John Pilger reveals The War You Don't See


Written by Siobhan Morrin
13 Monday 13th December 2010
It’s well-timed perhaps that John Pilger’s film on the hidden agenda of war reporting is being released now, the same month that Wikileaks is making front pages with Pilger himself voicing his support for his Aussie kindred. It's a great coincidence for the film's publicity, yet at the same time events prove how essential the issues raised in the film are. The War You Don’t See is John Pilger’s criticism of the selective reporting - in essence propaganda - about wars that have happened through the twentieth century.
Tracing the origins of war reporting back as far as the First World War, Pilger traces the origins of modern PR to Bernays, a man who convinced Americans of the heroism of dying in battle. Perhaps twinning modern journalism with PR will rile some as it becomes clear throughout the film how close the disciplines are, and how far PR purposes are being served by journalists who should know better.
While spanning the twentieth century, it is Iraq and Afghanistan that receive the most in depth treatment. Emotive footage is shown of Iraqi civilians being forced out of their homes at gunpoint, and later a makeshift graveyard where the headstones have desperately anonymous epitaphs such as "man in a tracksuit with a key in his hand". Few of these scenes are familiar from the mainstream media. Clips from American news stations, including headlines like ‘Showdown Iraq’ presented by an anchor with a love of guns, are interspersed with real images of war.
Of course, the content is heavy stuff, but the treatment is engaging, managing to raise a few laughs - even if they are bitter ones.
Murdoch’s empire is described as ‘cartoonish news’ and is an easy target for Pilger - more significantly, he points to quality broadcasters, including the BBC, for their more subtle bias. It’s rare to see journalists squirm, but heads at the BBC and ITV come in for some tough and uncomfortable questioning from Pilger about selective reporting and the potential biases in embedded journalism.
Shock and Awe in Baghdad.
Inevitably, the role of Wikileaks is discussed, and one of their biggest releases, Collateral Murder, forms part of the film. Even if you’ve seen it, the US helicopter attack that killed Iraqi civilians and injured two children still makes for disturbing viewing. The words of the trigger happy soldiers are all the more chilling on the big screen.
The sold-out premiere at the Barbican was perhaps preaching to the converted. This isn’t however a film to be written off as a leftie indie, only showing in obscure theatres- on Tuesday 14 December it will show to the most massive of audiences - television. Maybe it’s ironic that the media Pilger so criticizes allows his film airtime so near release. Let’s just hope people tune in - it’s a film that everyone should see.

The War You Don't See will be screened in the UK on ITV1 on Dec 14 at 10:35. If you missed the TV premiere, you can catch it at selected cinemas (see list here). It is also available to buy on DVD - details at

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  • Guest: tyneham
    Wed 15 - Dec - 2010, 06:36
    In his latest factual documentary film by award winning investigative journalist John Pilger, The War You Don’t See exposes 99.99% of news and current affairs media people working for mainstream outfits who never question political liars … Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me again, shame on me… Pilger is voice for the voiceless. Just like Wikileaks and Julian Paul Assange, Pilger is a champion of those for whom he fights and the scourge of politicians. Other films by John Pilger include "War On Democracy" ; "Breaking the Silence" ; "Paying the Price" ; "War By Other Means" . 99.99% of broadcasters cannot match Pilger's performance and backbone. Adam Curtis of the BBC TV made "The Power of Nightmares: The Politics of Fear" that only tried to give credence to the war criminals.