And now for the flip-side to our previous post on the recent book, The Sounds of Capitalism — let’s hear it for pop culture’s ability to inspire those in the Soviet Union and its satellite nations to seek a better life. As Nick Gillespie of Reason notes in the above encomium to the late Larry Hagman and the show that made him a superstar, in the 1980s, Nicolae Ceaușescu allowed Dallas to be aired in then-communist Romania, because Ceaușescu believed that the CBS prime-time soap opera showed all that was wrong with decadent capitalism. Instead Romanian viewers loved what the saw — and wanted a piece of it for themselves. That Soviet and Soviet-backed leaders had such a skewed vision of America brings to mind blogger Karol Sheinin’s recent brilliant observation:
In 1977, the year I was born and the year my father, his mother, his aunt and many other Jews left the Soviet Union (my mother and I left in 1978), the Soviet propaganda machine began circulating a rumor. It went, roughly: life in America is so terrible that the old people eat cat food.
People didn’t quite get it: they have food specifically made for cats in America? What a country!
A lot of things about America remained beyond their comprehension.
Concurrently, plenty of truths about the horrors of the Soviet Union remained beyond the comprehension of the last of that late, unlamented basket case nation’s true believers, as Theodore Dalrymple writes at City Journal.