With “Disinfo Wars” Project Censored Abandons Principles 120

Project Censored (PC), the news criticism organization made up of scholars, journalists, and activists that annually researches and selects stories overlooked or ignored by mainstream news media, has recently published a lengthy article on its website, titled, “Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones’ War on Your Mind,” by Nolan Higdon.[1]

The piece argues that Jones is comparable to a nineteenth century false prophet touting the imminent return of Christ; a figure prone to perennial error whose “reporting is vast in focus and lacking in evidence.” The bombastic Jones, the argument goes, besmirches more sober inquiry into the power elite, even suggesting that the talk show host, activist and news impresario may be part of a larger counterintelligence program that works in tandem with corporate media to delegitimize other independent inquiry and activism centering on deep events like 9/11.

Jones is a skilled interviewer who covers very important topics with an array of knowledgeable guests. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this has allowed him to cultivate a sizable audience. He is also, no doubt, an often irksome on-air presence who is prone to Howard Beale-like outbursts and far-reaching streams of thought that sharply contrast with accepted modes of reportorial technique. Further, he is a steadfast advocate of just about everything haunting the psyches of those who identify themselves as Progressives—gun ownership, skepticism of “climate science,” a critical stance on US immigration policy, and, yes, a preoccupation with revealing a shadowy transnational elite.

If one is to accept the lofty assessment of certain thinkers who speak from their positions in academe and policy-forging bodies, Jones also epitomizes the chest-thumping libertarian survivalist, who thus invariably possesses a “crippled epistemology”—evident in the alleged hodge-podge of conspiracy theories he espouses and promotes.[2] Yet it is questionable whether these disingenuous taxonomies are at all helpful in assessing an individual’s capacity to produce worthwhile journalism.

Even if Higdon’s appraisal of Jones as a journalistic charlatan can bear scrutiny, the broader concern is that PC has chosen to abandon its own essential impartiality to assail one of its own honorees.[3] After all, the organization’s unambiguous stance in evaluating and designating important news produced by alternative media involves the avoidance of what essentially amounts to political prejudice that could itself lead to … well, censorship.

I have been an admirer of Project Censored for almost twenty years. Their style of media criticism served as an inspiration for my pursuing a career academe, and I have been more than thrilled to contribute to PC’s most recent yearbooks. Thus the notion that the entity would lash out at any public figure in such a fashion is troubling. Further, the article underscores what may be a less apparent problem, specifically how the organization’s criteria for evaluating the news can be compromised by subtle biases that may elude its own field of vision.

“Disinfo Wars” fails to distinguish between Jones’ on-air antics and Infowars’ journalism. It thereby proceeds to indict an alternative news outfit that often produces timely and well-researched stories on a host of topics regularly ignored or misrepresented by mainstream outlets—indeed, material that falls squarely within PC’s own criteria for “censored news.”[4]

This is because the faculty and students partaking in Project Censored’s nomination process exercise a bit of their own censorship that is not entirely intentional. This is either done subconsciously by researchers who recognize the “dangerous” survivalist or otherwise “alarming” features and themes of outlets perceived as similar to Infowars. Or, they partially acknowledge the merit of the issues addressed in these journalistic venues but under the perceived threat of informal censure dismiss such entries out-of-hand as “conspiracy theorizing” or otherwise politically incorrect. Efforts such as Higdon’s can only further ensconce the cloistered worldview that facilitates such practices.[5]

Regardless of a news outlet’s political foundations, if the material it produces is fundamentally sound and fits PC’s criteria for censored news, these methods are censorial in nature and fundamentally undermine the institution’s stated mission, credibility, and broader vitality going forward.

With this in mind, “Disinfo Wars” suggests that in a growing field of alternative news media producing important work from a variety of political perspectives, PC’s leadership has taken the low road in dealing with a difficult and unacknowledged discrepancy in its own political predilections and evaluative processes. Failing to concede this and seeking to maintain an air of impartiality, it now derogates a media personage and outlet producing undeniably important work that is at least as concerned and focused on corruption in high places, threats to civil liberties, and an extremely dangerous American foreign policy as the journalism generated by the array of Progressive news media PC increasingly tends to celebrate.

Most disturbingly, Higdon’s contention that Jones is a fanatical and deceptive soothsayer is based largely on the work of writers such as Alex Seitz-Wald, Jeremy Stahl, Mark Potok, Alexander Zaitchik, and Jonathan Kay, media personalities like Rachel Maddow, and dubious if not defamatory websites including “RationalWiki” and “AlexJonesDebunked.”

The stock-and-trade of these figures and entities is mobilizing the “conspiracy theory” smear to delegitimize specific individuals and ideas–a technique that Higdon contradictorily suggests is essentially a pincher movement vis-à-vis Jones’ wild exploits. Yet here Seitz-Wald, Stahl, Potok and their cohorts constitute the foundation for the stream of invective directed at Jones.[6]

While “Disinfo Wars” singles out Jones as a principal cause of the truth movement’s narrowed legitimacy, we would be well-served to look a bit closer to home. A foremost reason that Jones’ research and activism on 9/11 have come to occupy center stage is the vacuum created by the overall timidity or disinterest of Progressive-Left scholars and public intellectuals toward 9/11 and similar phenomena. Such indifference long-preceded the popularity of Infowars, inadvertently served the Bush-Cheney cabal, and has only been perpetuated by Obama’s illusory leadership. It also remains a strong (albeit indirect) contributor to the continued mayhem throughout the Middle East.

For close to four decades Project Censored has been a significant and largely impartial signal of hope that highlights the fundamental importance of news and information to democracy and a more just world. It cannot fulfill that noble purpose by adapting the malicious and unfair methods routinely used by corporate media to assail public figures and their viewpoints. Rather, it should more forthrightly address potentially suppressive practices in its own undertakings that serve to limit a fair and accurate evaluation of contributions from all alternative news media regardless of their political bearings.

Notes

[1] Nolan Higdon, “Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones War on Your Mind,” Projectcensored.org, September 2013.

[2] Cass Sunstein, “How Voters Can Escape From Information Cocoons,” Bloomberg.com, September 3, 2012.

[3] “Censored Story #2: Homeland Security Threatens Civil Liberty,” “Secret Patriot II Destroys Remaining U.S. Liberty,” Alex Jones/Infowars.com, in Peter Phillips and Project Censored, Censored 2004: The Top 25 Censored Stories, New York: Seven Stories Press, 38-41.

[4] The same may be said of the journalism from more beyond-the-pale news vehicles like Activist Post.com and Intellihub.com. Yet increasingly pieces that are seen as falling outside of the Left alternative media circuit appear at best infrequently among PC story nominations.

[5] PC’s tendency toward a more explicit politicization is evident, for example, in its nomination of reportage on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s 2013 Report, “Hate Groups and Antigovernment Groups on the Rise in US,” as a Top Censored Story. “Censored Story #5: Hate Groups and Antigovernment Groups on Rise in US,” ProjectCensored.org, September 2013. I have questioned the soundness of the Southern Poverty Law Center’s methods and overall trustworthiness elsewhere. See, for example, “Extremist Publicity and Historical Reality,” MemoryHoleBlog.com, March 14, 2013.

[6] Such figures also sit uneasily alongside the names of respected scholars like Peter Phillips, Lance deHaven-Smith, and Kathryn Olmsted.

-JFT

120 comments

  1. Skimming over the comments I noticed that some readers have picked up on some of the worrisome anomalies associated with Jones. While recognizing the helpful role infowars has played in disseminating hidden power elite agendas, we must also be brutally honest with ourselves about serious concerns which indicate some form of controlled opposition going on.

    IMO, the biggest red flag to date was Infowars’ considerable coverage of Wikileaks despite very clear signs that Assange was working a psyop. Even Assange’s rude dismissal of 9/11 Truth wasn’t considered, much less his obvious ties to the Establishment, having a Rothschild lawyer, and favorable coverage by the press, etc. – not to mention Wikileaks seemingly sparking the Arab Spring, a much desired aspect of TPTB’s wish list on the road to their Greater Middle East Project.

    Now that the MSM has lost credibility and followers to alternative sources of media, we are witnessing the MSM move towards evermore extreme limited hangouts and that includes giving Jones some exposure on their networks. In turn, Infowars has substantially increased the number of MSM articles on its website. This is classic synthesis and also serves to undermine alternative media by desensitizing the public to darker truths thus stealing the thunder from bona fide alternative news sources on the internet.

    We also cannot ignore the common criticism that Jones’ rarely tackles solutions, instead proffering mostly doomer reports that reinforce a sense of utter helplessness.

    It is possible to have gratitude for the role Jones and Infowars have played in waking up and educating the willing masses while simultaneously closely examining some serious concerns – these are not mutually exclusive principles.

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  2. So according to Project Censored there are big problems with what Alex Jones is doing but Russia Today is fine. It’s profoundly absurd. I see other glaring errors here too.

    They accuse Jones of wrongly profiting from this situation. OK. Let’s see a complete accounting of all donations and profits received at Project Censored then? Let’s see where the money is coming from? Let’s see who’s making money? And let’s see who’s working for free?

    Prof. Tracy, I’ve been following your work as much as possible. Thank you for it.

    Paul

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    • Thanks for your kind words, Paul.

      In Project Censored’s defense, they essentially run on a shoestring budget. This isn’t difficult to do in terms of an academic/semi-academic organization since much of the labor is provided by faculty who take it on as research and/or service and bring on interested students to participate.

      I nevertheless suggest that outlets Higdon in part relies on, such as Media Matters, indeed rely on substantial foundation funding, with their main figures being paid very handsomely indeed. Some others are similarly questionable.

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      • I got Media Freedom Foundation’s Form 990 for 2011 from guidestar.org. I’m looking at it now. I think it says that they received $528,036 in “grants and contributions” that year. I also think it says that $475,00 of that was paid out to “Grants and other assistance to governments, individuals, and organizations outside the United States”.

        Will you explain this to me?

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        • Thank you for the information. If I could explain this I would, and I appreciate you making note of it here. I am not a member of PC/MEF’s board of directors; I merely contribute to their volumes and have been an admirer of their work for many years.

          When I last checked MEF’s financials (2010 990) the return indicated total revenue of %48,347 and net assets of $15,790. Of course, this is a substantial and likely unprecedented increase in resources.

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        • I think Martin should have mentioned that as well. It was otherwise a very good interview.

          That subject was discussed. Why not contact PC and ask them directly?

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        • I’m watching this video again now. It’s clearly false. Huff and Martin do not mention that Martin is on the board of directors at Project Censored. Martin refers to Project Censored as “they” at 00:15 clearly stating that it is group separate from herself. This is not the truth.

          They do this off a Kremlin funded broadcast. They do this as they attack others as seen in their article on Alex Jones.

          Again let’s see where their money is coming from and going to now, please.

          Huff states at the end that he’s interested in teaching people how to think. Prof. Huff, my guess is that your arrogance will be your downfall.

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        • James says November 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm – I think Martin should have mentioned that as well. It was otherwise a very good interview. That subject was discussed. Why not contact PC and ask them directly?

          It’s not a good interview if it’s presenting a false reality, sir.

          I was having an email battle with them over their connection with Russia Today. To me, there is certainly no way Russia Today can be a positive force in this situation considering where the funding is coming from. It’s wrong to empower it in any way. It’s obvious.

          It got pretty wild. When I asked Huff to explain the their 2011 Form 990, he told to look at the financial records. They did not provide me with any records. Then Huff and Phillips both shut down communications with me.

          I don’t see any explanation of the 2011 990 online anywhere. You say the matter was discussed. Am I reading the 990 correctly? Where did that $528,036 come from? Where did that $475,000 go?

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        • It was a good interview, in my estimation. The things they discussed aren’t being discussed anywhere else. I also think Iran’s PressTV often does an excellent job on topics and issues that barely get mentioned in US corporate media. Should I dismiss that outlet as well because it’s state-funded? I usually tell students that the best method in staying informed is looking at an array of news sources.

          Mickey has always been above the board with me, and yet we agree to disagree on some topics, such as Jones.

          Again, as for the 990, I think you should take that up with them because it’s not my business or organization and I am not their surrogate. It would be especially indiscreet to discuss such a matter in a public forum such as this.

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        • If Russia today has an ulterior motive (I think it is easy to deduct they do) then why do so many alternative media outlets line up closely with the way they share information? I would really like to have a deeper discussion on RT and what the strategy is. Are they trying to further a controlled opposition and if so how and how do we combat it.

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        • James says November 10, 2013 at 4:37 pm – “It was a good interview, in my estimation. The things they discussed aren’t being discussed anywhere else. I also think Iran’s PressTV often does an excellent job on topics and issues that barely get mentioned in US corporate media. Should I dismiss that outlet as well because it’s state-funded? I usually tell students that the best method in staying informed is looking at an array of news sources.Mickey has always been above the board with me, and yet we agree to disagree on some topics, such as Jones. Again, as for the 990, I think you should take that up with them because it’s not my business or organization and I am not their surrogate. It would be especially indiscreet to discuss such a matter in a public forum such as this.”

          Indiscreet. So your saying that the source and final destination of approx. $500,000 at Project Censored in 2011 is a secret. It’s absurd, sir. I told you above that I did take up with them directly and privately. They refused to answer and shut down communications with me. This is why I’m asking you about it here. I respectfully ask you again to see to it that this information becomes public, Prof. Tracy.

          I don’t know about Iran’s PressTV. State-funded is one thing. Funded by the same source as the FSB is something else I think, sir.

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        • Kyle Sainz says November 10, 2013 at 3:14 pm – If Russia today has an ulterior motive (I think it is easy to deduct they do) then why do so many alternative media outlets line up closely with the way they share information? I would really like to have a deeper discussion on RT and what the strategy is. Are they trying to further a controlled opposition and if so how and how do we combat it.

          Oh it has to be. There’s no way it could be anything else. It’s obvious. I don’t how to combat it. It should definitely not be empowered in any way.

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  3. Ahhh……imagine that…..a battle inside the “INFOWAR”! So what’s new? Here’ s my take on the ongoing and ever-evolving Jones juggernaut. Alright so I tend to look at the whole AJ issue as sort of having two distinct purpose driven parts, each with its own features and functions, operating simultaneously and somewhat symbiotically. There is the actual data content/information(the “product”)of which there is an astounding, amount and vast array of) part, and then of course there is the way he delivers (tone,technique,mode of technology,style,etc.); as well as the way the audience receives,that information (messaging). Together the two parts create a media environment that will effect the experience of the consumer. As technology advances and evolves at ever increasing rates, not only do the ways we take in media change, the technology of that media changes everything about the human that experience it. In fact, our reality is more effected by how we receive our information, then by the information itself.
    “The media is the message.”- Marshall McLuhan

    With all that in mind, this is how I see it—
    ~ part 1= lots of heavy information on a variety of topics from many sources and points of analysis(varying degrees of reliability). Alex doesn’t always present things with total accuracy, balance, or in proper context. That said….if one looks further into most of the info he presents, they will usually find something there that deserves to be examined/considered further(and that no one in the “MEDIA” ever reports on at all), and lots of the info is factually accurate.
    ~part 2= Most of PC’s criticisms of Alex’s personal characteristics and behavior are actually pretty much legitimate. I go back and forth on whether he is an operative of some sort or just a socially irresponsible, narcissistic, egomaniacal public figure with unethical business practices. I often wonder if his “Operation” (as he refers to it) is actually “OPERATION INFOWARS” a covert intelligence/psychological operation and that he may not be fully aware of what it actually is and who is really controlling it. Maybe we’ll find out one day………..or not? ‘Til then, use discernment and do your own research!

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