Malcolm X -- maybe, I can see that. Gandhi -- you're kidding, right? Jesus Christ -- have you lost your mind?
Out-there leftist actor Russell Brand is making the rounds to promote his upcoming television special "Messiah Complex" on the cable channel Epix and a children's book he's written -- I kid you not -- with his version of the Pied Piper folk tale.
During an appearance last night on "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon," Brand touted both projects while doing more to reinforce a widely-held perception of him as a manic, unhinged crackpot --
FALLON: "Messiah Complex" is the name of this special, it's on Epix.
BRAND: Yeah, Epix is a type of TV channel you won't have heard of.
FALLON (while audience laughs): Yes! I haven't heard of Epix yet, but it's E-P-I-X. We tune into Epix, we go wow! First of all, you never heard of this channel ...
BRAND: Never heard of it!
FALLON: ... but this is great, we're watching Epix, here's Russell Brand, "Messiah Complex" ... Do you have a messiah complex?
BRAND: Oh no, that's where you think you might be Je-sus, ohhhh, no, I don't have a messiah complex. Anyhow, I talk about people like Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Gandhi and Jesus and what made them such splendid fellows.
FALLON: Yeah! (audience reaction to Brand's claim -- tepid). Also, that some of them are flawed, not Jesus 'cause he's the realization of the pure consciousness of the Lord (a claim that would provoke angry protests if stated publicly by Tim Tebow) but the others were just normal folk who did great things. So I want to talk about that.
FALLON: This is why I want to talk about that, I love that.
BRAND: Gandhi, he was nice. Malcolm X, what a good guy, Che Guevara, all worked very hard and did some great things for ordinary people (gestures toward presumably ordinary people in the audience), encouraged ordinary people to rise up and face corruption wherever they found it. So that's a good thing in these corrupt times.
FALLON (along for the ride): Absolutely, yes! You need more people like these people.
BRAND: You need more people like them but don't have them all in a room at once, they will quarrel. (laughter from Fallon and his audience).
FALLON: 'Cause they're all going to be right, yeah that's true ('cause their views are essentially indistinguishable, right ...?), I didn't think about that, yeah.
BRAND: Well, for Malcolm, for example, he may become agitated by Gandhi.
FALLON: You don't think, yeah, they would get ...
BRAND: Well, they might just go, oh come on Gandhi, I don't know what Gandhi's like, he's fasting, you know, he don't want to eat all the time so he's going on a hunger strike and all that. (more insipid laughter)
FALLON: So you don't see them meeting for dinner somewhere or at a restaurant, that wouldn't be where ...
BRAND: I think it would be difficult for them to come together, I think, you know, that would be my concern. But all of them in their own way are great, great men.
I get it -- they're all revolutionaries. But would it be all that difficult for Jesus, Gandhi and Malcolm X to "come together?" Who knows, maybe they already have, the Almighty and Malcolm agreeing to go vegan in deference to their friend Mahatma. This is hardly a stretch to envision and not a dinner conversation you'd want to miss. It's when Guevara is added to the mix that things get dicey. Shortly thereafter, he'd order the other three men executed for crimes against the state.
It's among the most unfailingly amusing of spectacles to witness an utterly self-besotted celebrity gush about Guevara -- a depraved left-wing kleptomaniac with the blood of countless innocent people on his hands -- as if he's a surefire candidate for canonization. To actually compare him in the same breath with the Christian savior and the pivotal figure for Indian independence -- both archetypes for non-violent revolution -- is simultaneously appalling and laughable.
Whenever I see this bizarre spectacle reappear yet again, I wonder if the delusional celeb's knowledge of Guevara extends past Robert Redford's airbrushed glorification in the 2004 film "The Motorcycle Diaries," described by Ross Douthat as a "vivid, bustling recreation of the younger Che's South American wanderings" that felt "morally dubious precisely because it made Guevara seem like such a captivating figure without once acknowledging his crimes."
Sure enough, Brand did concede that some in the men he cited were "flawed," though he didn't elaborate beyond Gandhi as finicky eater and Malcolm X's lack of patience for that sort of thing. It would have been an act of genuine revolutionary fervor had someone in Fallon's audience urged the other "ordinary people" to "rise up" -- specifically from their seats and toward the exits -- and spare themselves any more of Brand's ranting.
Back in 2005, during an earlier period of Guevara adulation on the left, Alvaro Vargas Llosa, senior fellow at the Independent Institute, wrote a devastating essay in The New Republic titled "The Killing Machine: Che Guevara, from communist firebrand to capitalist brand." Among his many crimes, Vargas Llosa pointed out, Guevara --
-- ordered the executions of hundreds of people while in charge at La Cabana prison in Cuba after the overthrow of the Baptista regime in 1959. Cables sent from the American embassy in Havana put the figure at "over 500." Javier Arzuaga, a Basque chaplain who comforted those sentenced to die at the prison and witnessed dozens of summary executions, said he never once saw Guevara -- known as "the Butcher" -- overturn a death sentence. Among the hundreds of prisoners held were merchants, businessmen and journalists.
-- set up Cuba's first forced labor camp in late 1960. Here were sent, Guevara wrote, only those "doubtful cases where we are not sure people should go to jail ... people who have committed crimes against revolutionary morals, to a lesser or greater degree." Enemies of the state imprisoned in the Cuban gulag would expand to include gays, AIDS victims, Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses, Afro-Cuban priests and dissidents.
-- negotiated the deal with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to bring nuclear missiles to Cuba in 1962. After Khrushchev backed down to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis as part of a secret pact for the US to withdraw nuclear missiles from Turkey, Guevara was quoted in a British communist daily saying that "if the rockets had remained, we would have used them all and directed them against the very heart of the United States, including New York, in our defense against aggression."
-- oversaw the collapse of sugar production, forced rationing and repeated failures at industrialization while overseeing the Cuban economy. As a result of these disasters, Cuba became dependent on a $65 billion to $100 billion annual subsidy from the Soviet Union for three decades, until the Soviet implosion in 1991.
-- ran "land reform" efforts that stole property from wealthy Cubans and foreigners and gave control of it to regime bureaucrats to dole out in exchange for bribes and favors.
Vargas Llosa quotes Guevara -- a self-described "killing machine" -- once writing about Chilean conquistador Pedro Valdivia in words that could easily apply to Guevara himself: "He belonged to that special class of men the species produces every so often, in whom a craving for limitless power is so extreme that any suffering to achieve it seems natural." Not personal suffering, mind you -- the suffering of others. That's how the left measures a revolution's success.
Brand also spoke with Fallon about a children's book he's written, "The Pied Piper of Hamelin: Russell Brand's Trickster Tales," a new version of the medieval German tale about a rat catcher who lures children from a village as revenge for town elders failing to compensate him. The interview ended with this exchange, the only genuinely funny moment during Brand's appearance --
BRAND: All the children get taken, so what is that telling you? That if you're not connected to a divine force, as demonstrated by the piper, the piper is connected to a magical world, if you forget the most important things you will lose what you value most. Because otherwise, it's a story about a weird guy who steals a lot of children and I don't want to promote that on your show.
FALLON: No, no, you've already done enough of that.
... with your earlier swooning about a pied piper named Guevara.