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John Pilger warns of a new fascism

by John Pilger Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 at 2:21 PM

Democracy is now fictitious. There is the all-powerful business elite that has merged with the state and its claims to "identity". US admirals are paid thousands of dollars a day by Australian taxpayers for "advice". Across the West, our political imaginations have been soothed by PR and distracted from the machinations of corrupt politicians who can be had extremely cheaply.

Last essay by the "giant of journalism": John Pilger warns of a new fascism

by John Pilger

[This article posted on 1/4/2024 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

Pilger is dead. In his last essay, he recalled opposition to fascism in the 1930s. Why people are silent today in the global conflagration. Guest article, part 1.

Legendary Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker John Pilger died on Saturday at the age of 84 - news that was greeted with sadness and led to a wave of tributes to Pilger's decades of investigative work.

An obituary in the UK Guardian reads:

Born in Bondi, New South Wales, Pilger moved to the UK in the 1960s, where he worked for the Daily Mirror, the former ITV investigative program World in Action and Reuters. He covered conflicts in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Biafra and was named Journalist of the Year in 1967 and 1979. Pilger had a successful career as a documentary filmmaker, making more than 50 major films and receiving a number of awards.

His inimitable on-site reportages, which repeatedly took him to East Timor and Palestine, were also indictments of those responsible for the devastation, including the media, which legitimized wars either actively or by looking the other way. With camera and microphone, he went to the victims of the bombings and invasions, giving them a voice that was heard worldwide.

A great man leaves

In "The Coming War with China" from 2016, he warned with foresight of an increasing encirclement and escalation in the Pacific on the part of the USA. For many years, he has also supported the journalist and Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who is being held in the Belmarsh high-security prison in London.

Jeremy Corbyn, former Labour leader in the UK, said: "I am deeply saddened by the death of John Pilger. John gave a forum to those who are not heard and to the occupied: in Australia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, East Timor, Palestine and beyond."

"I thank you for your bravery in the search for truth - it will never be forgotten," Corbyn added.

Many organizations such as Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament paid tribute to Pilger and praised him for his courage and clear-sightedness. Wikileaks and Assange's wife Stella describe him as "a great one".

Ostracized by the mainstream media

Australian journalist Peter Cronau declared that "a giant of journalism has passed away - John Pilger, a heroic truth teller. Ostracized by much of the mainstream media, his amazing work is his great lasting legacy".

In his latest essay, John Pilger explores why today there is "a silence filled with a consensus of propaganda" as the world's two greatest powers approach conflict.

Telepolis publishes Pilger's last essay from May 3, 2023 in memory of a great journalist of the post-war era. The essay is published in two parts.

Electrifying opposition

In 1935, the Congress of American Writers took place in New York City, followed by another two years later. They summoned "hundreds of poets, novelists, playwrights, critics, short story writers and journalists" to discuss the "rapid disintegration of capitalism" and the threat of a new war.

These were electrifying events, attended by 3,500 people, according to one report, with more than a thousand turned away.

Arthur Miller, Myra Page, Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett warned that fascism was on the march, often covertly, and that it was the responsibility of writers and journalists to speak out.

Telegrams of support from Thomas Mann, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, C. Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out.

The leaden consensus

Journalist and novelist Martha Gellhorn stood up for the homeless and unemployed and "for all of us who stand in the shadow of a violent superpower".

Martha, who became a close friend, later told me over her usual glass of Famous Grouse with soda:

'The responsibility I felt as a journalist was immense. I witnessed the injustices and suffering that the Depression brought, and I knew we all knew what lay ahead if the silence was not broken.

Her words still resonate today: It is a silence filled with a consensus of propaganda that poisons almost everything we read, see and hear. Let me give you an example:

"Yellow Peril"

On March 7, Australia's two oldest newspapers, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, published several pages on "the looming threat" from China. They colored the Pacific Ocean red.

The Chinese eyes looked martial, focused on the advance and threatening. The Yellow Peril threatened to descend as if by gravity.

Read also:

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No logical reason was given for China to attack Australia. A "panel of experts" presented no credible evidence: One of the experts is a former director of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, a front for the Department of Defense in Canberra, the Pentagon in Washington, the governments of Britain, Japan and Taiwan, and the Western war industry.

"Beijing (Beijing) could strike within three years," they warned, "we are not ready." Billions of dollars are to be spent on US nuclear submarines, but that doesn't seem enough. "Australia's vacation from history is over": whatever that means.

China bashing

There is no threat to Australia, none. The distant "lucky" country has no enemies, certainly not China, its biggest trading partner.

Yet China-bashing, invoking Australia's long history of racism towards Asia, has become something of a sport for the self-proclaimed "experts". What do Chinese-Australians make of this development? Many are confused and frightened.

The authors of this grotesque piece of canine subservience to US power are Peter Hartcher and Matthew Knott, "national security reporters", as they are known. I remember Hartcher from his trips paid for by the Israeli government.

The other, Knott, is a mouthpiece for the suits in Canberra. None of them have ever seen a war zone with its extreme forms of human degradation and suffering.

How could it come to this?

"How could it come to this?" Martha Gellhorn would say if she were here. Where on earth are the voices saying no? Where is the camaraderie?

The voices can be heard in the samizdat [banned, non-conformist literature in the USSR] of this and other websites [the essay first appeared on Counterpunch]. In literature, John Steinbeck, Carson McCullers and George Orwell have had their day.

Postmodernism is now in charge. Liberalism has pulled up its political ladder. Australia, a once sleepy social democracy, has enacted a web of new laws that protect an authoritarian power operating in secret and prevent the right to know.

Whistleblowers are ostracized and tried without publicity. One particularly ominous law bans "foreign interference" by people working for non-Australian companies. What does that mean?

Democracy is fictitious

Democracy is now fictitious. There is the all-powerful business elite that has merged with the state and its claims to "identity". US admirals are paid thousands of dollars a day by Australian taxpayers for "advice".

Across the West, our political imaginations have been soothed by PR and distracted from the machinations of corrupt politicians who can be had extremely cheaply: a Johnson or a Trump or a "Sleepy-Joe" or a Selenskyj.

No writers' congress in 2023 is concerned about "crumbling capitalism" and the deadly provocations of "our" politicians. The most vile of them, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who would be considered a felon by the standard set at the Nuremberg trials, is free and rich.

Julian Assange, who dared to prove to journalists that their readers have a right to know, is in his second decade of imprisonment.

The rise of fascism in Europe

The rise of fascism in Europe is not debatable. Or let's say "neo-Nazism" or "extreme nationalism", whichever you prefer.

In Ukraine, the fascist hive of modern Europe, the cult has been reawakened around Stepan Bandera, the ardent anti-Semite and mass murderer who praised Hitler's "Jewish policy" in which 1.5 million Ukrainian Jews were slaughtered. "We will lay your heads at Hitler's feet", proclaimed a pamphlet of the Bandera movement to the Ukrainian Jews.

Today, Bandera is revered as a hero in western Ukraine, and numerous statues of him and his fellow fascists have been financed by the EU and the USA. They replace the statues of Russian cultural giants and others who liberated Ukraine from the original Nazis.

In 2014, neo-Nazis played a key role in a US-funded coup against elected President Viktor Yanukovych, who was accused of being "pro-Moscow". The coup regime included prominent "extreme nationalists" - they are Nazis in everything but name.

Ukrainian Nazi problem

Initially, the BBC and the European and US media reported extensively on this. In 2019, Time magazine reported on the "militias of white supremacy" active in Ukraine.

NBC News reported: "The Nazi problem in Ukraine is real." The burning of trade unionists in Odessa was filmed and documented.

Led by the Azov regiment, whose insignia, the "Wolfsangel", was made infamous by the German SS, the Ukrainian military invaded the eastern, Russian-speaking region of Donbass.

According to the United Nations, 14,000 people were killed in the east. Seven years later, when the Minsk peace talks were sabotaged by the West, as Angela Merkel admitted, the Red Army marched in.

"Putin apology" or the silence of intimidation

This version of events was not reported in the West. Anyone who even utters it has to put up with the accusation of being a "Putin apologist", regardless of whether the author (like me) condemned the Russian invasion.

To understand the extreme provocation that a NATO-armed borderland, Ukraine - the same borderland through which Hitler invaded - represents for Moscow is tantamount to a curse.

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Journalists who have traveled to the Donbass have been silenced or even condemned in their own country. German journalist Patrik Baab lost his job and a young German freelance reporter, Alina Lipp, had her bank account confiscated.

In the UK, the silence of the liberal intelligentsia is the silence of intimidation. State-occupied topics such as Ukraine and Israel are to be avoided if you want to keep a job on campus or a teaching position.

Propaganda criticism unwelcome

What happened to Jeremy Corbyn in 2019 is being repeated at universities, where opponents of Israeli apartheid are called anti-Semites as a matter of course.

Professor David Miller, ironically the country's leading authority on modern propaganda, was sacked from Bristol University for publicly claiming that Israel's "assets" in the UK and its political lobbying exerted a disproportionate influence worldwide - a fact for which there is ample evidence.

The University commissioned a leading Crown Prosecutor to independently investigate the case. His report exonerated Miller on the "important issue of academic freedom of expression" and found that "Professor Miller's remarks did not constitute unlawful speech".

Nevertheless, Bristol dismissed him. The message is clear: Israel enjoys immunity and its critics must be punished, no matter what outrages it commits.

No more writers who are fundamentally opposed

A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then Professor of English Literature at Manchester University, observed that "for the first time in two centuries, there is no major British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the Western way of life".

No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron condemns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and no John Ruskin expose the moral catastrophe of capitalism.

William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalent in today's world. Harold Pinter was still alive then, "the last to raise his voice", wrote Eagleton.

This is the first part of John Pilger's essay. You can find the second part here.

John Pilger was an Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker who died on December 30, 2023 at the age of 84. He made over 60 documentary films and wrote numerous books, many of which sharply criticized the foreign policy of the USA and Great Britain. Pilger reported extensively on Cambodia, Vietnam, East Timor, Palestine and the devastating effects of US sanctions against Iraq. Over the past ten years, he has been a prominent supporter of imprisoned Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

The coming war, shrouded in propaganda

by John Pilger

[This article posted on 1/5/2024 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The littoral combat ship USS Jackson transits the South China Sea during a routine deployment.

After the world wars, a re-education project was launched. The USA could wage its wars without opposition. Looking ahead to what lies ahead. Guest essay (part 2 and conclusion)

This is the second part of the last essay by the recently deceased journalist John Pilger. He wrote it on May 3, 2023. The first part, which Telepolis published yesterday, can be found here.

John Pilger was a journalist and documentary filmmaker who died on December 30, 2023 at the age of 84.

The postmodern depoliticization

What gave rise to postmodernism - the rejection of actual politics and real dissent? The publication of Charles Reich's bestseller "The Greening of America" in 1970 offers a clue.

The US was in a state of upheaval at the time: Nixon was in the White House, a grassroots resistance, the so-called "movement", had moved from the margins of society to the center of a war that affected almost everyone. In alliance with the civil rights movement, it represented the most serious challenge to Washington's power in a century.

On the cover of Reich's book were these words: "There will be a revolution. It will not be like the revolutions of the past. It will come from the individual."

I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and remember how Reich, a young academic from Yale, was elevated to guru status overnight. The New Yorker had sensationally published his book, whose message was that the "political action and truth-seeking" of the 1960s had failed and that only "culture and introspection" would change the world.

Cult of the ego instead of commitment

There was a feeling that lifestyle hippiedom was conquering the consumer class. And in a sense, it did.

Within a few years, the cult of the ego had almost completely displaced the sense of collective action, social justice and internationalism in many people. Class, gender and race were separated from each other. The personal became political and the media was the message. And the message was: make money.

As for the social and political "movement", its hopes and songs, the Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton years put an end to all that. The police were now in open warfare with black people; Clinton's infamous welfare laws broke world records for the number of mostly black people sent to prison.

When September 11, 2001 occurred, the invention of new "threats" to "America's borders" (as the Project for a New American Century called the world) completed the political disorientation of those who would have been vehemently opposed 20 years earlier.

Silent victims of war

In the years that followed, America went to war with the world. According to a largely ignored report by Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for Global Survival and the Nobel Prize-winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, "at least" 1.3 million people were killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan in the US "war on terror".

Read also:

Latest essay from the "giant of journalism": John Pilger warns of new fascism


This figure does not include those killed in the US-led and fueled wars in Yemen, Libya, Syria, Somalia and other countries. The actual figure, according to the report ...

could well be more than two million [or] about ten times higher than the figure known to the public, experts and decision-makers and propagated by the media and major non-governmental organizations.

"At least" one million people have been killed in Iraq, the doctors declare, which is five percent of the population.

If journalists had done their job ...

The extent of this violence and suffering seems to have no place in Western consciousness. "Nobody knows how many there are," the media say. Blair and George W. Bush - and Straw and Cheney and Powell and Rumsfeld and others - were never in danger of being prosecuted. Blair's propaganda maestro, Alistair Campbell, is hailed as a "media personality".

In 2003, I interviewed Charles Lewis, the renowned investigative journalist, in Washington. We were talking about the invasion of Iraq a few months earlier.

I asked him, "What if the world's most constitutionally free media had seriously questioned George W. Bush and Donald Rumsfeld's claims and investigated them instead of spreading what turned out to be crude propaganda?"

He replied: "If we journalists had done our job, it is very, very likely that we would not have gone to war in Iraq."

Millions dead thanks to media propaganda

I asked the same question of Dan Rather, the famous CBS anchor, who gave me the same answer. David Rose of the Observer, who had propagandized the "threat" of Saddam Hussein, and Rageh Omaar, the BBC's Iraq correspondent at the time, gave me the same answer. Rose's admirable contrition that he had been "hoodwinked" represented many reporters who lacked the courage to say so.

The point they make should always be remembered. Had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, perhaps a million Iraqi men, women and children would be alive today.

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Millions would not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites might not have broken out, and the Islamic State might not have emerged.

Applying this truth to the greed-driven wars since 1945 sparked by the United States and its "allies", the conclusion is staggering. Is this addressed anywhere in journalism schools?

The exceptionalism of the USA

Today, war support by the media is a staple of so-called mainstream journalism, reminiscent of what a Nuremberg prosecutor described thus in 1945:

Before every major attack, with a few exceptions for tactical reasons, a press campaign was launched aimed at belittling the enemy, the victims, and preparing the German people psychologically. ... In the propaganda system ... the daily press and radio were the most important weapons.

One of the strongest strands in US political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. Although attributed to Trump, US foreign policy flirted seriously with fascism even during Obama's two terms in office. This was almost never reported.

"I believe deeply in American exceptionalism," said Obama, who intensified and expanded a favorite pastime of U.S. presidents, bombing and the use of death squads known as "special operations," as no other president had done since the first Cold War.

72 bombs a day

According to a study by the Council on Foreign Relations, Obama dropped 26,171 bombs in 2016. That's 72 bombs a day. He bombed the poorest and people of color: in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.

Every Tuesday - as the New York Times reported - he personally selected those to be murdered by Hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, as were those trying to collect the body parts lying around the "terrorist target".

A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated approvingly that Obama's drones had killed 4,700 people. "Sometimes you hit innocent people, and I don't like that," he said, "but we've taken out some very senior members of al-Qaeda."

In 2011, Obama told the media that Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi was planning "genocide" against his own people. "We knew ..." he declared, "that if we had waited one more day, Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte [North Carolina], could have suffered a massacre that would have shaken the entire region and stained the conscience of the world."

The Libya lie and the joy over Gaddafi's death

That was a lie. The only "threat" was the imminent defeat of the fanatical Islamists by the Libyan government forces. With his plans for the revival of an independent pan-Africanism, an African bank and an African currency, all to be financed by Libyan oil, Gaddafi was portrayed as the enemy of Western colonialism on the continent where Libya was the second most modern state.

The aim was to destroy Gaddafi's "threat" and his modern state. With the support of the USA, Great Britain and France, NATO flew 9,700 missions against Libya.

A third of these were aimed at infrastructure and civilian targets, reports the UN. Uranium shells were used. The cities of Misurata and Sirte were extensively bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that "most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten".

When Hillary Clinton, Obama's Secretary of State, learned that Gaddafi had been captured by the insurgents and massacred with a knife, she laughed and said to the camera: "We came, we saw, he died!"

Invasion of Africa

On September 14, 2016, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in London reported on the conclusion of a year-long inquiry into the Nato attack on Libya, which described the justifications for the attack as "a series of lies" - including the story about the Benghazi massacre.

The NATO bombing plunged Libya into a humanitarian catastrophe, killing thousands and displacing hundreds of thousands, while transforming Libya from the African country with the highest standard of living into a war-torn state.

Under Obama, the US expanded its covert "special forces" operations to 138 countries, representing 70 percent of the world's population. The first African-American US president launched a veritable invasion of Africa.

Since then, the US African Command (Africom) has built up a network of supplicants among cooperative African regimes eager for US bribes and armaments - a strategy reminiscent of the "race for Africa" in the 19th century.

China: Who is threatening whom?

Africom's "soldier-to-soldier" doctrine provides for US officers to be deployed at every level of command from general to sergeant. The only thing missing are the pith helmets.

It is as if Africa's proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, has been consigned to oblivion by the black colonial elite of a new white master. The "historical mission" of this elite, Frantz Fanon clairvoyantly warned, is to promote a "rampant but camouflaged capitalism".

In 2011, the year NATO invaded Libya, Obama announced the so-called "pivot to Asia". Almost two thirds of US naval forces were to be deployed to the Asia-Pacific region to "counter the threat from China", as his Secretary of Defense put it.

There was no threat from China, but a threat to China from the United States. Some 400 US military bases form an arc along the border with China's industrial heartland, which one Pentagon official proudly described as a "noose".

The USA is turning east

At the same time, Obama placed missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at Russia. It was the canonized Nobel Peace Prize winner who increased spending on nuclear warheads to a higher level than any US administration since the Cold War - after promising to "rid the world of nuclear weapons" in an emotional speech at the center of Prague in 2009.

Obama and his administration knew full well that the coup d'état that U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland was supposed to oversee against the Ukrainian government in 2014 would provoke a Russian response and likely lead to war. And it did.

I am writing this on April 30, 2023, the anniversary of the last day of the longest war of the twentieth century in Vietnam, which I covered. I was very young when I arrived in Saigon, and I learned a lot.

I learned to recognize the unmistakable roar of the engines of the huge B-52 bombers as they dropped their deadly cargo from the clouds, sparing nothing and no one. I learned not to turn away when I saw a charred tree littered with human parts.

Raise an objection

I learned to appreciate kindness like never before. I learned that Joseph Heller was right in his masterful novel "Catch-22: that war does not suit reasonable people. And I learned something about "our" propaganda.

Throughout the war, the propaganda claimed that a victorious Vietnam would spread the communist virus to the rest of Asia, so that the Great Yellow Peril could befall us in the north of the country. Countries would fall like "dominoes".

Ho Chi Minh's Vietnam was victorious, and none of this happened. Instead, Vietnamese civilization blossomed. And this despite the price it had to pay: three million dead. The maimed, the deformed, the addicted, the poisoned, the lost.

If the current propagandists manage to push through their war with China, this price will only be a fraction of what we are facing.

Raise an objection.

This is the second part of John Pilger's essay. The first can be found here.

John Pilger was an Australian journalist and documentary filmmaker who died on December 30, 2023 at the age of 84. He made over 60 documentary films and wrote numerous books, many of which sharply criticized the foreign policy of the USA and Great Britain. Pilger reported extensively on Cambodia, Vietnam, East Timor, Palestine and the devastating effects of US sanctions against Iraq. For the past decade, he has been a prominent supporter of imprisoned Wikileaks founder Julian Assange.

Editor's note: an earlier version of this translation referred to "uranium warheads". This refers to uranium projectiles that can have either an armor-piercing or bunker-busting effect. The passage has been corrected.

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