Big brother isn’t watching you
”Hoodies don’t vote, they’ve realised it’s pointless, that whoever gets elected will just be a different shade of the ‘ we don’t give a toss about you’ party”(p.10 l. 92-93). That is the opinion of Russell Brand and quite a lot of other people. But can this opinion that the estrangement of the ‘weak’ youth generation, who are not really included in society, be the cause of the terrible riots that happened in London in 2011? Russell Brand justifies this belief in the following article “big brother isn’t watching you”. It is this justification I am going to focus on in my paper and by doing so analyse his use of various techniques to forward his opinion.
In the beginning of the article there is not much that suggests the main theme and focus will be on the UK riots. Instead the reader is told that RB no longer situated in England and there is a flashback to his time working for the British show “Big Brother” and a few other references to other British TV-shows. However the style of his writing have, unconsciously for the reader, made a path that leads towards the theme of destruction. In that way the writing style is very peculiar because his link is a reality show and he makes an effort to show the connection between the two and he sometimes ‘draw’ the reader in by using rhetorical questions “Remember? No? Well, that’s the nature of the medium”(p. 8 l. 9) to justify a point he is making. The quote used is also a great example of the irony that is used throughout the article the way he uses it together with pathos as a way to draw in the reader emotionally. The use of comparisons is also a very well used tool “the malady of reality TV stars is that their shelf expires, like dog years, by the power of seven”(p. 8 l. 10-11), and by using these comparisons he establishes a firmer link that leads towards the riots.
Another tool RB uses is the fact that he intend for the reader to be British, due to the many references to English history and ‘TV- history’. The TV-show references even go as far as to explain to the reader that he is no longer ‘a part of’ the English culture “Even the results of Britain’s Got Ice – Factor may lay prettily glistening beyond my remit now that I am self-banished” (p. 8 L. 3-4). The fact that he no longer lives in England leads to an issue with his ‘right’ to voice his opinion on the riots and their cause, however it also open up his regret that he is no longer a part of the economic class and therefore not as connected to the ‘Londoner’ he deems himself to be “it isn’t my absence from the territory of London that bothers me; it’s my absence from the economic class that is being affected”(p. 9 l. 29-30), not so much by the literal distance in miles, but by the distance in understanding.
It takes some time for all the references and underlying clues all to come together and centre on the riots. It is mainly begun with a comparison between the riots and an incident that occurred while RB was working on Big Brother, and it starts by using a quote from a 1st world war officer: “You cannot rouse the animal in man then expect it to be put aside at a moments notice”(p. 9 l. 19-20). The comparison is used to portray the general nature of man but there is also an accusing undertone towards society and the way they ‘rouse the animal’ in the people who joined the riots and then expect nothing to come of it. This is the first time we, as the readers, are actively thrown into the actual issue the article deals with, and RB’s attitude towards how the government dealt with the riots and even the cause of it. Firstly as mentioned earlier, RB recognises the fact that he may not be able to truly voice his opinion due to the fact that he regards the events from his “ivory tower in the Hollywood Hills”(p.9 l. 40). But he believe he is allowed to voice his opinion on the reason behind the destruction that occurred and that fact that he believe a lot of people are trying to ‘box it’ as ‘unjustifiable’ in order to get back to the usual topics, and by doing so, they do not look into the cause very thoroughly and find the reasons behind the violent behaviour “we should kick around a few neurons and work out why so many people feel utterly disconnected from the city they live in”(p. 10 l. 56-57) – perhaps if people wished to look closer they would find the reasons.
His reference to riots cause is a flashback to his own youth and the feeling that “(…) government existed not to look after the interests of the people it was elected to represent but the big businesses that they were in bed with”(p. 10 l. 76-77) and so he sympathises with the rioters because he believe them to be of the same opinion and feel the same as he once did. This leads to his belief that the youngsters do not feel included in the community, which is why they do not care for it, and the solution to the problem with the troubled youth would be to include them, instead of the ‘big corporations’ so that they would feel a sense of belonging and obligation towards their country, community and hometown. The title might even have the double meaning that RB wish for more ‘surveillance’ of the troubled youth, but done so in the form of support and attention – to give them a sense of belonging. Instead the focus is on reality-TV where ‘big brother’s’ ever-present eye is always watching.
Conclusively it must be said that RB’s view is that cause of the riots is that the government do not pay enough attention to the troubled youth and so they do not feel a belonging towards their country and their community, which is why they rioted. This view is strengthened by the ironic style in his writhing and his use of comparisons between reality-TV and the UK riots.