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War (what is it good for?) – Pilger gets standing ovation

“Pilger’s work has been a beacon of light during very dark times,” Noam Chomsky.

Two icons had the crowd hanging off every word as Phillip Adams hosted John Pilger in the Southern Cross University tent this afternoon at the Byron Bay Writers’ Festival.

Over the years, John Pilger has been instrumental in shedding light on social injustice around the world. Passionate and unapologetic, the left-wing journalist and documentary-maker gave insight and understanding into how we’ve come to know the world we live in today.

Listen to the session in full here.

“Obama is a brand”: this was the statement that jerked me into consciousness. Pilger unloaded on Obama and his failing of the American people.

[Obama’s] got five wars going on around the world… he’s betrayed the people at the bottom of society,” said Pilger.

This statement sums up the feelings Pilger has about Obama, but the notion of Obama the brand, I’d never heard that one before. This brand Pilger speaks of is the notion that Obama is “the man in front of the showcase”. That showcase, is a US government richly invested in upending countries for resources such as oil and fighting wars under the guise of human rights issues.

“Human rights is always a cover for an attack on a country,” said Pilger.

“Along my travels I’ve learned you don’t invest in the morality of great power,” said Pilger.

Then it came to the idea that governments are extremists. Pilger drew the comparison for when governments license a view among the people that accepts racist or xenophobic views. His examples include Australia’s stance on refugees – a stance that has not changed despite changes in government.

“Howard had views on race and xenophobia that weren’t unlike Pauline Hanson,” said Pilger.

Wiki leaks was the next topic that pricked up my interest. Pilger is a huge advocate for the work of Julian Assange and the crowd shared his sentiments greatly. Pilger slammed Prime Minister Gillard, a lawyer, for pre-judging Assange and failing him as an Australian citizen.

Pilger remembers a time when journalists used to be more representative of the people on the ground, not the ones in power.

“Journalists used to be agents of people, not agents of power,” said Pilger.

Where do we go to from here you might ask? Pilger believes we need to distance ourselves from Australia’s allies such as America and forge our own independence and identity.

“We have to have a sea change in our attitude to this great allies,” said Pilger.

Pilger had some other ideas about how we can forge this identity and pointed out two things that are paramount to this change.

“Nationhood has to be given back to the first Australians,” said Pilger.

“We need to start speaking as a nation not as a satellite state of the United States,” said Pilger.

These statements were met with huge applause and the vibe around the tent was one of optimism. I heard many comments from people that they thought it was “about time”.

Pilger’s talk ended to a standing ovation as the Byron Bay crowd commended him on such an uncensored talk that they could all feel on some deep level of freedom and justice.

Alex Workman is a Southern Cross University media student.



  1. Thanks Alex,

    Nice review. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend, do you know anywhere I can listen to the address or read a full transcript?


  2. My take on the Pilger session on my blog En Passant with John Passant. The Byron Bay Writers’ Festival and revolution.

    Here is an extract.

    ‘John was his usual brilliant self. He argued for example that Obama was a continuation of Bush, that Americans were way to the left of their politicians, that the American empire was going to use Australia as a major base for its military encirclement of China, that we had to reach a settlement with aborigines, that our treatment of refugees was criminal and so on.

    ‘The audience loved him. He received a standing ovation at the end.

    ‘That got me thinking about the political deficit – the support among ordinary Australians for basic left wing positions and yet the lack of support for revolutionary organisations.

  3. scumediastudents says

    Hi Megan,

    Thank you. I’ll talk to our radio team and see if they can get some audio up.


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