Corporate media leaves out the very insights that made John Pilger a man not afraid to speak truth to power

Jan 4, 2024
John Pilger speaking outside the Old Bailey, London, ahead of a hearing in Wikileaks founder Julian Assange's battle against extradition to the US, 2020 Image: alamy/ PA Images / Alamy Stock Photo

John Pilger, the investigative anti-war journalist who spoke up for China and humiliated the western corporate media, has died—and every single report on this in the western media I have seen has carefully omitted this fact.

Here are ten things he said that the world needs to know about the legendary journalist who died in London on Saturday, at the age of 84.

1) The west demonizes China to punish it for being good at business, Pilger said in a documentary, The Coming War Against China. Standing in modern Shanghai, he says to the camera: “Today, China has matched America at its own great game of capitalism – and that is unforgivable.”

2) After his film was shown in 2016, he said: “The true story of China and America needs to be told, especially in Australia, where, fuelled by America, an anti-China propaganda campaign seems to be inviting a military reaction.”

However, the western corporate media refused to follow his lead, instead choosing to double down on their part in what he saw as a global scam in which the US stirs up conflicts in places such as Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the South China Seas, while the western media makes sure China is blamed for everything.

3) The Sinophobia of journalists and politicians in the global west was rooted in racism, he said. “The elite salivates for a deeply racist war against China,” he tweeted on a visit to Australia in March, 2023.

4) His main message in recent years has been about the importance of people developing scepticism about the narrative that the world is fed, and instead, realise we are being taught to hate the people America wants us to hate.

“The United States dominates the Western world’s media. All but one of the top ten media companies are based in North America. The internet and social media – Google, Twitter, Facebook – are mostly American owned and controlled,” he told a conference audience in Norway on 6 September, 2022.

Pilger regularly said that it was vital that the world’s public abandoned the western corporate media and turned to the new, small, independent voices rising up, using the internet to tell the truth about the world.

5) The Australia-born journalist was a major supporter of Julian Assange, whose Wikileaks organization in 2011 revealed a set of diplomatic cable messages which showed that there was no Tiananmen Square massacre in Beijing in 1989. While fighting occurred elsewhere in the city, the protesters left the square peacefully, diplomats on site reported to their masters.

Pilger regularly reminded the world how western leaders reacted when Assange revealed a series of important truths that punctured the “official” narrative.

“Vice President Biden called him a ‘hi-tech terrorist’,” Pilger noted. “Hillary Clinton asked, ‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’”

6) In the 2022 speech, Pilger explained how the real China, an industrious community focused on itself, had been turned by the media into a fantasy-based monster trying to take over the world. “In less than a decade, a ‘good’ China has been airbrushed and a ‘bad’ China has replaced it: from the world’s workshop to a budding new Satan.”

7) He warned that journalists were leaving the most important elements out of their reports about China.

“News about China in the West is almost entirely about the threat from Beijing. Airbrushed are the 400 American military bases that surround most of China, an armed necklace that reaches from Australia to the Pacific and south east Asia, Japan and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa and the Korean island of Jeju are loaded guns aimed point blank at the industrial heart of China. A Pentagon official described this as a ‘noose’,” Pilger said.

8) The independent Australian journalist railed against the fact that the astonishing story of China’s successful battle to lift its people from extreme poverty was almost never mentioned in the mainstream narrative, a fact that left him disgusted.

“Epic achievements, such as the eradication of abject poverty in China, are barely known. How perverse and squalid this is,” Pilger said in his 2022 speech in Norway.

He told a UK radio interviewer: “Journalism is nothing if it’s not about humanity – it has to be about people’s lives.”

9) The problem was not just that the media was pushing a false narrative about countries in the east, like China and Russia, but that it was doing so at the behest of the world’s most dangerous nation.

“In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, mostly democracies,” he told a conference audience. “It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenceless. It has attempted to murder the leaders of 50 countries. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries.”

And yet the western corporate media still shoehorns every story to reinforce the “west is best” narrative.

10) In one of his last major speeches, in Sydney in March 2023, Pilger railed against the ridiculous diversion of hundreds of billions of dollars of Australian public money to the US war machine to protect the country against a non-existing invader. “China as the Yellow Peril fits Australia’s history of racism like a glove,” he said.

True to form, the very western media groups he condemned for leaving out key facts, are this week printing obituaries about his death—and leaving out the very insights that made him respected by the public as a man not afraid to speak truth to power.

John Pilger will be missed. But his mission will be carried on by a thousand independent voices.


For more on this topic, P&I recommends: Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal, ‘War, Propaganda, and The Arms Trade: An Interview with John Pilger’, May 2023

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