A John Pilger film aired on ITV last night launched a sustained assault on the media’s role in reporting war.
The War You Don’t See portrayed the mainstream media as an echo chamber and amplifier of narrative dominated by officialdom’s talk of “spreading democracy”, “fighting terror” and so on.
Pilger’s detractors say that his reporting is clouded by an obsession that accuses all governments and all journalists – save for himself – of being liars, and allege that he tweaks quotes to suit his own agenda in his written work.
He undoubtedly reports with bias. In this film he turned his scrutiny on the liberal press, equally responsible in his view for swallowing lies peddled by the US and UK governments without properly challenging them.
Pilger delivered unedited quotes, in person, from credible sources – journalists from CBS, the BBC, the Observer, and even a former Downing Street spin doctor – admitting their “shame” and “guilt” for advocating violence against enemies they believed had weapons of mass destruction in the build up to the Iraq War.
The uncomfortable facts, including the brutal and often unnecessary extent of civilian casualties on foreign soil, get little if any mainstream attention, Pilger alleged. Only a relative handful of independent journalists are prepared to document facts instead of repeating carefully worded propaganda from governments seeking to “sell” wars to a patriotic public.
Independent work is rarely used by media outlets that hold themselves in high esteem for supposedly holding governments to account. Perhaps we should be glad that there are journalists with the cojones to do this. Pilger’s point is not that everyone is a liar, but that all sides of the story do not get told.
The film reminded me of this quote from George Orwell: “In an age of universal deceit, to tell the truth is a subversive act.”