Wednesday, May 2, 2007

The Power of Nightmares

Everyone should watch Adam Curtis’s documentary series The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear. I have been speaking its praise of months now. I cannot begin to explain how great it is.

Peter Bergen a terrorist expert and also one of the few western journalists to have met with bin Laden sums it up:

The kernel of Curtis's argument is that Western politicians claim "the greatest danger of all is international terrorism, a powerful and sinister network, with sleeper cells in countries across the world, a threat that needs to be fought by a war on terror. But much of this threat is a fantasy, which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It's a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media." Curtis says that this illusion was set in motion by two seemingly very different groups, American neoconservatives and radical Islamists, whose war with each other conceals a history of tacit alliance, and even some ideological resemblances. As Curtis reminds us, the neoconservatives and the Islamists came together in the 1980s in Afghanistan to expel the Soviets, and they share a hostility to the Middle East's authoritarian dynastic regimes (although they seek to replace them with altogether different kinds of government). What is more, both groups view Western liberalism with distrust, fearing that it will erode traditional and especially martial values, thus weakening their societies from within.

Part One: Baby It's Cold Outside

Part Two: The Phantom Victory

Part Three: The Shadows in the Cave

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