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‘Conspiracy theories’: What Americans and Russians reveal about themselves in the stories they tell about each other

37 minutes
‘Conspiracy theories’: What Americans and Russians reveal about themselves in the stories they tell about each other
00:0036:56

In recent years, we've witnessed a strange convergence of Russian and American conspiratorial thinking. They're talking about each other again in Moscow and Washington, often spinning stories that aren't exactly rooted in facts. Whether it's Russiagate in the United States or color revolution in Russia and countries across the former Soviet Union, diabolical plots are afoot.

To find out what drives popular conspiracy theories in Russia and the U.S., “The Naked Pravda” turned to a handful of scholars who study the subject. Today's show also takes a broader look at how Russians and Americans see themselves and each other.

How did we get on this subject? Last month, Meduza investigative correspondent Liliya Yapparova, whose work we’ve discussed before on this podcast, wrote an article about a curious college course taught by Vitaly Grigorev, a military veteran and former instructor at the KGB Higher School. This winter term, Grigorev’s students in “national systems of information security” at the MIREA Russian Technological University — one of Russia's biggest technological schools — are learning about many strange concepts, including popular conspiracy theories, like the “Dulles Plan” (which claims that former CIA chief Allen Dulles plotted to destroy the USSR by corrupting its “cultural heritage” and “moral values”).

In this episode:

  • (2:15) Liliya Yapparova tells the story behind her story.
  • (6:02) Scott Radnitz explains the political science of studying conspiracy theories.
  • (8:48) Ilya Yablokov, author of “Fortress Russia,” distinguishes between grassroots and elite conspiracy theories.
  • (16:29) Eliot Borenstein, author of “Plots Against Russia,” says American unreflexivity is the stuff of Russian culture's dreams.
  • (29:46) Sean Guillory, host of the “SRB Podcast,” recalls America's Red Scare during the race riots of the early 20th century.

“The Naked Pravda” comes out on Fridays. Catch every new episode by subscribing at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or other platforms. If you have a question or comment about the show, please write to Kevin Rothrock at kevin@meduza.io with the subject line: “The Naked Pravda.”

Producer, sound editing, and mixing — Kevin Rothrock

Executive producer — Alexandr Sadikov

Music — Victor Davydov

Send any questions or comments to kevin@meduza.io