Podcast Overload – The New York Times
More often than not, I nodded along as I listened to back episodes. Gerda and I started spending more time on our walks, much to her delight, and my headphones discouraged strangers from trying to engage me in mind-numbing doggy chitchat. To celebrate her new outdoorsy lifestyle, Gerda took NASCAR-style laps around the dog run, chasing off the males who tried to hump her.
But somewhere along the way, the podcast began to grate on me. Maybe it was when Ms. Khachiyan offered a defense of Kyle Rittenhouse, the teenager who fatally shot two men and wounded another during a 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in Wisconsin. (Mr. Rittenhouse was acquitted of criminal charges in 2021.) And it didn’t sit well with me when Ms. Khachiyan questioned the efficacy of vaccines in the efforts to curb Covid-19, describing herself as becoming “an even more conservative Covid truther.”
While “Red Scare” had played host to favorites of the so-called dirtbag left — Slavoj Zizek, Adam Curtis and John Waters — a guest in November 2021 was Alex Jones, the founder of the misinformation website Infowars and a prominent conspiracy theorist who described the killings of 27 people, including 20 children, at the Sandy Hook Elementary School as a hoax.
The hosts were apparently trying to rehabilitate his reputation, asking him softball questions like, “Do you feel like a caricature that the liberal media made you out to be?” A photo posted on Ms. Nekrasova’s Instagram account at the time of the interview shows the two hosts on either side of a smiling Mr. Jones, with Ms. Nekrasova’s arm around him. (Late last year Mr. Jones was ordered by a court to pay the victims’ families nearly $1.5 billion in damages.)
Ms. Khachiyan declined to comment about the apparent shift when I contacted her via email for this essay. Ms. Nekrasova did not reply to requests for comment. In a 2019 interview with The Face, the hosts complained about critics who have likened them to “crypto-fascists.” “The idea that we’re somehow dangerous or influencing discourse in a toxic way is unfair and misguided,” Ms. Nekrasova said. Her co-host added, “We are two chicks with an entertainment radio show that you can voluntarily opt in or out of. We’re not policymakers or political figures.”
Increasingly, I was dismayed by what I was hearing. Did they truly believe what they were saying? Was it a function of being children of Russian-speaking immigrants, whose conservatism, often tinged with racism and anti-socialist sentiment, is commonplace and one of the reasons I couldn’t wait to get out of my old Brooklyn neighborhood?