My Views on Russell Brand’s “Trews” (Part I)

I’d heard a lot of people talking about Russell Brand’s YouTube channel Trews so, a couple of weeks ago, I spent a few days watching most of them. Here is the blurb in his own words so you can see its premise:

Welcome to my channel and my daily show ‘The Trews’ where I give you the true news so you don’t have to invest any money in buying newspapers that charge you for the privilege of keeping your consciousness imprisoned in a tiny box of ignorance and lies.

Before we continue, I will explain my “political stance”. I’m a model agnostic. That means I can freely move between any and all (human-capable) worldviews on any particular subject. It also means I rarely find myself settling firmly on any particularly stance. I don’t consider myself aligned with any position on the “Conservative–Liberal” spectrum. If I had to make decisions, however, they would most likely tend to align with Libertarian values.

The point is, I don’t have a dog in the political race. I’m a floating point. That said, much of Trews is not about political leaning per se, but is rather about exposing corruption and the tricks media and government use to manipulate your consciousness. I appreciate this aspect of Trews very much and will start with it.

The Media in General

I think Russell is right on the money regarding what utter shits newspapers are. I stopped reading them when I was about 19, and I suggest you do the same immediately if you haven’t already.

I think Russell’s breakdowns of each newspaper in the episodes are pretty good. He points out how they’ve used a certain angle to inspire X emotion in you, usually fear or anger or both, mainly in order to keep you buying that newspaper in an addictive loop, but also sometimes to get you to subscribe to some specific viewpoint or course of action.

I also like how Russell will point out how there is a contradictory story often on the very next page. Newspapers literally make you dumber (if you read them seriously).

One thing I have not seen him touch upon yet is the concept of churnalism. Churnalism is when a “journalist” simply rewrites an existing story from another news source (usually a central news agency such as Reuters or Associated Press) for his or her own newspaper. (They literally teach churnalism as a module in journalism degrees.) The result is that a lot of the news you read in each paper is simply copied from a central source. Whomever controls the central source therefore controls much of the news you read, regardless of publication. The ingenious tool churnalism.com has been set up to help you identify percentage of text in an article copied from another source.

Russell doesn’t go after TV so much (with the exception of Fox News, which he attacks pretty much every episode these days) but I think he should. My brief description of how television works on a “zoomed-out” level is as follows. TV is a feedback loop. It takes the existing societal narrative and feeds it back to you in a highly stimulatory form. This has the effect of both reinforcing people’s existing world model, and also copying it into the younger generation. In the Eight-Circuit Model of Consciousness, TV is a central pillar of today’s Circuit IV. It can be seen as a buffer against people getting too many of their own ideas.

There is also an enormous potential for those who control television to manipulate your world model for certain aims. For example, I (sadly) saw an episode of The Big Bang Theory a while ago which joked about one of the characters being followed by an aerial drone. By presenting drone surveillance as regular and even comedic, the audience is programmed with the idea that drones are “normal” and are desensitized to what should be a horrifying concept. I am certain that, however you package those in control — whether you call them “elites”, the “New World Order”, “reptilian shape-shifting overlords” or “Melonheads” (in Koanic-speak) — they are editing the narrative via TV to normalize what they want you to think.

Like newspapers, TV also titillates via the most easily-aroused emotions — sex, fear and anger — to create addictive loops. In short, do not watch TV — ever, if possible. If you like a couple of shows, watch them online so you avoid most of the advertising — and continue to be mindful of the messages in those shows.

Russell is doing a fairly good job of bringing the consciousness-lowering effects of the media to your attention. This is probably the best aspect of his show. Unfortunately, he does not appear to have noticed that he himself has been manipulated in these very ways on certain subjects such as global warming, which I discuss shortly. In other words, there are certain topics that he himself is helping to propagate in a consciousness-lowering way. Oops!

Philosophy

Another area of Trews I like is the philosophical and worldview aspects he injects, usually at the end of the show. He will often read from authors such as Eckhart Tolle and other philosophers with an Eastern bent. He also occasionally reads from books about quantum physics and psychology in order to further illustrate how one’s perceptions come about. These bits work as a great counteragent to the mainstream media analysis earlier in each show. I’ve read many of the authors he reads from in these segments, and I consider them consciousness-raising.

Russell seems dedicated to a worldview based in love and compassion and I do believe he is trying to spread those values. I very much like those messages and they are in stark contrast to anything you will find in the mainstream media.

Russell is a meditator and student of consciousness and the human experience. Obviously my site is largely centred on this stuff and I consider us in alignment here.

Pragmatism vs. Universalism

Russell Brand is what I call a universalist. Universalist statements take the form: “Everybody should…” <insert universal value, e.g. “have free healthcare” or “have equal pay”>.

It was Koanic who first put me onto the idea that human worldviews and their corresponding actions can be placed on a spectrum ranging from pragmatic on one end to universal on the other:

Pragmatic <————————> Universal

He also posited that a person’s inclination towards one or the other correlates with the size of their frontal lobes. This makes sense as the frontal lobes are responsible for injecting time and distance into one’s perceptions. Meditation can be seen as an exercise which strengthens the inhibitory power of the frontal lobes over the other brain areas — thus, “viewing things with detachment”.

Thus, in Koanic’s own model of phrenology, someone’s forehead height can be used as a rough indicator of their inclination towards pragmatism or universalism, with a high forehead (larger frontal lobes) pertaining to a more universal bent. As you can see, Russell Brand’s forehead is pretty high:

russell-brands-profile-1

I’m not sure Koanic’s model is completely accurate — but, as a model agnostic, I’m not sure anything is completely accurate. However, it is an intriguing idea.

In contrast to universal approaches, pragmatic worldviews and actions are more about getting the job done now — usually for the benefit of those closest around you, rather than humans (or indeed other organisms — e.g. Russell is an avowed vegetarian) on a larger scale. Universalism is a “zoomed-out” strategy, whereas pragmatism is a “zoomed-in” strategy.

To illustrate the difference between the two strategies, consider the parable of a sheriff of a town in the Old West. There is a known villain in this town — “known” meaning that the general consensus among the townsfolk is that this individual is disrupting social cohesion — or otherwise being a damned nuisance.

  • The universal sheriff will insist, “Everybody should have a fair trial” (with habeas corpus and what not), and delay proceedings so that they are in accordance with his universal values.
  • The pragmatic sheriff just says, “Let’s hang him.”

Universalism is the delay of gratification in the short term for the possibility of a better result (for everyone) in the long term.

Russell Brand is not the first person to espouse universalist ideals. There were a couple of guys called Jesus and Buddha who did something similar, for a start.

The “problem” with universalist ideals is that they typically take a long time to play out. People have to get on board with the ideas one by one and everybody has to agree to delay short-term gratification in what is essentially a hope for a better outcome in the long term. It can be seen as the zoomed-out global version of the struggle of the frontal lobes — the bits that understand time and distance — over the compulsions of the rest of the brain.

Humans on the individual level rarely achieve mastery in this respect within their own lifetimes, so a species mastering such a dynamic in lockstep is probably an even longer game. Buddha himself devised probably the greatest framework for achieving such mastery and, even thousands of years on, few humans have developed themselves significantly towards it.

I think the world needs universalists like Russell Brand, to keep the vision of that possible future alive. However, he’s big on the “what” and the “why”, but small on the “how” — he lacks pragmatism. I think that’s the source of most of the opposition against his ideas, and against “liberal” ideas generally. He does have some ideas for how to achieve his vision of a world built on love and compassion however, and I will critique those in Part II. For now, I’d like to attack his character a little bit.

Hypocrite

Personal Wealth

One of Russell’s ideas for achieving his vision is massive redistribution of wealth from the “One Percent” to the rest of the world. I’ll talk about potential issues there in Part II.

Meanwhile, one of the biggest flaws affecting the believability of Russell’s message is that he himself is one of the “One Percent”. Russell Brand is reportedly worth $15 million, and has just bought a new house for $2.2 million. This is more money than most people will see in a lifetime, and certainly more than he needs to live on, even granting himself a comfortable lifestyle. I have not seen any sign of him “redistributing his wealth” and so far I have not seen any episode of Trews where he addresses the many comments calling him out on this apparent hypocrisy. (He does however address other types of comment on his show, so it’s not like he isn’t reading them.)

I don’t know why he isn’t giving his own money away. Under his own model, the bloke who does his hair should be entitled to a sizeable chunk of his $15 million fortune. I think he has probably rationalized this contradiction to himself with thoughts such as, “Well, if I keep the money, I can continue to provide this platform to spread my message, and the ends justify the means.” He might also rationalize that there are people with even more money than him, billions of dollars, and it is more important that they should “go first”. My view is that of Gandhi’s: “Be the change you wish to see.” He should go first, else why should he expect anyone else to?

He’s not embodying his own values. In my opinion this seriously undermines his message.

Ego

Brand deconstructs ego and self-concept, drawing from great philosophers such as Eckhart Tolle to illustrate his point. Yet, in the same breath, Brand will allude to himself being Jesus (he is known for this in his recent live shows, too). Eckhart Tolle however does not allude to himself being Jesus. Whose message is stronger?

Self-aggrandizement is probably the main reason humans don’t treat others as well as they should. Brand has not yet overcome this facet of himself, so why should we take him seriously as a spiritual guide?

No one is perfect and we should not expect perfection from those we choose to follow. But some things should be obvious red flags.

Not Checking His Facts

It could be said that one of the main purposes of Trews is to make people question the things they read and hear, and to become aware of how they are being manipulated into subscribing to certain worldviews which are possibly not in their best interests. I have a couple of examples however where Russell Brand does not apply these same criteria to his own understanding of the world.

The first is a strong example: global warming. I do not know whether the world is getting warmer. If it is, I don’t know that human actions here on Earth are the cause. We’re told that that is happening, but we’re told by the media, which is the very thing Brand is warning us against believing unquestioningly. Brand however believes unequivocally in man-made global warming, and warns about it on his show quite often. I doubt he has done much personal research into the topic. Of course, this kind of campaigning fits in nicely with his “saving the world” self-narrative, and we’re back to ego constructs again.

My point here is not whether man-made global warming exists or not, but that most of us rely on the media for our information about it.

However, I will now lay out my current views on global warming anyway, since you asked. 🙂

Despite Brand’s assertion to the contrary, there are reasons why governments would want to maintain a spectre such as man-made global warming. It creates fear, and therefore an excuse to give themselves more power and collect more taxes. Brand is quick to point out how they do this using other devices, such as the “War on Terror”, but seems to ignore the possibility that that is what’s going on here, too.

I’ve done some research over the last couple of years. It is quite well established now that the Earth hasn’t warmed for 17 years, meaning the computer models that predicted continuous warming weren’t accurate. Warmists say things like, “The heat is hiding in the sea!” which I don’t quite believe. Polar ice is also growing. It seems that much of what climatologists said would happen, didn’t happen. This doesn’t surprise me — humans have been collectively wrong about massive issues from the dawn of time — e.g. when the Earth used to be flat.

Then there’s the talk of fake data. Apparently the NOAA “cools the past” by adjusting historic temperatures so their graph still slopes upward when extended into the future. They even changed the “hottest summer ever” (July 1936), lowering it by 0.7 degrees F, and then surreptitiously changing it back when people saw what they had done. Does this sound like science to you? On the individual level, humans are reluctant to challenge their own personal narratives, even when provided with contradictory evidence. This is one definition of “ego”. And, since what happens on the global level is just a fractal of what happens within the individual, I don’t doubt that humans are capable of such delusion and revision of history on a grand scale.

When it turned out that the world isn’t getting warmer, they changed the name from “global warming” to “climate change”. The implication is that, whether the world is getting warmer or cooler, it’s still our doing. Man has historically been geocentric. The Sun used to go around the Earth. It seems to be a larger fractal version of the individual believing that everything revolves around himself. It’s a power and control issue. We love to believe that, if there is an effect, we caused it.

I think the climate probably is changing, it’s probably getting colder, and it’s probably caused by the Sun as we edge closer to the end of Holocene. Nature doesn’t care much for man’s notion that he is the cause behind every effect, and will do its own thing regardless.

The second (weaker) example of Brand sticking to his own narrative rather than checking his facts was in an episode of Trews where they were discussing the NHS. His guest star was a man with a plastic bag attached to his face, who said, “I’ve heard UKIP wants to get rid of the NHS.” Russell replied, “Of course they do.” But from my research UKIP seems fond of the NHS and they haven’t said anywhere that they want to get rid of it. Of course, that doesn’t mean they don’t, but how does Brand know this? He doesn’t; it just suits his narrative better if they do.

Ad Hominem Attacks

This was the reason I stopped watching Trews completely (and do not plan to return to it). I had quite enjoyed the episodes generally up until two very recent ones.

In the first, Brand wanted to attack UKIP specifically. He played a video of one of Nigel Farage’s speeches and just made fun of him without actually talking about the policies or ideas of UKIP he disagreed with. It was just mindless name-calling.

In the second, entitled “Climate Change Debate: Which Is The Hoax?”, he loaded up some campaign video of a US conservative global warming denier and attacked her personal appearance then basically said, “Global warming is happening” and that was that. How is that a “debate”?

In some episodes he’s asking us to think critically about issues and providing alternative viewpoints — and he’s shown he can do that well, in an engaging, humorous manner. In others he’s making schoolboy logical fallacies and just saying, “They’re wrong and I’m right” and encouraging you to lower your quality of thinking by setting that example. Trews had been fun to watch (even if I disagreed with some of it) until he lowered his own standards like that.

 

In Part II I will discuss my views on the individual elements of Russell Brand’s “plan” for the world, including wealth redistribution, living in smaller communities, and raising human consciousness. If you are sick of hearing about Russell Brand by now, don’t worry — I won’t be discussing him personally in Part II, but just his ideas (which aren’t new anyway). Consider it an article on futurology.

 

 

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14 Responses

  1. horay_henry says:

    Dude, you aren’t model agnostic. You can’t freely move between any and all (human-capable) worldviews on any particular subject. You might strive towards that as an ideal, but you can’t be model agnostic. No one can.
    And thinking that you are model agnostic harms your ability to notice how you have been manipulated into subscribing to certain worldviews in various ways on certain subjects such as global warming, Just because you don’t read newspapers doesn’t mean you are getting manipulated – just that the sources are different.

    On a somewhat different note, Russell Brand isn’t an intellectual or a spiritual guide. He is an entertainer. Criticizing him for juvenile name calling is like criticizing a bear for shitting in the woods. It is just what he does. It’s his schtick. Still, making fun of him for it can be funny: e.g. Stuart Lee’s take on Russel Brand:

    • Illuminatus says:

      “Dude, you aren’t model agnostic. You can’t freely move between any and all (human-capable) worldviews on any particular subject. You might strive towards that as an ideal, but you can’t be model agnostic. No one can.”

      Since I’m agnostic about my model agnosticism, I’m not sure you’re wrong. 😉

      What I can say perhaps is that I’m a lot more model agnostic than most people. I can “be” a conservative for a moment, or “be” a liberal, or “be” an atheist or “be” religious. And experience all the irreconcilability of the opposing viewpoint. I developed this mainly by purposefully reading blogs written from viewpoints I didn’t understand.

      I’m not sure where you get the idea that no one can be model agnostic, anyway. It’s a peculiar limitation to place on oneself.

      “And thinking that you are model agnostic harms your ability to notice how you have been manipulated into subscribing to certain worldviews in various ways on certain subjects such as global warming, Just because you don’t read newspapers doesn’t mean you are getting manipulated – just that the sources are different.”

      Not really. I take that all into account. And I know exactly who the source is in this regard (global warming). That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy exploring that reality tunnel. 🙂

      Either way, you can’t prove that I don’t make choices this way. You’ll tend to filter whatever you see through the world model that “everyone is being manipulated” so it’s an exercise in futility anyway. The end result is that you’ll tend to believe nobody has true free will or can make their own choices on such things — it’s all just a sum of manipulations. Since I’m agnostic about free will, I don’t have too much trouble with either view.

      “On a somewhat different note, Russell Brand isn’t an intellectual or a spiritual guide. He is an entertainer.”

      The word “is” is a problem in English. It denotes a kind of immutable “essence”. When did he “become” an “entertainer”? And why is that now set in stone?

      I think it’s more apt to talk about him in terms of what role he is playing. Right now he’s playing the role of spiritual leader, albeit “through” an entertainer role. Are the two compatible? Most of the time he pulls it off. But there are incompatibilities at certain times, which I’ve highlighted in my post.

      Look up E-Prime for more information on English without “is”. It’s a powerful way to change the way people think (helps get them out of the everyday “judgment” modality) and is essential for model agnosticism (if you are inclined towards learning more about either of these things).

      “Still, making fun of him for it can be funny: e.g. Stuart Lee’s take on Russel Brand:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uwWUb5hyFmQ

      Saw that, it’s awesome. 🙂 I love Stewart Lee.

  2. horay_henry says:

    I just made the the mistake of watching a few “trews”. Christ alive, I couldn’t stand it. Whatever you want to say about E-Prime, fact of the matter is that Russell Brand IS a twat. F.A.C.T. I am not sure sure if he would deny it though.

    Ok, I can buy you are willing to consider alternative points of view that the average Joe. That is fine. But “I that into account” appears to me as another statement of you buying into an image of yourself as someone with special powers (i.e. self-aggrandizement). Manipulation comes from outside and within – as you point out, it comes down to self-narrative and ego constructs and I don’t see you as being any different from Russell in that regard. He has his narrative that he buys into, and you have your own (and seemingly non-model agnostic).

  3. Illuminatus says:

    “Ok, I can buy you are willing to consider alternative points of view that the average Joe. That is fine. But “I that into account” appears to me as another statement of you buying into an image of yourself as someone with special powers (i.e. self-aggrandizement).”

    It might be special in that not a lot of people do it. But it was developed intentionally through exercises (there are some good exercises in Quantum Psychology and I’ve also developed my own). So as it was a developed skill I do not consider it “magical” if that’s what you were worried about.

    I think you are possibly looking for charlatans and hypocrites so you find them. “What the thinker thinks, the prover proves”. So your mind is made up in advance and you go about finding evidence in support of that. That’s basically what humans are doing on all fronts anyway, so it’s not exactly anything new.

    “it comes down to self-narrative and ego constructs and I don’t see you as being any different from Russell in that regard. He has his narrative that he buys into, and you have your own (and seemingly non-model agnostic)”

    I never said we were different. 😉 You’ve inferred that from my writing a post with criticisms of him.

    Every human perception is based on a ton of assumptions and we can call these assumptions your “worldview”.

  4. horay_henry says:

    re: magic, I just meant “super power” as in over estimation of your abilities (i.e. self-aggrandization) beyond what is realistic, not magic in an esoteric sense.

    I guess in regard for looking for hypocrites, we have something in common! (see that header with the word “Hypocrite” and the sub-headings analysing the hypocritical behaviors). So in saying you aren’t different from Russell, I guess you acknowledge that? The point I didn’t get was why you would say you are model agnostic and don’t settle on a particular stance., and then go on to give your non-agnostic beliefs about climate change, just presenting one side of the argument that you favour, partly in order to say Russell is wrong, I am right. And so, perhaps as a human being, your mind is made up in being a climate change skeptic, and so you look for evidence in support of that (like surfing climate change skeptic websites and linking to pages that support your point of view rather than links that don’t support it).

    I think the kinds of skills you are talking about most likely fall into the rubric of “critical thinking”, and they can be trained in different ways. But I guess what interests me most is the extent to which those that pride themselves in such skills (myself included) believe themselves to be less susceptible to the flaws in thinking that we are primed to identify in others.

    • Illuminatus says:

      “re: magic, I just meant “super power” as in over estimation of your abilities (i.e. self-aggrandization) beyond what is realistic, not magic in an esoteric sense.”

      I tend to overestimate my abilities. Life has a tendency to put that right, though.

      “I guess in regard for looking for hypocrites, we have something in common! (see that header with the word “Hypocrite” and the sub-headings analysing the hypocritical behaviors). So in saying you aren’t different from Russell, I guess you acknowledge that? The point I didn’t get was why you would say you are model agnostic and don’t settle on a particular stance., and then go on to give your non-agnostic beliefs about climate change, just presenting one side of the argument that you favour, partly in order to say Russell is wrong, I am right.”

      Well I used the word “probably” thrice when stating what I think, so how is that not agnostic. 😛

      But, really, if some compelling evidence happenstanced its way into my awareness tomorrow, I could change my views immediately. My views can turn on a dime. That’s why I wouldn’t make a very good leader. It’s also why I consider myself a “floating point”.

      And if it’s consistency you’re looking for, you’re better off looking for another site, because you won’t find it here. I gave up trying to be consistent long ago. I just write whatever is in my head in the moment. I might not even write Part II of this post (I’ve done that before).

      “I think the kinds of skills you are talking about most likely fall into the rubric of “critical thinking”, and they can be trained in different ways. But I guess what interests me most is the extent to which those that pride themselves in such skills (myself included) believe themselves to be less susceptible to the flaws in thinking that we are primed to identify in others.”

      I don’t consider myself less susceptible. I don’t even really care to be honest. I just think you’re projecting a lot of stuff onto me and arguing with THAT. But then again I think that’s probably what everybody is doing when they talk to anybody, ever, anyway. So it’s business as usual, really.

  5. horary_henry says:

    The last point wasn’t mainly aimed at you, more a general point – but yes, we are all projecting (no doubt a bit with you and this post about Russell?)

    Re: consistency – so the point about hypocrisy was not about consistency so much as but as self-awareness, as one of the ways in which the critique failed (in my eyes) was due to lack of self awareness. So one way to deflect criticisms is to turn the criticisms back on the criticiser, talk in generalities, and turn perceived qualities into positive ones (a useful trick for positive mental health). But acknowledging and exploring criticism can be useful for self knowledge, and help stop creating idealising versions of ourselves. So one last go:

    “But, really, if some compelling evidence happenstanced its way into my awareness tomorrow, I could change my views immediately. My views can turn on a dime”

    I don’t know you, but that I would guess that “probably” is false. You see the framing? Russell, poor Russell, is subject to his personal narratives which lead him to his deluded thinking and biased interpretation of the facts and confirmation bias etc…. You, on the other hand, come to your beliefs via evidence – if there was compelling evidence for climate change, well, then, of course you would change your mind….

  6. Illuminatus says:

    I think… have you ever just sat back and watched something happen? Like putting a coin into one of those spiral things where it goes around and around a million times before dropping into a hole.

  7. Lampa says:

    Very entertaining comments 😛

  8. horay_henry says:

    btw, UKIP hate the NHS and climate change is real!

  9. Luke Hobson says:

    Very interesting piece. As professional environmentalist I am particularly intruiged by your claims of fake data supporting climate change, which Ive personally never been aware of. Yes the world is constanly undergoing change, namely between periods of glaciation, but the rate of change in global temperature over the last 150 years correlates too kindly with the industrial revolution and rising atmospheric CO2 – particularly spiking with the industrialising of Asia and S.America in more recent years. Temperature change is typically witnessed over thousands years, not ten’s of years. I agree however, the media use global warming and climate change for political advantage – often distorting its true impact to a point where a lot of people simply dont care or dont believe it (Murdoch). Such papers themselves use fake data, or conservative think tanks, and commentators who have no scientific background whatsoever. In turn major fossil fuel mulitnationals can continue to get an easy ride – think of the fracking tax breaks the Tories are giving.

    If you want sciencific evidence without political context (hopefully), read the Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change reports. They predict a 4 degrees rise in global temperature by the end of the century – and this is a modest prediction. This would massively disrupt natural equilibrium and would occur too fast for nature to properly adapt.

    http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/index.shtml

  10. horary_henry says:

    Fake data sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? Here is a summary of the issue:
    http://fabiusmaximus.com/2014/06/28/steve-goddard-climate-fake-data-69465/
    And here is a link to one of the rebuttals:
    http://judithcurry.com/2014/07/07/understanding-adjustments-to-temperature-data/
    for the tl;dr, scientists didn’t “fake the data”, they did what scientists do, which is do science. But hey, let’s not get let that get in the way of a nice juicy global universe-level narrative that your personal narrative wants to believe in.

  11. Justin says:

    Russel Brand does redistribute his wealth. He just doesn’t tell people about it.

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