Two extremes: On both sides judgement is being passed too quickly on very serious allegations
There is a running joke amongst some of my colleagues that my knowledge of TV personalities from the early 2000s and previous decades is patchy. And if I’m being honest, patchy is probably too kind. But I’m younger than them, so, what can I say? So, when the Dispatches 90-minute special appeared on Channel 4’s scheduling with no description alongside rampant rumours on social media that it would make allegations of sexual violence against a well-known UK comic during the 2000s and early 2010s it wasn’t blatantly obvious to me who it was.
I don’t remember the period where a national newspaper would name Russell Brand ‘Shagger of the Year’, three years in a row. My first introduction to him was the 2008 Walt Disney comedy film Bedtime Stories, a rather stark contrast. But as the court of public opinion named him on social media, any doubt I had was removed that evening as Brand made a pre-emptive statement.
I sent a text to someone I know to be a fan of Brand’s YouTube content, which often theorises about a globalist takeover and questions decisions made by governments during the pandemic. I was quite shocked to find they felt, without having watched the documentary or heard the allegations, that it was a stitch-up and that the establishment was attempting to silence him.
We went back and forth, and they reluctantly accepted that they would have to hear the allegations before forming a judgment, but they ended the conversation questioning why people in the upper echelon of society are not scrutinised in the same fashion. Maybe they are right, but in the context of what we were talking about, it felt like a defence of Brand.
This is far from one person’s view either. People jumped to Brand’s defence in their droves. GB News presenter Beverley Turner tweeted that Brand was welcome on her show anytime and that he was “being attacked” for creating “autonomous, knowing and original content”.
Her cohost Andrew Pierce described her tweet, on air and with her sitting by his side, as “shameful” for dismissing the four-year investigation by the Sunday Times, The Times and Channel 4 which brought to light very serious allegations of a sixteen-year-old being groomed and another women who says she was raped by Brand.
Turner, who says she is “opinionated but willing to listen” in her Twitter bio, certainly didn’t display that in this instance.
However, I also felt very uneasy when I read the letters from Dame Caroline Dineage, the chair of the UK Parliament’s Culture, Media and Sport Committee, to social media platforms. She said “We [the Culture, Media and Sport Committee] are concerned that he [Brand] may be able to profit from his content” and asked if they are considering taking the same action as YouTube “in suspending Mr Brand’s ability to earn money on the platform”.
Social media platform Rumble described the letter as “extremely disturbing”, and quite frankly it is. How can Dineage or any other member of the committee think they have a say on whether a member of society can make money when they have not yet been charged or convicted? That is an attempt at silencing.
How have we reached this point where there are two sides: one that refuses to listen to very serious allegations and another that thinks they can act like judge, jury, and executioner? It is a wider reflection of where we are as a society, people are so quick to nail their flag to a mast.
These are grave allegations, and as the Metropolitian Police and Thames Valley Police are now investigating, it’s time to allow them to conduct their investigation into them and treat them with the seriousness they deserve.