Saturday, October 01, 2005

The Power of Nightmares

I have just watched the first part of a 3-part BBC documentary that Monkey gave to me. The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear by Adam Curtis has been shown twice on television in the UK - October/November 2004 and January 2005. It was aired in Canada in April 2005, and was scheduled for July 2005 in Australia, but cancelled because it was decided that the screening would be “inappropriate” after the bombings in London. An edited version was screened in Cannes in May 2005.

The documentary has never been shown on American television. You can download it for free at

I am not going to tell you what you should think about it. I will only say that it is interesting and compelling.

I do not know enough to judge how accurate the material is, but I learned quite a bit just from Part 1 – Baby It’s Cold Outside. I know less than I should about the politics of the 1950s, 60s and 70s; the film actually filled in some of the gaps, e.g. the origins of neo-conservatism and some of the activities of Team B.

I would be interested to hear what anyone else thinks about it.


Anonymous said...


It was an amazing bit of television. I am glad you have mentioned it!! It was hard to watch and not be reactionary. Furthermore, it is a crime that it has not been shown on American television - I have to watch it again - only this time try and stay calm.

Anonymous said...


And on the topic of scary Republicans - did you hear what that fuckwit William Bennett said about aborting all black babies to decrease the crime rate in the USA? Niiiiice...

Anonymous said...

Come on Tits why don't you tell the whole story on William Bennett. Let's include the whole quote that he made and the context he made it in. Then you should do some research on what that guy and his wife have done in their personal life for the black community.

Anonymous said...


The whole story SS...ok here is the quote

"If you wanted to reduce crime, you could, if that were your sole purpose; you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down."

By all means defend him SS, - go ahead...I am intrigued.

Anonymous said...

That is not the whole quote. Not to mention that declining crime rates and the legalization of abortion is a theory that is often debated.

Here is some more of the quote

"That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky"

Crime rates in the US drastically started to go down in the early 90's. Abortion was legalized in 1973. The age group of 18-24 committ the most crimes. Bennett would have been better off to state that aborting "unwanted" children would reduce the crime rate but he was trying to make the point that the ends does not justify the means.

Monkey's Max said...


Thank you both for that, I had not heard or seen any of it before.


Anonymous said...


I am sorry but Bennett did not mention unwanted children or even poor children but black children - exposing himself as genocidal – To then stand back and say how wrong it would be does not justify his initial statement.

That is like saying "Gee wouldn't it be great if we could get rid of all the black people because they are all criminals - but we can't, because it would be wrong...*sigh*"

How is that not a hate crime?

Anonymous said...

So now this is a hate crime? Where is the crime?

Monkey's Max said...

Okay, I have just done a bit of my own research, got more of the context than either of you offered and I am going to have to agree with SS on this one.

However, while not "a hate crime", it was a very stupid thing to say, and he should have known that his remarks would be taken out of context.

Anonymous said...


I am surprized at you. Even in jest, stating that the elmination of specific race of people is beyond stupid.

Monkey's Max said...

Fine, beyond stupid. Extremely stupid, idiotic, whatever you want to call it. But the main thing is that his point was not that all black babies should be aborted. His point, very poorly and stupidly made, was that extrapolations are tricky. It is not fair to ignore what his intent actually was.

Here is some more of the context. Hope it helps.

"All right, well, I mean, I just don't know. I would not argue for the pro-life position based on this, because you don't know. I mean, it cuts both -- you know, one of the arguments in this book Freakonomics that they make is that the declining crime rate, you know, they deal with this hypothesis, that one of the reasons crime is down is that abortion is up. Well --"

"Well, I don't think it is either, I don't think it is either, because first of all, there is just too much that you don't know. But I do know that it's true that if you wanted to reduce crime, you could—if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down. That would be an impossible, ridiculous, and morally reprehensible thing to do, but your crime rate would go down. So these far-out, these far-reaching, extensive extrapolations are, I think, tricky."

Monkey's Max said...

Anyway, back on the topic of the documentary, if I may. It goes well beyond "scary Republicans". Neo-cons are a tribe of their own, as far removed from normal Republicans as the extreme Islamicists are from your average moderate Muslims. I understand that more today than I ever did before. I'm going to watch Part 2 now.

Anonymous said...

MM check this out.

Monkey's Max said...

SS, checked out. Thanks.

AG said...

Dear TM and SS,
Bennett and the caller were discussing the book Freakonomics. My source, Randi Rhodes (who actually read the book) claims that the subject of the book was poverty and the economics and results of poverty - not the black community.

She took issue with what Bennett said because he automatically equated black with poor (never mentioning the issue of poverty, but using the word black over and over).

And yes, SS, I understand that the former Secretary of Education and former drug Tsar and his wife have done a great deal of good in the inner cities amongst black people. However, I do take issue with the fact that his wife advocates abstinence instead of birth control because of her own personal religious beliefs. Additionally, I understand that his own personal habits include gambling on a grand scale - his own personal bugaboo, I grant - but if he were a true CHRISTIAN, I would question his gambling habit.

Max, I've watched all three parts and want to make copies to send to everyone I know in the States and to all the commentators on Air America and PBS. It all becomes quite clear now, doesn't it.

AG said...

By the way, I was appalled that they series made Henry Kissinger and Nixon the good guys. Considering the crazy neocoms we're dealing with, I guess they weren't so bad after all. And kudos to Bush I for not going along with their program. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz - Leo Strauss should rot in hell forever!

I was also happy to see that they gave credit to the fall of the USSR not to Ronald Reagan (remember the guy with alzheimers who was getting information from Casey, the guy with the brain tumor)but the rotten economic infrastructure of the USSR.

Anonymous said...


A) Why would you take issue with someone who teaches abstinence?

B) Gambling on a grand scale is a relative term. Your grand scale, my grand scale and Bennett's grand scale are all different. If Bill Gates loses 100 million in a poker game tomorrow it doesnt matter. If I lose 100 bucks it matters.

What you wrote should have been directed at TIts. She is the one who tried and convicted the man as a racist and committer of hate crimes (which the whole idea of classifying something as a hate crime is stupid) based on a partial quote.

Monkey's Max said...

SS, I am going to step in for AG, but the statements I make are exclusively my own.

A) AG is not taking issue with the concept of abstinence in a vacuum, as I am sure you are well aware. Her problem is with the teaching of abstinence in lieu of education about (or even encouragement to use or supply of) birth control. Young people do have sex, SS. And some of those even have heterosexual sex which can result in pregnancy. Teaching about birth control is on the more practical side because no matter how much abstinence you teach, kids are still going to have sex.

B) Yes.

Audie said...

SS said:

"TIts ... is the one who tried and convicted the man as a racist ... based on a partial quote."

Seeing the full context only makes it MORE clear to me that Bennett's comments reveal his racism. As you yourself say, "Bennett would have been better off to state that aborting 'unwanted' children would reduce the crime rate." Regardless of what his "point" was, his slip of the tongue -- talking suddenly about black people when the topic was crime and unwanted children -- suggests quite strongly that in his mind the two groups are interchangeable -- which is nothing if not stereotyping -- specifically, racism.

Monkey said...

I'd be happy to burn all 3 parts to CD for anyone who wants them, esp if you live in The America and have a large group friends who still support boy George and think his wars are a necessary evil.

Bush is a joke.
Al-Qaeda is a farce.
Osama bin-Laden is irrelevant and dead.

Got it?

Anonymous said...

Maybe it was on his mind because black people have the highest crime rate and throwing that stat out would drastically improve the rate.

But that is a repulsive idea and the ends does not justify the means which is the point he was trying to make. Call it what you want but this guy is not racist.

Anonymous said...

Firstly the documentary series is a great piece of filmmaking in & of itself.

Secondly some of the various bits of evidence are jaw-droppingly alarming, ..., more especially so when it emerges straight from the mouths of those involved. The 'team b' stuff surely means that some of these people are guilty of treason, doesnt it?

Thirdly there is a factual error about the emergence of the term Al-Qaeda. The term wasnt invented by the neo-cons. Also the film doesnt argue that AQ doesnt exist, nor that it isnt a threat. Personally I think AQ is more like the emergence of punk rock or the spread of a 'good idea' in a capitalist system, ..., like blogging software. To go back to my punk analogy AQ is the equivilant to the 'Heres 3 chords, now go & form a band' page in a fanzine, or the 'It was easy! It was cheap! Go & do i!' slogan of the Desparate Bicylces.

Lastly I think the film specifically identifies PNAC rather than neo-cons in general as the driving force behind current US foreign policy & the use of fear to 'manufacture consent'. The notion that there exists some Straussian conspiracy to take over US foreign policy is not proved by the programe, despite the circumstantial evidence. How could it, ..., theres no people saying "Yes on this date at this time these young political science post-grad sat in Stausss' room & we agreed to infiltrate the CIA or similar", is there? This contrast sharply with the evidence about 'team b'.

It is probably for this unverified claim that the programe was billed by the BBC as 'a personal view by Curtis'.

The BBC recently aired an opposing series as part of their committment to 'balance' but the name eludes me for the moment, ..., it was no way as impressive.

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