Look, I know what some of you are thinking: oh god, not Russell Brand again. And I get it! I used to be one of you.
But my opinion on the rapid-fire British comedian has changed over the last couple of years. The shift started after I listened to his February 2013 appearance on “The Howard Stern Show,” when – absent the visual accompaniment of his wild curls and flailingly demonstrative arms – I was confronted with what the comedian actually had to say. My shock? I found that I actually agreed and even admired him for his unorthodox, Buddhist-influenced views on politics, celebrity, sexuality and culture. How could this seeming caricature and ex-Mr. Katy Perry be such an evolved human being? It defied my expectations.
For starters, Brand is intimidatingly smart. His rapid-fire speech and high-pitched voice can occasionally be grating, yes, but it's not just blather – he has real things on his mind and real informed opinions. The speed at which he talks doesn't come off as an affectation to me; I suspect he is merely trying to keep up with his brain.
He's also the rare celebrity, in my experience, who dares to go against the grain of popular opinion. To link the horrifying mass shootings in Paris that led to the deaths of 17 innocent people to the – as Brand calls it – “state-sponsored terrorism” inflicted by Western nations every day in largely Muslim countries isn't a very popular claim to make these days, but he does just that in the latest edition of his YouTube series “The Trews,” in which he takes on the dangerously militant messaging of Fox News and describes how famously rightwing NewsCorp founder Rupert Murdoch profits in more ways than one from spreading hateful, often Islamophobic rhetoric through his media outlets.
Again: I get that Brand can be annoying, and there are certainly a number of other thoughtful voices out there that you can look to if you're seeking out a more evolved and nuanced understanding of the issues at hand. But if you're willing, I implore you to look past the whirlwind and listen to what Brand is actually saying. Agree or disagree, you have to give him credit for thinking critically about an issue that has been predictably shorn of critical context in the mainstream media.
Or better yet, just read his stunningly humane editorial on the matter and skip the video altogether. It may just make you see him in a new light.