On Native Ground: LOOKING FOR THE UNTOLD STORIES
by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Are you as sick of hearing Ari Fleischer's voice as I=
am? President Bush's mouthpiece gets a lot of face time each day as he d= oles out the daily ration of news to the White House press corps. Fleischer= , more so than any presidential press secretary in recent memory, has becom= e the surrogate voice of the leader of the free world.
How much so? According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Presi= dent Bush received half as much TV news coverage in his first 50 days in of= fice than Bill Clinton received in 1993.
Bush has kept a low profile. When he does get a chance to speak for hims= elf, it's with a carefully prepared and crafted script in a carefully prepa= red and crafted situation. Bush's advisers say this is by design.
Karl Rove, President Bush's chief advisor (or as the wags call him, "Bus= h's Brain"), told The Associated Press that "every administration is marked= in contrast to its predecessor. The previous administration felt compelled= to dominate the evening news every day. ... (Bush's) attitude is that he's= not going to be measured by whether or not he gets on the evening news but= on whether or not he gets results."
But it takes two to tango, and the same press corps that fawned over Ron= ald Reagan and tore apart Bill Clinton is back in full fawning mode over Pr= esident George W. Bush.
Just look at how easy Bush got off over the recent standoff withChina ov= er the emergency crash landing of a U.S. spy plane on a Chineseisland. His = early bellicose statements directed at the Chinese, which made a bad situat= ion worse, were followed by public silence but (if you believe the stories = that were written by the AP, The New York Times and The Washingto= n Post) were marks of a great and principled leader whose humility prev= ented him from taking a more visible role in the diplomatic process.
We know of course if Clinton or Gore were in President Bush's shoes, the= Washington press corps and the kibitzers on the TV shouting shows would ha= ve ripped them apart if either man offered the "apology" that the Bush team= came up with to get the spy plane's crew released. But that's how the game= has been played by the corporate press since Watergate -- rip apart the De= mocrats and fawn over the Republicans.
The corporate press seems obsessed with the idea that the appearance of = Bush's legitimacy is necessary for the good of the nation. It's best not to= be bothered with the inconvenient details of how the Bush team stole the e= lection in Florida, or with the blatant giveaway of the nation's wealth and= resources to the folks who backed him, or with the simple truth that Bush = is a dangerous lightweight propped up by the most right-wing cabinet and ad= visory team ever assembled in Washington.
Thank goodness for a sign of Spring as welcome as the first sighting of = a robin or opening day at Fenway Park -- the annual announcement of Project= Censored's list of the most underreported news stories.
This the 25th year that the media studies program at California's Sonoma= State University has cataloged stories that have appeared in the alternati= ve press, scientific journals, trade newsletters and other print media, but= haven't gotten much of an airing in the corporate press. The 2001 yearbook= has just been published by Seven Stories Press and excerpts can be found a= t http://www.projectcensored.org.
Every newsroom in the country ought to have a copy of the Project Censor= ed yearbook. Instead of godding up President Bush, Vice President Cheney an= d Alan Greenspan, the Washington press might dig deeper into the stories th= atmade Project Censored top 10 list.
(1.) Potable water is now a commodity more precious than oil orgold. Mor= e than one billion people lack access to fresh drinking water. Ofcourse, th= is represents an opportunity for corporations such as Bechtel,Monsanto and = others, who are trying to privatize and control water suppliesand reap the = profits.
(2.) While President Bush's recent obliteration of proposed federalergon= omic standards got a lot of attention, the hidden story was how theOccupati= onal Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been slacking offfor years= in policing the workplace. On-the-job accidents kill 6,000 peoplea year, a= nd thousands more die from diseases acquired at work. Yet OSHAonly has 2,30= 0 inspectors to watch over the nation's 103 million workers.As a result, wo= rkplace inspections have dropped sharply in the 1990s andenforcement of saf= ety rules is almost non-existent.
(3.) The pro-military bias at CNN is fairly obvious to even thecasual vi= ewer. So it doesn't seem too surprising that CNN hosted fivemembers of the = U.S. Army's Psychological Operations Battalion, who workedin the Atlanta ne= wsroom and learned how news is made from the inside. Thetiming was curious,= though. They started in June 1999, as the Kosovobombing campaign was windi= ng down.
(4.) One of the bigger incidents from the Kosovo campaign was theU.S. bo= mbing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. It was deemed a mistakeand was bl= amed on faulty maps and intelligence information. Theinternational press be= lieved otherwise and found U.S. and NATO sources thatsaid the bombing was n= ot an accident, but a deliberate attempt to silence aYugoslav army radio tr= ansmitter located inside the embassy. The AP, to itscredit, picked up the L= ondon Observer's scoop, but few major Americannewspapers ran the story.
(= 5.) While no new nuclear power plants have been built in the U.S.since the = Three Mile Island meltdown in 1979, U.S. power companies andcontractors hav= e been busily exported nuclear power technology to ThirdWorld countries. Th= ese projects have been backed by the Export-Import Bank,a little-known gove= rnment agency that doles out billions to corporations tofinance various ove= rseas projects.
(6.) The 1994 Rwanda genocide left nearly 1 million dead. And theU.S. co= uld've easily stopped it. That was the conclusion of a report by theOrganiz= ation for African Unity. The report found that the State Department,U.S. in= telligence agencies and United Nations forces in Rwanda all warnedthe Clint= on administration of the impending massacres, but nothing wasdone. Presiden= t Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright get thebulk of the blam= e for the inaction in the OAU report.
(7.) Arpad Pusztai, a researcher at Rowett Research Institute in Aberde= en, Scotland, discovered in an 1998 study that bioengineered food caused da= mage to the digestive and immune systems of lab rats fed such a diet. It wa= s the first independent study to examine the effects of "frankenfoods" on m= ammals. Needless to say, the result of the study was Pusztai was fired, his= research team was disbanded and his data was confiscated. In 1999, The Lan= cet published a follow-up study by Pusztai that concluded the process of ge= netic engineering itself -- not just the foods -- contributed to the lab ra= ts' problems. With more and more genetically altered foods popping up on gr= ocers' shelves, this isdefinitely a story that needs telling.
(8.) If it seems like doctors have been writing way too manyprescription= s for antidepressants and other psychoactive drugs, considerthat more than = 130 million prescriptions were written in 1999 at a costsmore than $8. 5 bi= llion. One way the drug companies have made sure therewould be a market for= their products was funding a group called theNational Alliance for the Men= tally Ill (NAMI), which promotes a programcalled "assertive community treat= ment," which is forced in-home drugtreatment. The largest single donor to N= AMI? Eli Lilly and Company, themakers of Prozac.
(9.) Millions of gallons of plutonium-laced industrial waste from alandf= ill near Denver has found its way into the groundwater. The EPA'sproposed s= olution for dealing with it? Pipe the water through Denver'ssewage treatmen= t system and then use the radioactive sludge on farmland. Ithasn't been don= e yet, but consider this: a report from the company thatdumped the contamin= ated gunk into the landfill said the site containedradioactive waste at lev= els up to 10,000 times greater than average levelsat the neighboring Rocky = Flats nuclear weapons plant.
(10.) When the high-tech boom was in full swing, Silicon Valleycompanies= needed cheap labor. They turned to India and the Philippines andbrought in= workers under an immigration program called H1-B. Companiesserve as a work= er's sponsor, which gives them complete control of thatworker's fate. Worke= rs who chafed at long hours without overtime, randomlywithheld paychecks or= other workplace abuses found themselves immediatelydeported if they compla= ined. The tech industry successfully lobbiedCongress last year to expand th= e number of H1-B visas granted each year.
Here are 10 meaty, significant stories. How many of them did you hear ab= out in any great detail? Unless you are a faithful reader of such publicati= ons as Mother Jones, The Progressive, CounterPunch, In These Times, Multina= tional Monitor, Extra! or the San Francisco Bay Guardian --the sources of m= ost of the aforementioned stories -- you probably didn't see or hear a lot = about them.
While the corporate press is busy pumping up President Bush, there is a = whole world filled with important stories that we need to know about that a= re being ignored. Peter Phillips, director of Project Censored, has said it= has gotten easier each year to pick the top stories as media has gotten mo= re corporatized and homogenized. Our world would be a much better place wer= e this not so.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for morethan 20 = years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).