John Pilger: Power & Propaganda is part of the spoken word strand of events at the Assembly Rooms. Rather than a strand of events taking after the popular poetry phenomenon (although there is some poetry in there), the events feature talks and Q & A sessions from people with a story to tell. Ranging from dealings with the dark net to tales from the cast of Dad’s Army, the events provide an interesting choice amongst the music, comedy, cabaret and general cacophony of entertainments available during the Fringe.
Pilger’s own talk is highly topical and fills the room on an early Sunday afternoon. The veteran journalist, film-maker and author begins by emphasising that the day of this talk falls on an important anniversary: 70 years since the bombing of Nagasaki. He follows on from this by discussing his new documentary project which looks at the Marshall Islands in the Pacific Ocean where the American government conducted atomic tests. He goes on to focus on his mixed feelings about the information age we now live in; there is so much available at our fingertips, but we’re also bombarded by cherry-picked information that mainstream media feeds to us. John’s speech is full of information and ranges over many topics, but at points it is hard to keep up if you’re not aware of the facts – he doesn’t give context for some of the events he mentions.
His speech is short and the event quickly opens up to a question and answer session, which is unsurprising as it is billed in such a way. This part of the event is a real shame as the session is not chaired and the questions that come up focus on personal predicaments and settle comfortably into how best to protest. If there was a chair for the event, the questions would have run a lot more smoothly and the direction of the event could have been focused back onto power and propaganda.
Some of the events in the Spoken Word strand are running the full length of the Fringe and others, such as Pilger’s, were one offs. This particular event suffered from the lack of a good chairperson who would have focused the discussions and kept questions relevant to the topic.