Huff, Mickey S., and Andy Lee Roth, eds. Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution. New York: Seven Stories Press, October 2012. 468 pp. $19.95
Project Censored has delivered another timely and essential book. The passion and commitment of editors Prof. Mickey Huff and Dr. Andy Lee Roth definitely show--and not just in their own writing. They're managed to tease out fine performances from many other writers, including Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Elliot D. Cohen of Truthout, Sara van Gelder of YES! Magazine, Peter Phillips, Adam Bessie and many others.
The issues definitely matter. The significance of the reader-selected Top 25 Censored Stories of 2011-12 is beyond dispute. Number 1 is "Signs of an Emerging Police State"; Number 2 is "Oceans in Peril"; and Number 3 is "Fukushima Disaster Worse Than Anticipated." Other sections reveal how a "Federal Reserve Audit Reveals Trillions Loaned to Major Banks" and a "Small Network of Corporations Run the Global Economy." For each general issue, News Clusters add context, breadth and depth.
Rumblings from the Occupy Movements of 2011 reverberate throughout many of the clusters. Readers learn not only about the "Bankster Bailout," but about how to create an economy for the 99 percent. Lesser-known issues include how Congress has forced the US Post Office to bear unfair financial commitments, apparently in an effort to justify its privatization.
Informed, Incisive Critiques of Corporate Media Censorship
More than in previous Project Censored volumes, historical approaches inform this year's edition. This trend is apparent in several places, including the follow-ups on the Top Stories from previous years. The book kicks into high gear when Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth sink their critical teeth into "junk food news," "twinkies for the brain." This includes the cult of celebrity, "whether through sports drama, Donald Trump's ongoing obsession with Barack Obama's birthplace, America's infatuation with royalty"--decidedly "more McNews than anyone should have to stomach." Among the examples provided, none seems more telling than how the royal wedding of William and Kate preempted coverage of the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA), which could affect nearly everyone in the country (pp. 152-55, 159, 164). Project Censored has long pointed out how distraction functions as a subtle form of censorship.
Beyond the steady diet of escapist entertainment served up by corporate media, the editors flash back to Daniel Boorstin's now classic The Image (1962) to illustrate the American tradition of "pseudo events," which include political debates largely devoid of substance. The 2012 presidential debates hyped by the American mass media surely provide cases in point. Not once did the network moderators ask questions about issues such as burgeoning drone attacks, increased government surveillance, or global climate change.
The critique also cites "news abuse," the practice of covering actual events incompletely, leaving out the substantive in favor the entertaining, the emotionally maudlin, or the reinforcement of popular myths. An orgy of hero worship followed the death of Steve Jobs, making little mention of legendary CEO's tyrannical tendencies or his record of outsourcing high- tech jobs to China.
The analysis of censorship and propaganda techniques deepens in "Censorship Backfires," an outstanding chapter by Dutch scholar Dr.
Antoon De Baets. As the author of Responsible History, De Baets is well positioned to expose the common malpractice of self-censorship among historians. This often takes the form of refusing to shine a light into dark corners or even "systematic manipulation of historical facts," typically propelled by rewards from academe, foundations, or government. Over time, tacit historical taboos (or "memory holes") are enforced, especially when the subjects may be "embarrassing for reason of privacy, reputation, or legitimization of power and status." The contradictions in the official account of 9/11 provide one notable case in point. The "backfire," notes De Baets, comes when the "blank spots" in the record "provoke a stronger and almost obsessive interest in these issues" (pp. 225-32).
Closing out the analysis of censorship are Dr. Elliott D. Cohen's unsettling revelations, "The Information War: How Government Is Seeking Total Information Awareness." Dr. Cohen points to a war waged for "the acquisition and control of the rich supply of information" . . . a "vigilant campaign by government, across borders, to ensure that no one has the franchise of knowledge except the highest echelons of national command and control." The war for privacy may not be lost, he tells us, but we'll need to fight for what remains. Recent disclosures about extensive FBI snooping into the personnel email of David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell surely underscore this point; yet this sinister development got lost beneath the titillating coverage of a sex scandal.
Moving to particular cases, readers also learn how de facto censorship occurs when alternative media outlets are run badly. Especially engaging to listeners of independent, listener-sponsored Pacifica Radio are the disclosures by Andrew Leslie Phillips, the Acting Manager of KPFA in Berkeley, California. Phillips sketches an unfortunate history of attempts to make the Pacifica network into a more liberal National Public Radio, dulling its critical edge and ultimately threatening its existence. One result, he reveals, is an "unwieldy and expensive governance structure" at the network level characterized by cronyism among "political diehards with little radio experience who have not done much to improve programming, revenue, or audience membership" (pp. 262-63).
Ample Focus on Hugely Important Issues
One of most substantive of these is "The Global 1 Percent Ruling Class Exposed" by Dr. Peter Phillips and Kimberly Soeiro of Sonoma State University. This chapter doesn't talk about the 1% in the abstract, however;
it names names. In the mining industry, the lens focuses on the pin stripers who run Freeport McRan; in the investment sector, it probes the board of Blackrock, Inc. The reader sees the ruling class sitting on these interlocked boards of directors as its members "arrange for payments to government officials, undermine labor organizations, manipulate the price of commodities (e.g. gold), or engage in insider trading . . . ." (pp. 251-52).