Thursday, February 01, 2018

Censored in 2017

Since 1976, Sonoma State University’s Project Censored has challenged the news media to meet their First Amendment responsibilities. Annually the Project compiles a volume of news stories “underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored in the United States.” Media critic Mark Crispin Miller once said this about Project Censored: 

“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts.

Project Censored is famous for its nontraditional understanding of censorship, defining it as "anything that interfered with the free flow of information in a society that purports to have a free press." They argue that censorship includes not just stories that were never published, but also "those that got such restricted distribution that few in the public are likely to know about them." I would argue further that modern censorship occurs when the corporate press allows itself to be exploited by privileging elite narratives that benefit established powers and deflect from information, argument, and testimony that expose the rot at the core of that establishment. 
Censored 2018: Press Freedoms in a "Post-Truth" World (Sven Stories Press) identifies what a panel of judges considered as the  top-25 most censored stories of 2016/17. The top 5: 

5.  Big Data and Dark Money Behind the 2016 election.  On how extreme right-wing hedge fund manager Robert Mercer (who opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act) provided the critical funding necessary to prop up Donald Trump's "populist" revolution. 

4.  Voter Suppression in the 2016 Presidential Election. On how the impact of Shelby County v. Holder (the 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted the 1965 Voting Rights Act on a 5-4 vote) in the 2016 elections was never covered seriously by the mainstream press. 

3. Pentagon Paid UK PR Firm For Fake Al-Qaeda Videos. On how the Department of Defense secretly spent hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayer money to employ a British firm to create literal fake news in Iraq. 

2. Over Six Trillion Dollars in Unaccountable Army Spending. On how the Pentagon continues to ignore federal law requiring annual audits at the same time Congress continues to vote for dramatic increases in military spending. 

1. Widespread Lead Contamination Threatens Children's Health, and Could Triple Household Water Bills. On the media's failure to create a sense of urgency following a Reuters' investigative report showing that "three thousand neighborhoods across the US had levels of lead poisoning more than double the rates found in Flint, MI at the peak of its contamination crisis."