Sunday, June 12, 2011

John Pilger Protests Banning of his Film at Lannan Foundation Event

In an infuriating display of censorship, the Lannan Foundation has cancelled at the last minute, and with no explanation, an appearance at their Santa Fe, New Mexico series of events by award-winning journalist John Pilger, whose new film exposes the media spin on how the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been reported. Pilger's new film, "The War You Don't See," was supposed to be screened at the event, according to Pilger.

I can only guess that someone got to the Lannan Foundation, or that they blanched at criticisms that might mean some uncomfortable moments for their various speakers. We don't really know. Recent speakers at Lannan-sponsored "readings and conversations" include Center for Constitutional Rights' Michael Ratner, journalist Chris Hedges, blogger Glenn Greenwald, and NPR correspondent Maria Hinojosa.

The Lannan Foundation states that it "recognizes the profound and often unquantifiable value of the creative process and is willing to take risks and make substantial investments in ambitious and experimental thinking. Understanding that globalization threatens all cultures and ecosystems, the Foundation is particularly interested in projects that encourage freedom of inquiry, imagination, and expression."

Read John Pilger's Open Letter, reproduced below, and you be the judge.
An open letter to Noam Chomsky and the general public.

Dear Noam

I am writing to you and a number of other friends mostly in the US to alert you to the extraordinary banning of my film on war and media, 'The War You Don't See', and the abrupt cancellation of a major event at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe in which David Barsamian and I were to discuss free speech, US foreign policy and censorship in the media.

Lannan invited me and David over a year ago and welcomed my proposal that they also host the US premiere of 'The War You Don't See', in which US and British broadcasters describe the often hidden part played by the media in the promotion of war, notably in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film has been widely acclaimed in the UK and Australia; the trailer and reviews are on my website

The banning and cancellation, which have shocked David and me, are on the personal orders of Patrick Lannan, whose wealth funds the Lannan Foundation as a liberal centre of discussion of politics and the arts. Some of you will have been there and will know the Lannan Foundation as a valuable supporter of liberal causes. Indeed, I was invited in 2002 to present a Lannan award to the broadcaster Amy Goodman.

What is deeply disturbing about the ban is that it happened so suddenly and inexplicably: 48 hours before David Barsamian and I were both due to depart for Santa Fe I received a brief email with a 'sorry for the inconvenience' from a Lannan official who had been telling me just a few days earlier what a 'great honour' it was to have the US premiere of my film at Lannan, with myself in attendance.

I urge you to visit the Lannan website Good people like Michael Ratner, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are shown as participants in discussion about freedom of speech. I am there, too, but my name is the only one with a line through it and the word, 'Cancelled'.

Neither David Barsamian nor I have been given a word of explanation. All my messages to Lannan have gone unanswered; my calls calls are not returned; my flights were cancelled summarily. At the urging of the New Mexican newspaper, Patrick Lannan has issued a one-sentence statement offering his regrets to the Lannan-supporting 'community' in Santa Fe. Again, he gives no reason for the ban. I have spoken to the manager of the Santa Fe cinema where 'The War You Don't See' was to be screened. He received a late-night call. Again, no reason for the ban was forthcoming, giving him barely time to cancel advertising in The New Mexican, which was forced to drop a major feature.

There is a compelling symbol of our extraordinary times in all of this. A rich and powerful individual and organisation, espousing freedom of speech, has moved ruthlessly and unaccountably to crush it.

With warm regards

John Pilger

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