Since its founding in 1976, Project Censored has been focused on stories — like Watergate before the 1972 election — that aren’t censored in the authoritarian government sense, but in a broader, expanded sense reflective of what a functioning democracy should be, censorship defined as “the suppression of information, whether purposeful or not, by any method — including bias, omission, underreporting, or self-censorship — that prevents the public from fully knowing what is happening in society.” It is, after all, the reason that journalism enjoys special protection in the First Amendment: Without the free flow of vital information, government based on the consent of the governed is but an illusory dream.
Yet, from the very beginning, as A.J. Liebling put it, “Freedom of the press is guaranteed only to those who own one.”
In their introduction to Project Censored’s annual State of the Free Press, which contains its top censored stories and much more, Project Censored's Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth take this condition head-on, under the heading, State of the Billionaire, in contrast to the volume’s title, State of the Free Press 2023. Following a swift recap of historic media criticism highlights — Upton Sinclair, the aforementioned Leibling, Ben Bagdikian, Edward Herman, and Noam Chomsky — they dryly observe, “History shows that consolidated media, controlled by a handful of elite owners, seldom serves the public interest,” and briefly survey the contemporary landscape before narrowing their gaze to the broadest of influencers:
“In pursuit of their own interests and investments, media tycoons past and present, again and again, appear to be conveniently oblivious to the main frame through which they filter news — that of class, including class structure and class interests,” Huff and Roth write. “Consequently, they often overlook (or ignore) conflicts of interest that implicate media owners, funders, investors, and advertisers, not to mention their business clients on Wall Street and in Big Pharma, Big Tech, and the military-industrial complex.”
Every year, I note that there are multiple patterns to be found in the list of Project Censored’s stories, and that these different patterns have much to tell us about the forces shaping what remains hidden. That’s still true, with three environmental stories (two involving fossil fuels), three involving money in politics (two dark money stories), and two involving illicit surveillance. But the dominance of this one pattern truly is remarkable. It shows how profoundly the concentration of corporate wealth and power in the hands of so few distorts everything we see — or don’t — in the world around us every day. Here then, is this year’s list of Project Censored’s top 10 censored stories.
Paul Rosenberg is a Los Angeles, California-based writer, senior editor for Random Lengths News, and a columnist for Salon and Al Jazeera English.