STORIES CENSORED BY CORPORATE MEDIA Part 2

A central purpose of my blog posts is to share information that is under-reported by the mainstream, corporate media. This post and the previous one share highlights of the top ten under-reported stories of 2022 identified by the annual State of the Free Press report from Project Censored. The media – print, TV, on-line, and social media – have undergone a dramatic corporate consolidation over the last 40 years so they are now a handful of huge, for-profit corporations, often owned and run by billionaire oligarchs. Through bias and self-censorship, this has restricted the content and quality of the information reported and, therefore, skewed the terms and content of public debate and decision making. Project Censored works to hold the corporate news media and their owners accountable. (See my previous post for more detail.)

(Note: If you find my posts too much to read on occasion, please just read the bolded portions. They present the key points I’m making.)

By failing to provide citizens and voters important information, the under-reporting highlighted by Project Censored’s report undermines democracy, the public interest, and the promotion of a just, fair, and inclusive society. My previous post summarized the first four of its top ten issues for the year. Here are summaries of the next three. [1]

UNDER-REPORTED STORY #5: A network of right-wing “dark money” organizations is undermining democracy in multiple ways. Dark money organizations are politically active groups organized as non-profits so they don’t have to report their donors. A network of them, including the Judicial Crisis Network, The 85 Fund, and the Donors Trust, has been funding election deniers, the January 6 insurrectionists, and campaigns for and against Supreme Court nominees. They have funded support for President Trump’s Supreme Court nominees and opposition to President Biden’s nominee. The billionaire Koch brothers (although one of them has passed away) have their own network of groups that funnel money to political causes, including through the Donors Trust. These dark money groups are also closely link to the Federalist Society of right-wing lawyers and judges and its co-chair Leonard Leo.

This network of dark money groups has been set up to obscure the sources of funding for right-wing political activities. In 2020, these dark money groups provided the Federalist Society and related groups over $52 million, primarily to promote the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Barrett. In 2020, they provided over $37 million to entities that played a role in the January 6 insurrection. They previously had spent tens of millions of dollars promoting the confirmations of Trump-nominated Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. They gave tens of millions to groups promoting lies about the 2020 election. Members of the Federalist Society played key roles in the various schemes to overturn the results of the 2020 election and to prevent the confirmation of Biden as President. For example, 14 of the 18 Attorneys General who filed suit to throw out election results in key states are Federalist Society members.

Despite the size and scope of this dark money network supporting right-wing political, anti-democracy activities, the corporate media have left the story of the connections and coordination of these funders almost totally unreported. Although the media have covered specific right-wing activities, they have not provided the context of the network of funders of these activities. Therefore, the impact and threat of these dark money funders and the need to address the overarching issue of dark money remain unknown to most of the public and most voters. If nothing else, this minimizes public understanding of the level of the threat to our democracy, to our elections, and to trust in our governments. This undermines democracy by failing to educate voters about the extent of the network of funders and the coordination among the right-wing extremists’ organizations.

UNDER-REPORTED STORY #6: Corporate consolidations and the marketplace power that this creates are key drivers of “inflation.” The mainstream, corporate media have reported extensively on the current surge of inflation. However, they rarely report on the price gouging by huge, monopolistic corporations that has been a key cause of inflationary price increases. When they do report on it, it’s usually to dismiss it as a cause of inflation. Corporate consolidation leading to the marketplace power to engage in price gouging has occurred in many industries in the U.S. and globally, from railroads to pharmaceuticals to ocean shipping. The food industry, which has engaged in price gouging causing high inflation in grocery prices, is a great example. Three corporations own 93% of the carbonated soft drinks sold, three other corporations own 73% of cereals, and four or fewer firms control at least 50% of the market for 79% of groceries. The four big meat suppliers have paid over $225 million to settle suits related to price fixing and other market manipulation.

Because of price increases across the whole economy, U.S. corporations’ profits are at the highest levels in 70 years. Fifty to 60 percent of “inflation” is going to increased profits, which are being used to pay big dividends to investors and to buyback over $20 billion of corporations’ own stocks in 2021 alone. (See previous posts here, here, and he re for more information on corporate consolidation and price gouging that causes “inflation.”)

UNDER-REPORTED STORY #7: Gates Foundation gifts of well over $319 million to the media and related entities. The identified gifts (the true total is undoubtedly far higher) go directly to the media, to the coverage of specific topics, and to journalism training programs and associations. These gifts raise serious questions about journalistic independence and conflicts of interest. U.S. recipients include CNN, NBC, NPR, PBS, and The Atlantic. International recipients include the BBC, Al-Jazeera, The Guardian, The Financial Times, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel. An example of funding for coverage of a specific topic is the Gates Foundation’s $2.3 million grant to the Texas Tribune to increase public awareness and engagement in education reform. Given Gates’ longstanding advocacy for charter schools, which many educators and political leaders see as an effort to privatize public education and undermine teachers’ unions, this grant could be viewed as an effort to generate pro-charter school stories that appear to be objective news reporting.

The Gates Foundation, a tax-exempt charity that frequently trumpets the importance of transparency, is often very secretive about its finances and gifts. Not included in the $319 million figure are gifts to academic journals and research targeted at producing journal articles that often end up getting reported in the mainstream media. For example, at least $13.6 million has been spent on creating content for the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet.

Major corporate media have not covered this story, despite a 2011 Seattle Times article noting that the Gates Foundation’s gifts to media organizations were blurring the line between journalism and advocacy.

My next post will summarize the last three stories that Project Censored had in its top ten list of those censored by the corporate media in 2022.

[1]      Rosenberg, P., 1/3/23, “Project Censored, Part 2: Billionaire press domination,” The American Prospect, (https://prospect.org/power/project-censored-part-2-billionaire-press-domination/)

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