The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (2004)

TV Mini-Series  -   -  Documentary | History
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A series of three documentaries about the use of fear for political gain.

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Cast

Series cast summary:
Ayman Al-Zawahiri ...
 Himself (3 episodes, 2004)
...
 Himself (3 episodes, 2004)
Gilles Kepel ...
 Himself - Historian of Islamist Movement (3 episodes, 2004)
Sayyid Qutb ...
 Himself (3 episodes, 2004)
...
 Himself (3 episodes, 2004)
...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
William Casey ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
Melvin Goodman ...
 Himself - Head of Office of Soviet Affairs CIA 1976-87 (2 episodes, 2004)
Stephen Holmes ...
 Himself - Political Philosopher (2 episodes, 2004)
...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
William Kristol ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
Michael Ledeen ...
 Himself / ... (2 episodes, 2004)
Richard Perle ...
 Himself / ... (2 episodes, 2004)
...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
Azzam Tamimi ...
 Himself - Institute of Islamic Political Thought (2 episodes, 2004)
Paul Wolfowitz ...
 Himself (2 episodes, 2004)
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Storyline

A series of three documentaries about the use of fear for political gain.

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Details

Official Sites:

Country:

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Release Date:

20 October 2004 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Power of Nightmares  »

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

(3 parts) | (theatrical)

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
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Did You Know?

Quotes

[first lines]
Narrator: In the past, politicians promised to create a better world. They had different ways of achieving this, but their power and authority came from the optimistic visions they offered their people. Those dreams failed and today people have lost faith in ideologies. Increasingly, politicians are seen simply as managers of public life, but now they have discovered a new role that restores their power and authority. Instead of delivering dreams, politicians now promise to protect us: from ...
See more »

Connections

Referenced in The 50 Greatest Documentaries (2005) See more »

Soundtracks

The Big Ship
Written by Brian Eno
Performed by Eno
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User Reviews

 
Where Michael Moore feared to tread
22 December 2004 | by (Belgium) – See all my reviews

This is one of the greatest docs I've ever seen!

If Fahrenheit 9/11 was about how the Bush administration used the terrorist threat for its political gain, Power of Nightmares goes on to uncover the deception behind the deception: that the terrorist threat itself is by and large a phantom threat, blown out of all proportions by a power elite eager to achieve its goals. Part documentary, part essay, part brilliantly edited collage, Curtis tracks the rise and rise of two groups: the American neo-cons and the radical Islamists.

The story starts just after the Second World War, when political philosopher Leo Strauss begins to formulate his ideas: freedom and liberalism lead to decadence, therefore a politician must promote strong myths to counter that liberalism. Such myths can be religion, patriotism or the threat of an outside enemy. It doesn't matter that a leader believes in them himself (in fact, it is preferable he doesn't), they are important to unite an otherwise uncontrollable populace. In the next decades some of his followers like Paul Wolfowitz, John Ashcroft or William Kristol set about putting his ideas into practice, first during the cold war and now during the Bush-era.

Curtis draws parallels between the ideas of Strauss and those of Sayyid Qutb, who can be considered the godfather of radical Islamist thought: he too considered freedom dangerous and he too promoted the use of religion and fear to accomplish his objectives: to overthrow the corrupt regimes of the Middle East and replace them with Islamist societies.

Both groups would develop independently, meet when fighting a common enemy in Afghanistan and diverge again until September 11, 2001. The final part shows how, since the the US invasion of Afghanistan, the Neo-cons have kept the threat of Al Quaeda alive through misinformation, outright lies and spurious arrests of 'sleeper cells' (all of which later turned out to be innocent). As was evident on November 2, their tactics have paid off.

Watching The Power of Nightmares we're reminded that we're living in a world of fantasy and deception, lead by politicians who have little respect for truth, decency or human lives. There isn't much to be optimistic about, but as long as documentaries like this can be made and broadcast on national television, there's a dim ray of hope for democracy after all.

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