We traditionally publish Project Censored's annual Top 10 Censored Stories because it is an opportunity to expose our readers to issues and subjects that are considered need-to-know information according to every known standard for newsworthy data.

Each of the 10 stories impacts Americans at core levels of our cultural identity, political structure, and personal value systems. The implications are staggering when juxtaposed against our ideals as American citizens.

The lack of coverage of these topics by the mainstream media is insulting at best, destructive at worst. But at the end of the day, it is the public's responsibility to hold the media accountable, not vice-versa. Ideally, the pecking order is designed to put the public's interest first, representing the collective purpose of a nation. The media should necessarily function as the public's watchdog, observing, investigating, and presenting the truth of events as they occur without prejudice or undue influence.

The media's role is critical to our democracy and to our economic model of capitalism. It is the media's fiduciary responsibility to convey need-to-know information, no matter how unflattering or difficult to bear, to keep our political structure clean and accountable. When the media fails, the entire system is corrupted.

Information is power. By withholding information from the public, the people's ability to assess its circumstances and surroundings accurately is compromised. We deal with what information we have and often it is incomplete, especially relative to our government's activities.

The sad truth is that we are well aware of this inadequacy but feel powerless to correct it. Our nation is becoming increasingly divided into two adversarial camps: the public and taxpayers versus government and large corporate entities that include America's mainstream media. As long as government, big business, and media ally themselves without the public's interest as part of the equation, the threat to our way of life, our freedom, and our constitutional rights is a deadly serious one.

It is hard to grasp that our own politicians would be willing to compromise our civil liberties in favor of global domination, but there is evidence to support this assertion. All is not black and white, however, and it is incumbent upon the citizens of this nation to query the issue, investigate the evidence, and - if found to be intolerable - vote the perpetrators out of office. Take the power away from those who would use it for their own gain at the expense of America. The only way to understand such threats is to learn, question, and expose all the dynamics that make it up. If the media won't cooperate by informing us, then we learn through other resources, such as the Internet, organized groups that focus on issues, books that are topical, and discussion with professionals, family, friends, and neighbors, so that the debate is always being had.

Every American should be versed in each component of the USA PATRIOT Act and its successor. Our fundamental liberties are at stake with these bills, so their entire composition should be required reading for every citizen for a thorough understanding of what is at risk. Citizens should examine the strengths and weaknesses of this legislation in various contexts so that proper risk assessment can be evaluated for support or opposition. While we expect the media to present the relevant information for such examination, we should not rely on it to deliver. Instead, we must rely on ourselves to extract it by other means.

In that spirit, the Internet can provide meaningful information, as well as complete hooey. Either way, the 'Net is an invaluable resource that is potentially threatened via intense lobbying to give control over its access to a monopolistic few. The last vestige of independent voices would be silenced, and control over the information would follow closely behind, much like the current control of information in broadcast.

Finally, the lack of coverage described in Project Censored's Top 10 stories has caused a severe geographical divide between Americans and the rest of the globe. The stories listed here are widely covered in the international media, making Americans appear not only uninformed and uneducated but also frivolous and uncaring. Rather than admit our national apathy, we insulate this particular inadequacy by cloaking it with American pride.

Our national pride is founded on the most noble of values, most notably our reverence for human life and liberty. Therefore it is a disgrace to allow ourselves to be dumbed down by the mainstream media to the extent that we risk those liberties in the process.

The text of the USA PATRIOT Act can be found at (http://www.epic.org/privacy/terrorism/hr3162.html). The text of the Patriot Act II can be found at (http://www.ratical.org/ratville/CAH/PA2draft.html).

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