Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The War You Don't See

John Pilger

"If people really knew the truth", British PM David Lloyd George told Guardian editor C.P. Scott during the imperial bloodbath of World War One, "the war would be stopped tomorrow. But of course they don’t know, and can’t know."

As veteran muckraker John Pilger demonstrates throughout The War You Don't See, a very similar relationship exists between governments and the corporate media today. This is why the newspaper "stenographers" reported the Bush and Blair claims about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction as though they were unquestionable gospel truths. This is why we never get to see that 90% of those killed by our brave heroes in the armed forces are actually civilians. This is why the state of Israel is normally portrayed as being a victim of Palestinian aggression, when the death count stats show overwhelmingly otherwise. Truth is still the first casualty of war.

Pilger takes us from the birth of "public relations" in the slaughter of World War One and the marketing of cigarettes as "torches of freedom" for suffragettes, through to the phenomenon of "embedded journalists" in the 'war on terror', and the marketing of warmonger Barack Obama as a 'peace candidate' for the US presidency. Unfortunately, the Australian jumps about quite a bit while he does it, and does not provide any real structural analysis, relying on (albeit very insightful) anecdotes from various media and political figures, plus talk of journalists "living in fear" of their livelihoods and even their lives if they dare to stray from the official line.

The overall effect of this is quite depressing to be honest. It's as if John Pilger felt that skeptical viewers would only be convinced by sheer weight of anecdote, and he wouldn't have time to light a candle after he had cursed the darkness. This is all the more disappointing since Pilger has described the mechanisms of media control at great length in his writing, often citing personal experience to illustrate the theory behind Herman and Chomsky's propaganda model.

One thing is for sure: Pilger holds WikiLeaks in very high regard, and believes its fight for survival is of enormous importance. In an interview with embattled WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, he praises it as a "landmark in journalism", and a vital tool in holding governments to account when they say one thing to us, and quite another to colleagues and foreign rivals/accomplices.

Alas, few viewers will have seen this film, going out as it did at 22:35 on a Tuesday. Of course, that just goes to prove the thrust of Pilger's ideas. Fortunately, UK residents can see on the ITV Player until 13th January 2011.
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