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The Self-Destructive Madness of Our Times: Soviet-Born Satirist Konstantin Kisin

“They’re not calling you racist because they care about race or racism or eliminating racism. They’re calling you racist because it works. … It’s a tool to shut people up,” says Konstantin Kisin, a UK-based satirist, political commentator, and co-host of the TRIGGERnometry podcast.

Born in Moscow during the Soviet era, Kisin is the author of the new book, “An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.”

“The problem isn’t evil, malicious people running around who want to make things worse. The problem is people who buy into ideology that gives them permission to do terrible things in the name of the greater good,” he says.

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Jan Jekielek:

Konstantin Kisin, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.

Mr. Konstantin Kisin:

Thanks for having me back.

Mr. Jekielek:

Konstantin, I had such a good time reading your book, “An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.” In fact, in many ways, I felt a deep kinship here, although technically I was born in Canada. Polish was my first language and I certainly came to know the habits of the family that you describe in the book. For example, this idea, which drove me crazy as a kid, that anything that is talked about in the family stays in the family. Why don’t we start there? Why would that be the case in a family growing up in the Soviet Union?

Mr. Kisin:

If you grew up in the Soviet Union towards the end of it as I did, it was a strange time. The Soviet Union was no longer nearly as powerful as it had been, either internally or externally. But at the same time, many of the habits continued. Even in the mid-to-late ’80s period that I lived through, there was a climate of fear about speaking your mind. Because only 40 or 50 years ago, people would have been put in a camp or executed for speaking their minds. You don’t wash that away overnight. It takes generations for people to overcome that. Even in the early ’80s, my grandfather, who I talk about in the book, made some comments on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan that were considered anti-Soviet. He was immediately made unemployable, and he was ostracized by friends. Much like in today’s climate, many agreed with him privately, but refused to back somebody who spoke out against a controversial thing in public.

Even at that point, when I was a kid going to school, it was still the case that my parents would say, “Look, all of this dissident stuff that we talk about around the kitchen table, you can’t be saying in that out in public, because the whole family will be in trouble.” There were examples of that all around us. Growing up like that definitely made me aware that what we have here in the West is so precious. Until recently at least, we have had the opportunity to speak our minds without fear. It’s a hugely valuable thing. We underestimate it massively, because we’ve always had it, or we feel we’ve always had it. We take it for granted far too much.

Mr. Jekielek:

Once they arrive in a free society, it takes a while for someone from an authoritarian or totalitarian society to realize that things work differently here. Indeed, this was the case with my parents, because all those internal rules just stayed in place until many decades later when it became less of an issue. This idea of not appreciating what you have, this is something that really comes out when you read An Immigrant’s Love Letter. Please explain why you think it’s like this. This is probably the freest society that has ever existed, at least in recorded history, and many people feel that it is terrible.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes it’s a symptom of our success, Jan. We have created the most free, open society where anyone can come and make something of themselves.

Mr. Jekielek:

And I’m going to add tolerant society.

Mr. Kisin:

I make the point in the book and also in interviews that I have done, we live in one of the most open, tolerant, progressive societies, in the right sense of that word, in the history of the human race. Because we have created that, so many people, particularly younger people, don’t even know that a different world either existed somewhere in the past or exists now in a different geographical location. Many of them haven’t seen other countries, and other societies. They don’t understand that the “problems that we have” pale with insignificance when you contrast them to those of other countries. Here’s just one example at the moment in Russia with what’s happening with the war on Ukraine. The people in Russia who were protesting against this war initially went out on small protests, a few hundred people, and they were all  immediately arrested.

Then they started going out in single protest. A single man, or a single woman were protesting with placards saying, “I’m for peace,” and they would get arrested. Then, satirically, they would go out with no placard with just their hands in the air, and they would get arrested. I was just in the former Soviet Union for my sister’s wedding and we met some of my family who live in Russia now. They were telling us about this guy, whose name in Russian, Zamir, translates to “for peace,” because he comes from one of the Muslim areas of Russia and Zamir is a name that is common there. He was stopped and arrested at the airport, because he held a placard saying, “My name is Zamir, I’m here to be picked up by somebody.”

That is the level of paranoia and state oppression that many, many people around the world live in right now. But if you’ve grown up in New York or Los Angeles or London, you have absolutely no conception that it even exists. And so, that contrast isn’t there, and that comparison isn’t there. With this imagined utopia of progress that is suddenly forced upon us, of course the West does seem to have all the usual isms and phobias. Because we’re not comparing it to reality, we’re comparing it to things that we imagine.

Mr. Jekielek:

In this current cultural moment, is this imagined utopia actually something that we should be striving for?

Mr. Kisin:

That’s a very good question and it puts me in a difficult position. If it were really possible, it would be desirable to achieve. My concern is that it’s not possible. We know that if we talk about eliminating things from our society like racism or sexism, we also have to look at the fact that we can’t even eliminate murder from society, we can’t eliminate rape from society, and we can’t eliminate so many other problems—because we’re not perfect. We’re human, and we’re fallible. Human beings have mental health issues that can’t always be resolved. With human beings, some of them are just psychopathic. We can’t really get to a point where we’ve got zero problems in society, unless, and this is perhaps what we’ll be talking about, unless you’re willing to use extreme authoritarianism to achieve it.

For example, we could say, “We do want to eliminate murder, so why don’t we take all males between the ages of 16 and 40 and lock them down in a prison?” We would eliminate 95 per cent of the murder, right? That’s the level of tyranny it takes to be eliminating things to the very, very, very end, and to create utopia. The pursuit of eliminating certain problems is why we’re seeing a willingness to use authoritarianism—a willingness to shut down comedy that questions the narrative, a willingness to shut down media conversations, and a willingness to destroy and smear politicians who attempt to challenge the accepted narrative. Culturally, we are embracing a level of totalitarianism that is deemed necessary for the utopia they are imagining.

Mr. Jekielek:

Okay, that’s fascinating. Another reason I asked this question is that I’m not entirely clear what this final outcome is really supposed to be.

Mr. Kisin:

It’s rainbows and unicorns. It’s the dream that we were all sold in the Soviet Union—to each according to his ability, to each according to his need, everybody’s equal, and life is fair. We all want life to be fair, don’t we? That’s what we imagine. Unfortunately, this is the pursuit of equity, which is what we’re really talking about, where you have to use an awful lot of force. Because the truth is people aren’t equal, and we didn’t evolve for life to be fair. We’re a competitive species, and we evolve to have hierarchy.

The moment you walk into a room, you instantly know who is in charge. This is how our brains evolve. We’re not capable of living in a flat society. We want hierarchy, and we want structure. We want these things, and we can’t live without them. So, they pretend that we are ants in an anthill who are all genetically related, and therefore each can work towards the common good, each one completely sacrificing their own ambitions. Human beings ain’t that, we just ain’t.

Mr. Jekielek:

At the beginning of your book, in one of the first two chapters, you describe, and I’ll say this in quotes, “Look at what a great society the Soviet Union had created. There is healthcare for all.” You give a series of examples.

Mr. Kisin:

Education. Free childcare. You get paid to go to university, to college. You actually get paid, Jan. Think about that in today’s world, where young people are racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition fees. It’s really incredible. You get universal healthcare, and a guaranteed job. Wealth inequality is very, very low compared to what we have in the West. It’s an incredible society in many ways.

Mr. Jekielek:

Of course, the other piece is that you’re always equalizing across the bottom, so to speak. That is the effect.

Mr. Kisin:

You make everyone equal by making everybody equally poor. That’s what you do. That’s how you do it. That’s why you need the tyranny, because people don’t want to be equally poor. People who work hard and who are talented and who contribute more want to feel rewarded for what they do. In the Soviet Union, most people didn’t work hard, because why would you? If you’re operating an organization where it doesn’t matter whether you work hard or you are the laziest person in the world, and you will get treated the same, you will have the same salary, you will have the same opportunities for promotion, why would you work hard? Why would you create anything?

That’s why you need the whip. You need the whip to get people to do stuff, because the incentive for their own life, their own desire to better themselves is suppressed by the state. And so, you have to make them do things. You have to. This is the point. In the pursuit of equity, this “equity,” is predicated on authoritarianism. You cannot do it without that. You can’t make people equal without authoritarianism, because they don’t want to be equal. We think we do, and we claim we do, but we don’t want to be equal. We want to be rewarded on the basis of our merits and talents. That’s what everybody wants.

Mr. Jekielek:

With your current level of understanding of these totalitarian societies like Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, North Korea, and communist China, is it more that this vision of society will just naturally result from these kinds of ideas? Or is it that there are some very cynical folks that are just taking advantage of it to seize the wealth for themselves and seize control, which is more important?

Mr. Kisin:

It’s both. It’s always both, because the structure at the top will always be a few corrupt people who capitalize on the system. But the ideology that underpins that at the mass level is much more what we’ve just talked about. But yes, of course, it’s going to be run by a few old men who take advantage of that system. That’s how it is, that’s how it will always will be. To some extent, that’s probably true in a democratic society as well. It’s just the nature of structures, and the nature of hierarchy. People will at the top attempt to grab the resources and power and influence in order to better their own life. It’s inevitable, and you’re not going to entirely get rid of that either.

Mr. Jekielek:

One very important idea in your book is that this ideology seeks equality. But you make the case pretty strongly that this project is actually to subvert the West, to shake it at its foundations, and  to break apart the threads that bind society together. I’m inclined to believe this too.

Mr. Kisin:

I would quibble about the word project.

Mr. Jekielek:

Okay.

Mr. Kisin:

I would quibble about the word project. I haven’t decided whether it’s organized, or whether it’s more organic. There are definitely hostile forces that accelerate processes that are already happening. But whether it’s all entirely deliberate, I question. It may be more a product of several technological revolutions that have changed the way society is organized, whether that is the sexual revolution, or the internet revolution in recent times. They have created new ways of behaving that are detrimental to our society. The sexual revolution was obviously really important and great in many ways, but it affects the family unit and the multi-generational impact of that is not good.

Mr. Jekielek:

But wait, sexual revolution in terms of women’s empowerment, or sexual revolution as in free-for-all sex?

Mr. Kisin:

Both. If you think about women’s empowerment, and women going into the workplace, it changed the dynamics around the upbringing of children. It also changed the value of men and women in terms of the dating sphere. One of the reasons you’re seeing fewer intact families now is because of that change. While it was necessary in some ways and very healthy, certainly from a women’s rights point of view, it also had an impact on how the family was organized and how children are brought up and raised. So, you’ve ended up, in the span of only a few decades, going from a situation where most people were born into a family with two parents, to a situation where those rates are plummeting.

We know the impact on children of being brought up without two parents. There’s a lot of conservatives that think it was the war on poverty, and incentivizing the single parent. I don’t know whether that’s true or not, I’m just saying the technological side is probably very big. Of course, more recently, there is the technological change in terms of social media and how that helps people propagate certain ideas that make them feel good, without necessarily being accurate.

Mr. Jekielek:

To me, women’s empowerment very clearly isn’t the same thing as saying that sexual activity is perfectly fine and normal, any which way you want it, as opposed to being within a family structure, which is how it has been since time immemorial. That part strikes me as fundamentally attacking the family unit.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes. That’s part of it, it’s not just that, but also the change to the family structure. I hear what you’re saying, but that is only a part of it. From a more socially conservative perspective, that is the bit that you hone in on. But I think more of the impact comes from the changing relationship between men and women.

Mr. Jekielek:

Very interesting. It’s surprising that you might take issue with the word project, because the whole title of your book is obviously an ode to Yuri Bezmenov. I’m sure you’re on record saying that somewhere.

Mr. Kisin:

No, you’re one of the few people that has worked it out.

Mr. Jekielek:

It’s very clear.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes.

Mr. Jekielek:

Yuri Bezmenov outlined a very clear project that was the Soviet Union’s goal to subvert America. He explained how they were going to do it. Please tell me why you picked this title.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes. The foreign powers that dislike what we have in the West are obviously keen to destabilize the way that we do business. That’s what they want. As I say in the book repeatedly, I don’t believe that the West has anything to fear from Communist China, from Vladimir Putin’s Russia, from Islamist terrorism, or from whatever threat you want to name. I don’t believe the West has anything to fear as long as we have confidence in ourselves, and we are willing to defend ourselves and stand up for what we believe. Then we have nothing to fear. My concern is that there is an internal culture within the West, despite whatever Russia is doing with the troll farms or whatever, internally in the West, that has emerged from something that happened on university and college campuses decades ago.

That means we are not willing to maintain our immune system, and we haven’t been for some time. That’s why I wrote An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West. In my own small way, I hope it’s a sort of antibody injection into the body of Western civilization. We have to understand that we have threats and they’re external. But the only way that a civilization collapses is when there is internal discord. You can have the biggest threat outside, but if you’re strong internally, you’re going to be fine. In fact, look at America during the Cold War. America was booming because it had something to position itself against. It had to think about, “What are our values? Why are we in this standoff? What makes us different? What is it that we have that people over there don’t have? Why is it that we want to be here in this moment?”

With America and your leaders, you had to think about this. You had to chisel it out. You had to define, “We are a people who believe in freedom above all.” Whereas, in many other parts of the world, people don’t have that and they don’t necessarily even think they want that, or think about who they really are. So, it’s really about understanding that this is coming from the inside. Other powers may want to accelerate that, or they may want to help the destabilization along. But it’s we, ourselves who are doing this to ourselves.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to touch on Yuri more here, because as far as I can tell, we’re living in the world that Yuri Bezmenov predicted. He talked about this long stage of demoralization, which is essentially, stopping people from believing in themselves. This is the Achilles’ heel, it’s the key thing that you’re describing right now. Then, there is a time period where all this is being normalized. There’s the stage of normalization, but there’s also the stage of crisis. It feels like the West is in a crisis. It’s basically a very destabilized society where all these values upon which American society was built are now up for grabs.

Mr. Kisin:

They are. I have been very enthused—I don’t know how you feel about it, Jan—about the West’s reaction to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Obviously, there are quibbles I have with some of it, particularly in terms of Germany. But generally speaking, I have been very pleasantly surprised by how unified the reaction has been. The person who authorized the invasion overestimated the extent of the West’s internal division. It did not turn out to be quite as bad as I thought it was, which confused me. I was pleased to see that, but that doesn’t mean the problem is solved. We still have a problem, it’s just not as bad as I thought it was.

The thing is, most people have no idea that they are demoralized. They don’t know the lack of confidence they have now in their own society is not normal. This endless self-flagellation is now seen as a path, “This is what we do now,” but it’s not normal. We’re in a very abnormal society now, a society that endlessly questions itself. It’s a very strange way to be. Likewise, if we were just obsessively proud of ourselves, it would be equally abnormal. I often think of a society as a bit like a human being who’s just proud of themselves and just obsessed with how brilliant they are. That’s probably not a healthy human being. But a human being who is obsessed with their inadequacies and their imperfections and the past mistakes is not a healthy human being either.

That’s why I’ve never been someone who said, “The worst news is to think that we’re the best people ever with American exceptionalism and Western exceptionalism, and there’s nothing for us to learn and there’s nothing for us to improve.” The way you improve is by asking questions of yourself and demanding more of yourself as a society and being truly committed to the principles that you consider to be the core values of your civilization. But the fact that we spend so much time beating ourselves up now is not normal. It’s not leading to good things.

Mr. Jekielek:

I always found it so fascinating that this particular brand of people would argue with me about this Marxist-socialist thought, infused with postmodernism. This actually comes from America. As a Englishman, are you unhappy about that now? Actually, it makes perfect sense that it would come from America, if this is the place that really is the fulcrum of freedom.

Mr. Kisin:

If we’re victims of our own success, then the most successful place will be the place where the victimhood is greatest—if we really are the victims of the fact that we’ve created the freest, most prosperous society in the world. If that is what’s causing the reaction, then it will be in the home of greatest freedom, the United States. That makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? This is one of the things that Francis, my co-host from Triggernometry, and I have realized. We’ve been here in New York City for a few days. We see how much more dynamic this country is than even the UK. This is the place where ideas are generated and discussed and have an impact and then they spread around the world. We consume your culture in the UK. Because we speak English, we are deluded into thinking that we are the same culture. Whereas, of course, we aren’t.

One of the things that I find amazing is that in the UK now, we talk about how we are a nation of immigrants, which is a complete historical falsehood in every way. It’s just nonsense. Britain is not a nation of immigrants at all. The only reason we repeat this rubbish is because we get it from you guys, because you are a nation of immigrants. People just take this part of the culture, import it into the UK, and just repeat it endlessly without realizing that different places have different histories. It’s not that complicated to understand. But it’s a testament to the power of American culture, and particularly in the Anglosphere, because we adopt all of your ideas wholesale.

This is why I always encourage my American friends, “Please look after your culture, because we are the ones that are eating all this crap that gets produced, as well as you. It’s not just your own country that’s affected by this, it is the entire world.”

Mr. Jekielek:

I found your critique of multiculturalism to be one of the most thoughtful and interesting things that I’ve come across. Please tell me what you think about multiculturalism, because right on the surface, it always sounds great.

Mr. Kisin:

The difficulty we got ourselves into in Western Europe—I know less about the United States I’ll confess—is we do not really understand the meaning of a multi-ethnic society, a society in which people from different ethnic backgrounds and different religious groups come together and live together peacefully, which I think is perfectly possible. It’s more difficult than a ethno-state like many of the ones that exist around the world. It’s more of a challenge, but there are huge benefits that come from it too, in terms of innovation, drive, and creativity. It’s really important. 

But that is not the same as saying to people, “Now you are here in Britain or in America. Here’s a piece of land. Carve out a piece for yourself in our country. You can live by the standards you choose.There is no need for you to integrate into our society. There is no need for you to abandon the ways of thinking and doing business that you had in the society you came from.”

That doesn’t work if we’re living in America, or if we’re living in the United Kingdom. There are certain things that we have to equalize and have in common in order to be able to live together cohesively. For example, we have to have an understanding that we all live under the same law. We cannot have people who bring their religious legal system into a society and demand that is parallel with the legal system of the state that in which you operate. We all have to say, “I am originally from Russia, but now I am British. I have come to this country to be part of this country.”

I am not abandoning the things that I learned and the ways of thinking that I got by being born where I was born. But I have to embrace this new identity and make myself part of this society and contribute to it. This is one of the reasons I love doing what I do. We have now created a YouTube show in the UK that employs local people. For someone who came from outside of this society, I am now so enmeshed with it that I’m creating work for people who were born in this society. I’m creating jobs. In my opinion, that is the way that an immigrant should be. I’m not saying that because that’s the way I am. I’m saying that because that’s how I want it to be. That is the purpose of traveling to a different place and making a home there—you become part of that society and you want to make it better.

Whereas, if the idea that we’re teaching is—you come to that society and you live isolated from that society—you don’t necessarily learn the language of that society, you don’t integrate, you don’t embrace some of the important values. When that happens you get to the stage where you have problems like the ones that we’re seeing in the UK. A teacher teaches his kids a lesson about religious tolerance, which involves something to do with the Prophet. Suddenly, this teacher has to go into hiding, because we have people in society who believe that their religious views are above the law of the land. This is not sustainable. We cannot live in a society where we have these parallel structures. A multiethnic society, is very important, very desirable, and hugely beneficial. A multicultural society is a recipe for a disaster.

Mr. Jekielek:

In the U.S., there were very clear policies for assimilation. You would arrive and there would be a whole series of steps you would take to become an American, and to become part of this culture. But somewhere along the way, over the last 20, 30 years, that system came to be known as racist or colonialist. Now, a nation of immigrants where everyone is encouraged to join the shared culture is seen as a problem. Why? Because the assumption is that culture is better, which is an anathema.

Mr. Kisin:

Thomas Sowell is the best on this when he talks about multiculturalism being the idea that you can praise any culture except Western culture, and only criticize Western culture and no other. By the way, in my opening chapter I do say, “Trust me, West is best.” But I’m not actually making a claim that Western society is the best in some universal way. I just think it’s best for people like me and for people like us whose values include things like freedom, and the opportunity to speak freely. There are plenty of people in the world who are less bothered by that, and are more concerned about other things.

Perhaps they want more social cohesion than I’m obsessed about. They want society to act as one. There are more communitarian societies further East that do that. If that’s what the people there want, then that’s up to them. There are those of us who think freedom is important, those of us who think the opportunity to speak in mind is important, those of us who think the pursuit of scientific rationality is important, and that the hard sciences are important. These are not just Western colonialist patriarchal concepts. They are the truth of how we improve society. I’m amazed every time I travel around the world how technology has made life so much better for all of us in some ways.

And that comes from the idea that it’s actually quite important to work out what’s true and what’s not true. It’s not just opinions. There are the sciences of physics and chemistry and biology, and by the way, psychology too. These are things that have predictive power. They’re not just things that we can deconstruct endlessly with no consequence. So, if we want to continue in these technologically-advanced, scientifically-expansive, progressing societies, freedom is the thing that makes it all happen. And if you don’t want that, there are a lot of societies you can go and live in, just don’t bring that crap back here.

Mr. Jekielek:

It is about freedom, and the acceptance of an objective reality that we can all agree upon. It exists outside of perception and power dynamics.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes, absolutely. To me, that is what the Western project is, and that is why the West is successful. Because technologically, it’s way ahead of everybody else and that’s because people are free to experiment. They’re not taking diktat from a mid-level apparatchik as they were in the Soviet Union, or as they are now in Communist China. You are free to create something and see if it works. If people like it, and if it’s of value to other people, you will be rewarded.

It’s not because you’ve managed to persuade some kind of mandarin that what you’re doing is the right thing. It’s because the people around you are benefitting from your work. You measure your contribution by the success you’re having in society. Now, of course, that’s an idealistic view. Not everyone who is successful in Western society is contributing. Some people are parasitic, and some organizations are parasitic. But the model is clear—if you create something that makes other people’s lives better you will be rewarded. All that is based on the idea of freedom.

Mr. Jekielek:

This is also the reason why so many people are clamoring to get here. They know it’s actually possible, and it’s certainly not possible everywhere else, not by a long shot.

Mr. Kisin:

Right. Look at me. My parents were dirt poor when I was born, dirt poor. They then had a period when they were wealthy for a short period of time. They sent me to boarding school in the UK. In the meantime, my dad was falsely accused of various things in the Russian government. He had to flee the country under false identity, and lost all of his money. So, I went to university as this rich kid and by the time I was in second year, I was sleeping in the local park, because I didn’t have a roof over my head. That was 20 years ago, Jan, just 20 years ago. And here I am sitting here in New York, next to Madison Square Garden, and we’re having this conversation. Where does this happen? In what other part in the world does it happen that you have no family, no connections, and no one to pull strings for you? Where does it happen that you can pursue a dream, make something of yourself, and have all these opportunities?

Are you telling me that’s happening in Russia now? No, it’s not. Is it happening in Communist China? No. Where are these societies that allow you to do this? It’s only a society like this one that allows you to achieve your potential. If you really want achieve something, you can. It doesn’t matter where you come from. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is. That’s why people come here. That’s why people are dying in the Mediterranean, scraping and scrimping to get to the West. That’s why people are crossing the Southern border in this country, that’s what they want. By the way, look at all these racial activists in this country and in the UK. They talk about how America and Britain is the most racist country in the world. Do you notice that they never leave? They don’t go to whatever better places exist out there, they never leave. Why is that?

Mr. Jekielek:

Arguably, many of them are quite entrepreneurial, I would say.

Mr. Kisin:

Right. They have the opportunity to do what they want to do here, which is grift. They’ve got that chance here, because it’s a society that rewards you if you pursue things.

Mr. Jekielek:

And for the record, what is the grift?

Mr. Kisin:

The grift I is capitalizing on Western white guilt. That’s what it is. We’re very successful. Like every other society in human history, we’ve committed awful atrocities all around the world like everybody else, but we are also the most successful society ever. We feel bad about it, we feel guilty about it, we feel terrible about it, and we’ve been trained to think like that. Like me, I’m a dark-skinned first generation immigrant. Even I think, “Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this, because this is the idea that we’ve now indoctrinated in ourselves.” These people know that, and they know that it works. It’s a tactic that works. Earlier, I was saying right now we have this election for a Conservative Party leader in the UK, which is also about who will be the next Prime Minister.

It’s the most diverse field that we have ever seen in British politics. There’s more people in that race than in the Left wing Labour Party who have ever been a minister or a shadow minister. It’s crazy, women of different backgrounds, from an African background, from a Asian background and from an Indian background, people from all over the place. It makes me laugh how naive Conservatives can be sometimes. They’re thinking, “If we do this, they’re going to stop calling us names. They’re going to stop calling us racists.”

Mr. Jekielek:

They are thinking, “Look at how diverse we are now. Now, we have it made,” 

Mr. Kisin:

Right. But it’s never been about calling people racist. They’re not calling you racist because they care about race or eliminating racism. They’re calling you racist because it works. That’s why they’re doing it. They’re not going to stop.

Mr. Jekielek:

You’re saying it’s a tool to gain power.

Mr. Kisin:

It’s a tool to shut people up, because if you can’t win the argument, you don’t actually want to have a conversation. “You’re saying we’re a bad society. Okay, what are we comparing to? Compared to what?” This is one of Thomas Sowell’s three great questions. “Compared to what?” In Russia, we have the same saying, and everything is understood in comparison. But if you can’t win that conversation, then what you have to do is shut down anyone who asks that question. It’s just a tool, that’s why they’ve got no problem. They’ll take a gay person who doesn’t agree with their politics, and they will say he’s got internalized homophobia. They’ll take a brown person and say, “They’re a traitor to their race,” or a black person and say, “They’re a traitor to their race.” Because for these people, it’s not about the truth, it’s about winning.

Mr. Jekielek:

So, free speech is important to you.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes, I think we’ve worked that out.

Mr. Jekielek:

I certainly have talked about this on a number of American Thought Leaders programs. Comedy across the world, certainly in the U.S. and the UK has been decimated by these types of rules. Please explain to me why you want to say whatever the heck you want to say that will be funny. Why is it so important?

Mr. Kisin:

What has happened with comedy is that the people who are very successful, they can still do whatever they want, if you’re Bill Burr or if you’re Joe Rogan.

Mr. Jekielek:

Chappelle.

Mr. Kisin:

With Dave Chappelle or Ricky Gervais, there is no problem with free speech. I’m not joking, I’m genuine. For them, there is no problem with free speech. They can do whatever jokes they want. Netflix is going to get a few complaints about Dave Chappelle’s show, but they’re going to keep it up on the platform. He’s going to be fine and he’s going to make a lot more money than he would’ve done without all these people who are helping him by attacking him. But below that, which is where the next generation of comics is coming, you’ve got a very different situation. Particularly in the UK where the comedy industries are very small, and everybody knows everybody. The people who run that industry, they’ve been talking for years about Nica Burns, who’s the organizer of the Edinburgh Festival, the biggest arts festival in the world.

In Britain, there is no way to succeed in comedy if you don’t go to the Edinburgh Festival and you don’t do well there. She said that she’s looking forward to a new era of woke comedy. These are the people who set the pace of the comedy industry, and they decide who goes on the TV comedy shows. It’s completely separate from the comedy circuit. These newcomers are the people who play the comedy clubs and perform to ordinary people who have very different flavors and taste preferences to the people who decide what goes on television. Did you understand what I’m saying?

Mr. Jekielek:

Yes, but is there even such a thing as woke comedy?

Mr. Kisin:

Look, I’m hesitant to say, because if people are enjoying something, there’s clearly an audience out there for that. I don’t have a problem with people doing comedy that I don’t find funny. That’s cool. I just don’t want them to tell me what to say or what not to say. That’s my issue. If people are engaging in creativity that I disagree with, that’s great, let them. This is what makes the West great. People should be free to be comedians in whatever way they want to. If it’s awful and not funny, who cares? There’s other people out there who enjoy that, and that’s called the free market. But my concern is that it’s eating up the industry from the inside out. And so, the next generation is not coming through.

You’ve got a situation with comedy clubs, for example, where audience members are now increasingly comfortable to go to the owner of the club after a performance and say, “Oh, I didn’t like what that comedian said. Don’t book him again.” 20 years ago, if you’d said that in a comedy club, they would have told you to get lost. No one would’ve respected that request in comedy, because it was universally understood that comedy will provoke, and comedy will challenge. It’s never going to be great. Sometimes you’ll go and see a comedy show and it will just be terrible.

Mr. Jekielek:

Here’s what I mean when I say comedy has been decimated, and you actually cover this. You go into this in your book. Very often comedy is funny because it’s speaking truth to power. It’s the court jester that’s allowed to do the things that if anyone else did them, it might be off with their head. That opportunity provides that levity. I don’t know what the exact situation is at the Edinburgh Festival with the director there, but it seems like that is what’s not allowed.

Mr. Kisin:

Yes, of course There are people with opinions like mine in the comedy industry, which is, “I’m just someone in the center trying to understand what’s happening in our culture without being political or partisan.” However, by merely asking the questions you automatically become persona non grata. I’m not complaining. I’m not saying I’m a victim. My life is great. I’m very happy with where I am. But I do observe in a big way that there is a culture of self-censorship in comedy. Lionel Shriver, the writer, when she was on our show, Triggernometry, made the point that we don’t even know what books aren’t being written at the moment. We don’t know what jokes aren’t being told. People are self-censoring a hell of a lot, because they know the punishment that could come if they don’t.

You have to basically create your own thing right now if you want to be true to yourself. You have to be outside of the industry, because it’s very restrictive. It’s allowing people who are already successful to continue doing what they do and that’s brilliant. But the next generation of people who are going to be genuinely challenging the status quo and asking the right questions through comedy, they are not coming through at all right now.

Mr. Jekielek:

I want to jump to the last chapter in the book, “10 ways to destroy the West.” This is one of the funniest, but also I think maybe the most useful. I found this to be a deeply enjoyable experience. I’m going to read them quickly, and we’ll put them up on the screen so people can see them. Then, let’s hear your comments. Okay. Number one, “See everything in terms of race.” Number two, “Embrace self-loathing.” Number three, “Make everything political. Yes, I mean everything.” Four, “Get your political opinions from celebrities.” Five, “Remember truth is a lie.” Gosh, it’s like everything we’ve talked about in this interview. Number six, “Promote socialism through bad capitalism.” Number seven, “Start a battle of the sexes.” Number eight, “Drink the Kool-Aid of cultural relativism.” Number nine, “Encourage porous borders.” And number 10, “Be a useful idiot.” Which one of these is the biggest problem?

Mr. Kisin:

Useful idiot is the biggest problem, because of the things we have been talking about. There are a few people who maybe have malicious intent, but I don’t think they’re in the the majority. This is like it was in the Soviet Union. I told this story the last time I was on your show about my grandmother who was born in the gulag. Her family ended up living in a small town where the only people that lived there were people who were previously in the gulag, plus the guards who were previously in the gulag as well. You had the guards and the people living together in the same town. When Stalin died and all the terrible atrocities of his reign were exposed, a lot of these guards in these small towns when they were confronted with the victims of that system, they shot themselves, because they were horrified by what they had done in the name of an ideology they believed in.

They thought they were doing the right thing. They thought that by torturing or executing or enslaving these people, they were doing the right thing. This is the biggest problem. The problem isn’t evil malicious people running around who want to make things worse. The problem is people who buy into an ideology that gives them permission to do terrible things in the name of the greater good. Those people are the biggest danger to everyone in society. These people are going to make things a lot worse. Because they think, “We just got to break these eggs right here, and we will just break these eggs. We will break 50 million of these eggs and then we are going to have a great omelet. Forget about the 50 million eggs that we’ve just put in a camp. That’s fine, it’s for the greater good.” The people who do this kind of thing are the biggest danger. They are the useful idiots.

In the book I talk right at the end about how Stalin got the nuclear bomb. It was Western scientists who were involved in the Manhattan Project that gave it to him. They gave it to him because communism was this beautiful ideology that they believed in. They gave the enemy of the West, a man who killed more Russians and Soviet citizens than Hitler, they gave him a nuclear bomb, probably decades ahead of schedule. The first nuclear bomb the Soviet Union had was a carbon copy of the one that was dropped on Hiroshima or Nagasaki, one of those two. They gave it to them in the name of ideology. This is the power of bad ideas, Jan. It can make people do terrible things and then feel good about it.

Mr. Jekielek:

I don’t know if you’ve ever read one of the most interesting books that I’ve read in recent times called “The Psychology of Totalitarianism” by Mattias Desmet. The whole reality around COVID has been shocking, with the policies and how people have thought about it. It has been shocking to me and has been the subject of many American Thought Leader episodes. One of the things that was shocking is how a whole group of perfectly normal people became ready to aggressively vilify the unvaccinated and shut them out of society. 

As you were describing the scenario in the Soviet Union, I’m thinking about what created that situation with the guards that you described. They realized, “Oh my God, I’ve been on the wrong side.” So, let me connect these things. In the Psychology of Totalitarianism, we talk about this phenomenon of mass formation where people start deeply believing something that is crazy. For example, supporting the socialist project, when you know you have to torture and kill people to do it. People are in almost a kind of hypnosis. The only way to break them out is actually like what Yuri Bezmenov said, “You got to kick them in the nuts.” 

That’s what Khrushchev did when he explained to the Soviet Union—because he had the full power of the Soviet press behind him—the crimes of Stalin in four hours. That was the kick in the nuts, so to speak. This also tells me that there’s a way to help people who have been indoctrinated to come out of it. What are your thoughts?

Mr. Kisin:

There must be a way. I’ve never thought about it, and this is a really good question, Jan. What you’ve caught me on with this issue, is that I’ve probably been focusing on the problem a lot and I haven’t focused enough on what the answer might be. I don’t know how you get people who’ve so willingly gone along with demonizing people, how you get them to see what they have become during this time. I jokingly said during the course of this COVID madness, at least it’s the first pandemic where we haven’t blamed the Jews, because that’s how it felt, do you know what I mean?

Mr. Jekielek:

Yes.

Mr. Kisin:

We just needed a scapegoat. The Jews played that role very well for millennia and everybody was happy. Now, we’ve got this, except us Jews obviously. But we’ve got to a point now where I just don’t know how you get these people to see what they became during COVID. I genuinely don’t know. We had the polling in the UK where people were like, “I think we should wear masks forever. It doesn’t matter if there’s COVID. 30 per cent or 40 per cent of society said just wear masks forever. What’s your problem? There’s nothing wrong with wearing a mask. Do you want to kill granny?” Everybody’s got their own take on the vaccine. I’m not a doctor, I don’t have an opinion. I just look at the medical side of things. I have a personal opinion that I use to make decisions for me and my family, but not a public one.

But on the civil liberties and rights side of it, I went to the protests in the UK. I contacted the government ministers, and I asked them, “What the hell are you doing?” But there weren’t that many people who heard what I said. They said, “Why are you freaking out? Why are you freaking out that the government wants to force people to inject something into their body?” They didn’t see it. My take on it was, and this is probably crude and rudimentary and an unfair comparison—when I think about those people who came together in a place called Nuremberg in 1945, they said, “We must never, ever again force people to take medical procedures that they don’t want.” We’re really onto something, Jan, when we remember that. Do you know what I mean? And I am not a weirdo for thinking about it.

People will say, “Oh yes, but the Nuremberg Code didn’t cover whatever.” I’m not an expert on it. I’m just saying it as a layman. When I see that people after one of the greatest horrors in human history made some decisions to be extra careful about this thing, because it can be misused by people, even well-meaning people in the future. We ought to just take a moment of thought before we just ride rough shot over those guard rails that they put in place for society with the Nuremburg Code. It’s not a trivial thing to force people to put things in their body that they choose not to. This is not a trivial thing. Whether if you’re a religious person and think it’s a God-given right, or if you’re just like me not following an organized religion, it’s a natural right of a human being to control what goes in and out of their body and to make those decisions for themselves.

We do that every day with all sorts of things. We accept that the decisions I make may have a negative influence on you, and the way to decide that is for us to come together and set laws in place that we can all agree on. It’s not for a group of people to just unilaterally say, “Well, we’re in power now, so this is what we’re doing. We’re forcing all doctors to take a vaccine.” Again, I’m not a doctor, I’m a layman. But it seems strange to me that you’ve got doctors who don’t want to take this being forced to take it by people who are not doctors. Does that make sense to you that people who are not medical experts are forcing some medical experts to take a medical procedure? Does that seem normal to you? It doesn’t seem normal to me. I’m not saying that the vaccine is dangerous, I’m genuinely not saying that. I’m just saying, I don’t understand how we are okay with the social control part of it. I don’t get that. I don’t understand why other people don’t get it. I have tried to understand.

Mr. Jekielek:

Let me ask you another question. Have you ever thought that there might be a connection with the cultural change that we’ve been seeing in the West, and these policies, which I would definitely agree, depart considerably from what was decided at Nuremberg after the war?

Mr. Kisin:

Certainly there is a connection that I have noticed. I don’t know whether this is true in the United States, which is not a country that I’ve spent enough time in to be able to say. But certainly in the UK, we have an attitude that the government has the answer for everything. Whatever the problem may be, it is because the government didn’t do something. If you have a problem, the problem is that the government didn’t do something. It’s not that there’s an actual global pandemic that may kill people. We don’t accept that anymore. It is if there’s a pandemic, whatever the government does may kill people. We believe that if there’s a problem, that means the government messed up. We need more government to come in and deal with the problem. If we continue to believe that, then whatever the problem is, the answer will be more government. That is the direction that we are heading in.

Again, it’s partly due to technology. We are much more confident in our ability to solve problems, because it appears we can solve more and more problems. So, with any problem that comes up we say, “Well, this has to be solvable,” Whereas, I resonate with the conservative way of looking at things. We accept that we’re not going to be able to solve every problem, like we talked about at the beginning of the interview. If we can’t solve the problem of people murdering each other, then there’s probably other problems that we can’t entirely solve. When there’s a global pandemic, it’s obviously terrible and tragic and it will take people’s lives. If we are naive enough to think that if we had only done all the right things nobody would have died, we may find ourselves doing things that go too far. And that is where we have ended up.

Mr. Jekielek:

With the pandemic, you can end up enacting policies in the name of good, that actually end up being far worse than what might have happened. That’s a fascinating discussion. I could talk to you for hours about it. Any final thoughts as we finish up?

Mr. Kisin:

No, Jan. I appreciate you having me on. This is one of the most enjoyable conversations that I’ve had about these issues. You asked questions that no one has asked me before. Thank you for thinking about these things together with me.

Mr. Jekielek:

Konstantin Kisin, it’s such a pleasure to have you on the show again.

Mr. Kisin:

Thanks for having me.

Mr. Jekielek:

Thank you all for joining Konstantin Kisin and I on this episode of American Thought Leaders. His book again is, “An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West,” I’m your host, Jan Jekielek.

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