What you don’t know might hurt you

It’s rare to find a book that’s as easily judged by its cover as Censored 2004 (Peter Phillips, ed., Seven Stories Press, 2003).

The image is of Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica — arguably the world’s most famous artistic treatment of the horrors of modern warfare — partly covered by a curtain. A tapestry reproduction of the painting (which memorializes the bombing of a Basque village during the Spanish Civil War) hangs in the entrance of the United Nations Security Council building in New York City.

And when Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the Security Council on Feb. 5, 2003 seeking to justify invading Iraq, the Guernica had been covered with a drape. To date, no one has revealed who requested the move. But the blatant censorship of a powerful artistic depiction of the horrors of war sent a potent political message.

Unlike most of the stories detailed in Censored, this one was accorded some small mention in the nation’s press (though the incident was downplayed enough in those newsy, pre-war weeks that it is not widely known). Nonetheless, it aptly conveys the message of Project Censored: that the stories overlooked, ignored and sometimes suppressed by the mainstream, corporate-controlled major media are as effectively squelched as if suppressed by government fiat.

For 27 years, faculty and students at Sonoma State University have labored to produce Project Censored — an annual compendium of important stories missed by most of the news media — and to honor the squeaky wheels who did cover them. Each year, hundreds of volunteers screen thousands of stories, gradually winnowing them to a short list of 125. More than 150 university professors, students and staff, together with self-selected national judges (comprising a who’s who of editors, writers and scholars from across the nation) then vote to determine the 25 winning stories and their final ranking. The project is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization whose primary objective is advocacy for, and protection of, First Amendment rights and freedom of information in the United States.

— Cecil Bothwell


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About Cecil Bothwell
A writer for Mountain Xpress since three years before there WAS an MX--back in the days of GreenLine. Former managing editor of the paper, founding editor of the Warren Wilson College environmental journal, Heartstone, member of the national editorial board of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, publisher of Brave Ulysses Books, radio host of "Blows Against the Empire" on WPVM-LP 103.5 FM, co-author of the best selling guide Finding your way in Asheville. Lives with three cats, macs and cacti. His other car is a canoe. Paints, plays music and for the past five years has been researching and soon to publish a critical biography--Billy Graham: Prince of War:

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