Behind the blinders
Finding the 10 most underreported stories of the last year
Published: October 6, 2010
The world was a different place in 1976 when Carl Jensen, a professor of communications at Sonoma State University, founded Project Censored to highlight important national news stories that were underreported or outright ignored by the mainstream press.
Back then, there were few good alternatives to television networks or major newspapers and magazines, and stories omitted from those channels usually escaped public notice. There was no such thing as Google News, no one had ever heard of a blog, and the word "twitter" was associated with birds or gossip. So it was up to Project Censored to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of the news by delivering an annual rundown of the Top 25 most significant articles that hadn't been widely distributed.
But even if the corporate media was censoring important information back then, today's highly fragmented media world has opened the floodgates to endless news and propaganda of every possible variety, leaving citizens awash in more information than they can possibly process.
The shared American narrative and agenda disappeared as the Internet boomed and newspapers shrank. While major media outlets have been consolidated into the hands of fewer corporations and the once-stable media industry has been in flux, the general public has splintered into factions that seem to reside in disparate realities.
Yet the public is playing a bigger role than ever. Blogs abound, and nearly anyone can spark a public outcry by capturing egregious behavior on film with a cell phone. Thanks to a team of hackers who know a thing or two about encryption technology, WikiLeaks has emerged as a wild card of the new media landscape by cutting loose thousands of classified government documents and airing military footage never intended for a mass audience.
It's a brave new world of media consumption, but Project Censored's mission hasn't really changed. More than ever, people need help sifting through this cacophony to figure out what they truly need to know.
For 35 years, the project has distributed its Censored list nationwide to shed light on the top stories not brought to you by the mainstream press. These days, stories are submitted, researched by students, filtered through LexisNexis to determine which outlets have covered them, and then voted on by a team of judges. An international network of 30 colleges and universities contributes to the project, and volunteers from around the world submit stories for consideration. At the end of each project cycle, the work is released in a compendium.
Current Project Censored Director Mickey Huff, a history professor at Diablo Valley College who sports a long ponytail and a pointy beard and talks at an excited pace, uses air quotes when saying the phrase "news decisions" because his concern is censorship. But how does he define censorship?
"There are many factors afoot that prevent stories from getting reported," he says. "What we're saying is that anything that interferes with a free flow of information is censorship. It's not the blacking out of a story, it's the framing of a story. It's the angle. It's what views are being left out. In old-school 'objective journalism,' you're supposed to get both sides of the story. Yeah, well, sometimes there are six sides."
With that in mind, here this year's list of Top 10 censored stories.
1) Dethroning the dollar?
Since the financial meltdown of 2008 sent a jarring ripple effect throughout the global economy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been talking up the idea of an international market that doesn't use the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency. The dollar now enjoys the status of the predominant anchor currency held in foreign exchange reserves, securing the United States' strategic economic position.
In July 2009, at the Group of Eight Summit in Italy, Medvedev underscored his call for a newly conceived "united future world currency" when he pulled a sample coin from his pocket and showed it off to heads of state, the Bloomberg news service reported. At a conference in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in June 2009, world leaders from Brazil, India and China listened as Medvedev made his case for a new global currency system anchored on something other than the dollar, according to an article in The Christian Science Monitor .
Additionally, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) suggested in a report that the present system of using the dollar as the world's reserve currency should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration, according to an article in the Telegraph , a British newspaper.
Michael Hudson, an author and professor of economics at the University of Missouri, links discussions about an alternative global reserve currency with U.S. military spending. Referencing Medvedev's calls for a "multipolar world order," Hudson offers this translation: "What this means in plain English is: We have reached our limit in subsidizing the United States' military encirclement of Eurasia while also allowing the U.S. to appropriate our exports, companies, stocks and real estate in exchange for paper money of questionable worth."
2) Polluter No. 1: U.S. Department of Defense
The U.S. military burns through 320,000 barrels of oil a day, Sara Flounders of the International Action Center reports, but that tally doesn't factor in fuel consumed by contractors or the energy and resources used to produce bombs, grenades, missiles or other weapons employed by the Department of Defense.
By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products — yet it has a blanket exemption in commitments made by the U.S. to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Despite its status as top polluter, the Department of Defense received little attention in December 2009 during talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
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