Features — 17 March 2017

By Greg Buckley @gbuckking

The Zombie Apocalypse has materialized, and is in full effect here on the Las Positas campus. Everywhere you look, you’ll find the frozen faces following the feet in front of them.

Most spending endless empty hours mesmerized by tiny screens. Our Presidential election was largely won by Trump being able to tap into that craze.

Social media and fake news was used as agent zero that infected the masses.

The sickness bleeds into the news, and if there was a time to question the legitimacy of it, now is the time.

Project Censored stands for the purity of covering the truth that was once a normality for journalism, but even still the American society still seeks the truth on social media.

The current state of news coverage is being saturated with entertainment value meant to bring the readers coming back for more. Since readers don’t seek a higher truth, organizations like Project Censored are never found.

“Our schools gutted things like civics and critical thinking in this country,” Project Censored board member Nolan Higdon said, “So you have a population that sees everything as if there are two sides to an argument and that isn’t true.

“There are facts and opinions. You can have multiple opinions, but there is only one fact,” Higdon said.

Throughout the years, the once prized process of the truth being reported has taken bizarre twists. The system of journalism, with its roots solely based in covering the authenticity of news, has changed to figuring out ways to keep the masses entertained.

The buffet of corporate media outlets control what passes as a news story. Censorship of the truth is one of the worst things that can happen in the world of journalism.

Readers are being swayed by outlets that are either biased towards a political party, or to retain a hint of entertainment value. Today’s society is largely based off instant news feeds, and opinions to sway the crowd.

According to a study conducted by Pew Research Center,   62 percent of Americans receive their news from social media. Within this 62 percent, most Americans look to Twitter and Facebook when getting their news.

“You have six corporations that control 90 percent of the media and they tend to decide what is newsworthy,” the Director of Project Censored Mickey Huff said.

Project Censored was founded in 1976 by the late Dr. Carl Jensen at Sonoma State University.

The spark behind the project was the lack of truth, and censorship about events leading up to the impeachment of President Nixon.

Conducting his own investigation, Jensen led to the conclusion that the media had not reported the truth. The factual evidence was that the Republican Party had been engaging in espionage against the Democratic Party’s Watergate located headquarters, ultimately leading to the impeachment of our 37th President.

Today, we would deem that as fake news, which is obviously still an issue even in our most recent elections.

Jensen, even more determined, made it a point to educate students on the skills of media literacy and how they could apply critical thinking to use as a tool against censorship.

“These news outlets pretend to be giving you news and information, but it is more infotainment,” Higdon said, “They focus more of what they think people will pay attention to.”

Fake news found a willing enabler in President Trump, who at times lied and endorsed made-up reports. It can be argued that Trump used mainstream media as an effective tool to stay relevant, and ultimately get elected.

Before fake news, there were electronic message boards where people shared conspiracy theories and emails instructing you to “SEND THIS TO EVERYONE YOU KNOW.” Before the computer, there were anonymous pamphlets and chain letters sent through the mail.

Media censorship takes many forms in the way you get your news. While news stories are often edited for length, there are many choices that are made that are designed to keep some information from becoming public. Sometimes these decisions are made to safeguard a person’s privacy, others to protect media outlets from corporate or political fallout.

Then walks in Project Censored.

Every year for the past 40 years the Project has published a book with the Top 25 stories of the year that were censored or under reported by mainstream media, and their deeply rooted ties to political parties and entertainment value.

Simultaneously when a new book comes out the previous year’s version becomes available for free on their website.

“We work with about 20 campuses around the United States, several hundred students, and a couple dozen professors who we have also influenced research projects to half a dozen countries,” Huff said.

The project seeks and welcomes those stories, receiving hundreds of stories a year.

The published articles can range from Special Forces throughout the world to how the American education system is being turned into a business shaped by Walmart.

They are, as the projects slogan says, “The news that didn’t make the news.”

The non-profit organization has grown to over two million readers, and is staffed with five people who work part time in conjunction with full time jobs.

They lean heavily upon the Validated Independent News stories or VINs.

VINs are independently sourced stories that are vetted with great focus on media literacy, critical thinking and integrity from staff of Project Censored and their campus affiliate program.
These censored stories come from students in classrooms working on VINs.

“They find stories in the independent press they view as important and check to see if corporate media has covered it,” Higdon said,. “If they haven’t, the story is nominated as a VIN.”

Once reviewed and deemed appropriate, these stories have the possibility of getting published in the annual Project Censored book. Even if the story isn’t published in the book, all stories they receive are put on their website.

“I’d like to do a study on this, but what we have in our top 25, three to four years later you start to see those stories come out in the corporate press,” Higdon said.

Organizations like Project Censored exist, yet it is on the awake mind to seek the information. Readers should be able to verify trustworthy sources. Just because a reader reads something from a name brand doesn’t make it true.

To be an informed society, change starts with the user. Schools like Las Positas have started to launch fake news workshops. Organizations like Project Censored offer real news that you didn’t see on your Twitter feed.

Wake up!

 

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