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05 November 2008

Sachsgate: Russell Brand, Jonathan Ross, Andrew Sachs, Georgina Baillie, Satanic Sluts & Max Clifford

Fake outrage, real resignations, real sackings, real suspensions and real suspenders, Sachsgate has got the lot, including a whiff of conspiracy. It is difficult to comprehend the way in which the non-story of a few offhand comments from raucous lothario comedian, Russell Brand, and the veteran if slightly unruly light entertainer, Jonathan Ross, became the media and -- more amusingly and worryingly in equal measure -- political frenzy that it has. Still more difficult to believe that the spectacle involving Andrew Sachs and his granddaughter, Georgina Baillie, happens to be running in parallel with the collapse of the carefully engineered but inherently wired-to-implode global banking racket. Yet these things are only difficult to comprehend if you thought the point of the 'news' media was to keep you informed about things of some consequence, and that anything and everything that happens just happens by accident. Luckily, there isn't much of humanity that still labours under those illusions any more.

Once upon a time there was a phone call broadcast on BBC Radio 2 that resulted in a slightly burlesque message being left on Andrew Sachs' answerphone....

Keen listeners will have noted that it was Jonathan Ross who shouted, "He fucked your granddaughter!" into Andrew Sachs' answer machine, and also that Brand's instant reaction was one of shock and horror having already asked Ross not to mention his liaison with Georgina Baillie.

The complaints that followed the live broadcast were, well, negligible, insignificant and inconsequential. "A BBC spokeswoman said the programme had received two complaints". Further, the "two complaints related to Ross's swearing - rather than the content of the phone calls." So, the issue that inspired all of two complaints was that Ross had said the word, "Fuck", not that Brand had carnal knowledge of Sach's granddaughter, nor the manner in which this information was conveyed. It soon emerged via Andrew Sachs’s agent that Sachs had been ‘terribly hurt’ by the incident and Georgina Baillie's mother, Kate, said: ‘It’s awful.’ That's the "two complaints" right there! Except that's not quite the full picture.

There it would have ended, until an anonymously penned editorial incitement of incendiary proportions was published in the Mail on Sunday, Ross, Brand and the BBC's gutter culture. Ignoring the fact that the Mail, aside from its historical support for fascism, is a doyen of the "gutter culture" it professes to despise, the outraged sentiment soon spread almost as if there were nothing much else going on in the world worth talking about.

As is usual when issues of alleged personal moral turpitude become opportunistic point-scoring political playgrounds, it wasn't long before the voices of "conservative" "decency" entered the fray. This time, possibly because he has nothing at all else of substance to say, it was in the form of David "Related to royalty, just like Boris" Cameron. Worth remembering also that Cameron and Ross have previously locked horns after Ross used his Friday night chat show on BBC1 to ask Cameron if he had ever masturbated while imagining Margaret Thatcher in stockings. Coincidentally, it was the Mail on Sunday that led the indignant outraged backlash against Ross that time around too. They say revenge is a dish best served cold and Cameron has kept his offering in the freezer for a couple of years before it was finally dished up.

Not to be outdone by the Tories, the boy's club currently in government joined the whipped-up witch hunt quick-style. First up was the despicable-as-any-Tory, Jack Straw, closely followed by no lesser mortal than the prime minister himself, Gordon BrNWO. So serious is the business of someone saying "Fuck" on the radio that BrNWO even interrupted an economic summit to pass judgement.

That this provocation occurred at the same time as details of yet another report appeared warning of "Teen yobs" and their antics is, perhaps, a "conspiracy theory" too far. (As everyone knows, the cause of all the ills of society are kids, not adult ruling classes whose interests and actions deliberately and wilfully conspire to create poverty, social deprivation and despair.) Pretty soon, in true Pavlovian mass media fashion, the likes of which Goebbels would have been most proud, the public reaction began. It is now claimed that the BBC has received over 40,000 complaints about Ross and Brand in relation to a broadcast that most of the complainants probably hadn't heard for themselves, at least not until they actively sought out transcripts and audio copies of the answerphone messages.

New Puritanism
"No one understood better than Stalin that the true object of propaganda is neither to convince nor even to persuade, but to produce a uniform pattern of public utterance in which the first trace of unorthodox thought immediately reveals itself as a jarring dissonance."

-- Leonard Schapiro
If the pen is mightier than the sword, then it logically follows that words are mightier than deeds. Ergo, it is acceptable to do certain things but not to use words and language to talk about them in any meaningful way. It is acceptable for Russell Brand to have slept with Georgina Baillie, but it is not acceptable to talk about it, especially not if the word "Fuck" is used in the process. This is the nonsense logic underlying the 'scandal' and so the bone of contention becomes Ross's use of the word "Fuck", even though the statement in which it was used happened to be the truth. So, truth becomes a crime of verbal immorality, pre-judged by those with the most dubious morals of all. Lenny Bruce turns in his grave and a witch hunt similar to the witch hunts and persecution endured by Bruce after a decade of McCarthyism, becomes its own self-justification after a decade of New Labour.

Some are calling the backlash against the BBC and its Radio 2 presenters the new puritanism, but in a world where the current paradigm requires the commodification, objectification and fetishisation of everything, sex is always good for business. Even within such confines it is certainly an odd form of puritanism where the supposed moral high ground is alleged to be held by an ex-pre-marital-bedmate of Brand that also happens to be known for her role as a burlesque dancer, the Satanic Slut, Voluptua. Imagining that such an alter-ego might secretly conceal a lady filled with particularly virginal and conservative tastes, decency and overt prudishness is quite some challenge indeed, but let's not let that get in the way of a hysterical witch hunt.

As is usual with mass media frenzies whose main thrust is something of no consequence, somewhere among hyperbole and hysteria is at least one other story that the facade conceals. In the case of the Brand and Ross radio show and prank call, aside from its stochastic coinciding with the yob report, it's highly unlikely that many will be aware of any subtexts, unless they happen to have listened to the original radio show in its entirety, or unless they are already aware of Brand's politics.

A little more of the truth behind the persecution and witch hunt of Brand can be found through a better understanding of the nature of Russell Brand and his place in geopolitical space and time. Aside from being a popular stand-up comedian with a large and loyal following among the yobs youth of today who, lest we forget, are the future whether anyone likes it or not, Brand's politics are what the ruling and media classes would term "radical" and "extreme", terms now almost exclusively reserved for use in stories about "terrorism", particularly "Islamic" terrorism. In the early stages of the same Russell Brand radio show in which messages were left on Andrew Sach's answerphone, Brand described himself as a "post structuralist". In short, that means radical left wing politics of the sort a Socialist or Marxist might espouse. Brand briefly expanded his position during the show, saying:
"I was trying to open up a bit of debate about socialism, during the credit crunch, mate. I was thinking perhaps there could be a socialist alternative to capitalism, but if you can't take a bit of talk about economics and revolution, Jonathan, because you're up in your ivory tower on your high horse...."
Before adding:
"The universe is using me as a conduit for revolution."
It is these few words, and many other examples of Brand conveying similarly revolutionary intent and ideals, that provide a more coherent and legitimate explanation of the hugely disproportionate response to a few gags of dubious comedic artistry and integrity. After all, the initial "two complaints" were hardly sufficient to warrant the media and political maelstrom and witch hunt of Russell Brand that has followed. Whatever way other aspects of the story are spun, it is free publicity for all involved and there is, apparently, no such thing as bad publicity. As with all such things, one will find the media darling of the media darlings, Max Clifford, operating on behalf of both the 'victim' and the torch and pitchfork mob of outraged complainants that seek to silence those whose words to which they object, whether they heard the original broadcast or not.

When the entire capitalist racketeering operation that is enduring the deepest and most international crisis in the whole of its brief and nearly ended history, you can't very well have the BBC facilitating the promotion by popular, young, working class upstarts of revolutionary Socialist ideals as an alternative to Capitalist barbarism. Such things cannot be on the agenda of the broadcasting company of a state that is inexorably wedded to the Capitalist paradigm, especially when the show is pre-recorded and its contents have been approved by those higher-ups in the editorial process whose job it is to censor what is and isn't acceptable for broadcast.

What matters to the controlling political interests is that other messages of political opposition and significance that Brand has to offer -- particularly relating to the opening up of discussions about socialist revolution as the only sensible and final reaction to the unfolding Capitalist Armageddon, and particularly opening up this debate among his large audience of young people who have little or no faith in the existing system of Capitalist 'democracy' run at the behest of inbred Oxbridge graduates and their international counterparts -- remains buried and without a public forum.

After a time Russell Brand filmed a video apology, in addition to issuing verbal apologies, specifically addressed to Andrew Sachs rather than the outraged minorities, for an explosive issue that never should have been. In the video, Brand -- the creative, ingenious demagogue that he is -- made another far more subtle political statement. His apology was issued as he stood in front of a black and white background, by all accounts a pretty bland background. Until, that is, you notice the black part of the backdrop is a telescreen and the white background is mostly created from a large picture frame, in the centre of which is a small photo of the Russian totalitarian dictator, moral arbiter and censor in chief, Joseph Stalin. In a bitter-sweet twist and the cruellest of ironies, and almost as if to prove that Brand's symbolic socio-political commentary about the totalitarian nature of life on prison ship Britain was correct, the video apology featuring Stalin was itself censored when broadcast by the BBC and Stalin was nowhere to be seen.

A whiff of conspiracy - a final word on Woss

Given Ross's long held position as the staple of all light entertainment fare, and that it was his saying "Fuck" that prompted the uproar, one might well be tempted to wonder whether his part in initiating the persecution of Russell Brand was an accidental oversight as he got caught up in the mood of the moment, trying to outdo his younger, funnier and more entertaining host, or whether it was by a somewhat more sinister design. Factor in the following:
  • the involvement of the sensationalist publicist, Max Clifford as Baillie's publicist, whose life and infamy is based on the sort of devious cunning that can manufacture stories out of thin air, make a gay man straight and turn liars into paragons of virtue;
  • that the incitement to national hatred was provided by an anonymous editorial in the Nazi supporting Mail on Sunday;
  • that Andrew Sachs, being the consummate gentleman and professional that he is, although a little disappointed and nonplussed at the first interview effort in which the answerphone messages were left, had in fact graciously offered to participate in the Brand's show the following week so the intended interview could be properly recorded (see Andrew Sachs interview video);
  • Russell Brand's post structuralist, revolutionary, socialist, radical rhetoric and politics and his rising popularity among large, youthful audiences to which he brings that message in a time of global financial crisis in which the State can only offer greater servitude and subjugation;
  • the on-message cross-party political class unity in its universal condemnation of the non-event;
  • that Satanic Slut Georgina Baillie was so incensed by the invasion of her privacy that she felt moved to flog the remainder of her privacy to the Dirty Digger's Sun tabloid, among others to exploit this "awesome opportunity";
  • that Ross had been specifically asked by Brand to err on the side of discretion during the call;
  • that the show was pre-recorded and approved by BBC editorial controls before being aired;
  • that the original live broadcast on Radio 2 prompted only two complaints;
  • that Russell Brand has been forced to resign from his BBC position;
  • that the Radio 2 station controller, Lesley Douglas, has been forced to resign from her position;
  • that the BBC itself is once again in the sights of a State apparatus that cannot tolerate anyone or anything straying too far off message, just as it was around the time of the mysterious death of Dr David Kelly / Andrew Gilligan affair,
  • and that Ross, the sole public instigator of the uproar, has merely been suspended for three months and remains in the overpaid employ of the BBC at a time when his cryptically titled book is published: Why do I say these things?
As is often the case when a few clearly established facts provide a more comprehensive context and understanding for a series of inter-connected events, it is the facts themselves that offer up a plausible conspiracy theory which practically writes itself.

Two thousand years ago, legend has it that Jesus was crucified for the sins of others. In modern times it is Russell Brand and his messianic and revolutionary aspirations that are being crucified. As with the tale of Jesus, Brand too is being crucified for the sins of others.


Anonymous said...

From what you say and given
1) it was Woss who seems to have driven this thing to where it went
2) Brand seemed to mentioning political phisosophy veering towards the S word
3) That Woss only got a suspension
4) Georgina demanded heads and when Brands head rolled, she said the whole thing had gone too far?

could it be that Woss is involved in some kind of conspiwassy thewee here? Ow is that suggestion just a a pile of old wubbish?

Actually from what I read about it (a few articles on the BBC and one or two on Yahoo) it certainly seemed like Brand was errm Branded as the baddie in all this.

The Antagonist said...

It seems to me the whole thing has served at least three objectives:

1. Publicity for Ross's recently published book, brilliantly -- and, no doubt, purely coincidentally -- titled, "Why do I say these things?"

2. Kick-starting the career of a fairly talentless, no-mark, non-entity 'dancer', whose lineage wasn't enough on which to base a 'career'

3. Knocking Brand down a peg or two from his "untouchable" status that has, with regularity, made uncomfortable various parts of the entertainment establishment.

The added "bonus" is that the knock-effect will be greater self-censorship by artists and production staff who are only useful on a wider scale when they're pushing the boundaries.

The Antagonist said...

Oh, looky wook, Brand's got a new booky wook and DVD too!

All we're missing is news of some Satanic Sluts touting their sluttery around for the launch parties....

Stef said...

Surprising as this may seem, this major news event was not covered outside of the UK

So thanks for the potted history

Brands' an interesting so-so, no mistake, and he has the potential to become quite subversive

He should start watching his back

The Antagonist said...

You're most welcome.

Bizzarely enough, at the time the research for this piece was done, the story did seem to have spread to a number of countries including the United Mistakes of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Cyprus and one or two others. I recall seeing one or two stories in French and German.

Perhaps the consequences that have yet to be felt are intended only for English speaking audiences and countries that have managed to hang on to their own languages have their own clever plans for muzzling the mass media.

He should start watching his back

Precisely what I was thinking. Can't have someone running around being open, honest, witty and entertaining if they're using those attributes to tout revolutionary socialist ideals.

Stef said...

Bizzarely enough, at the time the research for this piece was done, the story did seem to have spread to a number of countries including the United Mistakes of America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Malta, Cyprus and one or two others. I recall seeing one or two stories in French and German.

Not in Italy

which is strange as, given the dross Berlusconi puts on their television and in their newspapers, you'd be forgiven for thinking they had biff all else to read about

Hell is an Italian TV gameshow, only shorter...

The Antagonist said...

Hell is an Italian TV gameshow, only shorter...

I seem to recall the Italians make a stunning line of edifying red, white and blue televisual productions that rival the 'quality' of similarly coloured U-SUK efforts.

Antipholus Papps said...

I saw the affair as simply a diversion at the time. As in: "Syria? Where's that? What about Wossgate?" This was in part, I think, due to a professional dislike of Russell Brand as a comedian. Given that my impression of him is based entirely on a very limited exposure to his TV persona* rather than a live performance is perhaps a little Pavlovian of me. I certainly never saw him as revolutionary in any way. And would never, not in a million years, compare him to Lenny Bruce!

*(he comes across like a low-rent Mark Bolan, circa 1972)

The Antagonist said...

Diversionary, absolutely certainly, but as with just about everything it works on many levels, some of which are outlined in the article. I take it as given that many understand that what passes for news is a diversion from issues of real substance.

I knew of the existence of Russell Brand and his involvement in populist junk TV for the masses, but I had never paid him any attention, mind, nor heed. In fact, it wasn't until I saw an interview he did with Dawn French that I thought there might be a little more to him than meets the eye. He came across as articulate, erudite, intelligent and challenging - all qualities that are sadly lacking from the world of comedy.

The comparison with Lenny Bruce was based around the way in which Brand, like anyone who challenges the dominant paradigm and pushes the boundaries in any meaningful and coherent way, is pretty much guaranteed to be on the receiving end of some sort of persecution. It also allowed me to equate the atmosphere that exists in Britain after ten years of New Labour with that which existed after ten years of McCarthyism.

As for Brand as revolutionary, while not yet on a par with Lenny Bruce or Bill Hicks, is there anyone else with mainstream appeal, comedian or otherwise, that is floating notions of socialist alternatives to Capitalism?

Antipholus Papps said...

Yep, that's a fair point! The only other comedian I know who is advocating alternatives to our capitalist system is Doug Stanhope, who has proposed replacing money with a system of blow jobs and cheeseburgers.

paul said...

While I don't image that my opinion matters that much, if a shouty,unfunny and grimly self obssesed entertainer is the answer to anything....
What is the question?

The Antagonist said...

The opinions of Conspiraloons are always valued and very welcome here. They always make far more sense than their stochastic counterparts.

Sure, Brand ain't the answer to anything much but, as mentioned above, I don't see any other mainstream characters espousing revolutionary socialist ideals as the correct response to the enduring crisis of capitalism.

Anonymous said...

Crushingly honest.

@ Antagonist (Saturday, November 08, 2008 5:27:00 PM)

The Antagonist said...

Crushingly honest.

No time for anything else.

I get the distinct impression there are a number of people who have had enough of all the nonsense. Especially if many of the comments on the following stories are anything to go by:

Every school to get Holocaust specialist under anti-racism initiative

David Hare's latest play is 'anti-Semitic'

The white-washing, plainly, isn't.

The Antagonist said...

It all turned out alright in the end: Andrew Sachs: Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand boosted my career

Anonymous said...

BBC News - Newsnight - Paxman quizzes Russell Brand on the cult of celebrity