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FLASHBACK: Democracy Now! Show Funder Censors Anti-War Journalist John Pilger

Where’s the Change?

July 9, 2011

By Bob Feldman

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According to the Lannan Foundation’s Form 990 financial filing for 2008, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! Productions was given three grants, totaling $375,000, by the Lannan Foundation. And that same year the Lannan Foundation also gave three grants, totaling $545,000, to The Nation/Nation Institute alternative left media group and three grants, totaling $475,000, to Foundation for National Progress/Mother Jones magazine.

But the Lannan Foundation apparently doesn’t want to allow anti-war journalists who criticize the Democratic Obama Administration’s failure to end the endless U.S. military intervention in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya-Yemen-Somalia to speak too freely in the United States these days, as indicated by Australian anti-war journalist and anti-war filmmaker John Pilger’s recent experience with Democracy Now!‘s foundation funder. In an article, titled “The Strange Silence of Liberal America,” that was recently posted on the Global Research site, Pilger wrote the following about how the Lannan Foundation apparently operates these days:

“The Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, believes in free speech. The foundation’s website says it is `dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity’. Authors, film-makers, poets make their way to a sanctum of liberalism bankrolled by the billionaire Patrick Lannan in the tradition of Rockefeller and Ford.

“Lannan also awards `grants’ to America’s liberal media, such as Free Speech TV, the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of the magazine Mother Jones), the Nation Institute and the TV and radio programme Democracy Now! In Britain, Lannan has been a supporter of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, of which I am one of the judges. In 2008, Patrick Lannan personally supported the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, he is `devoted’ to Obama.

“On 15 June, I was due in Santa Fe, having been invited to share a platform with the distinguished American journalist David Barsamian. The foundation was also to host the US premiere of my new film, The War You Don’t See, which investigates the false image-making of war-makers, especially Obama.

“I was about to leave for Santa Fe when I received an email from the Lannan official organising my visit. The tone was incredulous. `Something has come up,’ she wrote. Patrick Lannan had called her and ordered all my events to be cancelled. `I have no idea what this is all about,’ she wrote.

“Baffled, I asked that the premiere of my film be allowed to go ahead as the US distribution largely depended on it. She repeated that `all’ my events were cancelled, `and this includes the screening of your film’. On the Lannan website `cancelled’ appeared across a picture of me. There was no explanation. None of my phone calls was returned, nor subsequent emails answered. A Kafka world of not-knowing descended.

“The silence lasted a week until, under pressure from local media, the foundation put out a brief statement that too few tickets had been sold to make my visit `viable’ and that `the Foundation regrets that the reason fr the cancellation was not explained to Mr. Pilger or to the public at the time the decision was made’. Doubts were cast by a robust editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican, The paper, which has long played a prominent role in promoting Lannan events, disclosed that my visit had been cancelled before the main advertising and previews were published. A full-page interview with me had to be hurriedly pulled. `Pilger and Barsamian could have expected closer to a packed 820-seat Lensic [arts centre].’

“The manager of The Screen, the Santa Fe cinema that had been rented for the premiere, was called late at night and told to kill all his online promotion for my film, but took it upon himself to re-schedule the film for 23 June. It was a sell-out, with many people turned away. The idea that there was no public interest was demonstrably not true.

“Theories? There are many, but nothing is proven. For me, it is all reminiscent of the long shadows cast during the cold war. `Something is going to surface,’ said Barsamian. `They can’t keep the lid on this.’

“My talk on 15 June was to have been about the collusion of American liberalism in a permanent state of war and the demise of cherished freedoms, such as the right to call government to account. In the United States, as in Britain, serious dissent – free speech — has been substantially criminalised. Obama, the black liberal, the PC exemplar, the marketing dream is as much a warmonger as George W. Bush. His score is six wars. Never in US history has a president prosecuted as many whistle-blowers; yet this truth-telling, this exercise of true citizenship, is at the heart of America’s constitutional first amendment. Obama’s greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the United States, including the anti-war movement.

“The reaction to the Lannan ban has been illuminating. The brave, like the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, were appalled and said so. Similarly, many ordinary Americans called into radio stations and have written to me, recognising a symptom of far greater suppression. But some exalted liberal voices have been affronted that I dared whisper the word, censorship, about such a beacon of `cultural freedom’. The embarrassment of those who wish to point both ways is palpable. Others have pulled down the shutters and said nothing. Given their patron’s ruthless show of power, it is understandable. For them, the Russian dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once wrote, `When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.’

“The War You Don’t See” is available on www.johnpilger.com

(Not surprisingly, neither The Nation, Democracy Now! nor Mother Jones magazine has apparently provided its readers, listeners or viewers with much information about either the historic or current business activities of Lannan family members or about which transnational corporate stocks are contained in the investment portfolio of the Lannan Foundation. Yet, according to its Form 990 financial filing, on December 31, 2008 the Lannan Foundation owned $942,000 worth of Microsoft stock, $953,683 of Disney Company stock, $1,267,640 worth of Wells Fargo stock, $1,389,789 worth of Coca-Cola Company stock, $1,580,982 worth of Wal-Mart stock and $44,145 worth of Goldman Sachs stock.–bf)

 

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