Coren duly responded at length to my nosy email, writing:
Brand does appeal to women – I know many who swoon.
I grew up in Essex, very close to Brand, and in similar circumstances.
We should begin with his accent, which is a fraud. He makes it sound far more cockney and working-class that it is, because he thinks it gives him street cred; it’s like David Cameron softening his words and trying to sound less posh. Absurd.
Similarly with his alleged love for and knowledge of West Ham football team. Celebrities pretend they like football, the ballet of the common man. But Brand seems to know nothing about West Ham, or the long link many of their fans have had with the far right. It’s another facade.
This pretty much characterizes his entire persona; lies about his background, his politics, his ideas. He’s not left-wing at all, but think that leftism is trendy — and he’s right — and gives him an aura of prestige and danger. Nor is he funny. While British comics smash their way into brilliance, he is still giving 1990s jokes. It works a little in North America, but the Brits saw through him long ago.
(As you can see, football — don’t call it “soccer” — is VERY serious business abroad, much like college football is to Americans. Some of Coren’s antipathy towards Brand comes into higher relief when you learn he is a lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporter. The Spurs’ nickname, “the Yids,” originated in pre-speech code 1936, “when Oswald Mosley, leader of Britain’s fascist movement, led a march through London’s East End, calling ‘down with the Yids.’” Amazingly in nanny state England, the name has yet to be banned, and is still embraced by Gentile, Jewish and half-Jewish locals, like Coren himself.)
Anyway, Hitchens concludes his column about the incident this way:
The point is far greater than a simple matter of manners. The point is that this sort of treatment is the presage of suppression and censorship. Now they are merely shocked that I still dare to say these things, which they had hoped to make unsayable before now. The long collapse of the remaining conservative elements in the Tory party (now almost complete) means that the spectrum of permissible opinion, in public debate, is narrowing sharply, and I do not know how much longer I shall be allowed to express my opinions on major public platforms. The Brave New World grows closer, and the world a little darker, each day.