By Jim Miller
Projected Censored recently released their list of the “Top 25 Most Censored Stories of 2012-13.” As I noted in a column about last year’s list, Project Censored’s definition of censorship is a nuanced one:
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 Noam Chomsky and Edward S. 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.
It is not shocking, therefore, to find the story “Billionaires’ Rising Wealth Intensifies Poverty and Inequality” at number six on Project Censored’s 2012-13 list. More specifically, they summarize a story from the Guardian that outlines how:
As a direct result of existing financial policies, the world’s one hundred richest people grew to be $241 billion richer in 2012. This makes them collectively worth $1.9 trillion, just slightly less than the United Kingdom’s total economic output.
A few of the policies responsible for this occurrence are the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement, the privatization of public assets, wage controls and the destruction of collective bargaining. These same policies that are building up the richest people are causing colossal hardships to the rest of the world’s population.
George Monbiot has attributed this situation to neoliberal policies, which produce economic outcomes contrary to those predicted, and even promised, by advocates of neoliberal policy and laissez faire markets. In consequence, across the thirty-four countries that constitute the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), taxation has decreased among the rich and increased among the poor. Despite what neoliberals claimed would happen, the spending power of the state and of poorer people has diminished, contracting demand along with it.
Wage inequality and unemployment have both skyrocketed, making the economy increasingly unstable with monumental amounts of debt. Monbiot observed, “The complete failure of this world-scale experiment is no impediment to its repetition. This has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with power.”
This story about the perils of neoliberal economic policies is joined by others on the Project Censored Top 25 outlining the costs being paid by ordinary folks for the current global economic orthodoxy in the form of increased hunger in America and abroad and the threat to democracy posed by the Trans Pacific Partnership trade pact.
It’s not a pretty picture and the fact that this kind of news is largely absent from the mainstream media is what helps keep the current hegemony with regard to austerity polices, privatization, union busting, and the upward redistribution of wealth in place. Indeed, it’s not just the evil right wing pushing this kind of garbage any more in the United States; it’s become a bi-partisan affair even here in super liberal California.
For evidence of this one need look no further than the recent news that the Democratic mayor of San Jose, Chuck Reed, was joined by the Democratic mayors of San Bernardino, Santa Ana, and Pacific Grove along with Republicans and a Texas billionaire and former Enron trader in filing a ballot measure to strip away retirement security from teachers, firefighters, sanitation workers and other public employees. Indeed, “The Pension Reform Act of 2014,” while modeled on San Diego’s successful pension busting effort is even worse in that it threatens the existing pension benefits of current employees.
As Steve Smith of the California Labor Federation puts it:
Essentially, this means politicians would have the power to unilaterally slash the retirement of current workers, breaking a promise made to those workers when they were hired. Many of those public workers affected don’t receive Social Security. They have a modest pension that averages around $26,000 per year. They’re not responsible for the financial mess created by the Wall St. collapse, yet politicians like Reed are all too quick to scapegoat them — and out-of-state billionaires like former Enron executive John Arnold are all too happy to exploit them for profit.
And the fact that Reed and his corporate buddies think they can get away with scapegoating workers for the sins of Wall Street during an era of increasing economic inequality only shows how little economic truth they think will make it through the corporate media filter. Indeed, they are banking on the fact that instead of covering stories like number 2 on the Project Censored list, “Richest Global 1% Hide Trillions in Tax Havens,” the corporate media will focus on librarians and grade school teachers as entitled fat cats living the highlife in their golden years.
It’s a ridiculous upside-down world to be sure, but it’s brought to you by the miracle of propaganda. In this case, and many others, what we don’t know is surely hurting us all.