A second open letter to John Pilger

Dear John,

This is my second letter to you. I do not know if you ever read my first one. I can only assume you didn’t, or you didn’t find it interesting enough to comment.

Nevertheless, since sending it, I have continued to follow your writings and films, and have done what I can to spread the messages contained therein to everyone that I know. Nearly every piece of your output holds considerable value for anyone campaigning for truth and justice.

I am writing to you again now because I see you have a new project in the works and you are looking for crowd-funding for it. But again I see that it is focused on states’ foreign policies, rather than the lives of individuals.

I am disappointed because to my mind your best work is the work that shows the plight of individual people, and how their situations are the results of decisions made by other individual people; in other words, you function most powerfully as a social critic, in my opinion. When we watch Utopia, and The War You Don’t See and the one about the Chagossians, we see what has happened to our fellow humans, and what has been done to them by people that we ought to be ashamed to have as ‘leaders’.

I struggle to see how this angle could be present in a piece about an impending war between superpowers. It is precisely the kind of analysis that I am no longer interested in because it shifts focus from the real, concrete lives of individuals, and to abstract, reified concepts such as ‘states’ and ‘foreign policy’. Voluntaryists are not blind to the actions that constitute ‘foreign policy’ but we know that if this is to stop, the actors themselves must be stricken from the cast.

My last letter urged you to consider ways of life without these states, and I repeat my urging now, so that you can instead focus on what is important. You have a big platform, and I would hate to see you waste it by making another documentary that only serves state interests by carrying the assumption that they ought to exist, and suggests that they only ought to behave better. They will never behave better because they are comprised only of individuals who hold as their most basic tenets the evil that leads to everything you have covered, from the forced exile of the Chagossians to the child rapes of the Aboriginals.

More than anything, I am sick of the suggestion that lingers in some of your films that lobbying governments is the most that people can hope to do. This really struck home to me when I saw your interview with Mrs. Murray (around the 53 minute mark in ‘Utopia’) where after everything she has endured she still hopes for some kind of justice to come from the government that has abused her throughout her whole life.

Have you ever considered, John, that there are potential paths to justice that work outside of the government-civil society-4th estate model?

Is it too much to imagine that you might, before you die, make a movie that goes one stage further than the brilliant descriptive power you wield, and makes prescriptions for how people can change the way they think so that they don’t lend sanction to violence and power and coercion anymore? I hope not.

If we are to ever see such a world, I feel that prominent and visionary filmmakers like yourself can help usher it in. But you have to keep your message real, and keep it about people.

I wish you well even if you don’t change your plans. I am sure ‘The Coming War…’ will be a good movie if it is finished. It just won’t be as good as the Pilger movie that I can imagine in my mind that makes people realise what they are condoning by their silence and apathy.

Best wishes,


Bohemia, May 2015