Seven years after the launch of Project Censored in 1983, the founder of the media research, education and advocacy initiative, Sonoma State University professor Carl Jensen, added the Junk Food News component.
If you’re going to publish a yearly list of the stories most censored by corporate media, and if corporate media’s annual denial argues that there’s always more news than there is time and space to report it, then the next logical step is to compare the quality of the stories that were reported with the stories that were not.
Jensen found that the news peddled by corporate media had about as much fiber, protein and minerals as a bowl of children’s cereal.
Just this month, Seven Stories Press released Censored 2017: the Fortieth Anniversary Edition, a work researched, written and edited by Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth, with help from student researchers from five California colleges.
The researchers gave the lay of the media landscape of this past year, noting that while the press is about as well-regarded as Congress, the public still trusts its information about key issues of the day.
Project Censored also cited studies showing that the millennial generation is more accepting of censorship of offensive content than previous generations, while the corporate media has continued to frame storylines to serve power.
Additionally, Project Censored researchers zeroed in on social media's emerging role in keeping Americans informed and perhaps uninformed. Meanwhile, governments and corporate interests censor and propagandize information.
Referencing the work of analysts such as Sean McElwee whose writings on Salon.com explored why working and middle class Americans vote against their own self-interests, Censored researchers noted that while analysts tend to focus on the Democrat versus Republican binary of media bias, they totally miss the bias that results in reporting that matters to the rich rather than reporting on matters that affect most Americans.
Project Censored researchers noted that the nature of news abuse and preeminence of junk food news is that it emphasizes the spectacle of the circus rather than the substance of the issues involved.
Junk Food News
Project Censored writers noted that Donald Trump has appeared in the book at two different times. The first was in the 1990s, in the story "The Marital Woes of Donald and Ivana Trump," and the second time was in 2015 when he became a presidential candidate.
Corporate media coverage of Trump’s run for president has been treated as a reality show that almost blacked out the Sanders campaign completely.
Trump’s feud with Megyn Kelly displaced stories such as "Common Dreams: As of Today, Humanity has Exhausted its 2015 Supply of Natural Resources" and "Choking to Death in Detroit: Flint isn’t Michigan’s Only Disaster."
The coverage of hand and penis sizes, and the attractiveness of candidate wives overshadowed the "Foreign Policy in Focus" story on newly released documents that exposed how then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton provided arms to Saudi Arabia.
The corporate media fawned over how “presidential” Trump was beginning to look following his primary win in New York rather than fact-checking his victory speech, which included 71 inaccurate, misleading or deeply questionable claims.
Project Censored took particular note of how the internet creates, discusses and shares junk only to be picked up and circulated by the traditional corporate press. "Ted Cruz, the Zodiac Killer" was a primary example. But others included the bird that landed on Bernie Sanders' podium before his speech in Portland this past March. That garnered more attention than the report on Israeli army medic executing a wounded Palestinian suspect.
Corporate media inserted themselves into stories to distract the public from their hijacking of the democratic process, including censoring reporting on the role of dark money on the corporate media itself.
In a relevant example, Project Censored noted that MSNBC and CNN edited out several lines from a video where Sanders attacked the corporate media for failing to fulfill its role in reporting important issues in the election, including the issue of corporate media biases.
“Corporate media’s refusal to delineate between fact and opinion, slant and bias, perspective and falsehood, allowed the election coverage to co-opt serious issues of equity and social justice including racial and gender prejudice, immigration, climate change, human rights, sexuality and civil liberties,” Project Censored stated. “Furthermore, it allowed for political falsehoods to permeate the corporate media echo chamber.”
Youth played a major role in primaries, but corporate media plants seeds of cynicism and apathy in the days leading up to the primary election by suggesting they not bother voting because the election was already rigged in favor of Hillary Clinton―this despite youth lead victories, which include Maine becoming the first state to abolish the use of super delegates in presidential elections.
Project Censored editors argued that the Clinton campaign did not take the acrimony seriously. Instead, the campaign went on the defense with former President Bill Clinton, ignoring how his policies contributed to the present climate of discontent among the youth. The campaign blamed them for not voting to prevent the Republicans taking over Congress in 2010.
But corporate media got significant help from social media in planting seeds of apathy. A Clinton super political action committee and a lobbyist group wrote a pro-Clinton op-ed for Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed. He denounced Sanders, but the op-ed had few facts.
In another instance, a Clinton super PAC, Correct the Record, pledged to spend $1 million to push back against Twitter, Facebook, Reddit and Instagram users who criticize Clinton.
The end result of these particular forms of abuse is the “coronation” of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee.
“The corporate media narrative that Clinton was the frontrunner became self-fulfilling after their coverage included misleading delegate counts, slanted analysis, a redefining of progressivism, censorship of a corrupted party committing state crimes against democracy and a premature declaration of her victory before the primary was over and the convention even held.”
Project Censored spent considerable time deconstructing how and why the Clinton campaign and corporate media interest worked so closely in constructing the narrative of the inevitability of Clinton’s primary victory, while simultaneously tearing down Sanders.
“Polling has found that 50 percent of the US population has a negative view of Clinton, and only 22 percent of the population holds a favorable image of the former secretary of state.”To address this, the Clinton campaign spent $1 million on online trolls for the purpose of correcting the negative statements about her and maintaining her close relationship with the press—a relationship that goes back to the 1990s when she first lady.
In April 2015, before her candidacy was official, she met with members of the corporate media to discuss her talking points.
One of Clinton’s top financial supporters, Haim Saban, bought out the satirical website The Onion. Clinton’s daughter Chelsea is on the board of directors of InterActivCorp, a company that partially owns Newsweek, the Daily Beast and other news outlets.
Project Censored cited Clinton’s rapport with the press as having resulted in favorable coverage that hides or excuses her indiscretions. In one example, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found that on the night of the first primary debate, the corporate press unanimously declared Clinton the winner, though online polls, by margins as high as 65 percent, believed Sanders had won the debate.
The researchers cited Sanders' appearance on Hardball with Chris Matthews and how it became a debate on Sanders' policies, while Clinton faced nothing similar. Project Censored suggested that that may have to do with Matthews’ wife being a financial supporter of Clinton.
Project Censored also identified an instance when CBS used a Harvard poll of millennial voters to declare Clinton had a six-point lead over Sanders, but the actual poll said Sanders had the six-point lead.
Researchers at Project Censored noted that polls on top of polls have worked to further the inevitability of Clinton winning the primary—even though those polls have often proven to be inaccurate and unnewsworthy.
Project Censored referenced a 2015 study in which Clinton amassed 80 percent of Democratic Party airtime. The study made a correlation between the poll numbers and the airtime, suggesting that the disparity in coverage favoring Clinton made her party coronation a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The media watchdog noted that the corporate media declared Clinton the victor well before all the votes were counted during election night of the primary, and Clinton went to great lengths to hide her anti-progressive bona fides, which include refusing to publicly release her paid speeches to Wall Street bankers and blasting electronic noise at her private events so that the press cannot hear her speeches to wealthy donors.
Project Censored also meticulously documented the alignment of corporate interest at the Democratic National Convention, noting super delegates supporting Clinton are corporate lobbyists paid by the private prison corporations, private healthcare insurers opposed to the Affordable Care Act and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Former Rep. Barney Frank oversaw the creation of the DNC platform, which they noted largely supported the corporate agenda.
In short, what is reflected in Project Censored’s analysis of the Clinton campaign coverage is the systematic cloaking of moderate Republicans as progressives, which results in keeping civil discourse further right of center.
The most recent example of this phenomena was the fallout following the publishing of Kirsten West Savali’s article on Angela Davis’ keynote address at the “Black Matters: The Futures of Black Scholarship and Activism” event this past month.
“I have serious problems with the other candidate, but I am not so narcissistic to say I cannot bring myself to vote for her,” said Davis, during her address. “Too much energy went into the struggle for voting rights not to go to the polls.”
In an interview with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!, Davis said she has never voted for either of the two major parties before Barack Obama.
“I believe in independent politics,” Davis said. “We need a new party, a party that is grounded in labor, a party that can speak to all of the issues around racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, what is happening in the world. We don’t yet have that party. And, even as we participate in this electoral process as it exists today, I think we need to be looking ahead toward a very different kind of political process. At the same time, we put pressure on whoever is running.”
What Carl Jensen and his successors at Project Censored have created is a service-learning program that has taught them abuses in the creation and dissemination of the news and that they have the power to stop and or undermine these abuses.
This new generation of educators, students and activists are in alignment with other contemporary youth-dominated movements including Black Lives Matter, Fight for $15, Dreamers and others.
This chapter on Junk Food News concludes by noting that, “among the best ways the Project believes it is possible to promote democracy in action is through critical media literacy education.”
They called it the strongest means for fighting against censorship and propaganda in their numerous guises, while supporting a truly independent and free press.