Red Scare, Don’t Care

Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova: from “aimless, ambition-less, washed-up losers” to the ultimate podcast provocateurs

A response to the main­stream-meme and girl-boss fem­i­nism” that was run­ning un-cri­tiqued in the per­fect storm” of a Trump Pres­i­den­cy, the Russ­ian col­lu­sion nar­ra­tive and the #metoo move­ment, Anna Khachiyan and Dasha Nekrasova’s Red Scare pod­cast almost inad­ver­tent­ly or sub­con­scious­ly set out to punc­ture that voice.”

Khachiyan, at the time an art writer, but most­ly a host­ess,” met Nekraso­va, an actress work­ing in a Kore­atown karaoke club, on Twit­ter, and in the year since begin­ning the pod­cast, the’ve gone from aim­less, ambi­tion-less, washed-up losers” to sell­ing out live shows and walk­ing at New York fash­ion week (for design­ers Rachel Comey and Eck­haus Latta).

Nekraso­va grew up in Las Vegas after emi­grat­ing from Min­sk, whilst Khachiyan was born in Moscow before immi­grat­ing to New Jer­sey. Their shared Russ­ian ori­gins are a pres­ence through­out the pod­cast, from its theme tune (t.A.T.u.’s icon­ic All The Things She Said) onwards. Broad­ly cat­e­goris­able as a fem­i­nist-left­ist pod­cast with comedic under­tones, Red Scare pro­vides cul­tur­al com­men­tary on top­ics rang­ing from mil­len­ni­al social­ism to Alexan­dria Ocasio-Cortez’s choice to pub­li­cise her skin­care regime, and from ISIS to cancel-culture.

The podcast’s fol­low­ing has grown excep­tion­al­ly over the last year, and it now has over 2,300 sub­scribers on Patre­on. How­ev­er, it’s not all been plain sail­ing for the pod­cast; its rhetoric has come under fire, and the con­stant con­dem­na­tion it receives result­ed in Khachiyan being sus­pend­ed from Twit­ter last Novem­ber. Peo­ple have said they are stu­pid, vain and polit­i­cal­ly mis­in­formed” — crit­i­cisms that the duo say are all true!”

The Russ­ian sen­si­bil­i­ty you share is a defin­ing fea­ture of the pod­cast: how would you say it dif­fers most impor­tant­ly from an Amer­i­can one?

Anna: Amer­i­cans are like lifestyle-opti­cians: they’re able to con­front and syn­the­sise things that are glar­ing, where­as I think we real­ly thrive on inco­her­ence and chaos because we’re nat­u­ral­ly primed to try to make sense of it. 

Dasha: Yeah, we’re immi­grants who grew up here, which I think gives us a sort of per­spec­tive and crit­i­cal dis­tance. I think that there is some­thing inher­ent in Russ­ian-ness where it’s less attuned to dual­i­ty. Like Rus­sians are more com­fort­able — speak­ing gen­er­al­ly — in a grey area. And when it comes to think­ing crit­i­cal­ly, that’s some­thing that Amer­i­cans aren’t quite as good at.

Anna: Amer­i­can polit­i­cal dis­course – which is America’s biggest glob­al export after mil­i­tary con­tracts and, I don’t know, fast food – is infect­ed with this dia­logue of, This is my expe­ri­ence at the exclu­sion of all oth­er expe­ri­ences”, and has the ten­den­cy to deal in kind of closed, dis­crete binaries.

Dasha: The infat­u­a­tion with con­sent is also a good exam­ple of some­thing that is very black and white, which fem­i­nist and Amer­i­can thinkers have brushed onto. It’s this very Amer­i­can lib­er­al idea, where­in every­thing is per­mit­ted as long as it is con­sen­su­al, which is a very con­trac­tu­al frame­work that lacks nuance.

Why do you think the Russ­ian ele­ment” is appeal­ing to your listeners?

Anna: I think that prob­a­bly our strength col­lec­tive­ly, as Russ­ian immi­grants, is that we are unof­fend­able? Peo­ple always say you guys are provo­ca­teurs or con­trar­i­ans” or what­ev­er but we real­ly aren’t that much. We’re more con­cerned with talk­ing through things as they hap­pen and grap­pling with the inter­nal incon­sis­ten­cies and moral ambiguities. 

How would you describe the pod­cast for any­one who hasn’t lis­tened yet?

Anna: I think the basic con­sen­sus is that it’s a left­ist fem­i­nist pod­cast, although many peo­ple would dis­agree with that. I like to say that because I think it kind of goads peo­ple into check­ing it out. 

Dasha: I mean I don’t rec­om­mend it to any­one! I have a hard time telling peo­ple they would enjoy it because I know it’s not for every­one. I try to men­tion the cul­tur­al com­men­tary, because I think that’s real­ly where our strength is. 

Who are your lis­ten­ers and who is the pod­cast prob­a­bly not for?

Anna: We have a mod­est but decent lis­ten­er­ship in Europe; in Lon­don and Berlin and places where bicoastal, bisex­u­al, urban and art peo­ple clus­ter. I think it is eas­i­er for these lis­ten­ers, as they can actu­al­ly be less crit­i­cal, as they’re able to lis­ten to it at face val­ue, where­as if you’re in the USA and more inte­grat­ed with­in the land­scape of Amer­i­can pol­i­tics then you would prob­a­bly have more bones to pick with us. 

Dasha: I don’t know what type of per­son would hate it. I guess you could say espe­cial­ly woke” peo­ple or peo­ple who are big into iden­ti­ty pol­i­tics, but this is also a gross gen­er­al­i­sa­tion. I’m always sur­prised by the diver­si­ty of our lis­ten­ers. I think a lot of it res­onates with a lot of dif­fer­ent peo­ple, even if they don’t agree with every­thing we’re saying, 

Anna: We have fash­ion mod­els lis­ten­ing, con­ser­v­a­tive gay guys…One of the most affir­ma­tive things is that we’ve man­aged to attract a demo­graph­ic that’s not a demo­graph­ic and it’s one that is total­ly incon­gru­ous and random. 

Dasha: It’s vin­di­cat­ing to have a lot of young lis­ten­ers. Col­lege stu­dents and younger peo­ple seem to like it, as do a lot of old­er people. 

Anna: I think you could say our audi­ence is prob­a­bly more like Gen Z and Gen X and then we lose the polls around the millennials.

Dasha: Yeah they reject us. But I mean we haven’t real­ly run the ana­lyt­ics; we don’t have all the facts!

Of all the things you’ve been crit­i­cised for, what have you found to be the most unjust? 

Dasha: I mean when peo­ple call us cryp­to-fas­cists or out­right Nazis, I think that’s pret­ty unjust. The idea that we’re some­how dan­ger­ous or influ­enc­ing dis­course in a tox­ic way is unfair and misguided.

Anna: It’s just pre­pos­ter­ous I don’t know where they’re get­ting it from. It’s not based in any­thing besides a dis­taste for our rhetoric. We are two chicks with an enter­tain­ment radio show that you can vol­un­tar­i­ly opt in or out of. We’re not pol­i­cy mak­ers or polit­i­cal fig­ures. At the most I think you can say we’re sear­ing, or explor­ing some dis­course on a very mar­gin­al level. 

What’s one of the fun­ni­est things you’ve read that some­body has writ­ten about you online? 

Anna: One of the first crit­i­cisms that I read, that I real­ly love, is that I look like Mr Bean pulled through a taffy-puller, which is real­ly accu­rate and hilarious!

Dasha: I mean a lot of peo­ple don’t like our vocal fry, which is fair. 

Red Scare have a live show at 918 Bathurst Cen­tre for Cul­ture & Events (Toron­to) on the 20th April. patre​on​.com/​R​e​d​Scare

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