Comparison of self-censorship in Soviet Czechoslovakia and in the USA today

Old Blog Import

Today, nobody has any doubts that the state-controlled media in the former Soviet bloc countries were bombarding millions of people with simplifications, half-truths and outright lies.

…There were no gulags in Czechoslovakia in the sixties and seventies, no concentration camps, no torture chambers. Those who crossed the line by choosing honesty and professionalism were not kidnapped. Parents of dissidents were not tortured before their eyes. There were no extra-judicial executions (unlike in our colonies in, say, Central America). Those who decided to tell the truth simply lost their jobs, became unemployable or were forced to become manual workers or window washers. Only a few of those who decided to stand against the system were imprisoned. They included several dissidents, among them Vaclav Havel.

…Some twenty years later, the situation is not so different in my adoptive homeland – the United States. If we decide to tell the truth, to write about the lies and manipulation of our government, to challenge the very essence of our system, we are not risking kidnapping, torture or assassination. We will still be able to wake up in the morning in our own bed, to drink a cup of coffee at the corner coffee shop, to take a walk. But our lives may nevertheless change dramatically. Chances are that we will encounter evasive answers from otherwise friendly editors of the magazines that we were used to write for periodically, and the number of work related emails will dramatically decrease. Soon, we will have to look for another job. We will still be able to write for progressive publications (one major difference from the situation in the former Soviet bloc), but it will not bring in enough funds to pay for our rent in cities like New York or Boston.

Posted on ZMag, and also over at the NoWarBlog.