Ron Ridenour

About Ron Ridenour
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John Pilger: A Giant Muckraker Dies at 84

[January 2, 2024]

One of my three journalist mentors, John Pilger, died December 30, 2023, of pulmonary fibrosis.

I first knew of his work when he covered the US’s aggressive dirty war (with Australia’s active support) against Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos when I was an anti-war activist in the United States.

As Jeremy Corbyn wrote about him, “John gave a voice to the unheard and the occupied: in Australia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Chile, Iraq, East Timor, Palestine, and beyond.”

John “was a journalist who never shirked from saying the unsayable,” wrote Anthony Hayward in The Guardian about John’s 60+ documentaries. “He was a fervent critic of US and British foreign policy. In 2006, on a panel at Columbia University, New York, to discuss Breaking the Silence: War, Lies and Empire, Pilger asserted that ‘journalists in the so-called mainstream bear much of the responsibility’ for the devastation and lives lost in Iraq, by not challenging and exposing ‘the lies of Bush and Blair’”. John Pilger obituary | John Pilger | The Guardian

John was born October 9, 1939, nine days after me. Without knowing one another until recently, we shared the same journalist mentor, Wilfred Burchett. Both John and Wilfred were born in Australia. My third journalist mentor, Julian Assange, is also an Australian and dear friend of John’s.

Wilfred Burchett became renowned for his journalism and humanism by defying the US military’s refusal to allow the media to report from atomic bombed Hiroshima. Burchett entered Hiroshima anyway and was the first to report on how the people were decimated. (Daily Express London, 5 September 1945.)

In Burchett’s The Memoirs of a Rebel Journalist (Quartet Books, London, 1980) he defines what journalism means to him. His credo became both Pilger’s and mine, and probably Julian’s as well.

1. It is not a bad thing to become a journalist because you have something to say and are burning to say it.
2. There is no substitute for looking into things on the spot, especially if you are going to write on burning international issues of the day.
3. Make every possible effort to get the facts across to at least some section of the public.
4. Do not be tied to a news organization in which you would be required to write against your own conscience and knowledge.

I met Burchett at Versailles during the February 1972 World Assembly for Peace and Independence for the Indochinese People. We were 1200 delegates from 84 countries. The largest peace conference during the two-decade long war urged unity and demonstrations. At the end, we were among 25-40,000 who marched in Paris to end the war.

Among delegates and speakers were two former presidents and prime ministers, mayors, senators, religious and union leaders, and activists—the largest contingent. In the words of Jane Fonda, the conference “represented the majority of Americans and the will of the world’s people to end the war by withdrawing all US forces now.”

Burchett and I covered this unique conference. I was also a delegate for Los Angeles anti-war groups. Burchett’s and Pilger’s coverage of Vietnam and Cambodia were important for us activists worldwide, providing us with information and passion for peace activism.

In the past three years, I came to know John through correspondence and articles calling for Julian Assange’s freedom. He sometimes wrote to me, encouraging my coverage for justice through activism. He wrote the following regarding my latest piece about US/UK governments imprisonment of Julian—written with This Can’t Be Happening founder Dave Lindorff, US/UK Seek to Silence Julian Assange and Free Press, Australia Says 'Enough' -

Well done on this piece. The grass-roots support matters the most, in my view; even in today's dark world, the embarrassment and electoral factors can still work. Here and in the UK, MPs hear about support for Julian constantly. As far as governments are concerned, if there was strategic gain to letting him go, they would have released him by now. So it's impossible to predict, alas.
Please keep sending me your work.
All power to you, Ron.

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