Censored 2007 - Media Democracy in Action - Peter Phillips and Project Censored


Project Censored is an ongoing media research program, centred on and run by the Sociology Department of Sonoma State University in California, but with contributors from the fields of journalism and research from across the world. The project began in1976 as a direct response to the pernicious under-reporting of stories not conducive to the governmental/corporate agenda in the United States, and has continued to shine a spotlight on blacked out stories ever since.

Each year Project Censored publishes its annual round-up of major stories dramatically under-reported in the mainstream news-media. The list for 2006 is as shocking and incisive as ever. While the stranglehold over media output exerted by US corporate and government forces will come as a surprise to few readers of Red Pepper, the sheer level of venality on display can still shock as well as illuminate. As the authors note, the news establishment scoffs at the notion that this is "censorship", repeatedly stating that they can only carry so much news, its not what people want, they have to prioritise etc. etc. The big 25 stories listed here give the lie to such weasel excuses. From the blacked out air-strikes on civilian targets and widespread use of torture in Iraq, through the silenced statistics on rapidly rising homelessness in America, to the whitewash of the Pentagon's increasingly unaccountable level of spending, the stories detailed here are unarguably not just "in the public interest", but just plain interesting. Censorship is indeed the only appropriate word.

The biggest non-reported story here is the continuing involvement of Mr Richard Cheney in his company Haliburton, and the staggering fact this company is even now involved in selling nuclear materials to Iran, even as Dick stokes up the fires of war against the country for that very reason. Every journalist on a major newspaper not following this outrage up should hang their head in shame.

Elsewhere in the book the team follows up the leading stories from previous years such as 2001's "World Bank Privatises Water" to 1986's "Fiercest Aerial War in America Unreported in US Press" (referring to the bombing at the time of El Salvador) and examines the ongoing consequences of such atrocity and mendacity today. Other chapters provide a useful outline of the big players who run the US media empires (essentially now just 11 super-corporations, with the number falling all the time), an examination of how the neutrality and "all-access" nature of the internet in America is under threat from greedy wireless companies, and an overview of the more obvious ongoing state censorship in countries across the world.

Both the number of and nature of contributors on the project makes for both a dry and uneven writing style, and it is always somewhat obvious you are reading the work of academics and students. And, for that matter, some of the stories here are a lot more interesting than others. But these are very minor criticisms of what is a truly invaluable ongoing resource, and the outstanding work of the team behind it. This book, and the work that surrounds it, is a brilliantly useful tool in finding out what's happening in the world beyond the newspapers. Long may the work of Project Censored continue, and here's hoping a British equivalent emerges, one which shows up and skewers the UK press as sharply as this one does for their US counterparts.

First published in Red Pepper, 2007