John Pilger in the Literary Arena, Latitude Festival

Posted on July 27, 2012

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written by Robert Pollard for Festival Republic

John Pilger is a highly respected political journalist who has twice been named Journalist of the Year. Through his writing and film-making, he has continually challenged common opinion and offered an alternative to the increasingly narrow media narrative. Born in Australia but based in the UK, he is one of the most articulate critics of British and American foreign policy and corporate power in the Western world. His column in the New Statesman is essential reading for any free-thinking liberal and his appearance at Latitude turned out to be the highlight of events held in the Literature Arena.

The themes discussed were wide-reaching, but most attention was paid to Pilger’s opinion of current media ethics in light of recent controversies at News International and the subsequent Leveson inquiry into media ethics. Pilger claims that media is an extension of established power; a far cry from the perception of media existing to challenge power and check how things are being run. Most of Pilger’s ire, maybe surprisingly to some, was reserved for the BBC because it is painted as trustworthy and independent. Pilger was quick to posit research papers that prove the BBC was complicit with government in its portrayal of the Iraq invasion, something that Pilger will never tire of criticising.

He touched briefly on the introduction of Public Relations into modern society, from the conception of the idea by Edward Bernays to the situation we find ourselves now whereby governments fund PR exercises to assimilate public opinion with their own belief system. Public blessing is vital for any government mission and PR is a vital component in gaining it.

The Q&A session was typically feisty, such is Pilger’s passion, and indeed, the passion of this disaffected liberal audience. Pilger challenges common opinion and misconceptions, he makes people think, but most importantly, he inspires hope and galvanises people. That will be Pilger’s legacy.

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Posted in: Media, Politics