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.


  1. wow, thanks so much for posting these links. i'm really looking forward to watching it.

  2. The Power of Nightmares is a great film. Peter Bergen's article about it in The Nation, which you also reference, is a good accompaniment. The point is not whether one agrees with everything in the film - it's a brilliantly conceived and executed intellectual essay...not to mention extremely entertaining. Thanks for posting the links. For more thoughts about the film [and other films]:

  3. Thank you very much for the links. I suppose you have seen Oil, Smoke and Mirrors?