New and old media divided over Miliband's Russell Brand interview

Gulf between views of disillusioned millennials engaged by Russell Brand’s lively anti-politics rhetoric and old guard of political journalism

From the look at the front pages of many national newspapers on Wednesday morning, you might believe public feeling around Ed Miliband’s sensational decision to do an interview with Russell Brand was universal disdain.

“Monster Raving Labour Party - ‘Mockney’ Miliband cosies up with Brand” was the Sun’s splash, deriding the Labour leader for his admittedly questionable ‘street-speak’ in the trailer released ahead of the interview for the comedian-turned-revolutionary’s YouTube channel The Trews.

“Do you really want this clown ruling us?” the Mail asked (of Miliband, not Brand), with the Daily Star leading with “Red Ed and Brand talk total ballots”.

It is a reaction which seems to sum up how deep the difference is between the views of disillusioned millennials who are engaged by Brand’s lively anti-politics rhetoric, and the old guard of political journalism.

The Trews channel, where Brand posts his iconoclastic topical videos, has around 1.1 million subscribers - not quite as many as the Sun’s 1.8 million newspaper subscribers but gaining fast.

Those subscribers, along with Brand’s 9.5 million Twitter followers and 3.3 million Facebook fans, are passionate supporters of a man whom David Cameron called a “joke” when asked about his opponent’s interview.

Brand himself was keen to play up the divide between new and old media in the reaction to his interview with Miliband – as a way to attract more subscribers.

For the trew news subscribe here:

— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) April 28, 2015

The interview is so hotly anticipated that the release, which was due this weekend, is believed to have been pulled forward to Wednesday after Miliband was snapped leaving Brand’s east London home on Monday night.

In the teaser clip, Brand asks the Labour leader if a national government has any power to tackle the power of global corporations and their complex tax affairs. “It can be dealt with, but you’ve got to have a government that is willing to say there’s something wrong with this and we are going to deal with it.”

“You are that government?” Brand asked. “Yeah,” Miliband responded.

The teaser trailer for his interview with Miliband has been viewed more than 200,000 times, shared on Facebook by more than 500 users and retweeted almost 1,000 times.

Coming soon... Milibrand

— Russell Brand (@rustyrockets) April 28, 2015

Several tweeters were dismissive of the idea that a future prime minister should privilege old media over popular new formats and influencers like Brand.

If Russell Brand wants to meet & influence party leaders then he should set up an institutionally criminal media empire like the rest of us.

— Chris Coltrane (@chris_coltrane) April 28, 2015

@KeeleyJoan @Big__Kev As a politician, why should you talk to the Daily Mail and not @rustyrockets. We need a PM that talks to both sides

— Kevin Turvey (@KevinTurveyRIP) April 28, 2015

Even some political journalists, like phone hacking reporter Peter Jukes and Sky’s political editor Faisal Islam, said they could see the reasoning behind Miliband’s decision to court the celebrity’s dedicated following.

Miliband-Brand interview will be seen by more people than watch C4N or Newsnight...more importantly, people who would prob not watch either.

— Faisal Islam (@faisalislam) April 28, 2015

5hrs later @rustyrockets and @Ed_Miliband preview is up another 100k views. Future campaigns will mark this - a game changer I bet

— Peter Jukes (@peterjukes) April 29, 2015

On Brand’s YouTube channel, comments were overwhelmingly positive about Miliband’s decision to do the interview – even if they were not necessarily complimentary about the Labour leader himself.

“I know it might be for publicity but I actually respect Miliband for talking to Russell because there are A LOT of people who share Russell’s views,” said one of Brand’s YouTube subscribers, Josh Lines.

“Fair play to Ed Miliband,” wrote Mike Smith. “From zero that man has got my respect. It takes serious balls to go on the Very Excellent Trews. Good for you Ed.”

“I respect Ed Miliband so much for doing this,” said John Lo, another subscriber on The Trews channel. “Russell was going to ask him some very rough questions and he went and did it. All the Tories’ media propaganda saying how bad it is [is] because Cameron is too scared to be interviewed by someone like Russell Brand who will ask him the tough questions.”

And many said they had taken offence at Cameron’s comments on Tuesday, saying he had no time to speak to people like Brand.

“Slightly insulted that David Cameron called Russell Brand a ‘joke’,” wrote Marcus Stefanelli on Brand’s page. “Is he saying that therefore, as a listener to the Trews, we are politically naive?”

“I’m not his [Miliband’s] biggest fan but David Cameron’s comments today highlight the big differences between the two,” subscriber Guto Llyr wrote.

“Surely Cameron is smart enough to realise that those avid watchers of the Trews are why Mr Miliband agreed to do this? Him laughing it off and calling Russell a joke is a prime example of why this government is completely out of touch with everyday people.”

The trailer was the third highest story on Reddit’s UK page on Wednesday morning.

“Shrewd move from Milliband,” was the top rated comment. “I am sure he will agree a lot with Russell on everything that is wrong, though hopefully he can provide some more reasonable or realistic ideas about how to solve the problems that they highlight,” Redditor TCamilo19 wrote.

Miliband, for his part, has been eager to portray his critics and the Conservatives as aloof and out-of-touch for suggesting Brand’s fans are not worth courting. “I’m going to go anywhere and talk to anyone to take that message out to people about how we can change this country so it works for working people again,” he said.

“I say to all of the politicians in this campaign, here is the danger: the danger is that politics is being played in an increasingly empty stadium.

“If we don’t recognise that, if we don’t engage in different ways with the people who aren’t engaging in this election, then we will have fewer and fewer people voting.”


Jessica Elgot

The GuardianTramp

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