Reviews of “Chernobyl” Downplay Socialism: Liner Notes

I have a new column posted unexpectedly fast at The Federalist, “HBO’s ‘Chernobyl’ Indicts Soviet Socialism. Establishment Reviews Downplay It.”

I played catch-up with the HBO/Sky mini-series on the Soviet nuclear disaster — which is odd, given my background. I studied Russian language, culture and literature for many years, even visiting the USSR during the Brezhnev era. But perhaps because I did, and lived through the Chernobyl catastrophe, I did not feel a sense of urgency about watching immediately. And “Chernobyl” is as good as the buzz around it, capturing both the dystopian system and the stoic people who lived under it (if the system did not kill them).

My delay in viewing also meant that I delayed reading reviews, because I usually like to watch as fresh as I can. The bizarre, “let’s not talk about the socialism in the middle of the room” quality of the response struck me enough to do an old school media bias piece on it. “Chernobyl” should be a lesson to viewers in part about just how evil the Evil Empire was in its heyday, but the establishment entertainment media generally seem to address it (if at all) in oblique terms, much as the Soviet press did. But the Soviet press at least had the excuse of living in a totalitarian state, whereas our modern media merely likes to pretend America is one because they loathe President Trump. [I’m still not a big fan, but I’m also not delusional.]

Perhaps the thing which got left out for space is the related observation that this sector of media has largely taken up politics, in the “everything is political” sense of fashionable identity politics. TV and movie reviews are frequently filtered through a progressive lens, even when it is a stretch to do so. Yet many reviewers elide “Chernobyl”‘s blatant political content, presumably because it makes them uncomfortable. On the other hand, with the notably wrong exception of the New York Times, most reviewers cannot deny the quality of the work, so they grope to make the drama about something else more congenial to their politics.

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