine there are sort of hierarchical systems that have been preserved through generations –
Jeremy Paxman: They get power by being voted in, that’s how they get power.
Russell Brand: Well, you say that, Jeremy, but –
Jeremy Paxman: You can’t even be asked to vote.
Russell Brand: It’s quite narrow, quite a narrow prescriptive parameter that changes within the –
Jeremy Paxman: In a democracy, that’s how it works.
Russell Brand: Well, I don’t think it’s working very well, Jeremy, given that the planet is being destroyed, given that there is economic disparity of a huge degree. What are you saying, there’s no alternative? There’s no alternative? Just this system?
Jeremy Paxman: No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying if you can’t be asked to vote, why should we be asked to listen to your political point of view?
Russell Brand: You don’t have to listen to my political point of view. But it’s not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of the political class that has been going on for generations now and which has now reached fever pitch where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned, despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system, so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system and that’s not something I’m offering up.
Jeremy Paxman: Well, why don’t you change it then?
Russell Brand: Well, I’m trying to.
Jeremy Paxman: Well, why don’t you start by voting?
Russell Brand: (laughs) I don’t think it works. People have voted already and that’s what’s created the current paradigm.
Jeremy Paxman: When did you last vote?
Russell Brand: Never.
Jeremy Paxman: You’ve never, ever voted?
Russell Brand: No. Do you think that’s really bad?
Jeremy Paxman: So you struck an attitude, what, before the age of 18?
Russell Brand: Well, I was busy being a drug addict at that point, because I come from the kind of social conditions that are exacerbated by an indifferent system that really just administrates for large corporations and ignores the population that it was voted in to serve.
Jeremy Paxman: You’re blaming the political class for the fact that you had a drug problem?
Russell Brand: No, no, no. I’m saying I was part of a social and economic class that is underserved by the current political system and drug addiction is one of the problems it creates. When you have huge underserved, impoverished populations, people get drug problems, and also don’t feel like they want to engage with the current political system because they see that it doesn’t work for them. They see that it makes no difference. They see that they’re not served. I say that the apathy –
Jeremy Paxman: Well of course it doesn’t work for them if they didn’t bother to vote.
Russell Brand: Jeremy, my darling, I’m not saying – the apathy doesn’t come from us, the people. The apathy comes from the politicians. They are apathetic to our needs. They’re only interested in servicing the needs of corporations. Look at where – ain’t the Tories going to court, taking the EU to court, it’s because they’re trying to curtail bank bonuses? Is that what’s happening at the moment in our country? Isn’t it?
Jeremy Paxman: Yeah, there is –
Russell Brand: So what am I gonna – tune in for that?!
Jeremy Paxman: You don’t believe in democracy. You want a revolution don’t you?
Russell Brand: The planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we’re exploiting poor people all over the world, and the genuine legitimate problems of the people are not being addressed by our political class.
Jeremy Paxman: All of those things may be true.
Russell Brand: They are true.
Jeremy Paxman: But you took – I wouldn’t argue with you about many of them.
Russell Brand: Well, how come I feel so cross with you? It can’t just be because of that beard, it’s gorgeous.
Jeremy Paxman: It’s possibly because –
Russell Brand: And if the Daily Mail don’t want it, I do! I’m against them. Grow it longer. Tangle it into your armpit hair.
Jeremy Paxman: You are a very trivial man.
Russell Brand: What do you think I am, trivial?
Jeremy Paxman: Yes.
Russell Brand: A minute ago you were having a go at me because I wanted a revolution; now I’m trivial. I’m bouncing about all over the place.
Jeremy Paxman: I’m not having a go at you because you want a revolution. Many people want a revolution. But I’m asking you what it would be like.
Russell Brand: Well, I think what it won’t be like is a huge disparity between rich and poor where 300 Americans have the same amount of wealth as the 85 million poorest Americans, where there is an exploited and underserved underclass that are being continually ignored, where welfare is slashed while Cameron and Osborne go to court to defend the rights of bankers to continue receiving their bonuses. That’s all I’m saying.
Jeremy Paxman: What’s the scheme, that’s all I’m asking. What’s the scheme? You talk vaguely about revolution – what is it?
Russell Brand: I think a socialist egalitarian system based on the massive redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations, and massive responsibility for energy companies and any companies exploiting the environment. I think they should be ta– I think the very concept of profit should be hugely reduced. David Cameron says profit isn’t a dirty word; I say profit is a filthy word. Because wherever there is profit there is also deficit. And this system currently doesn’t address these ideas. And so why would anyone vote for it? Why would anyone be interested in it?
Jeremy Paxman: Who would levy these taxes?
Russell Brand: I think we do need to, like there needs to be a centralized administrative system, but built on –
Jeremy Paxman: Government. What used to be a government?
Russell Brand: Yes, well maybe call it something else. Call them like the adminbots so they don’t get ahead of themselves.
Jeremy Paxman: Right. And how would they be chosen?
Russell Brand: Jeremy, don’t ask me to sit here in an interview with you in a bloody hotel room and devise a global utopian system. I’m merely pointing out that the current –
Jeremy Paxman: You’re calling for revolution!
Russell Brand: Yeah! Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m calling for change. I’m calling for genuine alternatives.
Jeremy Paxman: There are many people who would agree with you.
Russell Brand: Good!
Jeremy Paxman: The current system is not engaging with all sorts of problems, yes. And they feel apathetic, really apathetic.
Russell Brand: Yes.
Jeremy Paxman: But if they were to take you seriously, and not to vote –
Russell Brand: Yeah, they shouldn’t vote, they should – that’s one thing they should do, don’t bother voting. Because when it reaches – there’s a point – see these little valves, these sort of like little cozy little valves of recycling and Prius and like you know turn up somewhere, it stops us reaching the point where you think, I see, this is enough now. Stop voting. Stop pretending. Wake up. Be in reality now. Time to be in reality now. Why vote? We know it’s not going to make any difference. We know that already.
Jeremy Paxman: It does make a difference.
Russell Brand: So like I have more impact at West Ham United cheering them on, and they lost to City, unnecessarily, sadly.
Jeremy Paxman: Well now you’re being facetious.
Russell Brand: Well, facetiousness has as much value as seriousness. I think you’re making the mistake of mistaking seriousness for the –
Jeremy Paxman: You’re not going to solve world problems by facetiousness.
Russell Brand: We’re not going to solve them with the current system! At least facetiousness is funny.
Jeremy Paxman: Sometimes.
Russell Brand: Yeah, yeah, sometimes, Jeremy. So, listen. So let’s approach this optimistically. You’ve spent your whole career berating and haranguing politicians, and then when someone like me, a comedian, goes, “Yeah, they’re all worthless, what’s the point in engaging with any of them?,” you seem to have a go at me because I’m not poor anymore. Well, I’m sorry –
Jeremy Paxman: I’m not having a go at you about that. I’m just asking you why we should take you seriously when you’re so unspecific about what –
Russell Brand: You don’t have to take – well, firstly, I don’t mind if you take me seriously. I’m here just to draw attention to a few ideas. I just want to have a little bit of a laugh. I’m saying there are people with alternative ideas that are far better qualified than I am and far better qualified, more importantly, than the people that are currently doing that job, because they’re not attempting to solve these problems. They’re not. They’re attempting to placate the population. Their measures that are currently being taken around climate change are indifferent, will not solve the, will not solve the problem.
Jeremy Paxman: Well, you don’t think that it’s possible as human beings they’re simply overwhelmed by the scale of the problem?
Russell Brand: Not really, well possibly it might be that, I mean, but that’s all just semantics really, whether they’re overwhelmed by it or tacitly maintaining it because of habitual – I mean like, mate, this is what I noticed when I was in the Houses of Parliament: it’s decorated exactly the same as Eton, it’s decorated exactly the same as Oxford, so a certain type of people goes in there and thinks, “Oh, this makes me nervous,” and another type of people go in there and go, “This is how it should be.” And I think that’s got to change now. We can no longer have erroneous, duplicitous systems held in place unless it’s for the serv– only systems that serve the planet and serve the population of the planet can be allowed to survive. Not ones that serve elites, be they political or corporate elites, and this is what’s currently happening.
Jeremy Paxman: You don’t really believe that.
Russell Brand: Oh, I completely believe it. Don’t look at me all weary like you’re at a fireside with your pipe and your beard. (laughs)
Jeremy Paxman: Ed – I mean Ed Miliband wasn’t elite.
Russell Brand: Well, he went to the same primary school as Boris, though, didn’t he?
Jeremy Paxman: He did, but he then went to a comprehensive school in north London.
Russell Brand: Well, that’s very good. That’s all well and good. But what I’m saying is that within the existing paradigm the change is not dramatic enough, not radical enough. So you can well understand public disturbances and public dissatisfaction when there are not genuine changes and genuine alternatives being offered. I say when there is a genuine alternative, a genuine option, then vote for that. But until then, pfffft, don’t bother. Why pretend? Why be complicit in this ridiculous illusion?
Jeremy Paxman: Because by the time somebody comes along you might think it worth voting for, it may be too late.
Russell Brand: I don’t think so because the time is now, this movement is already occurring, it’s happening everywhere; we’re in a time where communication is instantaneous and there are communities all over the world. The Occupy movement made a difference in – even if only in that it introduced to the popular public lexicon the idea of the 1% versus the 99%. People for the first time in a generation are aware of massive corporate and economic exploitation. These things are not nonsense and these subjects are not being addressed. No one is doing anything about tax havens. No one is doing anything about the political affiliations and financial affiliations of the Conservative Party. So until people start addressing things that are actually real, why wouldn’t I be facetious? Why would I take it seriously? Why would I encourage a constituency of young people that are absolutely indifferent, to vote? Why would we? Aren’t you bored? Aren’t you more bored than anyone? Ain’t you been talking to them year after year, listening to their lies, their nonsense? Then it’s this one gets in, then it’s that one get in, but the problem continues? Why are we going to continue to contribute to this facade?
Jeremy Paxman: I’m surprised you can be facetious when you’re that angry about it.
Russell Brand: Yeah, I’m angry. I am angry. Because for me it’s real. Because for me it’s not just some peripheral thing that I turn up once in a while to a church fete for. For me, this is what I come from, this is what I care about.
Jeremy Paxman: Do you see any hope?
Russell Brand: Remember that – yeah, totally, there’s gonna be a revolution, it’s totally going to happen. I ain’t got even a flicker of doubt. This is the end. This is time to wake up. I remember I seen you in that program where you look at your ancestors and you saw the way your grandmother would have to brass herself or had to have got fucked over by the aristocrats who ran her gaff, and you cried because you knew that it was unfair and unjust. And that was, what was that, a century ago? That’s happening to people now. I just come from a woman who’s being treated like that. I just been talking to a woman today who’s being treated like that. So if we can engage that feeling, instead of some moment of lachrymose sentimentality trotted out on the TV for people to pore over emotional porn, if we can engage that feeling and change things, why wouldn’t we? Why is that naive? Why is that not my right because I’m an actor? I mean, I, I’ve taken the right. I don’t need the right from you. I don’t need the right
from anybody. I’m taking it.