John Pilger

Rather a Curate\’s Egg here.

Even if a contortion of intellect and morality allows the interventionists to justify these actions, the same cannot be said for liberties eroded at home. These are too much part of the myth that individual freedom was handed down by eminent liberal gentlemen instead of being fought for at the bottom. Yet rights of habeas corpus, of free speech and assembly, and dissent and tolerance, are slipping away, undefended. Whole British communities now live in fear of the police. The British are distinguished as one of the most spied upon people in the world. A grey surveillance van with satellite tracking sits outside my local Sainsbury\’s. On the pop radio station Kiss 100, the security service MI5 advertises for ordinary people to spy on each other. These are normal now, along with the tracking of our intimate lives and a system of secretive justice that imposes 18-hour curfews on people who have not been charged with any crime and are denied the "evidence". Hundreds of terrified Iraqi refugees are sent back to the infinite dangers of the country "we" have destroyed.


Britain is now a centralised single-ideology state, as secure in the grip of a superpower as any former eastern bloc country. The Whitehall executive has prerogative powers as effective as politburo decrees. Unlike Venezuela, critical issues such as the EU constitution or treaty are denied a referendum, regardless of Blair\’s "solemn pledge". Thanks largely to a parliament in which a majority of the members cannot bring themselves to denounce the crime in Iraq or even vote for an inquiry, New Labour has added to the statutes a record 3,000 criminal offences: an apparatus of control that undermines the Human Rights Act. In 1977, at the height of the cold war, I interviewed the Charter 77 dissidents in Czechoslovakia. They warned that complacency and silence could destroy liberty and democracy as effectively as tanks. "We\’re actually better off than you in the west," said a writer, measuring his irony. "Unlike you, we have no illusions."

For those people who still celebrate the virtues and triumphs of liberalism – anti-slavery, women\’s suffrage, the defence of individual conscience and the right to express it and act upon it – the time for direct action is now. It is time to support those of courage who defy rotten laws to read out in Parliament Square the names of the current, mounting, war dead, and those who identify their government\’s complicity in "rendition" and its torture, and those who have followed the paper and blood trail of Britain\’s piratical arms companies.

Indeed. Given that I am a liberal I support (and have done) most of those things. But there\’s also the other part of the Curate\’s Egg in this:

It is time to support the NHS workers who up and down the country are trying to alert us to the destruction of a Labour government\’s greatest achievement.

Well, that\’s a rather different definition of liberal methinks.

Abroad, behind a facade of liberal concern for the world\’s "disadvantaged", such as waffle about millennium goals and anti-poverty stunts with the likes of Google and Vodafone, the Brown government, together with its EU partners, is demanding vicious and punitive free-trade agreements that will devastate the economies of scores of impoverished African, Caribbean and Pacific nations.

As is that.

I do like this though:

In 2007, reported the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the United Kingdom faced the highest levels of inequality for 40 years, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer…

Ermm, no. They didn\’t say that the poor are getting poorer. They said that the poor are not getting richer as fast as the rich are. No one is saying that the absolute standards of living of the poor are declining: rather, that inequality is rising.

The International Monetary Fund has designated Britain a tax haven..

And that\’s a lovely, quite perfect, example of how something can move from being a highly qualified statement in a position paper to one of these known facts that can be bandied about at whim. The method used to determine whether a place was in fact a tax haven was to measure the size of the financial sector as against the size necessary to deal with domestic financial matters. As the UK is a very large exporter of financial services we were, by this very odd definition, regarded as a tax haven. As, in the same report, Monaco was not.

I don\’t think that\’s really a very useful definition then, do you, when a place which exists purely as a tax haven does not qualify while the UK does?

In broadcasting, a prime source of liberalism and most of our information, the unthinkable has been normalised.

Given that Pilger is very much a "left liberal" has he just stated that the BBC is in fact "left liberal"?

3 thoughts on “John Pilger”

  1. These are too much part of the myth that individual freedom was handed down by eminent liberal gentlemen instead of being fought for at the bottom. Yet rights of habeas corpus, of free speech and assembly, and dissent and tolerance, are slipping away, undefended.

    Um, well, habeas corpus and free speech at the least were handed down weren’t they? The one at Runnymede and the other by Elizabeth I.

    Anyone want to correct me if I am wrong?

    Dunno about the others.

  2. “Given that Pilger is very much a “left liberal” “

    Actually I think John Pilger’s definition of ‘liberal’ is shared only by him and maybe Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

  3. Pilger is a frightful man: casting wild and unproven ‘facts’ about against all the evil in the world, in other words anyone who doesn’t agree with him.

    I rented his rather lovely villa near Cortona in Tuscany for a holiday, back in 1979. Very nice, but didn’t cloud my view of the man.

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