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June 11, 1995|CHARLES SOLOMON

CENSORED: The News That Didn't Make the News--And Why by Carl Jensen & Project Censored (Four Walls, Eight Windows: $14.95; 332 pp., illustrated, paperback original) and THE WAY THINGS AREN'T: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error by Steven Randall, Jim Naureckas & Jeff Cohen for FAIR (The New Press: $6.95; 128 pp., illustrated, paperback original). The provocative annual report from Project Censored documents the continuing rise of "junk food" news stories. During 1994, the mass media squandered time and ink on the O. J. Simpson trial, Roseanne and the Bobbitts, but ignored the Pentagon's underwriting of mergers among major defense contractors, the wanton destruction of 60-billion pounds of edible fish and the re-emergence of tuberculosis as a major health menace. Jensen comments, "While the United States is without equal in terms of communication technology, it would appear that it has suffered a major breakdown when it comes to communications content." In the introduction to "Censored," Michael Crichton laments, "There has been a great decline in civility in this country. We have lost the perception that reasonable persons of good will may hold opposing views."

Few individuals have contributed more to that decline than commentator Rush Limbaugh. Writing for the media watch organization Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), the authors of "Aren't" challenge the erroneous information Limbaugh uses to bolster his positions. In February, 1994, he claimed, "There are more acres of forest land in America today than when Columbus discovered the continent in 1492." According to the U.S. Forest Service, the United States has lost about one-quarter of its forests, and much of remaining acreage consists of monoculture tree plantations. Defending himself against a charge of anti-Semitism in May, 1994, Limbaugh complained, "I find it interesting that no one ever accuses Louis Farrakhan of being anti-Semitic." A Nexis computer search located 3,000 articles about Farrakhan and anti-Semitism. Unfortunately, few of these corrections will reach Limbaugh's fans.

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