Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Wed Oct 29, 2003 12:57 pm 
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We all agree that Saddam Hussein was a murderous tyrant, and his brutal regime was an affront to basic human decency. But Iraq was not a breeding ground for terrorism. Our invasion has made it one.

The trumped up reasons for going to war have collapsed. All the Administration's rationalizations as we prepared to go to war now stand revealed as "double-talk." The American people were told Saddam Hussein was building nuclear weapons. He was not. We were told he had stockpiles of other weapons of mass destruction. He did not. We were told he was involved in 9/11. He was not. We were told Iraq was attracting terrorists from Al Qaeda. It was not. We were told our soldiers would be viewed as liberators. They are not. We were told Iraq could pay for its own reconstruction. It cannot. We were told the war would make America safer. It has not.

Before the war, week after week after week after week, we were told lie after lie after lie after lie.


Lie after lie after lie after lie: Ted Kennedy spoke for the people of two nations when he gave this address in the Senate. In England and America the major story for months has been how both governments lied to their constituents and to the world to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq -- and how they continue to lie about it over and over. It makes timely sense that Al Franken's best-selling satire on the American right is called Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell them.

The truth may be out there but it's so well hidden the ordinary citizen has a hard time finding it. The US media is in the hands of a business oligarchy in bed with government regulators. The administration has a vested interest in propagating "lie after lie after lie after lie." In the "Home of the Whopper" chapter of his new book, Dude, Where's My Country? Michael Moore says, "Maybe the reason Bush is still here is that he proved the old adage that if you tell a lie long enough and often enough, sooner or later it becomes the truth."

It may seem positive that the American public is increasingly aware of being lied to about Iraq - as Senator Kennedy's blunt declarations show. But so long as we're still arguing over these dead issues while the lies keep getting repeated, we continue to be distracted from the truth and remain focused on a narrow range of issues.

Happily there are still places you can go for real truths. A good one is Peter Phillips and Project Censored. The aim of this group based at Sonoma State University is to find and track stories the public ought to know about but doesn't.

"The Essential Issue raised by the project," their website states, "is the failure of the mass media to provide the people with all the information they need to make informed decisions concerning their own lives and in the voting booth." Each year Project Censored issues a volume containing "The Top 25 Censored Stories." The latest one just came out and it's valuable reading. It's called Media Democracy in Action: Censored 2004 (Seven Stories Press, October 2003).

It's a very long stretch for most people to move from the administration's basic lies about Iraq to the far more diverse diet Project Censored provides.
These 25 stories may have turned up somewhere in the Washington Post or a local paper if you looked hard enough. But they were de-emphasized, buried, or altogether lost in those mainstream sources. What the Project's team of faculty and student researchers does is comb all available sources and decide which of the underreported stories seem most important. They then maintain a watch on how they develop over time - whether they go on being ignored or gain attention. Sometimes the stories enter the mainstream eventually - often they don't. The top 25 censored stories in the 2004 edition are all now available online. The book also has a chapter with updates on the stories of previous years.

The top 25 censored stories: For most of us, this is stuff we rarely hear about. The mainstream media doesn't bring us the facts about the neo-conservatives' long established plan for global dominance (Project Censored story #1), nor does it dwell upon the threats to civil liberty posed by Homeland Security and the Patriot Act (story #2). These are not things the Bush administration wants you to know. The facts about the Project for a New American Century are pretty shocking. The attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq were all anticipated long before 9/11; 9/11 was a godsend for these planners of empire. Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle and the Project founder William Kristol all go way back together. This government's actions can quite reasonably be seen as a conspiracy.

Even if you've heard about Homeland Security - and who hasn't? - it bears much further scrutiny, and there is a separate section (Chapter 9) in the book on the realities of the Patriot Act, its secrets and its implications. It's also useful to keep checking the ACLU's website on this for new developments. This is an area where the public is becoming more and more aware of the dangerous repressions in the Patriot Act. The tide of sympathy in government and the whole country is turning against John Ashcroft's oppressive regime.

Obviously the word "censored" is used somewhat figuratively in Project Censored's work. In the US we have self-censorship, and that works more insidiously and stealthily than the simple direct kind imposed from above. When we hear the word "censored" we may imagine a document with a big stamp on it and sections blacked out. What US citizens often get is the kind of censorship where the item is simply lost or buried. But it's censorship nonetheless.

Few members of the public will even have heard about how the US removed two thirds of the twelve thousand pages of the Iraq weapons report -- pages that revealed how those weapons were originally sold to Iraq by US companies (story #3). It's unlikely they would be aware what a dramatically (and literally) censored document the UN accepted, unless they'd somehow come upon a German newspaper story by Andreas Zumach or listened to Amy Goodman's interview with Zumach on Democracy Now in February of this year. This may seem an obscure little item. It isn't. It reveals the US government's incestuous relationship with global business. And it shows the Bush administration is willing to go to any lengths to protect that relationship.

Unless you read a single mention of it in an article in the Los Angeles Times a year ago or are a very sharp eyed Pentagon watcher, you wouldn't know about Donald Rumsfeld's shocking plan to provoke terrorists into murderous attacks on Americans so that counterattacks can be staged (story #4). It appeared in CounterPunch a few days later and was discussed on the web, but never made it further into the mainstream. This is a recurrent sort of scheme - one that Kennedy rejected and Nixon and Reagan tried to get away with but couldn't. The Bush junta may, if we don't watch them. Something we hear over and over is that this administration is bolder and more aggressive than any before it.

Only that small minority of Americans who are readers of leftist publications like The American Prospect, The Progressive, War Times, or International Socialist Review would be aware of the way the corporate media has blamed labor for struggling to keep labor unions going in this country, and how the administration has waged continual war on public-sector unions and immigrant workers. Few outside that small readership of labor-oriented people may realize that unionization in the private sector, which was 36% in 1950, is now down to only 10% (story #5). In a world where big money and business rule, labor doesn't get much publicity - though the power is there, a sleeping giant.

These are just the top five of Project Censored's 25 new stories.

There are many other items of international importance that the general public is overlooking and will probably continue to overlook unless they go out and get a copy of Project Censored's new book.

One of the most significant stories is the systematic treaty busting the Bush administration has engaged in since day one (story #7). The US has violated or subverted nine multilateral treaties and is in the gradual process of out and out rejecting them all. In doing so it puts global security in jeopardy, encourages the collapse of international law, and at the highest level declares itself above such law and immune to the planet's needs. This story continues to be underreported in the corporate media. It's a complex, many-faceted story that doesn't look good on Bush's resume or accord with the media's linear, monaural system of highlighted, dumbed-down news presentation.

Also muted in the mainstream press is the "coalition's" relentless use of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq despite massive evidence of their negative health effects -- on our troops as well as the "enemy," as tens of thousands of Desert Storm veterans know (story #8). Too controversial, it seems; too downbeat to be widely covered. This is the ugly underside of warmongering - that it's an abuse of the country's able bodied young men, who're ignored when they come home. A story with a long history, it's clearest to us in the fallout of ruined lives after Vietnam and Gulf War I.

Isn't it also particularly important, in view of the situation in Iraq, to be aware that Afghanistan is considerably worse off than before 9/11 now, that women live in fear, civil rights are nowhere, warlords rule, and the opium trade is back in full swing (story # 9)? Shouldn't we also know about the Scottish documentary "Massacre at Mazar," which shows the US was involved in mass killing in Afghanistan and seeks to cover this up (story #11)? To Arundhati Roy's formula,"Instant-Mix Imperial Democracy (bring to a boil, add oil, then bomb)", one might add "and then forget." Afghanistan is yesterday's news.

What about Venezuela? Are Americans aware of what's going on there? Venezuela has the largest oil reserves outside the Middle East. It's the fourth largest oil-producing nation in the world and the third largest oil provider to the US. Last year the US used CIA Special Ops to support a coup against Venezuela's democratically elected president Hugo Chavez - who was doubling oil royalties for foreign companies and following many other pro-poor, socialist policies the US didn't like. The goal was to replace Chavez with Pedro Carmona, a wealthy businessman and former associate of Bush Senior. The attempt tanked because of overwhelming demonstrations of popular support for Chavez by the poor majority (story #12). The situation is not resolved but a revolutionary process is taking place in Venezuela today with the growth of popular cooperatives and community control amid the general chaos (story #23). Good luck in finding any of that honestly covered on the nightly news. A Google search will yield mostly conservative economists' gloomy analyses. According to Project Censored, you have to look to articles in The Guardian, Global Outlook, or People's Weekly World for the details on this complex story. Jon Beasley-Murray of the University of Manchester has described how the Venezuelan media oligarchs blocked out what was happening in "The Revolutions Will Not be Televised". The attempted coup and Chavez's story are now chronicled in a prizewinning new film of the same name by Irish documentarians Kim Bartley and Donnacha O'Briain.

Other important Project Censored stories for the year about the right's move toward domination and exploitation focus on privatization of public land (#`18) and of military contracts in the US (#20), growing opposition to the media monopoly dominated by Clear Channel (#17), and the US military's war on the earth (#15). Here too, the government's neglect of the majority in favor of a few plutocrats is highlighted.

* * * * *

Project Censored is obviously a media watchdog organization. But besides pointing out where and in what sectors of the media the truth is being withheld or distorted, the group plays an even more important function by revealing these 25 stories and analyzing and updating them. Taken all together they're a warning to the public to look for the ugly side of US policy - and be constantly aware of how the lapdog corporate media tends to overlook anything that reflects unfavorably on the government's grand schemes for the nation and the world.

It's also important to know where censorship of the most direct kinds is occurring throughout the rest of the world, and the Project Censored book covers that in its summary of this year's issues of the quarterly Index on Censorship. Also essential is the Resource List.

The 25 top censored stories are just the beginning of Censored 2004, which also contains important follow-up stories on the Iraq war, the Patriot Act, the hip-hop campaign for media reform, and other aspects of the US government's manipulation of media and public opinion today. There's some hope now, with four dissident books top US best sellers and with this essential book, that Americans are becoming more aware of the tattered garment the free press represents and ready to take action.

But we are in a crisis stage nonetheless. A recent Stanford University evaluation linked to the Project Censored website shows that print journalism has actually improved in the San Francisco Bay Area in the past couple of years, but local television coverage of the news there has continued to deteriorate. Unfortunately TV news remains very much the place where the majority of Americans get their information about current events, and it is still stagnating.

In print journalism, the US can't compare with the diversity of news sources found in England or Europe. Americans may also be surprised to learn that, as the late Edward Said pointed out in his last public speech, "On Dignity and Solidarity," the diversity of print and broadcast journalism -- and of public opinion in the Arab world far exceeds that of the US (just as there is more diversity of opinion about Israel in Israel itself). This is where the "dumbing down" of the American public comes in, and where the danger remains of the ongoing spread of misinformation by a shameless administration.

It's essential to be aware of the Bush lies Senator Kennedy so forcefully rejects above. They have taken over the lives and clouded the consciousness of those of us who are forced to wander the "vast wasteland" of American corporate media. There's a desperate public need for Project Censored and the other sources listed at the back of the new book.

The hidden stories are the most important ones. It's by focusing on them that we can best counter the administration's "rationalizations" and "double-talk" - its "lie after lie after lie after lie." I hope Censored 2004 sells like hotcakes.

[For further information on the latest deceptions from the White House see David Corn's book, Bush Lies: Mastering the Politics of Deception (Crown Publishers, October 2003) with updates on his website.]

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