As an actor and comedian, Russell Brand once made his “brand” as an anti-establishment progressive, concerned about such diverse political issues as wealth inequality, corporatism, media bias, and climate change.
In 2009, Brand was part of a celebrity letter in support of The Hoping Foundation. The following month of that same year, Brand and other celebrities also participated in a letter addressed to the New York Times defending leaders of the Bahai faith who were on trial in Iran.
In 2013, Brand appeared in a video in support of Chelsea Manning, an American soldier, a trans woman, who had been court-martialed under the Espionage Act, for exposing classified military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks.
His political activism also included support for Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, who in 2013, exposed secret documents pertaining to illegal surveillance of New Zealand’s citizens, documents that he gave to several journalists at the time, including Glenn Greenwald, Barton Gellman, and Laura Poitras.
These days, Brand seems to have abandoned the ethics that once drove his passion for progressive politics. He no longer seems to be concerned about the pursuit of truth. Rather, he seems to have acquired a taste for misinformation, new age quackery, and conspiratorial thinking.
Recently, Brand made an appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO late night show, Real Time, where he allegedly “torched” ( The Blaze ), “obliterated” (Mediaite ), or in general – insert media here – destroyed MSNBC as “propaganda nut-crackery,” where he attempted and failed to prove that all of cable media is nothing more than propaganda. It was an appearance where he himself came off as disingenuous in his defense of Fox News.
Libertarian left and right media outlets fawned over Brand’s performance with MSNBC Republican analyst, John Heilemann. Conservatives on social media were ecstatic that Brand had trashed mainstream media. To them, it was confirmation that MSNBC is nothing more than fake news, and their biased agenda, unlike Fox News, Newsmax, and similar outlets and networks that supposedly have no bias and no agenda other than truth and objectivity.
Russell Brand on Friday eviscerated MSNBC as a “propaganda” network with no room to moralize about Fox News in a relentless and fiery takedown directed right at MSNBC analyst John Heilemann…
Brand took exception to singling out Fox News and dismissed all of cable news as corporate “mouthpieces” and propagandists, laughing off the idea that some are less biased or have more integrity than others.
“It’s disingenuous to claim that the biases that are exhibited on Fox News are any different from the biases exhibited on MSNBC. It’s difficult to suggest that these corporations exist as anything other than mouthpieces for their affiliate owners in Black Rock and Vanguard… We have to take responsibility for our own perspective. I’ve been on that MSNBC, mate, it was nut-crackery over there.”
Brand’s critique of corporate media is a legitimate one, but only in the fact that they are owned by multi-million dollar corporations. However, to say that the biases exhibited on Fox News and MSNBC are the same – this is disingenuous. A bias is defined as “prejudice in favor of or against one thing, person, or group compared with another, usually in a way considered to be unfair.”
Fox News and it’s defenders have been using the “mainstream media is biased” argument for decades. They’re the only network that is without a biased agenda, the lone wolf among a vast liberal media that is the brave truth teller that bucks the “mainstream narrative.” That mainstream narrative being that all they do is lie for the elitist liberal establishment.
Brand was wrong when he said their biases were the same. The biases “exhibited at Fox News have always been heavily in favor of the Republican party and its ideology of conservatism, which supposedly espouses values such as limited government, individual freedom, The rule of law, fiscal responsibility, and human dignity. But for a political party that supposedly champions freedom and liberty, all one has to do is look to their state, local, and federal policies, to see that it’s all a sham. Likewise, all one has to do is watch Fox News and other right-wing media, where they pay lip service to these values, while defending the party that trashes every one of these values every single day, as they complain that it’s the opposite party that does it.
The biases at the two networks are not the same. The notion that MSNBC is liberal-progressive media is absurd, considering that for the last two elections the network has had an anti-progressive, anti-Bernie Sanders bias.
As for propaganda, to say that MSNBC is anywhere near a propaganda network as Fox News and all of right-wing media – is also disingenuous. Brand would have done better to mention that MSNBC towed the pro-war narrative during the invasion of Iraq, and certain pundits who spoke against the invasion were fired. The “manufacturing consent” argument is one the few instances of legitimate criticism of actual propaganda that all news networks were guilty of at the time.
As for the claim that MSNBC is “propagandist nut-crackery,” is also disingenuous. MSNBC is not a propaganda network who’s anchors and pundits spend all of their airtime railing against Woke-ism, immigrants and homelessness as the problems of all of America’s ills, and making up conspiracy theories about stolen elections, and COVID conspiracies involving Dr. Fauci. If MSNBC is guilty of anything, it is its near-constant, boring coverage of everything Trump says and does.
What Fox News and its affiliate media does on a daily basis, is deliberately misleading, and lying to their viewers on air, knowing that they’re lying. All truth be damned. The Fox News coverage of the “stolen election” and the Capitol riot that ensued from the conspiracy nonsense they promoted, is a perfect example.
MSNBC, to my knowledge, did not promote conspiracies of a stolen election. But wait a minute, you might say. What about Russia Gate? Wasn’t that a conspiracy theory that was never proven?
My answer to that would be: Russia Gate was a legitimate investigation that found that Russia did in fact attempt to influence the 2016 election in favor of one candidate, Donald Trump. The fact that the Mueller investigation did not find that Trump personally colluded with Russia, did not make it a conspiracy. And the fact that certain news outlets – CNN, MSNBC – were required to report on the investigation, did not make them conspirators who willingly, for profit, deceived their viewers simply because they didn’t like Trump.
A similar bipartisan Congressional investigation concluded in 2020 that Russia’s interference in the election was not a hoax. This has never been admitted by the Trump defenders on the left and right as anything other than fake news.
Brand described a former MSNBC appearance where they allegedly treated him badly, where “they didn’t understand the basic tenets of journalism” as opposed to someone at Fox News like Tucker Carlson who does. Where “no one was willing to stick up for genuine American heroes like Edward Snowden, and no one was willing to talk about Julian Assange” – who provided Russia with stolen emails – “and what he suffered trying to bring real journalism to the American people and I think to sit within the castle of MSNBC throwing rocks at Fox News is ludicrous. Make MSNBC better. Make MSNBC great again!”
From The Blaze:
A perturbed Heilemann lashed out, “You actually don’t know anything about any of these organizations you’re talking about. You’ve been on MSNBC once. Big f***ing deal. You don’t have a single actual fact.”
Heilemann challenged Brand to provide one example of an MSNBC correspondent or anchor saying something they knew was false on TV.
Brand gladly accepted the challenge.
“The ludicrous, outrageous criticisms of Joe Rogan around Ivermectin,” Brand retorted. “Deliberately referring to this as a horse medicine when they know this is an effective medicine.”
Heilemann was right. Brand didn’t have a single actual fact. Ivermectin was never effective at treating the symptoms of COVID, and CNN’s criticisms of Rogan making such a claim, and referring to it as a “horse dewormer,” were valid criticisms. Rogan later complained on his podcast with CNN’s medical analyst, Sanjay Gupta, that they had the audacity to criticize him, as if he were some brave defender of truth.
From The Hill:
“It’s a lie on a news network. It’s a lie that they’re conscious of. It’s not a mistake. They’re unfavorably framing it as a veterinarian medicine. Do you think that’s a problem that your news network lies? Dude, they lied and said I was taking a horse dewormer.”
When talking to another guest on his show: “Bro, do I have to sue CNN? They’re making shit up. They keep saying I’m taking horse dewormer. I literally got it from a doctor. It’s an American company. They won the Nobel prize in 2015 for use in human being and CNN is saying I’m taking horse dewormer. They must know that’s a lie.”
Apparently, only people like Rogan are allowed to “make shit up.” Not that CNN was being dishonest. Rogan was taking a form of horse dewormer that had been approved for “parasites” in humans. It does not contain anti-viral properties. Therefore, calling it a horse dewormer was not dishonesty. Many of his online defenders were purchasing their Ivermectin from feed/and pet care stores.
The “ludicrous and outrageous criticisms of Joe Rogan around Ivermectin,” were only ludicrous and outrageous to Rogan defenders, conspiracy nuts and anti-vaxxers who were desperate to find any other alternative narrative to the vaccines, and Rogan willingly provided them with that alternative narrative. And for Brand to embrace the dishonesty of such a claim, only makes him look foolish.
From Fair/ Defenses Of Rogan Aren’t About Free Speech; They’re Right-Wing Solidarity:
For right-wing and libertarian media, Joe Rogan, the host of the Joe Rogan Experience podcast, has become a symbol of resistance to censorship ( New York Post, 2/2/22; Fox News, 2/2/22; Reason, 2/2/22; The Hill, 2/1/22 )…
…Contrary to his media defenders, Rogan has not been threatened with censorship. His free speech rights were never in any kind of jeopardy. Young has not crossed into some kind of pro-deep state censorship mode; rather, he left Spotify because he disagreed with it’s policies, taking his business elsewhere because he has the right to do that…
…These pieces, instead, are a political defense of COVID-19 misinformation and bro jock racism. Robust public health measures to control the pandemic are seen by the right as left-wing government overreach, and therefore someone who criticizes them, however inaccurately, is on their team…
What makes Brand look foolish and disingenuous, is a willingness to repeat right-wing narratives around Ivermectin and vaccines during the pandemic, and to dismiss Russian interference in the 2016 election as a conspiracy. When the Mueller Report was released and it’s contents revealed, the Trump defending media, and Trump himself, declared that he had been vindicated because the report failed to find any evidence of personal collusion between Trump and Russia.
From El-American Newsroom.com/09/29/21/Russell Brand Admits Trump Was Right, Russia Gate Was A Democratic Conspiracy:
“I find myself in awe, gobsmacked, flabbergasted, and startled by these revelations that Russia Gate was a Democratic conspiracy,” Brand said on the most recent episode of his podcast, Under The Skin. ..
“Well, there’s now serious evidence that it was the Clinton campaign, and Hilary Clinton, an acolyte, that were directly in the generation of what has proven to be a conspiracy theory, untrue…
“To discover that this was propaganda, a construct, a confection by the Democratic party, who of course are now in power, is kind of disappointing because you begin to question and query what other things might not be true…”
Obviously Brand never heard of the Mueller Report and what it found regarding Russia’s attempt to influence the election. Likewise, he apparently never heard of the volumes released in 2020 by a bipartisan Senate committee investigation into Russia Gate. Or that Sussman was later aqcuited of lying.
The real scandals, according to Brand, and Trump’s media defenders, was the Hunter Biden laptop that was actually a non-scandal, blown into a full-scale conspiracy to silence right-wing media sources that thrive on conspiracies and made up scandals. The reason the laptop story was not a scandal that Republicans hyped it to be, was that Hunter Biden was not a government official, and there were no attempts to cover it up. The accusation that Twitter had suppressed the New York Post story was disingenuous.
The Twitter Files was another non-scandal that alleged censorship of social media because the current president, Joe Biden, requested that Twitter remove nude photos of his son, Hunter Biden, the Hunter Biden laptop, and other nonsense.
What I find most disingenuous about Brand, is his willingness to speak out of both sides of his mouth. He is quick to criticize corporate hegemony, but then will defend Fox News as the only network, and it’s multi-millionaire hosts as brave truth-tellers, while all other MSM – including MSNBC and CNN – are nothing more than propaganda and “corporate mouthpieces.”
During a June 2022 episode of his podcast, Under The Skin, Brand said:
“Isn’t it interesting that Tucker Carlson is the only person that have like Glenn Greenwald on, he’s the only person that will attack big business and lots of you that are like left-leaning or Democrat in your previous biases or just in your persuasion, what did someone once call him, a human boat shoe…?
…”A lot of people don’t care for Tucker Carlson,” Brand continued, “but what interests me is that Fox News used to be a channel that we continually berated and baited when it was like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, and all those guys.
“We used to torment them about their stance on numerous issues. But nowadays, if you want a channel that’s gonna criticize big business, big technic corporations, mainstream media, generally and broadly, peculiarly – most likely your gonna find that on Fox.
“Why don’t we have a leftist mainstream media outlet that would showcase a voice like Jimmy Dore? Why is that? What has become of the left?”
Actual leftists have never ceased berating Fox News for it’s shameless propaganda and conspiracy baiting, while the likes of Brand and Greenwald willingly and shamelessly defended the rhetoric of Tucker Carlson and its other pundits. The idea that Fox News criticizes big business with any truth-to-power critique, is absurd. The only type of criticism your going to find on Fox News and Tucker Carlson these days is accusing companies like Disney, Facebook, Twitter, and others, of having a “woke” agenda, and a supposed censoring of conservative voices. When its hosts are not complaining about woke-ism, they’re attacking trans people as the greatest threat to America.
It’s obvious that Brand doesn’t watch the news media he loves to criticize as having a unique bias other than Fox News. MSNBC and CNN have featured progressive voices that are far more progressive in their politics than either Jimmy Dore and Glenn Greenwald. Dore is a former Young Turks alumni who now makes his living as a grifter on YouTube railing against vaccines, Fauci, and defending the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Greenwald, once a respected leftist now spends his time writing articles on Substack defending conservative propaganda, and making weekly appearances on Tucker Carlson. If Greenwald never appears on MSNBC it’s because he chooses not to. The only reason why so-called leftists like Greenwald and Dore – including Brand – appear so frequently on Tucker Carlson, it’s because they’re now, essentially mouth pieces for conservative talking points and propaganda, a none of them are willing to challenge Carlson’s own lies and propaganda. It’s that simple. If any of them did, they would never be invited back on.
A perfect example of this is the 2019 interview that Carlson had with Dutch economic historian, Rutger Bregman. In that interview Bregman exposed Carlson for the fraud and propagandist that he is, and Carlson and Fox News never aired it, because it exposes him as the corporate bitch-baby that he really is.
From Slate/Tucker Carlson Told A Dutch Historian To “Go F-k Yourself” In Unaired Fox Interview /Feb. 20/2019:
“Are you the first person to ever note that people are flying private to talk about global warming and that none of them mention tax avoidance?”
“It is a bit hypocritical, isn’t it?” Bregman said.
Tucker laughed. “Yes, it is, and others have noted that. We’ve noted that here on our show.”
But Bregman did not let things remain chummy for long.
“You know, the vast majority of Americans for years now according to the polls, including Fox News viewers and including Republicans, are in favor of higher taxes for the rich. Higher inheritance taxes, higher top marginal tax rates, higher wealth taxes. It’s all really mainstream. But no one’s saying that at Davos, just as no one’s saying it at Fox News, right? And I think the explanation for that is quite simple, is the people in Davos, but also here on this channel have been bought by the billionaire class. You’re not meant to say these things. So I just went there and I thought , you know what, I’m just going to say it, as I’m saying it on this channel…
“…But the thing is, you guys have brought into power a president who doesn’t even want to share his own tax returns. I mean, who many billions he has hidden in the Cayman Islands or in Bermuda. So I think the issue really is one of corruption and of people being bribed , and of not being, not talking about the real issues. What the Murdoch’s basically want you to do is to scapegoat immigrants instead of talking about tax avoidance.”“I’m taking orders from the Murdoch’s? Is that what you’re saying?
“I doesn’t work that directly. But, I mean, you’ve been part of the Cato Institute, right? You’ve been a Senior Fellow there for years.”
“Well, how does it work?”
“I works by you taking their dirty money. It’s as easy as that. I mean, you are a millionaire funded by billionaires. That’s what you are. And I’m glad you know, finally jumped on the bandwagon of people like Bernie Sanders and AOC, but you’re not part of the solution, Mr. Carlson. You’re part of the problem, actually. All the anchors, all the anchors on Fox – “
“You would have to be a moron, you would have to be – “
“They’re all millionaires,” Bregman said. “How is this possible? Well, it’s very simple, you’re just not talking about certain things.”
..”I have actually. I can’t say I’m a great fan of your show, but I do my homework when you invite me on your show. So, I mean, your probably not going to air this… But you’re a millionaire funded by billionaires, and that’s the reason you’re not talking about these issues.”
“But I am talking about these issues.”
“Yeah, only now. Come on, you jumped the bandwagon. You’re all like, oh I’m against the globalist elites, blah, blah, blah… it’s not very convincing to be honest.”
“I wanna say to you, why don’t you go f-k yourself, you tiny brain – and I hope this gets picked up, because you’re a moron. I tried to give you a hearing but you were too fucking annoying for me to – “
Bregman cut him off. “You can’t handle the criticism, can you?”
This interview shows that Tucker Carlson is not the anti-elitist, anti- corporate populist that his defenders like Brand make him out to be. Is Brand ignorant of this fact, or is he just stupid? Who knows?
I do know that I can’t take Russell Brand seriously when he accuses MSNBC of being propaganda, but has nothing to say about the actual propaganda that Tucker Carlson and other Fox news hosts partake in on a daily basis. Perhaps, if Brand had the integrity of someone like Rutger Bregman, I might take him seriously as a voice of the anti-establishment left.
Sources: Mediaite; Slate; El American Newsroom.com; The Hill; FAIR; The Blaze.