Wednesday, June 8, 2011

2011.06.05 — John Pilger 'Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire'

Something we'd like to think cannot be true...
"... in the west, ... American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, let alone documented."

And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. "But," said [Harold] Pinter, "you wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest."

Pinter's words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain's greatest dramatist
Harold Pinter
John Pilger, dissident journalist.
Plenary Session on Confronting Empire
Freedom Next Time: Defending the Empire.
"Propaganda, the Press, Censorship.'
Speech at the 'Socialism 2007' Conference in Chicago.
Democracy Now.
Click on link Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire to play the video with Real Player.

John Pilger
I was poking around the web, following a Google Alert I'd received for Noam Chomsky that took me to YouTube. I started with "Chomsky on Ethical Dilemmas: Should I Protest Against My Government and Risk Jail Time?"

Then I poked on a few other short snippets from what must have been an extended interview. Eventually I clicked onto John Pilger, more or less by accident. I clicked on him in part because the angle of the tiny photo kind of looked like Chomsky if you weren't looking too closely, but more so because of the title, "Propaganda, the Press, Censorship..." PART 1/5". I honestly do not remember having heard the name 'John Pilger' before, and I was very pleasantly surprised at the quality of this lecture. It was given at the 'Plenary Session on Confronting Empire' at the Socialism 2007 Conference in Chicago. (When I went looking for an image to Blog, one or two of the images resonated, so perhaps I have seen/heard him somewhere.)

It was in part 3 that I began to — unnecessarily as it turns out — transcribe what I was listening to because Pilger was relating his own experiences with PBS censorship and 'freedom' of the press. It reminded me of Chomsky's experiences of being censored by the PBS that I recently blogged: 2011.04.14 — Rebel Without A Pause & Freedom of Expression American Style....

Being rather dumb, it was after I'd finished transcribing most of parts 3, and 5, and all of 4 that I even thought to look for the transcription. I found it at Democracy Now. And I also found there the video unbroken: Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire.

Here's what caught my ear. I couldn't resist throwing in Pilger's reaction to the John Wayne movie, 'The Green Berets' as a gentle introduction to what follows:
[@22:36] I wasn’t going to mention The Green Berets when I sat down to write
this, until I read the other day that John Wayne was the most influential movie [actor] who ever lived. I saw the Green Berets starring John Wayne on a Saturday night in 1968 in Montgomery, Alabama. (I was down there to interview the then infamous governor George Wallace). I had just come back from Vietnam, and I couldn’t believe how absurd this movie was. So I laughed out loud, and I laughed and laughed. And it wasn’t long before the atmosphere around me grew very cold. My companion, who had been a Freedom Rider in the South, said, "Let’s get the hell out of here and run like hell."

We were chased all the way back to our hotel, but I doubt if any of our pursuers were aware that John Wayne, their hero, had lied so he wouldn’t have to fight in World War II. And yet the phony role model of Wayne sent thousands of Americans to their deaths in Vietnam, with the notable exceptions of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Last year in his acceptance of the Nobel Prize for Literature, the playwright Harold Pinter made an epic speech. He asked "Why," and I quote him, "the systematic brutality, the widespread atrocities, the ruthless suppression of independent thought in Stalinist Russia were well known in the west, while American state crimes were merely superficially recorded, let alone documented." Unquote.

And yet across the world the extinction and suffering of countless human beings could be attributed to rampant American power. "But," said Pinter, "you wouldn't know it. It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening, it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest." Unquote.

Pinter's words were more than the surreal. The BBC ignored the speech of Britain's greatest dramatist.

Here's the bit that first caught my ear. PBS executives refuse to air Pilger's documentary Year Zero, at least in part because it makes America look bad, although they don't say that. Amusingly, instead of having the balls to say that, they scam the refusal by using a 'fixed' 'adjudicator.'
I've made a number of documentaries about Cambodia. The first was 'Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia.' It describes the American bombing that provided a catalyst for the rise of Pol Pot. What Nixon and Kissinger had started Pol Pot completed; CIA files alone leave no doubt of that.

I offered 'Year Zero' to PBS and took it to Washington. The PBS executives who saw it were shocked. They whispered among themselves. They asked me to wait outside. One of them finally emerged and said "John, we admire your film. But we are disturbed that it says that the United States prepared the way for Pol Pot." And I said "Do you dispute the evidence?" I'd quoted a number of CIA documents and others. "Oh no! No, no, no," he replied. "But we've decided to call in a journalistic adjudicator." [Laughter.]

Now the term 'journalist adjudicator' might have been invented by George Orwell. In fact they managed to find the only journalist – no, only one of three journalists who had been invited to Cambodia by Pol Pot. And, of course, he turned his thumbs down on the film and I never heard from PBS again.

'Year Zero' was broadcast in some sixty countries, and became one of the most watched documentaries in the world. It was never shown in the United States.
That was what I'd intended to blog. However, the speech was so good I wound up transcribing all the rest of it. It is, I think, an important speech that has been heard by very few — in YouTube, anyway: less than 2000 people since it was uploaded 3+ years ago.
Of the five films I made on Cambodia, one of them was shown by WNET the PBS station in New York. I believe that it was shown at about one in the morning. [Some laughter.] On the basis of this single showing, when most people were asleep, it was awarded an Emmy. [Some laughter.] What marvelous irony. [Laughter.] It was worthy of a prize but not an audience. [More laughter.]

Harold Pinter's subversive truth, I believe, was that he made the connection between imperialism and fascism. And described a battle for history that is almost never reported. This is the great silence of the media age. And this is the secret heart of propaganda today. A propaganda so vast in scope that I am always astonished that so many Americans know and understand as much as they do.

We're talking about a system, of course, not personalities. And yet a great many decent people believe that the problem is George W. Bush and his gang. And yes, the Bush gang are extreme. But my experience is that they are no more than an extreme version of what has gone on before. [Applause]

In my lifetime more wars have been started by liberal democrats than by republicans. Ignoring this truth is a guarantee that the propaganda system and the war making system will continue. We've had a branch of the democratic party running Britain for the last ten years. [Laughter.]
Tony Blair
[Prime Minister Tony] Blair, apparently a liberal, has taken Britain to war more times than any prime minister in the modern era. Yes, his current pal is George Bush, but his first love was Bill Clinton. [Laugter] The most violent president of the twentieth century – the late twentieth century.

Blair's successor, Gordon Brown, is also a devotee of Clinton and Bush. The other day Brown said, "The days of Britain having to apologize for the British Empire are over. We should celebrate." Like Blair, like Clinton, like Bush, Brown believes in the liberal truth that the battle for history has been won. That the millions who died in deliberately imposed famines in British imperial India will be forgotten. Like the millions who've died in the American empire will be forgotten.
Gordon Brown
And like Blair, he's confident that professional journalism is on his side. For most journalists, whether they realize it or not, are groomed to be tribunes of an ideology that regards itself as non-ideological. That presents itself as the natural centre, the very fulcrum of civilized modern life.

This may well be the most powerful and most dangerous ideology we've ever known because it's open ended. This is liberalism.

I'm not denying the virtues of liberalism. Far from it. We're all beneficiaries of them. But if we deny its dangers, its open ended project, and the all consuming power of its propaganda, then we deny our right to the true democracy because liberalism and true democracy are not the same. Liberalism began as a cult of the elite in the nineteenth century, and true democracy is never handed down by elites. It is always fought for and struggle for. [Applause]

[Judith LeBlanc, a] senior member of the anti-war coalition, United for Peace and Justice, said recently, and I quote her, "The democrats are using the politics of reality," unquote. Her liberal historical reference point was Vietnam. She said that President Johnson began withdrawing troops from Vietnam after a Democratic Congress began to vote against the war.

That's not what happened. [Laughter.] The troops were withdrawn from Vietnam over four long years. And during that time the United States killed more people in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with bombs than were killed in all the preceding years. And that's what's happening in Iraq. The bombing has doubled since last year, and this is not being reported.

And who began this bombing? Bill Clinton began it. During the 1990s Clinton rained bombs on Iraq in what was euphemistically called the no-fly zone. At the same time he imposed a medieval siege called 'economic sanctions,' killing, as I've mentioned, perhaps a million people. Including the documented figure of 500,000 children.

Almost none of this carnage was reported in the so-called mainstream media.

Last year a study by the John Hopkins School of Public Health found that since the invasion of Iraq 655,000 Iraqis have died as a direct result of the invasion. Official documents show that the Blair government knew this figure to be credible. In February, Les Roberts, the author of the report, said the figure was equal to the figure of deaths in the Fordham University study of the Rwandan genocide.

The media response to Roberts' shocking revelation was silence. What may well be the greatest episode of organized killing for a generation, in Harold Pinter's words, did not happen. It didn't matter.

Many people who regard themselves on the left supported Bush's attack on Afghanistan. That the CIA had supported Osama Bin Laden was ignored. That the Clinton administration had secretly backed the Taliban, even giving them high level briefing of the CIA is virtually unknown in the United States. The Taliban were secret partners with the oil giant Unocal in building an oil pipeline across Afghanistan. And when a Clinton official was reminded that the Taliban persecuted women he said 'We can live with that.'

There is compelling evidence that Bush decided to attack Afghanistan not as a result of 9/11 but two months earlier in July 2001. This is virtually unknown in the United States. Publicly. Like the scale of civilian casualties in Afghanistan. To my knowledge only one mainstream reporter, Johnathan Steele of The Guardian in London, has investigated civilian casualties in Afghanistan. His estimate is 20,000 dead civilians, and that was three years ago.

The enduring tragedy of Palestine is due in great part, great part, to the silence and compliance of the so-called liberal left. Hamas is described repeatedly as sworn to the destruction of Israel. The New York Times, the Associated Press, Boston Globe. Take your pick. They all use this line as a standard disclaimer. And it's false.

That Hamas has called for a ten year cease fire is almost never reported. Even more important, that Hamas has undergone an historic ideological shift in the last few years, which amounts to a recognition of what it calls the reality of Israel, is virtually unknown. And that Israel is sworn to the destruction of Palestine is unspeakable.

There is a pioneering study done by Glasgow University on the reporting of Palestine. They interviewed young people who watched TV news in Britain. More than 90% thought the illegal settlers were Palestinian. The more they watched the less then knew, in Danny Schecter's famous phrase.

The most dangerous silence is over nuclear weapons and the return of the cold war. The Russians understand clearly that the so-called American defense shield in eastern Europe is designed to subjugate and humiliate them. Yet the front pages here talk about Putin starting a new cold war. And there is silence about the development of and entirely new American nuclear system called 'Reliable Weapons Replacement' – RRW, which is designed to blur the distinction between conventional war and nuclear war. A long held ambition.

In the mean time Iran is being softened up, with the liberal media playing almost the same role it played before the Iraq invasion.

And as for the democrats, look at how Barrack Obama has become the voice on the council on foreign relations. One of the propaganda organs of the old liberal Washington establishment. Obama writes that he wants the troops home, and I quote, "We must not rule out military force against long standing adversaries such as Iran and Syria." Unquote. Listen to this from the liberal Obama, and I quote. "At moment[s] of great peril in the past century our leaders insured that America by deed and by example lead and lifted the world. That we stood for and fought for the freedom sought by billions of people beyond our borders." Unquote.

You know, that's the nub of the propaganda, the brainwashing, if you like, that seeps into the lives of every American. And many of us who are not Americans. From right to left, secular to God-fearing, what so few people know is that in the last half century United States administrations have overthrown fifty governments. Many of them democracies. In the process thirty countries have been attacked and bombed, with the loss of countless lives.

Bush-bashing is all very well. And is justified. But the moment we begin to accept the siren call of the Democrats drivel about standing up and fighting for freedom sought by billions, the battle for history is lost, and we ourselves are silenced.

So what should we do? That question often asked in meetings I've addressed, even meetings as informed as those in this conference, is itself interesting. It's my experience that people in the so-called third world rarely ask the question, because they know what to do. And some have paid with their freedom and their lives, but they knew what to do. It's a question that many on the democratic left, small 'd,' have yet to answer.

Real information, subversive information remains the most potent power of all. And I believe we must not fall into the trap of believing that the media speaks for the public. That wasn't true in Stalinist Czechoslovakia, and it isn't true in Bush's United States. [Applause]

In all the years I've been a journalist I've never known public consciousness to have risen as fast as it's rising today. Yes, its direction and shape is unclear, partly because people are now deeply suspicious of political alternatives, and because the Democratic Party has succeeded in seducing and dividing the electoral left. And yet this growing critical public awareness is all the more remarkable when you consider the shear scale of indoctrination, the mythology of a superior way of life, and the current manufactured state of fear.

Why did The New York Times come clean in that editorial last year? Not because it opposes Bush's wars. Look at the coverage of Iran. That editorial was a rare acknowledgement that the public were beginning to see the concealed role of the media, that people were beginning to read between the lines. If Iran is attacked the reaction and the upheaval cannot be predicted. The National Security and Homeland Security presidential directive gives Bush power over all facets of government in an emergency. It's not unlikely that the constitution will be suspended, the laws to round up hundreds of thousands of so-called terrorists and enemy combatants are already on the books. That's not paranoia, to be understanding of that. I believe that these dangers are understood by the public, who have come a long way since 9/11. And a long way since the propaganda that linked Saddam Hussein to al-Qaeda. That's why they voted for the Democrats last November, only to be betrayed.

But they need truth. And journalists ought to be agents of truth, not the courtiers of power. I believe a 5th estate is possible. The product of a people's movement that monitors, deconstructs and counters the media, the corporate media. In every university, in every media college, in every news room, teachers of journalism and journalists themselves, need to ask themselves about the part they themselves now play in the bloodshed in the name of a bogus objectivity. Such a movement within the media could herald a perestroika of a kind we've never known. This is all possible. Silences can be broken. In Britain the National Union of Journalists has undergone a radical change, and has called for a boycott of Israel. [Applause] [end of part 4/5 10:55]

The website has single handedly called the BBC to account. In the United States wonderfully free rebellious spirits populate the web. I can't mention them all here, but from Tom Feeley’s International Clearing House, to Mike Albert’s ZNet, to Counterpunch online, and the splendid work of FAIR. The best reporting of Iraq appears on the web—Dahr Jamail’s courageous journalism; and citizen reporters like Joe Wilding, who reported the siege of Fallujah from inside the city.

In Venezuela, Greg Wilpert’s investigations turned back much of the virulent propaganda now aimed at Hugo Chávez. Make no mistake, it’s the threat of freedom of speech for the majority in Venezuela that lies behind the campaign in the west on behalf of the corrupt RCTV. The challenge for the rest of us is to lift this subjugated knowledge from out of the underground and take it to ordinary people.

We need to make haste. Liberal Democracy is moving toward a form of corporate dictatorship. This is an historic shift, and the media must not be allowed to be its façade, but itself made into a popular, burning issue, and subjected to direct action. That great whistleblower Tom Paine warned that if the majority of the people were denied the truth and the ideas of truth, it was time to storm what he called the Bastille of words. That time is now.

Well, that is quite a mouthful! I'll be tweaking this over the next few days with links and more images.

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