John Pilger on President Obama: Don't believe the hype

Barack Obama is being lauded by liberals but the truth about him is that he represents the worst of the world's power.

My first visit to Texas was in 1968, on the fifth anniversary of the assassination of President John F Kennedy in Dallas. I drove south, following the line of telegraph poles to the small town of Midlothian, where I met Penn Jones Jr, editor of the Midlothian Mirror. Save for his drawl and fine boots, everything about Penn was the antithesis of the Texas stereotype. Having exposed the racists of the John Birch Society, his printing press had been repeatedly firebombed. Week after week, he painstakingly assembled evidence that all but demolished the official version of Kennedy's murder.

This was journalism as it had been before corporate journalism was invented, before the first schools of journalism were set up and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around those whose "professionalism" and "objectivity" carried an unspoken obligation to ensure that news and opinion were in tune with an establishment consensus, regardless of the truth. Journalists such as Penn Jones, independent of vested power, indefatigable and principled, often reflect ordinary American attitudes, which have seldom conformed to the stereotypes promoted by the corporate media on both sides of the Atlantic.

Read American Dreams: Lost and Found by the masterly Studs Terkel, who died on 31 October, or scan the surveys that unerringly attribute enlightened views to a majority who believe that "government should care for those who cannot care for themselves" and are prepared to pay higher taxes for universal health care, who support nuclear disarmament and want their troops out of other people's countries.

Returning to Texas, I am struck again by those so unlike the redneck stereotype, in spite of the burden of a form of brainwashing placed on most Americans from a tender age: that theirs is the most superior society in the world, and all means are justified, including the spilling of copious blood, in maintaining that superiority.

That is the subtext of Barack Obama's "oratory". He says he wants to build up US military power; and he threatens to ignite a new war in Pakistan, killing yet more brown-skinned people. That will bring tears, too. Unlike those on election night, these other tears will be unseen in Chicago and London. This is not to doubt the sincerity of much of the response to Obama's election, which happened not because of the unction that has passed for news reporting since 4 November (eg, "liberal Americans smiled and the world smiled with them"), but for the same reasons that millions of angry emails were sent to the White House and Congress when the "bailout" of Wall Street was revealed, and because most Americans are fed up with war.

Two years ago, this anti-war vote installed a Democratic majority in Congress, only to watch the Democrats hand over more money to George W Bush to continue his blood-fest. For his part, the "anti-war" Obama voted to give Bush what he wanted. Yes, Obama's election is historic, a symbol of great change to many. But it is equally true that the American elite has grown adept at using the black middle and management class. The courageous Martin Luther King recognised this when he linked the human rights of black Americans with the human rights of the Vietnamese, then being slaughtered by a "liberal" Democratic administration. And he was shot. In striking contrast, a young black major serving in Vietnam, Colin Powell, was used to "investigate" and whitewash the infamous My Lai massacre. As Bush's secretary of state, Powell was often described as a "liberal" and was considered ideal to lie to the United Nations about Iraq's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. Condaleezza Rice, lauded as a successful black woman, has worked assiduously to deny the Palestinians justice.

Obama's first two crucial appointments represent a denial of the wishes of his supporters on the principal issues on which they voted. The vice-president-elect, Joe Biden, is a proud warmaker and Zionist. Rahm Emanuel, who is to be the all-important White House chief of staff, is a fervent "neoliberal" devoted to the doctrine that led to the present economic collapse and impoverishment of millions. He is also an "Israel-first" Zionist who served in the Israeli army and opposes meaningful justice for the Palestinians - an injustice that is at the root of Muslim people's loathing of the US and the spawning of jihadism.

No serious scrutiny of this is permitted within the histrionics of Obama mania, just as no serious scrutiny of the betrayal of the majority of black South Africans was permitted within the "Mandela moment". This is especially marked in Britain, where America's divine right to "lead" is important to elite British interests. The Observer, which supported Bush's war in Iraq, echoing his fabricated evidence, now announces, without evidence, that "America has restored the world's faith in its ideals". These "ideals", which Obama will swear to uphold, have overseen, since 1945, the destruction of 50 governments, including democracies, and 30 popular liberation movements, causing the deaths of countless men, women and children.

None of this was uttered during the election campaign. Had that been allowed, there might even have been recognition that liberalism as a narrow, supremely arrogant, war-making ideology is destroying liberalism as a reality. Prior to Blair's criminal warmaking, ideology was denied by him and his media mystics. "Blair can be a beacon to the world," declared the Guardian in 1997. "[He is] turning leadership into an art form."

Today, merely insert "Obama". As for historic moments, there is another that has gone unreported but is well under way - liberal democracy's shift towards a corporate dictatorship, managed by people regardless of ethnicity, with the media as its clichéd façade. "True democracy," wrote Penn Jones Jr, the Texas truth-teller, "is constant vigilance: not thinking the way you're meant to think, and keeping your eyes wide open at all times."

John Pilger, renowned investigative journalist and documentary film-maker, is one of only two to have twice won British journalism's top award; his documentaries have won academy awards in both the UK and the US. In a New Statesman survey of the 50 heroes of our time, Pilger came fourth behind Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela. "John Pilger," wrote Harold Pinter, "unearths, with steely attention facts, the filthy truth. I salute him."

This article first appeared in the 17 November 2008 issue of the New Statesman, Obamania

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The New Statesman Quiz of the Year, 2016

Grab your pen and paper for this year's New Statesman quiz.

Brexit

1 Which foreign politician hailed Leave’s win in the EU referendum as a “Victory for freedom!”?

a Geert Wilders

b Norbert Hofer

c Donald Trump

d Marine Le Pen

 

2 Which London borough had the highest percentage of Remain voters in the EU referendum, at 78.6 per cent?

a Lambeth

b Ealing

c Merton

d Hammersmith and Fulham

 

3 Which of these newspapers did not support Leave?

Sunday Express

Sunday Times

Mail on Sunday

Sunday Telegraph

 

4 Boris Johnson caused controversy by suggesting to an Italian economics minister that Italy would allow the UK access to the single market in order to safeguard exports of what?

a Parma ham

b Prosecco

c Pasta

d Parmesan

5 In a YouGov poll asking voters how they thought fictional characters might vote in the EU referendum, who was viewed as most likely to vote Leave?

a Jim Royle

b Basil Fawlty

c Alan Partridge

d Mary Poppins

 

US politics

 

6 Which of these words did Donald Trump use most frequently during the three
presidential debates?

a Unbelievable

b Wonderful

c Tremendous

d Amazing

 

7 During his campaign, Trump suggested the father of his rival Ted Cruz could have been linked to whose assassination?

a John F Kennedy

b Robert F Kennedy

c Martin Luther King

d Anwar Sadat

 

8 What was Nigel Farage’s description of Trump during the second debate, in which he had to defend himself against assault charges and seemed to invade Hillary Clinton’s space?

a “A big silverback gorilla”

b “A mighty mountain
of a man”

c “A great white shark
sniffing blood”

d “A defiant, strong lion”

 

9 At a New York fundraiser in September, Hillary Clinton was assailed for saying that “half” of Donald Trump’s supporters could be described as “a basket of . . .” what?

a Unmentionables

b Deplorables

c Awfulness

d Idiocy

 

10 Which of these states did not swing from the Democrats to the Republicans in the 2016 US presidential election?

a Iowa

b Pennsylvania

c Ohio

d Virginia

 

UK politics

 

11 In August, which former cabinet minster was photographed firing off a machine-gun, Rambo-style, while on holiday in Vietnam?

a George Osborne

b Michael Gove

c Nicky Morgan

d Ken Clarke

 

12 Who claimed in his autobiography, Speaking Out, that the idea Jeremy Corbyn will take Labour back to power is a “leftist utopian fantasy”?

a David Miliband

b Ed Balls

c Alastair Campbell

d Neil Kinnock

 

13 In the first round of voting in the Conservative leadership contest, who received the support of 34 MPs?

a Liam Fox

b Michael Gove

c Andrea Leadsom

d Stephen Crabb

 

14 Who won in the Politician category at GQ magazine’s Men of the Year awards?

a Boris Johnson

b Nigel Farage

c Sadiq Khan

d Jacob Rees-Mogg

 

15 Labour now boasts the largest number of members of any political party in western Europe. What was the party membership figure by September?

a 388,400

b 551,000

c 776,300

d 917,000

 

Around Britain

 

16 What did Sergeant Colin Norden, a Cambridgeshire police officer, call “the biggest organised crime group” in the country because of a racket in picking wild berries and selling them on?

a Scouts

b Ramblers’ Association

c Women’s Institute

d Camra

 

17 Despite public demand for the name Boaty McBoatface, after whom was the UK’s new polar research ship eventually named?

Michael Palin

David Attenborough

Ranulph Fiennes

Bear Grylls

 

18 London’s new railway Crossrail will be given what name when it opens in December 2018?

a The Regal Line

b The Elizabeth Line

c The Queen Line

d The Windsor Line

 

19 A new Royal Bank of Scotland £10 note will be the first to carry a picture of a woman who is not a member of the royal family. Who?

a Mary Somerville

b Muriel Spark

c Flora MacDonald

d Winnie Ewing

 

20 Which of these products briefly became scarce in Tesco supermarkets this year after a price disagreement with the supplier, Unilever?

a Pot Noodles

b Colman’s Mustard

c Bisto

d Marmite

 

21 According to the Office for National Statistics’ happiness index, which religion has the highest happiness rating?

a Hinduism

b Buddhism

c Christianity

d Judaism

 

22 A study found that which biscuit can endure the most number of dunks into a cup of tea before breaking apart?

a Bourbon

b Custard cream

c Digestive

d Rich Tea

World

 

23 The Cuban leader Fidel Castro died in November at the age of 90. Ten US presidents held office during his time in power, but who was Fidel’s first US counterpart?

a Harry S Truman

b Dwight D Eisenhower

c John F Kennedy

d Lyndon B Johnson

 

24 Archaeologists used laser technology to discover a number of hitherto lost medieval cities in the jungles of which country?

a Guatemala

b Thailand

c Cambodia

d Brazil

 

25 Maria Grazia Chiuri became the first female creative director of which fashion house?

a Valentino

b Givenchy

c Louis Vuitton

d Christian Dior

 

26 Which European country voted to reject a proposal to introduce a guaranteed basic income for all its citizens?

a Finland

b Norway

c Switzerland

d Austria

 

27 In which US city were 11 police officers shot, five of them fatally, by at least two snipers at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in July?

a New Orleans

b Atlanta

c Dallas

d St Louis

 

28 Adama Barrow won Gambia’s presidential election. As a student in London, he once worked as a security guard for which high-street retailer?

a Marks & Spencer

b Argos

c John Lewis

d Boots

 

29 Which politician was heavily criticised for having a personal barber who earns €10,000 a month?

a Matteo Renzi

b Joachim Gauck

c Mariano Rajoy

d François Hollande

 

Sport


30 The 23 March is a special day for sport, as three of Britain’s four most successful Olympians, in terms of gold medals won, share a birthday on that date. Which of the four men won his medals despite being born on 28 April?

a Chris Hoy

b Steve Redgrave

c Bradley Wiggins

d Jason Kenny

 

31 In which sport did Great Britain win most of its gold medals from the Rio Olympics?

a Rowing

b Cycling

c Swimming

d Sailing

 

32 Great Britain took second place in the Rio Paralympics table with 147 medals (including 64 gold) behind which country?

a China

b Russia

c United States

d Germany

 

33 Which Scottish golf course was removed from the list of possible venues for the Open Championship after it voted to retain its “men only” membership policy?

a Turnberry

b Muirfield

c Carnoustie

d Royal Troon

 

34 Who appeared on the BBC’s Match of the Day wearing only his underpants, after he promised to do so if Leicester City won the Premier League?

a Alan Shearer

b Mark Lawrenson

c Ian Wright

d Gary Lineker

 

35 Which British tennis player won the mixed doubles title at Wimbledon?

a Laura Robson

b Naomi Broady

c Johanna Konta

d Heather Watson

 

36 Borussia Mönchengladbach changed their name to “A German Team” on Twitter in response to fans of which UK side being unable to spell the name?

a Liverpool

b Celtic

c Aberdeen

d Manchester City

 

Arts and books

37 Love by All Sorts of Means was Brendan King’s biography of which writer, whom he worked for as secretary and assistant for 23 years?

a Beryl Bainbridge

b Penelope Lively

c Doris Lessing

d Barbara Pym

 

38 Which former Blue Peter presenter published the debut novel The Butcher’s Hook?

a Valerie Singleton

b Mark Curry

c Konnie Huq

d Janet Ellis

 

39 Which comedian and television presenter’s painting of David Beckham’s tattoos was part of the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition?

a Nick Hancock

b Justin Lee Collins

c Harry Hill

d Leigh Francis

 

40 Which artist acquired exclusive rights to “Vantablack”, said to be the “blackest black” pigment of paint?

a Grayson Perry

b Chris Ofili

c Jeremy Deller

d Anish Kapoor

 

41 Which musical won 11 Tony Awards from 16 nominations, falling one short of the all-time record held by The Producers?

School of Rock

Hamilton

Waitress

Fun Home

 

42 Who was the only Briton to make the Forbes Top Ten list of the world’s highest-paid comedians?

a Peter Kay

b Frankie Boyle

c Kevin Bridges

d John Bishop

 

Science and media

 

43 In the first 15 years of Wikipedia, which person’s entry was edited the most?

a Justin Bieber

b Barack Obama

c Adolf Hitler

d George W Bush

 

44 A study found the average smartphone user touches their device how many times a day?

a 137

b 589

c 1,457

d 2,617

 

45 The wildlife TV presenter Chris Packham controversially suggested that children should be encouraged to eat which local wildlife?

a Snails

b Earthworms

c Tadpoles

d Grasshoppers

 

46 Researchers found that the milk of which Australian marsupial is capable of killing antibiotic-resistant human pathogens?

a Tasmanian devil

b Red kangaroo

c Quokka

d Tiger quoll

 

47 Scientists suggested which sixth “basic taste” to describe the flavour of bread and potatoes?

a Starchiness

b Solid

c Heavy

d Glutinous

 

Media

 

48 Which national newspaper closed after only nine weeks of operation?

New Day

New European

First News

24

 

49 Which newspaper led the investigation that brought Sam Allardyce’s time as England manager to an end after 67 days?

Times

Daily Telegraph

Daily Express

Observer

 

50 Which magazine published Sean Penn’s interview with Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán that Mexican officials claim led them to the drug kingpin’s hiding place?

Esquire

New Yorker

Rolling Stone

Vice

 

Film, TV, music

 

51 Spike Lee’s latest film, Chi-Raq, is a modern-day adaptation of which play by Aristophanes?

The Clouds

Lysistrata

The Frogs

The Birds

 

52 Which film won the
Golden Globe award for
Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, despite being neither a musical nor a comedy?

Carol

The Big Short

Steve Jobs

The Martian

 

53 Who played the title role in Fleabag, the TV adaptation of her 2013 Edinburgh one-woman play of the same name?

a Joanna Vanderham

b Zawe Ashton

c Phoebe Waller-Bridge

d Immy Waterhouse

 

54 Who became the highest-grossing female film star of all time?

a Jennifer Lawrence

b Scarlett Johansson

c Zoë Saldana

d Nicole Kidman

 

55 Which German film by the director Sebastian Schipper was shot in a single, continuous take?

Victoria

Mary

Anna

Eva

 

56 The season finale of Westworld revealed the existence of which other theme park?

a Space World

b Medieval World

c Gangster World

d Samurai World

 

57 The video for Kanye West’s song “Famous” did not feature which of these people in the form of a naked sleeping waxwork?

a Barack Obama

b Anna Wintour

c Donald Trump

d Bill Cosby

 

58 Which musician released the online animal rights game This Beautiful Creature Must Die in collaboration with Peta?

a Paul McCartney

b Morrissey

c Moby

d Dave Navarro

 

59 The Eurovision Song Contest-winning song “1944” commemorated which event?

a D-Day landings

b Deportation of the
Crimean Tatars

c Battle of Monte Cassino

d Liberation of Leningrad

Click here for the answers.

This article first appeared in the 15 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas and New Year special 2016