Lately, I’ve become convinced that pop conspirology, a favorite Russian pastime, is a projection of discomfort with slackened gender roles. It’s not just about the “Jews” or the “world government” any more. It’s about weird semiotic clusters organized around degrees of perceived masculinity. For instance, in the modern Russian mind, “Americans” are “Jews.” “Jews” are “gay.” “Americans” are thus also “gay.” “Liberals” may stand for American stooges (as in Putin’s speeches) or Jews (as in Zakhar Prilepin’s “Letter to Stalin,” full of anti-Semitic dog whistles), but their defining traits are feminine - softness, pliability, indecisiveness - and so they are “gay” above all (cf. “liberast,” the popular online conflation of “liberal” and “pederast”). Once united in this way, the tags become completely interchangeable, defying all logic. For instance, feminists: semiotically speaking, they are gay, of course, and liberal - and thus they are also American and Jewish (“The last names of the participants say it all,” writes a nationalist blogger in response to a recent round table on feminism I attended: “Krongauz, Goralik, Idov”. For him, feminism is a Jewish conspiracy, too). And round and round it goes. Meanwhile, Communists can be “Jews” but they can’t be “gay,” because they are associated with masculine qualities. Only the gay-Jew-American-liberal cluster works perfectly in all directions, because it’s held together by the same notion of effeminacy. 

You can play the same game with the American extreme right if you substitute “European” for “American.” That’s how you end up with the crypto-FrenchGayLiberalJewishArabCommunistAtheistMuslim ”other” that lives in the head of a wingnut. (And in the White House, haha).

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