Freedom Next Time: An Evening with John Pilger and Amy Goodman
Nations Books and The New School present award-winning journalist and filmmaker John Pilger, author of Freedom Next Time: Resisting the Empire, and Amy Goodman, host of the Pacifica radio show Democracy Now!, as they discuss struggles for freedom and independence in Iraq, Palestine, South Africa, and the island of Diego Garcia, where the fight for independence has been of long duration and the people are still waiting for this dream to be realized.
Amy Goodman is the host and executive producer of Democracy Now!. She is co-author of the national best-seller The Exception to the Rulers: Exposing Oily Politicians, War Profiteers, and the Media that Love Them, written with her brother David Goodman.
The book was chosen by independent bookstores as the #1 political title of the 2004 election season. The book was also chosen as one of the top 50 nonfiction books of 2004 by the editors of Publishers Weekly.
Democracy Now! is a national, daily, independent, award-winning news program airing on over 300 stations in North America. Pioneering the largest public media collaboration in the U.S., Democracy Now! is broadcast on Pacifica, community, and National Public Radio stations, public access cable television stations, satellite television (on Free Speech TV, channel 9415 of the DISH Network), shortwave radio and the internet.
John Pilger is a world-renowned journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, who began his career in 1958 in his homeland, Australia, before moving to London in the 1960s.
He regards eye-witness as the essence of good journalism. He has been a foreign correspondent and a front-line war reporter, beginning with the Vietnam war in 1967. He is an impassioned critic of foreign military and economic adventures by Western governments.
"It is too easy," he says, "for Western journalists to see humanity in terms of its usefulness to 'our' interests and to follow government agendas that ordain good and bad tyrants, worthy and unworthy victims and present 'our' policies as always benign when the opposite is usually true. It's the journalist's job, first of all, to look in the mirror of his own society."
He believes a journalist also ought to be a guardian of the public memory and often quotes Milan Kundera: "The struggle of people against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting."
It is an honor to be here with the great filmmaker, journalist and author John Pilger. Great to welcomehim back to the United States. I want to thank The New School, the Center for Economic Research andSocial Change and Nation Books for sponsoring tonight's event. Also the Wallace Global Fund fortheir generous support. If you could turn off your cell phones and after John speaks and we have adiscussion there will be a book signing right here on the stage and you can get your books at the backand we would encourage you to write your questions on index cards and they will be passed to thefront and we can put some of your comments and questions to John Pilger. John is a world renownedcorrespondent, author and filmmaker. Twice won British journalism's highest award Journalist of theYear for his work all over the world, particularly known for his work around Cambodia, East Timor,Iraq, Afghanistan, Diego Garcia and we could go on. John is remarkably prolific and profound.He has done 57 documentaries. His latest documentary is called War on Democracy, it's being releasedby Lions Gate in Britain and well - while it takes on the issue of Empire from Latin America to theUnited States it will be up to you whether it is theatrically released in the United States. It is truly up topeople in this country to break the sound barrier. When you have such a distinguished journalist who isknown around the world perhaps one of the most well known filmmakers and authors, journalists andyet in this country where we have to break the sound barrier together which is why it's so important tosupport independent media and challenge the corporate media to bring out the voices of people likeJohn and most importantly the voices that he brings out in his documentaries. John has won the UnitedNations Association Peace Prize and Gold Medal for his broadcasting he has won France's ReporterSans Frontieres, an American television Academy Award which was based on the one time that hisdocumentary Year Zero about Cambodia made it to PBS albeit it was after midnight, just that oneshowing. So could you imagine what would happen if his film was seen, his films were seen, aroundthis country, actually more than once!Most of his films have been shown on ITV network television in the Britain and around the world. In2003 he received the prestigious Sophie Prize for 30 years of exposing deception and furthering humanrights. That didn't stop him though and he just kept at it. His most recent book is "Freedom Next Time:Resisting the Empire" taking on issues, looking at Empire from South Africa to Diego Garcia, fromPalestine on which he has done two films. Palestine is Still the Issue and Palestine is Still the Issue. Iguess, there will probably be a third in the series soon, the great filmmaker, journalist, correspondent,author John Pilger.Thank you, thank you Amy for that generous welcome. It's very good to be here and especially to beback in the United States. I think a lot of my world education political education has taken place in thiscountry. One of my oldest colleagues is here Ken Reagan. Ken and I, on many a assignment, togetherin this country going back many years. So its it's very good to be back and to have one of my bookspublished by Nation Books. As Amy said getting films on US television is more problematic. She isright. Out went the Cambodia film at 1 o' clock in the morning on WNET and someone was watching,not many people watching but some one was watching and they gave it an Emmy which there wassomething truly absurd about this that pointed up. It pointed up that you can win a prize but not anaudience and so but enough of that. I am here to talk about the book.Bolzac said there are two histories there is the official history which is tortuous and as he put it verysuccinctly that's full of lies and there is then the secret history which is very often shameful, which isvery often not tortuous. And I suppose that's been the theme of my work both in film and journalism isto look behind the faÃƒÆ’Ã†â€™Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â§ade of the official view. One of my favorite quotations which I am only saying ittonight because I haven't spoken here before but it's very much associated with me. It's by the famousIrish muckraker Claud Cockburn, father of Alexander Cockburn who said, "Never believe anythinguntil it's officially denied." That that is should be engraved on the bathroom mirror of everyjournalist, the first thing he or she sees in the morning apart from his or her own face and reads that andunderstands it because it should be the gold standard of Journalism and I've tried sometimes as muchas I can to follow that and that's what this book is about.It takes five countries, five situations where people have struggled against power for their freedom. Itshows how they have been treated, it shows how power has treated them but it also shows how themedia has represented them or ignored them and willfully ignored them, in such a way that youwonder, if we, do we really live in an information age, a media age at all. The first chapter is about, asAmy mentioned Diego Garcia. Now that, those words would be familiar to a lot of people because theymay turn on their television and they will hear that B52 bombers yesterday took off from theuninhabited island of Diego Garcia.In fact, of course, it is the main island of the Chagos Archipelago a group of island halfway betweenAfrica and India in the middle of the India Ocean which were populated during the 18th century untilthe 1960s when the British government conspired with the US administration to expel them. This was aBritish colony, everybody on it was a British citizen and over a period of ten years the population wascoerced and tricked and finally expelled into leaving so that the British government could give the USadministration the main island of Diego Garcia to the Americans as a as a military base and todayDiego Garcia is indeed the third biggest US overseas base with one of the longest runways in the worldand from there Afghanistan and Iraq have been bombed. There is a metaphor about this story, it'sterrific in its own terms but it says so much about the imposition of power on people, their homelandsand resources and the ruthlessness of power. I think that ruthlessness is what the story tells us andcertainly it that's a constant threat running through all these stories, that power one power will takeunless unless people stand up to it. These the islanders of the Chagos were thrown into the slums ofMauritius, a 1000 miles away and after and a horrific transformation of their lives, like all indigenouspeople have been dispossessed, many of them died, many of them suffered in other ways, they startedto stand up. And finally so quite finally, with the help of some very tenacious lawyers and with thediscovery of a remarkable treasure trove of official documents in the public record office in Londonand I have read most of them, they would fill I suppose from there right across to where Amy is sittingback to there, and they are the documents of power and how its regards people and basically theydescribe how they were going to expel a population, lie about it, cover it up. As one British ForeignOffice official said, "we are going to get these rocks and they are going to be ours regardless ofwhether there a few thousands on them. The disregard for people, the American documents are verysimilar which I got under the Freedom of Information Act here. A lot of them blacked out but they tellenough and they they talk about the US Administration which would have been the which wouldhave been the Nixon Administration, wanting the islands swept and cleansed of people.So they what happened in the Chagos really tells us a great deal about what happens all over theworld. I won't go into similar details about the others but the rest of the book then moves into the thecenter page really I suppose is is Palestine. I first went to Palestine, to Israel and Palestine, as a youngreporter in the 1960s and I have been going ever since. I made a film in the 70s called "Palestine is Stillthe Issue". I made a film 20 odd years later called "Palestine is still the issue and it's still the issue".And it's still the issue. The chapter is called The Last Taboo which is crediting from a very angry essayby Edward Syed, in which he accused the foreign media of ignoring the history of Palestine andnever contextualizing the struggle of the Palestinians in reporting the Israeli Palestinian conflict. Theidea of freedom next time is that these are people who glimpsed there freedom but haven't yet achievedit. I realize that I left off a bit of good news about the Chagos islanders. They finally won their way;they finally made their way to the High Court in London after many years. The judges of the HighCourt were, I think I can say, quite literally horrified by their story. They invoked the Magna Cartawhich is the basis for all our laws and says you cannot throw people out of their home land. Theydescribed the decisions by governments to do it as outrageous and said they could go back. The Britishgovernment, Tony Blair decided this wasn't what they wanted. So they invoked an ancient royal decreepower which allows the Prime Minister, such as Blair when he joined in the attack on Iraq, to do it byroyal decree, in other words it's a way of getting around Parliament, its deeply undemocratic. So whatthey did by decree was to say you can't go back regardless of what the High Court said. Anyway twoweeks ago the High Court having reviewed this through out the government's decree, describing thegovernment decision as repugnant and the islanders can go back but not to where most of them comefrom and that's Diego Garcia because Washington says no. So that struggle goes on, so their freedomhas been glimpsed.The rest of the book is other places where I have had long associations such as South Africa, I was Ireported apartheid in South Africa, again in the 60s and was banned from South Africa for about 30years for that. I went back about 10 years ago and made a film and wrote about the apartheid that hadnot been that had not ended with the democratic elections and that was economic apartheid, whichexist in South Africa today. Also there is Afghanistan, a country that seemed to glimpse its freedomwith the expulsion of the Taliban but of course all that was not as it seemed. Instead the Taliban's veryclose brethren, that is the war lords who were supported by the Americans and the British werereinstalled in in Kabul. Women's rights are really not much different than they were under theTaliban. So that struggle goes on. It I think all these situations tell us really, I hope help to inform usabout just about the great confusion that people often feel about what is going on in the world. At themoment my own view is and it's a view that has been I suppose honed with experience and that isit's impossible to understand the world until you understand power and especially imperial power. Ifyou don't see the world in by understanding power and seeing how great imperial power operates, thenit becomes a series of sort of outbreaks, bushfires, personalities, demons, dictators. But the world isn'tlike that really. There are connections between most of what we call crisis. And I think, thanks to theactions of George W Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, that gang and the gang across the Atlantic, Blair andpeople, I think, people's awareness has risen a great deal about how the world is ordered.So that's really all I think I should say at that moment and do ask me questions and Amy and I will talktill then. Thank You.