about the Soviet Union

I’d like to continue the discussion this week by picking up these threads in the reading about the Soviet Union. The reading discussed the influence of U.S. international broadcasting on dissent in the Soviet Union. In contrast with U.S. domestic broadcasts, Voice of America radio was sponsored by the U.S. government (including, secretly, the C.I.A.) to undermine the Soviet regime. Given our reservations about state-sponsored domestic media, are we comfortable with states using (or jamming) international media this way? Or do different rules apply?

The reading also describes the importance of self-publishing and samizdat literature to the intellectual life of post-War Soviet Russia and argues the importance of carbon paper to the fall of the Soviet government. I was struck by how samizdat and magnitizdat materials also spread through — and gained power through — social networks. In this sense, being offered the chance to read a samizdat manuscript by a friend was the opposite of radio broadcasting.

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In the discussion board up to this point, several people grappled with the power of radio, what was called the “godlike voice” of this medium that whispered into people’s ears for hours on end. Some suggested that audiences may be more sophisticated today, and so less swayed by radio. I would like to point out that talk radio remains an important medium in the U.S. and elsewhere, and radio personalities like Rush Limbaugh still attract audiences in the millions for hours-long daily broadcasts. This recent opinion piece in the New York Times talks about the overwhelming support for President Trump on talk radio: https://nyti.ms/2SFJqYc

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