Wednesday, August 29, 2007

John Pilger: The War on Democracy

John Pilger's newest documentary (and the first produced expressly for theatrical distribution) is The War on Democracy. Not so far from its Australian release; Pilger will be introducing a couple screenings as part of a promotional visit - Melbourne's turn is at the Nova, evening of 20th September...

Pilger can be partisan, & is sometimes prone to agit-prop. Not necessarily a bad or dishonourable thing: Pilger's docos of the late '70s (& beyond) not only alerted the world to the catastrophe of Cambodia, but led to millions of dollars in charitable donations from the international public... This, over a period in which the governments of USA, UK, and other western nations (Australia!) were maintaining military and material support to the genocidal Khmer Rouge of Pol Pot.

The thesis of his new film echoes that of an Argentinean documentary of a couple years back; Memoria del Saqueo by Pino Solanas... (from my review of the time)
"Solanas’ documentary raises some troubling questions about the economic function of representative democracy in the third world – is it just a convenient means of delivering legitimacy to the familiar pattern of imperial rapine? That ‘blonde monster’ to the North throws its long shadow over Argentine history, and the shift from rule by military junta to elected government has failed to deliver material improvement to the lives of most Argentineans; rather, state enterprises were sold to alien interests, and the foreign capital seemingly embezzled to launder huge fortunes in narco-profits..."

Within the South American context, Pilger's doco is dealing more with the specific experience of Venezuela. It is a colourful recent history, and Pilger has declared his admiration for the new varieties of "direct democracy" which are emerging there... and in contrast to the neo-nazi death squads which have been a prominent feature of more-than-a-few US-backed regimes in that part of the world.

This is an argument which has been elaborated by Antonio Negri & Michael Hardt in their collaborative works, Empire & Multitude (personally, I prefer the later, which reads a lot better in English than its precursor & companion). Among their contentions: that "democracy" has become an arbitrary term - in the vocabulary of empire, it merely describes a state which is favourable to imperial interests... and by definition, governments which prize the welfare of their own citizens above that of foreign multinationals & investors become "despotic", "evil", etc etc etc.

There is an obvious danger to this particular abuse of language: how then do we distinguish a genuine tyrant?

More Pilger infos can be found here and here

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Blogger the antipenultimate said...

This was on tv here last week. Delegated to 11pm slot but at least they screened it. It's good - really good. Quite disturbing in parts. Pilger is as hysterical and passionate as ever -bordering on the maniacal in his distaste for yankee-land whilst sportng a weird silver do on top of the noggin. Catch it before 'they' take on iran and we all spiral into a perpetual abyss/abcess. fun times!

8:11 pm  

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