"The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear"
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97 out of 106 people found the following review useful:

Where Michael Moore feared to tread

Author: bartman_9 from Belgium
22 December 2004

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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77 out of 86 people found the following review useful:

The Power of Television

Author: paul2001sw-1 (paul2001sw@yahoo.co.uk) from Saffron Walden, UK
3 November 2004

Ever realized that American neo-Conservatism is founded on the principle of the Platonic noble lie? Half-remembered what Donald Rumsfeld was doing in 1976? Never quite believed the cold war propaganda about the "evil empire", or half-suspected that Al-Quaida does not exist? If so, 'The Power of Nightmares' is the program to confirm your fears. If not, it's even more essential viewing.

'The Power of Nightmares' is a brave piece of television that runs completely against the grain of most media representation of the state of our world. Yet it is not a lunatic argument either, and many of the talking heads on screen are those of the very people whose views it deconstructs. Rather, it simply refuses to assume that just because everyone in power is saying something, it must be true. In fact, the evidence that the most basic tenets of "the war on terror" are built on absurdity are almost self-evident; but as the evidence is also inconvenient, it is simply ignored and replaced by something else. In this series, we see the same tactic (employed by many of the same people) put to use in the 1970s, 1980s and now. It's quite chilling to see how much of the prism through which we view the world is a construct of frankly mad idealogues (and I don't just mean Osama, although the similarities of the origins of Muslim fundamentalism and neo-Conservatism are just one illuminating lesson to be drawn from this series).

Adam Curtis lets his interviewees provide his argument for him, but it's cleverly stitched together and his use of archive footage and music is perfect. Crucially, he never allows himself to fall into the trap of accepting cynicism, and there's a note of incredulity throughout the series that succeeds in not granting those in power a drop more credibility than they deserve. This series should have been essential viewing for every American before they voted. First rate stuff.

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61 out of 69 people found the following review useful:

Informative, enlightening, clever, great editing and music.

Author: tresdodge from London
21 December 2004

This is a highly intelligent, informative, sometimes humorous and superbly edited series of programmes that look at two types of dominant fundamentalist groups that exist in the Twenty First Century. On the one side we have the Neo-Conservatavists, mostly all white, affluent Christian men (believers in Creationism mostly), who Western society is obviously supposed to value highly compared to the dark, foreign 'others' that make up the 'terrorists' from 'un-civilised' lands.

The programmes chart the historic roots of these two fundamentalist groups, and reveal that they both came about from a belief in the corrupt and morally unsound nature of Western society after the threat of the Cold War dissolved. The programmes look at the the War on Terror and Curtis clearly presents the way that 'Nightmares' about terrorism can coerce and manipulate the 'big beast' that is society. Through propaganda, the media becomes a tool where lies are peddled and fear is stoked up to tame and create (un)believable truths in the mind of the general populace. For example a clip from a news programme shows lies about Al Qaeda being a highly organised network with vast caves full of high tech computers and complex equipment. This has been shown as a complete fabrication among many supposed truths presented to the general public.

The series is principally excellent in enlightening us with 'facts' but also the way in which music and editing is used to bring the message across. For example a plethora of clips from the film 'Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves' and the use of traditional American music with images of Al Qaeda. I found this to be a humorous and unique touch that really makes these programmes stand out.

Overall what this film reasserted once again is that these Neo Conservativist terrorists are no better than un-organized or partly organised Islamic terrorists. George W Bush is a terrorist of the worst kind, who through repeating lies long enough and hard enough to his scared citizens can manipulate them into believing ,for example, that an unprovoked and illegal war is justified.

This idea of good versus evil is a dominant myth within Western societies, and George W Bush et al know that through creating this 'other' evil and building it up continouously, whether it exists or not one can win people on your side. The prime example being his victory in the Presidential elections, a great many of the people interviewed said they would vote for Bush because he would keep U.S.A safe. Which is of course quite the opposite in my opinion. A great series I hope Curtis and his team make many more enlightening and technically competent documentaries.

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59 out of 66 people found the following review useful:

This documentary offers a remarkable insight into the reality of our current fear induced climate.

Author: (vanderwycked@yahoo.com) from London, England
4 November 2004

This documentary offers a remarkable insight into the reality of our current fear induced climate. Adam Curtis chronicles the rise of neo-conservatism and the resulting change in the world's political agenda orchestrated by those who place their trust in the philosophical ideal of the necessity of evil to unite a country. The filmmaker manages to successfully pluck apart the myth of the reality of there being a logistically organized terror network, let alone one that is managing to orchestrate terror attacks from a cave in the remote mountains of Afghanistan. His arguments are backed up by some eye opening interviews with authorities on the field of Islamic fundamentalism, members of the US government and members of the US judicial system. These insights are parred with concrete, startling facts and the result is a program that manages to shake us awake making us aware of a far more realistic terror threat namely that of psychological warfare carried out by the powers that be, accompanied by a sensationalist media frenzy. I cannot recommend this program highly enough.

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55 out of 62 people found the following review useful:

This documentary will probably never be shown in the United States...

Author: Benoît A. Racine (benoit-3) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada
26 April 2005

I have already seen two of the three episodes of this excellent BBC documentary which the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is showing in three parts on its CBC Newsworld channel. I will see the third one tonight.

I can understand why it has never been shown in the States and why it probably never will. These three small TV hours contain way too much brutal truth for any American to endure with any degree of comfort. The parallels between the devious agendas of the American Neo-Conservatives and the fundamentalist Islamic terrorists are uncanny: same logic, same malevolent means, same reliance on fear instead of reason.

I can't understand, though, how Michael Moore' s sentimental and illogical hogwash documentaries get such a large release when a film like this one, which involves much more hard work and intelligence never gets to be shown where it could do the most good: in America.

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41 out of 49 people found the following review useful:

Essential viewing

Author: The_unemployed_cynic from Netherlands
30 December 2004

Where did Osama Bin Laden come from, and why does he hate the American way of life? Why do the American neo-conservatists want the public to believe in a world wide conspiracy of evil, operating from vast underground complexes that look like a James Bond film set? In a world that has just witnessed the worst natural disaster in known history, why are our nightmares filled with images of bearded men and dirty bombs? This three-part documentary gives the answers. In a cool, factual manner, it goes back to the historic roots of both sides in this lukewarm war, and shows us how eerily similar they are. That is what is really scary about the war on terrorism. This series is essential viewing for everyone who wants to understand the most important conflict of our time. Which should include you.

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35 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

Few can claim to know about the clash of the US/west versus Muslim fundamentalism and the interaction of US politics in that clash without seeing this video.

Author: intnsred (intnsred) from Great North Woods, New England
5 November 2004

This is a superb 3-part BBC documentary about how gov'ts overblow

threats to create "nightmares" which can then be used for domestic

purposes/control. It traces the US neo-cons back to the Cold War days

and examines how both the neo-cons and Islamic fundamentalists falsely

claim credit for destroying the overblown threat of the USSR. The film

then examines the so-called War on Terror (WoT). It includes

outstanding "evidence" of the terrorist "sleeper cell" trials in the US

(you have to watch and see this evidence to believe it!!). This is an

extremely well done, insightful look at the post-9/11 reactions by the

US and UK and will challenge propaganda about the WoT (e.g. the US

gov't named Al Queda not Bin Laden; nuclear scientists and the Pentagon

both say a "dirty bomb" would most likely not kill anyone) with

reasoned and well-sourced logic and arguments.

For more information, see: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/3755686.stm

The first episode is not the most exciting, since it does the

historical background to set up the last two episodes. (You can get

the gist of the entire documentary just by watching the last two.

Viewing the BBC's link above will give some add'l info.) Few can claim

to know about the clash of the US/west versus Muslim fundamentalism and

the interaction of US politics in that clash without seeing this video

-- it's that good!

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28 out of 32 people found the following review useful:


Author: totalkhanage from United States
1 July 2005

A wonderful piece of television. Thoughtful, focused and not afraid to lay bare a few truths with a well executed calm authority. It is such a shame that the pathetic US media is too scared to show such an informative and surprisingly informal piece of work. The government must have no way of fighting back against such candid and well researched material. I can not recommend this series enough for all Americans and fear not, even through it consists of considerably dark material there is a surprisingly optimistic ending and prediction of the future. Hopefully mankind still has enough decency and common value to stop dictators and unjust leaders from destroying the common good.

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25 out of 28 people found the following review useful:

Great documentary on contemporary history

Author: hvera from United States
13 September 2005

A most satisfying documentary. Whether one agrees or not with the main argument of the filmmakers or not, there is much to learn from the well documented facts assembled here. This is the best true documentary I have seen in a long time. I particularly enjoyed its sense of humor and the clips from feature films such as Ali Baba and the 40 thieves. The film does only ring true; if one is alive, one has been a witness to much of what the film assembles to make its points. Notwithstanding, be prepared to be surprised by the bold argument the film makes. This is a very fair-minded presentation of one key aspect of our contemporary history.

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24 out of 29 people found the following review useful:

But the Emperor has no Clothes!

Author: khuban from United States
4 September 2006

This remarkable documentary, well written, researched, and articulate, traces the odd, parallel paths of the rise and failures of the Islamist movement and the movement of the American neoconservatives. What makes this documentary so outstanding is not just that it clearly exposes many of the myths of the so-called "War on Terror," but the fact that it places the power of these myths in a larger and very important context.

This film's position is clearly that it is the failure of belief and of ideology in Western societies that has allowed neoconservative extremists to fill the gap with nightmares in order to assert power and influence.

Fear works well when people do not believe in anything, since that lack of faith makes them quite vulnerable. For the Islamists, fear attempts to fill the gap in societies that have lost their Islamic faith and roots.

The dirty little secret underlying all this is that both groups, the Islamists and the Neoconservatives, are, at the core, nihilists, in spite of their ideological rants and pretensions. One can only hope that a discerning public will eventually be exposed to the hollow, vain, and arrogant "men behind the curtain" in both societies, so that all can realize that these wizards of terror are just empty charlatans.

The sooner that happens, the sooner we can all click our ruby slippers together and return to Kansas, and, hopefully, to some measure of sanity, and, perhaps to a genuine faith.

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