By Robert Stephens
Part 1 of the series introduced the series by looking at how the US culture views the government as if it were a corporation. This time, we are looking at how corporate-controlled narrative is destroying the anti-austerity movement in the United States.
If you have ever heard of Russell Brand you most likely assumed he was a buffoon, like I did. Well, I was wrong; Russell Brand is perhaps one of the most profound personalities and thinkers in the public sphere.
Seriously… it only takes 10 seconds to realize that he is on another level of perspective.
I first saw the above video at the Authentic Queen’s blog. I was not expecting Russell Brand to offer such a critical, reasoned, eloquent analysis of contemporary Western society. While fame is the theme with which Russell anchors the interview, he also discusses also discusses God, corporate manipulation, and death. To me Brand is a great philosopher and social critic who happens to use humor.
“Significance can shift… Where relevant, fame can transmogrify and alter to represent what is culturally necessary at that time (and) to suit the narrative. People enjoy narrative… people don’t want to grapple with the death of grand ideas. No one cares about religion anymore; no one cares about communism because we’ve been fed this grey sludge of celebrity… by the media that both you and I work for.” – Russell Brand courtesy of Newsnight
I take his idea that corporate interest use narrative to restrict access to actionable information, or knowledge that empowers people, and applying it to the austerity issue in the United States. Russell Brand argues that corporations are able to take narratives like “Cain vs. Abel”, a general colloquialism, and substitute them for significant social analysis. For example, the preeminent media outlets in the United States are obsessed with the “debt crisis” narrative.
Beginning with the label “debt crisis”, the corporate narrative has already influenced the public to perceive government debt as the problem that must be resolved. Other sources, also covering national debt, use the label “austerity”. This shift in label focuses the audience on the government’s actions to cut services, not the abstract notion of national debt. Although I have not conducted the research, I would imagine that people talking about austerity measures, and the services they stand to lose, are more likely to resist those cuts than people who talk about national debt.
These media techniques are examples of how corporations can influence the narrative as Russell Brand mentioned. In the United States, our media discuss the need to “live within our means” and to “not live on a credit card”. These narratives are not reasoned policy analysis. What are our means? How does the global financial system work, and what role does the United States play in the market? These superficial phrases do not answer these logical questions, nor are they intended to do so. Instead, these vague idioms are designed to push the public to conclude that the society should eliminate most of its social services.
These narratives have created a political landscape that assumes that financial markets are so important that they are worth preserving at any cost, even without most of the public even knowing what they are. In this world, the question became “How much should be cut”, not “Why should we cut”.
The anti-austerity movement in the United States faces significant challenges, difficulties that are very different than the vibrant anti-austerity movement in Greece, UK, and Spain. By having to discuss their ideas within the “debt crisis” narrative, anti-cuts movements are at an extreme disadvantage. It is up to the movement to find ways of re-framing the issues.
Enjoy other Russell Brand stand-up comedy presentations on fame