Friday, April 28, 2006

The Power of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares

In the winter of 2005 a friend of mine brought a copy of a the BBC documentary, The Power of Nightmares, from England. It was about the Neo-Conservative movement in the US, the Islamic foundamentalism in the Middle East, their origins of both, and their role in what is happening in today's politics.
Not surprisingly PBS did not dare to show this documentary in the US. The content of the movie was too informative for the US audience. It was aired on the BBC on January 2005 and got a lot of response in the UK. To my knowledge it is the only documentary that talks comparatively about Leo Strauss and Sayyid Qutb and their influence on the formations of these two political movements. During the last year I wanted to write about The Power of Nightmares but I found it useless to comment on a documentary not available in the US. Now thanks to the Internet it can be watched and downloaded on either The Internet Archive or on Google Video (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).
Watching all of three episodes takes about three hours but I bet you'll get more information about 9/11/2001, today's politics in the US, and the Middle Eastern fanatics than any program you have seen on any mainstream media in the last five years.

* Two more issues to mention:
1. I have my own criticisms of Adam Curtis' documentaries, especially when it comes to siymplifying the history of both the movements he talks about, his support for Kissinger's policies, the documentary’s comments about the environmentalists, the abscencse of information on the Trotskyist background of the Neo-Conservativism, and the lack of emphasis on the role of the Iranian revolution and thinkers like Shari'ati on the emergence of Modern Islamic fundamentalist politics. All of these issues hopefully will be the subjects of another post in the future.
2. Adam Curtis' style is a little bit eccentric. Don't let that stops you from watching the video, if you don't like it. And if you like the content and style of the work watch the other documentary by him, Century of the Self, which is about the role of psychoanalysis, marketing, and public relations in the United States.

The Power of Nightmares by Adam Curtis
Part 1 - Baby it's Cold Outside | 64kbps | 256 kbps | mpeg2
Part 2 - The Phantom Victory | 64kbps | 256 kbps | mpeg2
Part 3 - The Shadows in the Cave | 64kbps | 256 kbps | mpeg2
- To watch the movie in other formats go to its page on The Internet Archive.
- You can also see the documentary here, or on Google Video (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3).

* Links:
- The making of the terror myth. The Guardian, October 15, 2004.
- The Exorcist, by Tim Adams. The Observer, Sunday October 24, 2004.
- Feign of Terror, by Adam Curtis. Village Voice, April 19th, 2005.
- Beware the Holy War by Peter Bergen. The Nation, June 2, 2005.
- The Power of Nightmares by Katrina vanden Heuvel. The Nation's Blog: Editor's Cut, posted on 01/25/2005.
- Neo-Fantasies and Ancient Myths. by Robert Koehler. Cinema-Scope 23.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Xerxes and W

I am in the Washington D.C. area for a short period of time. Yesterday, walking only a few blocks from the White House, I was lucky enough to see an ad in the street about the staging of the oldest known play, The Persians, and tonight I watched it. It was a play--I never had read--about the decline of a greedy empire, Persia.
The play is released at a time when the "West" (believed to be the heir to Greek culture and civilization) is supposedly threatened by the "Persians." But in contrast to what is expected, it uses ancient Persia's defeat to represent the imminent demise of the United States' imperialistic foreign policies.
If you live in DC area, go an watch it. You will not regret it.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Botero and Abu-Ghraib

It took me more than a year to hear about the works of one of my favorite contemporary painters, Fernando Botero, on an unusual subject for his type of paintings: Abu-Ghraib. I heard about the works from a friend coming from Iran. I had not seen him for 11 years. I felt very sad when I found out that he not only is more up-to-date about the works of our favorite painters, moviemakers, and photographers but he also knows the details about the works of many artists whose works are on show in LA galleries but are completely unknown to me.

Getting the news from my friend was somehow embarrassing. While listening to him, I was thinking I know more about the details of Angelina Jolie's relationship with Brad Pitt than the latest works of Botero. The food is probably cheaper here in the US and I can pay my rent much easier in LA comparing to Tehran, but when you look at the cultural side of life you feel something is trebly missing here, even when you actively fight against it.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Every nation is a lie

“Every nation is a lie for which time and history have gradually fashioned an appearance of truth – as they did for ancient myths and classical legends. No nation ever arose naturally. The coherence and fraternity that a few still display conceal alarming realities beneath fine literary, historical and artistic fictions that underpin their identity. In these nations too those “contradictions and differences” – creeds, races, customs, languages, and not always minority languages – were demolished, for just like Albert Camus’s Caligula, the Nation needs to eliminate these things in order to feel secure, safe from the risk of fragmentation.”
--Mario Vargas Llosa
- Photo by Morgana Vargas Llosa