Wednesday, 17 December 2014

12 things you should know about that piteous open letter to Russell Brand

Have you seen the open letter from Jo (the disgruntled financial sector worker) to Russell Brand that has been described as "hilarious" and "scathing" by the mainstream press? I have, and I have a few points to make about it. 


The letter was far too long - and that's some criticism coming from me, given the length of most of my articles, including this one. I console myself with the fact that when I write my long articles I like to employ internal structure (such as subject headings) in order to break it down a bit into coherent and accessible pieces, rather than just jumbling together a long rambling diatribe.

The only reason that I bothered reading Jo's seemingly endless whining until the end was that after only the first dozen or so paragraphs I knew damn well that there would be plenty of ammunition for one of my "12 things ..." articles, otherwise I would almost certainly have dismissed it as TL;DR (too long; didn't read).

Hilarious? Piteous more like it?

The letter wasn't "hilarious" as claimed by the mainstream press, it wasn't even funny. If endless callbacks to Jo caring more about his cold lunch than society was meant to be a joke, it simply wasn't funny, and it remained unfunny despite the constant repetition.

I found Jo's letter about as hilarious as I found Russell Brand was when he and Jonathan Ross and made those abusive phone calls to an old man who used to be famous. Like 2008 vintage Brand, Jo's letter was was annoyingly self-centred and desperately unfunny.

How backwards can you get things?

In my view Jo got it completely the wrong way around when he said "much as I disagree with most of your politics, I've always rather liked you".

I used to find Russell's narcissism and puerile sense of humour really annoying. It's only since he started to grow up and engage with the political world that I've actually begun to warm to him.

It's incredible that someone could think that Russell Brand was better when he was an unfunny egotistical bully, and has begun resenting him since he started developing a bit of a social conscience.

Perhaps it's a reflection on how established the right-wing greed-is-a-virtue mentality has become that Jo actually liked Brand when he was an unfunny and egocentric money-grabber, but now that he's decided to listen to his social conscience and stand up for people who need a bit of help (like the Focus E15 mums), Jo reacts with fury.

Where does debt actually come from Jo?

The letter defended bankers' bonuses and complained about the concept of "debt" as a problem. It's almost as if our poor, hungry financial sector worker doesn't even understand that the reason that there is so much debt in our economy is that the private banks invent 97% of the currency that we use out of nothing, then rent out these debt backed wealth tokens as interest bearing loans. Hence all the debt - because if nearly all of the money in the economy is invented out of nothing by the banks and rented out to us, then destroyed by the same banks when it is repaid, where exactly does all of the money to pay the interest come from?

The institutions Jo works for and defends (despite claiming not to be a spokesman for them) are to blame for the fact that there is so much debt in the system, yet he's using "debt" as a stick to beat Brand with!

It's no wonder the banks collapsed if financial sector workers aren't even aware that the institutions that they work for are responsible for the ever increasing indebtedness of our economy.

At the person criticisms

Jo's letter is absolutely riddled with at the person criticisms (often refered to in latin as "Ad Hominem" attacks). Repeatedly slamming Brand for the fact that he is a millionaire is an extraordinary stance for someone who is so desperate to defend bankers' bonuses.

That Jo repeatedly resorts to personal attacks rather than developing coherent critiques of Brand's politics suggests that Jo doesn't care about actually winning the argument, he just wants to smear his opponent as much as possible, content in the assumption that most people don't have the critical thinking skills to differentiate between a blunderbuss barrage of personal attacks and a well structured counter-argument.

Rabid capitalists?

"You know what would have happened if a rabid capitalist had just turned up unannounced?"

Accusing Russell of being "rabid" by implication is a clear example of an ad hominem attack, but Jo's thought experiment is clearly a load of rubbish too. Lets say a Private Equity Fund billionaire who has made his fortune buying out and asset stripping countless viable businesses and outsourcing all of the jobs to China (someone I'd classify as a rabid capitalist) turns up unannounced in order to invest a few hundred million of his ill-gotten gains in RBS. Do you think he'd be turned away and physically forced out of the door by security for not having an appointment? If somehow he was, do you think the poor sod who decided to set security on such a wealthy potential investor would remain in his job for long?

Alternatively we could imagine our Private Equity Fund billionaire kicking up a stink in the lobby in front of a load of TV cameras, but it would be up to Jo to explain why such a ridiculously implausible thing might happen.

The issue clearly isn't that Brand had no appointment as Jo tries to pretend, it's that he was kicking up a fuss.

The "good deal for the taxpayer" argument!

Jo's letter makes the absurd argument that the RBS bailout was a good deal for the taxpayer. Since RBS was bailed out to the tune of £46 billion, the losses at the bank have reached, erm ... £46 billion.

It's almost as if all that public cash was poured into a black hole of debt never to be recovered. As all of this cash has been squandered RBS has continued handing out hundreds of millions per year in bonuses, because it apparently takes high calibre, hard-working people to squander £46 billion in free money from the taxpayer.

Jo spends most of his letter whining piteously, which is annoying but not necessarily dishonest, but this "good deal for the taxpayer" bit is either a display of being stunningly misinformed about the financial sector he works in, or it is derived from downright dishonesty.


Defending bankers' bonuses at bailed out banks could be considered a brave stance considering the understandable amount of public anger, but cast alongside Jo's pitiful refusal to address stuff like the Libor and Forex rigging frauds and the PPI insurance fraud ("I do not speak for RBS, so cannot say anything about the recent FX trading scandal or PPI or any of that shit"), it's clearly spectacularly cowardly and self-interested stuff.

If he's going to use the "I cannot say anything" excuse in regards to several multi-billion pound frauds, it's bizarrely hypocritical to extensively defend other aspects of RBS business practices.

Jailing corrupt bankers makes more sense than just confiscating their bonuses

Claiming that bankers' not getting paid their bonuses for having committed crimes is sufficient punishment an absurd argument. It's like saying that muggers and armed robbers should be allowed to get off with their crimes, as long as they just pay back the money they stole. There should be an awful lot of bankers in jail in the UK and US after the global financial sector insolvency crisis, money laundering for Mexican drugs cartels, Libor, Forex and PPI, but the only big one who got locked up was Bernie Madoff, and we all know why ... he stole from the rich.


Jo makes a number of claims about the way the Mayfair film production company has benefited from tax-loopholes in order to raise funding for films with which Russell Brand is associated. There may be some legitimacy in these claims, but they're a bit bloody rich coming from someone who so desperately defends RBS, which is a company that has been caught instructing businesses not to pay their tax and avoided £500 million in tax, even after they were bailed out by the taxpayer.

"Return of the Fucking Jedi"

This is one of the most bizarre arguments I've ever seen: "Return Of The Jedi has never, on paper, made a profit. Return Of The fucking Jedi, Russell. As an actor, and even more so as the producer of a (officially) loss-making film, you've taken part in that, you've benefited from it.". The thing that makes this ridiculous argument so especially weak is that we all know that Jo would undoubtedly defend himself if we were to use the same ludicrous debating tactic with claims that HSBC (a bank he doesn't work for) made money from laundering money for Mexican drugs cartels and terrorist organisations, but because Jo is part of the financial sector, he's benefited from it, and that Jo must be a Mexican drug lord and Islamist terrorist by default.

Personal space

Of all of the issues in Jo's seemingly endless diatribe, the claim that Russell Brand aggressively invaded his personal body space seems to me to be by far the most serious.

Apparently this is the film footage of the incident. From what I can see Russell does get a bit close to the guy, but the fact that Russell smiles broadly at several points and the way that he touches him on the arm with his right hand imply an overly-friendly demeanor, not the spectacularly aggressive confrontation described in Jo's letter.

As someone who has suffered social anxiety and personal body space issues, I can see how it is potentially possible to misread situations as a lot more aggressive or critical than they actually are, but Jo's claim that Russell's nose was "two inches" from his face is clearly an under-estimate, the descriptions of the situation as "pretty fucking aggressive" and "an aggressive invasion of personal space"
 are clearly exaggerations, and the comparison to "primates squaring off for a fight" outright hyperbole.


The only reason that this ridiculous letter got all over the press at all is that Russell Brand is "clickbait". The newspapers know that by publishing this ridiculous letter they'll get a load of clicks on their websites, and a boost in their online advertising revenues.

Admittedly the reason I've published this riposte to the letter is that Russell Brand is "clickbait", however at least I can console myself with the facts that:

A. Unlike the mainstream press I've been honest enough to admit that I've used "clickbait" in order to get people to read this article.
B. I won't be making any revenue from ad clicks because I don't put any ads on my website. The only way this article could make any money whatever for me is if people have seen it as worthwhile enough to make a small donation after reading it (the "pay as you feel" principle).
C. Using "clickbait" probably isn't so bad if the readers are drawn into reading an article that is ostensibly about Russell Brand, but actually contains a lot of information on important issues such as financial sector corruption, debt backed fiat money creation and the spectacular failure of the RBS bailout, whilst also exposing some appalling debating tactics for the reader to try to avoid in future.

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