Catching up with Russell Brand, comedian turned socialist sage

How time flies! It was over two years ago that we wrote about Russell Brand, whom we were about to describe as a “British comedian” before we realized that it’s been a long time since we actually heard him say anything funny.

Russell Brand

No, Brand has long since transcended mere comedy. As we noted on June 8, 2015, he’s been more comfortable the last few years “posturing as a crusading champion of the downtrodden and a heroic enemy of The System.” His 2014 stand-up show was entitled Messiah Complex, for which this world-class egomaniac should at least get credit for truth in advertising. The show was a tribute to some of his heroes, among them Che Guevara. And the book he published the same year was called Revolution, in which he expanded upon his enthusiasm not only for the “morally unimpeachable” Che but also for Fidel Castro.

Sharing pearls of wisdom from his latest masterpiece at Carlton House Terrace, London, October 14, 2017

Lately Brand has been busy plugging a new book about his history of addiction. The book’s publisher describes it as a collection of lessons learned from “fourteen years of recovery” from addiction to “heroin, alcohol, sex, fame, food and eBay.” The author himself calls it a “manual for self-realization,” adding, with an uncharacteristic touch of what sounds like – can it be? – humility, that his “qualification” to offer up these life lessons “is not that I am better than you but I am worse.”

The Sermon on the Mount?

But don’t worry: that quote notwithstanding, Brand appears to be as much of a crusading know-it-all as ever, no less convinced than before that – despite his admitted inability, over a period of years, to stay on track and keep his own house in order – he takes a back seat to no one when it comes to diagnosing the planet’s ills. In other words, while he’s escaped dependency on booze and drugs, he’s still hooked on himself. And the media, perversely, can’t kick the habit of reporting on his every pearl of wisdom. On October 25, for example, the BBC’s website carried a story headlined “Russell Brand: Society is collapsing.” (It’s not every day you see a headline like that on any website’s “Entertainment” section.)

“People,” Brand told BBC scribe Steven McIntosh, “are starting to recognise that the reason they feel like they’re mentally ill is that they’re living in a system that’s not designed to suit the human spirit.” They’re frustrated over having to “work 12 hours a day,” over having to “live in an environment that is designed for human beings from one perspective but not from a holistic perspective,” over the fact that they’re “[b]reathing dirty air, eating dirty food, thinking dirty thoughts.”

The people Brand is apparently talking about are those who live in the Western world today; and the system in question is therefore democratic capitalism. Given Brand’s heavily documented enthusiasm for Castro, Che, and other Communists, we can only suppose that he is unfavorably comparing life in the West today with life under various Communist countries, past and present. Donald Trump’s recent speech to the South Korean parliament drew a striking contrast between the freedom, prosperity, and respect for the individual that characterize life below the DMZ with the deprivation, fear, and despair of life under the tyranny of the Kim family regime. Brand’s comments to the BBC are apparently a through-the-looking-glass version of Trump’s speech. Yes, the British funnyman appears to be saying, South Korea may look okay enough “from one perspective,” but life in places like Cuba and North Korea is better holistically. Got that?

Two Brand heroes: Corbyn and Chávez

Brand told McIntosh that he had no intention of going into politics, but that determination didn’t keep Brand from penning a Huffington Post paean last May to Labour Party chieftain Jeremy Corbyn. Now, Corbyn is a guy whom even many Labour stalwarts consider to be way over the line. Corbyn, an enemy of NATO and fan of Castro’s Cuban Revolution and Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution, is a Communist in all but name; but for Brand, he’s a man who combines “principles” with “common sense and compassion,” who has kept his “integrity perfectly preserved,” and who is, all in all, a “caring socialist leader” who has kept it together despite being the target of a “hegemonic narrative singularity.” No, we don’t know what that means either.

Catching up with tyranny-loving Karl Vick

Karl Vick

Where to start with longtime Time magazine fixture Karl Vick?

With his breathtaking enthusiasm for Cuba’s Castro regime? As we noted in August 2015, this is a guy who, in describing the political system on that island, prefers to say “security state” rather than “police state” or “dictatorship” or “totalitarian prison.” Of all the idiots who find Cuba’s crumbling buildings and deteriorated infrastructure appealingly exotic, he’s one of the most high-profile and outspoken, celebrating the old cars and lousy plumbing in one of the stupidest cover stories ever to be run by a major newsmagazine. When he gushed in a radio interview over Havana’s “decaying glory,” his interviewer asked how decay could be glorious, and Vick, bubblehead that he is, fumfered around, finally answering the question with a synonym: “faded grandeur.”

Moderate?

Or should we focus on Vick’s consistently starry-eyed take on all things Islamic – his thumbs-up for the “Arab Spring,” his insistence that the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas are moderate – and his equally consistent hostility toward Israel? For a 2010 cover story arguing that Israel is anti-peace, he won a “Dishonest Reporting Award” from Honest Reporting (HR) and was criticized by the Anti-Defamation League for echoing the stereotype that Jews are preoccupied with money. In later articles, Vick stuck to his guns, absurdly depicting Palestinians (in HR’s words) as “Gandhian acolytes” and describing Hamas’s commitment to the destruction of Israel as only “[n]ominal.”

Donald Trump: the truth hurts

In short, he’s a fool. And nothing has changed. For now, just one example. Last December, after Donald Trump’s election but before the inauguration, he warned that the president-elect was “making terrorist attacks more likely.” How? By taking a “them-against-us” approach. You’ve likely heard this argument before: when we’re honest about the nature of the jihadist enemy, we alienate “moderate Muslims,” perhaps even turning some of them into mass murderers. Vick quoted a Darmouth professor and former State Department grind who warned that ISIS was “now in a much better position to make the case that the West really is determined to destroy Islam.” Vick praised George W. Bush for having said, less than a week after 9/11, that “Islam is peace.”

ISIS, Trump: two sides of the same coin?

Does Vick think this is true? He doesn’t say. His argument is that, true or not, if you’re a president you’d better say such things. One is reminded of the familiar joke: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say otherwise, we’ll kill you. In a classic example of moral equivalency, Vick essentially cast Trump and ISIS as two sides of the same coin, both determined to drive Muslims and non-Muslims apart. Vick served up what should by now be a long-discredited canard that jihadist “extremism” is driven by “feelings of aggrievement.” No, it’s driven by a determination to conquer that is rooted in Islamic texts.

After the terrorist attack on Breitscheidplatz square in Berlin, December 19, 2016

Vick slammed Trump for reacting to last December’s terrorist attack in Berlin – the one that involved a truck and took 12 lives – by making the purely factual statement that “ISIS and other Islamist terrorists continually slaughter Christians in their communities and places of worship as part of their global jihad.” In Vick’s view, apparently, if we want peace with Islam, we’ve got to keep mum about what is being done to Christians in the Middle East in the name of Allah. The one “glimmer of hope” (to use Vick’s own words) in the article was that “Trump may be educable.” In other words, he may yet learn from the MSM and Foggy Bottom hacks to tell supposedly strategic untruths.

Is America going Commie?

Is it true or not? We don’t know. But we thought it might be worth passing on, as a glimpse into the American Communist mindset, with the proviso that there is no way of knowing whether there’s even a grain of truth in it.

Emile Schepers

Here it is: the American Communist Party publication People’s World claimed on April 19 that “Communist Party membership numbers [are] climbing in the Trump era.” In fact, the article reporting this development was not original with People’s World – it was copied out of the international edition of the Cuban daily Granma, which of course, like all media on that island prison (other than a handful of surreptitious Samizdat blogs), is under the thumb of the Castro regime. But the article was an interview with a People’s World hack, Emile Schepers, who aside from writing regularly for that publication is also International Secretary of the Communist Party USA (CPUSA).

Here’s the gist of Granma‘s interview with Schepers: the CPUSA “has been receiving membership requests ever since Donald Trump was elected President.” At the moment, to be sure, its numbers are, um, modest: 5,000 members nationwide out of a total U.S. population of over 300 million, or about 0.0017%. But hey, as Granma helpfully explained, this sad showing is a result of “Cold War repression,” or, as Schepers put it, “the phantom of the McCarthy era.”

Senator Joseph McCarthy

Yes, the McCarthy era – the firing of a few State Department Communists, the brief imprisonment of American citizens who were serving a foreign enemy, and the execution of two people who did nothing less than help provide the USSR with the secrets of the atomic bomb. As opposed, of course, to the Castro era, during which countless people were shot by firing squads for being gay, for being dissident writers or artists, or for having connections (of whatever kind) to the Batista government. Because of McCarthy’s Senate hearings and/or the House Un-American Activities Committee, a few rich Hollywood screenwriters flew to Paris or London to work there until the whole thing blew over; because of Castro, over a million Cubans took their lives in their hands to make their way to Florida – and freedom – on small boats or rafts.

Fidel Castro

Schepers, a South Africa-born anthropologist who grew up in various places around the U.S. and now lives in Virginia (just like the Soviet spy family in the Netflix series The Americans), acknowledged to Granma that “the United States is in no way experiencing a pre-revolutionary situation in the communist sense.” But, on the upside, “capitalism is showing terminal signs worldwide.” Schepers believes Bernie Sanders, if nominated by the Democrats, would have defeated Donald Trump. But a big problem remains: that of “organizing workers and trade union structures” in America “around defending the rights of the most vulnerable workers.” The article then mentioned that the CPUSA has been a strong supporter of the chavista movement in Venezuela. The irony that even the “most vulnerable workers” in the U.S. are far better off than their counterparts in today’s Venezuela – not to mention Cuba – seemed lost on the editors at both Granma and People’s World.

Bill de Blasio: marching with a murderer

Oscar López Rivera

It was enjoyable to read New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito’s livid charge that the defection of sponsors from the Big Apple’s forthcoming Puerto Rican Day Parade – in response to her announcement that the parade would be honoring terrorist murderer Oscar López Rivera – had been “orchestrated” by those “ultra right-wing” types who want Puerto Rico to be a state, not a separate country. (Lopez’s cause, as we’ve previously noted, was and is Puerto Rican independence, Castro style.) Never mind that, as the New York Post pointed out, that “ultra right-wing” fringe of statehood supporters consists of about 70 percent of the island’s population. (Coincidentally, voters in Puerto Rico will have their next chance to vote on their island’s status on June 11, the same day their cousins in New York are marching down Fifth Avenue.) Mark-Viverito continued to insist that López is a “freedom fighter” and former “prisoner of war” and maintained her refusal to say anything sympathetic for those killed and wounded in acts of FALN terrorism.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio

Unsurprisingly, Mayor Bill de Blasio – the kind of far-left politician who is reflexively sympathetic to terrorists like López – still plans to march with the murderer.

Yet as Caroll Alvarado wrote in the Post, also on May 27, many Puerto Ricans in New York have decided to give the mayor the bird and join Jet Blue, Goya, and Univision in boycotting the parade. “I’m as Puerto Rican as it gets, but I can’t support the parade this year,” Angi Silva told Alvarado. “We should be focusing on helping our island, not honoring a criminal.” Jaida Selvenajnole agreed, noting that López “went to jail for a reason.” And Zoraida Vega, calling López a “criminal,” said: “He was in jail for 35 years. Why are we honoring him?…The mayor shouldn’t be going. It doesn’t look right.”

Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton

For Mark-Viverito aide Luis Miranda – who happens to be the father of Broadway darling Lin-Manuel Miranda (Hamilton) – these critics of López are nothing but a bunch of “Trump/right-winger Latinos.” The New York Times,  in a May 29 story about the controversy, managed to find Nuyoricans (Puerto Ricans living in New York) on both sides of the issue.

Budet and his banner

Among those in the pro-López camp was Smokey Escobar, age 62, who provided this cryptic comment: “Why not? He earned it, in his way.” Then there was Ricardo Gabriel, whom the paper identified as a 36-year-old “doctoral candidate writing about Puerto Rican activists at the City University of New York.” Gabriel was described as seeing “a silver lining” in the decision of all those corporate sponsors to back out: “The parade has been dominated by corporate sponsors, and I felt like it wasn’t authentic anymore,” he said. “But now, with Goya and others pulling out, I think this is a step in the right direction.” In other words, better a murderer than a corporation. Terrorism may be bad, but capitalism is worse. (Apparently all those years of grad school have really paid off for Mr. Gabriel.) The Times also ran a picture of Puerto Rican artist Osvaldo Budet “hanging a banner in support of Oscar López Rivera at El Puente community center in Brooklyn,” an institution that (to judge by its website) has close and complicated ties to the New York City Board of Education, among other municipal agencies. We wondered how much New York taxpayer money goes every year to this organization that stands with a man who was responsible for the cold-blooded murder of New York taxpayers.

De Blasio’s incredible shrinking Puerto Rican Day Parade

Oscar López Rivera

On May 22, we reported that this year, New York’s annual Puerto Rican Day Parade would be honoring one Oscar López Rivera, whose FALN terrorist group killed four innocent people in a famous 1975 bombing at the historic Fraunces Tavern in Manhattan. Although López was sentenced in 1981 to a 55-year prison term, Barack Obama – in one of the very last acts of his presidency – ordered him freed, despite López’s refusal to renounce violence. Not long afterwards, New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced that this year’s parade would celebrate López – the supposed objective of whose terrorism was to gain Puerto Rican independence – as a “National Freedom Hero.”

Melissa Mark-Viverito

As we noted on May 22, López is no hero of freedom. Besides, most Puerto Ricans aren’t looking for a hero of freedom. When asked to vote on the question, as they regularly are in plebiscites, residents of the island reject independence from the United States by overwhelming margins. In fact, most of them want their tropic isle to be an American state. It should be noted that what López wanted, and killed for, was not just independence but independence a la Cuba – in other words, another Castroite Communist dictatorship in Uncle Sam’s Caribbean backyard.

Our May 22 piece noted that Goya Foods, the #1 supplier of beans, rice, oil, and other food items to America’s Latino community, had backed out of supporting the parade because of Mark-Viverito’s reprehensible decision to honor a terrorist. Other sponsors, however, stood firm. For a while, anyway. That has since changed. In a May 27 editorial, the New York Post provided a list of some additional defectors from the list of sponsors. Since our May 22 piece, JetBlue, the Yankees, Corona beer, Coca-Cola, and AT&T – all of them longtime sponsors of the parade – had backed out of their association with it. They had been followed by Univision, the Spanish-language TV network, and by New York’s local Channel 4.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

On May 26, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo finally yielded to pressure and let it be known that he, too, would skip the event, although he pusillanimously avoided saying why. State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman also changed his mind about participating. He was lily-livered too, attributing his inability to participate to a “scheduling conflict.”

More tomorrow.  

Birth of a baby chavista

On May 16, Tucker Carlson welcomed a guest on his Fox News TV show who looked as if he was about twelve years old. He was, in fact, a 19-year-old college student named Dakotah Lilly who was there to defend chavismo in Venezuela and to deny that any of that country’s current problems – including the collapse of food supplies and medical services – were caused by socialism.

In the interview (which begins at about the thirty-minute mark in the video below), Carlson asked Lilly to address the fact that wherever socialism has actually been tried, it has been a disaster. Sidestepping Carlson’s list of Soviet bloc countries whose modern histories prove his point, Lilly simply parroted Maduro administration propaganda. “What Venezuela is currently facing right now,” said Lilly, “is terrorism at the hands of the opposition” – an opposition that, he insisted, is deliberately destroying “the progress Venezuela has made over the past few years.”

From beginning to end, Lilly’s portrait of Venezuela today was Alice-through-the-looking-glass stuff. The real victims of violence in the country, he charged, are supporters of the Maduro government. The real causes of Venezuela’s economic problems are (a) sanctions by the United States and (b) “hoarding by multinational corporations.” He even defended the Supreme Court’s closing, on Maduro’s orders, of the National Assembly. Carlson asked whether Lilly could speak Spanish or if he had actually ever been in Venezuela, but never got an answer to either question.

Dakotah Lilly

Who is Lilly? He’s currently a student of political science at Eugene Lang College (a unit of the New School in New York City) and a member of Students and Youth for a New America (SYNA), whose website makes it clear that it’s basically a bunch of junior Communists. Lilly isn’t the only SYNA member who has drunk the Kool-Aid on Venezuela: the group’s site features an article in which one Caleb T. Maupin (a frequent contributor to Iran’s Press TV) sneered at the idea that the downfall of the Venezuelan economy confirms “clichés [Americans] heard in elementary school about how ‘Communism just doesn’t work.’” Maupin claimed that, on the contrary, “millions of Venezuelans have seen their living conditions vastly improved through the Bolivarian process.”

Cindy Sheehan giving a hug to everyone’s favorite race hustler and shakedown artist, Jesse Jackson

As for Lilly’s own oeuvre, in September 2015, Cindy Sheehan (a famous antiwar activist during the George W. Bush administration who all but disappeared from the media once Barack Obama became president) posted on her website a “guest article” by Lilly entitled “Socialism, A Love Story.” Excerpts: “Capitalism isn’t working and it never has….Capitalism is a system that has run its course, much like slavery and feudalism. The future however is optimistic and a new system is on its way to being established, that system is Socialism.” As to the argument that socialism “never works in practice,” Lilly confidently asserted: “This could not be farther from the truth. Humans are naturally co-operative beings and to suggest that exploiting each other for valueless paper is somehow embedded in our genes is ludicrous.”

Caleb T. Maupin

What about China or the USSR? These weren’t really socialist countries, argued Lilly, although “Socialist elements of the USSR and Cuba, have led to the launching of the Sputnik and the eradication of homelessness and hunger. Imagine what the potential of Socialism is in a nation as rich and developed as the USA.” At the time he wrote that article, Lilly was, according to his contributor’s note, the 17-year-old “leader of Lehigh Valley Youth Democratic Socialists” whose “first mass action was joining Cindy Sheehan’s Soapbox and other organizations in March in WDC for Spring Rising; in his spare time he likes smashing patriarchy, imperialism, capitalism and defending the oppressed.”

Those now-iconic empty Venezuelan grocery-store shelves

Why would such a callow and obscure character as Lilly be invited on Carlson’s show in the first place? The answer, one suspects, is that all the heavy hitters who were standing up for chavista economics as recently as a couple of years ago have either changed their tune or changed the topic. You might suggest that the best way to respond to the puerile views of a Dakotah Lilly is to ignore him; but this is the sort of person who, in a couple of years, will be out of college and in a first-rung position at some think tank or NGO or congressional office in Washington, D.C., or some other power center, using his twisted opinions to help set the nation’s future agenda. Best to be aware of these people as soon as possible, and to remember to track them as they move from the classroom into positions of authority. 

Adeste fideles

(FILES) In this 04 September1999 file photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro discusses his request to the president of the International Olympic Committee in Havana for an investigation into the treatment of certain Cuban atheletes. Castro said the communist nation is not afraid of dialogue with the United States -- and not interested in continued confrontation with its powerful neighbor. The comments came as a group of US lawmakers visited Cuba this weekend to try to end nearly half a century of mutual distrust and amid reports that President Barack Obama was planning to ease economic sanctions on the island, including travel restrictions on Cuban-Americans. "We're not afraid to talk with the United States. We also don't need confrontation to exist, like some fools like to think," Castro, 82, said in an article on the Cubadebate website on April 5, 2009. AFP PHOTO/ADALBERTO ROQUE /FILES (Photo credit should read ADALBERTO ROQUE/AFP/Getty Images) Original Filename: Was672139.jpg

Yesterday we lamented the New York Times‘s nauseating Castro obit. Unsurprisingly, the Times wasn’t the only newspaper to praise the old thug. While the Washington Post, in the headline of its obituary, honestly – and admirably – labeled Fidel a “dictator,” a slew of other mainstream media honored him with the title of “president” (Bloomberg, Daily Mail) or “leader” (CNN, PBS, Daily Mirror). The BBC went with “icon.” And while U.S. President-elect Donald Trump frankly called Castro a “brutal dictator,” other eminent figures around the world queued up to ooze praise. A quick round-up:

NA-TRUDEAU-EDBOARD5 The editorial board met with Liberal leadership candidate Justin Trudeau on April 5, 2013. CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR
Justin Trudeau

Jill Stein. The Green Party presidential candidate tweeted: “Fidel Castro was a symbol of the struggle for justice in the shadow of empire. Presente!”

Justin Trudeau. Applauding Castro’s “love for the Cuban people,” Canada’s PM said that the tyrant’s demise caused him “deep sorrow,” noted that his father (late PM Pierre Trudeau) “was very proud to call [Castro] a friend,” and mourned “the loss of this remarkable leader.”

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Jean-Claude Juncker

Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU Commission president tweeted: “With the death of #FidelCastro, the world has lost a man who was a hero for many.”

George Galloway. The former British MP tweeted: “You were the greatest man I ever met Comandante Fidel. You were the man of the century.”

Michael D. Higgins. Ireland’s president gushed that “equality and poverty are much less pronounced in Cuba than in surrounding nations” and that Castro stood not only for “freedom for his people but for all of the oppressed and excluded peoples on the planet.”

June 26-27, 1984, Havana, Cuba --- Jesse Jackson smokes Cuban cigars with Fidel Castro during a controversial visit to Havana in June 1984. Jackson, a candidate for President of the United States, caused a stir in the U.S. government and press by visiting with the Communist leader. --- Image by © Jacques M. Chenet/CORBIS
Jesse Jackson with Castro, 1984

Jesse Jackson. The veteran shakedown artist cheered  Castro the “freedom fighter,” “poor people’s hero,” and “liberator.”

Jimmy Carter. The retired peanut farmer wrote: “Rosalynn and I share our sympathies with the Castro family and the Cuban people….We remember fondly our visits with him in Cuba and his love of his country.”

ban-ki-moon
Ban Ki-Moon

Ban Ki-Moon. The UN honcho professed to be “saddened” by the death of Castro, whom he credited with “advances…in the fields of education, literacy and health” and touted as “a strong voice for social justice.”

Jeremy Corbyn. The head of the British Labour Party hailed Castro as a “champion of social justice.”

MANDATORY CREDIT People in Miami celebrate the death of Cuba's Fidel Castro in front of Versailles Restaurant in Little Havana, early Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Within half an hour of the Cuban government’s official announcement that former President Fidel Castro had died, Friday, Nov. 25, 2016, at age 90, Miami’s Little Havana teemed with life - and cheers. (Al Diaz/Miami Herald via AP)
Celebrating in Miami

Obscene, all of it. Any reader who is tempted to believe these plaudits need only watch TV coverage of the exultant celebrations by Cuban exiles in the streets of Miami. In those crowds are people who have firsthand knowledge of Castro’s evil. Many of them, because of Castro, have experienced cruelty, brutality, and suffering beyond description. Castro robbed their freedom, their homes, their land. And, in many cases, imprisoned, tortured, or executed their fathers, mothers, husbands, wives, sons, daughters.

arenas
Reynaldo Arenas

If viewing those videos isn’t enough to make the truth sink in, read one or more of the better-informed obits, such as this one in the Independent and this one in the Miami Herald. Or buy the haunting, masterly memoir Before Night Falls by Reynaldo Arenas. No man or woman of conscience can peruse these writings and emerge with the belief that Castro was anything but one of the great totalitarian monsters of the last century, or that his passing is anything but a welcome end to a nightmarish chapter of human history.