In the past week, two of Britain's most influential newspapers have launched attacks on comedian and YouTube personality Russell Brand. The condemnations caught the attention of billionaire Elon Musk and clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson – who both defended Brand from the critical articles.
The Independent published an article this week titled: "How did Russell Brand go from stand-up stardom to peddling YouTube conspiracy theories?"
The piece labeled Brand as "Joe Rogan's British counterpart." The article recalled how Brand was once married to Katy Perry and starred in the "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" movie.
"I know! I'm disappointed too. But such is the age we live in: One minute, a comedian is going about his life, building his career, and the next, he's peddling conspiracy theories on YouTube and quoting Glenn Greenwald's newsletter at length," wrote Louis Chilton, who covers video games and culture for the outlet. "No, I don’t like it. Yes, I'm exhausted."
Chilton claimed that Brand "has leaned hard into a brand of pseudo-skepticism we've come to expect from the Joe Rogans of the world."
The article dismissed Brand – who has more than 5.2 million subscribers on YouTube (The Independent has 338,000 subscribers) as a "Twitter reply guy."
The writer asserted that Brand's videos "use the language of conspiracies" and utilize his platform to "share shaky conspiracy theories."
"In Brand's world, there should be room for 'alternative opinions' such as Rogan's. Maybe the 'mainstream media' are just jealous that Rogan is so successful, Brand suggested," the article noted, and then admitted, "Maybe we're jealous because Rogan's viewers trust him."
The Telegraph published a piece titled: "How Russell Brand became the ‘Mad Hatter of conspiracy theories."
"In the age of online conspiracies, which have flourished since the onset of COVID, Brand's alarmist video headlines have found support among the frustrated and locked-down," the article purported. "Now, with global restrictions lifting, Ukraine has become the natural next area for scrutiny."
Both articles don't specify what conspiracy theories Brand has disseminated.
After reading The Independent article, Tesla CEO Elon Musk did his own research into whether or not Brand was peddling conspiracy theories by actually watching his videos and deciding for himself.
"With so many mainstream media companies saying @rustyrockets [Russell Brand] is crazy/dangerous, I watched some of his videos," Musk wrote on Twitter in a reply to The Independent. "Ironically, he seemed more balanced & insightful than those condemning him! The groupthink among major media companies is more troubling. There should be more dissent."
Jordan Peterson also defended Brand by saying, "An appalling union of large corporations, media agencies and government. What did Mussolini call that again?"
Peterson is likely referencing this quote: "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism, since it is the merger of state and corporate power." This quote is commonly attributed to Benito Mussolini, but there doesn't seem to be any proof that the Italian fascist leader ever said it.
Brand released a video addressing the attacks on him by big media on his YouTube channel which has more than 630,000,000 views.
"We don’t claim to be a news channel. We're not sending out journalists going, 'Oh my god what’s happening over there?' We're looking at news and analyzing news. That's what we’re doing, just to be clear. We're not claiming to be a news channel."
"So the idea of misinformation — this is opinion," Brand stated. "This is obviously my opinion. We check our sources. We never say anything that can't be backed up."
Brand disputed the accusation of being an "anti-vaxxer," pointing out that he has not told anyone not to get vaccinated, but is empathetic to those who are vaccine-hesitant, especially from minority groups that have less trust of the government. He also stressed that the unvaccinated should not be treated as social pariahs.
Brand also questioned the ownership of The Independent. The British newspaper is owned by Evgeny Lebedev – son of KGB officer-turned-Russian oligarch. The paper is also owned by Sultan Mohamed Abuljadayel – an investor "associated with NCB Capital, the investment banking arm of Saudi Arabia’s National Commercial Bank," according to the Financial Times.
Brand shared a 2019 article from the Guardian:
The Evening Standard and the Independent have been explicitly accused by the British government of being part-owned by the Saudi Arabian state, with a series of “unconventional, complex and clandestine” deals used to hide the sale of stakes in the London-based news outlets to a Saudi government bank.
The culture secretary, Jeremy Wright, last month announced an investigation into the sales, warning that the ultimate investor may have "strong links to the Saudi Arabian state" and raising fears that a foreign government may have gained influence over the news direction of two major British publications.
Brand declared, "The mainstream media is not your friend. The culture is not your friend. Government is not your friend. Big business is not your friend."