Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Tidy up, Look Sharp (a disappointment at Pilger)

John Pilger has earned a great deal of respect for his determined journalism. He has consistently spoken (left-wing) truth to power, challenging both polite elites and the media that supports it.

I might even agree with most of his political beliefs, especially on the current plans to bomb ISIL. Unfortunately, an article that he wrote a year ago, which is still relevant as Cameron prepares for a new adventure in warfare, reads like a chimpanzee flinging shit at a glass wall, and might explain why the left wing media is failing to communicate what seems to be an easy message.

Pilger begins with a series of questions. It's quite a diverse range, but all return to the main theme - the media is acting like a propaganda machine for the state (both in the USA and the UK). It's a little rhetorical, a little pompous, but it's a reasonable start. 

It promises an article that draws together these themes and provides an answer.

Pilger quickly warms to his subject, pulling in everything from Lloyd-George's comments about WWI, through Obama's manipulation of The Ukraine to anger and discredit Putin, via Charles Reich to US resolutions that prepare the nation to battle Russia.

At no point does this collection of thoughts resolve into a coherent argument. Pilger is pulling an Aristotle, listing a bunch of stuff without any development - apart from his general theme that the media (including The Guardian and the BBC) are colluding with violent political impulses. 

Pilger juxtaposes various causes, such as the treatment of Assange, the coup in The Ukraine (which he sees as an attempt by Obama to bait Putin), the acceptance of the Weapons of Mass Destruction lie from the Bush administration by respectable news sources, Bernay's understanding of advertising... all flung together without detail, with justification, without even a link to another article. 

Pilger gives no analysis, just repeats ideas as if they are accepted truths.

To take one example: his assertion that The coup in the Ukraine is a fascist revolution, and that it has had support from the USA. Pilger notes a media black-out on various aspects of the situation, but doesn't feel it is necessary to explain his sources or give context to his accusations. It's lazy journalism, and Pilger just hasn't got time to elaborate. He needs to ramble on, like a parody of Larry King.

This kind of shit is useless. Pilger's article insists on accepting too many unchallenged assumptions and the scope ends up like a conspiracy theory. By the end of the article, I was wondering whether he was paid by the CIA to discredit leftist thinking. 

It's vague and paranoid. Good paranoia sharpens the wit. Bad paranoia turns everything into a conspiracy. 

For the record, I don't believe that David Cameron has made the case for bombing. I'm against because I don't think it will undermine ISIL (yes, I accept the idea that bombing an area increases the danger of radicalisation). I don't like people getting killed in large numbers. I also consider the use of air-strikes to be lazy strategy, based on a fear of actually putting troops on the ground, who will get killed in some numbers. 

That aside, if Pilger is representative of the anti-war movement - and he is on their website - the establishment media doesn't need to work hard to win the debate. This confusing mess obscures the issues so beautifully, it's easy to ignore.

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