In any genuinely pluralist political culture, there is always a choice for the journalist-cum-commentator to make: is this reporting of a real and present threat to free-speech democracy, or is it the employment (by those who seek to destroy pluralism) of propaganda designed to collapse the liberal democracies? The Slog examines a recent post by the infamous Jon Pilger.
Jon Pilger has always divided peopleover the last fifty years – in very much the same way as Nigel Farage does today.
He has just published a piece excoriating the ejection of Julian Assange from Ecuador’s embassy in London. And so the choice I mention above returns to haunt us: is his criticism valid reporting, or ideological propaganda?
The choice became clearer as the 1960-80 era slid downhill on an icy piste from Nixon via two burning Bushes and Clinton to Obama. In the Sixties, Pilger and other hacks of similar Stalinist ilk wrote pieces apologising for Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Cong while demonising the South Vietnamese régime. Diem was no more of a genuine democrat than Ho Chi Minh, but Jon Pilger (who was a near neighbour of mine for several years) quite deliberately failed to report any of Ho’s numerous atrocities, and refused to recognise what was obvious in retrospect: that the entire Victor Charlie ‘liberation’ was in fact a Chinese officered, run and bankrolled invasion of a near neighbour Beijing had detested over many centuries.
When I tackled Jon on this, he equivocated. He was unconvincing.
For those of us with noses that twitch when Truth is being evaded, Chinese geopolitics are every bit as unconvincing as CIA apologism. But the mid 20th century is long-gone. Today – even taking into account the ideological tendency to Pilgerise stuff – Jon’s analysis of the Assange disgrace is (for once) spot on the dollar bill.
The fact is that, in 2009, the Ministry of Defence did issue a secret briefing to senior politicians at the Home and Foreign Offices, the Treasury and in Downing Street. And it did single out investigative reporting as ‘the greatest threat to the Realm’.
Since then, such reporting has rapidly disappeared from all but the bravest websites. We owe an enormous debt to Assange in that he got hold of this calumny, and released it.
Having observed Julian Assange over many years, I cannot completely lose the feeling that he suffers from a Messiah-Martyr complex: but the indisputable fact is that he has created a global leaking system to prove, beyond any reasonable doubt, that States lie to their largely unsuspecting citizens almost 24/7. In doing so, he has vindicated the Great American George Carlin who memorably observed, “When it comes to the Federal government, I have one policy….I don’t believe a fucking word they say”.
But there remains an irony in all this, and I think it stems from intolerant belief systems. The irony is that, over the decades – although Pilger remains a journalist-ideologue – the State has become so mendacious in defending its own flawed ideology, it literally out-Pilgers Pilger.
The question is no longer one of if there is a threat to pluralism: the threat is bloody obvious – and those with a knife to the citizen’s throat come from both neoliberal and faux-liberal pc muggers.
This is not so much a glass half-empty view on my part as (potentially) a fill the glass and drink it until oblivion beckons.
The bottom line, however, is more optimistic: indirect, easily corrupted Democracy is failing to deliver. It is failing to deliver on expectations that have (until recent years) grown exponentially; and one day not too far away, it will leave all of us with nothing…..and thus nothing to lose. This may never lead to the expected confrontation between citizen and snooper. Rather, it seems so far to be spawning ground level ways in which the snoopers can be rendered irrelevant.