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Is media trying to brainwash us into being ALL THE SAME? Are the excesses of the mob scaring us into conformity? And does this in turn keep us from being actually creative, with healthy relationships?
Mark, Erica, and Brian muse on cultural homogenization and a few sci-fi takes on forced sameness and then bring out our first celebrity guest, beloved comedian and now psychology Ph.D. Yakov Smirnoff, who tells us about growing up in a repressive society and his fears that political correctness and a lack of appreciation for the “reciprocal opposites” necessary for authentic communication is leading us in that direction. We conclude with a bit of host-ful response.
We touch on Cat’s Cradle, Aladdin, Rosanne Barr, The Twilight Zone, Brian’s wearing a Cubs hat in Missouri, and performing comedy in the U.S.S.R. as well as various sensitive audiences here. Will you not join us and dress as Devo every day?
Here’s that article that comes up on Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s terms “karass” (voluntary, organic grouping) and “granfalloon” (inherited, basically meaningless grouping).
No, we are not a politics podcast, but sometimes when we reflect on the dynamics involved with our being entertained, politics is hard to avoid! You may enjoy listening to Mark’s philosophy podcast discuss Adorno on the Culture Industry, or perhaps their discussion of the world of technological unemployment.
Not enough Yakov? Well, of course there are scads of YouTube clips and other podcast appearances that he’s done that you can check out with a mere web search, but if you want to hear EVERY SINGLE WORD he said to us, we did post an entirely unedited version of the interview for $5 supporters at patreon.com/prettymuchpop.
Follow Yakov: @Yakov_Smirnoff. Thanks to The Partially Examined Life Podcast Network and Open Culture for curating this podcast.
Interesting conversation, but I have a lot to say.
In regards to Smirnoff’s comparison of the wealth in the USSR vs. the US, there’s no doubt that liberal democratic capitalism was far superior, but even so, it’s easy to forget that a few decades before Russia was vying for world dominance, it was a poor, repressive, feudal economy. I don’t want to cover up the horrendous economic failure of Soviet Communism, but just to put it in perspective.
The idea that The Office or Friends are now taboo because they don’t conform to the PC SJW agenda is just pure hysteria. I’m part of generation snowflake, and let me tell you, The Office is probably THE most popular television show among my peers, with Friends not too far behind. Michael from The Office is even a parody of the guy that’s always complaining about PC culture before it was as much of a mainstream topic as it is now. How long ago was it that being out of the closet or speaking out against Harvey Weinstein would ruin people’s careers (these are not hyperbole, look it up), but now that calling black people chimps is career suicide, SJWs have gone too far? Give me a break.
I totally agree that giving massive corporations censorship power could be dangerous, but that’s a fundamentally leftist critique, and one that actual leftists, not amorphous “college campus liberals” are making quite a lot.
The mention of the shift in popular consciousness of smoking cigarettes seems to go against Smirnoff’s main message. Anti-smoking campaigns were, quite literally, state propaganda that successfully made people police their own behavior. In this instance it was clearly beneficial, and in a way was counter-propaganda against tobacco companies years of misinformation, but this again shows that private companies are often the one’s we should be looking out for.
Clearly I’m biased, but when he talks about the balance of left and right, and his example of the right going too far is literally mass environmental destruction as if that is comparable to internet outrage seems self-evidently absurd. My impression of Smirnoff is a cultural (and perhaps more coherent) Ayn Rand who, in response to the horrors of Soviet Communism, came to the US and evangelized against minor social safety nets her whole life.
Thanks for the interesting discussion, sorry I was so negative, I really did enjoy the perspective, even though I object so strongly to it. The descriptions of life in Soviet Russia were fascinating.
Thanks, Thomas, you’ve voiced some of our objections as well! -Mark