American Samizdat

Back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, there were two principal state-owned publications, Pravda (“truth”) and Izvestia (“news.”) Russians, terminal cynics, would habitually joke “There is no pravda in Izvestia and no izvestia in Pravda.” But they read both anyway, hoping to glean whatever nuggets of truth might be found lurking between the lines.

The Soviet Union was a hard-authoritarian, closed society, ruled by a secretive clique of devout Communists, supported by a pervasive and ruthless security apparatus. Using every tool at its command, Soviet leadership maintained near-absolute control over the flow of information, thereby maintaining near-absolute power over its subjects.

The antidote to the official edifice of lies was an informal, shadow press that came to be called “samizdat,” a portmanteau word meaning, more or less, “self-published.” Samizdat came into being during the period of slight relaxation that followed the death of Stalin in 1954.

Through this network was passed a steady stream of banned works: essays, articles from foreign journals, novels, the works of dissident writers such Alexsander Solzhenitsyn, even the occasional bit of porn.

So by drips and drabs Soviet citizens received news of the outside world, which, they were astonished to find, was not the Darwinian hellscape they had been repeatedly told it was. Through Samizdat, Russians came eventually to understand that their leaders had lied to them about pretty much everything. Once this understanding reached critical mass, the center could no longer hold, and the Soviet Collosus crumbled under its own weight.

A wit once observed that “history doesn’t exactly repeat itself, but it does rhyme.” Over the last several years, operating through a myriad of departments and sub-departments, as though reading from the old Soviet playbook, our Federal government has, in concert with Big Media, launched an all-out effort to control the flow of all information throughout the public space. The justification for this momentous undertaking was to limit the spread of “misinformation” and “hate speech.”  They supply the definition for both.

For a period of years, the United States Federal government in effect told Big Media what to publish and when to publish it, what to suppress and what to disappear, and who to un-person. Many have suspected this, but the Twitter Files revealed its true, staggering, extent. Thanks to these and other revelations, the United States is now having its own Samizdat moment.

Matt Taibbi, a Democrat and lifelong Leftist, was one of a number of independent journalists tapped by Elon Musk to plumb the depths of the Twitter Files. And what they found was shocking.

For this and other efforts Taibbi has been awarded the First American Samizdat Prize. Given current trends, you have to wonder if there will even be a second.

© 2024 by Scott P. Snell

Right of reuse is freely granted with proper attribution.

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