Stuart Ballan
Businessman, dad, published author, cyclist

Russell Brand: Boycott or Interview?

With 12 flights in just 4 weeks, June was an unusually busy month for me.

I was 10,704 km away from home on 12th June, when news of the kidnapping of 3 Israelis, Gilad Shaar, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach, their combined age less than mine, hit the press.

I was at 38,000 feet, on a long haul flight to London, when, on 15th June, Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Hamas was responsible for their kidnapping, and on another flight on 30th June, when the horrifically sad news broke that the bodies of the 3 teens had been discovered.

As Israel and at least part of the world grasped that Hamas had reared its ugly head again, I was innocently flicking channels on a British Airways 747. It was that part of the flight when you’ve slept, watched a couple of movies, but there just isn’t time for another movie, so you reluctantly select the “TV Channels” option on the screen in front of you. 3 minutes later, I was deeply immersed and entertained by the charismatic comedian, Russell Brand. I remember glancing down the aisle, noticing several other screens displaying the same show, knowing that the guy 3 rows ahead of me on the left aisle seat hadn’t got to the best bit yet. It also crossed my mind what an impressive global reach Russell Brand has, and how fortunate he is to have such power and control, including 38,000 feet closer to heaven.

As I entered my war against jet-lag, a real war emerged. Israel immediately retaliated for the deaths of our 3 kidnapped boys, the Hamas rockets gained momentum, and on 8th July, the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict “officially began”.

“Content” for breakfast, lunch and dinner

Enough has been written about the details of the last weeks, including about conditions and perspectives in Israel, Gaza, and how the conflict has triggered a shocking rise in global anti-semitism, so I won’t repeat here. What’s clear though is we’ve “all” become huge consumers of content. TV News, online news, a perpetual inbox of Facebook postings, videos and comments, etc, etc.  We’ve become media addicts, using “addicts” in the non-addicitve, OK sense, Russell.

Over the last weeks, for good and for bad, certain names have popped to the surface.  For me, one stuck out like a sore thumb.  Russell Brand. That’s not “Russell Brand the comedian”.  More precisely, it’s “Russell Brand the English comedian, actor, radio host, author, and activist”.  Does “comedian” and “activist” seem to be somewhat “diametrically opposite” to you, too, or is it just me?

Trews or Fews?

I am tired, annoyed and frustrated from watching Russell Brand controlled pro-Hamas videos, broadcast on his Youtube online news analysis show, “The Trews“, name formed from “true news“. (Thought of “The Fews”, Russell?  Go work it out).

Such a talented ex drug-addict (that’s “addict” in the true sense), has chosen to divert and misuse his talent, influence and huge audience reach, (over 8 million Twitter followers, and over 2.5 million followers on his Facebook page), to anti-Israel, pro-Hamas politics. Yet the remarkable thing is, under cover of entertaining, he manipulates his followers so very well.

“There’s no evidence that Hamas are using women and children as human shields” … Russell Brand

Here’s the formula.  Brand-the-brand takes a video recording of a show that highly criticises him for his anti-Israel, pro-Gaza, pro-Hamas views, selects a few quotes, and then edits in his own humorous comments so that he’s quite simply, taking the p*ss out of selected information, entertaining his audience, yet conveying a damaging anti-Israel, pro-Hamas subtext for mass political gain.

He then posts his propaganda video, dressed up as a typical Russell Brand comedy sketch, on his “The Fews” (previously knows as “The Trews”) channel, for his significant following to digest.

Enough of the theory.  It’s well known that there’s no love lost between Brand and his Fox News nemesis, Sean Hannity.  Want to see for yourself?  In Episode E114 (1st August) of The Trews, he “harmlessly” attacks Sean Hannity throughout a 13 minute, cleverly edited video, that has already enjoyed over 1,750,000 views.

Still think Brand is just an entertainer, but not a Hamas supporter?.  Skip forward to 03:10 in the video, where Brand states:

There’s no evidence that Hamas are using women and children as human shields“.

So there you have it. Beyond reasonable doubt. What a brand you are, Brand. Watch the rest of the video, and his other anti-Israel videos, and it’s more of the same. 50 Shades of Brand.

Brand’s power comes from his control.  HE takes raw video, HE selects clips from it, and HE adds his own comments & humour into the video clips, to produce new content for HIS channel, The Trews.

Where’s the border between entertainer and activist, or between entertainer and extremist? Wherever it is, when it’s crossed, call a spade a spade.

The Rusell Brand Interview Challenge

It would be so easy, perhaps predictable, for me to call for a boycott of Brand products. Sign a petition, don’t watch his shows, burn your Brand branded t-shirts, wear Brand underwear without showering, mail all Brand DVDs to Gaza, etc. Wouldn’t even scratch the Brand brand. Maybe, he’d think about giving me my 15 seconds of fame by humouring me in a future Trews episode. Do me no favours, Russell. I’ve already had 30 seconds.

No calls for “Boycott the Brand brand” from me.

On the contrary, at 01:27 in your E114 of Trews, referring to your arch-enemy Sean Hannity’s interviewing style, you said he doesn’t let people respond to questions he asked. So give him the chance!

Enough of your offline videos and offline published articles. You’re broadcasting to millions your extreme, dangerous, inaccurate views about the Israel/Gaza crisis, and the best you can come up with is your safe “Ice Bucket Challenge on Sean Hannity“.  You’ve go to be kidding.

Looking good - Face blurred by ice water
Brand, seconds after challenging Sean Hannity to also pour a bucket of iced-water over his head

Get serious, and challenge Sean Hannity to a live interview to debate the Israel/Gaza crisis. Or accept a face-to-face interview from him, or from a prominent TV personality, Middle East expert, or similar.

And as per from 04:00 on the same E114 Trews video, let your “opposite” again have 3 panel members, and you can again bring your dolls of Jesus, Gandhi and a bunch of flowers and see how much they’ll help you in the real world.

 Sean Hannity's panel,
Sean Hannity’s studio panel, broadcast on FoxNews
Russell Brand's "3 person studio panel" - How an he be expected to be taken seriously?
Russell Brand’s “studio panel”, broadcast on Trews. How can he expect to be taken seriously?

So Russell, it’s time for you to “shit or get off the pot”.

Take or initiate the “Russell Brand Interview challenge“.

Announce you’re up for it, and see what happens.

Together with your 2 dolls, and your flowers, my guess is you’ll be eaten alive.

About the Author
Originally from England, Stuart Ballan moved to Israel in 1997. He has over 25 years business and B2B sales experience working in companies of every size, including his own. Stuart holds an MBA from the Kellogg-Recanati Executive MBA program and was the President of the Kellogg-Recanati Alumni Club from 2002 to 2012. He's dad to 2 great adult kids, and is the author of 2 children's books, with his first book selling 10,000 copies, here in Israel. He's also a keen off-road cyclist.
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