The politicization of the Internal Revenue Service and the apparent gunshot wound in Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's head were the biggest "spiked" stories of 1997, according to the editors and readers of WorldNetDaily.
More than 300 readers of the Internet's fastest-growing news site participated in the survey, according to WorldNetDaily Editor Joseph Farah. Editors were so overwhelmed by the response, the release of the report was delayed for three days.
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"Not only were the responses great in quantity," said Farah, "they were great in quality, as well. I was impressed by the thoughtfulness and enthusiasm of those who wrote."
Every year since 1992, the Western Journalism Center has sponsored a
survey of the most covered-up -- or "spiked" -- news stories. In years
past, the center has called on a national panel of working journalists
and media analysts to make the final selections. This year, however,
with the overwhelming success of WorldNetDaily at reaching tens of
thousands of readers every day, the editors decided to ask for the public's help.
The annual report is the focus of radio talk-show discussions, Internet chat and
even an occasional mainstream media news story. The Operation Spike list often provides one last opportunity for under-reported stories to get some of the attention they deserve.
Readers were equally split in their top choice between the politicization of the IRS and the Brown story. Both were stories broken, at least in part, by the Western Journalism Center, the parent company of WorldNetDaily.
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Non-profit groups, individual taxpayers and religious broadcasters who have been critical of the Clinton administration suspect they are being audited by the IRS for political reasons. At least 20 non-profit organizations -- including the Western Journalism Center, National Review, American Spectator, the National Rifle Association, Concerned Women of America and Citizens Against Government Waste -- have been targeted, while no liberal, pro-administration groups could be identified with audits during the Clinton years.
When Farah broke the story in the Wall Street Journal in late 1996, there was a flurry of publicity, resulting, some believe, in the resignation of IRS Commissioner Margaret Milner Richardson and a staff investigation by Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation. Only this month, however, did the committee begin interviewing victims of the audits.
In the Ron Brown death, two high-ranking military pathologists say the commerce secretary had an unusually round hole in his head after the crash of his plane last year in Croatia. It looks suspiciously like a gunshot wound, they say. But aside from concerns raised largely in the nation's black community, the story, broken by Western Journalism Center senior associate Christopher Ruddy, has been dismissed by the political and media establishment.
Other top spiked stories included:
- Asia's 20th-century female holocaust: A United Nations World Health
Organization report indicates some 50 million women are "missing" -- due
to sex-selection abortions, infanticide and neglect as a result of
China's one-child population-control policy. Even in a year when China
was much in the news, the report received scant media attention.
- The militarization of the federal government: Armed federal agents now
number more than 80,000, creating what some say is the "standing army"
the Founding Fathers warned America about. It's not just the FBI and
the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, but the EPA and Housing and Urban Development that arm their agents. The Federal Law Enforcement Training Center has plans to train 25,000 new agents in 1998.
- The mystery of Flight 800: There is a growing body of evidence that
TWA Flight 800 may have been struck by a missile, yet the government seems intent
on ignoring dozens of persuasive eyewitness reports and any physical
evidence that contradicts the fuel-tank explosion theory.
- Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy: Witnesses, including former
government agents, say federal agencies had advance knowledge of the
plot to blow up the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
Nevertheless, much of this startling testimony has been ignored by
official investigators and excluded from the high-profile trials of the
two men charged with the crime.
- Vincent Foster cover-up: Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr
issued his final report in 1997 on the death of White House Counsel
Vincent Foster. But despite the Starr report's insistence on a suicide
finding, new nagging questions emerged about eyewitness reports that
indicate Foster's car was not at the scene during the time he is alleged
to have killed himself in Fort Marcy Park.
- The persecution of the church: Are Christians becoming "the Jews of
the 21st century," as Michael Horowitz, senior fellow at the Hudson
Institute, says? In 1997 the extent of Christian persecution around the
world, especially in China and the Islamic nations, finally received
some press attention. New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal saw this as a major breakthrough. But was it enough to permeate the collective consciousness of the American people? Operation Spike participants don't believe it was.
- China's influence on American politics: The campaign finance hearings
threatened to blow the lid off the story of Beijing's attempts to buy
political influence in the United States, but they fizzled out before
ever getting started. There is now question that millions of mysterious
dollars from Asian banks found their way into the 1996 election
campaigns. But what exactly did those dollars buy?
- The Waco cover-up: Many readers suggested the release last year of the award-winning film, "Waco: The Rules of Engagement," should have blown the lid off government misconduct during the siege of the Branch Davidian church. But it didn't capture the attention of the establishment press. The film, now a popular video, appears to show FBI and BATF agents firing automatic weapons into the rear of the building, while an incendiary device is propelled into the church.