What should I ask Masha Gessen?

I will be doing a Conversations with Tyler with her, no associated public event.  What should I ask her?  As always, I thank you all for your wisdom and counsel.


Can you ask her how her memory of her childhood squares with the narrative of Soviet mistreatment of Jews?

does she think that mebbe cnn &smith college were wrong
when they dismissed the amerikan intelligence/warning last month
about trouble brewing in the mideast

obviously like your website however you have to take a look at the spelling on quite a few of your posts.

A number of them are rife with spelling issues and I in finding it very bothersome to
tell the truth on the other hand I'll certainly come back

L'Ange -+1
smith college- 0

What does Masha think will happen to Putin's fortune if he leaves under civil circumstances? (Say, a handoff to a trusted ally)

Does she still follow Russian science journalism since leaving Vokrug Sveta? If so, which publications/writers are worth reading?

If the intensity of hydrocarbon use continues to shrink, how is Russia's place in the world likely to change? What are the likely changes in internal politics that will arise in response?

When is it useful to dissent?

Listen to her (inextricably bad) interview/podcast with Sam Harris.

Find some way to avoid repeating that weird/boring/tense conversation, and you'll deserve a gold medal.

Completely agree. That one was horrible. It felt like she didn't take Sam seriously. Or at least, she didn't agree whatsoever with the premise behind his questions and so the conversation went nowhere. She sounded like someone who would be hard to interview but maybe TC can make it a success. I hope so because I very much enjoy hearing her opinions on Russia.

Also, if you could somehow sneak a question in on her brother's recent book 'A Terrible Country' it'd be great. That was my favorite fiction book from 2018.

Completely agree with you. Russia is far away from liberal democracy, but it is not a North Korea either. Autocracies got smarter and permit significant amount of personal freedom as long as you don’t interefere with major political dealings. She wasn’t adding much new information, as she was just feeding Sam all the same “terrible regime” stuff, which is so popular in the mainstream media, but quite far from what actually happens in Russia. Btw, same issue with Garry Kasparov. I think it would be much better if Tyler interviews someone with much broader understanding like Mikhail Zygar (project 1917) or Leonid Bershidsky (his fellow Bloomberg columnist)

I'm curious about her response to Harris starting at 11:10.

Harris: "How would you describe public opinion in Russia?

Gessen: "Well, I wouldn't describe public opinion in Russia. What I'd say is that in a country with no public and no opinion that it is very difficult to talk about public opinion, and I mean that literally. We can't have a public opinion without a public sphere.

Gessen at 15:00 "I don't think you understand what I'm saying... I'm not saying public opinion can't be judged, and I'm not saying that people can't be cynical. I'm saying that public opinion actually doesn't exist. I'm saying that people have been robbed the ability to form there own opinion - so it's just not a thing that is.

15:45 "No, no Sam, I'm saying that people don't have views."

Seem's to align with Gurri's "Revolt of the Public." In Russia there is no revolt of the public, because there is no "public" as he (and Gessen?) defines it.

She's saying that Russian public opinion opposes her views.

It's been 15 years since you described, with incredibly powerful writing, the choices you were forced to take by your BRACA diagnosis. What would you say today to someone who faces the same diagnosis today?

Ask her about Kevin MacDonald, and how her career relates to his views. Also ask her about Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's book Two Hundred Years Together.

Ask her about UC Berkeley historian Yuri Slezkine's award-winning "The Jewish Century."

As a followup, how much of her enmity for Russia comes from anti-white animus, and her tribe's narrative of historical mistreatment by their host cultures?

You could ask her about her work translating scripted dialog from The Americansinto Russian.

You could ask about the very recent attempt to frame the Russian investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, and why the Russian authorities backed down so quickly, in a matter of days.

You could ask about how the American military intervention in Serbia/Kosovo permanently changed Russian-American relations for the worse and brought Putin to power. (I think I am accurately summarizing her words here)

Although extremely critical of (and extremely alarmed by) both Trump and Putin, in several articles from the New Yorker archive she seems quite skeptical about any kind of conspiracy by the Russians to help Trump get elected, or any kind of coordinated effort by Trump campaign officials to reach out to the Russians. What is her latest up-to-date take on this?

How does being bilingual and familiar with both systems give her insights that might not occur to the rest of us? In particular, what underreported stories about Russia should we be aware of?

What's her take on the Skripal poisoning? What was the motive, what was there to gain? And what about the bizarre snarky interview that RT head Margarita Simonyan held with the two hapless no-goodniks? Is there any coherent theory of this case?

Is the fact that Rocketman was approved for release in Russia a cause for optimism, or is the fact that it was rated 18+ and had a few scenes cut a reason for pessimism?

When a well-known Russian vlogger interviews famous people, his final question is always "If you were face to face with Putin, what would you say to him?" What would be Masha Gessen's answer to that question?

Maybe can skip the Rocketman one if pressed for time.

One more thing: why didn't the Russians support Sanders more, instead of Trump?

President Sanders would probably slash US military spending. Putin surely wants the same thing, albeit for very different reasons.

Trump hasn't done much for them. If a radical progressive is the Democratic nominee, will the Russians switch sides (covertly or overtly) in 2020?

The Russians did support Sanders. That is fairly well documented as well, and one reason why far leftists like Greenwald or Taibbi have always downplayed any evidence against Trump. The Russians were just trying to a) hurt Hilary, whom they hate b) sow chaos to weaken America. Trump or Sanders were equally fine choices from their point of view.

>Trump hasn't done much for them.

Gee. What a shocker. If you had a brain, this fact would tell you something, and get you to change your Inner Narrative.

But I have doubts this will happen.

Trump has done as much for Russia as any American President could be expected to do. He has exerted no pressure on Russia to leave Crimea, been petulant about imposing new sanctions and tried to restrain the US government from enforcing the existing sanctions, Trump has undermined US intelligence, he continues to drive Iran into Russian embrace, he has alienated NATO ally Turkey and driven Turkey closer to Russia, Trump has sided with Russia on Brexit and continues to drive wedges between EU members, he has allowed Russia for the most part to have a free hand in Syria. What more could Russia reasonably ask for before the American President is brought up on treason charges?

Over his entire two terms Obama exerted "very little pressure" (by your definition) on Russia to leave the parts of Georgia that they took over in 2008, a few months before he was elected. Rather than punish Russia, secretary of state Clinton pursued a "reset" in relations.

The Russian intervention in Syria happened in September 2015, but Obama stuck to his policy of not getting involved in that war. Trump inherited that existing situation and actually did intervene to a limited extent.

The Iranian supreme leader has always flatly rejected any rapprochement or any negotiation whatsoever with the United States beyond the nuclear deal; Obama wrote him flattering letters and got absolutely nowhere. Iran embraced Russia since both countries supported Assad in Syria.

Trump did not "alienate" Turkey. In fact, not long ago, people were criticizing Trump for being much too nice to them. Erdogan's goons beat up demonstrators in Washington itself and got away with it! Erdogan held an American hostage to try to pressure the US to extradite a political refugee. It was Turkey's decision to buy a Russian missile system that was the last straw. If Trump had let them do that without any consequences, contrary to the consensus in Washington and among all other NATO members, then surely you'd be criticizing that as the actions of a pro-Russian puppet. And by the way, Turkey's relations with the EU are also at an all-time low... but hey maybe that's Trump's fault too, I dunno.

There's a lot to criticize about Trump, but the fact remains: he has done nothing for Russia. He's actually expelled diplomats and closed consulates. He says nice things about Putin occasionally, but that's the same pattern he follows with other world leaders like Kim Jong Un: empty praise and very few actual concessions.

One other thing: on December 26 2011 she wrote an article in The Guardian flatly predicting that Putin was about to be overthrown. The "process is unstoppable", she wrote. What lessons can be learned from how Putin managed to remain in power?

is she related to masha potato?

Why not ask Steve Sailer for a list of questions? He has some detailed opinions on this woman's writings.

Honestly, that'd be about the only way you'd get me to listen to this podcast, is let Sailer write the questions.

+1 Sailer seems to have followed her closely over the years. https://www.unz.com/?s=Masha+Gessen&Action=Search&authors=steve-sailer&ptype=isteve

Whoa! She's way out there!

Masha is an EZ iSteve Content Generator because:

A. She's very bright, so I'm not punching down at somebody who couldn't do better.
B. She's somewhat demented (e.g., she hates straight people, hates non-immigrants, hates gentiles).
C. But she's demented in ways that seems sane and perfectly reasonable to NYT/New Yorker-subscribing normies in The Current Year.
D. And, occasionally, it occurs to her that the people who agree with her are nuts (e.g., she wasn't enthusiastic about all the RussiaGate insanity).

When people like Masha Gessen, Stephen Cohen and Glenn Greenwald are telling you "Russiagate" is a hoax, that might mean you should consider that there is actually more to Russiagate than you want to believe.

Masha Who?

Gessen. Masha Gessen.

Yeah, I hope Tyler does ask her about this. Not in a hostile way, but there are very good reasons why nearly all civilizations that lasted have had not only the institution of marriage, but a traditional one at that. My issue with her is that she doesn't want to extend similar rights to different orientations, but to destroy it. Why is that?

Just to play Devil's Advocate - how many civilizations have "lasted"? How would you define that? Given that we only have a few thousand years of human history, a few hundred years of industrial civilizations and a few decades of high-information digital civilizations, do we really have any idea what role traditional marriage should play going forward? Nearly all civilizations that have lasted have also depended heavily on hierarchy, a docile or cowed pool of cheap agricultural labor, and violent suppression of dissent.

While in her Radio Liberty Obama appointment, why did she try to prevent tried to prevent Vicotr Ashe, the vice-chairman of the RFE/RL corporate board, from attending a reception in Washington, DC during which she received a journalistic award from a for-profit U.S. investment corporation Liberty Media


What were the Obama Administration's expectations of her in that appointment? Did she feel her work should support the legitimate interests of the USA or did she have a higher purpose such as promoting anti-US terrorism.

Aren't her efforts to forment sympathy for the Boston Marathon bombers a bit beyond the pale?

If she got to choose one book which no one is allowed to read what would it be?

I'm always fascinated by how radical lesbian political extremist Masha Gessen is a more Establishment figure (constantly writing for the New Yorker or New York Times or being employed as a propagandist by the U.S. government) than her heterosexual more politically moderate brother Keith Gessen, who mostly writes for little magazines like "N+1."

Does Masha represent The New Establishment and Keith The New Bohemianism?

Maybe she has more ambition in this regard than Keith? I know he has been published in the New Yorker before. From the interviews I've read with him he seems much less earnest in his opinions than his sister. Serious, but not that serious. I guess what I'm trying to say is he didn't sound like a guy who felt the need to be commenting all the time on what's happening in the world. Which is kind of the opposite of Masha Gessen.

She's his older sister right? Could be some kind of high achiever first born vs. talented slacker younger sibling thing going on (obviously I'm exaggerating here, but when I have heard them speak together he seemed to defer to her quite a bit).

Imagine it was 1959 and the editors of New York Times and The New Yorker said to themselves: There are these two Russian-born siblings, Keith and Masha Gessen, who both speak Russian, have quite high IQs, are fine professional writers, and know a lot about Russia today. Which one should we employ as our expert on Russia?

- The sane-sounding married man with the thoughtful, moderate thinking?

- Or the slightly demented-sounding lesbian who filters almost everything through her passionate resentments over being an immigrant and being funny-looking?

In 1959, I suspect the respectable press would have signed up Keith, while Masha would have been relegated to the bohemian little magazines. In 2019, however, Keith writes for the little magazines, while Masha is a pillar of the Mainstream Media.

Masha Gessen and Fred Armisen should co-host SNL.

Lol, someone's got his panties in a bunch.

Ask her about my theory that much of feminism since the seminal, as it were, year of 1969 represents Jewish women being angry at their own families over personal issues, such as sibling rivalries with their brothers (whom Jewish parents traditionally tended to invest in more), but then redirecting their anger outward in the interest of ethnic harmony toward Society and The Patriarchy and other abstraction.

I can recall from a few decades ago a Jewish lady comedienne (Rita Rudner?) and her joke about driving her aged mother to her weekly mahjong game:

"To a Jewish mother, her second favorite phrase, after 'My son the doctor,' is 'My daughter drove me.'"

These kind of intra-family microaggressions against high IQ daughters in favor of perhaps lower IQ sons must have generated a lot of resentment in the 1969 Generation of Feminists. But part of the Jewish genius is to redirect resentments against other Jews outward toward more abstract entities such as Society or The Patriarchy.

And pretty soon, a Lutheran book club in Duluth is feeling vaguely guilty over the sufferings of this angry woman writer in Short Hills, NJ.

...which are really just observations based on your own obsessions and anecdotal idiosyncracies, are interesting but not nearly as substantive or deterministic as you'd like to think they are.

You're almost an observational comic. A goyish Seinfeld.

Possibly true more broadly, including of Masha Gessen and many if not all intellectuals. Seems the distinguishing feature of public commentators is not the quality of their thoughts so much as their willingness and drive to express them.

I generate a lot of pattern recognition ideas -- some bad, some not so bad -- but more than I have time to fully document. I have to pick and choose among which I want to try to quantify. Reading biographies of 1969 Era feminists to see whether the evidence for this pattern is really as abundant as I expect it to be is not high on my priority list, but for any researcher with more time on their hands and fewer ideas, I would be very happy for him or her to follow up my insight with more research. (No need to credit me.)

For example, I'm very happy that this Spring academics Zach Goldberg and David Rozado have separately followed up the methodology I outlined in 2018 on how to quantify the rise of Wokeness in the New York Times over the years of this decade:


I love your theory, Steve. And the Rita Rudner? line is priceless.

Something along the same lines as your theory crossed my mind back in the early 1970s when I started graduate school in NYC fresh off the plane from England. I was trying to figure Americans out. That project is still unfinished.

It's covered up, so it took me until a few years ago to realize that in the 20th Century, all else being equal, Jewish-American culture tended to be more sexist than WASP-American culture:


For example, a century ago, Mary Pickford was a genuine Hollywood mogul. Yet, 30 years later in "Sunset Boulevard," the now triumphant Studio System portrayed the strong women of the silent movie era as figures of horror and comedy.

Feminists love to write about how women were more important behind the scenes in movies in the D.W. Griffith era, but they can't come out and explicitly explain what happened next to squeeze out women writers and editors and producers: Jewish male chauvinists took over most of the industry and hired their brothers-in-law.

Grow up, Steve

This actually makes a lot of sense. And jibes with my observations of my WASP grandparents and Jewish friends' grandparents from that era.

You should join the writing team on "Marvelous Mrs Maisel", you would really improve that show.

Perhaps you may have been influenced by Susan Faludi's 2013 New Yorker piece on the sad life of the mostly forgotten (?) Shulamith Firestone (after reading it, you'll be thinking of her as Shulamith Fireandbrimstone). I was more struck by how often radical feminism and mental illness overlap but looking at it again I see that Faludi found the family dynamic significant:


"In some two hundred pages, “Dialectic” reinterpreted Marx, Engels, and Freud to make a case that a 'sexual class system' ran deeper than any other social or economic divide. The traditional family structure, Firestone argued, was at the core of women’s oppression. 'Unless revolution uproots the basic social organization, the biological family—the vinculum through which the psychology of power can always be smuggled—the tapeworm of exploitation will never be annihilated,' Firestone wrote. She elaborated, with characteristic bluntness: 'Pregnancy is barbaric'; childbirth is 'like shitting a pumpkin'; and childhood is 'a supervised nightmare.' She understood that such statements were unlikely to be welcomed—especially, perhaps, by other women. 'This is painful,' she warned on the book’s first page, because 'no matter how many levels of consciousness one reaches, the problem always goes deeper.' She went on:

"'Feminists have to question, not just all of Western culture, but the organization of culture itself, and further, even the very organization of nature. Many women give up in despair: if that’s how deep it goes they don’t want to know.'

"But going to the roots of inequality, Firestone believed, was what set radical feminism apart from the mainstream movement: 'The end goal of feminist revolution must be, unlike that of the first feminist movement, not just the elimination of male privilege but of the sex distinction itself: genital difference between human beings would no longer matter culturally.


“...'I want to do something. Instead of beauty and power occasionally, I want to achieve a world where it’s there all the time, in every word and every brushstroke, and not just now and then.'

"That intensity emerged in Firestone early, and it was a source of antagonism within her family. She was the second child and the oldest daughter of six children—three girls and three boys—born to Kate Weiss, a German Jew who had fled the Holocaust (she came from a long line of Orthodox scholars, rabbis, and cantors), and Sol Firestone, a travelling salesman from an assimilated Jewish family in Brooklyn, who served in the Army during the Second World War. In 1945, while Kate nursed the newborn Shulamith, Sol’s unit marched into the liberated Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. As a teen-ager, Sol, studying on his own, had become Orthodox. With a convert’s zeal, he controlled his younger siblings and, later, his children—especially his oldest daughter. As Tirzah Firestone, the youngest of the three girls, recalled, 'My father threw his rage at Shulie.'

"Laya Firestone Seghi, the second daughter and the family peacemaker, who is now a psychotherapist, remembered an ugly fight when Shulamith was sixteen. Father and daughter grappled on the stairs, with Sol shouting, 'I’ll kill you!,' and Shulamith yelling back, 'I’ll kill you first!' Firestone’s younger brother Ezra suspected that the animosity derived from a deep commonality. 'He wouldn’t bend, and she wouldn’t bend,' Ezra said. 'They were both very brilliant and very, very opinionated.' Kate did not intervene. 'My mother had this completely passive view of femininity that was governed by what she regarded as ‘what Jewish women do,’' Tirzah said. Shulamith endlessly questioned her parents’ tenets. When she asked Sol why she had to make her brother’s bed, he told her, 'Because you’re a girl.'

"In the Firestone home, a girl who did not follow the rules was destined to be cast out. Laya violated the Sabbath once, by reading a book in bed with a flashlight, when she was seventeen, and was banished from the house. Tirzah married a devout Christian and was formally disowned. (Later, she embraced Jewish Renewal, a mystical approach to Judaism that champions feminine spirituality, and became a Renewal rabbi, earning further paternal opprobrium.)

"Shulamith’s younger brothers, Ezra and Nechemia, remained strictly Orthodox; Ezra later studied to be a rabbi, and Nechemia became a West Bank settler. Only the oldest son, Daniel, violated his father’s wishes: instead of continuing his yeshiva education, he studied classics and philosophy at Washington University in St. Louis. Shulamith skipped a year of high school to join him there. Born less than twelve months apart, she and Daniel had been inseparable as children, 'almost like twins,' she wrote in “Airless Spaces.” But she added:

"'By our sophomore year . . . I was no longer observant, and one Sabbath when our parents were away he beat me for breaking the Jewish law. It was over some trifle I can’t even remember now. But he never spoke to me again.'

“'Marx was on to something more profound than he knew,” Firestone wrote in “Dialectic,” 'when he observed that the family contained within itself in embryo all the antagonisms that later develop on a wide scale within the society and state.' For her, the only family tie that proved sustaining was the one between sisters, in particular the one between her and Laya, who became, as Laya herself said, 'Shulie’s prime support system.' They roomed together in Chicago, and, later, Laya served reluctantly as Shulamith’s representative and mediator in movement disputes. 'Shulie recognized the unfairness of it,' Laya said. 'She’d say, "It’s not right for me to make you into the wife." But, at the same time, she needed it.'

I see no daylight between Firestone and Gessen, who is perhaps nostalgic for that '70s scene she missed; the interview could only really be interesting if it turned up anything new under the sun.

Since his various comments are mostly identical, the best part of Thiago is seeing which 'American' sounding name he will use next.

I have no idea what you are talking about. Are you mistaking me for another person?

I was saying something about Milton Morris. Who are you?

I am Mr. Morris. I repeated the email address instead of using my name.

Perhaps I will email you, Thiago.

I think it is a misundestanding. I am Mr. Morris, from the Morris family, from Scranton, "the Electric City", in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Ask her to explain how Putin influenced Trump and Xi to start a trade war to further his agenda of oppression gay people in Uzbekistan

Ask her if she has read Shellenbergers critique of Chernobyl.

Is Ron Unz going insane, like Bobby Fishcher did?

Ask her why her on-point and devastating critique of the much praised HBO series "Chernobyl" seems to have gotten so little traction. Why are Americans so invested in telling the Chernobyl story in a way that blames individual actors, rather than a horrible political system?

Also, how much does she think Alexievich's book on Chernobyl is embroidered? Why does she trust Alexievich? Growing up in a system of lies, how do you decide whom to trust and where truth is?

Elaborate on her experience and reflections of Birobidzhan today

Is it beneficial for talented children to take part in mathematical Olympiads and other competitive math events?

(She writes about the system of training for such events in Soviet Russian in her book "Perfect Rigor".)

What common American experience/aspect of American life would a Soviet citizen understand as essentially Soviet? A contemporary Russian citizen as essentially Russian?

What explains Russians in the US and Israel being anti-Putin and pro-Trump?

English speakers don't laugh out loud at Soviet humor, no matter how good the translation. Is it immune to translation, or just not that funny? Is Bulgakov laugh out loud funny?

Why is there no American Pussy Riot?

She published a short biography of genius/hermit Grigori Perelman back in 2009. Is there any update about him since then in the Russian-speaking world? Because I can't read Russian. Also, what's her take on the prevailing notion that Russians are good at maths?

1. What is the biggest American misconception about modern day Russia? 2. What piece of art (visual, literary, TV, movie or otherwise) best captures what it is to grow up and live in Russia?
3. Are Russians happier than Americans?

What piece of Russian literature provides the best insight for understanding the country's national psyche?

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