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The Polish “Second Circulation” and Protecting Free Speech in America

Posted on Friday, March 10, 2023
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by Ben Solis
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AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis

Polish

The biting chill of winter swept through the Polish city of Gdansk in December 1981 as two figures, a man and a small boy dressed in long, dark coats, moved quickly through the streets, avoiding any light. They stole away to the basement of a nondescript apartment building and entered a small room. The boy moved a printing press from the wall and the man filled it with fresh paint.

“Good Lord, help us to reach those who need it,” they prayed. Then both moved the copying drum with a knob.

On the drum was a small magazine with an essay, “Live Not By Lies,” by Russian writer Alexander Solzhenitsyn. It was a criticism of conformism, a temptation common in communist systems.

“Let us each make a choice,” Solzhenitsyn wrote, “whether to remain consciously a servant of falsehood (of course, it is not out of inclination but to feed one’s family that one raises one’s children in the spirit of lies), or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect from one’s children and contemporaries.”

It took a few days for the boy to drop the illegal leaflet on the window ledge at the medical center, the movie theater, the gas station, and wherever people would stop longer than five minutes. No one knew about his mission except his father.

In a few years, their country would regain its freedom after nearly four decades of occupation. Throughout these long years of struggle, the Polish people and many others behind the Iron Curtain fought back against the Soviet propaganda machine through small acts of rebellion like this.

Their combined efforts were known as the “Second Circulation,” a parallel to the regime’s “approved” narratives and censorship activities. All culture-creating and educational content independent of the regime, including information conferences, secret scientific courses, secret meetings of discussion clubs, theater performances, music concerts, and amateur radio stations constituted the Second Circulation.

Hundreds of amateur news distributors like the one operated by the Polish father and his son in December 1981 printed leaflets and even small magazines. They played a pivotal role in keeping hope alive behind the Iron Curtain and combatting the Soviet regime’s ideological warfare.

But censorship and government propaganda did not die with the fall of the USSR. Indeed, it merely went underground, resurfacing in less extreme but perhaps more insidious versions around the world.

In the United States, the COVID-19 pandemic showed how powerful censorship can be even in a free and independent country. Under the pretenses of a “global emergency,” elites censored all dissenting views and forced their narrative on the people. Only now are we learning many ugly truths about the virus and the failures of the government’s response to it.

COVID-19 censorship in the United States also came toward the end of a four-year stretch in which the media and the Democrat Party colluded to push a number of false narratives in order to hamper the presidency of Donald Trump, from the “Russiagate” scandal to the first impeachment hoax. In both these cases, anyone who dissented from the established mainstream narrative was branded as a “conspiracy theorist” and “extremist.”

Like the Poles under communism, Americans today are facing a threat to their ability to exchange opinions on crucial matters of importance to their daily lives. Many mainstream media “journalists” in the United States today are the direct successors of Soviet journalists who served particular groups and regularly broadcast lies as the truth.

Defenders of free speech in the United States and the rest of the world today can still look to the principles that motivated the Poles to resist the Soviet censorship regime: self-realization, determination, patience, and a firm conviction in victory.

The power of the internet and social media, while often weaponized by Big Tech monopolies to silence free speech, is still a powerful tool to promulgate honest debate and the exchange of ideas. Newsletters shared between friends can take the place of home printing presses. If ten people share a story with ten more people, who each then pass it on to ten more, one small act of rebellion against the establishment can snowball into a movement that counters the power of the corporate media.

Thankfully, Americans today don’t have to worry (yet) about being thrown in prison for publishing a story claiming that the COVID-19 virus escaped from a lab in China or that Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings are worth investigating.

But the best way to prevent the creeping authoritarianism of the state and mainstream media is to continue to call out their hypocrisy and lies, much as the Poles did so many years ago. As Solzhenitsyn wrote on the cover of that brochure the Polish boy illegally distributed in December 1981, “when truth is replaced by silence, that silence is a lie.”

Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian, and researcher.

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John Bass
John Bass
1 year ago

It only works, when after knowing about the lies, we do something about it and don’t let them continue to get away with telling the lies. There needs to be consequences for every rule broken and for every lie…otherwise it will continue.

anna hubert
anna hubert
1 year ago

The best start to change the course would be a clean election Is there a hope for that? doubt it What we have right now is a corruption on every level ,rot so deep that it can be compared to absolute tzarist rule The vital component if we are to survive is press We all know where that in general stands

William Egert
William Egert
1 year ago

Correct information about this administration’s scandals still needs to reach more Americans. It is indeed food for thought. I am pessimistic about the future of free speech in this country. We saw how many stood to defend it during the pandemic and what percentage believed the administration colluded with censors or even ordered them.

Joanne
Joanne
1 year ago

Another part of this scandal is that our taxes pay for this censorship, BigTech surveillance. I wonder how many voters realize it.
The idea of installing censors is sinister enough.
In a way, I think we already have something like the “Second Circulation.” Fox censored CPAC and rarely if ever, these days reports on Trump. Newsmax is still there, but I wonder how long they will survive Biden’s pressure. AMAC is very helpful.

Bob Young
Bob Young
1 year ago

Fox surprised me by canceling the broadcast of Trump’s speech. They are still a factor in the Conservative movement, but fortunately, their influence is weakening. It was an example of a silencing attempt and obstruction of our political discussion. It has always been a tactic of the mainstream media, but now our outlet also follows this path. How many Americans watched Trump’s speech? Does he, as a presidential candidate, not deserve honest reporting? I know it is a rhetorical question. But not rhetoric is a question of whether the media has the right to censor news about this campaign.

Ron
Ron
1 year ago

Under W. Bush, media censorship was already visible. Americans hardly learned some truth about the Iraqi war. NYT and Washington Post effectively prevented truthful reporting on this war, portraying it as a failure. A few days ago Iraqi President thanked Americans for liberation from Saddam’s occupation. He said that most Iraqis are thankful for that. Did you hear about it anywhere? No? It is because reporters follow narratives rewarding current political class.

Under Obama, they turned into Soviet radio, praising their Dear Leader on every occasion. Under Trump, they again deprived Americans of information about what President was saying and doing. Now, we have a repeat of Obama plus intrusive censorship of our talks online.
The suggestion to focus on building something like that 2nd Circulation is correct. A newsletter for friends does not cost anything but may help.

Jude
Jude
1 year ago

I was actively involved in building support for Reagan, beginning with his speech on behalf of Goldwater. Then it was not easy, but it seems like it has become even worse today.

How many subjects are media censored? Also, how much freedom one has to discuss such issues as the war in Ukraine? I won’t express my opinion but only stress that automatically one gets labeled “warmonger” or “pro-Putin.” Can you discuss fundamental issues freely? I concluded that it was almost impossible.

Pat
Pat
1 year ago

Apathy. It is the biggest enemy now. The second is triumphalism and viciousness towards opponents. They will be aggressive, but we need to be kind and patient. As someone who commented here, I had a friend who was involved in the first Reagan campaign. She told me that you would win with kindness, kindness, and patience.  

But as people said here, it is time to build local support for Trump. The atmosphere in the country must make media attempts to report falsities redundant. At one point, they will realize that turning into a lying machine is not an option for them. But the support for Trump needs to be rock solid. If not us, who would start to build it?
I appreciate this idea of the newsletter. I will share it with my friends. Thanks, AMAC, that you exist.

John
John
1 year ago

The same can be said about using the incorrect terms. Socialism is really Communism or Fascism, call it that. So called Journalists are really Propaganda spreaders. Same with media, Propaganda. We need to stop using the soft terms of a violent and aggressive movement.

S
S
1 year ago

“if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.”
‭‭2 Chronicles‬ ‭7‬:‭14‬ ‭ESV‬‬
bible.com/bible/59/2ch.7.14.ESV

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