Posted April 9, 2014
by Jerry Alatalo
“If you do not specify and confront real issues, what you say will surely obscure them. If you do not alarm anyone morally, you yourself remain morally asleep. If you do not embody controversy, what you say will be an acceptance of the drift of the coming human hell.”
– C. Wright Mills (1916-1962) American sociologist
John Pilger has created a large body of work in his over four decades as a journalist. He started out as a young, naïve reporter during the time of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, having experienced what he describes as “unworldly and indelible”. He is asked by interviewer Ms. Shoma Chaudbury if there is any single event that stands out from his long career reporting on the most tragic war atrocities in recent history. He responds by saying what stood out was “how great power imposed on ordinary people in vivid and disturbing ways has had the greatest effect on me”.
Ms. Chaudbury asks: “what is the nexus (between military power, media, and government) people don’t understand?”
Mr. Pilger, whose films and reporting from the 1970’s up till now have focused on the consequences of war as well as the real causes, points out to her that he has tried to connect those who exercise power with the consequences of that power. Most people on the ground do not understand the connections. He notes that if Tony Blair and George W. Bush were Africans they would be arrested for war crimes. He admits that he has tried in his way to get readers and viewers of his films to look in the mirror.
Although Mr. Pilger never mentions it specifically, one can see that all during his reporting career John Pilger has remained loyal to telling the truth about world events – most especially the biggest, most consequential events like war. One of his early films – “The War You Don’t See” – exposed the workings of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in their debt-capture, natural resource extracting actions in developing, third-world nations around the Earth, benefiting for the most part those at the top of the wealth and political power pyramid while leaving many on the lower rungs out of hope.
He talks about western media’s minimization of, or omission altogether, of western states’ culpability during military events or other geopolitical movements. He notes that, since 1945, America has “intervened” 72 times in the affairs of other nations – including assassinations/assassination attempts, destabilization campaigns, “low-intensity conflict”, outright overthrows/coups, and direct military actions. He tells Ms. Chaudbury that in the past reporters who wrote about these “interventions” would become labeled as “un-American” or “unpatriotic”, but that those terms are rarely used now because people are coming around to understand and “get it”.
He laments that, since the Cold War was over, humanity should be enjoying peace, but there remains worry in the minds and hearts of people about possible wars breaking out. As an American, although my philosophy is a citizen of the Earth, it is hard to convey what Mr. Pilger says about inaccurate images of the United States. He finds that the main propaganda about the U.S.A. is that it is a benign, giving, and generous entity, when the opposite is the truth. In a separate interview from this one, he described a recent visit to the Smithsonian where there was a line of displays about the Vietnam and Iraq Wars, among others.
Vietnam and Iraq were two of the most disastrous and tragic foreign policy decisions ever in American history. Young children moved with the lines of people at the Smithsonian, came upon the Vietnam War display, and read the words: “The United States saved the lives of one million Vietnamese people…” Further on the Iraq War display read: “The United States helped Iraq’s people bring about democracy”.
Ms. Chaudbury congratulates him for his “encyclopedic coverage of atrocities for over 40 years”. He finds himself optimistic even after all he has seen and experienced, pointing to people like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange and others, as well as the corresponding, courageous truth-telling organizations in nations and regions around the Earth. Individuals and groups who expose the lies powerful leaders of governments tell themselves in private – “what we journalists should have been doing a long time ago – “whistleblowing” – makes him hopeful for the future, having reached the age of 75.
He shares what one could suppose is his “big picture” view of the world. He sees a kind of international apartheid situation where on one side of the fence reside the comfortable, conforming, corporate people, and on the other side most of the Earth’s people living uncomfortable, sometimes non-conforming lives. He notes that the least we can do is report on the lives of those innocent men, women, and children living outside the comfort zone – on the wrong side of the rich/poor apartheid fence.
Shoma Chaudbury thanks John Pilger for being the “conscience keeper of a generation”.
(Thank you to telhelkatv at YouTube)