Friday, December 31, 2010

Censored in 2010, Part 1

Censored in 2010, Part 1

Media Rants


Tony Palmeri

From The January 2011 edition of THE SCENE

Annually since 1976, Project Censored has identified news stories "underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored in the United States." Censored 2011 (Seven Stories Press) cites the efforts of global leaders with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to begin the process of replacing the dollar as the world’s reserve currency as the top censored story of 2010. The Project argues that “If the world leaders succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value; the cost of imports, including oil, will skyrocket; and interest rates will climb.”

Inspired by the Project, every year I dedicate two columns to ranking what I see as the ten stories most censored during the year. An important recent study by, demonstrating that the mainstream press misinform voters, shows the importance of Project Censored style work. And now the censored stories:

No. 10: Bobfest Shutout Again. By now even the organizers of Ed Garvey’s annual September Fighting BobFest at the Sauk County Fairgrounds expect the event to be censored in the mainstream press. But the censorship was especially absurd in 2010 as the corporate press couldn’t wait to cover Tea Party rallies in every part of the state. A Tea Party rally in Racine attracted half as many attendees as BobFest on the same day, yet the latter still earned little press.

No. 9: Forever Censoring Howard Zinn and Chalmers Johnson. Especially since 9/11, mainstream media have agonized over the “why do they hate us” question. Networks and cable stations trot out establishment historians and pundits to assure us that for all its flaws, America is at the end of the day a force for good in the world. That comforting mythology was challenged for years by two great thinkers who passed away in 2010. Professors Zinn and Johnson were war veterans (Zinn a WW II bombardier, Johnson served in Korea) who, in the tradition of America’s greatest patriots, dared tell the truth about their country’s behavior around the world.

Zinn’s A Peoples’ History of the United States is required reading for anyone interested in an account of our past not clouded by narrow, nationalistic ideology. Johnson’s Blowback series chronicles and exposes the effects of militarism and empire building on our safety, freedoms, and economy. That the insights of Zinn and Johnson are regarded in the mainstream press not as starting points for additional investigations but as “alternative” and marginal is a testament to the great power of the press to blind the masses.

No. 8: The 2010 South African World Cup. Invictus in Reverse. Watching USA coverage of 2010’s World Cup in South Africa, you’d have thought that the obnoxious sounding plastic horn, the vuvuzela, was THE story of the event. Another view was presented by Dave Zirin, one of the few American writers to reveal the social consequences of the tournament for South Africa:

“The present situation in South Africa could be called ‘Invictus in reverse.’ For those who haven't had the pleasure, the film Invictus is about the way Nelson Mandela used sport, particularly the near all-white sport of rugby to unite the country after the fall of apartheid. The coming World Cup has in contrast, provoked the camouflage of every conflict to present the image of a united nation to the world . . . All of these steps: displacements, crackdowns on informal trade, even accusations of state-sponsored assassinations, have an echo for people from the days of apartheid. It's provoked a fierce, and wholly predictable resistance.”

Evidence of resistance was difficult to find in the US press, unless it was about resistance to the vuvuzela.

No. 7: Obamacare Unconstitutional!!! In December district court judge Henry Hudson (appointed by George W. Bush) ruled the individual insurance mandate of Obamacare to be unconstitutional. This was a top news story on virtually every network and cable television news program, front page above the fold in lots of mainstream newspapers, and all the buzz on talk radio. Politicians like Utah Republican Orrin Hatch, who supported the mandate in the 1990s, said the opinion was a “great day for liberty.”

I personally do not like the mandate or Obamacare in general, as I believe coercing people to purchase a defective product from the corrupt private insurance industry is immoral and wrong. But from a media criticism perspective, I found it extraordinary how the feeding frenzy over one judge’s opinion minimized (and in many cases flat out ignored) the fact that eleven challenges to the insurance mandate were dismissed by courts and in two others judges ruled the mandate to be constitutional.

No. 6: What did Bernie Sanders Say? Another December story was Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders’ filibuster against the Obama/Republican deal on extending the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Ralph Nader wrote that “Sanders tore the covers off an oligarchic driven Congress and a concessionary President with eight and a half hours of nonstop presentations of facts and figures and a plea for fairness and justice.” Absent in most coverage was any emphasis on what Sanders actually said in 9 hours; e.g. ExxonMobil paid no federal income taxes last year, made $19 billion in profits and somehow even managed to get a $156 million refund from Uncle Sam.

Next month: the top five censored stories of 2010.