Environmental Ethics
and Public Policy
Ernest Partridge, Ph.D

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The Gadfly Bytes -- April 11, 2011

Самиздат Американский -- The American Samizdat

Ernest Partridge, Co-Editor
The Crisis Papers

(c 2004 -- Revised April 11, 2011)

During the past three decades, the American the media has come more and more to resemble Pravda, Isvestia and Gostelradio during the Stalin regime. In the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004, George Bush captured his office with the indispensable the assistance of the national media, ninety percent of which is owned by six giant conglomerates.

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 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 re-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."   (Russian: Сам Издательство  "Sam Izdatel'tsvo" -- self-publishing).  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.  (As I was to discover during my first visit to the Soviet Union in 1989).

Today, in what we like to call "the Free World," computers, printers and copiers are abundant, and thus Soviet-style control by the authorities is no longer possible, and the inconvenience to the dissidents is thankfully no longer necessary. 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.

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, the allegations that Barack Obama is a "secret Muslim" or that he was not born in the United States, 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.





Dr. Ernest Partridge is a consultant, writer and lecturer in the field of Environmental Ethics and Public Policy. He has taught Philosophy at the University of California, and in Utah, Colorado and Wisconsin. He publishes the website, "The Online Gadfly" (www.igc.org/gadfly) and co-edits the progressive website, "The Crisis Papers" (www.crisispapers.org).  Dr. Partridge can be contacted at: gadfly@igc.org .