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Book Review: Konstantin Kisin “An immigrant’s love letter to the West” Part I

Konstantin Kisin is a former stand-up comedian who, along with current stand-up comedian Francis Foster hosts the YouTube channel Triggernometry, which is partly a political interview show and partly a comedy show. His thoughts have even been referred to a couple of times here on Samizdata. Kisin is also a Russian who moved to this country when he was eleven to study, oddly enough, at the same English public school that produced Earl Haig.

And now he’s written a book. I have only just started reading it so these are initial observations hence the Part I bit. There may be a Part II but I promise nothing. Kisin is a good writer (all the comedy stuff showing through?) and a thoughtful one. As he says:

If there is one thing my Soviet childhood taught me, it’s that subscribing to someone else’s ideology will always inevitably mean having to suspend your judgement about right and wrong to appease your tribe. I refuse to do so.

Kisin’s essential argument is that we in the West don’t know how lucky we are. We don’t know what it is like to live in non-Western countries. We don’t appreciate how much better life is here. And if we do we don’t know why it is so much better. Kisin has seen Russia and he has seen Britain and it is not difficult for him to decide which is better. Which is why he is so angry when well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) activists start playing around with our traditions and institutions. They – the well-meaning ones – think that they’re just improving things. He thinks that they are playing a game of civilisational Jenga – at least he does since Foster came up with the analogy. Jenga’s the one where you have a tower made of sticks you remove them one by one and eventually the whole edifice collaspses, isn’t it?

So far I’ve read chapters on the Soviet Union, slavery (and the Soviet Union) and free speech. All good stuff. Or mostly. In one bit he says, “Think of it like Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 – which forbade the promotion of homosexuality in Britain in 1988.” That’s not how I remember it. I remember it as local councils not being allowed to promote homosexuality as “a pretended family relationship.” Otherwise people were free to promote homosexuality to their heart’s content. And did. He also seems to think that people were broadly-speaking equal in the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union of my imagination has Zils, dachas and shops for party members only. Not equal at all. I suppose this is how distorted history gets propagated down the ages but that is the subject for another blog post.

32 comments to Book Review: Konstantin Kisin “An immigrant’s love letter to the West” Part I

  • GregWA

    We should figure out why “…we in the West don’t know how lucky we are. We don’t know what it is like to live in non-Western countries. We don’t appreciate how much better life is here. And if we do we don’t know why it is so much better.”

    I think the answer is simple: we stopped teaching these things to school children and college students and everyone in between. These things are not taught because the education administration professionals and their many allies’ objective is to take down the culture. It helps if the average citizen has no clue how special that culture is.

    What to do? Take back the school boards and wait 2-3 generations? Is there anything we can do now? Educate the 18-64 year olds?

    Maybe some billionaire will pay for a multi-year public service commercial campaign that can get the ball rolling? Ha! It would need to hit all media platforms, really good production value, attention grabbing, non-preachy, fun, inspirational, etc. Run for several years with regular new content. Might be an opportunity for the closet conservatives and liberty loving people of Hollywood to do something they’ve only dreamed of being able to do?

  • All good stuff. Or mostly. In one bit he says, “Think of it like Margaret Thatcher’s Section 28 – which forbade the promotion of homosexuality in Britain in 1988.” That’s not how I remember it.

    It is a little sad, but also relevant to what Konstantin Kisin is talking about, that he should have been persuaded of the left’s propaganda version of the 1980s ‘clause 28’ rather than the actuality, which was an attempt (which they evaded) to get tax-funded teachers to be apolitical instead of PC-agenda-driven in what they taught the compelled-to-attend kids. My more detailed views appear in this comment, followed by Mr Ed’s analysis of the actual legislation, followed by as much more discussion from various viewpoints as anyone could wish.

    We probably all still have some PC-spun ideas in our heads, unweeded.

    – Over the years, I have repeatedly come across left-wing ideas that were successfully sold to me when I was young and that I had never learnt more of (or sometimes, more embarrassingly, just never reviewed until something made me think of it, and so see its absurdity immediately, without needing fresh information).

    – A good example is my comment below Mr Ed’s in the thread I link to above, where his information reveals to me that I had swallowed a bit of PC spin at the time.

    I see the same thing in others, sometimes in far sillier forms than immigrant Konstantin’s falling for a PC-spun version of an old event in his new country.

  • Martin

    When I was younger I was very supportive of the ‘economic’ legacy of Thatcher while regretted the social conservatism of that era epitomised by section 28. Nowadays, while not wholly against all of Thatcher’s economic policies I am a bit more suspect of at least some of them and what they did. On the other hand, in an age where we have drag shows being pushed on kids in schools and other degenerate trash trying to sexualise kids, section 28 seems inspired and should be reimposed.

  • Jacob

    It is a truth that every person who ever lived for a while in a Communist country knows: no Westener can imagine what life under communism was (and is).
    The exception is George Orwell.
    I had an aunt who emigrated to Israel from a communist country. She happened to read “1984”. She was shocked. She asked me incredulously: “did Orwell ever live in the Soviet Union?” “If not – how did he know?”.

  • Jacob

    “We don’t know what it is like to live in non-Western countries.”
    Even to know how life is – say – in Argentina, or India (not to mention Africa) is difficult for people who have not lived there.

  • Kevin Jaeger

    It is quite understandable that most westerners don’t really understand what life is like in non-western countries.

    But every enduring civilization makes a conscious effort to retain and pass down their own heritage, culture and way of life to their own descendants. I think it’s fairly unique in the modern west that we have an established ruling class quite determined to undermine the foundations of our own society.

  • Chester Draws

    I think it’s fairly unique in the modern west that we have an established ruling class quite determined to undermine the foundations of our own society.

    It’s not even remotely unusual.

    Every pagan who made their lands Christian, every ruler who imposed Islam, every khan who decided that his people needed to settle down in towns — all common decisions in history that utterly over-turned societies, and almost always needed to be done at the point of a sword.

    More recently: democratic government, the abolition of slavery/serfdom, attempts to educate the poor, equal rights for women — all massive cultural changes that we don’t tend to be concerned happened, but which changed societies beyond measure. Let’s not forget that people fought bitterly against all of them, sometimes literally, on the basis that they were over-turning the settled system.

  • […] Book Review: Konstantin Kisin “An immigrant’s love letter to the West” Part I I am currently reading this book. I watch his Triggernometry on video some days. They have some very good interviews […]

  • Ferox

    The most sternly anti-communist person I ever met grew up in communist Romania.

    That supports the accelerationist argument: encourage lefty wackos in coastal cities to build their workers paradise – and then make them live in it until they howl.

  • Paul Marks

    Good points Patrick.

    The government led by Margaret Thatcher did not ban the promotion of homosexual acts – it banned taxpayer money being used for this purpose.

    And the idea that people were “equal” in the Soviet Union is indeed absurd – the Soviet Union was a SOCIALIST society (where the state owned most of the means of production, distribution and exchange) calling it “Communist” is misleading, as Communism was the AIM for some distant day in the future. The Soviet Union never even claimed to be some Hippy Commune where everyone was equal.

    Nor was it just a matter of the elite – as Milton Friedman pointed out, even on the factory floor the gap between a foreman and a factory hand in the Soviet Union was bigger than in the United States.

  • Tim C

    All of this stuff is very confusing until you understand that the overall purpose of these activists is not to improve society as we know it. It’s designed to destroy it.
    It’s so frustrating to read a multitude of articles decrying the actions of these people without understanding the true purpose behind it all. If you see their actions through the lens of societal destruction then it all becomes very clear.

    Note that Mordaunt and Sunak are fully signed up to this. Net Zero and trans insanity are key components of this as the first will destroy our economies and justify the State controlling you (for the sake of the planet!). The second is there to destroy logic, language, science and plain common sense. Once we start accepting men are women and vice versa then there is nothing that can stand in the way of this twisted logic.

    Remember, all with one purpose in mind….

  • Tim C

    @ Martin, I posed a question to some old school lefties the other day and it left them a bit perplexed. Their automatic instincts kicked in initially but then analysing at what has happened over the last 30 years+ it was amusing to see them struggle against agreeing with my proposition whilst actually agreeing with it somewhat.
    The question was: “Did Mary Whitehouse have a point?”
    If anyone can phrase it better then please let me know:)

  • Stonyground

    “…we in the West don’t know how lucky we are.”

    I think that a great many people see shops full of stuff that they can buy at reasonable prices and take the situation completely for granted. They have no idea about how the stuff gets there, oblivious to the complex chain of events that gets it manufactured and transported. That is the problem with the green mentality, they think that we can just do away with fossil fuels and that those shops will still be full.

  • NickM

    There is a force in human affairs that is far too frequently ignored. It is fashion. I don’t mean clothes but fashion in a very broad sense of ideas. Trans is currently fashionable. Trans wasn’t in the past and it won’t be in the near future but will probs come back – that is the nature of fashion.

    Why do I believe (suspect?) this. Well, back to fashion in terms of clothes. If I get a train into Manchester it looks like refugees from the Disco Generation. Some of them even look like they’ve raided Margot Leadbetter’s wardrobe. It’s cyclical and roughly on the time-scale of a human generation. So, yeah, in the past it might have been 25-30 years but people are having children later now so the period has increased. Not a perfect analysis but I think an interesting one.

    OK, how about a second analysis? We get basically everything gay/bi/lesbian folk wanted put in law but you’re an activist. I mean that’s what you do and what you indeed are so where do you go when there no Worlds left to conquer? Trans is that last high peak on the horizon. Not least because gay marriage came to be in Britain without much fuss, really. And fuss (turmoil, really) is what “activists” crave. They want to be Che Guevara even if they are much more Wolfie Smith. That is what the professional twats of XR are up to gluing themselves to things. They want to feel persecuted. The exact nature of the cause is incidental to their desire to be an outsider fighting the fight. This leads to absurdities like the persecution of JK Rowling – a Labour-supporting feminist.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Was anybody actually prosecuted under Section 28?

    I asked this question on another blog when a schoolgirl was arrested because she wanted to change study group, all the other girls in her group speaking Urdu. I got no answer, which makes me think that the correct answer is “no”.

    BTW i seemed to remember that the promotion of homosexuality was only prohibited in Scottish schools, and don’t know how i was misled.

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT this:

    He also seems to think that people were broadly-speaking equal in the Soviet Union.

    Perhaps that’s because Kisin did not see how the ruling class lived in the Soviet Union.

    But there might be a deeper problem: growing up with Marxist literature, he might still think that equality is all about wealth and income. He might not have considered that in the Soviet Union, the great inequality was about power. (The woke are also befuddled about the real inequalities in Western societies.)

  • trans is that last high peak on the horizon (NickM, July 20, 2022 at 1:53 pm)

    I am probably just agreeing with NickM in different words when I rephrase this as ‘Trans is that next rise in the ground, after which (if we are stupid enough to let them) the activists will find a fresh form of free speech to ban”. It would be a denial of Critical Theory for a follower to imagine its process could ever stop. So where NickM notes the activists’ investment in their personas, I note their philosophy’s inability to justify stopping. (See also this recent comment, especially the last paragraph.)

    Although totalitarian philosophies like Nazism and Communism can never stop, they can become unfashionable.

    BTW, do our transatlantic readers recognise such great UK cultural icons as Margot Leadbetter or such lesser ones as Wolfie Smith? Indeed, speaking of fashion, how well do the UK’s young recognise them? 🙂

  • Snorri Godhi (July 20, 2022 at 4:51 pm), your misremembering section 28 as Scottish, not UK-wide, may related to the fact that between its passage and its repeal, Scotland acquired a local parliament (whose construction costs went 11 times over the allocated budget, which sadly proved a precedent for much that happened within it). The local parliament had competence over education, so IIRC repeal was separate, with Scotland doing it first. You may have seen reports of that and assumed it was a Scottish-specific thing.

    Was anybody actually prosecuted under Section 28? (Snorri Godhi, July 20, 2022 at 4:51 pm)

    I believe not. It came in towards the end of Thatcher’s time and I do not see John Major having the will to fight any kind of culture war with the media. I do not see Tony Blair’s government prosecuting during the few years before they completed repealing it. Politicising lots of government-controlled things that were supposed to be apolitical was very much New Labour’s thing – so much so that I recall an old-fashioned Labour MP and a left-wing journalist supporter of them defecting and complaining about it after a few years – so even if the issue itself had not been a big one for them, I do not see them trying to prevent politicised education. I have no memory of a prosecution, and despite – or in part because – of there being virtually no political internet in the relevant years, I feel sure it would have been loudly (misinformatively) covered by the usual suspects if there had been one.

    Obviously, this is an argument from (remembered) absence, albeit one bolstered by an argument that those who controlled the media then would have told us. A single counter-example would prove me wrong; anyone know one?

  • Paul Marks

    Snorri – both Patrick and myself have already pointed out that “Section 28” was a limitation on how TAXPAYER money was used.

    And we are not just talking about “the elite” in the Soviet Union – the gap between a factory worker and a foreman (and so on) was also massive.

    The Soviet Union did not claim to be an egalitarian society – it was not Communist (Communist equality was an aim for the future), it was SOCIALIST.

    This has already been explained.

  • Paul Marks

    As for the Frankfurt School Marxist attack on the West – from “anti racism” to “Trans rights for children”.

    Stalin rejected the Frankfurt School interpretation of Marxism – he remained a Classical Marxism. This dislike of the Frankfurt School remained in the Soviet education system – Mr Putin (born in 1952) would have been brought up knowing about, and despising the Frankfurt School interpretation of Marxism.

    Mr Putin is many things, murderer, thief (and so on), but he is not “Woke”. He is not a Frankfurt School Marxist – when Mr Putin gave up his faith in Classical Marxism (most likely even before the collapse of the Soviet Union – as the KGB has become cynical about Marxism), he did not substitute Frankfurt School Marxism for Classical Marxism.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Niall: thank you for your reply.

    The link in your reply to NickM reminded me that there was a question i meant to ask wrt your comment at the link:

    [It would have been – or rather, it was – foreseen by Hannah Arendt, who explains in the last chapter (‘Ideology and Terror’) of her (not-perfect but packed-full-of-insights) book ‘The Origins of Totalitarianism’ why all such ideologies necessarily empty themselves of their original motivating content during the process of acquiring and exercising power.]

    What i wanted to ask is what you meant by “such ideologies”.

  • NickM

    Putin may not be a Frankfurt School Marxist but he is essentially a fascist. He believes not in the National Socialist (or Communist) idea of state ownership but of state control of private enterprise. As such he is ideologically closer to Mussolini than Hitler. Utter gits do come in different shades of evil.

  • Paul Marks


    I see Mr Putin as more of a conventional criminal.

    As for Fascism, i.e. the belief that the state should work in partnership with the corporations for social goals, that is the doctrine of our age – it is what the World Economic Forum (and every other international body) teach – so, yes, Mr Putin would have been taught that at all the international conferences and so on.

    Free enterprise – the belief in free competition, and that the state should NOT work with the corporations for social goals, does not seem to be supported by any government or political leader (at least no national leader who springs to mind).

  • NickM

    I fear you may indeed be correct but there are levels of fascism. Whilst the UK Gov via assorted means is spending a fortune on various things like the supposedly privately owned railways etc we have not gone as far as a desire to rebuild an empire.

    Putin has. There is a difference. Perhaps not qualitative but certainly quantitative. I can’t see him as just a criminal – though he is – but as someone obsessed with a legacy. Someone who wants history to remember along with Catherine and Peter. As the man who rebuilt a Russian Empire.

    He wants MRGA (Make Russia Great Again) inscribed on his tomb.

    He has a problem. Russia is a gangster state and other than oil and gas a complete economic basket-case.

  • Paul Marks


    There are indeed levels of Fascism – but that does not work the way you might think it does.

    Agenda 2030, and all the rest of it, is full on Fascism – government working with pet corporations (backed by Credit Money) for various social goals – in a formal system.

    As I said – Mr Putin is more of a conventional criminal, he used to be welcome at the World Economic Forum, but he is not any more.

    If you want to see how a system of Corporate State, “Stakeholder Capitalism”, Fascism is being created – then look to the West, not to conventional bandits like Mr Putin.

    Nick – Mr Putin is not interested in the Social and Environmental Governance agenda or in the Diversity, Inclusion, Equity (DIE) agenda – he is not interested in this Fascist Corporate State stuff at all.

    Mr Putin is not an ideological threat – he is a conventional criminal, a thief and a murderer. For the ideological threat to the West (for the actual Fascism) – look to the People’s Republic of China, and also to THE WEST ITSELF.

    As for Russia – it was a great power long before Peter (bigger than any state in Europe) and it will be a great power long after Mr Putin is gone.

    The People’s Republic of China thinks they can use Mr Putin to make Russia their colony – but I do not believe that will last.

    It is possible that the next few years will see the end of the United Kingdom and the United States – and the next few years will certainly see the end of the criminal Mr Putin (who is not long for this world), but RUSSIA itself will endure.

    From the Baltic Sea to the Pacific, and from the Artic Ocean to the Black Sea and the Caspian.

    It is to be hoped that relations with other peoples such as the Ukrainians and the Poles, are better after Mr Putin is gone.

    As for the People’s Republic of China – we shall see how the Communist Party regime works on its project of world domination.

    It is certainly annoying (to put it mildly) that many people in the West still do not see the true threat – but then Mr Putin does not see it either (he is deluded – he thinks the CCP are his friends).

  • Paul Marks

    As for the ideological origins of Fascism – yes Mussolini adapted Marxism, but the roots of Fascism go back much further – to the worship of rules and bureaucracy that one finds in Hegel and in the Germanic Cameralists long before Hegel.

    Russians do not believe in honest administration (any more than they believe in unicorns) – Russians flash the lights in their cars to warn other motorists that there are police cars ahead (which shows a much more sane mentality).

    “I can not do that – it is against the rules” is what a Russian says when he can not be bothered to do something without a bribe – not something a Russian sticks to in a serious situation.

    “The rules” are like a “German lock”.

    A “German lock”, to a Russian, is a little token lock on a door – which does not stop you kicking the door in. A Russian lock is, and has always been, a very different thing. It is not symbolic – it is designed to physically stop you kicking the door in.

    What do you think a Russian, including a Russian who HATES Mr Putin, thinks when they hear “international rules based liberal [read FASCIST for the word “liberal”] order”?

    He thinks – “German lock”.

    And when he hears someone like Dr Klaus Schwab ranting on about how he and his associates will rule the world and “shape the future” – the Russian thinks “head-club-hit – and carry on hitting”. After being repeatedly hit over the head with a club, Dr Schwab and his international associates would stop talking about how they rule the world and will shape the future.

    Worshippers of bureaucracy (and its rules) do not flash other motorists to warn them that there are police up the road.

    And I doubt they are very impressed by a “monetary system” that is just lights on the computer screens of governments and bankers.

    Indeed “hundreds of billions of foreign exchange reserves” vanishing because some bankers pressed buttons on computer keyboards, is just what a typical Russian would expect.

    Mr Putin must have been very ill (or very stupid) not to see that one coming. Selling vital raw materials in return for “payment” that was just lights on computer screens (which could be turned off whenever the West decided it did not like you) was incredibly stupid of Mr Putin – trusting fool. Still the lesson has been learned – whatever happens to the criminal Mr Putin, Russia will not make that mistake again, and neither will other countries.

    If you want raw materials from Russia or elsewhere (or manufactured goods – from China or elsewhere) you are going to have to, rather soon, pay with something rather more substantial than lights on banker computer screens.

    “Ha, ha, ha – we can make your money vanish whenever we like” – yes, you can. But you can only do that once – and you have done it.

    That is your credit money “rules based international order” finished. It was as solid as Mussolini’s Fascist Italy.

  • Jacob

    Russians flash the lights in their cars to warn other motorists that there are police cars ahead (which shows a much more sane mentality).
    They warn of a police speeding trap.
    Everybody does that, everywhere, in all countries. It’s kind of an expression of brotherhood between drivers.

  • Jacob

    Bribes is not a Russian thing – far from it. Bribes (especially of Government employees) is universal. That is the way ALL countries work. In the West – bribes are less prevalent, or, more often, are supplemented, or partially replaced, by political favors.
    See Biden’s son or the Clinton “charity fund”.
    That is how the world works. It is not a Russian thing, though it’s very developed in Russia, following hundreds of years of practice.

  • Jacob

    As to Nationalism, and chauvinism (the original meaning), and Imperialism, and making XXX country “great again”—- that too is, and was, widespread — in the whole world. Nothing specifically Russian about it.

  • Paul Marks

    Jacob – my point was that Russia no longer stands for a political ideology, an organised “system” of ideas, as in a formal Corporate State.

    That better describes the West (such as the European Union) – and that is tragic.

    I notice this when the two try and talk. The Russian representatives are crooks (not nice people at all) – there to “make a deal” which they may or may not keep. But Putin and co have real power – they can make decisions, often very evil decisions (but they are the people making the decisions).

    The Western politicians are something else – they seem to have no authority at all, and are just there to read a script written by officials in line with the “rules of the international order”.

    The Western politicians seem to have no power – to be puppets of a bureaucratic system.

  • Paul Marks

    It is true in the West as well.

    For example, the real ANTI Fascist Party in Austria is the party the media call Fascist (because they like blue Corn Flowers – which were symbol of Germanic culture long before Mr Hitler was even born), why are they ANTI Fascist? Because they are against the system – the Corporate State, lockdowns, vaccine mandates and all.

    As the Prime Minister of Hungary points out – when the international elite call me a dictator, what they are really saying is that I am not their puppet.

    Tragically the United Kingdom can not even secure its own borders – the Home Secretary would like to (I believe her), but the officials and courts will not allow it.

    That is one of many important matters – “you can vote for anyone you like – as long as we make the real decisions” is not democracy.

  • Kirk

    NickM said:

    “…Trans is that last high peak on the horizon. Not least because gay marriage came to be in Britain without much fuss, really. And fuss (turmoil, really) is what “activists” crave. They want to be Che Guevara even if they are much more Wolfie Smith. That is what the professional twats of XR are up to gluing themselves to things. They want to feel persecuted. The exact nature of the cause is incidental to their desire to be an outsider fighting the fight. This leads to absurdities like the persecution of JK Rowling – a Labour-supporting feminist.”

    I think you’ve hit on the key feature for all of this arrant idiocy. The point isn’t that the activists want gay marriage, the point is that they want to be all transgressive, and get that frisson of self-righteous glee when they “put it in The Man’s face…” Take away the endorphin hit they get from doing that, and they have to move on to bigger and better things, ever more transgressive.

    Which is why the Next Big Thing ™ is normalizing pedophilia, likely followed by necrophilia. Whatever serves to piss the normies off, ya know?

    I would submit that there is no point to trying to please these people, and that the only real effective way to interact with them involves the use and heavy application of the knout.

    End state for all this? The LGBTQWTFBBQ types that live through the purge are going to be thrown so deep into the closet that they’ll never get out of it for generations to come–Until enough people forget these last few decades.

    Here’s a clue, folks… Things that don’t work? Don’t go on. Look around you; what has all this “tolerance” and “diversity” actually gotten us? Is life better, for the average person? Is it aesthetically pleasing to them, seeing all the Pride ™ on display? Do we all enjoy having some deviant wag his throbbing member at us in public…?

    Pendulum swings one way, then back; the further you push it off center, the harder and faster it goes back. And, further… I will not be surprised to see the LGBTQWTFBBQ types set alight in the public square in my lifetime. Don’t want to see it, but… Yeah. The activists are making it almost unavoidable. I think the last straw for “tolerance” is going to come when they demand your kids for sexual activities, and expect you to like it. That’s damn near a reality, right now, and I don’t see it getting any better until the inevitable reaction comes.