“That’s one of the things I learned growing up in my early years in the Soviet Union … When society goes mad, it’s your job … to be honest and truthful about what’s going on.”
In this episode, we sit down with Konstantin Kisin, the London-based co-host of the “TRIGGERnometry” podcast and author of the upcoming book, “An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.”
“Do not suspend your own judgment about right and wrong, about morality, about truth and justice, for the sake of some system or some oppressive ideology or for convenience or for not being fired from work. Do not be a useful idiot because you will regret it,” Kisin says.
Jan Jekielek: Konstantin Kisin, such a pleasure to have you on American Thought Leaders.
Konstantin Kisin: It’s my pleasure to be with you. Thank you so much for the invitation.
Mr. Jekielek: I’ve been watching your podcast here and there and frankly, it has become one of my favorites, I have to confess. Of course, it’s called TRIGGERnometry. You also describe yourself as a “clown world skeptic.” Why don’t we start there? What does that mean, exactly?
Mr. Konstantin: Clown world is an internet meme, which basically says that the world we now live in increasingly makes no sense, with the things that we’re being told. We’re supposed to believe the things that are being fed to us by the mainstream media every day. They not only don’t make sense, but they are quite often contradictory to each other. So for example, one of the things that we are repeatedly told is the moment anyone identifies anything, you’re supposed to accept that. Yet, people will often criticize me.
I used to be a comedian. Now my main focus is the show TRIGGERnometry. Those very same people who spend their entire lives talking about how we must allow people to self-identify and respect that, will then say, “Just because Konstantin identifies as a comedian doesn’t mean he’s a comedian.” Which is, if you think about it, an incredibly transphobic thing to say.
So the point is that a lot of the modern beliefs that you’re required to have in society—if you want to have a mainstream career, if you don’t want to be kicked out of your job, if you don’t want to never appear on television again, all of this—the things you have to publicly believe, A; don’t makes sense, and B; are quite often contradictory to the same beliefs that these people hold in other areas.
So for example, I’ll give you a more broad example. There are people who argue and support the idea of open borders. These are simultaneously the very people who believe in a huge welfare state. Now these two things are completely incompatible and they don’t work together, but that doesn’t deter these people from having those beliefs. We could spend a whole hour just talking about examples of this clown world that I talk about. So I’m very skeptical about the idea of clown world and I’m skeptical about living in it.
Mr. Jekielek: This actually speaks to this viral thread that you had on Twitter a little while ago, “Why don’t they believe us?” This was later turned into a Tablet piece. I thought it was very apropos. And it was also interesting that it’s something that is international. Here in the U.S., where I’m based right now, I’m Canadian, as many of our viewers know. So I’m also looking at all of this from the outside.
There is very much this, as you described, clown world reality, that’s juxtaposed with this idea of vaccine skepticism or vaccine mandate skepticism, or frankly, general skepticism. You put together a very, very interesting breakdown of why people might not be so ready to accept whatever the edicts are from on high these days.
Mr. Konstantin: That article, and it was based on a Twitter thread as you say, essentially details the events of the last five years and how consistently, on a whole host of issues, whether it was Trump, whether it was Brexit, whether it was Black Lives Matter and the ensuing conversation about race and discrimination, whether it’s the pandemic—on all of those issues, the so-called experts, the people who are responsible for telling us what’s true, often the media, its pollsters, its political commentators, all the people that we are given and that are held up for us to trust and respect and believe—they have all consistently shown us that they’re not to be trusted.
It started with Brexit, first of all. By the way, I don’t say this as in any political party way. I voted to remain in the EU, in that referendum in the UK. We were told it would never happen. We were told all the polls show that it’s not going to happen. We were told that all the people that are going to vote for Brexit are this tiny minority of evil bigots and racists.
Then, boom, we wake up and it’s 52 per cent of the country that has voted to leave the EU. Donald Trump followed shortly afterwards. Again, some publications had him losing with a 99 per cent certainty. Then, boom, we wake up and this person who we’re told is a white nationalist, who no one in their right mind would support, it actually turns out people voted for him and he was elected.
On and on we go. We had the whole Russia collusion. I’m someone who is from Russia and I have no doubt that the Russian government is always attempting to interfere in elections all over the world. But it didn’t seem to me a credible explanation for what happened. As we later saw, all of the people who ran with that narrative essentially stopped talking about it or had to backtrack, because it turned out that it wasn’t actually true.
The Russians didn’t get Donald Trump elected. They didn’t get Brexit done, which was one of the allegations that we were exposed to. Then you go to the race issue, which has been hyped up so much in the last few years. There’s numerous examples, like “Juicy Smoo-yay,” as Dave Chappelle famously called him, lying, but then having the media running with the story. People are going to lie about all sorts of things all the time. It was the fact that the media ran with it that was so insulting.
And of course, then you had the race issue, plus the pandemic where we all spent, certainly in this country, months in lockdown. We were told if we go out we’re spreading a deadly virus, and we’re killing granny. Boom, the moment the moment the BLM riots and protests happened, suddenly the same doctors write pieces in Time magazine, which I quoted in my article, saying “Actually, protests are an important public health intervention. “
So the moment something becomes progressive, it becomes true. Whereas two days ago, it was completely untrue. And on and on and on and on we go. I gave a very long list of these explanations. With masks, we were told that they don’t work, but the reason that you shouldn’t get one is because the health workers need one. So it doesn’t work, but health workers need one, so you shouldn’t get one.
And then suddenly, they do work. Then there’s the same thing with vaccines. We need to just give it to the vulnerable. Suddenly, we’re talking about vaccine passports, one of the biggest violations of people’s natural or God-given rights, whichever your view of that issue is, in modern Western history.
So, wherever you look, these people continue to discredit themselves on every issue. Is there any surprise when these very people who’ve been banging on about Russian collusion and Brexit and Trump were never going to happen, when they say you must get the vaccine, a lot of people are like, whoa, whoa, whoa, you’ve been lying to me for five years, why would I…
People are hesitant now. My personal view on the vaccine is if you’re elderly or vulnerable in other ways, I personally think you should take it. Now, it’s your decision. Everybody’s body is their own body to do with what they want to do with it. For younger people the risk calculation is different and they should make their own decision about that.
I’m not someone who is anti-vax in any way, both my parents are scientists. My dad actually made vaccines for the Soviet Union, that was his job. So I’m fully aware of the science on these things. People have a right to make their own decisions and they should be free to do so on the basis of accurate information, not conjecture, not speculation and certainly not coercion, which is now what we’re seeing.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the things that strikes me is that whenever there’s this sort of pervasive lying—I don’t usually say it, but you’re right—pervasive lying, mistruths, and casually changing the truth, people start wondering, “What is actually true, can we really trust anything?” And that actually fuels the creation of all sorts of these crazy conspiracy theories. Actually, I find this the most disturbing.
It’s like not having a commitment, especially for the scientific community, to promote the best they have of truthful information each time and share it. It creates this whole ecosystem, it seems to me, of all sorts of crazy conspiracy stuff. What are your thoughts?
Mr. Konstantin: I agree with you completely. We should be aware as well that conspiracy theories have always existed. The reason that it’s an issue coming to the fore at the moment is the technological progress that has happened, particularly in the last 10 years. Think about the fact that we only very recently commemorated the 20th anniversary of 9/11.
There were huge numbers of conspiracies about that particular event, and it never occurred to anyone that they should be censored. That was never a conversation we were having at that time. It was never a conversation that we had 10 years ago or 20 years ago. Even now we don’t censor conspiracy theories about 9/11 at all.
And yet, for some reason, it has now become very fashionable to talk about censoring all sorts of other stuff that is “conspiracy. “ I’m not someone who really believes any of these conspiracy theories, but I think the reason we’ve become so obsessed with them and trying to climb down on them is the power of modern technology and the ability to spread information so virally as we can now.
Mr. Jekielek: The possibility of a lab origin of coronavirus is one of these conspiracy theories, or so we are told.
Mr. Konstantin: Not anymore. Now, most sensible people seem to accept that is probably where the virus came from. And Jan, you point out such an important issue, which is the reason that I mentioned my parents. Both my parents are biochemical engineers, they’re highly trained scientists in the Soviet Union. This is what they always inculcated in me, the idea that there is a scientific consensus about some issue. Yes, there are times when most scientists disagree about a particular issue, but the process of science is one of constant questioning and inquiry and skepticism.
In my house, as I said, my parents were both scientists. We had all sorts of books about all sorts of crazy notions and ideas that my parents would read. They would read them skeptically and critically and they would say, “Look, Konstantin, you must read this book. You’ve got to remember to apply your own critical thinking to this. Let’s have a conversation around the dinner table about the strengths and flaws of this argument.”
I just feel like the problem with a lot of what we’re seeing now is we’re completely losing the ability to hold ideas in our heads without immediately either believing them or rejecting them and We’re not allowing ourselves as a society to have useful conversations about things about which we’re not certain.
Mr. Jekielek: You wrote a piece for Spectator where you talked about not subscribing to the BLM as an organization narrative, so to speak. This was a very U.S. phenomenon, but it’s something that became a global phenomenon.
Mr. Konstantin: Right. It started as a U.S. phenomenon, but it certainly didn’t finish that way. It became a global thing. Look in the UK where police officers do not kill unarmed suspects from minority backgrounds. Police officers mostly don’t carry firearms. We have a few specialist units that do. In the year in which we had mass protests on the streets of London and other cities about that issue. In the previous year for which we have recorded statistics, two people in this country were killed by the police who were from a minority background. One of them was Usman Khan, the London Bridge terrorist.
We don’t have this problem in the UK in the way that it exists in America, and to the extent that it exists in America. So to see the whole of society descend into some kind of moral panic was to me completely absurd. Again, a lot of people listening to me will be tempted to think that I am some kind of Right-wing reactionary or a pro-Brexit, pro-Trump, anti-BLM, anti-everything. But yes, I’m not pro-anything, other than the facts and the truth.
For some reason that makes me some kind of outspoken person, and I don’t get it. The fact of the matter is BLM is not an issue that’s relevant to the UK in that way. That’s not to say we don’t have individual instances of racism, but Britain is not a systemically racist country. It’s not a racist country at all. The argument that Britain is a systemically racist country, to me sounds like saying that Britain is a systemically murderous country, because some people murder people in the country.
Terrible things will always happen. There’s always a fringe of idiots and despicable people in society. As someone who’s dark skinned, a first-generation immigrant like me, I’m not unaware of the fact that racism exists. Of course it does, but to slander the entire country in this way is just complete nonsense.
Britain and America are two of the most progressive countries on these issues in the history of human civilization. To pretend otherwise is complete nonsense. It was a moral panic. I felt very strongly that somebody had to start speaking up about it. It was easier for black people. For example, my friend Zubi, who is a rapper, spoke out very early about this.
It was important for other people to start saying what they think. That’s one of the things I learned from my family growing up in my early years in the Soviet Union—you’ve got to speak the truth when you see it. Once society goes mad, it’s your job to do so if you are in a position to have an audience to reach, and it’s your job, even more so in those moments, to be honest and truthful about what’s going on.
Mr. Jekielek: I definitely want to ask you what mean by society going mad, that’s very interesting. Before we go there, in the U.S. there are plenty of people who say, backed with very solid data, that the U.S. is not a systemically racist country. There’s credible people like Bob Woodson, who was deep in the civil rights movement, who basically just doesn’t see any of this. Actually, he does see a lot of serious systemic problems that just simply get glossed over when you focus on this kind of a narrative.
Mr. Konstantin: I agree with you. But in terms of your prior point about society going mad, we’ve got to remember, Jan, and you’ll know this, given your background, society goes mad all the time. It’s actually quite a normal thing for a bunch of people in society to suddenly decide, “You know what? Let’s get all the Jews together and put them in a camp. Let’s get all the people who have the wrong opinion and put them in a gulag. Let’s get all the witches and burn them. Let’s get all the heretics and slaughter them. Let’s have a crusade. Let’s have a jihad.”
It’s perfectly normal. It’s a perfectly normal occurrence in human history for large chunks of society to subscribe to some absolutely crazy idea and to go full-out wacko on it—it’s normal. That’s why I think we’ve got to recognize this is part of the human condition. That’s why people who are willing to speak the truth in those moments are very important. That’s why I always encourage other people to—when they see that happening, when there’s a moral panic as Coleman Hughes described it, the BLM craze—to explain to people what it is. You’ve got to make it okay for people to speak their mind about it.
Mr. Jekielek: Something that we’re facing in the U.S. and Canada—I don’t know how it is in the UK exactly, is calls from various authorities, social media companies, and government entities to enforce censorship of speech to protect society from bad apples or bad speech. You can speak truthfully, as long as it’s the correct truth.
Mr. Konstantin: Yes, you can speak truthfully, as long as no one gets upset. Given that we live in a society where people get really upset by facts, you can see where that ends up very, very quickly. Look, it’s a fundamentally anti-Western, anti-Enlightenment idea, that people must be prevented from speaking. The whole point of the Enlightenment was the disillusion of restrictive dogma so that people were free to pursue the scientific method, and their creativity, whatever it was, to discover the actual truth.
The actual truth gets discovered in a contest between different ideas, different ideologies, and different versions of people’s interpretation of things. In that battle between different ideas and different viewpoints, the truth hopefully emerges. That is the Enlightenment mentality, and the Western mentality. Increasingly, what we now have in the West is an ideology that is fundamentally anti-Western. It sees the West as the root of all evil and therefore wants to eradicate all of the things that made Western society as great as it.
That’s why I’m at the moment finishing my book called “An Immigrant’s Love Letter to the West.” That’s what I’m trying to remind people of. If you rip out the founding cornerstone principles from Western civilization, it’s not going to stay the same. It’s going to be different, and it’s not going to be different in a good way either. Because you’re ripping out the very things that built the society that we now live in, where you have freedom and safety and prosperity and security and all of those things. So that’s why I fight so hard against it, because not only is it purely just morally wrong, it is fundamentally destructive to the very civilization that we’re a part of.
Mr.Jekielek: You were a comedian. You made some headlines by rejecting some rules around what you were allowed to joke about for a pretty high profile event. You said you wanted to throw up when you read the rules. What was this?
Mr Konstantin: You put it very gently and the devil is always in the details. If somebody said to me, “Would you mind just not talking about religion or would you mind just not talking about murder, because one of our organizers is grieving.” That’s different. But what actually happened is these people asked me to donate my time as a comedian to raise money for charity, and then sent me what they called the “behavioral agreement contract,” which said that they had a zero-tolerance policy on racism, sexism, classism, ageism, ableism, homophobia, bi-phobia, transphobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, anti-religion, and anti atheism, as well.
It also said that all jokes must be respectful and kind. Now, this is a point where as a comedian say, “How about, no. How about, I’m not going to comply with your rules.” Because comedy at its core, for me at least, is always about an element of transgression. It’s supposed to be about pushing boundaries. That’s why when you and I are having this very serious conversation about serious issues, I’m not being too lighthearted about stuff, because the things that we’re talking about deserve serious discussion.
But if I’m on stage as a comedian, my whole job is to transgress the rules and to break boundaries. In the same way that you mentioned to me that this is a show that parents should be able to listen to with their kids, I’m going to respect that, because that is what it’s for.
But comedy isn’t for that. Comedy is about pushing boundaries. It’s about breaking norms. It’s about holding up a mirror to society and saying, “This is the problem. This is the hypocrisy. This is the inconsistency. This is the lie.” And making you laugh at the same time.
So to me, that was antithetical to comedy, and that’s why I turned it down. But what’s interesting about it, Jan, if you’ll allow me to share my thoughts about it, it’s is not so much my turning it down, but how big of a story it became. Just to put it in context, this happened on the day that Theresa May, then prime minister of the United Kingdom, was nearly removed from office by her own party. So that would be the equivalent of the Democrats nearly impeaching Joe Biden right now, which, who knows, might actually happen.
But it was on this day that it became the second biggest story on the BBC news website, and it went global around the world, and viral around the world. Now is that because ordinary people looked around and they really deeply cared about some no-name comedian turning down and unpaid charity gig from a college that no one had ever heard of? I don’t think so.
I think the reason that that story went as big as it did, is that there are millions, if not billions of people around the world now who walk around every day and they feel like they are subject to that very contract that I had refused to sign—that anything they say can and will be used against them in their employment situation, in college, in university, or in public, wherever it is. Everybody feels that what they say can and will be used against them in the court of public opinion. That’s why it went as big as it did.
Mr. Jekielek: This was just kind of the beginnings of your TRIGGERnometry podcast. You’ve had some really excellent guests and people that are experts on this ideology that you’ve been describing. Critical social justice is one way that it’s described, wokeism is another way. So from what you’ve learned from all these folks that have come on your show, what is this thing? Really, what is it? Why is it such an issue, and why has it been able to kind of capture so much of our institutions?
Mr. Konstantin: There are two questions there. First, what is it and second, why has it been so effective? If we start with the first one, I would argue that this is a mutated form of the thing that you and my ancestors both experienced back home. The idea of the Soviet revolution, the Russian revolution, was that you can anger the workers, and then use the anger of the oppressed workers to overthrow the bourgeoisie, the capitalist class.
And if you remember the Russian revolution, it wasn’t supposed to be the Russian revolution. It was supposed to be the world revolution. The idea was that you can’t have communism in an isolated part of the world, because if you only have it in one part there’s something to compare it to and then people are going to realize what they’ve actually been sold. You have to spread this idea everywhere.
Now it very quickly turned out that people in the West and America and Britain and other parts of the Western world and Anglosphere aren’t actually keen to overthrow the capitalist class, because they themselves at some level are also capitalists and they believe that they could also one day be rich. You live in America now, and that’s the American dream.
The essence of the American dream is you could be born into a working class family and by the time you pass on your inheritance to your children, they could be millionaires. That’s the idea. And so the workers in the West were really not that keen on eating the rich. But what do you do then if you fundamentally believe in reshaping society along these Marxist/communist lines? What do you do?
Well, you need to find some way of dividing society down different lines that are going to be much more powerful. That’s when, of course, they discovered the idea that if you tell women that they’re supposed to hate men, if you tell men that they’re bad and evil, if you make everything about race, if you separate everybody along these tribal lines, it is much more hardwired into us than your class distinctions.
Class is a thing that human beings invented intellectually. Race, tribe, ethnicity, gender, these things run deep with people. So what they’ve done is hacked these primitive, evolutionary circuits in us that make us suspicious of others, that make us wary of others, and that make us think, “Well, that person is different to me, maybe there is something wrong with them.” They’ve antagonized and they’ve amplified these racial divides in society, because they want to build a coalition of the oppressed and have a way of reshaping Western society along those lines.
That’s how you get to a revolution. If you listen to people on the hard Left, the really woke people, that’s what they want. They want to overthrow capitalism and replace it with—well, they don’t think that far ahead, because revolutionists never do—but that’s the first thing that they want to do.
Now, the second part of your question, why have we been susceptible to this in the West? It’s probably a sign of how successful we’ve been. We’ve had 75 years of peace and prosperity, generally speaking. We’ve not really needed men to be men. We’ve not had any proper wars. Over time, we’ve allowed society to erode the values it was built on. So now people come along and say, ”Empathy and caring sound good.” Look, it’s a complicated issue. There are many, many sides to it.
I recently heard Adam Corolla talking about how the move away from manufacturing has had a big impact. When you do things with your hands, when you’re doing practical things, if you drop a heavy tool on your foot, it doesn’t matter what you believe the tool self-identifies as, or if you don’t believe in gravity. It’s going to land on your foot and it’s going to break your toes and it’s going to hurt. And you’re going to go to the hospital and your reality is going to get readjusted.
But if you exist solely in the intellectual realm, if you’re a college professor, then you never have to live with the consequences of your ideology, because you are insulated from it. And we are increasingly all insulated from the consequences of our thoughts, that’s a big part of it. Technology has been a big part of it. The amplification of the political polarization has been a big part of it. There are many parts to it, but undoubtedly it’s the case that Western society is extremely vulnerable to this ideology.
Mr. Jekielek: I spent the better part of two years trying to understand this. And it took a while, frankly, because it’s very elusive. It’s very difficult to pinpoint, what is it exactly? How does it work? There’s a lot of redefinition of language, which I think is incredibly important. You’re talking about racism, but the critical social justice progressive, when they say racism, they’re talking about something completely different. It even took me a while to just grasp that idea.
But what really struck me as interesting, and I haven’t talked about this very much, you alluded to it here, most working class people would look at this ideology on its face and say, “What?!” Then they would move on with their day. So it strikes me that the working class in some ways is immune to this ideology. The flip side of that is this ideology assaults the working class, in a sense.
Mr. Konstantin: There’s actually two things in what your talking about that I’d love to pick up on, if you’ll indulge me, the first of which is language. I have a whole chapter in my book about language, because it’s a very important thing now. I don’t know how many of your viewers will know this, but I’m sure you will. The term political correctness actually comes from the Soviet Union. The point of political correctness was never about protecting people’s feelings or making sure people aren’t upset or offended or about not being racist. It never had anything to do with any of that, Jan, as you know.
The point of political correctness and the reason it’s called political correctness is so that you could say to somebody, as did my ancestors who went to the gulags for expressing all the wrong opinions, you could say, “Well, comrade, what you’re saying is factually correct, but it’s politically incorrect.” What that meant, of course, is that it’s not helpful to the party line. “The lies we as a society have decided to tell the people in our society are challenged by what you’re saying. You’re upsetting the position of the party, and that’s why it’s wrong.”
First and foremost, I always want people in the West to understand that this substitution and erosion of language is not accidental. This is a deliberate way to enforce whatever is the party line of the day is. So that’s the language part of it.
The second part of your question is about the working class. The thing about the working class, people, of course, is that black and other ethnic minority people are disproportionately working class. What that means is working class people have been living together with people of different races, actually, for quite a lot longer than white liberal college educated people.
So the first thing is, none of this rubbish, none of this trash, none of this nonsense really maps very well onto their experiences, because working class people don’t have the time to sit around and navel-gaze. They get on with their lives. They’re dealing with people of all sorts of ethnicities. First and second generation immigrants have always been far more likely to be working class, and they would live together.
Of course, there’s always going to be tensions between new groups of people moving into the same areas. But fundamentally, they’re much more likely to marry people of other races. They’re much more likely to coexist with them.
None of this marries very well into the things that they experience. That’s why the reaction to the Brexit and the Trump situations that we saw in 2016, were really in some part a reaction to the fact that the increasingly disconnected elite is completely detached from the experiences of “normal people.” That was a rebellion of the working class against their elites. “All the stuff you’re trying to push on us, it really doesn’t make sense in our world.”
Mr. Jekielek: I have to ask you, because I keep looking at it. Why do you have that picture of Uncle Joe behind you with the words, “Cancel culture is a myth?”
Mr. Konstantin: Joseph Stalin famously canceled quite a few people and was equally famous for not admitting it. So to me, the whole conversation about cancel culture seems to be coming back to your very first question about clown world. People who are in favor of cancel culture will say, “Well, there isn’t a such thing as cancel culture, and by the way, it’s a great idea.”
Mr. Jekielek: It’s accountability, they say. It’s just holding people accountable.
Mr. Konstantin: Yes. But, at the same time, it really doesn’t exist. “It’s just holding people accountable.” There is no such thing. And Jan, it even sounds cringe-worthy to me when people with a large platform like myself, or well-known comedians or celebrities or podcasters talk about it, “Oh, I got canceled.” Yes, it’s cringe-worthy, but the point is, there are a lot of ordinary people who fall under the same axe. There are a lot of other people who’ve experienced the consequences of this. We’ve had numerous such people, comedians, charity workers, and people who work in the supermarket.
There was a guy in the UK who posted a routine from one of our most respected comedians in the UK, Billy Connolly. It was a routine about religion and he got fired from his job for jokes that are on the DVD, that his own supermarket sold. So the people that fired him, fired him for sharing jokes from a DVD that they sold. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s the same with lots of other things.
My issue with cancel culture is not that people get upset about something I said, or that a comedian said, but that there’s a lot of ordinary people who have fear. They fear the consequences of speaking their mind. They fear the consequences of having the wrong opinion. I hear from these people every single day.
When I go and sit down at a restaurant people will come up to me very quietly. They’ll tell me their stories about how they work in a school, and they fear speaking their mind. They fear that they’re now being asked to teach children things they fundamentally disagree with think are destructive. They fear being fired from their jobs in the health service for questioning orthodoxy. To me, that’s a very dangerous position to be in.
That’s why we highlight this issue on our show, because the way you fight cancel culture is to punish the cancellation of people. If every time someone got canceled, their career took off as a result, they benefited, and their lives got better not worse, cancellations would stop, because the people who are doing the canceling would realize they’re only helping the people that they hate.
Mr. Jekielek: Has anyone tried to cancel you?
Mr. Konstantin: Yes, lots of times. The good thing about being independent in terms of putting out your own show, the only people we are accountable to with TRIGGERnometry are our fans. They are the ones who fund the show. We really don’t have any other sources of income. So our fans watching the show and supporting it are who we are accountable to.
We recently signed with a big comedy agent here in the UK, and a bunch of other comedians tried to get that comedy agent to drop us. It happens all the time. But like I said, if you create something of value that’s independent, then it’s not really going to be a problem. The only people that really could cancel us would be YouTube, but we don’t really do anything that’s counter to their rules as they stand.
That’s the other part of resisting cancel culture. It’s about building cancellation-proof sources of revenue and work. That will be another big part of it. We have to create alternative institutions where people can’t be fired for having the wrong opinion, and where they can’t be kicked out for voting the wrong way in an election.
Mr. Jekielek: Speaking of cancel culture, the big reason why we started the Epoch TV platform is because YouTube decided to demonetize us and reduce our reach dramatically. That is a kind of cancel culture as well.
Mr. Konstantin: My only hope is that over time an alternative platform will emerge that is capable of challenging YouTube. Right now, I don’t think there is one, and it’s obviously very, very difficult to create one. That is our only hope. There is no way these institutions are ever going to be run by people who don’t have the mindset that they do, and I think that will probably almost certainly be the case in the future as well. And who knows, technological progress as we talked about it earlier is so rapid right now, that to claim to know what will be the case five years from now would be absurd, really.
We don’t know what alternatives are coming down the pipeline. I’m not a complete market-obsessed person, but generally speaking, the market will provide something or the electoral market will provide something. Maybe in the next election, we will have the option to vote for somebody who says, “I’m going to crack down on Big Tech censorship. I’m going to crack down on political bias on these platforms” and open the internet back up to allow us to have the open conversations we should be able to have, because it’s our God-given right to do so.
Mr. Jekielek: One of the areas that you’ve been talking about perhaps more than most in exploring this whole area of critical social justice and the changes in society is this idea of safetyism. I just noticed the other day that Twitter is going to have a new feature, basically a kind of a safety mode where users can protect themselves from harmful tweets, and from replies and mentions that they don’t like that might be disparaging, and that might be critical of their ideas. Any thoughts about this?
Mr. Konstantin: It depends on the way that it’s implemented. I know that a lot of people will expect me to jump on it and say, “It’s all about snowflakes.” But actually, I do think there is some rationale to doing this. I never really knew about this much, because up until a couple of months ago, my Twitter account was under 50,000 followers.
A lot of my friends were saying to me, “Konstantin, you are really in the best time of your Twitter life.” I was saying, “Well, Twitter is great!” Yes, you get a few idiots saying a few things, but it’s really a lot of fun. I get to interact with people who are interested in what I have to say. Interesting people from other countries can interact with me. I get to make new friends, just as we’ve done in this conversation.
But then once you get past about 50,000, it does start to feel like essentially what you’ve done is you’re constantly walking around town while being followed by about 30 people who absolutely hate you and whatever you do or say. They come in and they don’t criticize your ideas. They don’t criticize what you’ve said. They just want to say something completely pointless and stupid and insulting to you.
So problems come with big technology. One of them is how to create an online space where people have the freedom to make their own choices. Because to me, this is all about freedom. If you want to enable something on your Twitter account that protects you from certain things, great. And if you don’t, great. It really should be up to you. So to me, tools allow people to manage their account.
You’ve got to remember as well, Jan, different people have different sensitivities. I try to look at all criticism and take the positive out of it. I’ve always been that way. I used to run workshops and seminars, and I always used to give people a feedback form. I’d always say, “Look, skip the positive feedback bit, just tell me what you didn’t like.” To me, that was the valuable thing about it. It was people coming at it from a constructive point of view.
Online, as you know from having a YouTube channel or having a Twitter account, sometimes there is no constructive intent whatsoever. It’s just people being mean. Actually I don’t want to hear from idiots who just want to call me fat or ugly or stupid or a Nazi or racist, or be racist to me. Maybe I don’t need to hear from those people. I’ve got no problem with that.
Mr. Jekielek: The challenge is that in this critical social justice ideology, essentially any sort of criticism, constructive or otherwise, exactly the kind of thing that you were just describing, is lumped into one package and it’s all the same.
Mr. Konstantin: I agree. A; the most important thing is how it’s implemented and B; it’s important that that you have the freedom as a user to make your own decision about what you want and don’t want to see. I don’t want Twitter coming in and deciding for me, but giving me the option to see or not see certain things, I’m very happy with that.
Mr. Jekielek: Konstantin, as we’re finishing up, there’s this new report by the Jewish Institute for Liberal Values here in the U.S. You’re Jewish, and my father-in-law was a Holocaust survivor. This is actually something that I’ve been thinking about for a while. They are basically saying that critical social justice ideology and critical race theory is, “Enabling new forms of antisemitism.”
Mr. Konstantin: It is. It’s a broader issue than just for people who are Jewish or who happen to have Jewish heritage like me. One of the things that we all ought to start doing is speaking about identities as little as possible. When I fill out a form nowadays which asks about my ethnicity, I just put “human,” because I’m tired of thinking of myself as being a representative of a group.
That whole conversation to me is damaging, it’s dangerous, and it’s demeaning to us and our ability to be individual human beings, which we all are. That’s not to say that we don’t learn and inherit things from our history and our genes and our families. But we’ve got to speak about it as little as possible. But of course, critical theory says the opposite.
One of the basic points in this critical theory is the idea that you can judge whether a group is or isn’t oppressed or is or isn’t the oppressor is by outcomes. There are always going to be groups like the Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, West Africans, Nigerians, Ghanaians, and Jews, probably the most oppressed ethnic minority in history, who despite their “oppression,” still do well. Because they don’t fit the narrative, they are of course going to be resented.
So to me, that makes perfect sense, which is why you are seeing more conversations about how Jews and Asians and all these other people are “complicit” in white supremacy and all this other complete rubbish. We talked about the redefinition of language. You’re not black anymore if you have the wrong opinion, as Joe Biden explained. If you didn’t vote for him, you ain’t black. My friends who are not supporters of critical race theory, who happen to be black, are discredited on the basis that they’ve got internalized whiteness.
So the redefinition of language has meant that certain groups, including minorities and black people, Asian people, and Jewish people who don’t fit that mold are going to have a target on their back. The answer to that for all of us is to reject critical theory as a way of thinking about things and to look at the underlying causes of different outcomes for different groups.
You mentioned Bob Woodson. You can go down the list to Thomas Sowell and Larry Elders. All of these people have exposed the problems are that are actually causing disparities and outcomes for different ethnic groups. Partly it’s history, and partly it’s poverty, the breakdown of the family, and poor educational facilities in certain areas. Actually, those are problems around which Left and Right, and black and white could all unite. This is why these people don’t want us to deal with the real facts around these issues, because it would mean we’re all united and pulling in one direction.
They don’t want that. They want to divide society because they’ve realized that they found a cheat code to this game called life. If you whine loudly enough about how oppressed you are, you get media opportunities, you get book deals, you get paid, and you get sponsored podcasts. It’s the grift that these people have worked out and had to play.
I said this on my Twitter the other day. In seeking to remove from society the last pockets of bigotry, prejudice, and racism, what we’ve done instead is enabled a small minority of these grifters and encouraged them to profit from the division that they themselves create, which is why they’re never going to give it up. It’s up to us to say, “Yes, we as a society want to tackle the problems of inequality, which are real. But we’re going to do that, not by looking at our race, not by looking at our ethnicity, but by looking at the facts and pulling in one direction to fix them.”
Mr. Jekielek: Unity is a powerful vision and I absolutely share that vision with you. It can be difficult to see how that might happen with the way our societies are progressing today. Any final thoughts as we finish up?
Mr. Konstantin: Look at that very issue. I don’t ask everybody to go out and sacrifice themselves in the cause of truth or martyrdom. Everybody’s got different roles to play. I always tell people the story about my own grandmother. My grandmother was born in the Soviet gulag for political prisoners. She was born in this gulag because both her parents had been sent there. After her dad had served his 10 years, he was kept in the gulag for another three years because he was considered useful. When they were eventually released, as all gulag prisoners were, they were released without the right to live in any of the major cities in the Soviet Union. They had to live in some backwater in the middle of Siberia. The only people who lived in these tiny towns and cities in those areas were the former prisoners and the former guards of the concentration camps.
So literally you would have the gulag guards and the gulag prisoners living side by side. When Joseph Stalin died in 1953 and later the crimes of his regime were exposed, my grandmother remembers knowing several families of these guards in her tiny little town who killed themselves. The reason why is they had allowed themselves to have no idea about what they were doing. They had allowed themselves to believe that these people that they were beating and torturing and murdering and raping in these camps deserved it.
They allowed themselves to believe that the party system, the communist regime that they were living under knew what was right and they allowed themselves to suspend their own moral compass, to suspend their own judgments about what is true and what is false, and what is right, and what is wrong.
The only thing I ever say to people, the only thing I ever ask of people is do not be a useful idiot. Do not suspend your own judgment about right and wrong, about morality, about truth and justice for the sake of some system, some oppressive ideology, for not being fired from work, or for convenience. Do not be a useful idiot, because you will regret it.
Mr. Jekielek: Such a powerful message. Konstantin Kisin, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Konstantin: Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a real pleasure of a conversation.
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