The Reagan Speech Preservation Society

A Podcast Published By Myself

Modified: Tuesday, 20 July 2021 21:58 by admin - Categorized as: Podcasts
The following is a collection of the materials used in creating the twenty-second episode of the Citizen Reagan podcast (pending permission from the Reagan Foundation) about the Reagan's Radio Commentaries.





You may think I'm going overboard, and perhaps I am, but there are some concerning things happening nowadays. The events could lead to nothing, or they could lead to something. If they are leading to something, this is a podcast episode I shouldn't be making in America.

Reagan will be with you in a moment.

There's an underground network of uncensored writing coming out of the Soviet Union and the Kremlin doesn't like it a bit. I'll be right back.

Samizdat is a Russian word meaning self-publishers and it represents a tiny but potent voice of opposition to the Soviet Union's repression of its citizens. Modern day Soviet dissidents coined the phrase for a practice they've picked up from the days of Tsarist censorship. They use it to circumvent the efficient Soviet censorship system. It involves circulating uncensored material privately usually in the form of manuscripts. The material ranges from poetry to trial proceedings and includes memoirs, historical accounts, fiction, protest statements, and news accounts of the increasingly harsh treatment the Soviet government accords its political prisoners.

Some of this material makes its way out of the Soviet Union and thanks to the work of an energetic California woman, Olga Stacevich, it is seeing the light of day. Mrs. Stacevich and her husband edit the Samizdat Bulletin, which is a collection of smuggled samizdat material. The Soviet government which can't tolerate free speech, or any other form of dissidence for that matter, doesn't take the samizdat lightly. In his recent book "Samizdat: The Voices of the Soviet Opposition," George Saunders says quote "the struggle in the Soviet Union in recent years has been centered around samizdat to a great extent. Most of the trials have been aimed at intimidating dissidents involved in producing or circulation of uncensored literature. The most prominent figures among the oppositionists have relied on the samizdat network in their battle for free speech, freedom of the press, and basic democratic rights." Unquote.

Since 1973 Mrs. Stacevich and her husband have published 21 editions of the Samizdat Bulletin. They've worked as volunteers in the project which is non-profit and they've had to do it on a shoestring. The bulletins make fascinating, and sometimes chilling, reading. Among the writings from the Soviet Union that they've brought to light is a portion of a diary covering a month-long strike of political prisoners in a concentration camp, there's a letter from political prisoners detailing their conditions, little food, little warm clothing, no visits from relatives and no correspondence permitted. And there's an open letter to Senator Henry Jackson from Russian scientist V.P. Turchin entitled the Soviet system is in dire need of evolution. The Samizdat Bulletin is a beacon of light for those in the U.S.S.R. who share our love for human freedom. If you'd like to subscribe and thereby help spread the words of these gallant Soviet writers, drop me a line here at the station and I'll forward it to Mrs. Stacevich.

This is Ronald Reagan. Thanks for listening.

The Samizdat Bulletin ran 187 volumes, from 1973 until 1990 from what I can track down. The Hathi Trust Digital Library has records from numerous college libraries covering these years, but none of the materials are available online to be read. That is disappointing. I think it would be interesting reading.

Several now famous writings were first circulated as samizdat, with the novel Doctor Zhivago and Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago being a couple of the more famous. The American-written book Exodus by Leon Uris was translated into Russian and distributed via samizdat. Poetry was also common, but don't think the contents of samizdat was always like that. To go along with the Western-style rock and roll that was forced underground, there were samizdat rock magazines that could be found at those concerts.

Samizdat was not limited to print materials. Rudimentary records could be cut using old x-rays and phonograph needles before cassette tapes. Early on, creating samizdat was difficult. Only so many carbons could be used at one time in a typewriter. And if there are any young people listening to this who don’t know what a carbon is, be curious and look it up! Then, after the Xerox machine started to appear, illicit documents could be printed that way. In some cases, people would make use of mainframe computers after hours to produce many copies. If you were really lucky, you know a book binder who could create a semi-professional book for you.

But, producing samizdat could be dangerous. There is an urban legend that the KGB held typeface samples from all the different brands of typewriters available, allowing them to track down who typed what, should they find a piece of offending material. My research shows they only held samples from typewriter companies owned by the State. Private companies were not required to provide samples, though who knew there were private companies in the Soviet Union? That may be a question for another time. However, this did lead to people purchasing typewriters from other countries. The State put a great deal of effort into censorship and preventing anything that contradicted the official party line. Over a 30 year period, over 8000 people were convicted for distributing samizdat, and its cousin tamizdat, materials. Tamizdat, with a 'T', were writings that were exported to another country for publication, then re-imported into the Soviet Union.

I would love to be able to track down one of these documents Reagan mentions, but his descriptions are rather non-specific, except for the open letter. Doesn't mean I'm having any success finding it or any other samizdat, at least in a digital form online! In addition to the college libraries with the Samizdat Bulletin, there are a variety of samizdat documents available for purchase on eBay. A couple interesting items I found that, if I were employed I might be interested in purchasing, are Polish translations of a couple short stories by Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury, hand typed and drawn, reminding me of the original Siegel and Shuster "Reign of the Super-man" short story they created in 1933.

V.P. Turchin is Valentin Turchin, a Russian physicist and computer programmer. Turchin would get political in the 1960s and his first samizdat would be "published" in 1968. As a result, his research lab was taken away. He would eventually found the Moscow branch of Amnesty International, which further raised the ire of the KGB. Concerned about being imprisoned, his family left the Soviet Union in 1977 and came to New York. He passed away in 2010.

So, why did I choose this broadcast and what was I talking about when I opened? A movement has been growing for a number of years. It started slowly, but it feels like it's growth has increased significantly in the last 9 months to a year, and it's starting to rack up victims. Call it the cancel culture, wokeness, political correctness or censorship. The sticky thing about it is how it's being done. Unlike in the Soviet Union, it's not being done by the government, at least not explicitly. People are being thrown out of the virtual public square. Books are being censored, banned or removed from publishing by their owners because a vocal minority of the population believes they are hurtful to some other minority. For example, the recent decision (as of this recording) to stop publishing six Dr. Seuss books. The company has every right to choose what to do with its books, but I personally believe that bowing to the pressure of a politically motivated minority is foolish and, ultimately, serves no one.

School districts are a frequent offender of book banning. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Catcher in the Rye, The Lorax (Yes, The Lorax was banned in the Pacific Northwest due to its anti-logging stance).

Democracy in America,
new revised edition on left,
1st edition on right.

Another, more pernicious act, though, is the abridgement or the intellectual reinterpretation of old books. Booker T. Washington's autobiography Up From Slavery, in its latest editions, is being labeled a work of fiction. Recent editions of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America are a fraction of the length of its first edition due to abridgement.

Landmarks are being changed. Statues are being removed. Schools, roads, highways, etc. are being renamed. Flags are being changed. It started with statues of figures of the Confederacy, but quickly shifted to statues of any old, white man of prominence. Some of these statues were taken down by mobs, but others were removed by local, state or the federal government, fearing the statues would be removed by force. In my personal opinion, even the statues of bad people should stay up. They should be held up as an example of how not to be.

People, also, suffer from the wrath of the mob, often unjustly, but again, the actions taken are not taken by the government. ESPN editor Anthony Federico, was fired over a headline. Actress Gina Carano was removed from a hit TV show over a meme, while her co-star Pedro Pascal made a similar comparison several years earlier and saw no ramifications. Film director James Gunn was canceled over old tweets, but then reinstated due to significant backlash from the actors he had worked with.

One might think, due to the highly decentralized nature of the Internet that censorship would be difficult and, in some respects, it is. But the size of the Internet also acts as a double-edged sword. Yes, as large as it is, you can find anything you might want, but, due to that size you can’t do much of anything without a powerful search engine to sift through it. That search engine has the power to censor thought by steering search results in one direction or another. Psychologist Robert Epstein has been studying Google’s impact on the U.S. elections for a number of years. Facebook and Twitter use similar means, not necessarily through search results, to promote or stifle thought or stories. The vaunted "algorithm" is blamed, but who wrote the algorithm? People, people who may have biases.

Will we arrive at a time where samizdat is necessary in the United States? Boy, I hope not. Probably not. I think you’ll see more significant pushback against censorship, whether from the government or not before we get to that point. We in the United States have a strong background of freedom, which is why I believe this pushback would happen. However, surveys and polls continue to appear which show that the younger generations are more likely to support censorship.

Does the Internet make samizdat easier to distribute? Distribute, yes. The near infinite ability to duplicate files makes distribution very easy. Finding the samizdat, as noted a moment ago when discussing search engines and algorithms, may not necessarily be easy, if we got to the point of needing it. Another concern, though, of digital files is the ease with which they can be manipulated. Any file not coming from its original source would have a degree of suspicion. A physical samizdat document would be either: easy to see it has been edited or would have to be painstakingly rewritten to hide the alterations. Except in some specific instances, alterations to a digital file leave no traces.

What can be done if society continues in this direction? I've heard people talk about creating a second internet. If that's a secondary collection of servers for hosting, perhaps that becomes necessary in the future, but I wouldn't consider that an immediate concern. I don't see the running of new fiber backbones as part of the plan. I believe personal hosting or network attached storage and peer-to-peer networking would be part of any digital samizdat circulation effort. An informal network of printer terminals around the country would also allow for the rapid dissemination of printed materials.

Right now, there are a few things that can be done. First, have physical copies. Amazon can't pull a book off your shelf in your home as easily as it can pull a digital book off your Kindle. Those things that only existed digitally, back them up or print them out or both. Download articles and files from the internet. Burn them to a CD, DVD or bluray.

Before I close, let me say a little about Amazon books. If you've been following my podcast from the beginning, you know I digitalize, restore and sell old books on Amazon. I also spent my share of time in my previous job supporting Overdrive, the book loaning service. Yes, Amazon can and does delete books off your Kindle for a few reasons, but they can only do so if they know you have it and if your Kindle is online. If you acquired a book via some other means and sideload it onto your Kindle, Amazon has no record of it and can't delete it from your device. I believe this would be true for Barnes and Noble and Apple books as well. If you turn off the wireless on your Kindle, Amazon has no way to communicate what files may or may not need to be deleted or updated. This is also handy if you need a couple extra days to finish that e-book you borrowed from Overdrive.

The trends certainly feel like they are going in the wrong direction concerning the freedom of expression. Can it be reversed? Only if the people step up.

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