Police investigations have begun into comedian Russell Brand following several complaints made against him as part of the #MeToo movement. Both the London Metropolitan police and Thames Valley police have launched separate formal investigations into the allegations made. The police’s proactive invitation for complainants to come forward has led to an influx of additional complaints being lodged against Brand, a pattern often seen once a #MeToo target has been identified.
The stark contrast between the police’s approach to the complaints against Brand and their handling of other criminal activities has not gone unnoticed. London shopkeepers, who have been witnessing a rise in gang-organised shoplifting, an epidemic that is being neglected by the police if the value of the stolen goods is less than £200, are puzzled by the differential treatment. It appears that the police have been heavily influenced by the #MeToo movement for many years, which makes it highly likely that Brand will eventually face criminal charges.
Unsurprisingly, the political elite in Britain has also joined the campaign against Brand. Dame Caroline Dineage, a Conservative MP, former minister and the chair of the Culture, Media and Sports Committee, has written to online video platforms Rumble and TikTok, on which Brand delivers podcasts, requesting that they remove him from their platforms. Dineage, who has previously served the #MeToo movement by highlighting inappropriate behaviour in Parliament, was deeply offended by Brand’s alleged sexual indiscretions.
Rumble, to its credit, refused to comply with Dineage’s request. The platform called her demands “disturbing, deeply inappropriate and dangerous” and affirmed its commitment to an internet where no one can arbitrarily dictate which ideas are heard or who gets a platform. However, this principled stance is the exception rather than the rule. YouTube has demonetised Brand’s account, while the BBC and Channel 4 have removed all programs featuring him from their online archives. Allowing the #MeToo movement’s demand to annihilate an alleged perpetrator not only in the present but also from history, these actions are reminiscent of Stalin’s erasure of Trotsky, albeit on a smaller scale.
It begs the question of why politicians, mainstream media organizations, and large corporations, who claim to support free speech, the presumption of innocence and the rule of law, are so eager to transgress these principles to destroy high-profile targets like Brand. The answer is clear: so-called liberal democratic societies in the West are no longer truly liberal or democratic. The ruling elites are fundamentally opposed to these values, as is evident in their support for the #MeToo movement, identity politics, transgender rights, and the panic over climate change.
Despite vehemently denying the allegations made against him, Brand faces an uphill battle given the lack of specificity in many of the complaints, and the fact that they have been made anonymously. Unlike some #MeToo targets who apologize and capitulate, hoping to salvage their careers, Brand seems determined to fight back against the campaign that has engulfed him. However, even if he successfully defends himself against any criminal charges, his reputation and career are likely to be irreparably damaged.
This reality was emphasized in Australia last week when prominent international Sri Lankan cricketer Dunuska Gunathilaka was acquitted of rape charges in a Sydney court. Gunathilaka had been subjected to a classic #MeToo campaign after being charged with rape at the end of the Sri Lankan cricket team’s tour. His trial took place before a judge alone due to the extensive publicity surrounding the case, effectively denying him the right to a jury trial. During the trial, it was revealed that the complainant had met Gunathilaka on a dating site, and after a night out, they had consensual sex. The only basis for the rape allegation was the complainant’s claim that Gunathilaka had removed his condom without informing her. However, the judge found that there was no evidence to support this and criticized the handling of the complaint by the police.
Gunathilaka’s case highlights how the power and influence of the #MeToo movement can lead to legal travesties. Although he was acquitted, his reputation and career have been severely damaged. What this means for Brand’s future remains uncertain.