Russell Brand is known worldwide as a comedian, or at least in the UK. Perhaps worldwide he is known more for being Katy Perry’s ex-husband. However, Brand is also the owner of a Youtube channel he has named The Trews, somewhere you can subscribe in order for him “to give you the true news so you don't have to invest any money in buying newspapers that charge you for the privilege of keeping your consciousness imprisoned in a tiny box of ignorance and lies.” His most recent video is called ‘Could I have been Jihadi John?’ An interesting take on what led Mohammed Emwazi to leave the UK and become the executioner and (masked) face of ISIS in the Middle East.
The fact that Brand is a comedian means many will dismiss this immediately on the basis that he may not be as well-informed as a news outlet. To his credit however, he does the necessary research and reading about all topics before posting. This includes his latest recording: ‘Could I have been Jihadi John?’ The topic is a sensitive one and has already received over 60,000 hits in the past 18 hours, while the comments section makes for the usual mix of insults and adoration. In his commentary Brand explains that Jihadi John is a product of a #Society that alienates people who don’t follow the notion of capitalism and consumerism. It isolates them in a world where social media has caused young people to seek self-validation in every way, shape and form. He concludes by stating that the defection to ISIS and extremist tendencies by people such as Mohammed Emwazi is the proof that the world of capitalism and consumerism has failed and that only the people can save it going forward.
While his conclusion is clearly exaggerated and perhaps a little extreme in itself, his argument about isolation is not entirely misplaced. Brand has figures to back him when he explains that many of those choosing to leave the UK for ISIS know very little about Islam and in fact, many do not come from Muslim backgrounds. Society today has unfairly labelled Islam as something extreme and to be suspicious of. However, if one takes the time to speak to Muslims, it takes very little to realise that ISIS has nothing to do with the religion. In fact, those who leave the UK to become extremists are doing so in search of something or somewhere they can belong. Brand highlights that Britain was voted the loneliness capital of Europe, and studies have shown that loneliness can lead to mental health issues and can be more dangerous than obesity and smoking.
While it is difficult to understand how anybody could be interested in joining a barbaric group like ISIS, it is amazing what loneliness can a person to do, especially young, impressionable people. Today’s society has reached the pinnacle of self-validation and self-worth. Social media tool Instagram has become a medium for people to show the world how wonderful their lives are. In a world where young people place so much importance on acceptance, the idea of isolation can quickly drive them to extremes. In most cases that might be drugs or drinking, in extreme cases that could be leaving and joining a group like ISIS.
In Europe, there are many types of political parties, quite often people can identify with one of them. Occasionally they can be negative - the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany, or the Front National in France for example. Then again, these parties exist, and the fact that they are allowed to exist means people do have a choice to find somewhere they feel they belong, whether we like it or not. In the UK, there is little choice for those that feel like outsiders. UKIP is considered the most extreme party in Britain, and the underlying question regarding them, is whether they are racist or not. In a country that is as multi-cultural as Britain, with a capital city, London, which is arguably the most diverse in the world, it can be easy for foreigners to feel they don’t belong.
To say that capitalism and consumerism have failed feels like a slightly forced and extreme conclusion, because London itself could easily be considered proof to the contrary. But to argue that joining horrific organisations such as ISIS is due to isolation and a lack of acceptance is probably fair, especially given that Islam as a religion has nothing to do with what ISIS preaches. #Terrorism