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Solzhenitsyn in his Harvard Address, 1978

The press, too, of course, enjoys the widest freedom. (I shall be using the word ‘press’ to include all the media.) But what use does it make of it?

Here again, the overriding concern is not to infringe the letter of the law. There is no true moral responsibility for distortion or disproportion. What sort of responsibility does a journalist or a newspaper have to the readership or to history? If they have misled public opinion by inaccurate information or wrong conclusions, even if they have contributed to mistakes on a state level, do we know of any case of open regret voiced by the same journalist or the same newspaper? No; this would damage sales. A nation may be the worse for such a mistake, but the journalist always gets away with it. It is most likely that he will start writing the exact opposite to his previous statements with renewed aplomb.

Because instant and credible information is required, it becomes necessary to resort to guesswork, rumors, and suppositions to fill in the voids, and none of them will ever be refuted; they settle into the readers’ memory. How many hasty, immature, superficial, and misleading judgments are expressed everyday, confusing readers, and then left hanging?

The press can act the role of public opinion or miseducate it. Thus we may see terrorists heroized, or secret matters pertaining to the nation’s defense publicly revealed, or we may witness shameless intrusion into the privacy of well-known people according to the slogan ‘Everyone is entitled to know everything.’ (But this is a false slogan of a false era; far greater in value is the forfeited right of people not to know, not to have their divine souls stuffed with gossip, nonsense, vain talk. A person who works and leads a meaningful life has no need for this excessive and burdening flow of information.)

Hastiness and superficiality — these are the psychic diseases of the twentieth century and more than anywhere else this is manifested in the press. In-depth analysis of a problem is anathema to the press; it is contrary to its nature. The press merely picks out sensational formulas.

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One thought on “Solzhenitsyn in his Harvard Address, 1978

  1. My-my! That was the speech showing that SoLZHEnitsin himself (who, being a hypocrite, was not averse to stuff his own “immortal” works of fiction with “gossip, nonsense, vain talk”) realized, that after “escaping” the Mordor of the USSR he didn’t land up in the blessed Valinor, that the ubiquitous “300 different types of sausages” ™ didn’t translate into the democracy.

    But he was immediately forgiven by his gracious hosts for calling in this same speech for the nuclear strikes against the USSR.

    And year later he completely rehabilitated his unreachably high status of the handshakable person and the Conscience of the Nation, when in the interview to the Italian paper he claimed that Stalin repressed “110 millions of Russians” (c). As he said – “let you live not by a lie” (“жить надо не по лжи”).

    The thing is – the liberal democracy of the West is obliged to be immoral. Ought to be. Why? Because moral has no place in it. The chief imperative of any “liberal” development is in elimination of all possible restrictions to the individual. The key idea of such states – “everything not forbidden is permissible”. And the next logical step here – to make as much stuff non-forbidden as possible.

    So, yes, with the sacred cow of the “Free and Independent Press” it is impossible in fact to make them responsible and stick to the ugly, boring facts. And because moral stance voiced by Solzhenitsin is completely non-binding (and, as I mentioned before – totally hypocritical) it’s useless and serves only self-aggrandizement of the “better than thou” type.

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