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In the current issue of the New Republic, William Powers does an admirable, if slightly self-serving, job of dissecting (and discrediting) the establishment news media’s favorite media watchdog outfit — Project Censored.

Every year, the group compiles a list of what it describes as the top 25 censored news stories. Why does the mainstream press love the list and give it so much attention? Because it is always chockfull of the kinds of stories most in the media elite would love to report and publish, but simply lack the guts.

What do the stories have in common? Well, they almost never challenge the growing role and intrusion of government into our lives. Instead, they almost always fault business and private enterprise for the problems we have in our country.

Ironically, Powers points out, many, if not most, of the stories on the Project Censored list are not censored at all. He cites example after example of stories which were published in major establishment news organs and widely redistributed by papers across the country. He also relishes the fact that many of the stories were first reported in the respected, but tiny, New Republic.

“Though the organization’s board of ‘national judges’ has included conservative TV host John McLaughlin, each year it is dominated by people with another worldview, the one which holds that the U.S. is now in the grip of a cartel of scary clerics, corporate plutocrats, white men in white hoods and gun-loving, misogynist tree-murderers,” Powers accurately observes. “Some of this year’s judges have special expertise in censorship, such as the syndicated newspaper columnist and Pacifica Radio host Julian Malveaux, who has written in favor of speech codes that would prohibit ‘the hurling of slurs in public space.’”

The writer goes on to define “censorship” as government silencing of writers, news organizations and artists and explains that none of the Project Censored stories qualify as true censorship under such a definition.

But then Powers, eager to establish his own “mainstream” credentials, veers off into a gratuitous attack on the still extremely limited true alternative sources of information available in this country — zeroing in on the one you are reading right now.

He claims that the “right” promotes an “equally silly conspiracist take on America,” but insists that “relief is only as far away as Rush Limbaugh, the American Spectator and the Western Journalism Center’s web site.”

“I visited the latter, on a tip that the Project Censored list has a mirror image at the other end of the spectrum, a twin so close in appearance, tone and even substance that one can glimpse the point where the fringes meet and merge,” he writes. “And there it was, ‘Operation Spike’ — the WJC’s annual list of ‘the biggest media cover-ups of the year’ and ‘the most under-reported’ stories.”

Now watch closely this clever and subtle manipulation: “Though this list doesn’t literally claim censorship, it suggests as much: in journalese, to ‘spike’ a story is to kill it.”

Now, now, Mr. Powers. Didn’t you just tell us that it was principally the use of the term “censorship” to which you objected? Now you find equal fault with an organization that makes no such accusation of censorship. What gives? What kind of pseudo-journalistic sleight-of-hand are you trying to employ here?

The fact of the matter is that those who favor government solutions to every problem — real or imagined — have lots of media choices. From USA Today to the New York Times to CBS News to Time Magazine to Mother Jones, most of the press no longer sees itself in the traditional role of watchdog of government. Instead, most media outlets, consciously or unconsciously, do their best to promote the long reach of government in our lives.

It’s interesting that Powers cites Rush Limbaugh, the American Spectator and the Western Journalism Center as alternatives on the right. It would have been interesting to see him try to expand that list.

Those three media entities also figure prominently in last year’s semi-secret, 331-page White House report, “The Communication Stream of Conspiracy Commerce,” which alleged that the WJC and the American Spectator — two relatively tiny organizations — were at the source of a “media food chain” and had the audacity to expose some major Clinton administration scandals.

While no one to my knowledge has ever tried to silence the media critics at Project Censored, the same cannot be said about the investigative reporters at the Western Journalism Center. The White House spent taxpayer money compiling dossiers on us, frightening off our major donors and then siccing the Internal Revenue Service on the organization. Coincidentally, the American Spectator was simultaneously targeted for an audit.

Now that, Mr. Powers, is real censorship. Why don’t you write about that?

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