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Now that awareness has been raised about podcast Red Scare, progressive writers are falling over themselves to condemn it. The podcast, hosted by Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova, is part of the emerging, independent “dirtbag left.” They are no-nonsense, outspoken, intentionally provocative in a relaxed sort of way, and super annoying to mainstream feminists.
Much of this has to do with the form of Red Scare. The set up is an interview format, where two youngish, well informed, pop culture-oriented, sarcastic, attractive women discuss ideas and the news of the day. They pivot between culture and politics seamlessly, interviewing authors, talking about beauty, giggling and vocal frying all over the place. Red Scare has the sound and feel of a progressive, leftist podcast. Everything about it emulates the aesthetic form of counterculture liberalism. Based on looks alone, they should tout all the woke views; but they don’t.
Jezebel’s Anna Merlan wrote about the podcast, and it’s like she couldn’t decide if she thought it was important enough to write about or not.:
In the very small, largely Brooklyn-based world of people who care about such things, some people—myself very much included—are annoyed by the pair. Simply put, that’s because they say outrageously offensive and bigoted things while draping them in the most gossamer-thin layer of plausible irony. They use ‘gay’ as a synonym for bad, gleefully use the word ‘retard,’ and mock the MeToo movement and what they term ‘liberal’ feminism as a whole. It’s all delivered in a duelling pair of bored, near-monotones, interspersed with some purposefully provocative but less blazing-hot takes (‘The only acceptable hobby is smoking cigarettes,’ went a recent one.)
The crime of Red Scare is using the form of the progressive, Bechdel Test passing new media, but not holding tight to the required views. Khachiyan and Nekrasova are beholden to no one. They afflict the culturally powerful and disrupt the narrative of correctitude that has taken over leftist media. They don’t comply with the conservative right, either. They do that most revolutionary thing of all: they think for themselves. And mostly what they’re doing is working it out as they go along.
There’s no discounting that they call it like they see it. In their episode on Squad Goals, where they talk about Trump’s “go back where you came from” tweets, and the quartet of freshmen representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, they said: “And now like Republicans have voted on a resolution to condemn tweets which like why are we voting on a resolution to condemn tweets people should be allowed to tweet whatever they want as horrible as it sounds.”
That’s true of tweets, and it’s true of the ladies of Red Scare. As horrible as it sometimes sounds, they can still say it, and they do. Sometimes their humour borders on tasteless, however. For instance, their cruel take on the violent assault on Andy Ngo went too far, in our opinion. They are kind of assholes, like when they talk about how their haters are just unattractive people, and how attractive people have better lives. It’s all part of their schtick. They often say things that are dick things to say. But they are quite savage and clever. On a recent podcast, they were hungover, and the effects, connotations, and treatment of same were discussed. “People are always calling us cokeheads, which is hilarious.” Generation Z and disaffected millennials are drawn to them, and it’s easy to see why.
In a conversation with author Angela Nagle on their 100th episode in June, they talked about how it’s much easier to define the enemy as the patriarchy because it’s a simple take that streamlines hate and dissatisfaction. When in fact the left is a merging of two ideas that don’t make sense: a rejection of individual over group rights in a push toward socialism, but with a thorough embracing of the libertine values and practices of global capitalism. They note that socialism is like a “purity litmus test” these days, but that it’s still a deeply isolating ideology.
Red Scare is exactly the kind of pushback the ideological left needs. Khachiyan and Nekrasova are a reminder to not take everything so seriously, from the presidential election to anti-smoking warnings. They speak to young, alienated, smart people in a way that Jezebel never could. This is precisely why they are under attack. They are part of a growing movement of leftists whose politics are more centre-left than progressive, and who refuse to give over their voices to the ideological listicle of acceptable perspectives.