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“[Censored] offers devastating evidence of the dumbing-down of main-stream news in America. . . . Required reading for broadcasters, journalists, and well-informed citizens.” —Los Angeles Times
“Project Censored continues to be an invaluable resource in exposing and highlighting shocking stories that are routinely minimized or ignored by the corporate media. The vital nature of this work is underscored by this year’s NSA leaks. The world needs more brave whistle blowers and independent journalists in the service of reclaiming democracy and challenging the abuse of power. Project Censored stands out for its commitment to such work.” —Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney
“Hot news, cold truths, utterly uncensored.” —Greg Palast
“Project Censored interrogates the present in the same way that Oliver Stone and I tried to interrogate the past in our Untold History of the United States. It not only shines a penetrating light on the American Empire and all its deadly, destructive, and deceitful actions, it does so at a time when the Obama administration is mounting a fierce effort to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers. Project Censored provides the kind of fearless and honest journalism we so desperately need in these dangerous times.” —Peter Kuznick, professor of history, American University, and coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States
“Project Censored shines a spotlight on news that an informed public must have . . . a vital contribution to our democratic process.” —Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumer’s Union
“Activist groups like Project Censored . . . are helping to build the media democracy movement. We have to challenge the powers that be and rebuild media from the bottom up.” —Amy Goodman
“The staff of Project Censored presents their annual compilation of the previous year’s 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media along with essays about censorship and its consequences. The stories include an 813% rise in hate and anti-government groups since 2008, human rights violations by the US Border Patrol, and Israeli doctors injecting Ethiopian immigrants with birth control without their consent. Other stories focus on the environment, like the effects of fracking and Monsantos GMO seeds. The writers point out misinformation and outright deception in the media, including CNN relegating factual accounts to the “opinion” section and the whitewashing of Margaret Thatcher’s career following her death in 2013, unlike Hugo Chavez, who was routinely disparaged in the coverage following his death. One essay deals with the proliferation of “Junk Food News,” in which “CNN and Fox News devoted more time to ‘Gangnam Style’ than the renewal of Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ law.” Another explains common media manipulation tactics and outlines practices to becoming a more engaged, free-thinking news consumer or even citizen journalist. Rob Williams remarks on Hollywood’s “deep and abiding role as a popular propaganda provider” via Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. An expose on working conditions in Chinese Apple factories is brutal yet essential reading. This book is evident of Project Censored’s profoundly important work in educating readers on current events and the skills needed to be a critical thinker.” -Publisher’s Weekly said about Censored 2014 (Oct.)
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“Censored 2014 is a clarion call for truth telling. Not only does this volume highlight fearless speech in fateful times, it connect the dots between the key issues we face, lauds our whistleblowers and amplifies their voices, and shines light in the dark places of our government that most need exposure.” –Daniel Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers
“Project Censored brings to light some of the most important stories of the year that you never saw or heard about. This is your chance to find out what got buried.” –Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
“[Censored] should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America. And, perhaps read aloud to a few publishers and television executives.” —Ralph Nader
“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts. This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.” –Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
“For ages, I’ve dreamed of a United States where Project Censored isn’t necessary, where these crucial stories and defining issues are on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of Time, and in heavy rotation on CNN. That world still doesn’t exist, but we always have Project Censored’s yearly book to pull together the most important things the corporate media ignored, missed, or botched.” –Russ Kick, author of You Are Being Lied To, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and the New York Times bestselling series The Graphic Canon.
“In another home run for Project Censored, Censored 2013 shows how the American public has been bamboozled, snookered, and dumbed down by the corporate media. It is chock-full of ‘ah-ha’ moments where we understand just how we’ve been fleeced by banksters, stripped of our civil liberties, and blindly led down a path of never-ending war.” –Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK.
“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” —Walter Cronkite
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“At a time when the need for independent journalism and for media outlets unaffiliated with and untainted by the government and corporate sponsors is greater than ever, Project Censored has created a context for reporting the complete truths in all matters that matter. . . . It is therefore left to us to find sources for information we can trust. . . . It is in this task that we are fortunate to have an ally like Project Cen-sored.” —Dahr Jamail

#21 Fossil Fuel Industry “Colonizing” US Universities

Without the public’s awareness, fossil fuel interests—representing oil, gas, and coal companies as well as utilities and investors—have “colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities,” two researchers at Stanford University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) reported in the Guardian in March 2017. Fossil fuel interests dominate energy and climate policy research at the nation’s most prominent universities, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, and the University of California, Berkeley. “The very experts we assume to be objective, and the very centers of research we assume to be independent,” Benjamin Franta and Geoffrey Supran wrote, “are connected with the very industry the public believes they are objectively studying. Moreover, these connections are often kept hidden.” The result is more than a “conflict of interest,” Franta and Supran reported. These are “industry projects with the appearance of neutrality and credibility given by academia.”

As an example of such “colonizing,” Franta and Supran described in detail a February 2017 event, “Finding Energy’s Rational Middle,” hosted by Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Although the event was billed as a “Shell-funded project,” the extent of Shell’s involvement was not fully disclosed. The Harvard event featured a documentary film, The Great Transition, produced by Shell and directed by a vice president of an oil and gas company funded by Shell. The Kennedy School has received at least $3.75 million from Shell, Franta and Supran reported.

The report also detailed how the Shell documentary provided supposedly objective scholars’ assessments while failing to disclose their fossil fuel industry connections. The people shown in the documentary consistently expressed skepticism about renewable energy solutions and promoted being “realistic” about fossil fuels, while advocating natural gas as a great transition to “clean” energy—without mentioning that methane emissions have even greater impacts on global warming than carbon emissions do. Franta and Supran documented some of the film’s participants’ undisclosed connections to the fossil fuel industry; for example, Amy Myers Jaffe, who is identified in the film as the executive director of energy and sustainability at the University of California, Davis, is also a member of the US National Petroleum Council. In the film Jaffe says, “We need to be realistic that we’re gonna use fossil fuels now, because in the end, we are.” Michelle Michot Foss, identified as the chief energy economist at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Energy Economics, is also a partner in a natural gas company, and Chevron, ExxonMobil, and the Koch Foundation, among others, fund the Center where she works.

As Franta and Supran noted, the fossil fuel industry often employs the tactic of claiming to promote a “rational middle” between total dependence on nonrenewable energy and total independence from it, and in practice this tactic is used to undermine the shift to renewable energy sources. In this case, the report explained, Shell and allied figures were able to deploy the tactic with “Harvard’s stamp of approval.”

Beyond Harvard, Franta and Supran documented that the MIT Energy Initiative is “almost entirely funded” by fossil fuel companies, including Shell, ExxonMobil, and Chevron. MIT has received $185 million from David Koch, the oil billionaire and climate change denial financier, who is a life member of the university’s board. ExxonMobil funds Stanford’s Global Climate and Energy Project. UC Berkeley’s Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) was initiated thanks to a $500 million deal signed in 2007 with BP. BP appoints half of the voting members of EBI’s Governance Board.

Franta and Supran called for universities to stop ignoring the problem of climate change and confront it, either by disclosing financial funding from the fossil fuel industry in order to reduce conflicts of interest, or by prioritizing sponsors and personnel who are “less conflicted.”

Corporate news coverage of how the fossil fuel industry has captured energy and climate policy research at US universities is rare, and when the topic is addressed coverage gives the impression of isolated incidents. In 2010, for example, the Los Angeles Times emphasized the benefits of BP’s partnership with UC Berkeley. (See Michael Hiltzik, “Campus Is Oddly Silent on BP,” Los Angeles Times, August 1, 2010, B1.) After the Center for American Progress released a 2010 study that documented the fossil fuel industry’s strong grip on university research, this topic received some coverage in the corporate press, including SFGate, but, as with previous coverage, these reports tended to focus on individual cases rather than systemic patterns.

Greenpeace’s PolluterWatch website maintains an interactive database of the Koch Foundation’s funding for colleges and universities, which totaled over $144 million between 2005 and 2015.

Benjamin Franta and Geoffrey Supran, “The Fossil Fuel Industry’s Invisible Colonization of Academia,” Guardian, March 13, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/environment/climate-consensus-97-per-cent/2017/mar/13/the-fossil-fuel-industrys-invisible-colonization-of-academia.

Student Researcher: Zeinab Benchakroun (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)

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