Under the Counter

If Only Samizdat Writers Had the Internet!

You've seen the word samizdat. It's a compound of two Russian words: sam (self, by oneself) and izdat (abbreviation for izdatel'stvo, publishing house), so it means "self-­published."

Self-publishing has been around for a long time, even before the invention of the printing press, but only certain individuals could afford to do it. Today, most people think of self-publishing as a new feature of our open market society; that is, anyone can affordably publish his books without an outside publisher. Self-publishing has become much easier with the advent of personal computers, publishing software, and cheap printing-on-demand. Authors who can't find a publisher willing to publish and market their books can now do it themselves.

However, in the former Soviet Union, the self-published work, the samizdat, was a dangerous venture for authors who could not get their works published openly because of Soviet censorship. The distribution of any unapproved writings, even giving a single copy to a friend, risked the author's arrest and imprisonment.

Samidzat periodicals, articles, and books were usually published without printing presses. Most manuscripts were produced and copied by hand or by using typewriters and carbon paper. The distribution of these writings had to be secretive, underground, away from the searching eyes of the KGB.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn played cat-and-mouse with the KGB while typewritten installments of his blockbuster exposé of Soviet sins, The Gulag Archipelago, were squirreled away in and shuttled between the apartments of sympathizers. Eventually, a manuscript of the Gulag was smuggled to the West, where it was published, and all hell broke loose, including the permanent exile of Solzhenitsyn from the Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union had newspapers—Isvestia (News) and Pravda (Truth)—but they merely promoted the communist party line. (An old Soviet joke went that there was no news in Isvestia and no truth in Pravda.) Any counter-press existed only through samizdat.

Our Minority Report

While we have freedom of the press here in the West, the mainstream media (MSM) has rapidly abandoned journalism and adopted an ideological agenda. A single politically incorrect tweet or social media comment can result in a demotion or even the loss of one's job. Just as Soviet propaganda was all about advancing the revolution, today's MSM does not care about what is true but about protecting its agenda.

So objective journalism has disappeared from the Left and been replaced by journal-activism, produced by journal-activists. Not everyone in the MSM is literally an activist, but to keep one's job, one must adhere to the party line, and in so doing support the agenda of the MSM.

You could, for example, lose your job for expressing support for genuine marriage or for opposing transgender ideology. The MSM, along with academia, has wide influence and powers, so publishing politically incorrect ideas can require courage and patience, as well as the support of like-minded collaborators.

Salvo editors and writers do not risk arrest and imprisonment, but we clearly oppose many of the views of the MSM and the academy. We do not have to go underground, but we are a minority report, a precious supply-line of facts, true stories, and sane arguments with which to confound the errors of our society.

But Salvo is only published every three months. That's not often enough, given the daily stream of falsehoods flowing from the Left. So we are pleased to announce that the volume of Salvo's reporting is now being increased by regular blog posts on our website. Read the introduction at salvomag.com/post/welcome-to-the-salvo-blog and then find the posts at https://salvomag.com/posts.

Salvo is an alternative press, backed only by our subscribers and generous donors. Join the collaborators, and remember that there is no need to hide your copies—share them widely!

is the executive editor of Salvo and the  Director of Publications for the Fellowship of St. James.

This article originally appeared in Salvo, Issue #51, Winter 2019 Copyright © 2024 Salvo | www.salvomag.com https://salvomag.com/article/salvo51/under-the-counter


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