pilgerDick Jones’ Patteran Pages introduced me to the remarkable work of writer, film-maker and award-winning British investigative journalist John Pilger. I recently picked up his prescient book The New Rulers of the World, written shortly before the US decided to invade Iraq.

The book consists of four very substantial essays and an introduction that pulls them all together. The introduction, a scant 14 pages, is a breathtaking and articulate summary, a perfect snapshot, of the political and economic world we find ourselves in right now.

Here’s how it begins:

When American Vice-President Dick Cheney said that the ‘war on terrorism’ could last for fifty years or more, his words evoked George Orwell’s great prophetic work, Nineteen Eighty-Four. We are to live with the threat and illusion of endless war, it seems, in order to justify increased social control and state repression, while great power pursues its goal of global supremacy. Washington is transformed into ‘chief city of Airstrip One’ and every problem is blamed on the ‘enemy’, the evil Goldstein, as Orwell called him. He could be Osama bin Laden, or his successors, the ‘axis of evil’.

In the novel, three slogans dominate society: war is peace, freedom is slavery and ignorance is strength. Today’s slogan, ‘war on terrorism’, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism. The most potent weapon in this ‘war’ is pseudo-information, different only in form from that Orwell described, consigning to oblivion unacceptable truths and historical sense.
Dissent is permissible within ‘consensual’ boundaries, reinforcing the illusion that information and speech are ‘free’.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 did not ‘change everything’, but accelerated the continuity of events, providing an extraordinary pretext for destroying social democracy. The undermining of the Bill of Rights in the United States and the further dismantling of trial by jury in Britain and a plethora of related civil liberties are part of the reduction of democracy to electoral ritual: that is, competition between indistinguishable parties for the management of a single-ideology state.

Central to the growth of this ‘business state’ are the media conglomerates, which have unprecedented power, owning press and television, book publishing, film production and databases. They provide a virtual world of the ‘eternal present’, as Time magazine called it: politics by media, war by media, justice by media, even grief by media.

The ‘global economy’ is their most important media enterprise. ‘Global economy’ is a modern Orwellian term. On the surface, it is instant financial trading, mobile phones, McDonald’s, Starbucks, holidays booked on the net. Beneath this gloss, it is the globalisation of poverty, a world where most human beings never make a phone call and five on less than two dollars a day, where 6,000 children die every day from diarrhoea because they have no access to clean water.

You can read the entire introduction here. But buy the book. The research is impeccable and well-documented, and Pilger has an uncanny ability to bring what look like disparate and unrelated events into blinding focus, and expose the terrifying, systematic and ruthless logic behind the activities of the massively powerful business/political elite, the New Rulers of the World.


Last week there was a rash of news stories lamenting an across-the-board disastrous drop in viewership of television. The drop was most marked in young men, a key demographic for advertisers, and in viewership of the season’s new, mostly dirt-cheap ‘reality’ shows. There were dire warnings that if viewers didn’t return soon, huge rebates would be owed to advertisers who had been guaranteed a certain minimum number of passive consumer eyeballs. What’s interesting is that all of these ‘bad news’ stories have disappeared behind the ‘pay-per-view’ archive windows of the newspapers and network websites. All that’s left are choppy abstracts. Are the media prematurely burying stories that threaten to hurt their own advertising revenues?


In her semi-annual revisit to, Camille Paglia takes shots at Bush, Rumsfeld, Clark and some other Democratic presidential candidates, Hannity, and Madonna, and then dismisses blogs as “endless reams of bad prose” with “a lack of discipline” and “dreary meta-commentary”. I can only assume that Ms. Paglia hasn’t done much research on the subject, and has (as many others have done) judged all bloggers by a handful of unrepresentative A-listers. She says a good blog should have:

  • a sense of drama and theatre, energy and vision
  • a flair for language
  • strong use of visuals
  • conversational style, an antidote for “the inept writing of glossy magazines”
  • less focus on political minutiae and “gotcha” arguments and more attention to broader cultural issues

I’d argue that the best blogs have all this, and more. Maybe Ms. Paglia should look more closely, or at least hire a better researcher. It’s too bad interviewer Kerry Lauermann didn’t show her what some of Salon’s own bloggers have been doing.


The annual Tech Museum award winners have been announced. Winners are those that have developed and deployed innovative technology that improves the world: in education, equality & diversity, environmental protection, third world development or health. Read the stories: They’re modest but inspiring successes, and demonstrate that not all businesses are greedy and careless, and not all technology is bad.


This multimedia flash presentation is a year old, but still relevant and moving.


The MIT Blackjack team’s amazing story is now a best-seller. Wired broke the story last year. Mezrich is an engaging writer, and if you’ve watched the new James Caan series Las Vegas you’ll get a kick out of Mezrich’s view from the other side of the surveillance cameras.

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8 Responses to FRIDAY QUICKIES

  1. Raging Bee says:

    “Today’s slogan, ‘war on terrorism’, also reverses meaning. The war is terrorism.”That sounds like the same sort of “pseudo-information” and “orwellian” twists of language that Pilger pretends to condemn. Not to mention the old extremist practice of dodging tough moral choices, and pretending to be evenhanded, by arbitrarily calling both sides by the same epithet.Thank you for quoting that passage and illustrating Pilger’s massive credibility problem.

  2. Raging Bee says:

    Paglia…Paglia…Isn’t she the professed lesbian who bashes gay men for their “unnatural” behavior? That would be in keeping with the utter hypocricy of her latest ramblings, in which she bashes celebrity-addiction and pop culture, then judges nearly all of the Democratic candidates for the highest office in the USA on their physical attributes.She has some interesting things to say, many of them spot-on, but she has a major credibility problem, especially when she calls pro football her “pagan ritual,” or calls herself a “libertarian,” then boasts of voting for Nader.She’s just like Rush: making controversial statements solely to get public attention and ratings. What a joke!

  3. Dave Pollard says:

    Hey Dave: I respect your opinions. I would appreciate it though if you’d go back to signing your posts ‘PonyTailed Writer’, since there are too many ‘Daves’ out there and people have sometimes assumed that your posts come from me.

  4. Raging Bee says:

    Y’mean like this?Let’s see if it takes. The last time I tried to change my handle, I got some wierd and inconsistent results.And what’s this about going BACK to calling myself PonyTailed Writer? I don’t remember ever doing that. Have you been intercepting my email porn? :-)The PonyTailed Writer Formerly Known as Dave

  5. Sean says:

    I don’t think Pilger has ever claimed to be “even-handed.” Quite the contrary, I think he acknowledges that he has a definite agenda, based heavily on his reaction to what he sees in the world. While his strong, unreserved opinion of the modern world might make him an arrogent extremist, it doesn’t make him wrong.

  6. Mike says:

    If you like Pilger his ‘Breaking The Silence’ documentary has apparently been released on the net. It’s realmedia, about 13 megs, and almost an hour long (the video has been compressed considerably). It’s downloadable, I got mine from here:

  7. Dave Pollard says:

    Mike: Thanks — I’ve been scouring the listings for both my US and Canadian satellite dishes for this program in vain.

  8. Life Tenant says:

    I agree Paglia is an unreliable judge, but she’s an entertaining provocateur, and her tips for what makes a good blog (as reported by Dave P.) are right on (if a bit obvious), especially in today’s polemicized and image-saturated agora. Though I just wish I had the time & talent to follow her recommendations.

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