Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Power of Nightmares

Yikes! It's been awhile since my last post! Ah well, time flies when you're having fun. I had surgery for a hernia a couple of weeks ago, so I've been kind of preoccupied with that. My Dad came for a visit to keep me company while I recovered, so that was fun having some one-on-one time with him.

At any rate, here at last is the information on how you can see the documentary I alluded to in my last post. It's a three-hour BBC documentary by Adam Curtis called The Power of Nightmares and -- bless the 'Net again! -- it's available to watch for free right now on Google Video.

I first heard about this extraordinary series when Andrew O'Hehir of Salon gave it a glowing review, calling it the most important political documentary of this decade, and perhaps of my lifetime.

O'Hehir goes on to say:

And as for broadcast on American television, I'm told that will happen, let's see, approximately 5,000 years after pigs first begin to fly across the frozen wastelands of hell. It's probably illegal not just to watch, but also to read about or think about. You and I are both committing treason right now.

Essentially, Curtis' thesis is that the current technique of the American political system is to promulgate fear of a largely non-existent terrorist threat. The Power of Nightmares starts out in 1949 when an Egyptian named Sayyid Qutb, studying in Colorado, is horrified by the decadence he sees around him and winds up as the spiritual founder of Islamic Jihad. In parallel at the University of Chicago, professor Leo Strauss, a German Jew who had fled Hitler and settled in the U.S., is experiencing a similar reaction and founding the neo-conservative movement. Curtis' great insight is that each of these two extremists needs the other to justify their own existence.

The Power of Nightmares includes interviews with many of the key players over the last fifty years. Curtis demonstrates time and again the ways in which high-level members of the U.S. intelligence service and the White House exaggerated or simply lied outright about the capability and threat of the enemy. He accomplishes this through a darkly satiric web of stock footage from all over the place (the ridiculous state of legal clearances, as O'Hehir points out, is another reason why this might never show in the U.S.). The Power of Nightmares is a grand, sweeping effort -- a blast to watch, and if even half of Curtis' argument holds water, very very damning, too.

Part One: "Baby It's Cold Outside"

Part Two: "The Phantom Victory"

Part Three: "Shadows in the Cave"

By the way, here's the BBC's blurb on the 3-part documentary, in which they sum it up thusly:

In a new series, the Power of Nightmares explores how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion.

I urge you to check out this amazing documentary before it disappears from the Web.

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