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Самиздат Американский -- The American Samizdat

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers

Today, in George Bush's America, the media are more and more coming to resemble Pravda, Isvestia and Gostelradio during the Stalin regime. In both "elections" George Bush captured his office with the indispensable assistance of the national media, now essentially owned by ten giant conglomerates (see "The Making of a Movement" in the January 7, 2002 issue of The Nation)

During the 2000 election campaign, Al Gore was, quite frankly, slandered with flat-out false accusations, while Bush's all-too manifest shortcomings were unreported. In the 2004 campaign, vicious slanders against John Kerry were reported without refutation in the media, while at the same time, the Bush/Cheney team was permitted to tell outright lies, without correction.

A University of Maryland study recently disclosed that a majority of Bush supporters in the 2004 election believed numerous falsehoods, most prominently that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks and was allied with Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. These false beliefs testify to the failure of the news media to report accurate information to the public. That failure contributed decisively to George Bush's election in 2004.

Except for a few token "liberal" voices, the corporate media have been effectively closed to serious presentation of progressive opinions. It is a troublesome situation, but not hopeless.

In Russia during the Soviet era, "forbidden" works of literature and political criticism were produced and circulated through a system known as "samizdat."  Those who received a manuscript would do so with the implied promise that they would type out five carbon copies before passing it on. And why not use a copier or mimeograph machine? Simply because private ownership of these devices was illegal, and access to the few that existed was severely restricted.

A similar phenomenon emerged in pre-revolutionary Iran, as contraband audio cassettes were duplicated and passed hand-to-hand -- a process that continues today in repressive regimes throughout the world.

Today, in what we like to call "the Free World," computers, printers and copiers are abundant.  Instead of furtive painstaking hours at the typewriter, "underground" texts can be duplicated in disks and CDs a few seconds.  Accordingly, Soviet-style control of ideas and information by the authorities is no longer possible.  Most significantly, perhaps, the computer has given us, via the internet, an "American Samizdat."

Of course, as anyone familiar with the internet is aware, ninety-plus percent of the pages therein offer pure, certifiable junk -- porn sites, right-wing rants, commercial promotions, etc. Furthermore, much internet material is self-published, without editorial or publishers' constraints. Still, to those who have searched and found a few choice web sites, the internet offers much of what remains of free, unconstrained, political and social commentary.

And so, as a service to those still looking for authentic dissent, we offer in our page, "The Best of the Dissenting Internet," a list of recommended progressive web sites. There you will find links to provocative political commentary and even some unspun news reports -- generally from the foreign press.

My friends in Russia report that during the Soviet era, most Russians came to regard Pravda as an acceptable solution to the chronic toilet paper shortage, but of little additional value. So they eagerly awaited receipt of each new Samizdat and secretly tuned into the Voice of America and the BBC. In short, the Russians developed very sensitive BS detectors. Alas, the time has come for the American public to do the same.

Let the media know that you are fully aware of their "mushroom tactics" (i.e., "keep 'em in the dark and feed them BS"). The news media put great value in their reputation and credibility. Tell them that they have squandered both with their rightward "spin" and their lies -- and specify those lies (e.g., the Swift Boat smears, the Iraq WMD lies, the al Qaeda-Saddam connection, etc.). Let them know that you are looking elsewhere for your information and, as in days of the Soviet "samizdat," you are passing on important information you learn elsewhere to your friends and colleagues.


Crisis Papers editors, Partridge & Weiner, are available for public speaking appearances