cover image Hidden Agendas

Hidden Agendas

John Pilger, Author New Press $18.95 (412p) ISBN 978-1-56584-520-6

An Australian-born, London-based journalist and TV documentarian, Pilger might be thought of as Noam Chomsky with a journalist's chops, given his ability to unpack the power relations in the events he chronicles and his trenchant reports from the field. This hefty collection of his dispatches and essays, some of which began as items in the Guardian and the New Statesman, concerns ""slow news."" In Pilger's words, ""slow news"" consists of stories that unfold in the shadows of fast-breaking, world-shaking events, but fail to register in a mass media dominated by infotainment--stories like the death of Iraqi civilians, the exploitation of Haitian children, the forced demise of the Caribbean banana trade. Pilger's most accessible polemics are grounded in reporting, as when he observes the ""refined absurdity"" of an arms fair or depicts an arms dealer claiming to be a ""simple businessman."" Better still are his reports from Burma, where he not only met the resolute dissident Aung San Suu Kyi but also filmed slave laborers. Pilger's attack on the British media, from the BBC to Rupert Murdoch, whose headquarters at Wapping, England, he calls ""a cultural Chernobyl,"" may fail to interest an American readership. But his accounts of the newly democratized South Africa and Vietnam's deprivations under World Bank-imposed strictures remind us that globalization does not lift all boats. Pilger sounds self-righteous at times and occasionally overstates his case: the mainstream media is not nearly so silent as he charges. But these essays pack a powerful punch, raising questions thathis peers in the news trade can ill afford to ignore. (Apr.)