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Remembering Harold Pinter: The Nobel Lecture

Direct invasion of a sovereign state has never in fact been America’s favoured method. In the main, it has preferred what it has described as ‘low intensity conflict’. Low intensity conflict means that thousands of people die but slower than if you dropped a bomb on them in one fell swoop. It means that you infect the heart of the country, that you establish a malignant growth and watch the gangrene bloom.

When the populace has been subdued — or beaten to death — the same thing — and your own friends, the military and the great corporations, sit comfortably in power, you go before the camera and say that democracy has prevailed.

That’s playwright Harold Pinter, lowering the boom in his famous 2005 Nobel Prize lecture.

Pinter has died on Christmas Eve at age 78, after a long struggle with esophageal cancer. He was known for his politics almost as much as his plays. A few more quotes from that remarkably blunt Nobel speech:

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It’s a winner.

The United States… quite simply doesn’t give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.


Pinter’s first major plays were published in 1957, so he had a half-century of work under his belt — a sturdy run indeed. Good luck to you, Mr. Pinter, wherever you are.

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