True Films

The Power of Nightmares


The thesis of this three-part cinematic essay from the BBC is complex, but plausible. It begins by observing that after the horrors of WWII people no longer rallied around optimistic Pollyanna visions of a better tomorrow. The sole belief that could unite a country then became fear — fear of communism. A fear that was wildly, if not insanely exaggerated. But when communism collapsed upon itself, a new fear was fanned to keep the electorate united behind leaders. It also is wildly exaggerated. That new fear is “terrorism.” It transformed a tactic into an enemy. Furthermore this new uniting nightmare has been produced by two fundamentalist strands in the world: Islamic jihadists and American neo-cons. Both sides are ideologically dogmatic, both exaggerate the threat of the other, and both work on the power of worst-case nightmares, and in a strange way, both need each other to keep their people united. This film is a very polemic, subjective, extended argument. But it is well done, BBC-style, with interviews of the principle characters in the Islamic jihad world and in the US neo-con camp, and some fascinating deep history. It is smart enough to be worth arguing with. The Power of Nightmares has the potential to shift how you frame the “war on terror.” At least it shifted my perspective, even if I don’t agree with all its conclusions.

— KK


The Power of Nightmares
Adam Curtis
2004, 180 min.
DVD, $23

Official website

Read more about the film at Wikipedia

Rent from Netflix

Available from Amazon

Watch all three parts at the Internet Archive Moving Image Archive

Posted December 8, 2008 at 9:03 am | comments
in category Extremists


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