So much chat about this interview I felt it would be fun to review it as if it was a viva for coursework
and provide some feedback for this student. I won’t cover every interaction but will try and pull out the ‘gems’.
(transcript from http://www.broadsheet.ie/2013/10/24/viva-brandanista/#comment-767958)
Paxman: “Well how do you have any authority to talk about politics
Brand: “Well I don’t get my authority from this pre-existing paradigm
which is quite narrow and only serves a few people. I look elsewhere, for
alternatives, that might be of service to humanity. Alternate means; alternate
Jeremy is asking why we should listen to the views of someone who does not vote when it comes to politics.
Given that the OED, and I promise I won’t use too many OED definitions, defines politics as “the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power” and given that you have been the guest editor of the New Statesman, a left leaning British political journal, the context for this interview was the discussion of politics
in the democracy that is Britain. As a non-voter you had never participated in that process of governance
though would have felt its effect.
You have now of course opened yourself up to questions as to what is meant by alternative paradigms and
systems. If you had not wanted to discuss these a more concise answer may have been “as a citizen of Britain I
feel the impact of political decisions even though I don’t vote, and voting is not mandatory”. This would have
led to a question relating to why you don’t vote, to which you could have opened a debate about feeling that it is ineffectual. This would have been preferable to opening a debate on paradigms but then refusing to be drawn on them.
Brand:“Well I’ve not invented it yet, Jeremy. I had to do a magazine last
week. I’ve had a lot on me plate. But I say, but here’s the thing that you
shouldn’t do. Shouldn’t destroy the planet, shouldn’t create massive economic
disparity, shouldn’t ignore the needs of the people. The burden of proof is on
the people with the power, not people, like, doing a magazine for a
Now Jeremy has asked you a quite legitimate question based on your previous statement. Your points relating to the environment and economic disparity are tautological, no political system sets out to destroy the environment and no democratic system sets out to create disparity of income. By definition democracy is rule of the people so one that ignores the people is meaningless, unless of course they don’t vote, then there is no mechanism by which they can have their needs communicated. Of course there are different variants of democracy, from first past the post to more proportional methods, but you have not alluded to these. Your use of the word ‘novelty’ has allowed the audience to believe your views are trivial, a point that you are aware comes back to haunt you.
Perhaps an alternative response wold have been, and this is difficult as you have already set yourself up as being in possession of knowledge of an alternative paradigm, “I would prefer a more representative type of democracy”, this assuming you wish to see a democracy maintained.
Paxman: “How do you imagine that people get
Brand: “Well I imagine there are sort of hierarchical systems that have
been preserved through generations…”
Paxman:“They get power by being voted in, that’s how they get
Brand:“Well you say that Jeremy…”
there is some evidence of a disproportionate representation from public schools within parliament you need to cite facts not sweeping generalisations (this site provides data http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/research/key-issues-for-the-new-parliament/the-new-parliament/characteristics-of-the-new-house-of-commons/). In addition you fail to pick up throughout the interview the lack of female representation; this bias is something I have noted elsewhere in your work and something we should discuss.
Although 90% of MPs are university graduates given the nature of this work that may not be surprising. Granted 25% went to
Oxford and Cambridge and this is disproportionately high as is the number who attended fee paying schools (and it would be interesting to see if these two are linked). However only 30% went to such schools compared to 10% in the wider population, this hardly represents a majority. You fail to answer the question and seem to struggle at this point; again having access to facts may have allowed you to present your case better, though it would be one of representation rather than the conspiracy angle you seem to be opening up.
Paxman: “You can’t even be arsed to vote?”
Brand: “It’s quite a narrow, quite a narrow prescriptive parameter that
changes within in…”
“In a democracy that’s how it works.”
Brand: “Well I don’t think it’s working very well, Jeremy. Given that the
planet is being destroyed, given that there is economic disparity of a huge
degree. What are you saying? There’s no alternative? There’s no alternative?
Just this system?”
Having failed to address the voting issue earlier you have opened yourself up to additional questions. In
future ensure you close points off. You seem to panic and return to tautology. Jeremy has not said there is no alternative he has asked you why you do not vote. Try to listen more closely to the question and address it.
Paxman: “No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying if you can’t be arsed to vote
why should we be asked to listen to your political point of
Brand: “You don’t have to listen to my political point of view. But it’s
not that I’m not voting out of apathy. I’m not voting out of absolute
indifference and weariness and exhaustion from the lies, treachery, deceit of
the political class, that has been going on for generations now. And which has
now reached fever pitch where you have a disenfranchised, disillusioned,
despondent underclass that are not being represented by that political system,
so voting for it is tacit complicity with that system and that’s not something
I’m offering up.”
You have forced Jeremy to repeat the question as you have failed to address it, this is not good practice. Your first
point could have opened up a question relating to free speech and your right to hold an alternative view but you fail to capitalise on this and instead now choose to answer the voting question which should have been covered at the start. However you have introduced a timeline. As a 38 year old you have had numerous opportunities to vote over a 20 year period.
Are you saying it is worse now than in 1993? In truth turnout has dipped, from 77.7% in 1992, but is now returning
rising to 65.1% in 2010 (http://www.ukpolitical.info/Turnout45.htm). In addition you do not explain how voting represents complicity. There are a multitude of parties to choose from in addition to the more famous ‘main’ parties.
Any of these would represent a signal and they range from green to nationalist.
Paxman: “So you struck an attitude, what, before the age of
was busy being a drug addict at that point, because I come from the kind of
social conditions that are exacerbated by an indifferent system that, really,
just administrates for large corporations and ignores the population that it was
voted in to serve.”
“You’re blaming the political class for the fact that you had a drug
You quickly address this point in the following reply and it is clear you are aware of the folly of
linking society to your drug problems. Your troubled past is one that society may have been better able to
assist but from you next comment it is clear you appreciate the link is not directly causal.
Paxman: “Of course it doesn’t work for them if they didn’t bother to
Brand: “Jeremy, my darling, I’m not saying…the apathy doesn’t come from
us, the people. The apathy comes from the politicians. They are apathetic to our
needs, they’re only interested in servicing the needs of corporations. Look
at..ain’t the Tories going to court, taking the EU to court, because they’re
trying to curtail bank bonuses? Isn’t that what’s happening at the moment in our
country? It is, innit?”
Returning to the question of representation you have again suggested some conspiracy. The link between EU law, UK law and bank bonuses is not necessarily a conspiracy though. The government regularly exercises its ability to set legislation and rules separate to the EU as part of its democratic right. The point being made by the Government is that curtailing bonuses will see bank wages increase in response meaning pay is less performance related. There are many arguments for and against this, but you are not clearly expressing why you think it is a breakdown in democracy. I would imagine you would want the Government to intervene if some form of media pay cap was suggested by the EU? Try to find stronger arguments. There are over 2million people employed in the financial services sector and they would argue that the Government should campaign on their behalf.
Paxman: “You don’t believe in democracy. You want a revolution don’t
planet is being destroyed, we are creating an underclass, we’re exploiting poor
people all over the world and the genuine, legitimate problems of the people are
not being addressed by our political class.”
This is where you perhaps make your biggest mistake. Presented with these two clear questions you choose to hide
behind more tautology. Actually poverty has reduced worldwide over the last 20 years and whilst there is still an awful lot of work to do the trends are positive (http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/06/economist-explains-0).
By not answering the direct question you appear to be anti-democratic, which as already mentioned means rule by the people, and again you appear pro-revolution.
Paxman: “What’s the scheme, that’s all I’m asking. What’s the scheme? You
talked vaguely about a revolution, what is it?”
Brand: “I think a socialist egalitarian system, based on the massive
redistribution of wealth, heavy taxation of corporations and massive
responsibility for energy companies and any companies exploiting the
environment…I think the very concept of profit should be hugely reduced. David
Cameron said profit isn’t a dirty word, I say profit is a filthy word. Because
wherever there is profit there is also deficit. And this system currently
doesn’t address these ideas. And so why would anyone vote for it? Why would
anyone be interested in it?”
You appreciate people will find this hard to swallow. Given your own personal wealth of $15million people may be incredulous that you somehow find profit to be a ‘filthy word’? Do you see yourself as a corporation or is your own wealth simply a private matter? A corporation uses its profits to generate additional investment in order to expand its operations.
In your socialist system, and by the way these have been tried and do not represent a new paradigm – find some time to do additional reading please (perhaps start with Orwell’s Animal Farm), how will investments and innovation be made? There is a reason we have such high standards of living compared to the old USSR and it is linked to the encouragement in innovation created by competition – how will you address this?
Paxman: “Who would levy these taxes?”
“I think there needs to be a centralised administrative system but built
Paxman: “A government?”
Brand: “Yes, well, maybe call it something else. Call them like the Admin
Bods so they don’t get ahead of themselves.”
Paxman: “And how would they be chosen?”
Brand:“Jeremy, don’t ask me to sit here in an interview with you, in a
bloody hotel room and devise a global, utopian system. I’m merely pointing out
that the current…”
Clearly now you are struggling as you have not thought through your position.
Either there will be a representative democracy of some form or there will be a totalitarian government (dictatorship, feudal, etc).
Paxman: “The current system is not engaging with all sorts of problems,
yes. And they feel apathetic, really apathetic. But if they were to take you
seriously, and not to vote…”
Brand: “Yeah, they shouldn’t vote, that’s what I’m thinking they should
do, don’t bother voting. Because when it reaches..there’s a point…You see these
little valves, these sort of cosy little valves of recycling and and you know
like turns up somewhere, it starts reaching the point where you think ‘oh this
is enough now. Stop voting. Stop pretending. Wake up. Be in reality now. Time to
be in reality now’. Why vote? We know it’s not going to make any difference? We
know that already?”
Here Jeremy is giving you another chance to think again about the importance of actively participating and
you seem confused? You need to think through your answers more.
What are these valves? Are you now saying that by recycling we are also being complicit and that we should stop recycling too? It is after all a tool used by the powers that be to control us?
You are struggling here to make your point and have begun to rant. It is ok to take a breath, ask Jeremy to rephrase his question and gather your thoughts. Don’t feel the need to answer immediately.
Brand: “Yeah, sometimes, Jeremy. So listen. So let’s approach this
optimistically. You’ve spent your whole career berating and haranguing
politicians. And then when someone like me, a comedian, goes‘they’re all
worthless, what’s the point in engaging with any of them’, you sort of have a go
at me because I’m not poor anymore.”
Paxman:“I’m not having a go at you about that. I’m just asking why we
should take you seriously when you’re so unspecific…”
Jeremy has you well and truly on the ropes here. He has made no comment about your wealth; he also has dedicated a career to holding politicians to account. You have challenged him on two unwinnable points to deflect attention from the weakness
of your own position – this allows Jeremy to challenge you on the absence of any specifics to what is increasingly becoming a rant.
Paxman:“Is it possible that, as human beings, they’re simply overwhelmed
by the scale of the problem?”
Brand: “Not really, well possibly. It might be that, but that’s all just
semantics really, whether they’re overwhelmed by it or tacitly maintaining it
because of habitual…I mean like, mate, this is what I noticed when I was in that
Houses of Parliament. It’s decorated exactly the same as Eton, is decorated
exactly the same as Oxford. So a certain type of people goes in there and thinks
‘this makes me nervous’ and then another type of people go in there and go ‘this
is how it should be’. And I think that’s got to change now. We can no longer
have erroneous, duplicitous systems held in place unless it’s for the serve…only
systems that serve the planet and serve the population of the planet can be
allowed to survive. Not ones that serve elites, be they political or corporate
elites and this is what’s currently happening.”
Paxman: “You don’t really believe that.”
Brand:“I completely believe it. Don’t look at me all weary, like you’re
at a fireside with your pipe and your beard.”
Struggling for words here you at first agree with Jeremy and then try to set up an argument on the
differences between ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘tacitly’ – to be overwhelmed is not necessarily to support. As for the dive into architecture many buildings are decorated in a gothic revival style. Most people have experienced this in many of our civic buildings from that period and in fact parliament arguably seems somewhat quaint. Jeremy at this point has become weary possibly by your lack of specification and meandering. This is a cue for you to improve your presentation not a chance to insult your interviewer.
Paxman: “Because by the time somebody comes along you might think it worth
voting for, it may be too late.”
Brand: “I don’t think so because the time is now, this movement is
already occurring, it’s happening everywhere, we’re in a time where
communication is instantaneous and there are communities all over the world. The
Occupy movement made a difference in even if, only in that, it introduced, to
the popular public lexicon, the idea of the 1% versus the 99%. People for the
first time in a generation are aware of massive, corporate and economic
exploitation. These things are not nonsense. And these subjects are not being
addressed. No one is doing anything about tax havens, no one is doing anything
about their political affiliations and financial affiliations of the
Conservative Party, so until people start addressing things that are actually
real, why wouldn’t I be facetious, why would I take it seriously? Why would I
encourage a constituency of young people that are absolutely indifferent to
vote? Why would we? Aren’t you bored? Aren’t you more bored than anyone? Ain’t
you been talking to them year after year, listening to their lies, their
nonsense. Then it’s this one that gets in, then it’s that one gets in but the
problem continues. Why are we going to continue to contribute to this
Of course on reflection you probably now realize how much this sounds like a flower power speech from the late 60s. I
assume your hedonistic lifestyle has meant that you have little time for current affairs and as such have been unaware of the on-going debate and coverage of everything from sustainable communities to social enterprise and renewable
energy. You need to ensure the arguments you are putting forward are contemporary.
No one is suggesting the issues have been resolved but at the same time there is nothing new in what you say, in fact it appears dated.
Paxman: “I’m surprised you can be facetious when you’re that angry about
Brand: “Yeah, I am angry, I am angry. Because for me it’s real, because
for me it’s not just some peripheral thing that I just turn up to once in a
while to a church féte for. For me, this is what I come from. This is what I
Paxman: “Do you see any hope?”
Brand: “Remember that…yeah, totally, there’s gonna be a revolution. It’s
totally going to happen. I ain’t got a flicker of doubt, this is the end. This
is time to wake up.
Finally you make the fatal mistake of presenting yourself as one of the people.
As a multimillionaire this is not ‘real’ for you in the way it may be for a person on or below the poverty line.
Whilst you could dedicate time, resources and energy to exploring this topic you have, by your own admission, just been here “have a little bit of a