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Book Review: Project Censored 2013

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  • Peter Phillips
    Book Review: Project Censored 2013 Huff, Mickey S., and Andy Lee Roth, eds. Censored 2013: Dispatches From the Media Revolution. New York: Seven Stories Press,
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 21, 2012
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      Book Review: Project Censored 2013

      Huff, Mickey S., and Andy Lee Roth, eds. Censored 2013: Dispatches
      From the Media Revolution. New York: Seven Stories Press, October
      2012. 468 pp. $19.95

      By Paul W. Rea, PhD

      Project Censored has delivered another timely and essential book. The
      passion and commitment of editors Prof. Mickey Huff and Dr. Andy Lee
      Roth definitely show�and not just in their own writing. They�re
      managed to tease out fine performances from many other writers,
      including Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, Elliot D. Cohen of Truthout, Sara van
      Gelder of YES! Magazine, Peter Phillips, Adam Bessie and many others.

      The issues definitely matter. The significance of the reader-selected
      Top 25 Censored Stories of 2011-12 is beyond dispute. Number 1 is
      �Signs of an Emerging Police State�; Number 2 is �Oceans in Peril�;
      and Number 3 is �Fukushima Disaster Worse Than Anticipated.� Other
      sections reveal how a �Federal Reserve Audit Reveals Trillions Loaned
      to Major Banks� and a �Small Network of Corporations Run the Global
      Economy.� For each general issue, News Clusters add context, breadth
      and depth.

      Rumblings from the Occupy Movements of 2011 reverberate throughout
      many of the clusters. Readers learn not only about the �Bankster
      Bailout,� but about how to create an economy for the 99 percent.
      Lesser-known issues include how Congress has forced the US Post Office
      to bear unfair financial commitments, apparently in an effort to
      justify its privatization.

      Informed, Incisive Critiques of Corporate Media Censorship

      More than in previous Project Censored volumes, historical approaches
      inform this year�s edition. This trend is apparent in several places,
      including the follow-ups on the Top Stories from previous years. The
      book kicks into high gear when Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth sink
      their critical teeth into �junk food news,� �twinkies for the brain.�
      This includes the cult of celebrity, �whether through sports drama,
      Donald Trump�s ongoing obsession with Barack Obama�s birthplace,
      America�s infatuation with royalty��decidedly �more McNews� than
      anyone should have to stomach.� Among the examples provided, none
      seems more telling than how the royal wedding of William and Kate
      preempted coverage of the Stop Internet Piracy Act (SOPA), which could
      affect nearly everyone in the country (pp. 152-55, 159, 164). Project
      Censored has long pointed out how distraction functions as a subtle
      form of censorship.

      Beyond the steady diet of escapist entertainment served up by
      corporate media, the editors flash back to Daniel Boorstin�s now
      classic The Image (1962) to illustrate the American tradition of
      �pseudo events,� which include political debates largely devoid of
      substance. The 2012 presidential debates hyped by the American mass
      media surely provide cases in point. Not once did the network
      moderators ask questions about issues such as burgeoning drone
      attacks, increased government surveillance, or global climate change.

      The critique also cites �news abuse,� the practice of covering actual
      events incompletely, leaving out the substantive in favor the
      entertaining, the emotionally maudlin, or the reinforcement of popular
      myths. An orgy of hero worship followed the death of Steve Jobs,
      making little mention of legendary CEO�s tyrannical tendencies or his
      record of outsourcing high- tech jobs to China.

      The analysis of censorship and propaganda techniques deepens in
      �Censorship Backfires,� an outstanding chapter by Dutch scholar Dr.

      Antoon De Baets. As the author of Responsible History, De Baets is
      well positioned to expose the common malpractice of self-censorship
      among historians. This often takes the form of refusing to shine a
      light into dark corners or even �systematic manipulation of historical
      facts,� typically propelled by rewards from academe, foundations, or
      government. Over time, tacit historical taboos (or �memory holes�) are
      enforced, especially when the subjects may be �embarrassing for reason
      of privacy, reputation, or legitimization of power and status.� The
      contradictions in the official account of 9/11 provide one notable
      case in point. The �backfire,� notes De Baets, comes when the �blank
      spots� in the record �provoke a stronger and almost obsessive interest
      in these issues� (pp. 225-32).

      Closing out the analysis of censorship are Dr. Elliott D. Cohen�s
      unsettling revelations, �The Information War: How Government Is
      Seeking Total Information Awareness.� Dr. Cohen points to a war waged
      for �the acquisition and control of the rich supply of
      information� . . . a �vigilant campaign by government, across borders,
      to ensure that no one has the franchise of knowledge except the
      highest echelons of national command and control.� The war for privacy
      may not be lost, he tells us, but we�ll need to fight for what
      remains. Recent disclosures about extensive FBI snooping into the
      personnel email of David Petraeus and Paula Broadwell surely
      underscore this point; yet this sinister development got lost beneath
      the titillating coverage of a sex scandal.

      Moving to particular cases, readers also learn how de facto censorship
      occurs when alternative media outlets are run badly. Especially
      engaging to listeners of independent, listener-sponsored Pacifica
      Radio are the disclosures by Andrew Leslie Phillips, the Acting
      Manager of KPFA in Berkeley, California. Phillips sketches an
      unfortunate history of attempts to make the Pacifica network into a
      more liberal National Public Radio, dulling its critical edge and
      ultimately threatening its existence. One result, he reveals, is an
      �unwieldy and expensive governance structure� at the network level
      characterized by cronyism among �political diehards with little radio
      experience who have not done much to improve programming, revenue, or
      audience membership� (pp. 262-63).

      Ample Focus on Hugely Important Issues

      One of most substantive of these is �The Global 1 Percent Ruling Class
      Exposed� by Dr. Peter Phillips and Kimberly Soeiro of Sonoma State
      University. This chapter doesn�t talk about the 1% in the abstract,
      however;

      it names names. In the mining industry, the lens focuses on the pin
      stripers who run Freeport McRan; in the investment sector, it probes
      the board of Blackrock, Inc. The reader sees the ruling class sitting
      on these interlocked boards of directors as its members �arrange for
      payments to government officials, undermine labor organizations,
      manipulate the price of commodities (e.g. gold), or engage in insider
      trading . . . .� (pp. 251-52).

      Fellow Sonoma State sociologist and co-editor Andy Lee Roth elaborates
      on the top-rated story, �an emerging police state.� In �Framing Al-
      Awlaki: How Government Officials and Corporate Media Legitimized a
      Targeted Killing,� Prof. Roth uses the assassination of one suspected
      terrorist to raise broader issues: compromised media, extrajudicial
      executions, and ever- expanding drone warfare, sometimes targeting
      American citizens.

      All this occurs, Roth argues, because corporate media are prone to
      demonize Islamist leaders and to suppress the CIA drone attacks that
      target them. Roth�s article certainly makes a strong indictment of
      these violations of constitutional guarantees. The case would be even
      stronger if it mentioned that just two weeks later another US citizen,
      the Imam�s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman al-Aulaqi, was also killed by a
      CIA-sponsored drone strike.

      This time, not only was there no legal process but there were no
      credible allegations of involvement with terrorism. A Hellfire missile
      just blew the kid away (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/24/robert-gibbs-anwar-
      al-awlaki_n_2012438.html).

      Another excellent chapter takes a tough look at �GERM Warfare: How to
      Reclaim the Education Debate from Corporate Occupation.� Adam Bessie,
      a former public school teacher now an English professor, again
      combines passionate commitment with significant expertise. Prof.
      Bessie shows how the current privatization-of-the-public-schools
      movement, its roots in the toxic substrate of Milton Friedman�s
      laissez faire economics, has now borne toxic fruit in �reformers� like
      Michelle Rhee, the former anti-faculty administrator. Bessie shows how
      Rhee�s Students First, while presenting itself in progressive-sounding
      language, is really about teachers last. As most of us realize, when
      teachers are beaten down, students are less likely to rise.

      Fukushima: The Deep Roots of Disastrous Secrecy

      It�s not surprising that Fukushima, which Project Censored
      contributors elevated to the #3 important censored story, receives
      ample, in-depth coverage. Brian Covert, a journalist and researcher
      living in Japan, explains why the nuclear industry became so
      problematic. His �On the Road to Fukushima� focuses on the huge media-
      watchdog failures, especially those emerging from Matsutaro Shoriki, a
      pro-capitalist, highly nationalistic newspaper magnate who beat the
      war drums for Imperial conquest. Though Shoriki was briefly imprisoned
      after the War, he was soon freed and brought back to prominence by the
      Americans under Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

      Following World War II, then, Shoriki regained his stature as a media
      baron and used his influence to import the American �Atoms for Peace�
      program into Japan. Since Japan had just been shattered by the first
      atomic bombs, this presented a real propaganda challenge. To help
      surmount it, Shoriki used his cozy connections with journalists to
      insure that issues of nuclear safety were air brushed out of the
      picture, thereby helping to institutionalize �the toothless lapdog
      press of today.� The health consequences for the Japanese population
      and the ecological fallout for the Pacific Ocean will likely be grave.

      This government/industry/press collusion became horrifically evident
      in the immediate aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, when Tokyo
      Electric (TEPCO) and the government were able to suppress public
      awareness and grossly underestimate the dangers to both public health
      and the environment. The book�s editors clearly understand the
      connection, for the pollution from Fukushima is linked to the Great
      Pacific Garbage Patch, a vast glob of debris, mostly plastics,
      coagulated by currents swirling in the Pacific.

      A Stunning Update on the Kent State Killings

      If much of this history was new to most American readers, so was
      Mickey Huff and Laurel Krause�s truth-telling about the Kent State
      shootings on May 4, 1970. While the controlled indignation evokes Neil
      Young�s famous �Four Dead in Ohio,� the impressive research and
      writing delivers a hard- hitting expos�. Making use of groundbreaking
      new evidence, notably a fresh forensic analysis of an audiotape, the
      authors explode the conventional narrative about Kent State. No longer
      can government apologists claim that �rioters� burned down the ROTC
      Building, that no order to fire was ever given, that national
      guardsmen acted only in self-defense, or that only a few shots were
      fired. Instead, any accurate narrative must now include the fact that
      activist groups at Kent State, like those on many campuses opposing
      the Vietnam War, had been infiltrated by FBI COINTELPRO (�counter
      intelligence,� actually sabotage from within) and the Department of
      Defense was deeply implicated in gunning down college students.

      Since the National Guardsmen were armed with armor-piercing bullets,
      the killings must ultimately be seen as a State Crime Against
      Democracy (SCAD), a deliberate attack on citizens exercising their
      right to protest� intended, it would surely seem, to intimidate other
      demonstrators.

      Looking Toward the Future: A Positive Vision

      Given the range of problem issues presented by Censored 2013, readers
      might need affirmations about how to proceed toward solutions. This is
      exactly what Prof. Kenn Burrows and Dr. Michael Nagler offer in �The
      Creative Tension of the Emerging Future.� As forward-looking thinkers,
      Burrows and Nagler invite readers into �a deeper conversation about
      our collective dilemma.� These include moving toward an economy whose
      purpose is the satisfaction of human needs, not promotion of consumer
      wants. Such an economy would involve gifting, sharing, and barter as
      well as worker-owned cooperatives to replace the standard capitalist
      model (pp. 315, 322).

      Burrows and Nagler also emphasize community banking and state banks.
      While credit unions are increasingly popular, many progressives do not
      realize how much state banks offer, especially in terms of job
      creation. The authors point out that North Dakota, the only state with
      its own public bank, has experienced the lowest unemployment rate in
      the country. One reason, they rightly note, is that while corporate
      banks, obsessed with high returns, have remained reluctant to make
      loans, a state bank has served the small businesses that create local
      jobs.

      Yes, the problems are many and varied, as this new Project Censored
      volume makes clear. And yes, solutions are possible�but first we must
      understand what we�re up against. That�s what Censored 2013 delivers
      so remarkably well.

      Paul W. Rea, PhD, is the author of Mounting Evidence: Why We Need a
      New Investigation into 9/11 (2011). In the interest of full
      disclosure, Dr. Rea contributed to the Introduction for Section 2 and
      helped edit two chapters of Censored 2013.



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