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The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear 

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

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Series cast summary:
Gilles Kepel Gilles Kepel ...  Himself - Historian of Islamist Movement 3 episodes, 2004
Melvin Goodman Melvin Goodman ...  Himself - Head of Office of Soviet Affairs CIA 1976-87 2 episodes, 2004
Stephen Holmes Stephen Holmes ...  Himself - Political Philosopher 2 episodes, 2004
William Kristol ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2004
Michael Ledeen Michael Ledeen ...  Himself / ... 2 episodes, 2004
Richard Perle Richard Perle ...  Himself / ... 2 episodes, 2004
Azzam Tamimi Azzam Tamimi ...  Himself - Institute of Islamic Political Thought 2 episodes, 2004
Fouad Allam Fouad Allam ...  Himself - Interrogator Interior Ministry 1958-87 1 episode, 2004
Abdullah Anas Abdullah Anas ...  Himself - General Commander Afghan Arabs - Northern Afghanistan 1984-89 1 episode, 2004
Omar Azzam Omar Azzam ...  Himself - Cousin of Ayman Zawahiri 1 episode, 2004
Milton Bearden ...  Himself - CIA Field Officer - Afghanistan 1985-89 1 episode, 2004
Robert Bork Robert Bork ...  Himself - Senior Member Federalist Society 1 episode, 2004
David Brock David Brock ...  Himself 1 episode, 2004
Jason Burke Jason Burke ...  Himself - Author 'Al Qaeda' 1 episode, 2004
Anne Cahn Anne Cahn ...  Herself - Arms Control and Disarmament Agency 1977-80 1 episode, 2004
John Calvert John Calvert ...  Himself - Islamist Historian 1 episode, 2004
Vincent Cannistraro Vincent Cannistraro ...  Himself - Head of Counter-terrorism CIA 1988-90 1 episode, 2004
David Cole David Cole ...  Himself - Professor of Law - Georgetown University 1 episode, 2004
Joe Conason Joe Conason ...  Himself - Author 'The Hunting of the President' 1 episode, 2004
Bill Durodie Bill Durodie ...  Himself - Director International Centre for Security Analysis - Kings College 1 episode, 2004
Essam El Erian Essam El Erian ...  Himself - Senior Member of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt 1 episode, 2004
Roxanne Euben Roxanne Euben ...  Herself - Political Scientist 1 episode, 2004
Mikhail Gorbachev ...  Himself - General Secretary Soviet Communist Party 1 episode, 2004
Kamal Habib Kamal Habib ...  Himself - Founder Member of Islamic Jihad 1 episode, 2004
Ron Hansen Ron Hansen ...  Himself - Reporter - The Detroit News 1 episode, 2004
Ali Haroun Ali Haroun ...  Himself - Algerian Minister for Human Rights 1991-92 1 episode, 2004
David Cay Johnston ...  Himself - Intelligence Specialist - New York Times 1 episode, 2004
Lewis Z. Koch Lewis Z. Koch ...  Himself - Bulletin of Atomic Scientists 1 episode, 2004
Irving Kristol Irving Kristol ...  Himself 1 episode, 2004
Michael Lind Michael Lind ...  Himself - Journalist and Former Neoconservative 1 episode, 2004
Harvey Mansfield Harvey Mansfield ...  Himself - Straussian Philosopher - Harvard University 1 episode, 2004
John Molloy John Molloy ...  Himself - Defence Lawyer Lackawanna Trial 1 episode, 2004
Richard Pipes Richard Pipes ...  Himself 1 episode, 2004
John Prados John Prados ...  Himself - National Security Archive - Washington 1 episode, 2004
Theodore Rockwell Theodore Rockwell ...  Himself - Nuclear Scientist and Radiation Risk Expert 1 episode, 2004
Stanley Rosen Stanley Rosen ...  Himself - Pupil of Leo Strauss 1949 1 episode, 2004
Sam Schmidt Sam Schmidt ...  Himself - Defence Lawyer Embassy Bombings Trial 1 episode, 2004
William Swor William Swor ...  Himself - Defence Lawyer Detroit Sleeper Cell Trial 1 episode, 2004
Paul Weyrich Paul Weyrich ...  Himself - Religious Activist - Republican Party 1 episode, 2004
Jack Wheeler Jack Wheeler ...  Himself - Adviser to the Reagan White House 1981-84 1 episode, 2004
Paul Wolfowitz ...  Himself 2 episodes, 2004


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

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis



Official Sites:






Release Date:

2004 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Power of Nightmares See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


(3 parts) | (theatrical)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


[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 »

Alternate Versions

For its second BBC broadcast in January 2005, part 3 was updated to reflect the Law Lords' recent ruling that the detention without trial of foreign terrorist suspects was illegal. See more »


Featured in Zomergasten: Episode #20.3 (2007) See more »


The Big Ship
Written by Brian Eno
Performed by Brian Eno (as Eno)
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User Reviews

Informative, enlightening, clever, great editing and music.
21 December 2004 | by tresdodgeSee all my reviews

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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