Corporate Censorship in 2012: All the News They Didn’t Deem Fit to Print

by on December 10, 2012 · 2 comments

in American Empire, Civil Rights, Media, Politics, Under the Perfect Sun


This is not a definition that implies a conspiracy; it is a structural analysis of how our media system works in the real world with all the economic, political, and legal pressures that shape the process of delivering the infotainment we call news.

In last week’s column, I discussed Noam Chomsky and Edward S. Herman’s propaganda model and noted how it was even more relevant today than it was when they first published Manufacturing Consent in 1988 as the concentration of media ownership they decried in the eighties has only continued to increase dramatically. I ended that column by referring to Project Censored, an organization that has been monitoring the news media and putting out a list of the top 25 “censored” stories of the year since 1976.

Recently when I mentioned this project to a former journalist friend of mine he objected to the use of the word “censorship” because he didn’t think it applied to the news media, a group of people who, in his estimation, are far more driven by market forces than by the desire to monitor ideas. With that objection in mind, let’s consider Project Censored’s definition of the term “censorship

We define Modern Censorship as the subtle yet constant and sophisticated manipulation of reality in our mass media outlets. On a daily basis, censorship refers to the intentional non-inclusion of a news story – or piece of a news story – based on anything other than a desire to tell the truth. Such manipulation can take the form of political pressure (from government officials and powerful individuals), economic pressure (from advertisers and funders), and legal pressure (the threat of lawsuits from deep-pocket individuals, corporations, and institutions).

In sum, the folks at Project Censored argue, along with Chomsky and Herman, that all the information we consume in our market driven system has to go through a series of “filters” before a story makes it (or doesn’t make it) to our eyes and ears. This is not a definition that implies a conspiracy; it is a structural analysis of how our media system works in the real world with all the economic, political, and legal pressures that shape the process of delivering the infotainment we call news.

Consequently, it’s not that a few guys in a room sit around and censor our news as might happen in a totalitarian dictatorship, but that our system of corporate media is structurally designed in a way that inclines it to narrow the frame. The news media are not controlled by corporate interests; they are corporate interests. Thus it should come as no surprise to us that such a profit driven industry is far more concerned with its economic interests than with the public interest.

In the case of Fox News or San Diego’s House of Manchester, the ownership manipulation and ideological filters are plain to see.

In the case of Fox News or San Diego’s House of Manchester, the ownership manipulation and ideological filters are plain to see. However, in other more ideologically diverse, intellectually sophisticated outlets, the filters may be harder to discern, but a systematic examination of our media landscape reveals their presence and negative effect nonetheless.

The result is not, according to our friends at Project Censored, that some information is totally stopped from coming out, but rather that many extremely important stories are woefully underreported. Hence we may frequently lose sight of crucial events and trends in our society as we drown in a glut of compelling live action shots, tabloid trivia, and sound bytes devoid of context.

So perhaps, if we take my friend’s point, much important news is not totally censored in the market system, but underreported to the point of invisibility. Put another way, in a dictatorship dissidents are tortured or shot—here we just ignore them in the process of amusing ourselves to death.

Perhaps Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World was more prescient than George Orwell’s 1984 in predicting our means of social control, but the subtle nature of our system of market censorship makes it a far more effective tool for maintaining ideological hegemony. After all, the best systems of social control maintain power not by playing the role of a boot stamping on a human face forever, but by seducing the majority of people into adopting an ideology that serves the interests of the powerful over their own.

Thus the naïve surfer of the global information network is apt to get crushed by wave after wave of bullshit. Indeed, this ocean of misinformation makes the job of being a critical consumer of “news” and an active citizen in our democracy much harder, though not impossible.

Despite all the filters information goes through in our “open society,” the power of plutocracy is not total. Just as our imperfect democratic system is thoroughly polluted by corporate money but not yet totally subject to it, our media system also has cracks, fissures, and seams that allow the uncomfortable truth to occasionally slip through. The key to navigating our information landscape is a kind of informed skepticism rather than resigned cynicism.

Once you accept the fact that that the myth of objectivity is precisely that, a myth, you can begin to view all information as the product of interested sources.

Once you accept the fact that that the myth of objectivity is precisely that, a myth, you can begin to view all information as the product of interested sources. Arguing about bias is a useless sideshow. The point is not that there are some sources with ideology and others without it, but that every piece of information you consume comes from a particular perspective with an inherent ideology that supports a set of interests. The trouble isn’t being biased; it’s pretending that you aren’t. And the issue with our information landscape isn’t that there are biased sources, it is that there is no real diversity of sources and that the media monopoly can effectively mask their interests.

So the real work of the critical consumer of information is to try to discern what baggage the information they are consuming comes with. Some of the key questions are: who owns this source? What are their interests? What influences the frame that the information comes from in terms of class, race, gender, sexual orientation, region, etc? What kinds of “experts” or organizations does this source rely on for evidence? What conscious or unconscious ideology is present in sources that proclaim their neutrality or independence? How does the focus of the corporate media compare to that of the alternative media? How “alternative” is the so-called alternative media in terms of ownership, advertising, and other filters? The list goes on. It’s hard work, but not beyond the ability of the average Jill or Joe given the proper toolkit.

On that note, frequently, the big stories we don’t hear about come from obscure sources with fewer filters and less to lose by reporting inconvenient facts. How different would our social, political, and cultural reality be if this sort of reporting drove the national and local discussion? Take a look at Project Censored’s most recent list of underreported stories and see what you think. Note: the 2013 list is a retrospective list of 2012 stories.

Top Censored Stories of 2013

1. Signs of an Emerging Police State

2. Oceans in Peril

3. Fukushima Nuclear Disaster Worse than Anticipated

4. FBI Agents Responsible for Majority of Terrorist Plots in the United States

5. First Federal Reserve Audit Reveals Trillions Loaned to Major Banks

6. Small Network of Corporations Run the Global Economy

7. 2012: The International Year of Cooperatives

8. NATO War Crimes in Libya

9. Prison Slavery in Today’s USA

10. HR 347 Would Make Many Forms of Nonviolent Protest Illegal

11. Members of Congress Grow Wealthier Despite Recession

12. US Joins Forces with al-Qaeda in Syria

13. Education “Reform” a Trojan Horse for Privatization

14. Who Are the Top 1 Percent and How Do They Earn a Living?

15. Dangers of Everyday Technology

16. Sexual Violence against Women Soldiers on the Rise and under Wraps

17. Students Crushed By One Trillion Dollars in Student Loans

18. Palestinian Women Prisoners Shackled during Childbirth

19. New York Police Plant Drugs on Innocent People to Meet Arrest Quotas

20. Stealing from Public Education to Feed the Prison-Industrial Complex

21. Conservatives Attack US Post Office to Break the Union and Privatize Postal Services

22. Wachovia Bank Laundered Money for Latin American Drug Cartels

23. US Covers up Afghan Massacre

24. Alabama Farmers Look to Replace Migrants with Prisoners

25. Evidence Points to Guantánamo Dryboarding

For more on all of these stories see the Project Censored website: http://www.projectcensored.org/

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Alex Constantine December 17, 2012 at 8:52 am

> all the information we consume in our market driven system has to go through a series of “filters” before a story makes it (or doesn’t make it) to our eyes and ears. This is not a definition that implies a conspiracy …

False. I discredited Chomsky’s “propaganda model” years ago myself. Corporations have been controlling the media for the past century, as George Seldes reported in the ’30 and ’40s. It began with the extermination of “Yellow Journalism,” a pejorative levelled against investigative journalists early in the 20th century precisely because they were exposing coprorate corruption. So the corporations bought up the media, and put “yellow” journalism out of business by discrediting those who engaged in it. After WW II, the CIA took over media control with “Operation Mockingbird,” created by Allen Dulles a year before the Agency was conceived (1947). Noam Chomsky is a snob and a stiff who is as wrong about politics as he is about language acquisition. He fears being called a “conspiracy theorist,” looks down on those he perceives to be “conspiracists,” and created his “model” to put a distance between himself and them. He completely ignores Mockingbird to promote his quack media theories. You should do more research, stop thinking yourself as “above” the throng of writers who understand how the media operate simply because you write off “conspiracy theories.” Wearing blinders only makes you a Chomskyite quack yourself. Climb off that Ivory tower and face reality — the press is consciously controlled, censorship is policy, not a product of market forces, and the CIA has a proven presence in media that has turned America into a fascist paradise. If Operation Mockingbird isn’t a conspiracy, then it is a very good imitation of one, and it does real harm. Learn to know what you are talking about and stop hawking quack theories from the Chomsky school of semi-comatose, academic, ego-based “Good Germans.” Fascism is inherently conspiratorial. Get used to it.

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avatar John December 18, 2012 at 10:35 am

Your conspiracy theory is to be questioned on a number of levels to be accepted complete, even if the underlying philosophy may have some truth to it.
#1, it relies on the concept that its goal is to conceal corporate corruption- yet “corporation” is not a singular, monolithic entity. It should go without saying that if one corporation could reveal the corruption committed by one of its competitors, for its own benefit, it would gladly do so. News media gains readership and ratings by the quality of its muckraking and other news. Why would they shield the corruption of others if they could gain market share by covering it?
As in most conspiracy theories, one must cover these logical gaps with the dominant belief that the conspirators are evil, and in a club of the evil, and adhering to the goals of the evil club is far more likely than any of them pursuing their own evil agenda.
#2. All of the players which allegedly began this “evil club” have been dead for decades. How has their evil passed to further generations? And heads of corporations and evil government agencies that engage in evil are generally believed to be psychopathic, not getting along well with others, wanting to control them. Which means it’s pretty unlikely you are going to get hundreds of them together over the long term to submit to control of a group over what they do. Imagine a dozen Napoleans all sitting down and agreeing on something.
How has the CIA rejuvenated itself with new blood, and what are its stated goals? To further corporate corruption? Yet the CIA recruits individuals, and sees them risk their necks, for pure patriotism.
How does this mesh with corporate corruption?
#3 on Chomsky putting distance between himself and conspiracy theorists, perhaps you could tell me how one would undergo bringing about change in all of this. Could you do it while being shut out of this circle of elites? Perhaps what he is doing is a lot like what, IMO, UC Santa Cruz Sociology Professor and noted author G. William Domhoff has long done, when writing about Bohemian Grove and the powerful elite in books like “there are no conspiracies”.
Quote:
” Despite the suspicions of many on the Right, and a few on the Left, it is not a secret meeting place to plot, plan, or conspire. The most important decisions typically happen just where we might expect: in the boardrooms of corporations and foundations, at the White House, and in the backrooms of Congress. Yes, as I show later, some wanna-be and has-been Republican politicians sometimes visit the Bohemian Grove, including future and former presidents of the United States, but they are there to demonstrate what wonderful human beings they are, to cultivate potential financial backers, or to brag about their past exploits.”

http://www2.ucsc.edu/whorulesamerica/power/bohemian_grove.html

Yet in the same piece he details, after offering parts of a Nixon speech in 1967:

“But rehabilitation through a Lakeside Talk was not all Nixon accomplished at the Bohemian Grove that summer. He also had a “candid discussion” with Ronald Reagan “as we sat outdoors on a bench under one of the giant redwoods.” Nixon told Reagan of his plans to enter the primaries. He assured Reagan he would not campaign against any “fellow Republicans.” Reagan allegedly professed surprise that there was speculation about his possible candidacy, and claimed he did not want to be a favorite son. According to Nixon, Reagan said “that he would not be a candidate in the primaries.” In other words, they came to a deal at the Grove, with Reagan saying he would only enter the primaries if Nixon faltered.”

Isn’t Domhoff describing exactly what he insisted is not going on there? Didn’t Reagan and Nixon plot, plan and conspire to not compete against each other in the primaries, preserving the GOP campaign finance war chest to be used against the Democrats in the 1968 election?

Of course they did. So what is Domhoff’s angle, when he clearly is no asset to the elite and powerful, being a well respected critic of them who has revealed to us so many of their closely guarded secrets?

I think it’s partly a matter of not calling conspiracies conspiracies, because there is always a fancy sociology/political science way of dressing that pig in lipstick. As well as having a view so sensible and academic he can’t be dismissed easily, which includes better reasons for these people to do the things they do than because they are all evil and corrupt- and that’s basically all you’ve offered.

(I’m pretty well versed in a lot of these things and spent close to a year engaging in heated arguments and edit wars with the primary editor of wikipedia’s New World Order (conspiracy theory) article. Over time and after exposure to a lot of conspiracy theorists, and the common sense offered by academia figures like Domhoff, my world view came around on the matter. There really are no conspiracies, though like minded people engaging in their typically expected roles, might appear to be conspiratorial to the paranoid. To the rest of us, just imagine they would all have to sit down in a big room somewhere with their big egos and all agree on what they wanted to do- and have this go on for generations? Umm, no.)

The Cliff Notes: Some people in media would like to see their back room deal philosophies go on unchecked, but their efforts are hardly all powerful and it’s foolish to think they all agree or work together-so whats going on is a lot more like what I believe this author is accurately describing.

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