On the politics of fear
July 13, 2005 10:13 AM   Subscribe

It's been available for a while on chomskytorrents (search 'nightmares'), if there are some who prefer to download that way.
posted by blendor at 10:29 AM on July 13, 2005

See also: Beyond the Frame. And, the Daily Show: Terror in London.

I've read some commentary having a go at the thesis put forward by Curtis, after the bombings in London; I'm looking forward to the 'discussion'.
posted by gsb at 10:31 AM on July 13, 2005

Thank you, I've been too lazy to seek alternate sources.
posted by Pretty_Generic at 10:39 AM on July 13, 2005

But is the Internet Archive version just part I, or all three?
posted by mondo dentro at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2005

Saw it a couple of months ago. Chilling, and even for this anti-war zealot, sometimes a bit over the top. But the basic thesis -- that the neocon right "invented" (in the sense of actually calling into being) the threat of Islamic terror to replace the dissipated threat of communism, and guided by a basic cyncism about what the citizens of modern democracies are capable of understanding for themselves, doing for themselves, or enduring for a higher end, is compelling and adds real perspective to the current political climate. It seems incontrovertible that al Qaeda and the Neocons are not only two faces of evil, but need each other to sustain and build their respective power bases. What is often discussed as a binary choice here -- live with jihadist terror or live with less liberty and less government accountability in the west -- may be better seen as a self-generating dialectic in need of a fresh and totalizing new perspective. If one truly believes in the power of liberty to promote the spread of freedom, then civil liberties are sacred indeed. And am I the only one who can't forget themysterious appearance of Osama on video days before the 2004 election, clearly influencing the outcome of that election in its final hours? Here, try on my tinfoil hat. It is really quite comfortable.
posted by realcountrymusic at 10:47 AM on July 13, 2005

My bad. I understand now. It's all 3 parts.
posted by mondo dentro at 10:50 AM on July 13, 2005

I love this documentary. Mainly for the utter shock value of some of the information.

There's a part near the end of chapter 2, where the guy who was the main talking head about everything that is wrong with Clinton, according to the Right, was almost completely fabricated, or otherwise just a major distortion of reality. The whole Whitewater deal was complete and utter B.S. And the best part, the guy actually comes out and says "I lied to the American public and they bought it, hook, line, and sinker." Really interesting stuff if you think about anything that is ever said about any politician by the opposition (yes, even when the Left is lambasting someone as well).

Of course, the sad part is that not enough people realize this stuff.

Oh, and another part, with Donald Rumsfeld and the drawings of the "secret Al Queda super bunker" was really funny. It looked like the drawings I used to make of Cobra forts for my G.I.Joe's to attack. In fact, I bet the back of that visual aid has "Copyright Hasbro 1983" on it somewhere.

Freaking amazing how easy it is to dupe people that are too intellectually lazy to ask questions.

Of course, I also question some of the theories posited by the creators of this documentary. It seemed to use a lot of interviews from rather weak minded academics talking way too much detail about people they've never actually met.

Oh, and Straus is a dick.
posted by daq at 11:03 AM on July 13, 2005

If you're in the San Francisco area, it's also showing at Roxie Cinema in the Mission through July 28th (except for this Thursday), which is (again) in danger of going out of business. Months ago, they also showed Adam Curtis' Century of the Self, another documentary series well worth seeing.
posted by mistersix at 11:37 AM on July 13, 2005

I wonder if it trumps my Xvid copies.
posted by Dean Keaton at 1:57 PM on July 13, 2005

Very informative series. For starters, I learned that the neocons and the islamicists are allies, not enemies as they would have us believe.
posted by telstar at 1:59 PM on July 13, 2005

I saw this at the Roxie in SF a couple of weeks ago, and have been telling everyone I know that it's a must-see. Whether or not you agree with all the points it makes, the documentary offers an invaluable education in both the roots of Islamic terrorism and the roots of neo-conservatism and the rise of the religious right in America. More than any other book, film, or article I've seen in the last few years, it helped contextualize and make comprehensible what has been happening in American politics for the last couple of decades.

The footage of a very young Donald Rumsfeld testifying that the Soviet Union had vast, hidden weapon systems, could not be trusted in their treaty negotiations, and that the CIA was clueless about the true nature of the threat, was so uncannily familiar, it's clear that the cabal that led the US into the Iraq War had been waiting for something like 9/11 for years.

This is a must-see film.
posted by digaman at 3:35 PM on July 13, 2005

The guy at the end of chapter 2 who did a complete about face from his conservative days is David Brock who set up Media Matters, a great site for battling the sort of stuff he was once a part of.
posted by destro at 5:57 PM on July 13, 2005

The Power of Nightmares impressed me with its subtlety and intelligence, but in its efforts to nail the neocons it twists itself into some odd positions -- e.g. it is remarkably sympathetic to Kissinger. (I think the argument is that Kissinger was a pragmatist and therefore a sound and sensible fellow, whereas the neocons are utopian visionaries and therefore highly dangerous.) Perversely, the film left me feeling more favourably disposed towards neoconservatism -- which I'm sure was not its intention. If pragmatism means Kissinger, then I'll take utopianism, thanks very much.

Also, Curtis's thesis is not nearly as original as he thinks it is. This notion of a crisis of legitimacy which leads politicians to use the politics of fear as a means of reinforcing the power of the state .. where have I heard all this before? why, in the Marxist cultural theory of the 1970s, which posited a crisis of consensus which led politicians to use moral panics as a means of reinforcing cultural hegemony. The vocabulary is slightly different but the argument is precisely the same.

I find this brand of Marxism quite persuasive in some ways -- but the perspective of thirty years does help one to realise its limitations. People in the 1970s were worried about crime, not because they were conned by a 'dominant ideology' but because there genuinely was something to be worried about. That makes me sceptical of the notion that today's fears of global terrorism are merely a dark fantasy.
posted by verstegan at 11:59 AM on July 14, 2005

verstegan, I agree with you in that the documentary definitely tiptoes in some interesting patterns while going through history. Iran's revolution is a blink, and there's a conspicuous lack of mentioning the hostages taken there, or most other terrorist acts before 9/11. I chalk that up to 'staying on message'.

I also found a kernel of truth under the alleged Neoconservative tenet that if extreme liberalism can lead to nihilism. (If nothing is true, you question everything.) I don't think it's inevitable, but I grasp the logic, anyway. (I also think that displaying hypocritical beliefs/action dichotomies will achieve the same effect, so the NEOCons should watch the fuck out)

I don't think Curtis was basking in the originality of his thesis, but he was struck by the parallels between the opposing factions in this allegedly 'global' struggle.
The fear may be a dark fantasy, but that doesn't mean it can't/won't come true. The United States has a beautiful history of creating the very demons we fear the most.

I'm glad this is now downloadable, because that'll take some pressure off me to burn more copies of the DVD I made from the files I'd downloaded already. The more I disseminated the more requests I got. If Curtis should be smug about anything, it's the great stock video he got. Zawahiri's rant from prison in Egypt is one of the most fascinating things I've seen.
posted by Busithoth at 12:50 PM on July 14, 2005

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