John Pilger

John Pilger

Pilger in 2011
Born John Richard Pilger
(1939-10-09) 9 October 1939
Sydney, Australia
Residence United Kingdom
Nationality Australian
Occupation Journalist, writer, documentary filmmaker

John Richard Pilger (born 9 October 1939)[1][2] is an Australian journalist based since 1962 in the United Kingdom.[3][4][5]

Pilger has been a strong critic of American, Australian and British foreign policy, which he considers to be driven by an imperialist agenda. Pilger has also criticised his native country's treatment of Indigenous Australians.

His career as a documentary film maker began with The Quiet Mutiny (1970), made during one of his visits to Vietnam, and has continued with over fifty documentaries since then. Other works in this form include Year Zero (1979), about the aftermath of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, and Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy (1993). Pilger's many documentary films on indigenous Australians include The Secret Country (1985) and Utopia (2013). In the British print media, Pilger worked at the Daily Mirror from 1963–86,[6] and wrote a regular column for the New Statesman magazine from 1991 to 2014.

Pilger has twice won Britain's Journalist of the Year Award. His documentaries have gained awards in Britain and worldwide.[6][7] The practices of the mainstream media are a regular subject in Pilger's writing.

Early life and career

Pilger was born and raised in Bondi, a suburb of Sydney.[6] His father's ancestors were German[8] and his mother's were Irish, English and German; two of his maternal great-great-grandparents were Irish convicts transported to Australia.[9][10] His mother was a teacher of French.[9] He attended Sydney Boys High School,[6] where he started a student newspaper, The Messenger. He later joined a four-year journalist trainee scheme with the Australian Consolidated Press.[6]

Beginning his career in 1958 as a copy boy with the Sydney Sun, Pilger later moved to the city's Daily Telegraph, where he was a reporter, sports writer and sub-editor.[6] He also freelanced and worked for the Sydney Sunday Telegraph, the daily paper's sister title. After moving to Europe, he was for a year a freelance correspondent in Italy.[11]

Move to Britain

Settling in London in 1962, working as a sub-editor, Pilger joined British United Press and then Reuters on its Middle-East desk.[11] In 1963 he was recruited by the English Daily Mirror, again as a sub-editor.[11] Later, he advanced to become a reporter, a feature writer, and Chief Foreign Correspondent for the title. While living and working in the United States for the Daily Mirror, on 5 June 1968 he witnessed the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in Los Angeles during his presidential campaign.[12]

During the next twenty years, Pilger became the Daily Mirror's star reporter, particularly on social issues. He was a war correspondent in Vietnam, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Biafra. Nearly eighteen months after Robert Maxwell bought the Mirror (on 12 July 1984), Pilger was sacked by Richard Stott, the newspaper's editor, on 31 December 1985.[13]

Early television work

With the actor David Swift, and the film makers Paul Watson and Charles Denton, Pilger formed Tempest Films in 1969. "We wanted a frontman with a mind of his own, rather like another James Cameron, with whom Richard had worked", Swift once said. “Paul thought John was very charismatic, as well as marketing extremely original, refreshingly radical ideas." The company was unable to gain commissions from either the BBC or ITV, but did manage to package potential projects.[14]

Pilger's career on television began on World in Action (Granada Television) in 1969, directed by Denton, for whom he made two documentaries broadcast in 1970 and 1971, the earliest of more than fifty in his career. The Quiet Mutiny (1970) was filmed at Camp Snuffy, presenting a character study of the common US soldier during the Vietnam War. It revealed the shifting morale and open rebellion of American troops. Pilger later described the film as "something of a scoop" – it was the first documentary to show the problems with morale among the drafted ranks of the US military.

"When I flew to New York and showed it to Mike Wallace, the star reporter of CBS' 60 Minutes, he agreed. "Real shame we can't show it here"", Pilger said in an interview with the New Statesman.[15]

He made additional documentaries about the United States involvement in Vietnam, including Vietnam: Still America's War (1974), Do You Remember Vietnam? (1978), and Vietnam: The Last Battle (1995).

During his work with BBC's Midweek television series during 1972–73,[16] Pilger completed five documentary reports, but only two were broadcast.

Pilger was successful in gaining a regular television outlet at ATV. The Pilger half-hour documentary series was commissioned by Charles Denton, then a producer with ATV, for screening on the British ITV network. The series ran for five seasons from 1974 until 1977,[16] at first running in the UK on Sunday afternoons after Weekend World. Later it was scheduled in a weekday peak-time evening slot. The last series included "A Faraway Country" (September 1977) about dissidents in Czechoslovakia, then still part of the Communist Soviet bloc. Pilger and his team interviewed members of Charter 77 and other groups, clandestinely using domestic film equipment. In the documentary Pilger praises the dissidents' courage and commitment to freedom, and describes the communist totalitarianism as "fascism disguised as socialism".[17]

Pilger was later given an hour's slot, placed in the 9pm slot before News at Ten, which gave him a high profile in Britain. Since ATV lost its franchise in 1981, he has continued to make documentaries for screening on ITV, initially for Central, and later via Carlton Television.

Documentaries and career: 1978–2000


Year Zero (1979)

In 1979, Pilger and two colleagues with whom he collaborated for many years, documentary film-maker David Munro and photographer Eric Piper, entered Cambodia in the wake of the overthrow of the Pol Pot regime. They made photographs and reports that were world exclusives. The first was published as a special issue of the Daily Mirror, which sold out. They also produced an ITV documentary, Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia,[18] which brought to people's living rooms the suffering of the Khmer people. During the filming of Cambodia Year One, the team were warned that Pilger was on a Khmer Rouge 'death list.' In one incident, they narrowly escaped an ambush.

Following the showing of Year Zero, some $45 million was raised, unsolicited, in mostly small donations, including almost £4 million raised by schoolchildren in the UK. This funded the first substantial relief to Cambodia, including the shipment of life-saving drugs such as penicillin, and clothing to replace the black uniforms people had been forced to wear. According to Brian Walker, director of Oxfam, "a solidarity and compassion surged across our nation" from the broadcast of Year Zero.[19]

Responses by William Shawcross and others

According to The Times journalist Oliver Kamm, however, Pilger "failed to disclose that Communist Vietnam, having invaded Cambodia and installed a puppet regime, was trying to control which starving people were fed and which were not".[20] William Shawcross wrote in his book The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust and Modern Conscience (1984) about Pilger's series of articles about Cambodia in the Daily Mirror during August 1979:

"A rather interesting quality of the articles was their concentration on Nazism and the holocaust. Pilger called Pol Pot 'an Asian Hitler' — and said he was even worse than Hitler . . . Again and again Pilger compared the Khmer Rouge to the Nazis. Their Marxist-Leninist ideology was not even mentioned in the Mirror, except to say they were inspired by the Red Guards. Their intellectual origins were described as 'anarchist' rather than Communist".[21]

Ben Kiernan, in his review of Shawcross's book, notes that Pilger did compare Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge to Stalin's terror, as well as to Mao's Red Guards. Kiernan notes instances where other writer's comparison of Pol Pot to Hitler or the Vietnamese to the Nazis are either accepted by Shawcross in his account, or not mentioned.[22]

Shawcross wrote in The Quality of Mercy that "Pilger's reports underwrote almost everything that refugees along the Thai border had been saying about the cruelty of Khmer Rouge rule since 1975, and that had already appeared in the books by the Readers Digest and Francois Ponchaud. Nonetheless, the reaction to the stories in Britain was as if they were something quite new."[21] Oliver Kamm asserted in 2006: "Pilger’s documentaries are full of falsehoods. They operate by misdirection, simultaneously denouncing one form of injustice while ignoring or denying others".[20] In Heroes, Pilger disputes François Ponchaud and Shawcross's 's account of Vietnamesse atrocities during the Vietnamese invasion and near famine as being "unsubstantiated".[23] Ponchard had interviewed members of anti-communist groups living in the Thai refugee border camps. According to Pilger, "At the very least the effect of Shawcross's 'exposé'" of Cambodian's treatment at the hands of the Vietnamese "was to blur the difference between Cambodia under Pol Pot and Cambodia liberated by the Vietnamese: in truth. a difference of night and day".[23] In his book, Shawcross himself doubted that anyone had died of starvation.[22]

The British Film Institute (BFI) has described Year Zero as one of the ten most influential documentary films of the 20th century.

Later comments and documentaries about Cambodia

Pilger and Munro made four later films about Cambodia. Pilger's documentary Cambodia – The Betrayal (1990), prompted a libel case against him, which was settled at the High Court with an award against Pilger and Central Television in favour of the plaintiffs during the hearing. The Times of 6 July 1991 reported:

Two men who claimed that a television documentary accused them of being SAS members who trained Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge to lay mines, accepted "very substantial" libel damages in the High Court yesterday. Christopher Geidt and Anthony De Normann settled their action against the journalist John Pilger and Central Television on the third day of the hearing. Desmond Browne, QC, for Mr Pilger and Central Television, said his clients had not intended to allege the two men trained the Khmer Rouge to lay mines, but they accepted that was how the program had been understood.[24]

Pilger in 2006 described the British reaction to Year Zero:

The documentary as a television "event" can send ripples far and wide... Year Zero not only revealed the horror of the Pol Pot years, it showed how Richard Nixon's and Henry Kissinger's 'secret' bombing of that country had provided a critical catalyst for the rise of the Khmer Rouge. It also exposed how the West, led by the United States and Britain, was imposing an embargo, like a medieval siege, on the most stricken country on earth. This was a reaction to the fact that Cambodia's liberator was Vietnam – a country that had come from the wrong side of the Cold War and that had recently defeated the US. Cambodia's suffering was a wilful revenge. Britain and the US even backed Pol Pot's demand that his man continue to occupy Cambodia's seat at the UN, while Margaret Thatcher stopped children's milk going to the survivors of his nightmare regime. Little of this was reported. Had Year Zero simply described the monster that Pol Pot was, it would have been quickly forgotten. By reporting the collusion of "our" governments, it told a wider truth about how the world was run... Within two days of Year Zero going to air, 40 sacks of post arrived at ATV ... in Birmingham – 26,000 first-class letters in the first post alone. The station quickly amassed £1m, almost all of it in small amounts. "This is for Cambodia," wrote a Bristol bus driver, enclosing his week's wage. Entire pensions were sent, along with entire savings. Petitions arrived at Downing Street, one after the other, for weeks. MPs received hundreds of thousands of letters, demanding that British policy change (which it did, eventually). And none of it was asked for. For me, the public response to Year Zero gave the lie to clichés about "compassion fatigue", an excuse that some broadcasters and television executives use to justify the current descent into the cynicism and passivity of Big Brotherland. Above all, I learned that a documentary could reclaim shared historical and political memories, and present their hidden truths. The reward then was a compassionate and an informed public; and it still is.[25]

In a 2007 speech, "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire", Pilger described his experience with executives of the American Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). They refused to screen Year Zero, which, according to Pilger, has never been broadcast in the USA.[26]

Australia's Indigenous peoples

Pilger has long criticised aspects of Australian government policy, particularly what he regards as its inherent racism resulting in the poor treatment of the country's indigenous population. In 1969, Pilger went with Australian activist Charlie Perkins on a tour to Jay Creek in Central Australia. He compared what he witnessed in Jay Creek to South African apartheid.[27] He saw the appalling conditions that the Aboriginal people were living under, with children suffering from malnutrition and grieving mothers and grandmothers having had their lighter skinned children and grandchildren removed by the police and welfare agencies. Equally, he learned of aboriginal boys being sent to work on white run farms, and aboriginal girls working as servants in middle-class homes as undeclared slave labour.[28]

Pilger has made several documentaries about Indigenous Australians, such as The Secret Country: The First Australians Fight Back (1985) and Welcome to Australia (1999). His book on the subject, A Secret Country, was first published in 1989. Pilger wrote in 2000 that the 1998 legislation that removed the common-law rights of Indigenous peoples:

"is just one of the disgraces that has given Australia the distinction of being the only developed country whose government has been condemned as racist by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination."[29]

Pilger returned to this subject with Utopia, released in 2013 (see below).

Newspaper editor

Pilger was a founder of the News on Sunday tabloid in 1984, and was hired as Editor-in-Chief in chief in 1986.[30] During the period of hiring staff, Pilger was away for several months filming The Secret Country in Australia. Prior to this, he had given editor Keith Sutton a list of people who he thought might be recruited for the paper, but found on his return to Britain that none of them had been hired.[31]

Pilger resigned before the first issue and had come into conflict with those around him. He disagreed with the founders decision to base the paper in Manchester and then clashed with the governing committees; the paper was intended to be a workers' co-operative.[32][33] Sutton's appointment as editor was Pilger's suggestion, but he fell out with Sutton over his plan to produce a left wing Sun newspaper.[32] The two men ended up producing their own dummies, but the founders and the various committees backed Sutton.[32] Pilger, appointed with "overall editorial control",[30] resigned at this point,[34] The first issue appeared on 27 April 1987. and The News on Sunday soon closed.

East Timor

Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy

In East Timor Pilger clandestinely shot Death of a Nation: The Timor Conspiracy. The film concerned the brutal Indonesian occupation of East Timor, which began in 1975.

Death of a Nation contributed to an international outcry. Indonesia eventually withdrawal from East Timor and eventual independence in 2000. When Death of a Nation was screened in Britain it was the highest rating documentary in 15 years and 5,000 telephone calls per minute were made to the programme's action line.[35] When Death of a Nation was screened in Australia in June 1994, Foreign Minister Gareth Evans declared that Pilger "had a track record of distorted sensationalism mixed with sanctimony."[36]

Documentaries and career since 2000

Later print career

In 2001, while Piers Morgan was editor of the Mirror, Pilger returned to his old paper in 2001, after the 9/11 attacks in the United States.[37]

Pilger had a fortnightly column until about 2014 in New Statesman, his most frequent outlet. The feature began in 1991 while Steve Platt was editor of the magazine.[38]

Palestine Is Still the Issue

The broadcast of Pilger's documentary Palestine Is Still the Issue (2002), whose historical adviser was Ilan Pappé,[39] resulted in complaints by the Israeli embassy, the Board of Deputies of British Jews, and the Conservative Friends of Israel that it was inaccurate and biased.[40] Michael Green, chairman of Carlton Communications, the company that made the film, also objected to it in an interview,[41] but not at the time he had been shown it before transmission, according to Pilger, who rejected the criticism.[39][42]

The UK television regulator, the Independent Television Commission (ITC), ordered an investigation. Based on its investigation, the ITC rejected the complaints about the film, stating in its report:

The ITC raised with Carlton all the significant areas of inaccuracy critics of the programme alleged and the broadcaster answered them by reference to a range of historical texts. The ITC is not a tribunal of fact and is particularly aware of the difficulties of verifying 'historical fact' but the comprehensiveness and authority of Carlton's sources were persuasive, not least because many appeared to be of Israeli origin.[43]

The ITC concluded that in Pilger's documentary "adequate opportunity was given to a pro-Israeli government perspective" and that the programme "was not in breach of the ITC Programme Code".[43][44]

Stealing a Nation

Main article: Stealing a Nation

Pilger's documentary Stealing a Nation (2004) recounts the experiences of the late 20th-century trials of the people of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean. In the 1960s and 70s, British governments expelled the entire population of the Chagos Archipelago, settling them in Mauritius, with only enough money to live in the slums. It gave access to Diego Garcia, the principal island of this Crown Colony, to the United States (US) for its construction of a major military base for the region. In the 21st century, the US used the base for planes bombing targets in Iraq and Afghanistan in its response to the 9/11 attacks.

In a 2000 ruling on the events, the International Court of Justice described the wholesale removal of the indigenous peoples from the Chagos as "a crime against humanity." Pilger strongly criticised Tony Blair for failing to respond in a substantive way to the 2000 High Court ruling that the British expulsion of the island's natives to Mauritius had been illegal.

In March 2005, Stealing a Nation received the Royal Television Society Award, Britain's most prestigious documentary prize.

In May 2006, the UK High Court ruled in favour of the Chagossians in their battle to prove they were illegally removed by the UK government during the depopulation of Diego Garcia. This will pave the way for a return to their homeland. The leader of the Chagos Refugee Group, Olivier Bancoult, described it as a "special day, a day to remember". In May 2007, when the UK Government's appeal against the 2006 High Court ruling was dismissed, they took the matter to the House of Lords. In October 2008, the House of Lords ruled in favour of the Government, overturning the original High Court ruling.

Latin America: The War on Democracy (2007)

Main article: The War on Democracy

The documentary The War on Democracy (2007) was Pilger's first film to be released in the cinema. The film explores the historic and current relationship of the United States with such Latin American countries as Chile, Venezuela, and Bolivia. The film explores the role of US interventions since the 1950s, overt and covert, in toppling a series of governments in the region. It discusses reports of the US role in the overthrow in 1973 of the democratically elected Salvador Allende in Chile, who was replaced by the military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. Pilger interviews several ex-CIA agents who purportedly took part in secret campaigns against democratic governments in South America.

He explores the US Army School of the Americas in the US state of Georgia. Generations of South American military were trained there, with a curriculum including counter-insurgency techniques. Attendees reportedly included members of Pinochet's security services, along with men from Haiti, El Salvador, Argentina, Brazil and Argentina who have been implicated in human rights abuses.

The film also explores the attempted overthrow of Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez in 2002. The people of Caracas rose up to force his return to power. It looks at the wider rise of populist governments across South America, led by figures calling for loosening ties with the United States and making a more equitable redistribution of the continent's natural wealth.

The film Pilger said

is about the struggle of people to free themselves from a modern form of slavery". These people, he says, "describe a world not as American presidents like to see it as useful or expendable, they describe the power of courage and humanity among people with next to nothing. They reclaim noble words like democracy, freedom, liberation, justice, and in doing so they are defending the most basic human rights of all of us in a war being waged against all of us.[45]

The War on Democracy won the Best Documentary category at the One World Media Awards in 2008.[46]

The War You Don't See

Main article: The War You Don't See
John Pilger, Richard Gizbert, and Julian Assange – 'The Wikileaks Files' Book Launch – Foyles, London, 29 September 2015

With others,[47] Pilger supported Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, by pledging bail in December 2010. Pilger said at the time: "There's no doubt that he is not going to abscond".[48]

Pilger featured the Wikileaks editor-in-chief in his documentary The War You Don't See (2010).[49] Pilger described the accusations against Assange in Sweden as a "political stunt"[50] consisting of "concocted charges".[51] After mentioning Pilger's opinion, Owen Jones observed that "Assange's own lawyer, Ben Emmerson, does not dispute the sincerity of the accusers".[52]

Pilger's bail money was lost in June 2012 when a judge ordered it to be forfeited. Assange had sought to escape the jurisdiction of the English courts by entering the Embassy of Ecuador in London.[47] Pilger visited Assange in the embassy and continues to support him.[53] Speaking to an audience in Bali (Indonesia) in October 2012, Pilger asserted that Assange was criticised by journalists because "he shames us",[54] and criticised people who pretended to be allies of Assange, saying "WikiLeaks is a rare truth-teller. Smearing Julian Assange is shameful".[55]

Utopia (2013)

Main article: Utopia (2013 film)

With Utopia Pilger returns to the experiences of indigenous Australians and what he terms "the denigrating of their humanity".[56] A documentary feature film, it takes its title from Utopia, an Aboriginal homeland[57] in the Northern Territory.[58] Since the first of his seven films on the subject of the Aboriginal people, A Secret Country: The First Australians (1985), Pilger says that "in essence, very little" has changed.[59] In an interview with the UK based Australian Times he commented: "the catastrophe imposed on Indigenous Australians is the equivalent of apartheid, and the system has to change."[60]

Charlotte O'Sullivan in the London Evening Standard observes that "what brings the material alive is Pilger’s visit to Mutitjulu" where an Australian Broadcasting Corporation television programme in 2006 concocted an entirely fictitious story about a paedophile ring run by community leaders resulting in a "land grab".[61] Reviewing the film, Peter Bradshaw writes: "The awful truth is that Indigenous communities are on mineral-rich lands that cause mouths to water in mining corporation boardrooms."[62] "When the subject and subjects are allowed to speak for themselves – when Pilger doesn’t stand and preach – the injustices glow like throbbing wounds", wrote Nigel Andrews in the Financial Times, but the documentary maker "goes on too long. 110 minutes is a hefty time in screen politics, especially when we know the makers’ message from scene one."[63]

According to Geoffrey Macnab, this is an "angry, impassioned documentary"[56] while for Mark Kermode it is a "searing indictment of the ongoing mistreatment" of the first Australians.[64]

The Coming War on China (2016)

Pilger's film "The Coming War on China" will premiere in the UK on Thursday 1 December 2016,[65] and will also be shown on ITV at 10.40pm on Tuesday 6 December.[66] The film, says Pilger, "is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another 'threat' to American dominance".[67]

Critic of US and UK politicians (2000–present)

George W. Bush and Tony Blair

In 2003 and 2004, Pilger strongly criticised the policies of United States President George W. Bush, saying that he had exploited the 9/11 terrorist attacks in his 2003 invasion of Iraq and later occupation.[68] Pilger in 2004 criticised then British Prime Minister Tony Blair as equally responsible for the invasion and the bungled occupation of Iraq.[69] In 2004, as the Iraq insurgency increased, Pilger wrote that the anti-war movement should support "Iraq's anti-occupation resistance:"

"We cannot afford to be choosy. While we abhor and condemn the continuing loss of innocent life in Iraq, we have no choice now but to support the resistance, for if the resistance fails, the "Bush gang" will attack another country."[70]

His support for the Iraqi insurgency was criticised at the time by some, including Andrew Bolt. He described Pilger as an "apologist for terrorists".[71] Oliver Kamm, writing for The Times in 2006, commented: "By reputation the exemplar of radical conscience, Pilger turns out to be the voice of brutishness" because of his support for opposing forces in Iraq.[20]

On 25 July 2005, Pilger ascribed blame for the 2005 London bombings that month to Blair. He wrote that Blair's decision to follow Bush helped to generate the rage that Pilger said precipitated the bombings.[72]

In his column a year later, Pilger described Blair as a war criminal for supporting Israel's actions during the 2006 Israel–Lebanon conflict. He said that Blair gave permission to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2001 to initiate what would ultimately become Operation Defensive Shield.[73]

Barack Obama

Pilger criticised Barack Obama during his presidential campaign of 2008, saying that he was "a glossy Uncle Tom who would bomb Pakistan"[74] and his theme "was the renewal of America as a dominant, avaricious bully". After Obama was elected and took office in 2009, Pilger wrote, "In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government".[75]

Sunny Hundal wrote in The Guardian during November 2008 that the "Uncle Tom" slur used against Obama "highlights a patronising attitude towards ethnic minorities. Pilger expects all black and brown people to be revolutionary brothers and sisters, and if they veer away from that stereotype, it can only be because they are pawns of a wider conspiracy."[76]

Shortly after Pilger won the Sydney Peace Prize in 2009,[77] Gerard Henderson accused Pilger of "engaging in hyperbole against western democracies."[78]

Comments about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton

In a February 2016 webchat on the website of The Guardian newspaper, Pilger said "Trump is speaking straight to ordinary Americans". Although his opinions about immigration were "gross", Pilger wrote that they are "no more gross in essence than, say, David Cameron’s – he is not planning to invade anywhere, he doesn’t hate the Russians or the Chinese, he is not beholden to Israel. People like this lack of cant, and when the so-called liberal media deride him, they like him even more".[79]

In March 2016, Pilger commented in a speech delivered at the University of Sydney during the American Presidential Election, that Donald Trump was a less dangerous potential President of the United States than Hillary Clinton.[80]

Criticism of the mainstream media

Pilger has criticised many journalists of the mainstream media. During the administration of President Bill Clinton in the US, Pilger attacked the British-American Project as an example of "Atlanticist freemasonry." He asserted in November 1998 that "many members are journalists, the essential foot soldiers in any network devoted to power and propaganda."[81] In 2002 he said that "many journalists now are no more than channelers and echoers of what Orwell called the official truth."[82]

In 2003, he was scornful of pro-Iraq War commentators on the liberal left, whom he called 'liberal interventionists', such as David Aaronovitch, a "right-wing provocateur" who wears the mask of being a "'liberal'".[83] Aaronovitch responded to an article by Pilger about the mainstream media[84] in 2003 as one of his "typical pieces about the corruption of most journalists (ie people like me [Aaronovitch]) versus the bravery of a few (ie people like him)."[85]

In an address at Columbia University on 14 April 2006, he said:

During the Cold War, a group of Russian journalists toured the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by their hosts for their impressions. 'I have to tell you,' said their spokesman, 'that we were astonished to find after reading all the newspapers and watching TV, that all the opinions on all the vital issues were by and large, the same. To get that result in our country, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here, you don't have that. What's the secret? How do you do it?'[86]

On another occasion, while speaking to journalism students at the University of Lincoln, Pilger said that mainstream journalism means corporate journalism. As such, he believes it represents vested corporate interests more than those of the public.[87]

Personal life

Pilger was married to journalist Scarth Flett, with whom he has a son, Sam, born 1973, who is a sports writer. Pilger also has a daughter, Zoe Pilger, born 1984, with journalist Yvonne Roberts.[88][89] Zoe is an author and art critic.[90]

Honours and awards


Next up is the egregious John Pilger, who thinks the Arab revolts show that the West in general and the United States in particular are "fascist." ... Maybe he hasn't noticed, but what most of the Arab protesters say they want are the very freedoms that they know full well, even if Pilger doesn't, to be available in the West. No doubt he believes they are labouring under some massive mind-control delusion engineered by the CIA.[100]



  • The Last Day (1975)
  • Aftermath: The Struggles of Cambodia and Vietnam (1981)
  • The Outsiders (with Michael Coren, 1984)
  • Heroes (1986), ISBN 978-1407086293 (2001)
  • A Secret Country (1989)
  • Distant Voices (1992 and 1994)

  • Hidden Agendas (1998)
  • Reporting the World: John Pilger's Great Eyewitness Photographers (2001)
  • The New Rulers of the World (2002; 4th ed. 2016)
  • Tell Me No Lies: Investigative Journalism and its Triumphs (ed.) Cape (2004)
  • Freedom Next Time (2006)


Selected documentaries

  • World in Action
    • "The Quiet Mutiny" (1970)
  • Pilger
    • "An Unfashionable Tragedy" (1975)
    • "Nobody's Children" (1975)
    • "Zap-The Weapon is Food" (1976)
    • "Pyramid Lake is Dying" (1976)
    • "Street of Joy" (1976)
    • "A Faraway Country" (1977)
  • Do You Remember Vietnam (1978)
  • Year Zero: The Silent Death of Cambodia (1979)
  • The Mexicans (1980)
  • Heroes (1980)
  • In Search Of Truth In Wartime (1982)
  • Nicaragua. A Nations Right to Survive (1983)
  • The Outsiders (series, 1983)
  • The Truth Game (1983)
  • Burp! Pepsi V Coke in the Ice Cold War (1984)
  • The Secret Country: The First Australians Fight Back (1985)


  1. Anthony Hayward, Breaking the Silence: The Television Reporting of John Pilger, London, Network, 2008, p. 3 (no ISBN, book contained within Heroes DVD, Region 2 boxset)
  2. Trisha Sertori "John Pilger: The Messenger", The Jakarta Post, 11 October 2012
  3. Andrei S. Markovits and Jeff Weintraub, "Obama and the Progressives: A Curious Paradox", The Huffington Post, 28 May 2008
  4. "Aboriginal squalor among Australia's 'dirtiest secrets' says expat", by Candace Sutton, The Australian, 1 March 2013
  5. "Pilger, John (1939–)" by Glen Jones, British Film Institute
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Biography page, John Pilger's official website
  7. 1 2 "Introduction to John Pilger", Robert Fisk website Archived 20 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine.
  8. John Pilger A Secret Country, p. xiv
  9. 1 2 "Interview with John Pilger", Desert Island Discs, BBC Radio 4, 18 February 1990
  10. John Pilger Heroes, p. 10
  11. 1 2 3 Hayward (2008), p. 4
  12. John Pilger & Michael Albert "The View From The Ground", Znet, 16 February 2013
  13. Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London & Basingstoke: Macmillan, 2003 [2004 (pbk)], p. 401
  14. Hayward, Anthony (18 April 2016). "David Swift obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  15. John Pilger, "The revolution will not be televised", New Statesman, 11 September 2006
  16. 1 2 Hayward (2008), p. 5
  17. A Faraway Country,, Retrieved 23 January 2012
  18. Year Zero: the Silent Death of Cambodia, video of programme on John Pilger's website.
  19. John Pilger Heroes, p. 410
  20. 1 2 3 Kamm, Oliver (20 September 2016). "-Big voice, too many false notes". The Times. London. Retrieved 26 August 2016. (subscription required)
  21. 1 2 West, Richard (28 September 1984). "Who was to blame?". The Spectator. pp. 29–30, 29. Retrieved 26 August 2016. "Holocaust" is rendered in lower case in Richard West's article.
  22. 1 2 Kiernan, Ben (30 October 1984). "Review Essay: William Shawcross, Declining Cambodia" (PDF). Age. pp. 56–63, 62. Retrieved 26 August 2016. Also cited to Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars (January–March 1986), 18(1): 56–63
  23. 1 2 Pilger, John (2001). Heroes. London: Soluth End Press. p. 417. (Originally published by Jonathan Cape, London, 1986)
  24. "The lie is breathtaking indeed, Mr. Pilger, but who told it?", The Australian, 27 February 2009, accessed 7/24/11
  25. John Pilger "The revolution will not be televised", New Statesman, 11 September 2006
  26. Pilger, John. "Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire.". Speech. Democracy Now.
  27. Fieta Page John Pilger hopes to open eyes to plight of Aboriginals with Utopia, The Canberra Times, 27 February 2014
  28. "John Pilger goes back to his homeland to investigate Australia's dirtiest secret". 19 December 2013. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  29. John Pilger "Australia is the only developed country whose government has been condemned as racist by the United Nations", New Statesman, 16 October 2000
  30. 1 2 John Pilger Heroes, London: Vintage, 2001 edition, pp. 572–73
  31. Lefties: 3: A Lot of Balls, BBC Four, 11 October 2007
  32. 1 2 3 Roy Greenslade Press Gang: How Newspapers Make Profits From Propaganda, London: Pan, 2003 [2004], pp. 494–95
  33. "Gone and (largely) forgotten", British Journalism Review, 17:2, 2006, pp. 50–52
  34. Maurice Smith "A Newspaper In Pursuit Of Lost Ideals", Glasgow Herald, 13 February 1987, p. 13
  35. "Pilger turns up heat on East Timor", The Australian, 3 June 1994
  36. Hayward (2008), p. 10
  37. John Pilger and Steve Platt "Beyond the dross", Red Pepper, July 2010
  38. 1 2 John Pilger "Why my film is under fire", The Guardian, 23 September 2002
  39. Stephen Bates "TV chief attacks 'one-sided' Palestinian documentary", 20 September 2002
  40. Leon Symons "Carlton chief slams Pilger's attack on Israel", The Jewish Chronicle, as reprinted by mediaguardiian, 20 September 2002
  41. Jason Deans "TV boss 'irresponsible' says Pilger", mediaguardian, 20 September 2002
  42. 1 2 "Programme Complaints and Findings Bulletin No. 6", ITC, 13 January 2003, pp. 4–5 (now on OFCOM website)
  43. Louise Jury "Pilger cleared of bias in TV documentary on Palestinians", The Independent, 13 January 2003, accessed on 3 July 2011
  44. John Pilger, The War on Democracy
  45. 1 2 "Julian Assange's backers lose £200,000 bail money", The Telegraph (UK), 4 September 2012
  46. PA Mediapoint "Wikileaks founder Assange free after being granted bail", Press Gazette, 16 December 200
  47. "Julian Assange in conversation with John Pilger",
  48. Nick Davies "10 days in Sweden: the full allegations against Julian Assange", The Guardian, 17 December 2010
  49. "Unjust legal saga continues for Assange", The Drum Opinion, ABC News (Australia), reprint of interview with Dagens Nyheter (Sweden), 31 May 2012
  50. Owen Jones "There should be no immunity for Julian Assange from these allegations", The Independent, 17 August 2012
  51. John Pilger "The pursuit of Julian Assange is an assault on freedom and a mockery of journalism", New Statesman, 22 August 2012
  52. "Pilger: Assange shames journalists", The Australian (blog), 8 October 2012
  53. John Pilger "WikiLeaks is a rare truth-teller. Smearing Julian Assange is shameful", New Statesman, 14 February 2013
  54. 1 2 Geoffrey Macnab "Film review: Utopia – John Pilger's documentary reveals 'shocking poverty' of Australia's indigenous communities", The Independent, 14 November 2013
  55. Steve Rose "Utopia And John Pilger Q&A, Framed: film festival previews", The Guardian, 16 November 2013
  56. Donald Clarke "John Pilger on breaking the Great Silence of Australia’s past", Irish Times, 15 November 2013
  57. Hazel Healy "John Pilger: Australia’s silent apartheid", New Internationalist, November 2013
  58. Alex Ivett "Interview: John Pilger exposes Australia’s shocking secret in Utopia", Australian Times, 15 November 2013
  59. Charlotte O'Sullivan "Utopia – film review", London Evening Standard, 15 November 2013
  60. Peter Bradshaw "Utopia – review", The Guardian, 14 November 2013
  61. Nigel Andrews "Review – Utopia", Financial Times, 14 November 2013
  62. Mark Kermode "Utopia – review", The Observer, 17 November 2013
  63. The Coming War on China official website - Screenings
  64. ITV Press Centre
  65. The Coming War on China official website - About the film
  66. John Pilger. "Bush Terror Elite Wanted 9/11 to Happen". Two years ago a project set up by the men who now surround George W Bush said what America needed was "a new Pearl Harbor". Its published aims have, alarmingly, come true.
  67. John Pilger "Iraq: the unthinkable becomes normal",, 15 November 2004
  68. Pip Hinman & John Pilger "Pilger interview: Truth and lies in the 'war on terror'", Green Left (Australia), 28 January 2004
  69. Sunday Herald Sun, 14 March 2004
  70. John Pilger, "Blair's bombs", John Pilger website, 25 July 2005
  71. Hundal, Sunny (30 November 2008). "The racist flipside of anti-imperialism". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  72. "2009 John Pilger". Sydney Peace Foundation. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  73. Henderson, Gerard (10 November 2009). "Pilger loath to hear roar of dissent". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 9 April 2016.
  74. "John Pilger Praises Trump, Says He Has an 'Absence of Hypocrisy'". Political Scrapbook. 24 February 2016. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  75. Intondi, Vincent (25 March 2016). "No, Hillary Clinton Is Not Worse Than Donald Trump". The Huffington post. Retrieved 28 October 2016.
  76. John Pilger "Having a fun time in New Orleans: the latest recruits (sorry, "alumni") of latter-day Reaganism", New Statesman, 13 November 1998
  77. David Barsamian "Interview with John Pliger", The Progressive, November 2002
  78. John Pilger "As the world protests against war, we hear again the lies of old", New Statesman, 17 April 2003. Also published as John Pilger "As the world protests against war, we hear again the lies of old",, 17 April 2003
  79. John Pilger "John Pilger finds journalism rotting away", New Statesman, 28 April 2003 (The date given on the NS website is for the date of publication online.)
  80. David Aaronovitch "Lies and the Left", The Observer, 27 April 2003
  81. John Pilger "War by Media", Information Clearing House, 14 April 2006
  82. "John Pilger explains "why journalism matters" | The Linc". Retrieved 14 January 2010.
  83. "John Pilger Biography". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  84. "John Pilger: writer of wrongs". The Scotsman. 1 July 2006. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  85. "Zoe Pilger Homepage". Zoe-pilger. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  86. "The Grierson Awards 2011: Winners; Honda — The Trustees' Award: John Pilger". The Grierson Trust. 2011. Retrieved 4 November 2016.
  87. Nevin, Charles "Captain Moonlight – in a word", The Independent, 28 November 1993
  88. "Palestine is Still the Issue". Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  89. "Political bite-sized meaty chunks". 2 October 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  90. Martha Gellhorn, Preface to 'Distant Voices' by John Pilger, 12 July 1991
  91. Noam Chomsky, introduction to Pilger's The New Rulers of the World, April 2002
  92. Lexington's Notebook: "Libya and the higher bilge", The Economist, 27 February 2011. Accessed on 15 March 2011. The author was commenting on the Pilger article "Behind the Arab revolt lurks a word we dare not speak", New Statesman, 24 February 2011
  93. "Books". Profiles International Media. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  94. Breaking the Silence: The Films of John Pilger, Anthony Hayward (Profiles International Media, 2013)
  95. John Pilger "In Ukraine, the US is dragging us towards war with Russia", The Guardian, 13 May 2014
  96. Jonathan Chait "Guardian Columnist: Putin Is a Great Democrat, Like Hugo Chávez or Castro", New York, 14 May 2014
  97. Luke Johnson "'Guardian' Op-Ed Quotes Cryptic Odesa 'Doctor' Seen As Hoax", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 14 May 2014
  98. See also Michael Mossbacher "Putin has his Useful Idiots on the Left and the Right", Standpoint, July/August 2014

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