Revolution opens with a prolonged list of acknowledgements, and it’s easy to pity the many people thanked by Russell Brand for having contributed to this imprudent and perfervid call to arms, which bids readers to rise up against every existing system and structure. This pity stops when you see names such as Alain de Botton, Eckhart Tolle and Shepard Fairey, for then the “aha” moment strikes: just about every New Age-y sentence of the book can be traced back to some equally bumptious writer, thinker, guru or dealer that Brand has shamelessly – and clumsily – plagiarised.
In a book that dumbfounds from its glossy magazine front cover through to its ridiculously long and unnecessary index, perhaps the most remarkable feature is its indefatigability. Celebrities – because they are human beings, too, albeit ratcheted up a couple of notches by us – have long jotted down high-minded doctrines, either in states of natural or synthetic frenzy, thinking themselves ordained to restyle our world. Only occasionally do these doctrines find their way to the public, though it’s becoming more common as the internet brings the famous and the masses ever closer, and it’s even more extraordinary for a few impassioned musings to be stretched into a book. Still, Revolution’s raison d’être can be traced relatively simply: Brand ranted a bit in a BBC interview, the footage went viral, and then whoever’s job it is to keep Brand on-brand realised that a long book of the same madcap bilge would be a good career move and, more to it, would make a shit-tonne of money.
Brand’s website sells £35 “REVOLUTION” T-shirts (the £23 Day-Glo Russell-as-Che-Guevara singlets have apparently sold out). That’s all it costs to join the cause, the community, or as Brand likes to call it, repeatedly, “the common unity”. Don’t be fooled: this anti-establishment product is a money-spinner, one that profits – albeit for non-profit causes – because of the establishment in which it exists.
Brand addresses this, making reference to his two memoirs: “I could’ve just written Booky Wook 3, not mentioned global inequality, ecological meltdown, or the complicity of the entertainment industry in holding together a capitalist machine that exploits the vast majority of people, and collected my cheque.” Revolution is a 300+ page argument that he probably should have just written Booky Wook 3 – or, in fact, evidence that he has. TW
Century, 384pp, $35
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Nov 22, 2014 as "Russell Brand, Revolution".
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