Embattled British comedian Russell Brand built his career off the back of well-publicised poor behaviour, promiscuity bordering on misogyny, and grappled with a heroin addiction before finding sobriety two decades ago.
He has never hidden his decadent, laddish behaviour and for many years, was celebrated for it — let's be fair, not much acting was required for him to become Aldous Snow in Get Him To The Greek. Brand's style of comedy has always pushed the boundaries of decency, but in light of this week's headlines, that "loveable rogue" persona has taken a rather sinister turn.
Five women have accused the wellness guru, mental health advocate and political agitator of rape and sexual assault between 2006 and 2013, sending shockwaves through the media. But the question is — is it really a shock?
Former controller at BBC One, Lorraine Heggessey, stated there were "numerous examples" of Brand's on-air behaviour that should have been dealt with by bosses and some of his content should never have been broadcast, but nobody stepped in to say "enough is enough".
Brand took to YouTube to strenuously deny the "extremely egregious and aggressive attacks" against him and claimed he was the victim of a mainstream media witch-hunt. While he admitted he was "very, very promiscuous" at the height of his popularity, he said all his past relationships were consensual.
However, one accuser, known as Alice, told BBC Radio Four the comedian's alleged predatory behaviour was an "open secret" and suggested he created his alternative news agenda so he could play the witch-hunt card when allegations against him eventually came to light. She added it was "laughable" that Brand would imply he exists outside mainstream media which, he claims, is now conspiring to bring him down.
The young woman claimed she was in an "emotionally abusive" relationship with the former TV host when she was 16 and he was in his 30s. She said he even sent a BBC car to pick her up from her school gates.
On his YouTube channel, which has 6.63 million subscribers, Brand posts videos challenging government and media narratives in which he jovially greets viewers with a chirpy, "Hello there you awakening wonders." Fans are then drawn into his anti-establishment rabbit hole "where we critique, attack and undermine the news in all its corruption".
Bizarrely, in our polarised post-pandemic world, he is generally seen as either a truth teller or a conspiracy theorist — albeit one who gets laughs on the comedy circuit. In his video addressing the new allegations, Brand said he regularly received comments from followers stating: "Watch out Russell, they're coming for you. You're getting too close to the truth." How convenient.
A bridge too far
Branding a four-year investigation a "co-ordinated media attack" aimed at shutting down alternative voices is an insult to alleged victims who deserve to have their claims addressed thoroughly.
It's time for poor behaviour, whether in the past or present, to be called out, giving accusers the respect they deserve to have the justice system take its course and get on with their lives.
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