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Report on the Session on The War You Don’t See by John Pilger


John Pilger’s searing criticism of war and its propaganda in the film The War You Don’t See Mwas viewed and discussed at the Mother Earth Hall in Grande Riviere Nord Ouest by some 40 people yesterday evening. The event was organized jointly by LALIT, the Centre Idriss Goomany and the Union Syndicale des Employees de la Presse. John Pilger sent a message for the event:

“Warm greetings and well done to my friends in Mauritius for arranging this showing of The War You Don't See. This is a film about how unaccountable power deceives people by using a collusive and equally unaccountable media. The result is today a state of what the Pentagon calls perpetual war. It's up to all those journalists and broadcasters who still take a pride in their craft to speak out against such a travesty of democracy, and it's up to the general public never to accept on face value what authority tells them - unless that authority is held relentlessly accountable to them. For only then can there be true freedom of information, which is the bedrock of freedom itself. Thank you all for coming tonight. All power to you.” - John Pilger

The hour-and-a-half long film was shown on the occasion of World Freedom of the Press Day.

The film The War You Don’t See is a thorough investigation by one journalist of the role of many journalists and their bosses, who get drawn into being literally State-controlled propaganda agents for present-day wars, while at the same time, other front-line journalists and photographers face unimaginable dangers and even death in the interests of Freedom of the Press. The film shows how 700 journalists were embedded in the armed forces during the war on Iraq. This means the industrial-military complex is now an industrial-military-media complex, as Julian Assange so succinctly put it in the film.

The film was to all intents and purposes “banned” in the U.S. when those launching it cancelled the launch as well as John Pilger’s other planned public appearances. The film is about the propaganda role of the press in its globality, including TV and Radio, especially in the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, and notably in pumping Israel’s propaganda. John Pilger interviewed top journalists and news bosses about their denying air time to weapons inspectors and military/intelligence analysts who publicly challenged the basis for the military invasions. John Pilger’s gentle but unbending interviewing style, produces touching scenes of men, some top journalists in mainstream media, others high-up civil servants, admitting to feeling “ashamed” at their own actions having contributed to the horrors of the Iraq war. The bravery of admitting this kind of role and publicly regretting it is a huge source of hope for humanity. Dan Rather, the very symbol of a TV anchor in the USA, spoke eloquently about the difficulty of being an honest journalist when this war-machinery comes into play, and he, too, expresses regret for his own role. The film reminds us constantly, that behind the Governments, are always the powerful arms firms and defence contractors.

Through interviews, John Pilger highlights the fabricated evidence, like Saddam Hussein’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, or the lies about links to 9-11 that was used to convince elected representatives in the US and UK to accept the illegal attack on Iraq, essentially a defenceless nation, and he highlights the role of the media in spreading it. He confronts BBC bosses about uncritically reporting Israeli propagandist Mark Regev on his version of the murder of nine peace activists in the peace flotilla to Gaza, including six who were shot in the backs of the heads, and spinning out Israeli footage as if it were gospel. The film exposes the killing in Palestine by the Israel Defense Force (IDF) of as many as 10 independent journalists.

One of the most moving parts of the film is the interview of a brave photographer-journalist speaking about the horror of the war against Afghanistan, and how difficult it is to get the real picture of the war published. Thus the name The War You Don’t See. Another extremely moving part of the film is the young US soldier trying to save two badly wounded Iraqi children, during the murderous extermination by the US forces of two journalists carrying their camera bags.

By contrast the spokesman for the US is clearly unable to defend his country’s aggression, either rationally or even demagogically. He has perhaps too long had to depend on the lying media.

The film includes a short history of modern war propaganda from the time of the “selling” by US Government to the “enemy” (i.e. the public in the USA) of the justification for the First World War to today’s “embedded” journalists in Afghanistan and Iraq. It also shows the shameful links between “public relations” (how to manipulate people) and propaganda, when used for selling everything from cigarettes to war. And how it is the public that is the “target”, noting the military lexicon.

John Pilger is well-known in Mauritius for his ground-breaking film Stealing a Nation about the US-UK war machinery’s direct effect on the lives of thousands of Chagossian people.

During discussion on the film, people said they saw the film as a denunciation of the role of the media as propagandist for unjust wars, while others compared the pressures on journalists in the film, with the everyday pressures they suffer as journalists in Mauritius, notably from the “sources”. One person from the audience spoke about the importance of Pilger showing how the media talk about “occupation” of Palestine but never call is “military”, and how the media never give a consistent view of what living under military occupation in Palestine actually means. She knows because she went there as a LALIT action of solidarity. Another LALIT member referred to the absurdity of journalists buying into the “overwhelming” arguments of Colin Powell, wondering how any one in their right mind could think that a person could just walk into the UN Building with a phial of anthrax in his hand and not get done for “terrorism”, himself! Someone referred to the Mauritian journalist who works in the Pentagon.

Other comments were more of the type “how can we get as many people as possible to see the film”. Since the showing, there have already been two formal requests for showings: one in the North and one at a University.

Afterwards people drank tea and coffee, still discussing the film, and ate squares of maize pudding. If anyone would like to organize a showing, please contact any leading member of any of the three organizing groups.