by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
April 28-29, 2001
DUMMERSTON, Vt., April 29, 2001 -- 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 doles out the daily ration of news to the White House press corps. Fleischer, more so than any presidential press secretary in recent memory, has become the surrogate voice of the leader of the free world.
How much so? According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, President Bush received half as much TV news coverage in his first 50 days in office than Bill Clinton received in 1993.
Bush has kept a low profile. When he does get a chance to speak for himelf, it's with a carefully prepared and crafted script in a carefully prepared and crafted situation. Bush's advisers say this is by design.
Karl Rove, President Bush's chief advisor (or as the wags call him, "Bush'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 Ronald Reagan and tore apart Bill Clinton is back in full fawning mode over President George W. Bush.
Just look at how easy Bush got off over the recent standoff with China over the emergency crash landing of a U.S. spy plane on a Chinese island. His early bellicose statements directed at the Chinese, which made a bad situation worse, were followed by public silence but (if you believe the stories that were written by the AP, The New York Times and The Washington Post) were marks of a great and principled leader whose humility prevented 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 have 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 Democrats 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 election 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 advisory 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 alternative 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 at http://www.projectcensored.org.
Every newsroom in the country ought to have a copy of the Project Censored yearbook. Instead of godding up President Bush, Vice President Cheney and Alan Greenspan, the Washington press might dig deeper into the stories that made the Project Censored Top 10 list.
(1.) Potable water is now a commodity more precious than oil or gold. More than one billion people lack access to fresh drinking water. Of course, this represents an opportunity for corporations such as Bechtel, Monsanto and others, who are trying to privatize and control water supplies and reap the profits.
(2.) While President Bush's recent obliteration of proposed federal ergonomic standards got a lot of attention, the hidden story was how the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has been slacking off for years in policing the workplace. On-the-job accidents kill 6,000 peoplea year, and thousands more die from diseases acquired at work. Yet OSHA only has 2,300 inspectors to watch over the nation's 103 million workers. As a result, workplace inspections have dropped sharply in the 1990s and enforcement of safety rules is almost non-existent.
(3.) The pro-military bias at CNN is fairly obvious to even the casual viewer. So it doesn't seem too surprising that CNN hosted five members of the U.S. Army's Psychological Operations Battalion, who workedin the Atlanta ne wsroom and learned how news is made from the inside. The timing was curious, though. They started in June 1999, as the Kosovo bombing campaign was winding down.
(4.) One of the bigger incidents from the Kosovo campaign was the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. It was deemed a mistake and was blamed on faulty maps and intelligence information. The international press believed otherwise and found U.S. and NATO sources that said the bombing was not an accident, but a deliberate attempt to silence a Yugoslav army radio transmitter located inside the embassy. The AP, to its credit, picked up the London Observer's scoop, but few major American newspapers 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 and contractors have been busily exported nuclear power technology to Third World countries. These projects have been backed by the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a little-known government agency that doles out billions to corporations to finance various overseas projects.
(6.) The 1994 Rwanda genocide left nearly 1 million dead. And the U.S. could've easily stopped it. That was the conclusion of a report by the Organization for African Unity. The report found that the State Department, U.S. intelligence agencies and United Nations forces in Rwanda all warned the Clinton administration of the impending massacres, but nothing was done. President Clinton and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright get the bulk of the blame for the inaction in the OAU report.
(7.) Arpad Pusztai, a researcher at Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen, Scotland, discovered in an 1998 study that bioengineered food caused damage to the digestive and immune systems of lab rats fed such a diet. It was the first independent study to examine the effects of "frankenfoods" on mammals. 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 Lancet published a follow-up study by Pusztai that concluded the process of genetic engineering itself -- not just the foods -- contributed to the lab rats' problems. With more and more genetically altered foods popping up on grocers' shelves, this is definitely a story that needs telling.
(8.) If it seems like doctors have been writing way too many prescriptions for antidepressants and other psychoactive drugs, consider that more than 130 million prescriptions were written in 1999 at a cost of more than $8.5 billion. One way the drug companies have made sure there would be a market for their products was funding a group called the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), which promotes a program called "assertive community treatment," which is forced in-home drug treatment. The largest single donor to NAMI? Eli Lilly and Company, themakers of Prozac.
(9.) Millions of gallons of plutonium-laced industrial waste from a landfill near Denver has found its way into the groundwater. The EPA's proposed solution for dealing with it? Pipe the water through Denver's sewage treatment system and then use the radioactive sludge on farmland. It hasn't been done yet, but consider this: a report from the company that dumped the contaminated gunk into the landfill said the site contained radioactive waste at levels up to 10,000 times greater than average levels at the neighboring Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant.
(10.) When the high-tech boom was in full swing, Silicon Valley companies needed cheap labor. They turned to India and the Philippines and brought in workers under an immigration program called H1-B. Companies serve as a worker's sponsor, which gives them complete control of that worker's fate. Workers who chafed at long hours without overtime, randomly withheld paychecks or other workplace abuses found themselves immediately deported if they complained. The tech industry successfully lobbied Congress last year to expand the number of H1-B visas granted each year.
Here are 10 meaty, significant stories. How many of them did you hear about in any great detail? Unless you are a faithful reader of such publications as Mother Jones, The Progressive, CounterPunch, In These Times, Multinational Monitor, Extra! or the San Francisco Bay Guardian --the sources of most 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 are 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 more corporatized and homogenized. Our world would be a much better place were this not so.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 20 years. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books).