Censored is a distasteful word in a democratic society. It generally means suppressing or deleting information deemed objectionable, usually on moral, political or military grounds.
"Censored 2011" reveals what it calls the "top 25 censored stories of 2009-10," and in so doing takes to task "the corporate media, especially in the news departments." The 25 were selected from more than 300 nominated by participants in Project Censored, which draws information from sources around the world and publishes "Censored" biannually.
More than 200 students from college classrooms, including the 35 students in Niagara University's spring 2010 International Communication course, participated in choosing this edition's 25.
What were they? Many of them involved issues covered by the mainstream media but, in "Censored's" view, not covered in sufficient depth or covered with a bias. Take No. 11 for instance, the swine flu pandemic. It was certainly given prominent treatment by media worldwide in 2009, but "Censored" saw the real picture as data manipulated by health organizations "to grossly exaggerate the need for an expensive and unnecessary vaccine aimed at creating profits for the pharmaceutical companies -- not protecting Americans."
Then there's No. 10, U.S. funds and supports the Taliban. That's news that's been hinted at in the mainstream media, but "Censored" used an article in The Nation, a story in the Taiwan News and information from the Institute for War and Peace to report "the U.S. taxpayer's dollar continues to fund insurgents to protect American troops so they can fight insurgents."
Some other topics include Internet privacy, human rights abuses in Palestine, unresolved 9/1 1 issues, war crimes of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, and, No. 1, global plans to replace the dollar.
Lest readers dismiss "Censored" as propaganda for the political left, President Obama takes hits for cutting domestic spending while increasing military corporate welfare (No. 13) and spreading segregation through his charter school policies (No. 20).
"Censored" also pays tribute to Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, and this was written before the international brouhaha over the website's release of classified diplomatic dispatches. "Censored" argues that WikiLeaks' previous release of wartime video and documents did not threaten U.S. security, as the Pentagon claimed.
Rather, "Censored" notes, in paraphrasing Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg, Assange's efforts "expose the censorship of information that should be part of democratic discourse in determining public policy." That's a refrain heard often recently by defenders of Assange and WikiLeaks.
And it brings to mind the experiences of this former investigative reporter, who often sought public information that was censored but had no bearing on security, such as the amount of taxpayer dollars being paid to a Mafia informant.
Project Censored's biannual publications deserve credit for sometimes going where no other publication goes and for sometimes putting together pieces that crystallize a public issue. Such work is needed, not only to inform, but to let those in power know someone is watching.
Lee Coppola is the dean of St. Bonaventure University's Jandoli School of Journalism and a former Buffalo print and television reporter.
Edited by Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips with Project Censored
Seven Story Press
458 pages, $19.95