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The Need for Caution on Russell Brand Accusations and Why the Press Is Not Being Cautious - Pt. 1

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
Matt Sayles

Currently, the British press, and by extension the media here on our shore, are busying themselves with the lurid story of former performer and current social commentary figure Russel Brand involved with allegations of sexual crimes. Five women have come forward to level serious allegations against Brand and the papers are showing their usual level of self-control - that is to say, they have no self-control on the matter.


Brand recently came forward to get in front of this fusillade, denying things fully while acknowledging his past proclivities. He has never denied his bawdy and boisterous antics (he has even written of them) but insists all relationships were consensual in nature. British papers are, in a near uniform fashion, going with multi-inch typeface headlines on the charges, with the word “RAPE!” a common player in the hype. Numerous questions are to be raised, but what appears most obvious is the sense of a coordinated attack.

The way this is being set up is that this is a purely investigative effort taking place, with multiple news outlets working on the story. The women have varying degrees of involvement with Brand and involve accusations in both Britain and Los Angeles, with one rape accuser stating they were in a long-term relationship. Another tells of being a 16-year-old student and being under the control of Brand. A third details an alleged assault (not a rape) where the woman says they were alone, but then says others were there and heard of the conflict. She reportedly says that she “thinks” he may have slid a hand into her pants during this episode. Yet another is a former lover and her descriptionsof things in a book she wrote using pseudonyms for the two of them. 

In almost all the cases we see women who all remained involved with Brand after these actions that are today declared dangerous, disqualifying, and quite possibly illegal. Yet it took more than a decade for these to emerge, in unison. The Times’ report states that all of these women detailed their experiences without knowledge of the others.


These are not exactly solid instances of unimpeachable details from nearly two decades back, yet look at the onrush of coverage and accusation seen from the press, and the industry. And it is already having the desired effect. Already Brand is experiencing professional retribution, in the form of a spiked book deal, a tour has been in place with sold out shows that is now suspended. His agency has dropped him as a client.

The first item of question is the relationship aspect. That is not to imply that rape does not occur between an established couple, but it raises questions about the possible recalibration of events. In one piece of evidence offered up in this investigation, the text messages sounded more like there is a discussion over the lack of use of a condom during a tryst, not the woman accusing Brand of raping her. While this does not prove nor disprove anything, it does introduce the specter of having past activities (we are talking nearly decades back) being measured in a new contemporary post-#MeToo prism.

The aspect of the 16-year-old sounds troubling, but in Great Britain that is the legal age of consent, and the woman states she did consent to be with Brand physically. Here is one of the bigger fractures in this built-up story: While the woman attests that she consented (and that Brand was certain to verify her age at the time), it is said she “decided to speak out because she now believes that she was too young to be able to consent to a relationship with an adult man, and that the law should be changed to protect those under 18. This may be a genuine feeling for the woman, but by Britain’s own standards, this does not measure up as rape.


I have no personal rooting interest for or against Brand, although I do find his path in life rather fascinating. He was a boisterous comedic figure when he rose to prominence in the early 2000s, graduating from standup to television, radio, and movies. His hedonistic nature was on full display and was frequently a component of his content. Years later he has dispatched much of that behavior, turning away from drugs and alcohol, essentially pulling back from Hollywood, and as he remarried and established a family as he branched out into social commentary and professional punditry. 

Many would say Brand has become “red-pilled”, seeing the light of society and becoming somewhere to the right of center socially and politically. A glib explanation is he has become a British version of Joe Rogan. It is posited by some that this wave of allegations is a form of media retribution for bucking the trend of accepted narratives. This is not a proven concept, and it may not even be provable, but it still warrants consideration. 

When the question of why these women have waited so long to come forward one line of debate is that the various British police departments are said to be unreliable or even hostile towards the victims. But at least two of the alleged victims were located in Los Angeles; are we to believe that the LA police are equally inept? In one of the stories the woman states she went to a rape crisis center following one encounter. Were the authorities not involved?

That there appears to be an effort to begin punishing Brand for past sins by today’s recalibrated acceptability is rather obvious. This is not a case of a noble figure having a dark secret coming to light, and now deemed unacceptable and thus deserving of being canceled. He has long been known to be a rakish character back in the day. This alone is a revealing detail; in the years these accusations are covering Brand was not only a public figure but his avaricious ways were part of his launch into stardom. The press not only knew what he was but they publicized and even lauded him for it. He won three British Comedy Awards in this era and even earned a nomination for the BAFTAS, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards.


Now, however, the man they feted must now become forlorn, so the contemporary judgement is applied to past celebrated actions. The biggest problem in this sudden media assault is that it is taking place entirely in the press, and the public. We are not discussing things that are revealed from police reports or FOIA requests from authorities. Brand is not being granted due process as the press blasts those banner headlines with supposition of his guilt on full display.

Adding to the problematics here is the selective energy applied to these cases. Take a look at the collective rush to plaster Brand’s face and the charges on the front pages, and then note we have not seen a similar amount of enthusiasm to dig into the sprawling details of a much broader case - the Jeffrey Epstein saga. While most have some familiarity of the charges about an underage sex island operated by Epstein for high-end clients, once his curious death came about the interest in the story seemed to have died as well.

This is not to be read as a wholesale defense of Russel Brand; I do not have a particular stance regarding the man. But it is also not a wholesale support of the charges. It needs to be looked at skeptically considering the severity of the accusations in the headlines in balance with the more tepid accounts that are provided, and then the to this point lack of legal authorities being involved. This is a media tribunal at this point, and so far the conviction meted out in the press is not supported with solid proof.

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