Censored 2019: The Top 5 Most Under-Reported Stories of the Year

by on December 30, 2019 · 0 comments

in Media, Under the Perfect Sun

By Jim Miller

Annually, Project Censored releases a list of the most under-reported stories of the year.  In the past, their endeavor sometimes got pushback from defenders of the corporate media who claimed that their version of “censorship” was too loose or that it implied a corporate conspiracy that doesn’t exist.  As I wrote in this space before, both of those criticisms fall flat.


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.

Now, in the era of Donald Trump, with his constant attacks on the “fake news” from a rightwing perspective, the media landscape has been complicated even more.  With the President of the United States engaged in an ongoing crusade to delegitimize any negative news about himself by undermining not just the motives of American journalists but the very notion that there are objective facts not driven by political interests, the job of the folks at Project Censored became both much harder and even more essentially important.

With Trump’s talent for subverting as well as creating and driving media narratives, the discerning consumer of information needs to learn how to look beyond the B.S. political circus that dominates the majority of the corporate news and factor in the real existing “filters” that shape the information we receive.

Hence we are living in a dangerous new world where the information systems we depend on to navigate “reality” have been hijacked both by corporate influence AND Trump’s illiberal rightwing flak machine.  Anyone who cares about a free press and the crucial importance of uncensored news should feel obligated to both defend the practice of journalism from unwarranted attacks and critique the systemic forces than hinder it.  The media needs to be defended when the political forces assault them for publishing the facts the powerful hate and held to account for allowing powerful political and economic forces to influence their craft.

In that spirit, enter Project Censored’s list of the most important news that was largely missed by the mainstream news media.  Here are their top five stories:

1.      Justice Department’s Secret FISA Rules for Targeting Journalists

Virtually ignored by the corporate media was news that the federal government can now secretly monitor American journalists under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).  As Project Censored notes, “National security surveillance authorities confer extraordinary powers. The government’s failure to share more information about them damages journalists’ ability to protect their sources and jeopardizes the news gathering process.”

2.      Think Tank Partnerships Establish Facebook as a Tool of U.S. Foreign Policy

In the service of fighting foreign disinformation, Facebook partnered with two Cold-War era U.S. government-funded propaganda organizations.  The result has been to purge hundreds of personal accounts from the platform, many of them left-leaning.

3.      Indigenous Groups from Amazon Propose Creation of Largest Protected Area on Earth

500 Indigenous groups have proposed setting aside an Amazonian protected zone the size of Mexico to serve as a sanctuary for biodiversity and climate stability that would stretch across the borders of multiple countries. This is one of the boldest conservation and climate change plans in the world.

4.      U.S. Oil and Gas Industry Set to Unleash 120 Billion Tons of New Carbon Emissions

Ignored by most of the mainstream media, Oil Change International released a report noting that, in spite of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s warning that we only have 12 years to limit catastrophic climate change, the United States was dramatically increasing its fossil fuel production in a fashion which will ensure that America will account for 60% of increased global carbon emissions by 2030.

5.      Modern Slavery in the United States, Around the World

403,000 people in the United States are living in conditions of “modern slavery,” about 1% of the total worldwide.  As Project Censored observed, ““The [Global Slavery Index] noted that forced labor occurred ‘in many contexts’ in the US, including in agriculture, among traveling sales crews and — as recent legal cases against GEO Group Inc. have revealed — as the result of compulsory prison labor in privately owned and operated detention facilities contracted by the Department of Homeland Security.”

As is clear from just the top five of 25 stories selected by Project Censored, there was very big news on everything from freedom of the press and freedom of speech, to slavery and the impending climate catastrophe that very few of us even heard anything about.  This lack of information about these and other extremely important topics shapes our knowledge of reality by either complete omission or marginalization of crucial information that could have an extremely important impact on our lives.

Thus the problem we face is not just the attack on the notion of verifiable facts from the White House, but also the erasure, intentional or not, of other crucially important stories.

For more on these and the rest of the top 25 censored stories go here : https://www.projectcensored.org/category/the-top-25-censored-stories-of-2018-2019/

NOTE: Under the Perfect Sun will be back January 13th, 2020.








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