Since 1976 Project Censored, the California-based media monitoring group that honors independent journalism, has been tracking important stories that are downplayed. In 2000, for example, some of the underreported news that made their Top Ten list included: how pharmaceutical companies put profits before health needs (still true), the destruction of Kurdish villages with US weapons (the targets then were in Afghanistan and Pakistan), environmental racism in Louisiana (five years before Katrina), and US plans to militarize space in defiance of international law (ignored for decades).
Despite the success of “alternative” outlets in breaking news that “mainstream” media ignore, nagging questions remain. Peter Arnett, a former CNN reporter honored that year for an article on reduced foreign media coverage, put it this way: “We’ve had what might constitute new revelations today. But even if the alternative press as a whole took on these stories, would it be enough?”
It is a disquieting question that could be extended to progressive movements in general. If various coalitions and alliances joined forces to challenge corporate capitalism, would it be enough to usher in “real change?”
In the past, modern attempts to control concentrated wealth and widen democratic participation have met with limited success. During the early 20th Century, reforms addressed workers’ rights, monopoly excesses, political corruption, uncontrolled development, and the devastating impacts of the early industrial era. But most of those efforts also quelled popular discontent rather than producing fundamental change, and the reforms were often co-opted or diluted by business interests to serve their long-range needs. Rather than leading the country toward some type of social transformation, progressive reform may have helped head it off.