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.