So continues the celebrity speak-out re: the bombing and occupation of Gaza – Russell Brand has enmeshed himself in a battle with the bombastic Fox personality, Sean Hannity. A couple of nights ago, Hannity invited Palestinian American writer and political analyst Yousef Munayyer onto his show, and essentially publicly shamed him, asking questions, then preventing him from speaking, shouting the question, “Is Hamas a terrorist group, yes or no?” repeatedly when Munayyer respectfully attempted a semantic parsing of the reductive question in order to get at the complexity of the issue (as opposed to solving it the Hannity way — through the somewhat meaningless question of, “Terrorist, yes or no?”).
Munayyer responded, “It’s very telling to me that the moment you have a Palestinian voice on your program who begins to explain the legitimate grievances that Palestinian…” and naturally, Hannity cut him off once again: “Is Hamas a terrorist organization?” It looked as though Hannity’s verbal subjugation of his guest was nearly reducing Munayyer to tears – he was literally silenced by the tenacity of Hannity’s unwillingness to understand this as a two-sided human conflict as opposed to one between terrorists and… not terrorists. This belligerent disregard for the words of the dissenter is a truly uncomfortable, small-scale reflection of the consistent dehumanization of the other side on both ends of this conflict.
So, from the comfort of his living room, clad in a sideboob-revealing tank top, Russell Brand responded as part of his YouTube series, The Trews. In his response, he dissects Hannity’s flailing disrespect for his guest, his finger-pointing and war-mongering. He also underscores the disproportionality of this fight between one of the world’s strongest military powers and Palestine’s diminutive army, and asks whether, when Hannity began badgering Munayyer re: whether Hamas is a terrorist group, he was trying to find a “solution or reach a verdict on who’s bad?” Brand acknowledges that, just like Hannity, he has an agenda, but says that his agenda is peace. And, barring how he revels in shitting all over Hannity, Brand’s argument was quite humanitarian.
But between Brand’s disheveled, at-home look (recall the sideboob) and his status as that “D-list actor” who Katy Perry dumped, Hannity thought he had enough fuel for retaliation, and gathered some cronies on his show for a rebuttal. Just as he called Yousef Munayyer “thick in the head” while Munayyer was a GUEST on his show, Hannity also aimed this flaccid insult at Brand, suggesting that his under-dressed appearance somehow undermines the emotional legitimacy of his argument. Celebrities certainly aren’t newspapers, and the swaying powers of celebrity spokespeople can be dangerous, but somehow, in this battle, comedian and “D-list actor” Russell Brand comes out looking far more legitimate than political commentator Sean Hannity.