24 November 2021

Khrushchev and "gullible" Americans

To my readers in the USA: Thanksgiving blessings!

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A real card-carrying Communist: Nikita Sergeevich Khrushchev's party membership ID (with membership fees for 1954). Source.

I hadn't heard this particular piece of false witness before I saw it in my own relative's post on Facebook:

A sobering reminder. Almost exactly sixty years ago since Russia's Khrushchev delivered his Do you remember September 29, 1959? THIS WAS HIS ENTIRE QUOTE:

"Your children’s children will live under communism. You Americans are so gullible. No, you won’t accept Communism outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of Socialism until you will finally wake up and find that you already have Communism. We won’t have to fight you; We’ll so weaken your economy, until you fall like overripe fruit into our hands." "The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not."

Having studied Soviet and Russian history my whole adult life, this quotation did not ring true to me at all. Khrushchev was blustery, boastful, and prone to "harebrained schemes," as his colleagues charged when they ousted him in 1964, but he was convinced of the superiority of the Soviet Communist system, and seemed certain that this superiority, would, in the long run, "bury" Western capitalism. He really did say that Russia would catch up to, and overtake, the USA, but you will look in vain for any quotation of his that this victory would take place through "small doses of Socialism." The Marxist line is that capitalism itself is fatally flawed, and will fail when the working class becomes fully aware of their own exploitation.

Apparently this "you Americans are so gullible" quotation has been circulating in one form or another for a long time. Here's one review of its history; here's an earlier and more thorough study. And now it's flourishing again:

Three examples of text from Facebook

Graphic version of text posted by nine Facebookers and reposted thousands of times

Notice the enhancements seemingly designed to increase the credibility of this fake: the exact date, the reference to "those that are old enough will remember this" -- and I even found someone willing to say that "It was Sept. 29, 1959, when Khrushchev delivered his prediction for America at the United Nations. I remember this like it was yesterday: The TV showed the coverage of him banging his shoe on the podium." That shoe incident (no podium involved, and perhaps no shoe!) took place in October 1960 in an unrelated context.

Another sharer of this fake quotation added, for good measure, another popular fake: the "eight levels of control" falsely attributed to another stock demon, Saul Alinsky.

I realize that using fake or artfully edited quotations to slander political opponents is not new. What fascinates me is how eager their audiences are to accept them and recirculate them. It's ironic to me that the real "gullible" Americans are not the ones mentioned in the fake Khrushchev text; it's the Americans who believe these sorts of campaigns, whatever side they come from. The graphic version of the Khrushchev quotation has been shared thousands of times from one user's profile alone. I don't have the time or patience to calculate the full circulation of all of these various versions over the years -- and of course I have no way of knowing how many times the repeaters are aware that it's a fake but use it anyway because it reinforces a message. 

What is that message today? Apparently, we are meant to be alarmed by one or more of these threats to our freedom:

  1. Joe Biden's "Build Back Better" program is really a program of creeping socialism.
  2. The Biden presidency is itself a fraud; the real winner of the 2020 U.S. presidential election was his predecessor.
  3. Official public health measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 are part of the socialist conspiracy.
  4. So are efforts to mitigate global warming.
  5. So are efforts to confront systemic racism.
  6. (What have I left off the list?)

To me, Khrushchev's threats (fake and real) now seem faintly ridiculous, the Soviet Union itself having failed, and the Russian Communist party having been utterly marginalized in today's Russia. The USA's Communist parties are microscopic and fragmented, and neither of our two major parties is even remotely socialist (assuming you use honest definitions). Ironically, most of the Russian efforts to subvert politics in the USA now either favor right-wing forces or simply promote cynicism.

My challenge to those who traffic in these fakes: yes, there is an actual threat facing our country. We are witnessing a slow-motion coup by the far right, reinforced by "Christian" nationalists and well-financed by the Trump money machine among others. Are you as ready to consider the evidence for this coup as you are to consider these worn-out fakes? Or are you part of a new generation of gullible Americans?

If you are a Christian who likes to share misleading quotations, here's a post just for you (and me).

The Aspen Institute's report on information disorder in the USA.

Information disorder is a crisis that exacerbates all other crises. When bad information becomes as prevalent, persuasive, and persistent as good information, it creates a chain reaction of harm.

"I don't mean any disrespect" ... seventy years after Joe McCarthy, John Neely Kennedy red-baits Saule Omarovka.

In support of the Freedom to Vote Act.

A film on militarism ... War School: The Battle for Britain's Children. Thanks to Sergei Nikitin for the link.

Josh Wilbur wants to know what religious leaders would do if actual (space) aliens showed up.

GOOD NEWS Associates: A new URL and Web site. Current Associates: Margaret Fraser, Christine Hall, Emily Provance, Jan Wood.

Are you looking for a reason to hope in a season that might tempt you to despair? Becky Ankeny has some words for you.

Caminando con la Biblia: A bilingual Bible study sponsored by Beacon Hill Friends House and Friends World Committee for Consultation.

Right Sharing of World Resources considers adding a partnership in a fourth country (after India, Sierra Leone, and Kenya) and issues its annual report (PDF).

Did I mention I'm running a readers' survey?

For some reason I needed to hear this again:

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