Pilger attacks 'single-ideology state'

November 29, 2000


ADELAIDE — About 300 people packed Her Majesty's Theatre on November 16 to hear journalist John Pilger. The evening discussion, titled Hidden Agendas, was part of a series promoting the 2001 Festival of Ideas.

The discussion revealed Pilger's continuing passion for social justice, human rights and journalistic integrity. He discussed the political heritage bequeathed to him by his family, particularly his father, who was a member of the Industrial Workers of the World in the 1920s and 1930s.

Pilger's underlying theme was the development of what he termed "the single ideology state". He argued that "news" is often a public relations exercise, with stories written from "official" media sources. Ideology becomes packaged as received wisdom. The corporatisation of journalism increasingly isolated journalists from the public at large.

Pilger also enthusiastic in his praise for the developing movement against capitalist globalisation. Mention was made of the Seattle, Melbourne and Prague demonstrations. He made the point that people are resisting around the world everyday but these struggles are only reported insofar as they are "important" to Western interests. One example he used was a mass action by the residents of La Paz, Bolivia. The local water utilities had been virtually given to British water companies. In response, the residents formed a massive human chain around the city and defeated the proposal.

Pilger's answer to the last question of the evening revealed his understanding of how real change must come about. Discussing the Howard government's refusal to say sorry to the country's indigenous people, Pilger stated that the next step must be direct political action. He reminded the audience that the Howard government only acted to send troops to East Timor because public opinion and the mass demonstrations forced him to.

Pilger said that there had been a lot of "feel-good stuff", for example the sea of hands events and the walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but to win real justice for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, mass direct political action was necessary.

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