WHETHER or not the entertainer Russell Brand has raped, abused and emotionally controlled women, he deserves, as we all do, a fair trial and not a public hanging, writes columnist Alison Eden.
The court of public opinion is as old as time but these days, magnified by the power and reach of social media, wields a far mightier sword. Of course, there are good and positive things that are a consequence of instant communication crossing time zones. Women who kept quiet about their experiences feel enabled at long last to come forward when they learn how others have spoken out about a particular person’s behaviour.
Many women blame themselves for the attacks they endure, and it can take decades to realise that the person who hurt them is the one at fault. So, publicity of an accusation can and does prompt other women to report their own experience of crimes. It certainly enables the building of a case.
Many are questioning why the alleged victims of Russell Brand were open to approaches from reporters but didn’t then seek help from the law. I don’t question that one bit. After all, the response by police the world over to domestic abuse and rape allegations has been much criticised. I am, however, deeply sceptical of the motivations of the programme makers.
Did those programme makers in any way, whether deliberately or through subconscious bias, deter those women from reporting Russell Brand to the police until the programme was aired? I hope not. But if so, that’s unethical, controlling and a scandal in the making.
Personally, I can’t imagine being a reporter, interviewing somebody, finding out the details of what they say happened to them and not wanting to persuade them to call the police right away. That moment. No hesitation.
Given the saturation of coverage condemning Russell Brand, the views expressed from commentators, politicians and celebrities, is there not a real risk that if a trial were ever to be mooted, that Brand himself would be able to claim, reasonably, that a fair trial would be impossible. How could an objective jury possibly be found?
Therefore, it concerns me greatly that maybe, in the hunt for great prime-time telly, the real needs of abused women have been exploited for profit by TV companies who aren’t bothered whether a judicial process can be followed or not following the broadcast of their explosive and compellingly-trailed exposé. Russell Brand’s career was/is based on being professionally outrageous. It seems an irony that the media companies which are currently exposing his alleged criminal behaviour are the very same companies that were egging him on to be ghastly, crude and as revolting as possible for ratings.
The ‘open secret’ of his behaviour within media circles, as exposed by the media, rather highlights to me how out of control our media has become. Why did individuals in these companies ignore reports of behaviour? Who, exactly, knew this ‘open secret’ and who turned a blind eye while they looked with joy at the ratings?
It’s not surprising that there is a slew of coverage coming out about the shocking comments Brand has made over the years. But making repulsive, sexist comments does not make him guilty of rape. It makes him deeply unlikable. Again, how is a jury to be found that is not going to be influenced by reports of vile personality when it should be coming to a verdict based on the credibility of his accusers and their evidence.
If Brand did force himself on women, he should be tried and sentenced in a court of law and maybe, these media companies and journalists should reflect on their own motivations.