The world was a different place in 1976 when Sonoma State University communications professor Carl Jensen founded Project Censored to highlight important national news stories underreported or outright ignored by the mainstream press. Back then, few good alternatives existed to television networks or major newspapers and magazines, and stories omitted from those media channels usually escaped public notice.
There was no Google News or blogs. And the word "twitter" was associated with birds or gossip. So Project Censored emerged to provide a fuller and more accurate picture of the news by delivering an annual rundown of the most significant articles that hadn't been widely distributed.
But even if the corporate media could censor important information back then, today's highly fragmented media world has opened the floodgates to endless news and propaganda of all varieties, leaving citizens awash in more information than they can possibly process.
So yes, it's a brave new world of media consumption. But no, Project Censored's mission hasn't really changed. More than ever, people need help sifting through this cacophony to figure out what they truly need to know.
For 35 years, the project has distributed its list nationwide to shed light on the top stories not brought to you by the mainstream press. These days, stories are submitted, researched by students, filtered through LexisNexis to determine which outlets have covered them, and then voted on by a team of judges. An international network of 30 colleges and universities contributes to the project, and volunteers from around the world submit stories for consideration. At the end of each project cycle, the work is released in a compendium.
"There are many factors afoot that prevent stories from getting reported," says Project Censored Director Mickey Huff, a history professor at Diablo Valley College in California. "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'"—air quotes—"you're supposed to get both sides of the story. Yeah, well, sometimes there are six sides."
With that in mind, here is this year's countdown of the top censored stories of 2009-10:
1. Proposal to drop the U.S. dollar as the global reserve currency
Since the financial meltdown of 2008 sent a jarring ripple effect throughout the global economy, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has been talking up the idea of an international market that doesn't use the U.S. dollar as a global reserve currency. The dollar now holds the status of the predominant anchor currency held in foreign exchange reserves, securing the U.S.'s strategic economic position.
In July 2009 at the Group of Eight Summit in Italy, Medvedev underscored his call for a newly conceived "united future world currency" when he pulled a sample coin from his pocket and showed it off to heads of state, the Bloomberg news service reported. At a conference in the Russian city of Yekaterinburg in June 2009, world leaders from Brazil, India and China listened as Medvedev made his case for a new global currency system anchored on something other than the dollar, according to an article in the Christian Science Monitor.
Additionally, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) suggested in a report that the present system of using the dollar as the world's reserve currency should be subject to a wholesale reconsideration, according to an article in the Telegraph, a British newspaper.
Michael Hudson, an author and professor of economics at the University of Missouri, links discussions about an alternative global reserve currency with U.S. military spending. Referencing Medvedev's calls for a "multipolar world order," Hudson offers this translation: "What this means in plain English is, we have reached our limit in subsidizing the United States' military encirclement of Eurasia while also allowing the U.S. to appropriate our exports, companies, stocks, and real estate in exchange for paper money of questionable worth."
2. Environmental enemy No. 1: U.S. Department of Defense
The U.S. military burns through 320,000 barrels of oil a day, Sara Flounders of the International Action Center reports, but that tally doesn't factor in fuel consumed by contractors or the energy and resources used to produce bombs, grenades, missiles or other weapons employed by the Department of Defense.
By every measure, the Pentagon is the largest institutional user of petroleum products—yet it has a blanket exemption in commitments made by the United States to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Despite its status as top polluter, the Department of Defense received little attention in December 2009 during talks at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen.
Meanwhile, human health is threatened by the long-term environmental impacts of military operations throughout the globe. Depleted uranium contamination from the Iraq conflict has been linked to widespread health problems, Jalal Ghazi reports for New America Media. The Chamoru people of Guam, meanwhile, experience an alarmingly high rate of cancer, which is suspected to be linked to a nearby 1950s U.S. nuclear weapons testing site that left a legacy of radioactive contamination.
"The greatest single assault on the environment comes from one agency: the Armed Forces of the United States," author Barry Sanders writes in The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism.