To Pilger or Not to Pilger: Honoring a Legacy

As a journalist, author and documentary filmmaker, John Pilger has long stood as an unapologetic and determined foe of governments, wars and propaganda throughout his career. He has been equally a passionate seeker of facts and truth whenever they were being covered up by those in positions of authority. He also passionately followed the most important ethic of working in the news media: Be the voice of the voiceless.

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The Real Heroes of an Unjust War

Twenty years ago today, a United States president declared war and launched an invasion against a sovereign Middle Eastern nation, Iraq, citing an imminent threat to the American Way of Life (AWOL) and all that it stands for. President George W. Bush, the American boy-king, proceeded to unleash a military offensive the Pentagon called “Operation Shock and Awe” on the capital city of Baghdad that threatened the lives and livelihood of millions of innocent Iraqi people, not to mention the stability and security of the entire region and international community.

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On the Trail of the Cowards

...Today, a half-century later, investigators and prosecutors at various levels of government around the U.S. are hot on the trail of a whole new set of cowards — those involved in the planning, organizing and carrying out of the 6 January attack on the U.S. Congress in 2021. Like Garrison did more than half a century earlier, investigators and prosecutors at various levels today are exposing such cowards for who they are. And what these cowards are revealing to the world is not a pretty picture of America, the land of justice and freedom.

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Defying the Media Mantra of a ‘Great Leader’

In death as in life, the late prime minister Shinzo Abe divides the nation of Japan. Following Abe’s assassination on a public street in the city of Nara in broad daylight last month, the Japanese government has decided on an official state funeral for Abe to be held on 27 September. The public in Japan is increasingly voicing its opposition to this state funeral, the first such event to be held in this country in more than a half-century. Why should the death of an ultra-nationalist, far-right leader whose policies were so detrimental to democracy in Japan and who was so lowly regarded by so many citizens be honored with taxpayer money? they demand to know.

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The Great American War Hero Who Wasn’t

News media worldwide are awash now with stories about the recent death of Colin Powell, a towering figure in the world of American military matters and diplomacy, at the age of 84 due to coronavirus-related causes. Past presidents of the United States, not to mention right-wing media and the corporate press in general, are showering the late Powell with praise as a “great American,” a patriot and a war hero in the grand tradition of warmongering in the USA.

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Election 2020 Editorial: Bury Trump

The clock is now ticking down to the general election being held in the United States, in which a U.S. president, members of Congress and local issues will be decided by voters in just a couple more days. The most important campaign being watched, of course, is the one deciding which candidate — Donald Trump of the Republican Party or Joseph Biden of the Democratic Party — will occupy the presidential office in the White House. Both candidates’ campaigns are calling this particular election a “battle for the soul of the nation,” and it would be hard to disagree on that point.

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When in Washington, Do as the Romans Do

A damaging impeachment trial, a ravaging global pandemic, a crashing domestic economy and explosive uprisings in cities across the United States: Any one of these factors would be enough to seal the fate of an American president, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, and consign a president’s legacy to the trash heap of history.

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Declothing the Emperor — A Viral Story

Folktales abound in ancient cultures and countries of some vainglorious king who is hoodwinked by a dishonest tailor and made to believe he is wearing a magnificent suit of fine regal robes, when, in fact, he is wearing nothing at all — as he finds out only after he leaves the castle walls and parades himself to a gawking public that sees his royal highness in all his nakedness.

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First Steps to Freedom: A Mandela Moment in Time

It is the only historical event in modern times that literally takes my breath away whenever I see a picture of it or stop and think of it, with time itself standing still and my heart overwhelmed just in the simple act of remembering that day. No other event ever does that to me. I’m talking about the moment Nelson Mandela walked out of prison in South Africa on 11 February 1990 — today, exactly 30 years ago.

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High Crimes and His Demeanor, Part Two

In the end, one political party found its backbone, another party sold its soul to the fire down below, one senator found righteousness in religion, and one president finally achieved something he could crow about as a “victory”. That, in a nutshell, is the legacy of the impeachment trial in Washington DC of Donald J. Trump, the fake 45th president of the United States, that resulted in his acquittal instead of dismissal from office.

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Inside the Quake Zone, 25 Years On

We walk the streets of the old neighborhood this afternoon, remembering another place, another time. Our former apartment building is still there on the south side of JR Koshienguchi station in Nishinomiya, but the cozy third-floor unit where my wife, son and I first lived as a new family, apartment #303, is now being rented out to some local business. The family-run liquor shop just across the way from us in the local shopping arcade is still there, as is the old family-run stationery shop, the shelves filled with office supplies and paper that seemed unmoved since 17 January 1995, the day of the big quake.

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The Perfect President!!! and Other Popular Children’s Fables

...Once upon a time, in a land not so far away, a babe was born in a manger to Joseph and Mary, two proud and happy parents. The manger, located in the top-floor executive suite of the highest skyscraper in America, Trump Castle & Palace, was soon filled with the Wise Men of Wall Street below who had come to the top of the building by express elevator, eager to look at this new bright and shining baby. “A Child is born!!!” they said excitedly. He was found to be a one-in-a-million-boy, an Orange Albino with wavy orange hair and an artificial orange-and-white skin tone. This was a sign from God, the Wise Men said, that the boy was destined to grow up someday and rule the land forever. Or at least until he was kicked out, whichever came first. And so, they christened him The Chosen One. And so he was, from then on.

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Banned in Japan: The Little Statue that Roared

Welcome, dear readers, to Aichi Trienniale 2019, one of the largest Japanese contemporary festivals in the country. Held every three years since 2010, this festival attracts artists from around Japan and the globe, while promoting such lofty goals as “contributing to the global development of culture and art” and “bringing culture and art into people’s daily lives” as its mission.

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Meet the Neo-Fascist Leader’s Long-Lost Twin Brother

You can always judge a person by the company he/she keeps, as the old saying goes, and nowhere does that hold truer than in the world of global politics. The fake president of the United States (FPOTUS), Donald Trump, for one, has never met a right-wing extremist leader of a nation or a military strongman he didn’t like, and these dangerous leaders have returned the love to the American fake president in kind.

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The Ghosts of Tiananmen, Thirty Years On

Like many around the world, I sat glued before the television set, transfixed by the scenes of thousands of people jamming a public square in the Chinese capital of Beijing for weeks on end as they demanded democracy and a more honest, open form of government from their political leaders. It was the spring of 1989, and I was living in a tiny one-room apartment in downtown Osaka, Japan and working as a journalist.

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All Power to the Peaceful

Both tragic events happened on the 15th of the month, one on a Sunday morning before church services inside a Christian Baptist Church and the other on a Friday afternoon during open worship inside two Muslim mosques. One of the events resulted in the deaths of four young girls of the congregation, the other in the deaths of 50 young and old faithful followers.

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When Freedom of the Press Means ‘Unfree’

An independent journalist decided earlier this month to travel overseas to the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen, hoping to cross over legally into the war-torn country and report on the dangerous situation there. Saudi Arabia, using military weapons supplied in part by its ally, the United States, has joined the civil war in Yemen, one of the poorest nations in the Arab world, and the result is one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. This particular journalist decided to take a risk and try to get into Yemen, with the idea of telling the world what is really happening there on the ground. That is what journalists do, after all.

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Don't Say the Dreaded I-word!

A reigning right-wing president of the United States of America becomes increasingly unpopular among the people, as poll numbers show. His economic policies at home and his foreign policies abroad — especially concerning war and the threat of war — spur on public calls that this boy-emperor of a president be impeached and be punished for his illegal and immoral crimes while in office.

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Parry’s Way: Journalism as It Should be Done

All the recent obituaries, eulogies and rightful praise for the work of the late American investigative journalist Robert Parry have now moved on by, leaving us only to reflect on the impact that his kind of journalism has had on the mass media field in our time and, just as importantly, where that kind of journalism could and should go from here.

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No Necktie for a Dictator

It was January 1990 and here I was at a conference center in Harare, the capital city of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe, sniffing around for some kind of a good story I might report at a high-level, ministerial meeting of British Commonwealth nations — a gathering of sovereign countries, like Zimbabwe, that still bowed down and answered to their former colonial master, the United Kingdom, out of economic necessity and survival. Nothing much happening here, I thought, and I was just about ready to leave the boring governmental event empty-handed.

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The Most Curious Creature of All

The world of politics, as they say, makes for strange bedfellows indeed. The Right sleeps around with the Left, the Left sleeps around with the Right, and the Center sleeps around with just about anybody they can find across the spectrum. Nothing unusual about that, though, right? Politics, after all, is arguably the world’s oldest profession.

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 1)

Today, 16 January, the people of the United States of America will recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a national holiday. And just as they have for most of the 31 years that the birthday of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has been a nationally observed holiday, the American news media will basically get the story wrong.

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A New Media Storyline for MLK (pt. 2)

• 1968 — The new year of 1968 begins on a turbulent note with a severe routing of U.S. forces in South Vietnam as part of the successful “Tet offensive” of the North Vietnamese guerrilla fighters, exposing the lies of U.S. military commanders and President Johnson himself that the USA was winning the war in Vietnam. U.S. public opinion against the war rises steadily from this point onward. Rev. King, at this critical time, stands at the forefront of the nation’s anti-war movement. And, as the above editorial cartoon shows, King is being increasingly viewed by white America as a rabble-rouser and a "troublemaker" who needed to be dealt with; U.S. government agencies such as the FBI are treating King as public enemy No. 1.

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Arigato, Japan, for Thirty Years

The sight of huge gaudy billboards, one next to another, advertising some of the biggest names in Japanese electronics: Sony, Panasonic, Fujitsu — that was my first image of Japan. That was how Japan presented itself on the world stage back in the 1980s, and several decades later that is still the strongest memory I have of the country I’ve long called home.

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Three Books in the Bag (or, A Year of Living Creatively)

It is always worth a celebration when you get a book project finished. You naturally want to share with the world the results of your labor, and you watch with great anticipation how your work is being received one way or the other. These past few years I’ve been lucky enough to get at least one book project (and sometimes two) brought to completion in a year’s time.

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Remembering ‘Dark Alliance’ (3)

High up in a skyscraper overlooking the port of San Francisco, California, Coral Talavera Baca began telling the story of “Dark Alliance” that no one in the USA had yet heard. It was a sunny Saturday afternoon, 15 February 1997, and a TV documentary program crew from Japan (for which I served as coordinator) had her wired for sound and the video camera rolling. It was all going on the record — her first public comments ever in regard to the controversial “Dark Alliance” investigation by San Jose Mercury News reporter Gary Webb that was published the year before.

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Remembering ‘Dark Alliance’ (2)

There is nothing like a little police harassment to lend an air of authenticity to producing a TV documentary on the so-called “drug scourge”, and that, appropriately enough, is just what I and a couple other Japanese members of a video production team first experienced upon our landing at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on Sunday afternoon, 9 February 1997.

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Remembering ‘Dark Alliance’ (1)

It was late in the afternoon on a September day in 1996, when my wife and I and our young son, then just a couple years old, visited a small retail store in West Los Angeles that U.S. filmmaker Spike Lee had recently opened to promote merchandise from his various films. Being a fan of Lee’s work at the time, I knew his store, “Spike’s West”, was one of the places we had to visit during our brief vacation in L.A. before we returned home to Japan.

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Bagdikian Remembered

I never met professor Ben Bagdikian in his lifetime, though I had always wanted to. So I did the next best thing: Over the past few years I introduced his classic book The Media Monopoly (the updated version) to students of my own journalism courses at the university where I teach in Kyoto, Japan.

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‘Censored’ — the Missing News Stories

How come I never heard about that in the news? If you’ve ever asked yourself that question about some important issue that you’ve found out about long after it occurred, then you’re not alone. I find myself asking that very same question every year around this time, when the latest edition of the annual Censored book comes out in the United States.

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