Is John Pilger necessary? Sunny Hundal thinks so:
Pilger is a voice of conscience I think the left still needs. Don’t get me wrong: I think he’s idealistic to the point of unrealistic. But commentators on the far-left are important as a voice that keep the centre-left on their toes, even if they are completely sectarian to a fault, unrealistic about how society should change, frequently illiberal and authoritarian and have no political punch. The point is you still need that voice of anger.
Here’s a taste of Mr Pilger’s idealistic anger, from the pages of the New Statesman:
Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.
No evidence is advanced to support this claim of “brainwashing” and no explanation is offered as to why so many actual Texans should have escaped its burdensome effects. Though the reader is left to presume that, however this brainwashing works, it leads inexorably to a presidential “blood fest” and the “killing [of] yet more brown-skinned people.” The same article also tells us that “Condoleezza Rice… has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice” and states as fact “liberal democracy’s shift towards a corporate dictatorship.” Sadly, the particulars of such things are left to the reader’s wilder imaginings.
Wild imaginings are, of course, a signature of Mr Pilger’s rhetoric, along with the aforementioned anger and unrealism. As illustrated in December 2003 by his enthusiastic support of Ba’athist thugs and jihadist fantasists: “I think the resistance in Iraq is incredibly important for all of us. I think that we depend on the resistance to win so that other countries might not be attacked.” The precise nature of the “resistance” – its methods and lineage – didn’t seem to trouble Pilger; nor was he unduly concerned by the mismatch between that noble resistance and concepts of democracy, human rights, etc. One might, for instance, hesitate to champion the likes of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who in January 2005, a week before Iraq’s parliamentary election, said: “We have declared a bitter war against the principle of democracy and all those who seek to enact it.”
What mattered to Pilger, and mattered a great deal, was “deal[ing] a blow to the US Empire” – a point on which he was later happy to elaborate. Asked in January 2004 whether the “anti-war” movement should really be supporting al-Zarqawi and his associates, the Voice Of Conscience™ replied: “Yes, I do. We cannot afford to be choosy… We have no choice now but to support the resistance, for if the resistance fails, the Bush gang will attack another country. If they succeed, a grievous blow will be suffered by the Bush gang.” Two months later, Pilger described British, American and Australian troops as “legitimate targets” and revealed the true, fiendish scope of America’s ambitions: “Unless the United States is defeated [in Iraq], we’re likely to see an attack on Iran, we’re likely to see an attack on North Korea and all the way down the road it could be even an attack on China within a decade.”
China indeed. Based on the above, and much, much else besides, it isn’t clear how such a worldview could help those “brown-skinned people” who, reasonably enough, prefer democracy to despotism. One might, though, note that Mr Pilger is much more animated by the diabolical schemes he ascribes to America, with its designs on China and rampant “brainwashing,” than he is by, say, North Korea’s concentration camps and gas chambers.
Such is the voice of conscience. Hear it roar.