Goodthink for teens, from Harvard to the Kremlin

In some ways, this is creepier than all the Putinist propaganda. The lady is advertising her services as a goodthink coach for teenagers. Her lengthy ad, posing as a New York Times piece, begins with a reminder:

Earlier this week, Harvard University revealed that it had rescinded admissions offers to at least 10 students who shared offensive images within what they thought was a private Facebook group chat. The students posted memes and images that mocked minority groups, child abuse, sexual assault and the Holocaust, among other things.

It is easy for parents to be left wondering, “What were they thinking?”

I’m left wondering, “Who snitched?” Also, “Why and how?” And, “Does Harvard hire people to snoop on shortlisted candidates?” Then, reconstructing Harvard’s value system, “Does Ruthless Rhymes humor sound like a leper’s bell now?” I thought outré black humor was therapeutic; turns out it’s on Harvard’s odious substances list, likened to crack cocaine.

The author’s recipe for the safety of the young is to avoid thinking prohibited thoughts and uttering prohibited utterances:

Adults need to shift the conversation around teens’ social media use away from a fear of getting caught and more toward healthy socialization, effective self-regulation and overall safety. This would be all the more important if a bill that was just overwhelmingly passed in the House becomes law. The bill could make it a felony — punishable by 15 years in jail — if teens send consensual nude photos of themselves.

It seems to me that Ana Homayoun doesn’t mind the bill at all despite its inhuman absurdity. Not surprisingly, perhaps: as a consultant “on life strategies for teens” and millennials, she may reasonably expect the passage of the bill to improve demand for her tutoring. For the time being, she’s dispensing “practical real-life advice on how to promote social media wellness in an always-on digital world.” In other words, how not to run afoul of the thought police patrolling Facebook round the clock – by avoiding crimethink and practicing duckspeak. 

In the analog age, Soviet kids learned early on how to avoid getting busted for insufficient enthusiasm. Mastery of the skill came at a cost: some ended up internalizing prescribed beliefs, while others resorted to doublethink in order to function in the dysfunctional late-Soviet society. Some of this schizoid modus pensandi carried over into the post-Soviet world and seems to be one of the reasons why millions of Russians blamed Obama for the crisis of 2014 while acknowledging the Russian government’s rottenness. 

For reasons that may have to do with the collective subconscious, Russians aren’t blaming the woes of Eurasia on Trump as much as they did on Obama, which looks like a troubling development to the watchmen up on the Kremlin towers. It’s an opportune moment for Ana Homayoun to start marketing her services to Moscow policymakers and puppet masters. Alarmed by the teenage turnout at the anti-corruption protests in March, the Russian parliament looks set to ban minors from such rallies. As usual, the prohibition would be ursinely counterproductive. Ana Homayoun’s Practical Strategies for Purposeful Learning – for purposefully learning to love the Big Brother – might be considered a worthwhile alternative or at least a supplement.

This Big Brother, of course, is merely a personification of Always-On Wellness – more of an aunt than a bro. A very slightly mustachioed Aunt Eliza.

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