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14 February 2024

Evgeny Lebedev’s vanity podcast

The media mogul and lord of the realm dabbles with psychoactive substances in the latest episode of Brave New World.

By Will Lloyd

I’m Evgeny Lebedev,” says Baron Lebedev, of Hampton in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames and of Siberia in the Russian Federation, “and welcome to my podcast, Brave New World.” The good Lord says the podcast was inspired by his grandfather, an eccentric-sounding Soviet biologist. It is hosted by the Evening Standard, the somehow-still-existing newspaper Lebedev owns, among others, with his father, a peacefully retired KGB agent.

With this venture Lebedev has at least managed something new: he is the first man to combine vanity publishing and vanity podcasting. Is it even a podcast? Lebedev has grander ambitions. “We live in a world in need of healing,” he says in his wintry Russinglish. Only 35-minute slabs of audio featuring “brilliant minds” can do the job. For the same effect, listen to Michael Jackson’s “Earth Song” seven times in a row – the same egotism dressed up as humanitarianism.

Hysterically, these “brilliant minds” are a load of guys who love shrooms. Oh, and Stephen Fry. The latest world-healing episode finds Leb in Costa Rica. He is there for “My Ayahuasca Journey”. What will this notoriously shit-stirring psychoactive brew dredge up from the insides of a KGB agent’s son with a reported net worth of $300m? Evgeny finds himself in an indigenous yurt with American drug tourists – tricky for a “solitary individual” (apart from when he’s holidaying with Boris Johnson) who “likes to be in control”. Anyway, the potion! It is administered by shamans, and ingested. The experience is “humbling”, “healing”. His internal “hamster wheel” stops. The “ancestral trauma” of Stalin’s purges materialises before him in a vision. Listening to all this druggy chat is Dr David Nutt. He burbles scientifically as Lebedev drones on. One can hear such conversations – looping, implausible, narcissistic – in apartments across east London on any night of the week. Brave New World is what happens when they become a podcast.

Brave New World
Evening Standard

[See also: Meeting Vladimir Putin]

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This article appears in the 14 Feb 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Trouble in Toryland