If you haven’t seen it, it’s well worth watching the delicious moment at the GQ awards when British comedian-guru Russell Brand fires off against the magazine’s corporate sponsors, Hugo Boss, reminding us of their ties to the Nazis.
Now we have Brand’s account of why he made such mischief. The whole article is worth a read for Brand’s linguistic gymnastics but here is the money section:
I could see the room dividing as I spoke. I could hear the laughter of some and louder still silence of others. I realised that for some people this was regarded as an event with import. The magazine, the sponsors and some of those in attendance saw it as a kind of ceremony that warranted respect. In effect it is a corporate ritual, an alliance between a media organisation, GQ and a commercial entity, Hugo Boss. What dawned on me as the night went on is that even in apparently frivolous conditions the establishment asserts control and won’t tolerate having that assertion challenged, even flippantly, by that most beautifully adept tool, comedy.
The jokes about Hugo Boss were not intended to herald a campaign to destroy them, they’re not Monsanto or Halliburton, the contemporary corporate allies of modern-day fascism; they are, I thought, an irrelevant menswear supplier with a double-dodgy history. The evening though provided an interesting opportunity to see how power structures preserve their agenda, even in a chintzy microcosm. …
It makes me wonder though how the relationships and power dynamics I witnessed on this relatively inconsequential context are replicated on a more significant scale.
For example, if you can’t criticise Hugo Boss at the GQ awards because they own the event do you think it is significant that energy companies donate to the Tory party? Will that affect government policy? Will the relationships that “politician of the year” Boris Johnson has with City bankers – he took many more meetings with them than public servants in his first term as mayor – influence the way he runs our capital?
Is it any wonder that Amazon, Vodafone and Starbucks avoid paying tax when they enjoy such cosy relationships with members of our government?
Ought we be concerned that our rights to protest are being continually eroded under the guise of enhancing our safety? Is there a relationship between proposed fracking in the UK, new laws that prohibit protest and the relationships between energy companies and our government?
A nice irony is that Brand was there to receive the “oracle award”. Seems GQ wanted not an oracle but another tame corporate poodle.
Brand’s problem, nonetheless, is that he risks being incorporated (sic) into the status quo. He may have outraged GQ, government ministers and their sponsors, but they are easily outraged. Brand has become the chic comedy-rebel of our era, the dissident brand (sic) the Guardian loves to put on its front page.
This may bring his message to millions but at the same time, I fear, it dissipates its power to effect change. His comedy scores because it is truthful but it leaves us numb because it lacks real passion or anger. He is a head trip, no different from those 60s movies like Easy Rider that were going to change the world but actually just paved the way to corporate excess.
I like Brand. I like that he is trying to be subversive from within the corporate culture. But I suspect he needs to dig deeper, to another level of consciousness if he is to inspire in us the outrage necessary to liberate us from our masters.