By Jim Miller
In my final column of 2015, I wrote about the most underreported story of the year according to Project Censored’s annual list: “2016 will be the year when half of the world’s wealth will be controlled by the top 1%.” After reporting the dismaying details of that story, I ended with the following analysis:
So putting this all together, we are just about to end a year where we learned that global plutocracy is becoming more and more firmly entrenched and that the beneficiaries of that very system are not just responsible for an immoral level of economic inequality and human suffering but also for speeding us toward an apocalyptic end to the climate crisis.
Why this news appeared as a blip on the radar screen rather than dominating the media landscape is no accident. When the same oligarchy that benefits from our rigged system own the corporations that run our mass media, it is not surprising that bad news for the vast majority of us is not worthy of occupying the heaven of the spectacle for more than a fleeting moment.
As I noted back in October, with corporate news coverage like this, it’s hard to be too critical of the average American voter for being led astray by the use of divisive cultural issues in the service of what Thomas Frank has called “backlash populism” that ignores economic privilege while obsessing over the sins of a mythic “cultural elite.”
If both parties are pigging out at the corporate trough and courting donors from the top 1% while our information system is owned by that very same elite who don’t consider their growing domination of the global commons news, how are regular folks going to get the tools they need to draw an accurate cognitive map of power?
The answer to this question is that unless they are staying up all night to monitor obscure cable news, most people are being left in the dark about just how bad things are getting and why.
This is how we get the Trumps of the world and why the only Presidential candidate talking about the most important issue for the vast majority of us gets thrust to the margins even as his critique rings truer and truer every day.
Well, we all know how the sordid escapade that was 2016 worked out and, as this year from hell comes to an end, it’s worth returning to Project Censored to see what fell through the cracks of our corporate propaganda system.
It turns out that while we suffered through a presidential campaign centered around our presumed weakness and the need to get tough again, the number one most underreported story of 2016 was “U.S. Military Forces Deployed in Seventy Percent of World’s Nations.” Nonetheless, according to Project Censored:
Corporate media have not covered the massive expansion of Special Operations Forces around the globe, much less raised critical questions about whether these missions result in meaningful accomplishments. The increase that has taken place over the past five to ten years is not “breaking” news, and so it has gone all but completely unreported by the corporate press. Instead, the global presence of US military personnel is typically treated as the unspoken background for more dramatic reports of specific military operations or policy decisions. Thus, for example, in October 2015, Time magazine ran a graphic documenting “places with some of the most significant number” of US military personnel stationed “in over 150 countries across the world.” However, the Time map of the world featured just nine points—none of which were located in Africa—and the entire graphic ran as a sidebar to the primary story, about President Obama’s announcement to maintain the current number of troops in Afghanistan through most of 2016, which reversed his earlier plan to withdraw most military personnel by the end of his presidency.
Rounding out the top 10 stories we find:
- “Crisis in Evidence-Based Medicine” at number 2;
- “Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Threaten to Permanently Disrupt Vital Ocean Bacteria” in the third spot;
- “Search Engine Algorithms and Electronic Voting Machines Could Swing 2016 Election” at number 4;
- “Corporate Exploitation of Global Refugee Crisis Masked as Humanitarian” in the five spot;
- “Over 1.5 Million American Families Live on Two Dollars Per Person Per Day” at number 6;
- “No End in Sight for Fukushima Disaster” in seventh place;
- “Syria’s War Spurred By Contest for Gas Delivery to Europe, Not Muslim Sectarianism” at eight;
- “Big Pharma Political Lobbying Not Limited to Presidential Campaigns” at 9; and
- “CISA: The Internet Surveillance Act No One is Discussing” in tenth.
If you are looking for trends throughout the entire list of the 25 most underreported stories, you might notice two more alarming environmental news stories on the existential threat of climate change and the blocking of India’s solar energy plan by American interests and the WTO. Hence, while stories on economic inequality dominated last year’s list, crucial dire news about the climate crisis was mostly ignored this year.
So if it was bitterly ironic that my analysis of the most underreported news from 2015 noted the press’s incompetence covering our growing plutocracy the year before the gang of billionaires took over in Washington D.C., it seems clear that we are in for a similar phenomenon in 2017 as climate deniers and fossil fuel barons line up to take over the reins of power and gallop the world down the suicide path as fast as possible the year after the nation’s press underreported key news on climate change and the environment.
When one considers the host of other important issues on the list from the grueling poverty in America to threats to our electoral apparatus and pervasive ignorance and misinformation about foreign policy, it seems clear that the existential threats we face on multiple fronts as well as the crisis of democracy in the United States is clearly linked to the profound failure of our corporate media system.
And now the folks who own that system own the United States government and are getting ready to unleash a world of hurt. For all the chatter about the post-factual age, it would be nice if a lot more of it was directed at naming the very system that made such an alarming situation possible.
It was no accident and blaming people for being stupid is not the answer. A real analysis of how power works is, and you won’t get that anytime soon in your local paper or on the TV news.
For a more thorough description check out Project Censored and their methodology.