Lecture by John Pilger. Cancelled!
Was it censorship? Do the words “ban” and “suppression” and “bowing to political pressure” apply? We don’t know, but the suspicion lingers, as it always does in the absence of information. Along with suspicion comes anger. A public lured by full page ads wasn’t deemed worthy of a good reason for disappointed expectations.
Maybe someone is in the know. That’s nice. And maybe I could have found out. But I am writing as a member of the disrespected public. Explanation, please. Up front. Public.
The spurned speaker was at least mildly controversial. But the Lannan Foundation regularly schedules lectures by anti-establishment figures like Amy Goodman, whose Democracy Now it also supports on the local listener-supported KSFR radio station Thus, no one was surprised when the Lannan Foundation’s calendar included a presentation by British investigative journalist and documentary movie-maker John Pilger.
So why did Patrick Lannan personally (that seems to be established) call off Pilger’s lecture at the last minute, simultaneously canceling the American premier of his latest film The War You Don’t See? In the absence of a plausible reason—slow ticket sales simply doesn’t wash in this haven of liberals—conspiracy theories abound. They boil down to this question: who silenced Patrick?
I wouldn’t be a good reporter, if I didn’t mention that the harsh criticism has provoked an indignantly strong defense of Patrick Lannan as well. The gist of the defense is: he’s done so much for Santa Fe, how can you ingrates dare to call his judgement into question?
Fortunately the managers of the Screen, which had been rented for the premier of The War You Don’t See, couldn't be silenced. They decided to show the film on their own hook. I went to the first showing. It was packed. At least three more sessions were planned. There’s no doubt that the talk would have sold out if the plug hadn’t been pulled.
You can see the film for yourself, on line, here and here (with an extensive review). You may have to send Paypal around $4.99. Don’t whine. It cost me $10 to see it in a theater.
What is The War You Don’t See about? Basically two things: (1) how we get dragged into wars we might not support if we had all the facts to hand, which we don’t, because the media don’t bother to dig them up for us, since it’s not their job, some say; (2) how the horrifying true cost of war in civilian lives is concealed from us, because we’d have a hard time supporting our guys if we saw with our own eyes the innocuous people they kill, routinely, as we do in this film.
One particularly horrifying bit of footage consists of the infamous helicopter attack on journalists. Sorry. No full description here. However, I will note that the figures in the notorious gunsights are very obviously unarmed non-combatants. And they weren’t just killed. They were hamburgered. Other visuals are equally chilling. Gratuitous killing of just plain people. Kids included.
When this devastating footage is set against Pilger’s interviews with media managers smirking over unconvincing explanations of why they aren’t more skeptical about official versions of war, the vomit reflex becomes strong. By the end of the film I felt so ravaged I can only compare the effect, on me, to that of the Polish film Katyn, which recreated the Nazi slaughter of Polish officers during World War II. That is not a reason for not seeing it. It’s a reason for seeing it.
Thanks to nation wide reportage of Patrick Lannan’s bizarre cancellation and its aftermath, many more people will have an opportunity to view The War You Don't See in theaters. According to Pilger, during a Skype interaction after the showing I attended, booking requests are pouring in. There’s nothing like censorship to increase demand.