Perhaps you’ve heard of, or watched, “Fahrenheit 911”, which even made it to Philippine theaters. Now if I have a media bias, it is that the British are far more profound and meaty when it comes to documentaries and public discussion. A BBC documentary I recently watched confirms this once again.
The documentary is called “The Power of Nightmares” and is in three parts. It basically argues that al-Queda and the American neoconservatives both suffer from delusions brought on by misinterpreting the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, and the collapse of Communism in Russia and Eastern Europe. In addition it attempts to demonstrate that liberalism having suffered a crisis of legitimacy and relevance in the 1970s onwards, politicians have found a new lease on life in capitalizing on the fears brought on by terrorism in the 1990s and the new century. Anyone reading about people like Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, or who want to understand the background and ideological impulses of terrorists such as Osima Bin Laden, will be fascinated by this documentary.
As the opening spiels say,
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 to 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 nightmares. They say that they will rescue us from dreadful dangers that we cannot see and do not understand. And the greatest danger of all is international terrorism. A powerful and sinister network, with sleeper cells in countries across the world. A threat that needs to be fought by a war on terror. But much of this threat is a fantasy, which has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It’s a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services, and the international media.
This is a series of films about how and why that fantasy was created, and who it benefits. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives, and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. And both had a very similar explanation for what caused that failure. These two groups have changed the world, but not in the way that either intended. Together, they created today’s nightmare vision of a secret, organized evil that threatens the world. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. And those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.
The BBC itself discusses reactions to the documentary in this article: BBC NEWS | Programmes | Power of Nightmares re-awakened
The Guardian, a leading British daily, discusses the documentary in Guardian Unlimited | Special reports | The making of the terror myth.
In ‘The Power of Nightmares’: Hyping Terror For Fun, Profit – And Power, there is a feature article on the documentary.
In Dialogic: BBC Documentary: The Power of Nightmares, you can find links to sites that have the documentary available for download, as well as a person who took the trouble to write transcripts. The links include links to a group calling itself “Information Clearing House” makes the documentary available in three ways: either as an inbedded file you can watch directly onscreen, as a BitTorrent download, or by reading the transcript of the program.
In Clive Davis on The Power of Nightmares on National Review Online, Clive Davis debunks the documentary.