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The Power of Nightmares (BBC: 2004) - One of the greatest TV documentaries ever made

The Power of Nightmares (BBC: 2004) - One of the greatest TV documentaries ever made

A case could be made for this being one of the greatest documentaries made ever, but limiting the subject to TV sidesteps having to look at The Thin Blue Line and Grey Gardens - and the existance of Civilisation: A Personal View by Kenneth Clark (1969) and Cosmos (1980) means I can't outright claim it to be the most valuable TV documentary series I've seen; but it's up there.

The BBC don't want you to see this.  Apparently, at some point, their entire archive is going to be freely available online and that might be why they're taking this down off Youtube every chance they get.  But they're not using it, and have no way of profiting from it, so it puzzles me.  Also, as a British citizen I actually help fund the BBC - I have a right to see this content. There are a couple of versions up, but their posters have heavily cropped the pictures to disguise what they are and avoid the censoring.

Fortunately, there's dailymotion and vimeo.  Now I can't link directly to dailymotion - the video quality is much better there, so I'll link the dailymotion versions below.

It's a three-part series, but here edited into one huge film.  I recommend watching these below instead.

The Power of Nightmares - Part 1: The Rise of The Politics of Fear - click

The Power of Nightmares - Part 2: The Phantom Victory - click

The Power of Nightmares - Part 3: The Shadows in The Cave - click

Adam Curtis pioneered a new way of presenting information to his audience.  Talking over archive footage that illustrated the story he was telling he found a way to engage the audience in a way that communicated information clearly and efficiently and also made things like graphs and other dry information easy to consume.

It's the same technique used by the more recent, moronic, Zeitgeist films (the world economy is no longer on the gold standard - what a shock - if you find yourself believing that conspiracy rubbish please take a look at the many many websites explaining how most of that crap are pure lies and invention) - though in that case the sparse presentation is due to the creator's (or lying, ridiculous, attention-whore, Walter Mitty joke of an individual; take your pick) lack of budget, rather than a considered decision.

So, Adam Curtis explains, here, how 9/11 and the war on terror came about.  There's stock footage, recorded interviews with generals or politicians from a few years earlier.  Same thing, right?

No.

More often than not we'll then cut to, what was then (at time of filming), modern day.  And that general or politician or whomever we previously saw in old video footage is in the room with us - actually being interviewed by Adam Curtis.  He doesn't just throw unsubstantiated information at you, he actually talks to the men who made the actual decisions.  C.I.A Directors, high-ranking military officers who pulled the trigger.  Adam Curtis tells you this extraordinary story and then gives you the proof of what he says.

These documentaries are superb.  The first part deals with an Egyptian Muslim, Sayyid Qutb, working for The Ministry of Education.  He spends two years in the U.S between 1948 and 1950 studying their education system and is disturbed by things he finds - in particular a high-school dance where the lights are turned out toward the end of the night and kids are encouraged to slow dance to romantic music.  He finds it morally offensive.

He returns to Egypt convinced there is a middle-ground - a way of fusing traditional Muslim values and the technical advances of the West.  Egypt has become more "Westernised" in his absence; more morally permissive.  The monarchy was shortly overthrown, and General Gamal Abdel Nasser took over.  The two men believed they were on the same path, but it soon became clear this wasn't the case; Nasser turned into yet another despot.  Qutb's writings and teachings attracted the attention of the authorities with Nasser feeling threatened by Qutb's growing influence - he was arrested and tortured which led to his radicalisation.  He now believed that a war on Western values was needed - literally.  His beliefs and writings later fueled Osama Bin Ladin and the men he followed.

Meanwhile, in the U.S, a small group of Republican Neoconservatives had convinced themselves that free-will and a world where people lived without fear was a bad thing - it led to a lazy country that under-performed.  People needed a common threat; something that would galvanise the country and fuel the economy.  They made enemies out of the Russians, The Red Menace, to bring this about.  Among their number?   Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld.

That's only the first episode.  The second sees the Neo-Cons covertly helping to fund the Islamist fundamentalists in their war against Russian forces in Afghanistan.  Having done that the various extremist factions fracture and declare war on each other - leading to unimaginable bloodshed.

Zawahiri (the leader of the faction that will eventually be responsible for 9/11) and bin Laden (his insanely rich benefactor) in an ironic twist, decide a common enemy is needed to steady the ship and bring about the change they want in society.  They declare war on America.  

They don't have an army, it being another Neocon fiction, but 9/11 gives Cheney and Rumsfeld a way of convincing America, and the world, that there is one.  An enemy waiting to destroy us all, massive in numbers.  All untrue.

Now, I could be another nutcase ranting on the internet, but watch these films and see countless American and British Intelligence and Military high-ranking officials (we're not talking soldiers and office-workers here, we're talking about the people who made the decisions and others who were directly given orders by Presidents and Prime Ministers) tell the truth of what actually happened.

It's incredibly powerful, borderline-insane, stuff.  A handful of men killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people in what can only be described as crimes against humanity.

Essential, almost unbelievable, viewing.

 

Chris Coates

Now the dust has settled: How good actually was Avengers - Age of Ultron?

Now the dust has settled: How good actually was Avengers - Age of Ultron?

Review: Watch This - Time Masters (1982)

Review: Watch This - Time Masters (1982)