Pilger’s Rap Sheet on the Criminal Elite

The head of the British Independent Television Authority once called Pilger “a threat to Western Civilization.” Kiji Noh reports.

John Pilger in The Truth Game (1983). (johnpilger.com)

By Kiji Noh
Pearls and Irritations

John Pilger was always on the side of the oppressed. He denounced Empire and all its violent predations – war, genocide, exploitation – as well as its endless lies and propaganda.

Till his death on Saturday, he fought tirelessly for the freedom of Julian Assange, and his last article, “We are all Spartacus,” published in Consortium News, was a call to stand with the imprisoned publisher. 

Pilger gave voice to the invisible and the voiceless: the hungry, the poor, the handicapped, the conscripted, the sanctioned & bombed, the dispossessed, refugees, the chemically experimented on, the structurally adjusted, the couped, the famine-expendable, the colonized, the genocided, the silenced, shining a light in the hidden, dark recesses of the hell of Empire.

He fought racism, war, privatization, neocolonialism, neoliberalism, globalization, propaganda, advertising, nuclear madness, U.S. coups.

His filmography and writing is a rap sheet of the unceasing criminality of Empire and Capitalism.

Arguably giving him the best homage he could receive, Sir Robert Fraser, head of the British Independent Television Authority once called Pilger a “threat to Western Civilization.”

Pilger was also prophetic: in 1970, he chronicled the insurrection of troops against the Vietnam war in The Quiet Mutiny. In 1974, and again in 2002, he spoke out that Palestine Is Still the Issue, demanding that “the occupation of Palestine should end now.” He warned about Japanese militarism and revisionism.

In 2014, he warned that Ukraine, a “C.I.A. theme park”, was preparing “a Nato-run guerrilla war that is likely to spill into Russia itself.” Seven years ago, when only a few were aware, and even fewer were speaking out – in short words and articles – he released a full-length, full-throated documentary warning the world that the U.S. was escalating catastrophically to The Coming War With China.

Pilger was not only a powerful critical journalist and world-changing filmmaker –Cambodia Year Zero is considered one of the most influential documentaries in the 20th century. He was also a craftsman, a poet, artist –- he understood the power of language and understood that in a medium restricted by word counts, every word counts.

But it was Pilger’s rich, resonant delivery – like a Shakespearean actor – that always struck me. It contained the unmistakable, unimpeachable courage of moral integrity: a voice that knows it is speaking the truth.

You will hear many things about him in the days to come, but Pilger’s own words are most insightful. (The following from an interview with Michael Albert at Znet.)

On the form of journalism:

“In all these forms the aim should be to find out as many facts and as much of the truth as possible. There’s no mystery. Yes, we all bring a personal perspective to work; that’s our human right. Mine is to be skeptical of those who seek to control us, indeed of all authority that isn’t accountable, and not to accept “official truths”, which are often lies. Journalism is or ought to be the agent of people, not power: the view from the ground.”

On making a difference:

….the aim of good journalism is or ought to be to give people the power of information – without which they cannot claim certain freedoms. It’s as straightforward as that. Now and then you do see the effects of a particular documentary or series of reports.

In Cambodia, more than $50 million were given by the public, entirely unsolicited, following my first film; and my colleagues and I were able to use this to buy medical supplies, food and clothing. Several governments changed their policies as a result. Something similar happened following the showing of my documentary on East Timor – filmed, most of it, in secret… Did it affect the situation in East Timor? No, but it did contribute to the long years of tireless work by people all over the world.”

On social media:

“Ironically, they can separate us even further from each other: enclose us in a bubble-world of smartphones and fragmented information, and magpie commentary. Thinking is more fun, I think.”

On U.S. foreign policy:

I seldom use the almost respectable term, U.S. foreign policy; U.S. designs for the world is the correct term, surely. These designs have been running along a straight line since 1944 when the Bretton Woods conference ordained the U.S. as the number one imperial power. The line has known occasional interruptions such as the retreat from Saigon and the triumph of the Sandinistas, but the designs have never changed. They are to dominate humanity. What has changed is that they are often disguised by the modern power of public relations, a term Edward Bernays invented during the first world war because ‘the Germans have given propaganda a bad name.’”

On the economy:

With every administration, it seems, the aims are ‘spun’ further into the realm of fantasy while becoming more and more extreme. Bill Clinton, still known by the terminally naive as a ‘progressive’, actually upped the ante on the Reagan administration, with the iniquities of NAFTA and assorted killing around the world. What is especially dangerous today is that the U.S. ’s wilfully and criminally collapsed economy (collapsed for ordinary people) and the unchallenged pre-eminence of the parasitical ‘defence’ industries have followed a familiar logic that leads to greater militarism, bloodshed and economic hardship.”

On peace activism:

The current spoiling for a fight with China is a symptom of this, as is the invasion of Africa….I find it remarkable that I have lived my life without having been blown to bits in a nuclear holocaust ignited by Washington. What this tells me is that popular resistance across the rest of the world is potent and much feared by the bully – look at the hysterical pursuit of WikiLeaks. Or if not feared, it’s disorientating for the master. That’s why those of us who regard peace as a normal state of human affairs are in for a long haul, and faltering along the way is not an option, really.”

On the future:

“I’m confident that if we remain silent while the U.S. war state, now rampant, continues on its bloody path, we bequeath to our children and grandchildren a world with an apocalyptic climate, broken dreams of a better life for all and, as the unlamented General Petraeus put it, a state of ‘perpetual war.’ Do we accept that or do we fight back?”

K.J. Noh is a political analyst, educator and journalist focusing on the geopolitics and political economy of the Asia-Pacific.   He has written for Dissident Voice, Black Agenda Report, Asia Times, Counterpunch, LA Progressive, MR Online. He also does frequent commentary and analysis on various news programs, including The Critical Hour, The Backstory, and Breakthrough News.

Please DONATE to CN’S Winter Fund Drive


13 comments for “Pilger’s Rap Sheet on the Criminal Elite

  1. LeoSun
    January 3, 2024 at 11:47

    “Ripple in still water. When there is no pebble tossed; nor wind to blow.”

    …..”Reach out your hand, if your cup be empty. If, your cup is full, may it be again. Let it be known, there is a fountain, that was not made by the hands of men.

    There is a road, no simple highway. Between the dawn and the dark of night; and, if you go, no one may follow. That path is for, your steps alone.”

    ….. “The image of a ripple in still water is a metaphor for the small actions that can have a great impact, even when they seem insignificant, at the time. The second verse, reminds us that our lives are unique & that we must forge our own paths. Although, we may have friends & companions, along the way, we are ultimately alone on our journey, i.e., themes of immortality. The impermanence & fragility of life.”

    …….“Ripple” is a reminder that we are all connected & that small actions can have a significant impact.”

    Imo, the last thing we needed, the first thing, that morning, 12/31/23, “The World Has Lost John Pilger.”

    Oh, No f/Way! Not today. Not yesterday. Nor tomorrow. Say it isn’t so, John Pilger’s crossed over!!! Oh, No! “Just, breathe.”

    I, LeoSun, second the emotions articulated in the Tributes, Comments, the “Broadcasts-Watch. Listen. Cheers!” ‘Round Here,’ Consortium News’ Home Page honoring, remembering w/g.o.a.t. Reverence & Love for John Pilger is beyond Spot flippn’ On!!! And, oh so, f/welcome. Thank you!!!

    John Pilger a beyond good man had a colossal, significant impact on the Universe. Hence, it is w/immense sorrow “we” say,“So long. Farewell. Aririvederci!!! Thank You. R.I.P., John Pilger.” No doubt, the Cosmic Angels, welcomed John Pilger, into the Cosmos 2024, w/genuine reverence, joy & love. I can here ‘em say, “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. Pilger.”

    Thank you, Kiji Noh, CN, et al. “Keep It Lit!”

    “Ripple” Jerry Garcia/Grateful Dead @ hxxps://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5yJmBC7cMTM&pp=ygUUcmlwcGxlIGdyYXRlZnVsIGRlYWQ%3D

  2. ray Peterson
    January 3, 2024 at 09:21

    And not to miss one of John’s famous comparisons:
    “That Hillary is worse than Trump”
    Neocon liberals take note.
    Pilger putting to right the Democratic Party’s lie of an American imperialism
    giving itself a “right to protect.” It so failed in the Rwanda genocide (1994),
    and in Indonesia’s East Timor genocide. But then those people weren’t white
    or military allies, nor are the Palestinians in Gaza.
    So they’re slaughtered not protected.

  3. Michael Johnson
    January 3, 2024 at 01:34

    Thank you Mr.Noh for such a well-written piece in tribute to, and in honor of John Pilger. I read it several times, and will now go back and view the highlighted areas that you offer within. It’s a sad day for journalism… with another incredible human traveling into the other realm.

  4. dunkin langston
    January 2, 2024 at 20:58

    I saw “The Coming War with China” all those years ago and it wasn’t easy to get. I had to purchase the dvd from the UK and find a way to watch in US because you could not get it in America. The documentary was spot on and shockingly prescient, a must see by one of the greatest journalists of the last 100 years!
    Mr. Pilger will live forever by all the future good journalist his work inspires.

  5. ray Peterson
    January 2, 2024 at 19:25

    And not to miss one of John’s famous comparisons:
    “That Hillary is worse than Trump”
    Neocon liberals take note

  6. Guy St Hilaire
    January 2, 2024 at 16:47

    I became acquainted with John Pilger back when the massacre in East Timor was ongoing. John told the world about what was really happening behind the narrative and rhetoric . The cold truth was not always popular but John always stayed on the right side of history.His close association with the downtrodden and persecuted defined the man and earned him much respect form those of us that saw through the lies .He was one of my heroes and will be surely missed by many .Who will pick up the torch of light for the world that desperately needed to disperse the darkness . Rest in peace John ,you left a big footprint on this earth .History will treat you well .

  7. January 2, 2024 at 15:18

    Kiji Noh,
    Thank you for this excellent article on John Pilger and his relentless championing of the oppressed. May you carry forth in your career in journalism along the same lines.

  8. Thom Williams aka EA
    January 2, 2024 at 15:02

    What an awesome tribute to John Pilger and his undaunted pursuit of truth and the intellectual well-being of humanity.
    As Usual,

  9. Oberver
    January 2, 2024 at 12:34

    “…. a threat to Western Civilization” — reminds me of Ghandi’s famous quip, when a stupid reporter from a London daily asked him, when he got off the ship from India, “What do you of Western Civilization . Mr. Ghandi?”
    He replied “I thin it would be an excellent idea.”

  10. Selina Sweet
    January 2, 2024 at 11:47

    I am very grateful for your giving us the “very words from the horses mouth” as I am a new one to Mr Pilger. Better late than never. He seems a member of the Dept of Truth and Integrity and Hutzpah just as Daniel Ellsberg and Dr Sydney Wolfe are. They leave a wake that never dies . Butterfly men who cast vital pollen out into the world seeding in the receptive and the hungry, the reality and inspiration of being spiritually virile, exemplaries of life well lived. They seemed to know they carried light. And not mincing around, they committed to serving it with their all. Such beautiful men!

  11. John Zeigler
    January 2, 2024 at 11:33

    The great imperial OZ thunders, but the little dog pulls the curtain aside to reveal the puny and bankrupt spirit of those who would bestride humankind and and put the bit of oppression in our mouths. Truth may occupy the scaffold while evil sits on the throne, but I firmly believe, a la M. L. King, that the arc of the universe bends toward justice.

  12. Charles E. Carroll
    January 2, 2024 at 11:33

    Thank you very much!

  13. Vera Gottlieb
    January 2, 2024 at 10:04

    Hopefully many more journalists will follow in his footsteps. RIP

Comments are closed.