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Lenin was a mushroom (wikipedia.org)
574 points by Smaug123 on June 22, 2016 | hide | past | favorite | 178 comments

While reading the wikipedia article, I couldn't help thinking about two things: - the Big Lebowski scene when Walter jumps on the Dude's attempt to quote Lenin and mixes Lenin with Lennon - one thing I recently read about natural language processing [1]: "NLP began in the 1950s as the intersection of artificial intelligence and linguistics. (...) Early simplistic approaches, for example, word-for-word Russian-to-English machine translation,2 were defeated by homographs—identically spelled words with multiple meanings—and metaphor, leading to the apocryphal story of the Biblical, ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ being translated to ‘the vodka is agreeable, but the meat is spoiled.’ [1]http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168328/

> ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’

Even when humans in western world translate from languages like Sanskrit or Japanese they totally fail to understand the context that is so obvious to native speaker of those languages. Japanese quickly understand the Sanskrit word 'Namaste' ("I bow to you") but western scholars tends to replace it as "Hello" which it isn't. Hello (accounts vary) comes from Old High German word halâ, holâ which is a cry to seek attention of a boatman.

When translating a story from say Sanskrit to English, if we replace each instance of Hello with 'I bow to you', the story might becomes less readable for western audience and replacing it with "Hello" might sound consistent but it simply fails to capture the culture from which the word is originated.

My knowledge of Sanskrit is limited but when I first read about `Sage Dirghatamas` who is the father of meditation is often translated by western scholars as "Dirgha-Tamas" => "enveloped in perpetual darkness" => The man was probably blind. To their credit there are several stories that mention Dirgha-Tamas as born blind.

But even as a novice scholar of Sanskrit I was quickly able to see that Drigha-Tamas => "man staring into infinite darkness" => Very Very contemplative man. The "born blind" is mere a metaphor for someone who is very closed to out experiences and focused on his inner experiences.

interesting mention of "namaste" - in many cultures the origin of words no longer play a part in their meaning anymore, but i don't know if this applies to namaste

'goodbye' has no religious interpretation. neither does 'jesus christ' as an exclamation - as far as i know both believers and nonbelievers use the term.

even something as recent as 'hi how are you' - you may be given this greeting in london, and the appropriate reponse is not an answer but also 'hi how are you'.

> in many cultures the origin of words no longer play a part in their meaning anymore

Even though that might be true the original meaning tells a lot about the culture. Ignoring that leads to cultural appropriation (I hate that phrase). For example "God damn" is a modern slang which is probably not even considered a slang but few centuries ago it was an extremely serious slang with serious repercussions. I don't think that phrase and its meaning can be translated in polytheistic dominated languages like Sanskrit. A cool example is that when as a Hindu I find it completely normal to worship Goddess of death I often find even non religious Christians finding it disgusting.

Mother Kali is very cool :-)

I think my favorite, though, is Akhilandeshvari. Just thinking about her brings tears to my eyes.

(I know only what little I've read about them. I'm not a practicing Hindu. Maybe I was in a past life :-)

Thanks, had no idea "goodbye" came from "God be with you" [1].

1: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/goodbye

yes, "hello" can be traced back to older forms of "attention seeking hollers", but the popular currency of the modern hello came about because it was the greeting chosen for the telephone. I believe the original suggestion was to answer the phone with "ahoy!"

> ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ being translated to ‘the vodka is agreeable, but the meat is spoiled.’

This is great!

The way I heard it: "out of sight, out of mind" translated to "invisible idiot."

Great stories, yet urban legends both (even though the problem of context in natural language processing is very real).

Worst offence I've ever seen: http://img1.liveinternet.ru/images/attach/c/2//64/152/641522...

(Squirrel and protein are homographs in russian, although in different forms).

LOL! I would have had no idea. I'm scared of Google Translate now.

Tangent; "lightning"/"flash"/"blinking" in Mandarin is easily misspelled (mandarin keyboard input is phonetic) to a word that sounds similar, but means "hernia".

Hence, you can find thousands of images of "hernia lamp" with google.


Apt reference, but to be clear, it is Donny who jumps on the Dude's attempt to quote Lenin, and Walter who scornfully corrects him, "V.I. Lenin-- Vladimir Ilyich ULYANOV!"

Walter wasn't wrong, he was just... you know.

You're right, I just wrote too fast, I meant what you wrote!

leading to the apocryphal story of the Biblical, ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ being translated to ‘the vodka is agreeable, but the meat is spoiled.’

Not long ago, Google translate was still doing the translation that way. It's since been fixed, probably by using a special case.

Still does for some languages. Just last week I was looking for the lyrics to "I'm a Little Teapot" in Japanese, and the translate suggestion was watashi wa sukoshi tiipotto desu: "I am slightly teapot."

(As to the search, it seems that unlike many nursery rhymes, I'm a Little Teapot has not been imported.)

This is even worse when translating to another language than English because it use English as a pivot thus adding another layer of errors.

I noticed it first when translating to French a sentence and a Japanese word meaning 'to book (an hotel)' was translated as a word meaning a book (livre).

I would have thunk that an Easter Egg.

NLP in Russian stands for "NeuroLinguistic Programming" (of gullible masses, of course)

"Natural Language Processing" intended here. Alas, the pigeonhole principle meets TLAs again ;)


I've been wondering for 30 years if I'd ever hear that story again.

This is great :)

On a related note, someone posted a question to r/newzealand if it was true that having a vegetable garden is illegal in NZ[0]. The entire subreddit then spontaneously decided that indeed it was.

The deadpan was so well done, that it had lots of people actually confused, if not convinced!

r/OutOfTheLoop post "outing" the hoax: https://www.reddit.com/r/OutOfTheLoop/comments/4ovxb1/is_the...

[0] https://www.reddit.com/r/newzealand/comments/2nem47/can_you_...

the reason people ask this is because in america there are some cities that have outlawed gardens and types of plants you can plant in your front yard, it is insane. So the question is not that ridiculous but i am sure it seems ridiculous to new zealanders just like it laws banning gardens are ridiculous but they do exist

I thought it was because of some weird laws coming through to limit small commercial gardening through licensing, and it blew totally out of proportion as people misunderstood it.

While I can't speak to garden state-laws, I can see some good reasons to outlaw poisonous plants in a garden that is accessible to children in a neighbourhood. Especially some of those cruel plants that look like they have good tasting berries that can in fact kill a five year old.

The laws in question are not about poisonous plants. It's about laws try to force people to have ornamental gardens rather than veggie patches to keep up the "tone" of the neighbourhood.

...my fiancée told this to her family last weekend, seriously.

I cannot wait to send her the OOTL post.

r/Ireland does this from time to time to American tourists who ask too patronising questions

Anyone see my pocket fish ?

"one of the top regional functionaries stated that "Lenin could not have been a mushroom" because "a mammal can not be a plant.""

I love the the logic here. As though "Lenin was a bottle nose dolphin" would have been more plausible. Also did the Soviets have the same taxonomy as the west, meaning mushrooms would be fungi and not plants?

I guess the Soviet government was known for such "logic". A dissident once gave a speech at my university and told us this joke:

After the Americans landed on the Moon, the Soviet Politburo went to the cosmonauts saying, "Russia can do better than the Americans, so we are going to send you to the Sun."

"Don't send us to the Sun," they said, "We'll burn up and die!"

The politicians replied, "You think we are stupid in the Politburo? We will send you at night."

I thought you were going to say something like "Russia must do an even better job of being the first to the moon!"

Fungi were plants in the west too until the early 80s. Anyone old enough to be making a speech on TV in 1991 would have probably thought of them as plants regardless of their country.

Russian Wikipedia has this quote from the author of hoax: "I wrote a rebuttal to this statement [that a mammal can not be a plant] in 'Smena' newspaper. In fact, we spent the whole hour proving that fungi was a separate kingdom from plants and animals."

Non-biologists maybe. In the same sense that laypeople might not realize that neither starfish nor whales are fish.

> Non-biologists maybe

Think of it like old astronomers who still refer to Pluto as a planet. They know it's not officially a planet anymore, but they still call it one because that's what they like calling it and they don't give a shit.

Most older mycologists still use the scientific names from before DNA sequencing in casual conversation. It's not that they don't know the new ones, they do, but that's just what they like calling them and they're fine with the younger generation waiting for them to die or whatever.

Think of it like old astronomers who still refer to Pluto as a planet. They know it's not officially a planet anymore, but they still call it one because that's what they like calling it and they don't give a shit.

And let's be honest...."official" in that case just means, "what other people think."

Some day I hope someone explains to me why people care so much about the classification of Pluto.

I think it's just change of habits. For example, in russian "coffee" was masculine gender for long time, until significant amount of people started to erroneously call it in neutral gender. Now rules is "okay" with both.

I don't know, in the U.S. people get really emotional about Pluto's status.

I like to play with those sort of people by saying that the planets of the solar system are: "Mercury, Venus, Mondas, Earth, Mars, Ceres, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, Pluto, Rupert".

While one of those entries is strictly fictional, if Pluto belongs on the list there's no reason to exclude Ceres or Eris (though in the true spirit of Discordianism, I have to stick with the initial, fictional name for the final known planet).

I have to confess, this song rather gets to me: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=6lZdqonobwk

My guess: It is also a cute character from Disney. In French they are not homophones, and people seem to care a lot less.

That's what I can't figure out. It is what it is. What a few men decide to call it, doesn't change what it is. It's mass, radius and composition are not in debate. Those are the things that matter (no pun intended).

What are starfish?

echinoderms. Related to sea urchins, sea cucumbers etc. Fish are an entirely different kettle of Osteichthyes

Spawn of the Old Ones.

And here I was trying to imagine space guppies.


> Fungi were plants in the west too until the early 80s.

What brought about the change? Was some difference between them discovered or was it a matter of deciding that it would be more convenient to give them separate names?

Taxonomy isn't an arbitrary classification for convenience akin to call numbers in a library, but a reflection of our best understanding of evolutionary history, and as such changes as we learn more. Already in the 19th century many biologists already doubted that fungi were plants based on the fact that they don't have chloroplasts or photosynthesize and thus need to feed off of other living things as do animals. However, with the development of sequencing methods, first for proteins in the 1950s and then for DNA in the 1970s, more quantitive support for the similarity of fungi to animals were obtained. And in the 1990s when whole genome sequencing became possible yet more information supporting the grouping was obtained.

Fungi are more closely related to animals than to plants.


Under "History" in that article:

>The close relationship between animals and fungi was suggested by Thomas Cavalier-Smith in 1987

>Early phylogenies placed fungi near the plants [...]

I think it has to do with the evolution of our scientific taxonomic system. It was realized that although fungi seem like plants in many ways, they have certain differences which warrant their separation from plants, phylogenically and morphologically.

Iirc, its because of their genome.

There is nothing wrong with the logic here. It doesn't mean that "Lenin was a bottle nose dolphin" would have been more plausible - it simply means that a different argument would be used to refute it (such as: "a human can't be a dolphin").

The logic is correct, but directs the attention of the audience to an irrelevant point. (Similar to a magician performing a trick)

E.g., imagine there actually existed some little-known mammal/plant hybrids. The "historian" could have presented one and dramatically refuted the argument. Of course that wouldn't actually help in proving Lenin was a mushroom, but it would let that proposition appear more credible.

Well yes, if there were actual mammal-mushrooms then it would make the proposition more credible, and rightly so. The whole reason why "a mammal can not be a plant" argument works is because it assumes we know that there is no such thing as a plant-mammal.

If you see a helicopter in the sky, but somehow believe it is an airplane, saying "it can't be an airplane because it has no wings" is perfectly valid. It doesn't somehow make the claim "a bird is an airplane because they both have wings" more plausible - it just means that a different argument is needed to refute it.

Well yes, if there were actual mammal-mushrooms then it would make the proposition more credible, and rightly so.

Well, I think, even if that were the case, it would still be a logical fallacy, because the fact that a mammal could be a plant/fungus/whatever doesn't tell anything about whether that particular mammal is. All it does is to increase the "refuted counter arguments" score which gives it the illusion of credibility. So the whole "can a mammal be..." debate would be a red herring.

You could pull the same trick with the airplane example: "What do you mean, this thing can't be a plane because a plane needs wings? The rocket plane XYZ-34 doesn't have wings either." (while ignoring the fact that the helicopter you're watching doesn't look anything like that rocket plane)

Why not make some argument about 1. Symbosis between fungi and other life forms, and 2. The fact the some parasites are known to alter the behavior of many creatures (specifically the one that influences a flea to climb grass to be eaten by cows for reproduction).

There was a deliberate suppression of entire fields of research & education from the 1930's onwards. Biology being one


Wikipedia does not note the real reason for the Soviet rejection of genetics. Darwin's theory of evolution, being based on random mutation and natural selection was seen as contradicting the theory of dialectical materialism which assumed a deterministic ontogeny culminating in a fixed and inevitable end point.

The rejection was nothing to do with Nazis and priests.

I feel like he's more pointing out the fundamental absurdity of the whole thing than trying to make an ironclad logical assertion.

Go out on the street and ask 3-4 regular passers-by what "taxonomy" means :)

I think the question is about the cultural taxonomy, not the scientific one. For instance, culturally, tomatoes are often a vegetable in the United States, but botanically they're a berry and therefore a fruit. A culture could either treat fungus as in the "plant" category or not in the "plant" category and both would be culturally reasonable.

(It's also an error to claim that it's "wrong" to call a tomato a vegetable. Words have different meanings, and you're in for a lifetime of frustration if you go around insisting that cultures are only permitted to use all words in exactly the way that scientists use them.)

Fruit/berry are biological distinctions, I think, whereas vegetable-ness is mostly culinary.

I recall reading an argument refuting this, but it didn't alter my way of differentiating.

Hm no. Ask your waitress for a bowl of oatmeal with berries and they bring tomatoes, you will be upset.

> Ask your waitress for a bowl of oatmeal with berries and they bring tomatoes, you will be upset.

Right, because if you ask your waitress, you expect culinary rather than biological definitions to be used.

Then again, you'd usually ask for something more specific than "berries".

The issue is domain-specific definitions. It causes a lot of misunderstandings. A common issue is the meaning of the word theory.

You'd probably be upset if they brought raw cranberries or poisonous juniper berries too.

Yes. Oatmeal is culinary. What's your point?

Read it again. Fruit/berry was proposed as not being culinary.

In context, it was clearly saying that a tomato is a fruit/berry in a biological context, but a vegetable in a culinary one. That doesn't mean that those words don't also have different meanings in other contexts.

Many years ago I worked as a cashier in a supermarket. There tomatoes had their own classification as "salad".

Just as coffee "beans" are actually seeds. This information is of no use to the vast majority of people unless one finds it enjoyable to be pedantic, but it is a neat bit of trivia all the same.

> Just as coffee "beans" are actually seeds.

All beans are seeds. Except "sea beans", which aren't beans, either.

And NetBeans.

How is the claim that "Lenin was a bottle nose dolphin" more plausible, comrade? If a mammal cannot be something simple like a plant, then surely it is even less likely that a mammal can be a fish!

This would have been an excellent opportunity for a dad joke about Lenin and the Vodka bottle had he not prohibited alcohol in 1917.

It's great but it's not a proof, because a mushroom isn't a plant.

Functionaries were as clueless about taxonomy as about anything else.

The US today isn't in much of a different boat. Granted, a human being a mushroom is quite an extreme one, but I'm sure a well-crafted documentary reaching a wide enough audience could still have a deplorable impact. Here's a 2013 poll on conspiracy theories:


I was in high school when one of the "moon landings were a hoax" documentaries made the rounds. A significant portion of my class was instantly converted by the documentary. I lost a little of my faith in humanity at that time, though much of it was quickly recovered thanks to an excellent math teacher who paid attention to his students, found out about the phenomenon, and dedicated half of a class to thoroughly debunking it.

When I grew up in Germany almost everyone seemed to believe that the moon landing was a hoax. In fact I was usually labeled as the crazy one by my peers for believing it actually happened.

It's still widely believed in Russia (more for the anti-American sentiment than particular veracity of the claim).

Man, if I was Russian I think I'd be even more likely to believe it happened than if I was American. I mean, given the propensity for governments over the years to call events American conspiracies, the fact that Russian leaders haven't ever said the landing was faked when they'd be gleeful to say it if it was is conspicuous.

It Was Broadcasted Live (or almost) In The USSR.

No Way, the Government of the USSR would have done that if they had any doubt about it being an hoax.

I wonder if there is something in the human mind that attempts to reject Occam's razor. It seems as though a lot of conspiracy theories are significantly more popular than they should be.

Well, there's the thrill of "being with the Rebel Fleet" without the risk of an X-Wing swiping you with a laser.

Haha, hilarious, thanks for sharing.

I had to see this for myself.


Video, part1: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2cs8QLnxlU

Video, part2: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ExXDxpBFFR0

The "revelation" occurs at 2m36s: https://youtu.be/ExXDxpBFFR0?t=156

"Furthermore, he was not only a mushroom, but also a radio wave."

That's a very short version.

I have a Lenin-grib.Sergey.Kuryohin.1991.avi with length of 1:33:11 on my PC.

Care to upload it? Since it was on Soviet television there isn't a copyright issue.

Pretty sure that broadcasting on soviet television does not remove copyright protection from the work. But there are many other almost complete versions on YT, so I uploaded it anyway:


Also I see that owners of 4 music compositions in it will monetize it:


Thanks for the upload :P

There was no copyright during communism, there were no patents either. It's possible that archive footage has been purchased after the fall of the soviet union and now it's owned by some one.

And even today some public television does not restrict rebroadcasting including uploading it to sites like YouTube under certain circumstances.

There was:



Anyway in 2012 Russia retroactively applied rules of the Bern convention to all RSFSR works by becoming the member of WTO.

That's an interesting read thanks.

Wikipedia links to this page with an hour-long programme: http://www.teterin.ru/index.php?option=com_content&task=view...

But it's not subtitled.

Well, I watched it on TV when I was 14 years old and shortly after USSR break up, obviously having no experience of mockumentaries before, having seen Lenin in the mausoleum few years earlier.. all that stuff was really mind blowing, even though it was hard to believe and raised mock suspicions - I remember I questioned my parents about it =)

> I remember I questioned my parents about it

What did they say?

Do you think any adults believed it?

You sounded confused rather than a believer.

Sure I didn't buy it, was just perplexed by the idea itself. I never seen anything so wacky on TV before.

My parents dismissed it right away and told me not to spend time watching that kind of rubbish. I doubt adults believed it, only those who'd fancy paranormal stuff. (All those UFOs, Bermuda triangle, fortune tellers were so ever popular in USSR those days).

Haha. For something equally funny, but more serious (in a way, although making fun of Lenin at the time is nothing to sneeze at), have a look at the work of "the Yes Men": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Yes_Men

Perhaps my favourite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LiWlvBro9eI

"Bhopal Disaster - BBC - The Yes Men" - where they tricked media, including the BBC, into believing they were Dow Chemical spokespersons, and that Dow would take responsibility for the Bhopal chemical disaster, after Dow bought Union Carbide.

[ed: some context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lScyQYUHLA ]

Let us not forget the exceptional spaghetti harvest of 1957 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU

Thanks, in part, to an unusual lull in population numbers of the notorious Spaghetti Weevil.

I am reminded of an advertisement for "compressed molecules" lager from the 80s. This is the only reference I can find:


I was starting to think I'd imagined it.

Nice one, straight to the point! :)


Here's the 55min version I've found - I think it's the longest one available on youtube.

Random phrases that I just had to translate to illustrate the whole tone of the video:

"Do you know that Quran allows jews to eat mushrooms only one day a week - on saturday?"

"So you would think that this is an ordinary small mushroom... Although really, it is a huge, spherical, energy-intensive, cosmological matter, spreading it's dome into open astral space. -- So where does it grow? -- Excellent question. The thing is, it grows nowhere. I reaches out and finds a human - see, it's mushrooms who are picking humans, not humans picking mushrooms."

"We are looking at a mushroom culture - not really a culture, but a geodynamic, geopolitic sphere of the mushroom world - as a certain telescopic object"

"A great group of mushroom geneticists work in the Nuclear Physics Institute."

"So, it's been said that mushrooms look like flaccid phalluses, so I thought that they carry within them a manly spirit - or corrupted manly spirit, actually, since they're flaccid."

And this was just the first in the long line of hoaxes that included the world's largest pyramid (Ponzi?) scheme and legal homeopatics, which filled the faith vacuum left followed the dissolution of the union.

People had no clue that a TV can lie about "X happened" (rather than "X didn't happen"), what else you can do with money besides earn, buy and sell, and so on.

It was such a rich scam market.

It was not the first. It was after Allan Chumak made it to the TV. And after lots of other absurdity like teachings of Helena Roerich was thrown in to blow Soviet people's minds. Actually Kuryokhin was making fun of all of this, it's rather a parody than a genuine hoax.

Yep, should have said "one of the first". I was a kid during these times, so i don't quite remember the precise sequences, only that the onslaught worked kind of like a BS vaccine for the younger generation.

What else can you do with money. Save, invest?

Change them to US$ or Deutschmarks, invest them into all sorts of stock that were popping up - everyone got a one-time voucher with a nominal price of 10₽ that could have been used to privatize some property or could be used to buy stock in one or the other "company", most of which were pyramid schemes.

Then debt, loans, bank accounts.

Saving in a bank vs saving under a pillow (former burned up in 1998, latter burned up in 1991).

Even more, it was now legal to sell things at a profit, so you could earn money in more than two ways (job or steal) now.

Things like that - the entire "market economics" was black magic to most.

That's up there with the great spaghetti tree hoax: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tVo_wkxH9dU

"The last two weeks of March are an anxious time for the spaghetti farmer..."

There is also the internet classic "Spiders on Drugs" although it drops the act half way through https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHzdsFiBbFc

ah, of course. Dried in the sun because most people in the UK 1957 would only know of packet spaghetti.

Gullibility research is an established area, as these things are important for selling products and getting people voted to office.

For example, things people believe about the EU will affect their vote on Brexit tomorrow. Here's an egregious example of a widely circulated totally false myth:


A quick keyword search for "cabbage" within EU legislation reveals 1273 documents:


I looked at a few. I thought it was interesting that many of the ones I tried did not contain the word "cabbage", apparently they do some semantic matching which ends up including articles about cauliflower (which is a cabbage), endives and potatoes.

Also, the titles are hilarious:

Council Regulation (EC) No 969/94 of 26 April 1994 fixing the basic price and the buying-in price for cauliflowers for the period 1 to 31 May 1994 http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELE...

Commission Regulation (EEC) No 1775/93 of 2 July 1993 amending Regulation (EEC) No 2165/92 laying down detailed rules for the application of the specific measures for Madeira and the Azores as regards potatoes and endives http://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELE...

Those are quite short?

EU is for a large part an agricultural subsidy organization. The paperwork does cause a lot of overhead for the farmers, no doubt.


I think the English wiki article is brilliant because the article itself is what it's describing.

Kuryokhin told a tall tale on the TV and people enjoyed its absurdity and humor. I would not say nobody believed it (you can find somebody who believes any given bs) but I'd bet the 11.25M number in the wiki is exaggerated many orders of magnitude. The whole statement of the article about many Soviet people falling for this is as true as that a lot of Americans believed that the film Borat is a documentary. Or, that Lenin was, indeed, a mushroom)).

It was a very important step for people of USSR to understand that TV != truth. The movie was to the very point. Quite an important topic for USSR with an absolutely absurd statement just forces people to think and rely on their own judgement only. And it simple to do in this case.

Now people not just was given a freedom to think. Now it is a must. To think and to have OWN opinion.

The artist/prankster, Sergey Kuryokhin was also a fabulous pianist


And quite possibly one of the greatest artists of 90s Russia.

I am amused but not surprised and there this nothing unique about Russian people either.

Many times survival in society vastly depends on believing absurdity because cost to sticking to obvious truth could mean death. That is why women in Saudi Arabia were Hijab and take beating from husband even though for any sensible human being it should sound ridiculously stupid.

Americans are no different either. One has to only look at the irrational fear of guns, terrorists or Muslims that schools or media promotes on regular basis and sometimes well supported by laws too.

To give an example, one of my friends bought a simple bow and arrow to his kids who practiced in a safe environment of his backyard. The bow itself was not very powerful and the arrows did not have any harmful tips. So one day cops showed up on his door and claimed that the neighbor had complained.

The cops told the guy that a "Bow and arrow" is considered a "Gun" in California. A gun can be fired only in a range as per the law and what his kids just did was "discharging a firearm in an harmful manner". This is a felony that required them to arrest the father and send him to jail. What father had done was completely common sense thing. The law was absurd. The cops were gracious to let him go but later the father told me that if tomorrow anyone tells him that it is a felony to make barbecue in your backyard without FDA approval I might as well believe it.


Is in Russian but has English subtitles

Does anyone know the argument chain? I'm curious how someone made this outlandish claim sound plausible.

I am not sure if telling it second-handedly would make any sense. Actually, even watching it translated to english hardly would be the same experience. Basically, to any intelligent person it was an obvious joke, but quite a good one. The most powerful part of it wasn't what he was telling, actually, but how he was doing it: you know, some sane-looking person, a fluent, eloquent speaker, is telling something so ridiculous so seriously, that you might even start to question what is true anyway. He uses some clever words, pseudo-scientific side-notes, mis-interpreted quotes, and all the time he looks deadly serious, repeatedly asking the audience: "You see what's going on here? It's absolutely unbelievable!"

To summarize it, it was something like this: he persuades you, that Lenin was heavily abusing psychodelic mushrooms, then, going through some pseudo-scientific gibberish makes a claim, that heavy use of mushrooms led to that a mushroom basically displaced human consciousness, then, by making some random observations "supporting" his claim, makes the statement "Lenin became a mushroom" more and more literal.

Anyway, I would argue that it has nothing to do with Soviet propaganda and such: it was a great performance, but not so different in it's nature from a kind of reasoning in the very modern western propaganda or quasi-documental movies about aliens and such. Only it was mockingly exaggerated on purpose.

Argument chain is mostly irrelevant here, people who fall for this simply believe anything who pretends to be an authority.

Heck, I know for one that I /could/ believe something like this. A friend of mine once convinced me that both wheels of a bicycle rotate into the opposite direction, just to test my gullibility. I totally fell for it, even though we were on the bike at that very moment. I could've easily checked or reasoned that it didn't make any sense whatsoever.

> wheels of a bicycle rotate into the opposite direction

Your example reminded me that on a very rare occasion something that sounds stupid and counter-intuitive is true: A train wheel always has some point on it that is traveling backwards when the train is moving forward. It sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? If the train is moving forward, then all points on the train are moving forward. How could it be otherwise?

This is very difficult to explain without a diagram:


I don't think it's that difficult to explain. The part under the track, the "flange" goes backwards. The part exactly on the track is not moving at all, same as a car (or any other) wheel. This is also pretty obvious when you consider that if the wheel was turning in relation to the ground, it would be skidding.

I think the thing with the train wheels is sort of obvious once you see that it only works because part of the wheel overhangs the rail.

The axle of the wheel is moving forwards, and the bit in contact with the track is stationary, so the bit further out than that is going backwards.

I can say with confidence that you're wrong about a point on a non-skidding wheel moving backwards. I can't read your book though, it says that the page is unavailable.

Consider the wheel in the frame of the train. The train moves at velocity v relative to the ground. So the bottom of the wheel moves with velocity v backwards in the frame of the train. The top moves velocity v forward in that frame. All other points move at the same speed but in directions that aren't perfectly horizontal so move at a slower horizontal speed. But for a point to move backwards relative to the ground it must move at a horizontal speed greater than v in the frame of the train. So there is no such point.

I haven't read this either, but the flange(?) of the wheel, the part below/behind the rail, is on the same lever as the point where the wheel contacts the rail (v), but further from the axis, so it's moving further (>v), also opposite the direction of the train's forward motion, so total negative speed, in the frame of the rail/ground.

This is why a train is picked over most vehicles, which operate as you describe.

Yes, you're totally right, my analysis applies to bikes not trains!

A tale in over-confidence / Google book previews availability.

> I'm curious how someone made this outlandish claim sound plausible.

From the article:

> Soviet television had, up to that point, been regarded by its audience as conservative in style and content. As a result, a large number of Soviet citizens (one estimate puts the number at 11,250,000 audience members) took the deadpan "interview" at face value, in spite of the absurd claims presented.

I guess this had something to do with it? If people were used to TV being a certain way, and this "interview" was presented in the same way, then it would seem reasonable that it would be taken up in the same was as every other. Nothing (aside from content) made it stand out from other shows.

Saying that, the claim is crazy, and it does seem strange that it was seemingly accepted as truth. I wonder how a similar stunt could be attempted today, and what the reaction would be...

For a western analogue, try the BBC's spaghetti plantations.

In Sweden we had the Colour TV Stocking http://hoaxes.org/archive/permalink/instant_color_tv

I was going to post that too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti-tree_hoax

Loved this one as well.

They should have tried with this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spaghetti_squash

or political correctness, as typically indoctrinated in school.

saying such things to this particular audience will result in massive downvotes.

With less variation it seems to result in someone complaining about their imaginary persecution.

TV propaganda in contemporary Russia works pretty well, so TV is still seen as an authority.

It does not help that there are no large TV stations anymore in Russia that are not state-owned (openly or covertly).

"Every revolution, he argued, is indeed an impressive visual spectacle. Although we usually assume that visual representations of a revolution happen later, after the events have already taken place, Kurekhin argued that revolutions are simply too spectacular to happen on their own. Some- one “first [has] to visualize certain images and later attempt to reproduce them in reality.” During a recent visit to Mexico, he continued, he had seen frescos that depicted the Mexican revolution of the early twentieth century in a style identical to the one used for the Russian Bolshevik revo- lution: “the same exhausted people, armed with primitive tools of labor, overthrowing some rulers.”

In order for revolutionary leaders in both places to have imagined these events in a similar manner, their minds must surely have been sub- jected to similar influences. In Mexico, the source of influence is clear. During ritualistic ceremonies, Kurekhin explained, the native peoples routinely used drinks prepared from Lophophora Williamsii or peyote— a Mexican cactus with strong psychotropic properties.2 Although Mexican cacti do not grow in Russia, Kurekhin noted, Russian forests do have an abundance of similar hallucinogens: mushrooms, most prominently the fly agaric mushroom (mukhomor).3 These mushrooms, he claimed, induce the same effects as the Mexican cacti: “people see absolutely incredible pictures very vividly and colorfully” and “enormous scenes of great events and revolutions fly before your eyes.”

Building on this premise, Kurekhin began to formulate his famous thesis: “Reading the correspondence between [Vladimir] Lenin and [Iosif] Stalin I came across one phrase: ‘Yesterday I ate too many mush- rooms, but I felt great.’” Bolshevik leaders ate a lot of mushrooms, Kure- khin mused, and some of them surely had hallucinogenic properties. If consumed for many years, these mushrooms can permanently change an individual’s personality. Indeed, Kurekhin continued in an unwaver- ing scholarly tone, “I have absolutely irrefutable proof that the October revolution was carried out by people who had been consuming certain mushrooms for many years. And these mushrooms, in the process of be- ing consumed by these people, had displaced their personalities. These people were turning into mushrooms. In other words, I simply want to say that Lenin was a mushroom.”

A Parasite from Outer Space:: How Sergei Kurekhin Proved That Lenin Was a Mushroom Alexei Yurchak Slavic Review Vol. 70, No. 2 (SUMMER 2011), pp. 307-333


This was very very early post-Soviet TV. Soviet TV had around 6 channels and everything on them was always very very bland and was supposed to be accepted outright it not believed.

Kind of gets you after 30 years of watching.

And then boom, and you have "Lenin is a Mushroom". I believe some confusion was genuine.

Was thinking the same thing. That seems like a big omission from the article unless the chain was just some sort of incoherent meandering rant...

Most coherent argument was vague similarity of iconic "Lenin speaks from armored car" image (http://klin-demianovo.ru/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/prizyvvo...) with mycelium (car) and fruit body (Lenin)

>some sort of incoherent meandering rant

That was the point: total absurdity told with total seriousness.

There was no valid arguments. Just bogus claims interspersed with irrelevant quotes and a pretence of authority.

It was more like a network of connections than a chain.

Has anyone ever classified forms of gullibility before? For example, is there a name for the form of gullibility that will make otherwise smart people believe ridiculous things if it reinforces their belief that they are smarter than everyone else?

I've never heard of that before, pretty cool.

But now I've got the idea of trying to write lyrics for "Lenin Was A Mushroom" (to the tune of Jeremiah Was A Bullfrog) stuck in my head, but I can't because I have too much work to do today.

A Parasite from Outer Space: How Sergei Kurekhin Proved That Lenin Was a Mushroom Author(s): Alexei Yurchak Source: Slavic Review, Vol. 70, No. 2 (SUMMER 2011), pp. 307-333 Published by: Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5612/slavicreview.70.2.0307 .

On Sci-Hub: http://www.jstor.org.sci-hub.bz/stable/10.5612/slavicreview....

Here's one of the articles (JSTOR) referenced on the en Wikipedia page:

A Parasite from Outer Space:: How Sergei Kurekhin Proved That Lenin Was a Mushroom Alexei Yurchak Slavic Review Vol. 70, No. 2 (SUMMER 2011), pp. 307-333


"What I want to say here is that Lenin was not only a mushroom , but also a radio wave" (C)

I for one believe that a person can turn into a mushroom: I have seen it on the TV.


I don't think many people believed it. Actually it was more of a satire than a hoax. A mockery of the BS wave that befell on gullible and unprepared audience upon Perestroika.

I love how that official chose to correct the people: Don't worry everyone. Just remember that "a mammal cannot be a plant" and everything's going to be okay.

Mario ( a working class plumber) made a career out of squishing mushrooms, to get the princess in the castle.

Once your deducation goes whack, you can never go back.

Great to see Carlos Castaneda in this. The ultimate Troll and still good enough for New-Age ideologies.

Now it's "Well I saw someone Facebook say that ... "taken as 100% truth.

Ah the "Lenin Grib" story- tv announcers taken too seriously apparently...

I read the headline and thought he was kept in the dark and fed excrement by Stalin.

I wrote my dissertation on this

So would you mind sharing it?

Have a link?

And yet his embalmed body was there all along for everyone to see.

If he wasn't a mushroom then, he probably is a mushroom now..

That's a well-known fact (as well as that Putin is a krab)

too bad there probably aren't enough russians here to understand that reference

Quite enough.

Here's another clue for you all, The Walrus is Paul.

Probably not a fungi to be around at least

It reminds me of the Yip Harburg song:

    Napoleon's a pastry
    Bismarck is a herring
    Alexander's a crème de cacao mixed with rum
    And Herbie Hoover is a vacuum

    Columbus is a circle and a day off
    Pershing is a square, what a pay-off
    Julius Caesar is just a salad on a shelf
    So, little brother, get wise to yourself

    Life's a bowl and it's full of cherry pits
    Play it big and it throws you for a loop
    That's the way with fate, comes today, we're great
    Comes tomorrow, we're tomato soup
(See http://genius.com/Lena-horne-napoleon-lyrics )

Who wasn't? I am glad Lenin became a normal corpse, and I grief it has low buryability.

In communist Russ Golden Teacher B+'s YOU!

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