Russell Brand used his YouTube channel to address over six million subscribers on Friday with a short video to say he was the victim of what appeared to be a concerted attack by mainstream media in which he was accused of serious criminal acts. He denied the allegations without detailing them, saying that all his sexual encounters had been consensual. This was an attempt to close down his channel — and not just him. This was just the latest in a series of campaigns to shut down independent thinkers on YouTube.

The story that emerged in a Channel 4 documentary and the Sunday Times contained allegations of rape and sexual abuse from four women covering the years 2006-2016. Since then other women have come forward, and the Metropolitan Police are now investigating an allegation of sexual assault by Brand from 2003.

Trial by media will serve neither Brand nor his accusers: this should be decided in a court of law; but, given the history of sexual predation by serving police officers, women are understandably reluctant to approach the police, who also have a notoriously poor record of investigating and prosecuting crimes against women. Less than two per cent of all rapes result in a prosecution, and even then women are often made to feel as if they are on trial.

Of course, this is dominating social media — because Brand is seen as anti-establishment, some on the left are wondering if this is just another establishment attempt to silence one of their own. Others point to the fact that Brand is supported by Elon Musk, Andrew Tate and Laurence Fox as evidence that he is a right wing populist, who is not to be trusted. The centrist right is also happy to play the game of guilt by association and use the rape allegations as an excuse to smear the left and dismiss Brand’s political views.

The stench of hypocrisy almost matches the stench of raw sewage in our waterways. The Murdoch Press is using the affair as a stick to beat the BBC while forgetting that, starting in 2006, the Sun gave him their “Shagger of the Year” award three years running. His biography, “My Booky Wook” (2007), was favourably received by most of the media, including the Sun and the Observer, and was “Biography of the Year” at the British Book Awards, despite the evidence of misogyny in the memoir.

Brand subsequently claimed that he suffered from addictions to sex and drugs and was now a changed man; but that cannot detract from the fact that these are credible claims of sexual crimes from the past that have nothing whatever to do with political positions Brand supposedly supports in the present. These women deserve a respectful hearing. They are not to be dismissed as part of a conspiracy to bring him down.

And fresh claims are emerging, not aimed at Brand, that the abuse of power by famous men in the entertainment industry is a continuing problem for women. The response to the crimes of Savile and Weinstein that was supposed to signal a sea change in attitudes has not fundamentally altered the reality of misogyny and sexism faced by women every day.

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