Project Censored

Lefty weeklies are always bitching about the mainstream press. Here're some rotten chestnuts we wish the alternative press would quit serving up.

Every year, the renowned journalistic citadel at Sonoma State University unveils Project Censored, a list of the top 25 stories the mainstream media purportedly overlooked or undercovered in their mindless kowtowing to government and corporate control over the preceding year. Compiled into book form and breathlessly splashed on lesser metro-weekly covers nationwide (the San Francisco Bay Guardian proudly ran it three weeks ago), Project Censored has become, since its inception in 1976, a hallowed fixture of the alternative press.

Some of the stories on the list may deserve wider and more thorough coverage. But to label any of the subjects "censored" is either flat-out deception or an admission of astonishing ignorance. A quick stroll through the Nexis database reveals that nine of this year's top-10 "most censored" stories have already turned up in the New York Times, many of them with prominent placement, considerable depth, and angles not far off from Project Censored's leftist slant. Even Mother Jones, a paragon of lefty journalism, has slammed the list in an article headlined "The Unbearable Lameness of Project Censored."

We couldn't agree more. And although we have no idea why so many altweeklies insist on running the list every year (perhaps because Project Censored is so darned cheap?), we humbly submit a replacement. What follows is our own Project (Sure Wish They Were) Censored, a list of the top 10 stories whose importance has been ridiculously distorted by near-hysterical, brain-numbing repetition in the alternative press.

Look for it soon in bookstores near you.

10) The lionization of Mumia Abu-Jamal. You've seen him on T-shirts, buttons, fliers, posters, radio shows, Web sites, bumper stickers, and flags. You've read his books, heard his tape-recorded speeches, and watched with disbelief as he's transformed himself from a journalist-turned-cabdriver into a cabdriver-turned-political prisoner. But his story must be heard! Again! Ignore the hundreds of other death row inmates whose guilt has been questioned far more convincingly than Mumia Abu-Jamal's -- free Mumia, and the prison-industrial system will crumble!

9) The federal government's war against medical marijuana.Who do those Drug Enforcement Agency operatives think they are, busting into shady pot clubs under the auspices of the U.S. Congress and a federal statute? The gall of these people, exploiting the long-established primacy of federal law to flout state ballot measures! When will they learn that The Law means The Law?

8) Why [insert name of local citizen] thinks [insert name of obscure bureaucratic agency] is up to no good. And why [same local citizen] isn't going to take it anymore. An irate resident, pictured on the cover with arms folded in front of a flag-draped City Hall (slightly out of focus), says the County Mosquito Abatement Commission has been spraying where it shouldn't. This is his/her story.

7) The war in Afghanistan is really being waged so oil companies can build a pipeline. Come on, does anyone really think the U.S. military is in Afghanistan to chase the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks? If our armed forces were looking for Osama bin Laden, they would have found him by now, right? Don't believe what you hear about the uncaring United States packing up and moving out once the bombing finishes. We're in Afghanistan to stay -- and to build a gigantic oil pipeline without attracting the notice of thousands of journalists, diplomats, human rights workers, and international military personnel. Not to mention Afghan warlords.

6) (three-way tie) a. Everything has changed since Sept. 11, 2001; b. Nothing has changed since Sept. 11, 2001; or c. Either everything or nothing has changed (dueling opinions).There are, of course, only two possible conclusions to draw from the aftermath of the terrorist attacks. And the best place to draw them, obviously, is in the pages of a local alternative weekly.

5) Anything "written" by Nat Hentoff.

4) (tie) a. I've done Ecstasy, and raves aren't really what you think they are; or b. Burning Man isn't just a big party -- it's spiritual, too.First-person prose is the best, especially when it's drug-induced! Sure, you may have read a story or two dispelling the misconceptions surrounding Ecstasy, raves, and Burning Man, but those were written by other people. You won't know the real truth until you read about my experience, which was totally unique. Totally, dude.

3) How a big media company imposed its CEO's ideology on every single employee of every single affiliate (even janitors).Once a corporation takes over your formerly independent media enterprise, look out! Everyone will drink Starbucks, listen to Jewel, and forget everything he's always believed about editorial free will. Because, as we all know, that's how journalism works: Every story idea and editorial angle is dictated from the top, and even the most experienced editors, station managers, and columnists are powerless to resist.

2) A local DJ's ability to rub rotating plastic discs and radiate positive vibes is approximately equal, in terms of artistic difficulty, to the skill exhibited by, say, the first violinist in the New York Philharmonic.To prove our alternative weekly isn't staffed by only elitist East Coast college graduates or culturally out-of-touch ex-hippies, we'll "hit the street" and slather enough adulation on a 22-year-old DJ who lives with his parents to make you think he's found the Lost Chord.

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