The 2004 edition of “Project Censored”, housed at the sociology department at Sonoma State University, has been released.
In recent years, the credibility of this annual collection of left-wing causes célèbres has come under attack from within the leftist alternative press. I believe the critics are right. Peter Byrne and Matt Palmquist’s critique of a previous edition is especially worth revisiting. Since the new Project Censored looks like the predictable mix of stories that it’s a safe bet that their words apply equally to this year’s edition:
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. Even Mother Jones, a paragon of lefty journalism, has slammed the list in an article headlined “The Unbearable Lameness of Project Censored.”</p> The “most censored” story of the year, apparently, is the “The Neoconservative Plan for Global Dominance”. That would be the story I remember reading about in the Philadelphia Daily News. The story that was broken by the Sunday Herald newspaper in Scotland and picked up by news programmes on ABC, the BBC and the CBC.
Further down the list we find the usual “no shit” department: “Homeland Security Threatens Civil Liberty”; “Treaty Busting By the United States”. Did the mainstream media really miss these stories?
Underreported? Perhaps; it depends on your assumptions about what the appropropriate levels of reporting are for each story in the news. Presumably the enlightened know the objective criterion for sufficient mainstream reporting of an issue and can therefore label any discrepancy therewith “censorship”.
In fairness to Project Censored, not everyone has access to the expensive Nexis database, nor even its low-budget cousin, Google News. So stories that haven’t been repeated ad nauseam on prime time television and large-circulation newspapers or magazines can fairly be described as “underreported”. Most people will have missed these stories.
But does that mean they were “censored?” Hardly. I can’t figure out why some people insist on equating the undeniable structural biases in modern journalism with active, conscious, instrumental, strategic censorship. It’s intellectually dishonest.