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4. Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
President Obama has invoked the Espionage Act of 1917 more than every other president combined. Obama has pursued seven leakers with the act: Thomas Drake, Shamai Leibowitz, Bradley Manning, Stephen Kim, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou and, most recently, Edward Snowden. All had ties to the State Department, the FBI, the CIA or the National Security Agency, and all of them leaked to journalists.
“Neither party is raising hell over this. This is the sort of story that sort of slips through the cracks,” McChesney says.
And when the politicians don’t raise a fuss, neither does the media.
Pro Publica covered the issue, constructing timelines and mapping out the various arrests and indictments. But Project Censored points out that the coverage doesn’t look at Obama’s hypocrisy—he signed The Whistleblower Protection Act less than a year before, in 2012.
But later on, he said he wouldn’t follow every letter of the law in the bill he had just signed.
“Certain provisions in the act threaten to interfere with my constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch,” Obama said. “As my administration previously informed the Congress, I will interpret those sections consistent with my authority.”
5. Hate Groups and Antigovernment Groups Are on the Rise Across the Country
Hate groups in the United States are on the rise, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are 1,007 known hate groups operating across the country, it wrote, including neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists and border vigilantes.
Since 2000, those groups have grown by over half, and there was a “powerful resurgence” of patriot groups, the likes of which were involved in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Worst of all, the huge growth in armed militias seems to have conspicuous timing with Obama’s election.
“The number of patriot groups, including armed militias, has grown 813 percent since Obama was elected—from 149 in 2008 to 1,360 in 2012,” the SPLC reported.
Though those groups traditionally were race- motivated, the report noted that they are now gunning for government. There was a smattering of news coverage when the SPLC released its report, but not much since.
6. Billionaires’ Rising Wealth Intensifies Poverty and Inequality
The world’s billionaires added $241 billion to their collective net worth in 2012. That’s an economic recovery, right?
That gain, coupled with the world’s richest peoples’ new total worth of $1.9 trillion (more than the gross domestic product of Canada), wasn’t reported by some kooky socialist group, but by Bloomberg News. But few journalists are asking the important question: Why?
Project Censored points to journalist George Monbiot, who highlights a reduction of taxes and tax enforcement, the privatization of public assets and the weakening of labor unions.
His conclusions are backed up by the United Nations’ 2012 Trade & Development Report, which noted how the trend hurts everyone: “Recent empirical and analytical work reviewed here mostly shows a negative correlation between inequality and growth.”
7. Merchant of Death and Nuclear Weapons
The report highlighted by Project Censored on the threat of nuclear war is an example not of censorship, strictly, but of a desire for media reform.
Project Censored highlighted a study from The Physicians for Social Responsibility that said 1 billion people could starve in the decade after a nuclear detonation. Corn production in the United States would decline by an average of 10 percent for an entire decade, and food prices would make food inaccessible to hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest people.
This is not journalism in the classic sense, Gladstone says. In traditional journalism, as it’s played out since the early 20th century, news requires an element of something new in order to garner reporting—not a looming threat or danger.
So, in this case, what Project Censored identified was the need for a new kind of journalism, what it calls “solutions journalism.”
“Solutions journalism,” Sarah van Gelder wrote in the foreword to Censored 2014, “must investigate not only the individual innovations, but also the larger pattern of change—the emerging ethics, institutions and ways of life that are coming into existence.”
8. Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent
Does 35 percent of everything bought in the United States go to interest? Professor Margrit Kennedy of the University of Hanover thinks so, and she says it’s a major funnel of money from the 99 percent to the rich.
In her 2012 book, Occupy Money, Kennedy wrote that tradespeople, suppliers, wholesalers and retailers along the chain of production rely on credit. Her figures were initially drawn from the German economy, but Ellen Brown of the Web of Debt & Global Research says she found similar patterns in the United States.
This “hidden interest” has sapped the growth of other industries, she says, lining the pockets of the financial sector.
So, if interest is stagnating so many industries, why would journalists avoid the topic?
Few economists have echoed her views, and few experts emerged to back up her assertions. Notably, she’s a professor in an architectural school, with no formal credentials in economics.
According to her website, she became an “expert” in economics through “continuous research and scrutiny.”
Without people in power pushing the topic, McChesney says that a mainstream journalist would be seen as going out on a limb.
If reporters “raise an issue the elites are not raising themselves, then you’re ideological, have an ax to grind, sort of a hack,” he says. “It makes journalism worthless on pretty important issues.”
9. Icelanders Vote to Include Commons in Their Constitution
In 2012, Icelandic citizens voted in referendum to change the country’s 1944 constitution. When asked “In the new constitution, do you want natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property?” its citizens voted 81 percent in favor.
Project Censored says this is important for us to know, but in the end, U.S. journalism is notably American-centric. Even the Nieman Watchdog, a foundation for journalism at Harvard University, issued a report in 2011 citing the lack of reporting on the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, into which the United States funneled over $4 trillion during the past decade, not to mention the cost in human lives.
If we don’t pay attention to our own wars, why exactly does Project Censored think we’d pay attention to Iceland?
“The constitutional reforms are a direct response to the nation’s 2008 financial crash, when Iceland’s unregulated banks borrowed more than the country’s gross domestic product from international wholesale money markets,” Project Censored wrote.
But even Gladstone was dubious of the idea that the United States might have much to learn from Iceland.
“Iceland is being undercovered, goddamnit! Where is our Iceland news?” she jokes. “Certainly I agree with some of this list, Bradley Manning was covered badly, I was sad the tax-haven story didn’t get more coverage. But when has anyone cared about Iceland?”
10. A “Culture of Cruelty” along Mexico-U.S. Border
The plight of Mexican border crossings usually involves three types of stories in the U.S. press: deaths in the stretch of desert beyond the border, the horrors of drug cartels, and heroic journeys of border crossings by sympathetic workers. But a report released a year ago by the organization No More Deaths snags the 10th spot for overlooked stories in Project Censored.
The report asserts that people arrested by Border Patrol while crossing were denied water and told to let their sick die. No More Deaths conducted more than 12,000 interviews to form the basis of its study in three Mexican cities: Nacos, Nogales and Agua Prieta. The report cites grossly ineffective oversight from the Department of Homeland Security. This has received some coverage, from Salon showcasing video of Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water meant for crossers to a recent New York Times piece citing a lack of oversight for Border Patrol’s excessive force.
The ACLU lobbied the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to call international attention to the plight of these border crossers at the hands of U.S. law enforcement.
If ever an issue flew under the radar, this is it.