Project Censored spotlights the news that’s most underreported, misrepresented or ignored by MSM
Published: November 14, 2012
On the cover of the most recent book produced by Project Censored is a photo of protesting college students in California getting pepper sprayed by a cop. The shot is framed in such a way that much of the focus is on the spectators holding their cell phone cameras up to capture images of the assault.
In a way, the picture captures something essential about Project Censored: the idea that journalism can be pried from the grip of corporate media and democratized.
That philosophy has driven the project since its launch at California's Sonoma State University in 1976. In the years since then, the nonprofit effort has grown to include contributors from around the world who submit stories they believe have been "underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the U.S. corporate media," as the project's website words it.
Gone are the days when people clipped stories from publications found outside the mainstream and mailed them into Project Censored, where students would research their validity and professors would verify the results. Now, the Internet allows information to be shared instantly.
But discerning what's credible and what's not is perhaps more difficult than ever. So is finding important stories that can be lost in the tidal wave of information found on the Web.
It is not a foolproof process. As seen in this year's No. 3 story — about the health threat in the United States associated with fallout from the Fukishima nuclear reactor disaster in Japan — claims that wither when exposed to greater scrutiny can make it into the list.
In the end though, says Project Censored Associate Director Andy Lee Roth, the emphasis remains on promoting wider public awareness of events, issues and actions that would otherwise remain on the margins.
It's up to Project Censored's team of interns and scores of other college students, both at Sonoma State and affiliated campuses across the country, to help narrow the nominations that flood in. The project allows them to develop what Roth calls "media literacy," and in the process, a sharpening of critical thinking skills.
With the publication of the annual Project Censored book each year, the constantly updated website, and a weekly show on Pacifica Radio stations, the goal is to move that information from academia to the broader public.
"What we are trying to do is expand the spectrum of legitimate debate," Roth explains.
Look at this year's list and then ask yourself when you last saw the mainstream throwing a spotlight on such issues as the expansion of presidential powers and the police state, and the threat that expansion poses to civil liberties. Or the effect global warming is having on the world's oceans, or the macro-economic risks posed by having a relatively small number of multinational corporations controlling much of the world's wealth.
Roth points to a quote from journalist Walter Lippmann (included in this year's edition of Project Censored's book) regarding the importance of substantial journalism in an industry often dominated by fluff and nonsense: "All that the sharpest critics of democracy have alleged is true if there is no steady supply of trustworthy and relevant news. ... No one can manage anything on pap. Neither can a people."
But it's not always bad news that gets eclipsed. Sometimes it is positive stories that get shunted to the margins, such as this year's story No. 7, about the growing popularity of worker-owned cooperative businesses springing up around the world.
If Project Censored proves anything, it's that no matter how well informed you may think you are, there's always something new to be learned.
What follows are the Top 10 of this year's Top 25 most censored stories. Much of the info is taken from Project Censored itself. In addition, supplemental coverage has been provided by the San Francisco Bay Guardian and California's North Coast Journal.
1. Signs of a growing police state
Since the passage of the 2001 PATRIOT Act, the United States has become increasingly monitored and militarized at the expense of civil liberties. The 2012 passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) has allowed the military to detain indefinitely without trial any U.S. citizen that the government labels a terrorist or an accessory to terrorism, while President Barack Obama has signed an executive order authorizing widespread federal and military control of the national economy and resources during "emergency and non-emergency conditions."
Journalist Chris Hedges, along with co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, won a case challenging the NDAA's indefinite detention clause on Sept. 1, when a federal judge blocked its enforcement. But her ruling was overturned on Oct. 3, so the clause is back.
Sources: Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman, "Read the FBI Memo: Agents Can 'Suspend the Law,'" Wired, March 28, 2012; James Bamford, "The NSA Is Building the Country's Biggest Spy Center (Watch What You Say)," Wired, March 15, 2012; Chris Hedges, "Why I'm Suing Barack Obama," Truthdig, Jan. 16, 2012
2. Oceans in peril
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