Project Censored
September 19, 2002 8:51 AM   Subscribe

Project Censored "Some of the stories on the list may deserve wider and more thorough coverage. But to label any of the subjects "censored" is either flat-out deception or an admission of astonishing ignorance. A quick stroll through the Nexis database reveals that nine of this year's top-10 "most censored" stories have already turned up in the New York Times, many of them with prominent placement, considerable depth, and angles not far off from Project Censored's leftist slant." Related article in Mother Jones.
posted by owillis (30 comments total)
(via medianews)
posted by owillis at 8:52 AM on September 19, 2002

Also, here is the most recent "censored" list.
posted by owillis at 8:55 AM on September 19, 2002

Here's a censored story for you, that nobody in the US press seems to want to touch including 'Project Censored': Why did Colin Powell and Tony Blair both promise to release dossiers of proof showing Osama bin Laden was guilty of plotting the 9/11 attacks, but neither one followed through on their promises?

or along the same lines, how about

The bin Ladens’ Great Escape: How the US helped Osama's family leave the country

or how about the fact that the NY Times published what appear to be libelous "facts" about the 'person of interest' Stephen Hatfill, who was basically found guilty in the press of being responsible for the anthrax attacks of last year
posted by Babylonian at 9:01 AM on September 19, 2002

I does often seem like some portion of the American 'left' wants to get 'censored' (though most of them have no idea what real governmental censorship is actually like: ask someone who lived in Soviet-era Poland or Bulgaria). It's almost like the crowing about an Orwellian, oppressive government is wishful thinking. I remember my attitude through much of high school- actually looking for trouble, so I would have a power to rail against, a 'Man' to stick it to- this seems to be the animus behind many left-leaning independant news sites. The truth is, if the stories they speak about were actually censored, Mother Jones (whoever the hell she is) and this MetaFilter post, wouldn't exist.

A problem with all this is, the more you cry "wolf", the less likely you are to be taken seriously when there is something serious to cry about.
posted by evanizer at 9:08 AM on September 19, 2002

Oh, c'mon evanizer, is this really a left-only characteristic? How many times have we heard about Liberal Media Bias? The American Right posivitely thrives on its self-perception of being censored.
posted by MrMoonPie at 9:15 AM on September 19, 2002

The truth is, if the stories they speak about were actually censored, Mother Jones (whoever the hell she is) and this MetaFilter post, wouldn't exist.

Come on, evanizer, you know all about Mary "Mother" Jones. Anyway, you're right about actual censorship.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:16 AM on September 19, 2002

I agree with you about a segment of the left "looking for trouble," but there also always seems to be a segment of the left that only wants to tear up others who are ostensibly on the same side. Sure, maybe it's going overboard to the point of counterproductiveness to call these things "censored," but things like the privatization of water should be front-page news now, before they become so in 10 years. Maybe it should just be called "Project Hey Look At This!"
posted by transient at 9:19 AM on September 19, 2002

The multi-billion dollar Ford Foundation's historic relationship to the Central Intelligence Agency [CIA] is rarely mentioned on Pacifica's DEMOCRACY NOW / Deep Dish TV show, on FAIR's COUNTERSPIN show, on the WORKING ASSETS RADIO show, on The Nation Institute's RADIO NATION show, on David Barsamian's ALTERNATIVE RADIO show or in the pages of PROGRESSIVE, MOTHER JONES and Z magazine. One reason may be because the Ford Foundation and other Establishment foundations subsidize the Establishment Left's alternative media gatekeepers / censors.
posted by Babylonian at 9:22 AM on September 19, 2002

A problem with all this is, the more you cry "wolf", the less likely you are to be taken seriously when there is something serious to cry about.

It's not nearly as bad as the Banned Books Week that the ALA (and others) put on every year, since none of the books are ever actually *banned* and only a bare few are removed from a library or relocated in one.

It's a noble goal, sure, but by their criteria, if I walk into a library and demand that they remove (or reshelve out of the kiddie section) oh, say, _The Stupids Die_ and I get laughed out of the building by the librarians, it's nevertheless now a Banned Book.

But Books That Someone Somewhere Sometime Objected To In Some Way Week wouldn't be as exciting. Lord knows what they'd call a book that was actually *banned*... maybe it would be double-secret-banned?

And _The Stupids Die_ is a good book.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:24 AM on September 19, 2002

i read this article yesterday; it's really just the SF Weekly taking tepid pokes at the Guardian again.

it's a sometimes fun little feud, as the Guardian often does run some really poorly thought-out stories. er. let's just say they're real earnest about stuff.

Of course -- at least the Guardian isn't responsible for ruining the East Bay Express, like New Times (the corporate owner of SF Weekly, and nearly every other alternative weekly in the country) is.

as far as the article itself: it's "pot, kettle, black" stuff. I mean, in the same issue (of SF weekly) we've got writers worried that San Francisco no longer produces arena rock stars (STOP THE PRESSES!).

of course; though i feel the guardian is more in tune with the SF community, i think i read more features in sf weekly and more columns in the guardian, but, meh, i guess that's how it works out. they're both good/bad, and so you kinda get embarassed when they throw temper tantrums about the other.
posted by fishfucker at 9:27 AM on September 19, 2002

oh, but SF weekly is right to point out that "Project Censored" has a name that is a little bit silly.
posted by fishfucker at 9:29 AM on September 19, 2002

I does often seem like some portion of the American 'left' wants to get 'censored'

Finally, someone who understands me. Matt, please delete this post, so I may witlessly rail against you.
posted by Skot at 9:30 AM on September 19, 2002

And _The Stupids Die_ is a good book.

Amen to that, ROU_Xenophobe. By far the best of all the books about the Stupids.
posted by LeLiLo at 9:34 AM on September 19, 2002

I've been aware of Project Censored every year (because in some way or another it's been brought to my attention) for at least the last ten. While I always find it interesting to see stories that seem to be of some import, but are ignored by the mainstream media, I have always taken issue with the term "censored" in relationship to this yearly list. They aren't censored so much as uncovered due to a total lack of interest on the part of the American mass media outlets. I fail to see how "censorship" didn't allow this OSHA story to see the light of day. You could chalk it up to apathy, sure. You could even blame it on the fundamental erosion evident in the tenets of "modern journalism." What it isn't, however, is censorship.
posted by eyeballkid at 9:35 AM on September 19, 2002

Heh, Project Censored 1995, the privatization of the internet, yup the end of free speech on the internet is coming... just wait.

Lord knows what they'd call a book that was actually *banned*...

They'd probably call it 'Legend of the Overfiend', yup it's banned in texas.
posted by bobo123 at 9:36 AM on September 19, 2002

This is nothing new. Every year Project Censored releases a list of "top 25 news stories that were undercovered by mainstream media." (That's undercovered, not censored.) And every year some media outlet complains about it. For example, see this this 1999 bit from Salon, or note that owillis's Mother Jones link is 2 years old.

Certainly none of these stories were censored -- while using that word may drawn more attention to the list, it undermines the valid point that Project Censored is trying to make -- that the stories on their list were avoided (for whatever reasons) by mainstream media.
posted by espada at 9:39 AM on September 19, 2002

What really bothers me is when the media is treated like a government service instead of a money making corporation. Calling foul on them because they "underreport" certain news items is valid in the same way that we can point a finger at McDonalds, for instance, and say: "Their food is not good for us, we should not eat there."

Maintaining that the media has some duty to fulfill to the public is ludicrous. They are guaranteed freedom of press. How they use it up to them, and how we vote with our dollars is up to us.
posted by jon_kill at 9:42 AM on September 19, 2002

I always thought the "censored" in Project Censored was a bit of an overstatement---to me "censored" implies intent to censor. Now intent is awfully hard to prove and beside the point, anyway. And it's easy to rag on alt-weekly pretensions, too. But the point remains: many of the stories on the PCen list don't get the coverage--for whatever reason--that many much less significant stories get. Certainly not the level of coverage that's devoted to entertainment news or to the latest child-disaster story.

Parts of the left are good at outlaw/grivence/victim mongering but not half as effective at it, I'd say, as parts of the right for which it's become SOP for the last 20 years or so. Look where it's got them.

And does anyone else think that Dog Bites has gone straight to hell since Laurel Wellman left?
posted by octobersurprise at 9:43 AM on September 19, 2002

Lord knows what they'd call a book that was actually *banned*...

They'd probably call it 'Legend of the Overfiend', yup it's banned in texas.

Which, oddly enough, isn't on their list AFAICT. Arguing with a librarian about where a book should be shelved bans it, but punishing the sale of it doesn't.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:57 AM on September 19, 2002

They are guaranteed freedom of press. How they use it up to them, and how we vote with our dollars is up to us.

There are other valid types of criticism, though you might not be aware of them if you fetishize financial transactions as the paradigmatic human action. It's perfectly valid for me to wish that the news media priviledged different stories and to work to achieve that by any legal and ethical means possible 2) It's valid for me to wish our society priviledged different interests, too. And 3) It's valid to ask for truth in advertising--that those who profess to inform us of news do more than just entertain us.
posted by octobersurprise at 10:11 AM on September 19, 2002

And does anyone else think that Dog Bites has gone straight to hell since Laurel Wellman left?

oh god yes. I think i ranted about this before, so i'll hold my tounge, mostly. At the same time, her column over in the Chron seems to have become basically another society page, which we've got enough of already, i'm guessing.

to be true, she was doing this before -- but it was more "writer from alt-weekly gets invited to society gigs! what kind of crazy adventures will she have?"; now that she's working for the man, well, it's kinda lost it's charm.

Dog Bites used to be one of the *only* reasons i picked up the paper, but, uh, now i hardly bother reading it (sadly, i mostly only pick it up now for the syndicated Dan Savage.)

posted by fishfucker at 10:17 AM on September 19, 2002

This article is not only unfunny, it's just obnoxious. It's like some glorified "/yawn" post in response to the Project Censored website. Basically, the writer took over 1,000 words to say that he's bored of hearing about leftist causes and that he's too busy with his own goddamned important life to care about anything that doesn't directly involve his daily routine.

And for the people rejecting the "censored" label- the point is that these are stories that are known in the first place because somewhere reporters wanted to gather information about it, but for direct and indirect reasons were turned away from the story by their sponsors/editors/etc. You're reflecting on censorship as the spiking of an already-completed story. Preventing a possible story from ever being investigated in the mainstream media can equally be defined as such.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:18 AM on September 19, 2002

Is it me, or does it seem that a number of the stories that Project Censored brings up every year actually deserve to be under-reported?

I mean it's one thing if an investigative reporter has brought together a very convincing brief that GM foods are bad, or that tobacco companies are still selling cigarettes to children. But often it seems that reporters aren't thorough enough and that there really isn't much to the story -- at least, historically, for many of the stories Project Censored tries to bring to light. Which is why whenever Project Censored comes around I tend to /yawn.
posted by LAM at 10:27 AM on September 19, 2002

I think stories about the deliberate attempts to force genetically-modified foods and jump start the bombings of various nations are newsworthy, LAM. I also acknowledge that the "average" Amercian would find them boring considering the way we've flashed and sizzled-up the American news media. That doesn't make those stories unimportant, and it certainly doesn't make them tantamount to ridicule from some bored jackass magazine writer.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:35 AM on September 19, 2002

Somehow this thread seems incomplete without a link to McSweeney's "Most Censored Press Releases" series: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002.

More seriously: XQUZYPHYR, I think the Mother Jones article makes a more serious argument, namely that most of the Project Censored stories are investigated in the mainstream media. Sure, "censored" can be more or less broadly defined, but "widely reported" is probably not one of its possible meanings.

I'll agree that the SF Weekly article is less substantial, but even that one has a serious point. He's not "bored of hearing about leftist causes"; what the topics he lists all have in common is that they trivialize and distract from serious issues by associating them with inane, badly reasoned arguments. I recognized all the kinds of articles he listed, and I've often been annoyed by them myself--not because I'm too wrapped up in myself to care, but because I'd like to see my politics presented with a little more serious thought.
posted by moss at 10:56 AM on September 19, 2002

jon_kill: Maintaining that the media has some duty to fulfill to the public is ludicrous

Well, the case of newspapers, you're right. But in the case of radio and tv, they actually DO have a public duty to fulfill. It's *supposed* to be part of the agreement that allows them to use *public* airwaves for profit. We let them use the airwaves, and they have to provide X amounts of certain kinds of programming. Though, I can't say what those ammounts or types of programming are - I forget.

The fact that most local news stations don't report anything other than the weather, sports, and the importance of getting your pets neutered is an indication to me that they're not really interested in the "news".

In fact, the only time I've ever seen the media outlets fullfil their duty to the public was last year on 9/11 when *all commercials* stopped for about a day, and they reported on the events, non-stop.
posted by jaded at 11:11 AM on September 19, 2002

The SF Weekly article has little to do with Project Censored. More like their own take on it.

Perhaps the greatest indicator that Project Censored has passed its prime is how high on the "no shit" scale most of this year's honorees will rank with even marginally informed readers. For example, the sixth most "censored" story: "NATO Defends Private Economic Interests in The Balkans."

Although this stuff is probably well known to the Mother Jones crowd, it's pretty much an unheard story in the major press. Maybe not censored as such, but it definitely deserves more press.
posted by destro at 11:54 AM on September 19, 2002

The media will naturally ignore stories that are A)unpopular or B)inconvenient. This happens because media outlets are for profit businesses. unfortunately, a state run media would probably filter out even more material. Don't expect the media to tell you squat, use your sense, search the net, talk to people.

On preview: I also think that the American media doesn't censor stories as much as they bury them under a cacophony of white noise and distractions. Guess what - white noise and distraction sell more papers/books/commercials/etc.
posted by elwoodwiles at 1:18 PM on September 19, 2002

espada, um, owillis's two-year-old link is there because the original new article happens to bring it up.

Count me someone who's always thought that Project Censored -- in implementation -- managed to be very hit and miss. Of the 10 stories on the main list, very often they do tend to have been fully reported on in major media -- such as the no-stranger-to-gooey-liberalism New York Times. Others are simply non-stories, or are so twisted into partisan clothing that, yes, they do bore. Typical example might be the private prison angle: they're cutting costs! and making prison life harder! and the bureaucrats love it! and gosh, they're all seekritley konektid! But taxpayers love it, and it's not a story that's going to fly very high, and it's one of those things where you could report and report and report and still not change public opinion.

It's like the difference between the NYT reporting "Company ABC announced joint venture with Company XYZ to produce widgets for the Defense Department", when what they want to see is a harangue like "War Profiteers Ally with Hawks to Pocket Taxpayer Monies".

So the "PC top 10" (an abbreviation that has generated a fair number of chuckles over the years) are a mish-mash of hard news and left spin, where usually it's not that the hard news isn't actually reported, but it hasn't been given the Extra Special Spin that would tell the People how they're being Snookered. But clearly, they don't care. The ultimate aim of the list, then, is to scold the people for not caring enough -- or in the right way. And guess what? The People don't Like That. At best, it's quixotic; at worst, it's hairshirt leftism.
posted by dhartung at 3:18 PM on September 19, 2002

The funny thing is, the same filtering processes that lead to the mainstream media as we know it are probably at work at P.C. Some Indymedia article about student violence? Nah, no confirmation from other sources. But some article about water privatization? "Has it been reported elsewhere?" "Yeah, the NYT has written a short article about it and some magazines as well, but not nearly enough." "Great, let's take that." If you want to know the really unreported stories for which the word "censored" would be more appropriate, you have to look at the lunatic fringe, left and right, and sort through the crap to find genuine stories. You have to verify these stories. This takes money and research.
posted by Eloquence at 4:10 PM on September 19, 2002

« Older An annotated bibliography on weblogs & blogging   |   Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments