The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (TV Mini-Series 2004) Poster

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The Power of Television
paul2001sw-13 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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This documentary offers a remarkable insight into the reality of our current fear induced climate.
vanderwycked4 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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Informative, enlightening, clever, great editing and music.
tresdodge21 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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This documentary will probably never be shown in the United States...
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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Great documentary on contemporary history
hvera13 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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totalkhanage1 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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Essential viewing
The_unemployed_cynic30 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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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.
intnsred5 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:

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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But the Emperor has no Clothes!
khuban4 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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The Only Piece Yet From Any Medium That Has Delved Beneath the Surface of the War on Terror
jzappa27 February 2009
Having come of age during the War on Terror and the Bush Doctrine, it has become particularly easy for me to grow detached from political voices and accept as true that left and right views have forever been at odds. Only toward the end of high school and into college did I begin to penetrate that ideological lather and see such bewildering things that had been happening all around me since I grew my first pube. There have been so many questions that I began to believe are unanswerable. How does the Bush Administration sleep at night? How do they sustain their morale? In what world do they think they're living? Most significantly, what drives them to intractably push forth on the things they did in those eight whirlwind years?

The Power of Nightmares is a documentary with connotations and conclusions that are very far-reaching and extremely edgy. Most Conservatives, even the more understanding ones, could not, I imagine, even meet this film halfway. Regardless of my being on the polar opposite side of the political fence to them, why is it that I can believe such a bizarre history of what has spawned the people who've recklessly left us in chaos? Because it is the only piece yet from any medium that has answered all of those aforementioned questions. Even if the film were not true, had not gathered interviews with insiders and highly educated experts, had not compiled three hours of stock footage, it is all I've found that gets the heart of one's inquiring mind.

Its three one-hour parts are composed chiefly of a montage of archive footage with the director, British TV journalist Adam Curtis's, narration, contrasting the augmentation of the Neo-Conservative movement in the United States and the radical Islamist movement, confronting comparisons with their inceptions and examining congruity between the two. Even more contented, it asserts that the menace of radical Islamism as a monumental, calculatedly systemized legion of annihilation, expressly in the embodiment of al-Qaeda, is an embellishment carried out by politicians in many countries, principally American Neo- Conservatives, in an effort to unify and urge their people following the collapse of earlier, more abstract nationalist ideas.

The Power of Nightmares is a flowing cinematic dissertation, embedded in strenuously amassed affirmation, data and testimony, that magnifies and clarifies one's understanding and knowledge. It's a lofty, eye-opening and sometimes hilariously bizarre exposition of deep-seated contradictions by delving beneath the complacence of its surface meanings, subverting the inventions and actualities of global terrorism.

It is refreshing to read these inscrutable people and finally come closer to understanding them. Death anxiety, lack of willingness to tolerate liabilities to more than one interpretation, a shortage of ready acceptance of experiences, impatience with conjecture, a pressing urge for the bottom line and discretionary structure, and the regard of any shrinkage of status or self-regard as an imminent danger all reinforce the intensity of one's all-around political conservatism. From the beginning with Leo Strauss and Sayyid Qutb, both becoming repulsed by what they saw as a debasement of morals and values in western society as a result of individualism, we see a mentality that has dispersed and grown both in the East and the West that tends to invoke bounds to personal freedoms, that's more vindictive toward criminals, and holds more traditionalistic religious doctrines. Neoconservatives are trying to forge an American empire, perhaps as follower of the British Empire, its ambition being to secure a dominant military and economic position of the United States. As imperialism is to a great extent seen as objectionable by the American public, one comes to understand why neoconservatives do not ever express their ideas or aspirations frankly.
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Everybody should see this documentary
fedkad23 April 2006
This BBC documentary together with "Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)" must be in the list of everyone trying to understand the 21st century, i.e., the days we are living. Even if you are in the "neo-conservative" camp, you should watch this documentary to realize what kind of harm their ideas have done: By making the "enemy" look larger and more important than what it is, they both make us fear of a not so organized enemy and also make the enemy more self-confident for launching suicide attacks on us.

Starting from the 1950's, this documentary tries to explain the changes the western (Christian) and Islamic societies have undergone in the last 50 years. The startling thing is that so few people have influenced and manipulated us. And this is becoming easier and easier with the help of mass media today.

Just a note: Recently, I watched "Joyeux Noël (2005)". Although it has nothing in common with this documentary, you can see in the end of the movie that the "politics of fear" was always an instrument for controlling and manipulating the masses and unfortunately religion is one of the helping tools.

This documentary is highly recommended.
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Brilliant Television
Blackhawk19897 January 2010
Warning: Spoilers
'The Power of Nightmares' is not only an amazing documentary, it is a fantastic piece of entertainment and an example of how to make something truly watchable and informative. The program documents the rise of both the Al-Quida and the Neo-Conservatives and draws worrying and powerful comparisons between the two. The program is a masterpiece of editing, superb narration and soundtrack, and most importantly, it breaks information down in a way that is easy to understand without dumbing it down so much that it looses its point. I would easily count the opening montage of this program as one of the best i've ever seen.

I don't like to think of myself as a liberal or a conservative, and that is probably part of the reason I find this show so fascinating. Right-wing groups and bloggers have been quick to scream about liberal conspiracies and demonising the United States, but the show simply reports the tale through simple facts. The idea of the liberal dream in the 60's is held as responsible as the conservative dream of the 80's, and terrorism is demonised for what it truly is, a murderous and totally wrong idea.

The interviews are similarly conducted in a simple and factual way. There is no need for quick edits, sound effects or clever angles in these sections, the interviewer simply asks a question and allows the response to speak for itself. The interview when a US intelligence officer admits that he truly believes that having no evidence of Soviet weapons was evidence in itself is easily one of the most disturbing things to come out of this documentary.

No program is perfect however, large portions of the story appear to have deliberately sliced out to keep the pace and length down, the Arab-Israeli conflict is totally omitted and the facts start to become a bit too speculative towards the ending, with predictions taking the place of narrative.

Overall this is one of the best political documentaries ever commissioned, I urge you to see it, even if you view it as a piece of propaganda the productions alone are well worth enjoying, as is the superb soundtrack and use of some brilliant stock footage.
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The shadows are out of the cave
qiowisj27 November 2006
Modern documentaries are not the same as previous ones. They are impassioned, biased and controversial. The history of the salmon has given way to Michael Mooreish rants.

The Power of Nightmares is a rarity; a non-fiction expose on the current state of the world which manages to convey its message articulately and without emotion. Though there is bias involved, the series is so well put together that its narrative prose feels more like fact than belief. Over the course of three 1-hour episodes, director Adam Curtis explores in depth American neoconservatism and radical Islamism; two amazingly similar groups who define politics today. In gross oversimplification, Curtis argues that both organizations create elaborate myths to enhance their own positions.

Academics, statesmen and journalists mostly comprise the wide range of characters who are interviewed, creating a multifaceted examination that attempts to analyze the motivations of these two movements.

Viewing all three parts of the series will undoubtedly change ones world view. The Power of Nightmares is required for anyone concerned or curious about today's political climate.
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No feelings, just facts. An objective and comprehensive view on how the war on terror came to be.
Demian Sidharta7 August 2006
I've seen this documentary and believe it one of the more objective of it's kind. Others like Michael Moore and Alex Jones tend to be very aggressive, as it is, to your notion of truth. I can imagine people don't want to hear what they are saying because they feel that admitting that they are wrong proves them to be fools. Of course some people need a jolt, but most of the free thinkers out there just want real truths.

Adan Curtis has done just that to my opinion. Just present traceable facts that, shown together, form a very possible picture of current events. Without making you feel silly for not knowing this, and thus giving you to freedom to choose. Of course it has a political color, but as you can see in the documentary 'outfoxed' so does the mainstream media.

If you are interested in the world and why it's going the way it is. Watch this video en decide for yourself. I started looking for signs of it in my own country and I believe it's happening here as well, or at least they are trying, you'll probably find it's happening in your country too. Stay aware, stay informed, but don't believe anyone is saying at once, use your own mind, you have one, so why not.

You can freely download it, check, there is a link at the bottom under 'Video' where you can download the video.

Peace Demian
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Jihad vs. McWorld
Gethin Van Haanrath9 December 2009
All of the talk of terrorist threats, sleeper cells and weapons of mass destruction seem to be quietly going away now that Obama is President of the United States. Very few people are really saying that the US was wrong, or that the neo-conservatives in power made everything up, it's just simply vanished. One day the terrorist threat level in the US disappeared and wasn't mentioned again. Now that Barry is in power is everything okay? So no one ever was convicted for these crimes against the public and few people even talk about them anymore. It's all been erased from the public's memory with new episodes of So You Think You Can Dance.

This documentary is quite interesting. This is much more in depth than anything created by Michael Moore. Moore touches on a few of these topics in "Fahrenheit 9/11" but Moore himself is a political figure who supports the Democrats so can't be taken seriously.

The origins of neo-con movement are well known in political-science circles but this movie tells them quite well. Leo Strauss was a philosopher who came up with these ideas and taught them to students such as Paul Wolfowitz who applied them later to US policy with Reagan and Bush (II).

The movie also explores the fundamentalist Islamic revolution which never really swept through the middle-east and was limited to a small group of bandits who took hold in Afghanistan. Their story begins with an Egyptian man who has an epiphany about the moral corruption of western society and brings those ideas back to the middle east. They're always fringe and never widespread as the corporate media or neo-con governments would have us believe.

All the myths of the post 9/11 age are explored here and quickly debunked. The one line the movie does not cross is saying that 9/11 was an inside job. With all the other information in the movie about the false sleeper cells and bogus security, it wouldn't have been a stretch to acknowledge that maybe 9/11 was an inside job.

Comparing the neo-conservatives in the US with the Islamic fundamentalists in the middle-east isn't a new idea. Jihad vs. McWorld was a 1992 article written by Benjamin Barber which was later expanded into a full-length book.

Another interesting concept of the movie is that the terrorist myth created by the US neo-cons actually may have led to a resurgence in real terrorists. The filmmakers speculate that several of the men in these groups may have played into the hands of the US myth by giving them false information about planned bombings of the Brooklyn Bridge and Statue of Liberty.

This is a very effective documentary for anyone interested in the terrorist myth as created by America. It's hard to say if this story ends with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. The idea of terrorism is so ingrained at this point that Obama has to add thousands more soldiers simply to get out of the quagmire which is Afghanistan.
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Definitely worth watching
ufotds31 August 2006
I clearly have to agree with most people that this is a very nice film, but I want to mark two things however: 1. I seriously regret that the film is more critical about the past than the present. In a society that is shifting to the right swiftly, it is far more important to analyse the present than to distract people's attention from it by pointing to the past. It is a bit the same effect as pointing at someone else's business if you have lots of cleaning up to do yourself. In short, the third film is far less powerful than the first two, and I found that a bit disappointing, since there are more than enough things to say...

2.This didn't happen by coincidence though, and neither did it happen only because it's just harder to do it about the present, but it has to do with the director's view on current politics. When we spoke to him after he showed his films, he explained that he thought this tactic of fear would be short lived, and blow in the politicians faces. I think this is a blatant error though, looking at how well propaganda works, and at how lame the people are in western nations. Curtis thought for example that a lot of the "anti-terrorist" laws would not be passed, and was overall optimistic about the future. This is clearly naive, and about the laws he has already been proved wrong, as they have been passed...
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An important film for Americans - but largely unavailable
eandubh24 March 2006
I've seen the three BBC episondes as they are available online - in rather poor quality versions, that is. And I know that the film maker condensed it into a theater-length movie, and received acclaim at Cannes over it. He proclaimed that he didn't want the "Michael Moore treatment" - too bad! A little showmanship might have brought the film to the United States, where it has been basically excluded, censored, omitted and overlooked. That more accessible movie-style version is NOT being shown in the US, nor is it, apparently, available on DVD - which of course is a shame, since the film exposes much of the thinking behind the US' current maniacal drive to empire. Not only has the documentary never been aired on American TV - the film seems to have been very thoroughly and effectively suppressed - something to think about the next time you use the phrase "free country."
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A strong piece of storytelling
Rob Vos27 October 2007
Adam Curtis knows very well how to tell a story. This strong political analysis about two major movements in contemporary history, Islamic fundamentalists and the Neo-conservatives feels like a thriller. It is a long, breathtaking political video-clip. It starts with the hypnotic intro and the haunting music of Brian Eno's 'The big ship' and after that you will be in a brilliant and intelligent edited film, in a roller-coaster of imagination and suggestion. At the same time a lot of major players in the field are interviewed and the research is outstanding. Nevertheless there are some remarks to make about the trilogy of Curtis. The storyline of the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and the Neo-conservatives as almost similar political movements of machines of fear is in my opinion interesting and plausible but too much constructed as a simple story of cowboys and Indians. In Curtis vision it seems like there is no room for chaos or coincidence. Although the result is an almost hermetic political vision, this documentary is a firm, intelligent and important statement and one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. Try to see it somewhere.
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important and engaging documentary!!
schism10117 April 2007
I recently watched all three episodes of 'the power of nightmares' and found it to be the most important and eye opening documentary of recent years. Like his recent documentary (the trap), Curtis has produced a series that goes beyond the one way system of daily news reporting to something that strips away what we perceive as a threat to our world and our civilization and to look at its origins and its truthful existence. 'The power...' focuses on two movements, the Islamic movement and the American Neo-conservative movement, there origins, there battles to overthrow and instill there ideology in positions of power and to eventually the confrontation between both movements, set off by the events of 9/11. Curtis inter-cuts the interviews with key figures from both sides and also analysts on the subjects, with archival footage from films and news reports, to show how both movements started off on ideology's that would eventually agree with each other particularly during the Russian Afghanistan war of the 1980's. Yet a small group of extreme Islamist funded by Bin Laden, eventually broke off, with no enemy to fight or revolution to instill, they declared a war on America, eventually leading to the attacks on New York, September 11th 2001. Curtis comes to the conclusion that the threat of Al Quieda, has become a fantasy, enforced by the Neo cons and also taken on board by the British government, to instill a purpose for there selected governments, rather than being leaders who promise a bright future, they become leaders who will lead against the rise and threat of terrorism to there people and to there way of life, even though the threat is non-existent and becomes a phantom enemy. Curtis' series is well written, researched and engaging in showing you the true and stark picture behind the disinformation regularly given in the daily news and television media. Its also good to see the BBC producing documentary's of this quality in an age where TV is slowly becoming a succession of reality TV shows, and celebrity 'dancing on ice competitions.' This documentary treats its audience with intelligence, its demanding viewing, yet is rewarding. Check out Curtis' later documentary 'THE TRAP: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR DREAMS OF FREEDOM,' again another insightful series. Your are being lied to!
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Intriguing and bold political documentary
vovazhd12 January 2008
The Power of Nightmares is a controversial documentary by Adam Curtis. It follows the rise of neo-conservatism and the consequences that it has on the present "War on Terror". Adam Curtis is clear and direct in his message and provides ample evidence to make his case (although I still believe his picture is incomplete). The obvious statement he wants to get out is that Al-Qaeda does not exist (at least as perceived by the United States government and much of the public). He chooses to ignore investigating the actual acts of terrorism, which makes it feel unfinished. But otherwise, its an important and enlightening documentary.

The documentary largely consists of historical footage, including several news segments. Some parts seem less important than others, but overall its elegantly put together. The music choice is interesting and generally works well. The interview segments are also helpful for giving a fair assessment.

The documentary stays away from any radical conspiracies, which is very fortunate. The scenario it presents it really quite possible and its sad to see the world in such a mess. Even if you don't become convinced about the main message, there are other truths to be learned from watching this. As a whole, it felt somewhat incomplete. But other than that, its a powerful documentary that is important to see.
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A must see movie!
siderite25 May 2007
This documentary is as astonishing as it is bold. It describes HOW we got to the current situation of fighting the war on terror, how the islamists got their ideas, how incredibly similar the mindsets of extremists on both sides are, etc.

It shows stuff like how Christian extremists got to power in the US on the belief that there is a global terrorist movement "out there", idea that was invented by the CIA a few years ago to smear the soviets! And now it is not a lie anymore. The CIA tries to tell them it is all a fabrication and no one believes them. It's ridiculous!

Anyway, this is a great documentary. It is politics and history of the modern world, not the dusty, re-re-re-refactored ancient history that we feed children at school. Although a bit one sided, it is a must see. I gave it a 9! Me! Go watch it!
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A great documentary, with some poor assumptions
blacknight59516 January 2006
This was is one of the greatest documentaries I've ever seen. I saw it as it appeared on British TV, in 3 parts, but all at the same time. It was entertaining and informative as any documentary should be and would recommend it to nearly anyone. The first sections simply explained how both Islamic fundamentalists and neo cons (Christian fundamentalists) rose to power. It went into detail how they came to power and what their motivations in office were. It is brilliantly and insightfully done switching back and forth between the two with ease and precision. It also helped to connect the two, pointing out their similarities and differences. It was even able to connect the neo cons to famous 1960's dramatic western TV series "Gun Smoke". Unfortunately by the third part the documentary began to fall apart. It became less a documentary and more a speculation making the war on terror seem like a weak conspiracy theory. These speculations had a weak base which I might have been willing to follow had the comments had any evidence to back it up. However, unlike the previous sections the third just explained these assumptions and moved on without providing the audience the evidence to draw the conclusion. It quickly lost my attention leading me with contempt. Overall the documentary was still tactful and intelligent and I learned a great deal from it.

PS it might be noted that part of my dislike for the final part of the film is that I am a moderate. The film is clearly marketed to a more liberal audience, but I still enjoyed it.
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Overwhelming look at how we got here
dbborroughs13 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
3 part BBC documentary/essay that is unlikely to get a regular release in the US. I got a copy from the first 3 issues of Wholphin the McSweeny's sister DVD magazine which had one part in each issue. The film shows how the rise of fundamentalist Islam began at the same time as the birth of the neo-conservative movement and how the two are variations of the same theme (you understand why this won't play in Peoria). the film suggests that both groups want to gain power by creating a world view that will allow them to rule by fear. It also supposes that the grand terrorist network isn't there and that the Islamic we fear isn't going to happen.

Enlightening, frightening and the sort of thing that gets the little grey cells going this is an interesting historical look at the way things are and why we are in the situation we're in. Its not the be all and end all since while it does connect many of the dots it also leaves out many details that could color the central thesis. As with many films history isn't this neat. The film was made 4 years ago and much has happened since then, and I'm not certain all of the points still hold true.

The films biggest flaw, if you can call it that, is that the film is much too long at three hours. To be certain the film was made to be seen on three nights over three weeks, but the amount of information contained is so dense even that is too much (I watched this over a couple of days and feel overwhelmed by it. I was almost ready to hang it up half way in simply because its just too much.) Too much or not its worth seeing, or rather it still demands to be seen simple because it will put things in to a new perspective. Is it the correct one, I don't know that would be fore you to decide, but make the choice and try and see this.
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Great content but annoying images
Michael Terceiro11 November 2009
The Power of Nightmares is a fascinating look at the war on terror.

It's central thesis is that Western politicians have effectively manufactured the war on terror in order to make themselves needed and relevant to the general public. In support of this thesis, the film makers present a range of experts, including many former CIA operatives, who all confirm that: (1) the islamist terrorists were generally poorly organised and lacked an an overarching structure and (2) that Western leaders, particularly Bush and Blair, knew that the Islamic terrorists operated in an ad hoc and fairly chaotic manner but nonetheless have been trying to convince the public that there was a well-organised and centrally controlled global terrorist organisation

Some of the interviews with the neo-conservatives are very amusing, particularly Professor Pipes who headed up a committee during the Cold War to examine Soviet military capabilities. Accordingly, to Pipes the absence of evidence that the Soviet's had a particularly military capability, was proof that they did in fact have that capability.

The only criticism I have of this documentary is its use of images. There are fairly lengthy periods of the three hour plus film when all the filmmakers do is flash up a series of images which have a loose relationship to what the narrator was saying. I found this technique quite annoying after a while. I think it would have been more engaging if they had simply had an on-screen narrator rather than a voice-over narrator.

Overall this is a very fascinating and well put together documentary which is available for free download at the Internet Archive -
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