Closer Cinema: The Power of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares – The Rise of the Politics of Fear is a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis that consists of three parts. The film as a whole compares the rise of the radical Islamist movement and the American Neo-Conservative moment. The film was controversial in some circles mainly because of its argument that the threat of radical Islamism, and more specific that of Al Qaeda, is a myth produced and continously reproduced by many politicians all over the world, but in particular the American neo-conservatives who alledgly used the threat of Al Qaeda in order to mobilise people for their cause. Part 1, Baby It’s Cold Outside, goes into the origin of Islamism and neo-conservatism. In the second episode, The Phantom Victory, the radicalizing Islamist factions fight the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan, backed by the then president Reagan whose administration was influenced by the neo-conservatives. In the third and last episode, The Shadows in the Cave, the film goes into the rise of Al Qaeda. Whereas Al Qaeda is not more than a loose network of terrorists, the US invented the idea of Al Qaeda as a central led organisation, a massive criminal organisation with an army like structure. Later his idea became the legitimization of the War on Terrorism. The documentary is best be seen as a cinematic essay. The central argument is well understood I think although Curtis does sometimes lump developments together in a way such that the accusation of it being a conspiracy theory is not far because it ignores that somewhere in the 1980s a group of militants deed indeed establish something that lead to the Al Qaeda of the 9/11 attacks.
Baby, it’s cold outside

The Phantom Victory

The Shadows in the Cave

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