In June of 2011, Patrick Lannan, a billionaire patron of liberal causes in the USA, abruptly pulled the plug on a screening of John Pilger's film "The War You Don't See". A credible explanation was never offered. A good overview of that incident is provided here by Robert M. Christie, a professor at California State.
John Pilger updated me on this incident yesterday as follows:
It was certainly the opinion of those who investigated my banning by Lannan in 2011 that the reason was very likely my connection with Julian Assange, though no one could be sure. For me, Patrick Lannan's behavior seemed out of character – cancelling abruptly the showing of my film and my speaking event in Santa Fe before both could be publicised like other Lannan events, and giving no reason for the cancellation for almost a week, and then claiming there wasn't sufficient interest in my events, made no sense. According to a journalist at the Santa Fe New Mexican and the manager of the theatre where my film was to be shown, both events would have been sell-outs. Indeed, when the film was shown independently at the same theatre soon afterwards, it was a sell-out. The question asked was: 'What was the Lannan Foundation afraid of, or who were they seeking to please?' It is an important question.
Significant organised liberal opinion in the US is effectively 'bought' by liberal foundations such as Lannan. Left or liberal conferences, publishing, film-making and other outlets are substantially funded by them. The Martha Gellhorn Award for Journalism, of which I am a trustee, accepted money from Lannan – which my colleagues and I stopped following my banning. The patronage of Ford and Carnegie is not dissimilar from Lannan. These foundations promote some wonderful cultural work; Lannan has admirably backed Palestinian writers, such as the late Edward Said. The broadcaster, Democracy Now, is funded by Lannan and Carnegie. Following my banning by Lannan, Democracy Now cancelled an interview with me about my film on war and media — the film Lannan did not want shown. This is not in any way to suggest the recipients of largesse do as their patrons want, but they know where the invisible boundaries are drawn. If they forget, they are reminded from time to time – as I was. If they believe otherwise, they deceive themselves. Censorship comes in many forms.
It is worth emphasizing that Lannan's "lack of interest" excuse was blown apart if "when the film was shown independently at the same theatre soon afterwards, it was a sell-out."
What is most disturbing is that Lannan seems to have pulled the plug not only on Pilger's film but also on Democracy Now. Why would Democracy Now have cancelled an interview with Pilger? And is there not a HUGE problem with supposedly "independent" and "alternative" media outlets taking money from billionaires? If there is more to this story, I hope Democracy Now tells us.
I also emailed Democracy Now recently about what I thought was a sub-par interview with filmmaker Alex Gibney.
Gibney claimed that Julian Assange is seeking to be placed "above the law" by seeking any kind of assurances from Sweden regarding extradition to the USA.
There were a few obvious questions Amy Goodman should have asked but didn't:
"Is it legal for Sweden to extradite Assange to the USA for political crimes or for doing journalism?"
It isn't – under both Swedish and international law, so how can seeking assurances that Sweden will abide by its own law be seeking to be placed above it?
"Doesn't the Swedish executive branch - not its courts - have the final say over extradition?"
Gibney was also allowed to claim - without challenge from Amy Goodman – that "there’s absolutely no evidence that the United States is manipulating the Swedish legal process in any way, shape or form".
Goodman should have asked
"Does it not count as evidence that Swedish officials and US agents guilty of kidnapping, torturing and sexually assaulting two Egyptian men on Swedish soil have never been charged with any crime?"
By way of balance, Democracy Now did an interview with Jennifer Robinson, one of Assange's lagal advisors, but it was extremely brief.
Democracy Now does some exemplary work. This recent interview with Jeremy Scahill really stands out, but its appears that there are indeed "invisible boundaries" that we should all work to abolish. First step is to make those boundaries visible.