In early June, ZCommunications received the following open letter from independent filmmaker and journalist John Pilger to Noam Chomsky and the general public. Pilger was to speak on 15 June at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe. See Patrick Lannan’s subsequent explanation for the cancellation here.
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I am writing to you and a number of other friends mostly in the US to alert you to the extraordinary banning of my film on war and media, ‘The War You Don’t See’, and the abrupt cancellation of a major event at the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe in which David Barsamian and I were to discuss free speech, US foreign policy and censorship in the media.
Lannan invited me and David over a year ago and welcomed my proposal that they also host the US premiere of ‘The War You Don’t See’, in which US and British broadcasters describe the often hidden part played by the media in the promotion of war, in Iraq and Afghanistan. The film has been widely acclaimed in the UK and Australia; the trailer and reviews are on my website www.johnpilger.com.
The banning and cancellation, which have shocked David and me, are on the personal orders of Patrick Lannan, whose wealth funds the Lannan Foundation as a liberal centre of discussion of politics and the arts. Some of you will have been there and will know the Lannan Foundation as a valuable supporter of liberal causes. Indeed, I was invited in 2002 to present a Lannan award to the broadcaster Amy Goodman.
What is deeply disturbing about the ban is that it happened so suddenly and inexplicably: 48 hours before David Barsamian and I were both due to depart for Santa Fe I received a brief email with a ‘sorry for the inconvenience’ from a Lannan official who had been telling me just a few days earlier what a ‘great honour’ it was to have the US premiere of my film at Lannan, with myself in attendance.
I urge you to visit the Lannan website www.lannan.org. Good people like Michael Ratner, Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald are shown as participants in discussion about freedom of speech. I am there, too, but my name is the only one with a line through it and the word, “Cancelled”.
Neither David Barsamian nor I have been given a word of explanation. All my messages to Lannan have gone unanswered; my calls are not returned; my flights were cancelled summarily.
At the urging of the New Mexican newspaper, Patrick Lannan has issued a one-sentence statement offering his regrets to the Lannan-supporting “community” in Santa Fe.
Again, he gives no reason for the ban. I have spoken to the manager of the Santa Fe cinema where ‘The War You Don’t See’ was to be screened. He received a late-night call. Again, no reason for the ban was given, giving him barely time to cancel advertising in The New Mexican.
There is a compelling symbol of our extraordinary times in all of this. A rich and powerful individual and organisation, espousing freedom of speech, has moved ruthlessly and unaccountably to crush it.
With warm regards