NEW YORK CITY – The allegations against Russell Brand are devastating and it may be tempting to think that he is done for.
The claims include that he raped a woman at his home in Los Angeles and had sex with a 16-year-old girl – who he called “the child” – after grooming her.
But don’t think for one second that Brand is finished, or that his career is over.
In fact, quite the opposite may be true in the twisted world of conspiracy theories he now operates in.
Brand has already signalled his defence and it’s straight out of the playbook of Donald Trump: they’re coming after me because I’m telling you the truth.
In his YouTube video denying the allegations, Brand said that his fans had been telling him for a while: “Watch out, Russell. They’re coming from you.”
The thinking is that Brand is saying what nobody else is brave enough to say, even if those are unproven theories about matters like Covid-19.
Like with Trump, this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy so that when accountability does finally come, Brand can turn around and say: “See? You were right.”
Andrew Tate, the chauvinistic influencer who is facing similarly horrifying charges in Romania, called the claims against Brand a “Matrix attack”, Tate-speak for the system shutting down the voice of somebody who told things as they really were.
Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who now hosts his own show on X (formerly Twitter) where he peddles conspiracy theories, made a similar point as he leaped to Brand’s defence.
While it’s easy to laugh at these sorts of comments, they’re making them because they work for supporters of these men.
The post-#MeToo backlash means that there is a ready audience of people who are willing to disbelieve accusers and brand them liars.
Give it a few weeks and Brand will probably be on Joe Rogan’s podcast talking about how awful it was to be vilified by the media.
Look at what happened to Kevin Spacey, whose case Brand’s lawyers will very likely be paying close attention to.
In 2017, at the height of the #MeToo movement, actor Anthony Rapp alleged in an article that Spacey made an inappropriate pass at him when he was 14.
Spacey was excommunicated from Hollywood, but last year he won a civil defamation case brought by Mr Rapp in a US court.
Earlier this year, Spacey was acquitted for sexual allegations made by four men in a criminal case in London, and is now looking to make a comeback.
Johnny Depp was also “cancelled” after a British judge ruled that he assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard 12 times during a series of ugly fights in their stormy marriage.
But in a US libel case he brought against her, a jury awarded him $15m after being persuaded by his testimony that he was the victim.
Brand is facing similar headwinds to both men at the moment and the claims have had widespread coverage in the US media with reports in major publications like the New York Post, which called the allegations “sickening“.
Entertainment industry magazine Deadline reported on the claims, as did outlets like CNN and even Reuters, which based its report on his denials.
So far, there is no sign police in Los Angeles are investigating Brand, but that may well happen in the future given British police have urged his alleged victims to speak to them.
Yet what Brand has over Spacey or Depp is that he isn’t looking for a mainstream return.
He doesn’t need to appear in movies like Spacey wants to and he doesn’t need Hollywood to make a living.
Brand has 11 million followers on X and its owner Elon Musk has come out in support of him, meaning there is little chance he will be kicked off the platform.
Brand has six million subscribers to his YouTube channel which must earn him a fortune from advertising.
Unless Brand does end up going to jail – which is no sure thing – the increased attention on him will likely attract new followers which will make him even more money.
Brand has had a long career in the public eye because he is canny at reinventing himself.
First he was a stand-up comedian, then he was a TV presenter, now he is a conspiracy-peddling “truth teller”.
His next reincarnation is one that Trump supporters know only too well and one which will cement the support of his hardcore fans – the victim of a political witch hunt.
Laugh if you want to, but Russell Brand is not dead.