Introducing ... The Pilger Man

Who can make your blood boil
With all his commie lies?
Who invents more crazy theories
Than all the other lefty guys?
The Pilger Man!
Yes, the Pilger Man can!

John Pilger tried all his old moves last week in the London's Daily Mirror, dancing to a familiar anti-American theme. These days, however, the 62-year-old isn't reaching anyone beyond his front row of adoring fans. Soviet-era shuffles don't play well to a techno audience. Online reviews were damning.

America has only lately been exposed to Pilger, at least in a big way. It must be difficult for Pilger newbies to imagine, given how psycho-lefty he nowadays appears, but not so long ago Pilger was widely respected. He certainly was in his home country; no '80s Australian university student's bookshelf was complete without at least one of his earnest tracts. Pilger's Secret Country and Heroes were mandatory, like copies of Tapestry in a secondhand record store. Other staples of the student shelves were Sally Morgan’s My Place and – weirdly – Linda Goodman’s Love Signs.

Some of the people then reading Pilger have since become senior journalists, which explains a lot about the Australian press. I never paid much attention to to the sonorous mope until I found myself trapped in a room full of concerned young adults in 1988, watching a much-anticipated (by some) Pilger documentary.

Australia celebrated its bicentenary that year. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation thought it best to mark the occasion by hauling Pilger back from the UK, where he'd been quietly festering for a few decades, and paying him to smear his homeland as a godawful racist disgrace.

The Pilger Man fakes
And exaggerates
Every fact that he uncovers
Did you know the US kills grandmothers?
And that Pinochet and Bush were lovers?

The ABC got what it wanted. Pilger's documentary, packed with hyperbolic "revelations", provoked gasp after shocked gasp from the concerned young adult viewers. Then this happened:

Big John was shown skulking before a sign warning of radioactivity in the South Australian desert, where nuclear testing had been conducted some many years prior. "The warnings are in English, French, German, Indonesian and Italian," Pilger said (I'm paraphrasing). "But there is no warning in the Aboriginal language."

My friends were appalled. This was clear evidence that the authorities didn't care if Aborigines wandered into a radioactive deathzone.

But there is no such thing as "the Aboriginal language." Pilger's research hadn't uncovered a fact known to every Aboriginal scholar in the country. Not only is there no written form – except for a few examples, among tribes far from the area being discussed, of what might be called "illustrated communication" – the spoken varieties of Aboriginal language number in their thousands.

I mentioned this research error at the time, which turned out to be the wrong thing to do. People yelled. There were ugly words. None of them as ugly as Pilger's, of course, which amounted to a grave accusation without evidence, but there you are.

He's still as ugly. Take these paragraphs, from his latest Mirror article:

"The day the Wall Street stockmarket opened after the destruction of the Twin Towers, the few companies showing increased value were the giant military contractors Alliant Tech Systems, Northrop Gruman, Raytheon (a contributor to New Labour) and Lockheed Martin.

"As the US military's biggest supplier, Lockheed Martin's share value rose by a staggering 30 per cent."

Pilger is a frightening hypocrite. The very same events that have driven up Lockheed Martin's share value have also returned Pilger to the Daily Mirror’s front pages. Since September 11, Pilger’s earnings – from the Mirror, articles republished in other markets, and from his website, where you can buy his anti-capitalist books with your Visa card – have probably increased by more than 30 per cent.

Looking back at the '80s and student bookshelves, Linda Goodman's astrology guide was by far the more worthwhile text. Pilger's star sign, by the way, is the Arse.

Who can take a conflict
Dip it in deceit
Separate the logic
And predict the West's defeat?
The Pilger Man!
The Pilger Man can
'Cause he mixes it with fear and makes the good sound bad

Tim Blair is an Australia-based journalist who first encountered the horror of environmentalism as a grade school student, when a bearded teacher told him that all the fossil fuel in the world was about to vanish and everybody would soon be driving electric cars. Born in 1965, he has been a senior editor at Time magazine, a columnist at Sydney's Daily Telegraph, and the editor of Sports Illustrated's Australian edition. He currently writes for various Australian newspapers and magazines, publishes and has owned dozens of cars and motorcycles -- none of them electric.