by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass
Last week, renowned journalist John Pilger spoke at a Q&A on media power with Des Freedman from the Media Reform Coalition who released his new book ‘The Contradictions of Media Power.’
We have picked some of our favourite quotes from John Pilger during the talk, which give us an insight of his experience and understanding of media power, which is something we can all learn from. And he definitely puts it best.
“The whole essence of media is not about information. It’s about power.”
“Today the media is, as the father of propaganda, Edward Bernays described, ‘an invisible government.’ It’s in the government. It’s in the government’s vested interests. The Prime Minister is a PR man by trade, and not a very good one. That’s all he is. He shouldn’t be taken seriously, he just has the position. That position allows him certain aspects of power. But the real power resides in propaganda and the media. That’s true now all over the world.”
“In the run up to the invasion of Iraq, the journalism played a very, very critical role in ensuring that invasion took place. Especially in the United States, which has constitutionally the freest press in the world.
“Now, when discussing this with a number of distinguished colleagues in the US and in this country, following the invasion, they were unanimous in saying, had journalists in responsible positions, both in television and in newspapers (especially television because of it’s power), had they questioned the deceptions, had they challenged them, had they done their jobs as journalists, had they as Dan Rather of CBS said – asked the critical second question, instead of amplifying and echoing the lies told as pantomime. Had they done their job, they believe that invasion might not have taken place. The fact that they were saying that, and these are people from well inside the media establishment on both sides of the Atlantic, saying that had those journalists done their job, that invasion might not have taken place, and hundreds of thousands of people would be alive today. That’s the power of the media.”
“You’re working within a system that is inherently hostile to truth telling. And I don’t say that as satire, I mean that. It is hostile to truth telling. One only has to see the media reaction to the truth tellers Edward Snowden, Julian Assange. The bitter reaction of people who shamed much of the media, almost at a stroke.”
“There is something called censorship by omission. You don’t really discuss what you leave out but it’s left out.”
“If you look back to 2008, the stories on BBC News, all over the papers, the banks were suddenly crooks. When Northern Rock collapsed, the banks were crooks, they were all exposed. The Guardian was full of tombstones of copy about how the banks were rotten from the inside. It was the story.
A glimpse. That story ended after about three months and it was turned around, that it wasn’t really the bankers, but it all came down to a national debt and a controlled narrative was there and it’s called austerity and that debt had to be paid off. Why? Why did it have to be paid off? The people that you quote (46% of people believe that austerity has gone too far or is not needed) that’s a majority really. If you’re getting that in the poll, 46%, that’s a majority. Proving again that most people are ahead of the media. They usually are, they’re ahead of the media as far as going to war, they’re ahead of the media in terms of the economics of their lives, how they live.
So we saw this glimpse of the truth of this massive criminality……all the rotten architecture had collapsed…almost collapsed. Banks were nationalised. Banks were nationalised with no conditions. The consciousness of how this happened which was there, for I suppose about six months, was, thanks to a very effective propaganda system, was shifted. That it wasn’t the banks’ fault, it was our fault.”
“We’ve almost got to stop using the term mainstream. It’s a misnomer. We’re always drawn to look through this prism of something called the mainstream. It’s not. It’s actually an extreme. What could be more extreme than various institutions that propagate rapacious illegal war, deception about economic policies. What could be more extreme than that? There’s nothing mainstream about that.”
“The greatest propaganda institute in Britain is the BBC. It is that because it has the greatest reputation. It has the greatest credibility. It has a worldwide reputation. Some of it earned. In news and current affairs, almost none of it earned. And I don’t say that again satirically. So this idea that we concentrate on the demons, Murdoch , the Daily Mail (bad enough), because in a way the Mail and the BBC compliment each other and they all follow each other. …It’s about understanding that spectrum of propaganda and how it affects all of us.”
Should journalists represent the people? Yes of course but as Martha Gelhorn famously said; “All journalism should be from the ground up, not from the top down.” It almost never is. And that is something again that has to be taught to young journalists. These basic things that you do, the most reliable sources of the truth, not all the truth, but of a way of finding the truth are to be found at ground level. That’s my experience as a reporter. And I had to find out that the people who were above ground level, especially up there, were not reliable sources.”