- This Week
09.14.10 - 2:53 pm | Rebecca Bowe |
"There are many factors afoot that prevent stories from getting reported," he says. "What we're saying is that anything that interferes with a free flow of information is censorship. It's not the blacking out of a story, it's the framing of a story. It's the angle. It's what views are being left out. In old school 'objective journalism'<0x2009>" — air quotes — "you're supposed to get both sides of the story. Yeah, well, sometimes there are six sides."
The preface to Censored 2011 offers a harsh critique of mainstream news. "In America, unsubstantiated opinions, rumors, and gossip surrounding important issues masquerade as real news," it states. "We live in a propaganda culture where factual information is routinely censored by degree."
To be sure, public relations outfits and staged press events routinely influence the content of the daily news, and media watchdog groups often spotlight the fiction or egregious bias that finds its way onto the airwaves. Yet in a culture where truth is so often mangled and information so scattered — and the state of politics and the economy so frightening — both sides of the political spectrum have moved toward the fringes. And thumbing through Censored 2011, one wonders if Project Censored itself has wandered into uncharted territory.
Huff and former Project Censored director Peter Phillips recently coauthored an op-ed exploring the concept of State Crimes Against Democracy (SCADs), hoping to publish it through the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive think tank based in Washington, D.C. To their dismay, IPS rejected it. Huff found the decision cruelly ironic — he felt he'd been censored.
Chapters 6 and 7 of Censored 2011 also delve into SCADs — a construct that seeks to buck the "conspiracy theory" label in favor of a more sophisticated framework. They are defined as "concerted actions or inactions by government insiders intended to manipulate democratic processes." The introduction to the book alludes to those chapters as "beyond urgent," and Kristina Borjesson equates a lack of mainstream media coverage of questions surrounding 9/11 — perhaps the mother of all SCADs, from the 9/11 Truth Movement's perspective — as censorship.
Huff and Phillips noted that they are not part of the so-called 9/11 Truth Movement, arguing that urging mainstream coverage of that particular set of questions is just a small piece of their wider body of work. There are signs, however, that returning to that particular topic over the past several years has harmed some people's perceptions of the project.
One person familiar with Project Censored noted that at least two former judges had parted ways over "the 9/11 fixation ... a really weak link in the entire operation. It rearranges atomized factoids into theories." Yet the project should still be viewed as valuable and relevant, this person added.
"There is absolutely no question that they've done extremely important work over the years," noted Reese Erlich, a prominent journalist who has covered the Iraq war and won awards from Project Censored for his work in the past. "The mainstream media in this country are failing to report all kinds of issues." Yet Erlich turns a critical eye onto the so-called 9/11 Truth narrative. "My biggest gripe is that by complaining there is a conspiracy ... you take away from the ability of people to make positive change," he noted. "It gives them all the power, and the people have none of the power."
It's clear that Project Censored is sensitive to the "conspiracy theorist" label, and as champions of free speech, the directors aren't shy about addressing it head-on. The first item on the Investigative Research section of its website, for example, is a nearly 10,000-word article titled "Analysis of Project Censored: Are We A Left-Leaning, Conspiracy-Oriented Organization?"