Comedian, actor and commentator Russell Brand called out the American government for criminalizing misinformation, despite the government’s deep record of pushing misinformation itself.
Brand is well-known as a free-thinker and comedian, but he gave a dire warning that even he could be under threat by new government policy. “Misinformation has newly been labeled as ‘terrorism’ by the Department of Homeland Security, so I am going to speak very carefully now,” Brand said in a Feb. 22 video. “Now let’s just be very careful how we talk because misinformation ain’t just now an inconvenience. If you’re the wrong person and the misinformation is the wrong type of mis-information, mal-information, dis-informaton, then you’re, uh, actually the same as a terrorist.”
In the clip, he shared a screenshot from the Feb. 7 Biden DHS Terrorism Advisory Bulletin. The bulletin claimed that “The United States remains in a heightened threat environment due to “false or misleading narratives and conspiracy theories.” DHS also warned against “misleading narratives” that can “undermine public trust in U.S. government institutions.” In other words, questioning the credibility of the powers that be is forbidden.
Brand mocked the credibility of the American government, noting its history of misinformation: “if you are anti-misinformation, and you’ve got a rich history of spreading the stuff, people might think you've got another agenda at play.”
He shared a clip of famous liberal commentator and former Daily Show host Jon Stewart criticizing the concept of misinformation on his new podcast. “In the Iraq War, I was on the side of what you would think on the mainstream is ‘misinformation.’ I was promoting what they would call ‘misinformation,’” Stewart said.
Brand riffed on Stewart’s commentary. “Like Jon Stewart said, that at the time of the Iraq War when he was anti-war, he was accused of spreading misinformation, but we now know that the reasons that we went to war over Iraq have proved to be erroneous.”
Brand also balked at the broad terms that DHS used to define misinformation around topics such as elections and the COVID-19 pandemic. “What misinformation about COVID? Is it the changing information I think all of us experienced? And what about the election fraud? Which election, and which fraud? There’s no consideration that there might be legitimate mistrust in government,” he said.
He also commented on the slippery slope Westerners have slid down in the war on free thought. “[L]abeling misinformation as ‘terrorism’ – I mean look at the root of it. Firstly, people are just saying stuff. Then the term ‘misinformation’ appears. Then the term ‘terrorism’ starts getting applied to the label ‘misinformation.’ I mean, havent we got the right to make mistakes without being regarded as terrorists? I hope so.”
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