What’s Going on at Moscow on the Merrimack’s Senior Center?

No Insight on Why Majority of Manchester Senior Services Commissioners Resigned Their Seats — OPINION

MANCHESTER, NH — People viewing the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s January 19th meeting found out that a majority of the Senior Commission’s Board of Directors had resigned. They would not have found out why.

Manchester’s Senior Services Commission meets at the Cashin Senior Activity Center

Readers of the New Hampshire Union Leader or manchesterinklink.com have not been informed of this remarkable development. The majority of members of any commission resigned likely would be news in any other community other than “Moscow on the Merrimack.”

Moscow on the Merrimack

Why do I dub the Queen City “Moscow on the Hudson”? Is it because I find that the lack of information on the goings on in Manchester’s government makes it seem as transparent as the old Union of Soviet Socialist Republics? Is it because the main local marketers of information — members in good standing of what is, constitutionally speaking, a free press — ultimately prove less informative then the old Soviet rags Izvestia (“News”) and Pravda (“Truth”).

During the Cold War era, there was a joke inside the American intelligence community about official Soviet media: “There’s no news in Izvesti and no truth in Pravda.”)

“Don’t Talk!” a WWII Soviet poster counsels in the fight for the “Glory of Russia”

Once there was a discipline called “Sovietology” where Westerners attempted to read what actually was going on in the USSR by interpreting what was said and through what was being unsaid. Of what was said, they sought to identify rhetorical patterns in order to ascertain what was being covered up. It was also known as Kremlinology.a

During the Cold War, lack of reliable information about the country forced Western analysts to “read between the lines” and to use the tiniest tidbits, such as the removal of portraits, the rearranging of chairs, positions at the reviewing stand for parades in Red Square, the choice of capital or small initial letters in phrases such as “First Secretary,” the arrangement of articles on the pages of the party newspaper Pravda and other indirect signs to try to understand what was happening in internal Soviet politics.

— Excerpt from Wikipedia article on Kremlinology

Many Western political scientists not hooked on anti-communism were of the belief that the Soviet Union was not as throughly a totalitarian state as was Hitler’s Nazi Germany, although the millions of victims of Stalin’s 1930s purges might disagree with such an assessment. The Stalinist suppression of news was an art in itself, practiced at its crudest level in George Orwell’s character Winston Smith in 1984.

Stalinist practices included rewriting history, a type of revision that entailed the doctoring of photographs to eliminate “Enemies of the People” eliminated by the Stalinists.

Be that true of false, press censorship was so thorough, that Soviet censors and the handlers of Western journalists during World War Two could not imagine the writers as anything other than agents of their government.

When Western journalists pleaded with their Soviet censors to allow them to report on the USSR on the basis that their piece would be their opinion and understood it as such, the Soviets refused. They reasoned that, with their strict censorship, anything that came out of that theater would be assumed to have the official approval of the USSR.

Press coverage of the Eastern front was abysmal, as the Soviet foe, Nazi Germany, had no free press either. The truth about huge stories such as the Siege of Leningrad weren’t known until the war was over, or in the case of the Battle of Kursk, the biggest tank battle in history that broke the Germans in the East, for decades.

“Nothing of Consequence Happened”

In the 1975 book The First Casualty, Phillip Knightley related how Soviet Citizens practiced their own version of “Kremlinology.” Subtitled From the Crimea to Vietnam: The War Correspondent as Hero, Propagandist and Myth Maker, Knightley wrote that all private radios were confiscated after the June 1941 Nazi invasion of the USSR. Thus, and most people learned of the “news” from bulletins broadcast over loudspeakers during “The Great Patriotic War” (1941–45).

These were official “communiques” issued by the government. Just as Western observers had done before them, Soviet citizens learned to read between the lines, too.

“….[S]ince the communiques were complied by non-literary figures of limited creative ability and with strong bureaucratic tendencies, the same phrases begam to recur, and it did not take the Soviet citien long to work out hte nuances….”

The word “direction” in a communique such as “Fighting in the direction” of a city, meant that the city already had been captured by the Nazis.

“‘Heavy defense battles against superior enemy forces’ was the worst possible news, and meant that the Russians were in full retreat; a ‘complex’ situation was one of utmost gravity; ‘nothing of consequence happened’ could mean that nothing had happened or that there was nothing that military leaders were prepared to talk about.”

Apparently, the resignation of three of the five Commissioners who handle senior affairs in the Queen City was a matter of no consequence.

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