From Publishers Weekly
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 infotainmentAstories 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.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Kirkus Reviews
Award-winning British journalist Pilger, author of A Secret Country: The Hidden Australia (1992), looks again for the truth behind Orwellian officialdom in Great Britain, the US, South Africa, Indonesia, and, most notably, Burma. Pilger makes a clear and disturbing case that US management of the media in the Gulf War covered up one-quarter of a million deaths, most of them civilian. And the reader may well follow his claims, US protests to the contrary, that the subsequent embargo kept food out of the mouths of children and medicine from the sick. But to go light on his criticism of Saddam Hussein or to claim that Israel is nothing but a US client state that has committed more acts of terrorism that any other Middle East entity seems like old Soviet propaganda, rather than truth. Pilger is, in fact, fervently anticapitalist in the manner of an old-style Soviet apparatchik. Thus, one cannot entirely trust his critique of big media such as CNN and the various enterprises of Rupert Murdoch, though such criticism is gratifying and long overdue. Pilger strikes home the most convincingly when he takes on British arms merchants, and he does so by sticking to numbers and actual quotations from officials. He's at his most passionate in his two chapters on modern Burma, writing about a railroad and an oil pipeline being built with slave labor, even with child labor. One would hardly expect Pilger to say kind things about Burma's generals, and he documents the collusion of multinational companies in the exploitation of Burma, but even here one senses that a fine reporter has veered into pamphleteering. A brave and badly needed corrective that itself seems untrustworthy at times but manages to point out the lies behind slick official policy and criticize the media that sell them, even so. -- Copyright ©1999, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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