Evgenia and I moved to LA from New York right before 2020 because I was in the process of trying to sell a documentary series based on my book, Surveillance Valley. That process was moving along nicely but immediately stalled when COVID hit. So we found ourselves in LA — stranded under these libertarian half-lockdowns, with no real job prospects, and then on top of that facing a frivolous eviction from an apartment we had just moved into. So we’re stuck on Medical, again barely making ends meet.
From right “before.”
Not gonna complain too much. We’ve had it better than a lot of other people out there — and we’re lucky to have family to fall back on. Still, it’s been a long and fucked up year, and it’s not gonna be over just because the ball drops (to an empty crowd). This pandemic has exposed already existing American decline and predation in a way that, even to cynics, was hard to imagine just a year before. And this trend is only gonna ramp up in 2021, and that’s something I’m willing to bet on.
As 2020 is about to end, I figured I’d do the customary roundup of some of the best and most interesting things I sent out this year. I’ve picked 12 — one for every shitty month of this shitty year.
Also, now that Evgenia and I have a kid on the way, it’s time for you to consider upgrading your subscription to a higher membership level. If baby shaming won’t work to shake out some subs, I don’t know what will. Don’t delay! And…Happy New Year!
New Year in Los Angeles — “Kinda weird for a Soviet immigrant like me to realize that you fled one failing society only to end up in a society that was also entering an accelerated phase of decline and degradation.”
Weaponizing Fascism for Democracy — “I’d like to start by going back to the end of World War II — to the days when the weaponization of nationalism was just beginning to crystalize as an American foreign policy strategy.”
How California's oligarch farmers put Japanese-Americans into concentration camps — “California’s anglo oligarchs saw the nativist panic that gripped America after Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor as an opportunity.”
Day 18: Mitch O’Farrell — “Evgenia and I got in our car right after sunset and headed out for another round of a “hey, asshole!” car honking protest. A few days ago it was the mayor. This time our convoy targeted the house of Mitch O’Farrell. He’s one of the LA council members who voted against an eviction moratorium last week.”
Respectable Racism: The “War With China” Edition — “Like all elite-driven xenophobic campaigns, this “China did it” propaganda wave displaces blame for domestic political problems onto an inscrutable, foreign enemy and empowers the status quo.”
A portrait of a Soviet CIA propagandist as a Nazi collaborator young man — “The man on the tape wasn’t an armless war veteran, nor was he living in Canada. And he sure didn’t work at a lumber mill. He was a Soviet refugee and a Nazi collaborator — a musician and comedian known for his irresistible charisma and his hard partying and womanizing.”
The schizoid world of a Soviet anti-communist propagandist — “He had collaborated with the Nazis in a genocidal war against his own people, doing whatever it took to stay alive. Now he was working for the CIA, fighting against his own people yet again.”
Shahid Buttar, the cheesy Silicon Valley astroturfer challenging Nancy Pelosi from "the left" — “As someone who grew up in San Francisco and wrote the book on the shady history of Silicon Valley — I simply can’t let this go. I mean, check it out: Turns out that the guy running to unseat Nancy Pelosi from ‘the left’ is a corporate Silicon Valley astroturfer from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.”
America and Russia in the 1990s: This is what real meddling looks like — “About a year and a half ago, Mark Ames and I put together a modest book proposal about the history of US meddling in Russian politics. The story we wanted to tell would have gone back all the way to the start of the Bolshevik Revolution, when America and its western allies militarily intervened in the Russian Civil War on behalf of the proto-Nazi “White” Russians — putting around 15,000 “boots on the ground,” killing and imprisoning Red Army soldiers…”
Matt Taibbi is a cancel culture hypocrite — “When the cancel mob came for him, he was the "upper class Twitter Robespierre" ratting on his colleagues.”
Episode #2: All the Sad Soviet Immigrant Lit — “This ep’s important — a topic Evgenia Kovda and I talk and complain about a lot: the utterly sad and pathetic state of Soviet immigrant literature that’s being produced today.”
I’m dreading the Biden administration, the next phase of American Decline — “About the only positive thing I see in Joe Biden’s victory is that it will bring the Democratic Party one step closer to death. But maybe that’s wishful thinking?”
A perfect end to 2020 for the left — “If you step back and look at it, this constant focus on DC politics and DC fights is the problem. People should know about what’s happening there, of course. But it’s not the place where you go to do battle. Power is too entrenched there. And the left’s armies aren’t just weak — they’re non-existent. What are people gonna storm that imperial fortress with? Tweets and multi-guest YouTube live streams?”