15 December 2010

THE WAR YOU DON'T SEE (Dir. John Pilger, 2010, UK) - The Acquiescence of the British News Media

John Pilger - Telling the truth about the lies propagated by the political and economic elites in western democracies.

Watching John Pilger’s latest documentary titled The War You Don’t See was a sobering experience. Receiving what is a multi platform release in cinemas, on DVD and television, Pilger’s sustained critique of the media’s complicity in the naturalisation and normalisation of war in Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq as perpetrated by the hegemonic powers that be not only reiterated familiar leftist territory but offered a painful reminder of our own complicity in such acts of genocide. Pilger has been and continues to be one of the greatest investigative journalists of our time and whilst his presence is absent from mainstream media discourse including most importantly television news coverage his questioning of power relations, propaganda systems and the dissolution of impartiality are all at the forefront of attempts to make transparent the widening economic divisions in western societies. Pilger’s focus is the television news coverage of Afghanistan, Iraq and the Israel-Palestine conflict. Beginning with the propagandist nature of embedded reporting, Pilger argues the collusion between government political agendas and a subservient news media engineers a deceptive history for warmongers whilst manufacturing an unprecedented level of disinformation.

When it comes to the acquiescent news coverage of Iraq, Pilger’s questioning of David Mannion (Editor in Chief of ITV News) and a senior news gatherer for the BBC rightly positions them as messengers for the corporate elite who have abandoned any duty to report accurately and fairly to the general public. Is it a wonder that so many British Muslims are disillusioned with the mainstream media? In one of the most revelatory moments, Pilger returns to the all important work of Greg Philo and the Glasgow Media Group to support his theory that the media coverage of the flotilla massacre by the Israeli military machine was effectively a whitewash. The absence of a credible and articulate spokesperson for the Palestinian side in the BBC’s news coverage of the flotilla aftermath is underlined by Pilger as yet another example of the BBC’s subservience to Israel and its uneven handed approach to the coverage of such a decisive news story. Pilger expands upon the argument of BBC subservience by suggesting such institutions which claim to be impartial are in fact constructing news in a culture of fear and intimidation.

When it comes to the ITV News coverage of the run up to the war in Iraq, Pilger takes David Mannion to task over misleading the public by refusing to present facts about Iraq including the genocide perpetrated on the Iraqi people by years of UN sanctions. The facts were not presented before the public by the television news media as they simply did not concur with the interests of the corporate elite. Of course, much of this goes back to Noam Chomsky’s argument of the media’s selective use of language to serve the aims of corporate propaganda. In one of the more disturbing moments, footage from Iraq which was made public by Julian Assange via Wikileaks shows an American gunship decimate a crowd of civilians made up of men and children. It’s not surprising Assange has become the scourge of the ruling elite as Wikileaks is finally attempting to simply give us the facts about political power relations and such facts of course are unfiltered. In another telling interview ex-BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar states categorically that the Al Jazeera news base in Kabul was deliberately targeted by the Americans with the intention to directly kill the journalists. Such war crimes have not simply gone unreported but they are in fact re-presented as something quite different and perhaps even normal in the context of perpetual war in which the so called terrorist threat needs to be deterred. Pilger’s work makes for essential viewing and for me this is undoubtedly one of the best documentaries of the year. Most of Pilger's work is available for free to watch online and appears on his website.

Here is a short trailer to the documentary:

A recent interview with Pilger on Democracy Now!:

The following is an excerpt from the documentary that examines the Israeli propaganda machine and its relationship with mainstream news organisations like the BBC:


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