by John Pilger
On the day President Trump is inaugurated, thousands of writers in the United States will express their indignation. “In order for us to heal and move forward…”, say Writers Resist, “we wish to bypass direct political discourse, in favour of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy.”
And: “We urge local organizers and speakers to avoid using the names of politicians or adopting ‘anti’ language as the focus for their Writers Resist event. It’s important to ensure that nonprofit organizations, which are prohibited from political campaigning, will feel confident participating in and sponsoring these events.”
Thus, real protest is to be avoided, for it is not tax exempt.
Compare such drivel with the declarations of the Congress of American Writers, held at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1935, and again two years later. They were electric events, with writers discussing how they could confront ominous events in Abyssinia, China and Spain. Telegrams from Thomas Mann, C Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out, reflecting the fear that great power was now rampant and that it had become impossible to discuss art and literature without politics or, indeed, direct political action.
“A writer,” the journalist Martha Gellhorn told the second congress, “must be a man of action now… A man who has given a year of his life to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the problems of racial prejudice, has not lost or wasted time. He is a man who has known where he belonged. If you should survive such action, what you have to say about it afterwards is the truth, is necessary and real, and it will last.”
Her words echo across the unction and violence of the Obama era and the silence of those who colluded with his deceptions.
That the menace of rapacious power – rampant long before the rise of Trump – has been accepted by writers, many of them privileged and celebrated, and by those who guard the gates of literary criticism, and culture, including popular culture, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out, regardless of who occupies the White House.
Today, false symbolism is all. “Identity” is all. In 2016, Hillary Clinton stigmatised millions of voters as “a basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic – you name it”. Her abuse was handed out at an LGBT rally as part of her cynical campaign to win over minorities by abusing a white mostly working-class majority. Divide and rule, this is called; or identity politics in which race and gender conceal class, and allow the waging of class war. Trump understood this.
“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident poet Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”
This is not an American phenomenon. A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that “for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life”.
No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice. Among today’s insistent voices of consumer-feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described “the arts of dominating other people…of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital”.
There is something both venal and profoundly stupid about famous writers as they venture outside their cosseted world and embrace an “issue”. Across the Review section of the Guardian on 10 December was a dreamy picture of Barack Obama looking up to the heavens and the words, “Amazing Grace” and “Farewell the Chief”.
The sycophancy ran like a polluted babbling brook through page after page. “He was a vulnerable figure in many ways…But the grace. The all-encompassing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool…[He] is a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again…He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side…The grace…the almost surreal levels of grace…”
I have conflated these quotes. There are others even more hagiographic and bereft of mitigation. The Guardian’s chief apologist for Obama, Gary Younge, has always been careful to mitigate, to say that his hero “could have done more”: oh, but there were the “calm, measured and consensual solutions…”
None of them, however, could surpass the American writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the recipient of a “genius” grant worth $625,000 from a liberal foundation. In an interminable essay for The Atlantic entitled, “My President Was Black”, Coates brought new meaning to prostration. The final “chapter”, entitled “When You Left, You Took All of Me With You”, a line from a Marvin Gaye song, describes seeing the Obamas “rising out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity”. The Ascension, no less.
One of the persistent strands in American political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. This was given expression and reinforced during the two terms of Barack Obama. “I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being,” said Obama, who expanded America’s favourite military pastime, bombing, and death squads (“special operations”) as no other president has done since the Cold War.
According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day. He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.
Every Tuesday – reported the New York Times – he personally selected those who would be murdered by mostly hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, along with those attempting to collect the body parts festooning the “terrorist target”. A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated, approvingly, that Obama’s drones killed 4,700 people. “Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that,” he said, but we’ve taken out some very senior members of Al Qaeda.”
Like the fascism of the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent media whose description now fits that of the Nuremberg prosecutor: “Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically… In the propaganda system… it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.
Take the catastrophe in Libya. In 2011, Obama said Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi was planning “genocide” against his own people. “We knew… that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”
This was the known lie of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. It became the media story; and Nato – led by Obama and Hillary Clinton – launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that “most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten”.
Under Obama, the US has extended secret “special forces” operations to 138 countries, or 70 per cent of the world’s population. The first African-American president launched what amounted to a full-scale invasion of Africa. Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Africom’s “soldier to soldier” doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.
It is as if Africa’s proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master’s black colonial elite whose “historic mission”, warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of “a capitalism rampant though camouflaged”.
It was Obama who, in 2011, announced what became known as the “pivot to Asia”, in which almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to the Asia-Pacific to “confront China”, in the words of his Defence Secretary. There was no threat from China; the entire enterprise was unnecessary. It was an extreme provocation to keep the Pentagon and its demented brass happy.
In 2014, Obama’s administration oversaw and paid for a fascist-led coup in Ukraine against the democratically-elected government, threatening Russia in the western borderland through which Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, with a loss of 27 million lives. It was Obama who placed missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at Russia, and it was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who increased spending on nuclear warheads to a level higher than that of any administration since the cold war – having promised, in an emotional speech in Prague, to “help rid the world of nuclear weapons”.
Obama, the constitutional lawyer, prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in history, even though the US constitution protects them. He declared Chelsea Manning guilty before the end of a trial that was a travesty. He has refused to pardon Manning who has suffered years of inhumane treatment which the UN says amounts to torture. He has pursued an entirely bogus case against Julian Assange. He promised to close the Guantanamo concentration camp and didn’t.
Following the public relations disaster of George W. Bush, Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls “leadership” throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee’s decision was part of this: the kind of cloying reverse racism that beatified the man for no reason other than he was attractive to liberal sensibilities and, of course, American power, if not to the children he kills in impoverished, mostly Muslim countries.
This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded, especially “liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics,” as Luciana Bohne put it. “When Obama walks into a room,” gushed George Clooney, “you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere.”
William I. Robinson, professor at the University of California, and one of an uncontaminated group of American strategic thinkers who have retained their independence during the years of intellectual dog-whistling since 9/11, wrote this last week:
“President Barack Obama… may have done more than anyone to assure [Donald] Trump’s victory. While Trump’s election has triggered a rapid expansion of fascist currents in US civil society, a fascist outcome for the political system is far from inevitable…. But that fight back requires clarity as to how we got to such a dangerous precipice. The seeds of 21st century fascism were planted, fertilized and watered by the Obama administration and the politically bankrupt liberal elite.”
Robinson points out that “whether in its 20th or its emerging 21st century variants, fascism is, above all, a response to deep structural crises of capitalism, such as that of the 1930s and the one that began with the financial meltdown in 2008… There is a near-straight line here from Obama to Trump… The liberal elite’s refusal to challenge the rapaciousness of transnational capital and its brand of identity politics served to eclipse the language of the working and popular classes… pushing white workers into an ‘identity’ of white nationalism and helping the neo-fascists to organise them”.
The seedbed is Obama’s Weimar Republic, a landscape of endemic poverty, militarised police and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a “market” extremism which, under his presidency, prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street.
Perhaps his greatest “legacy” is the co-option and disorientation of any real opposition. Bernie Sanders’ specious “revolution” does not apply. Propaganda is his triumph.
The lies about Russia – in whose elections the US has openly intervened – have made the world’s most self-important journalists laughing stocks. In the country with constitutionally the freest press in the world, free journalism now exists only in its honourable exceptions.
The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves “left/liberal”, as if to claim political decency. They are not “left”, neither are they especially “liberal”. Much of America’s aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations – such as Obama’s. America’s political spectrum extends from the mythical centre to the lunar right. The “left” are homeless renegades Martha Gellhorn described as “a rare and wholly admirable fraternity”. She excluded those who confuse politics with a fixation on their navels.
While they “heal” and “move forward”, will the Writers Resist campaigners and other anti-Trumpists reflect upon this? More to the point: when will a genuine movement of opposition arise? Angry, eloquent, all-for-one-and-one-for all. Until real politics return to people’s lives, the enemy is not Trump, it is ourselves.
Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger
For direct-transfer bank details click here.
‘Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice.’
I remember him regretting that no left of Labour party ran a candidate where he lived amongst American investment bankers in South Kensington.
Oh dear..remember how we all loved Noam Chomsky? Remember how we all loved The Guardian? Oh dear remember how we all loved John Pilger?
Speak for yourself. I never “loved” Chomsky, The Guardian, Julian Assange, Ed Snowden, Alex Jones, Yanis Varoufakis, Batman or Slavoj Zizek, for that matter. If you have a specific critique of John Pilger, articulate it; give examples, lay your logic out for all to see. Any lonely teen wearing a Marilyn Manson button can drop mysterious hints and winks in an attempt to appear to have special knowledge. What is your “inside knowledge” that Pilger isn’t what he seems? What are you using for evidence? I don’t have any sacred cows but I also have no patience for trivial internet games. If Pilger is guilty of something, I’d like to know it. If you have a valid point I’ll take it seriously.
The anti-Trump marches and protests are full of sound and fury but signify nothing.
They are all the same people as those who were involved in the Occupy Movement.
What real change did they bring about?
None. None at all, whatsoever.
“America’s political spectrum extends from the mythical centre to the lunar right.”
Indeed! The number of “Lefties,” who refuse to say anything but “support our troops,” when it comes to the War(s), is mind-boggling , considering the Left was vociferously anti-soldier when the draft was active and opting out was hard: you were largely considered a killer if you didn’t abscond to Canada to avoid participating in Vietnam. Now, somehow, even though the professional army is voluntary (“they’ve got good medical coverage!”), participants are considered heroes for signing up! What’s “Left” within a Right Wing spectrum?
Every time I hear the John Pilger schtick I’m reminded of that line in the Talking Heads song, Houses in Motion…..”tell them a little bit, but not too much!” Pilger is a pro. His buisness is the buisness of Noam Chomsky and Phillip Adams…be lucky truthers.
Accusations presented without an argument or evidence behind them are bullshit. If you’re referring to JP’S LIHOP stance: I personally have no problems with LIHOPers who don’t demonize MIHOPers (as Chomsky famously does). Any really prominent MIHOPer is asking to be killed or smeared until the only thing they’re good for is preaching to the choir. If I were famous, I would not be a vocal MIHOPer unless I could afford a fortified compound and serious round the clock security… and never needed to fly anywhere.. and didn’t need to earn money. Pilger knows that the people we’re up against think nothing of killing and probably enjoy giving the order. What I couldn’t forgive Chomsky for was going out of his way to demonize MIHOPers; that, imo, was a tell. But if you think every famous Lefty who doesn’t vocally advocate for MIHOP is a shill, you aren’t thinking clearly, on the matter, with quite enough depth. It is for The Masses to get vocal about MIHOP… the high profile individuals who try it are easily picked off, like clay pigeons. It’s easy for you, behind your pseudonym, to be “brave”, don’t you think…?
Whats a LIHP? and is there any arguement or evidence to support it?…..whatever it is? And don’t be unkind to mine pseudonym just because yours’ is beatified…albiet self ordained. don’t you think…?
I’ve already donated ten minutes of my life to making you feel human by responding to your crap… but decoding gibberish is stretching it. Seek companionship elsewhere. Sorry.
Excellent article, astounding how lofty rhetoric has hijacked clear thinking amongst many people that consider themselves of a left disposition. The propaganda is relentless and new angles to hem you in are created every day by those that should be using their rhetorical and writing skills to expose the true source of indecency in our society.
With every great new piece I read by Mr. Pilger, the growing sense that we’re badly fucked when he’s gone. Who’s left to make grand, spit-in-the-eyes-of-the-tyrants gestures like JP’s stuff, or like Pinter’s Nobel Lecture?
All contingencies are catered for StAug..including the lionising of the prophets of the bleed’n obvious… beware the false prophet John Shillger.
Don’t just make a vague and ominous claim, Pavy, provide the evidence behind your reasoning! Otherwise you look like… a shill
Don’t post sycophantic, naive and hagiographic depositions to the phoney Pilger Aug….and don’t give me didactic orders…otherwise you look like a merchant banker.
Put that Thesaurus away, you’re abusing it.
Quaint name for your only friend.
You should have thought a little longer before posting. Doesn’t really work, does it? Well, I’ll leave you to it as you try to come up with something…
It is a beautiful day for an Inauguration, the #DeploraBall hangovers are wearing off, the stage is set…..
I must admit, I thought there would be more violence of a false-flag variety in the run-up – trucks skeening into crowds, ambassadors dropping like flies – that sort of thing. It is not that I have any love or vested interest in violence, it is just that the Deep State has yet to cede to my unilateral vision of universal peace yet. I thought they’d put up more of a fight.
So, whether I want it or not – maybe the real coup is yet to come? CNN seem obsessed with who takes over if the Donald goes down. Maybe Putin is right and Obama is saying his long goodbye with no intention of leaving at all? Maybe there is a ‘Maidan-style’ disruption planned? Obama did give one last middle-finger vote of no confidence in the Intelligence Community – it was a leak, not a hack, boys.
Maybe common sense will prevail, which would be the best result (though true peace seems unlikely at this juncture.) In the words of a former One World Order puppet “Now is not the end, it is not even the beginning of the end, but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.”
Once opon a time… Pilger used to have a journalistic dream job. Employed by the Daily Mirror, then one of the biggest newspapers in the entire western world, he was given a large expense budget and told to go out into the world and tell people what was going on, really, going on. So he headed for Vietnam during the US attack on that country. He became a central and then icon figure in UK journalism with a huge audiance and pages in the Daily Mirror, then he began making award-winning documentaries that questioned the direction of western imperialism and the massive cost in human lives linked to that system.
Now, within the mainstream he’s become a controversial person, called an ‘advocate, mariganalised and rarely allowed space for his articles, almost an exile. We don’t send people to Siberia, the liberal mainstream just chooses to ignore them. He even has difficulty getting mainstream funding for his films these days. Seymour Hersh, who broke the story of the Mai Lai massacre has a similar career profile.
Pilger’s career is a really interesting story showing just how mainstream and liberal journalism and the media have changed for the worse over the last few decades as the long clampdown began and intensified, and, heavens, it’s actually getting worse.
Well Said. I’d trust Pilger over 99% of the ‘Garbage churners’ who get paid to lie, like “pigs in their own Sh t” in the MSM.
“The American(and World) Press, with very few exceptions; is a kept Press. Kept by the Big Corporations, the way a whore is kept by the Rich man”……..Anatoly Franace.
Nice if it were true Brian Harry..Pilger learned a lot more about camoflague in Vietnam than some people think.
Your gnomic jabs are useless and pretty much as persuasive as spraying “John Pilger sucks!” on a pissoir wall.
Verbal!…the mark of a shill.
Dont post your public urinal jaunts here AUG….it stinks
I see you’re trying to replace sidewalk-dogshit as an easily-ignored minor irritant. Good job.
Don’t post sycophantic, naive and hagiographic depositions to the phoney Pilger Aug….and don’t give me didactic orders…otherwise you look like a merchant banker.
That made no sense Saint Auggy boy…I told you, use the urinals for their stated intent…don’t dwell there.
Strange..you have just provided a job description for a gatekeeper.
As usual, Pilger cuts through the “crap” spewing out of the MSM about how wonderful Obama was/is, and breaks down his performance as President into cold blooded fact. And the facts are ugly. But there’s a nationally orchestrated deification going on for Obama, and on the other hand the same people are subjecting Trump to a “Demonization’ process that the Western MSM usually reserves for South American, Korean, Iraqi etc leaders, prior to the USA “liberating their people from “Evil”.
It’s almost as if the USA is in a state of national Psychosis. Surely the USA is better than this petulant display of stupidity.
Thanks to the free and open western media, rational thoughtful and enlightened Western Man/Woman now embrace, mimic and accept the following:
knee-jerk deference to (the right) authority
the deifying of Clinton and Obama, the wold’s pre-eminent neo-liberal establishment warmongers and enablers of destructive finance capitalism, as beacons of light and humanity in a dark and cruel world
the wholesale acceptance of evidence-free, and often preposterous, allegations and claims alleging cartoon villain Trump is a puppet of mad hacker Blofeld, er, Putin
calls for renewed a conflict with Russia
supporting the West’s proxy army of mercenaries and Salafist/Wahhabi thugs who are fighting to depose the Syrian government and install a Taliban-style theocracy
an impressive dedication to anti-intellectualism and suppresing critical thought wherever it rears its ugly head
We have reached a point where the public is so soft, mushy and pliable that the media can simply tell them what to think and they think it. “We must limit our freedoms and liberties and purify our thoughts in order to safeguard democracy!” says The Media. “Oh, ok then, makes sense to me…that Bloward Drump character sure is evil!” says the Citizen Stooge.
The private structures that serve as conduits for knowledge and viewpoints banished by the mass media, owned by the likes of Facebook, Google, Twitter and, yes, WordPress, can quickly be re-tooled to further marginalize heretical thoughts and information. Democracy as overrated relic of times past is the next logical step and the public will parrot it obediently of course.
When ostensibly left-wing Guardian hacks tearfully and reverently prostrate themselves in front of their neo-liberal lords and masters one moment and laugh at North Korea’s pitiful totalitarian cult of personality the next followed by the editors beg for money to fund their “premium quality journalism” suggests a collective delusion of epic proportions. Rational and logical thinking as misogynistic tools of the patriarchy is already being used as a serious argument against academics and others who draw the “wrong” conclusions. Radical relativism and subjectivism over facts and search for truth…post-truth indeed.
When things really kick off and get “out of hand” western governments, in the guise of anti-terrorism laws, have given the state and its armed enforcers immense powers to spy on citizens, suppress dissent and disappear troublemakers and torture them and hold them indefinitely without trial.
Don’t do anything “wrong”, keep your thinking from straying and you have nothing to worry about. Just go about your life as always and blather on about the weather and sports and the latest “must see” TV and celebrity gossip…and don’t forget to express outrage at the usual suspects and please don’t hesitate to defer thinking (it is hard work!) to qualified experts like Jonathan Freedland and Zoe Williams. Have a nice future.
Argh, formatting was scrambled in the first part. Should be bullet points.
Reblogged this on Radiation Free Lakeland.
The problem for the left is that rather than being a movement that is about social justice for all, whatever gender or ethnicity, it has become little more than a forum for special pleading from sectional groups. The working classes both of the US, the UK and elsewhere are beginning to wake up to this. They have little in common with those sectional interests since all they wish to do is go about their lives, provide for their families and hopefully find that things are at least slightly better further down the line.
The left no longer guarantees that, and whether it’s said with sadness or with glee, they deserve what’s coming.
“The problem for the left is that rather than being a movement that is about social justice for all, whatever gender or ethnicity, it has become little more than a forum for special pleading from sectional groups. …”
That is the problem for liberal imperialists who call themselves “the left.” They are not the left- the left are those who are ready to oppose imperialism and capitalism. Don’t make the mistake of believing that fascists-who have always been enemies of the working class and supporters of the exploiters- are an alternative: just insist on kicking the fake left, the liberal phonies with their ID politics and their obsessions with issues that distract from the reality of class exploitation and inequality, back towards the right where they came from from.
Please don’t try to teach your grandma how to suck eggs.
“The enemy is ourselves”. Indeed, John, and a significant (and ominously silent) part of that enemy is those, including you, John, and Noam and others who could potentially have tilted the balance in favour of the truth i.e. through the exposure of those guilty of the crime – and the lie – that bred the phoney “war on terror” and led directly to its millions of casualties. I refer, of course, to 9/11 and all the other false flags that have become the favoured weapon in the arsenal of the imperialists.
Yevtushenko was right. “When the truth is replaced by silence, silence is a lie”. The truth – recognised by many even on the same day (like anchor Dan Rather, who correctly likened the collapse of the Twin Towers to “controlled demolition”), and subsequently backed up by such a weight of evidence that anyone who still clings to any part of the official story inevitably makes themselves a laughing-stock – was replaced by silence even by those high-profile critics of imperialism on the Left who could have made a difference; could have energised an effective resistance – and potentially have prevented, if not the Afghan war crime, then at least all subsequent ones.
For what remain unclear reasons, real i.e. effective protest had to be avoided. Was it the fear of retribution? The fear of becoming a ‘persona non grata’? Whatever the reason, silence when the evidence is so clear and compelling is complicity – and the killing and maiming and undermining of the scraps of democracy that are left will continue because that toxic lie – that weapon of mass destruction of the truth; that tumour – has not been excised, but has been left to metastasise throughout the global body politic.
I reblogged this by mistake on another of my blogs (now deleted), but can’t find a way to reblog it again!
Reblogged this on My Symbolic Interaction and commented:
OffGuardian is one of the best reblog sites around these days, not many others unfortunately!
Thank you John Pilger.
Very good insightful article. We are living at the moment in a veritable storm of hypocrisy, the karma of untruthfulness.
The lionization of Pilger is roaring like the MGM big cat….can’t be long now before The Pill gets put into the Chomsky basket with the rest of the gatekeepers.
You should write a gossip column for “Neo Liberal Glamour Mag”… your corny, ineffectual soundbites have that mid-20th century zing to them! Good for a titter, devoid of substance… I think I’ve just come up with your tag line!
I know they’re frightened little bunnies Augy but can’t you provide anything more than irrelevant abuse to get a tick. Do you subscribe to the Jeremy Clarkson, Joe Hildebrand school of abusive, non-arguement?
I do like the way you include italics in your art though…very fin de sicele.
Yeah, probably about as much as I like your stale l’esprit d’escalier. Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…..