March 7, 2007

Seen: The Power of Nightmares

The Power of Nightmares is a terrific and provocative documentary on the culture of fear that has dominated American politics since 9/11. While there have been plenty of documentaries on the war on terrorism in recent memory, Nightmares keeps company with the best of them--Why We Fight, Control Room, The Fog of War--with one important difference: you can't see it in America.

The 3-part film aired in 2004 in the UK but has never been shown on TV in the US and is still unavailable on DVD. Nevertheless, you can add it to your Netflix queue, or search around on YouTube or Bittorrent for it (not that I'm condoning illegal activity--well, hell, I am, when it comes to fighting censorship). Wholphin, a DVD magazine I suscribe to, also packaged the film with its last few issues.

There are plenty of political documentaries on either side of the fence, but what makes Nightmares so interesting--besides its perfectly-elucidated telling of the dual rise of neoconservatism and radical Islam--is how far its director, Adam Curtis, takes the anti-culture of fear argument. "Don't worry, be happy" may carry weight in many aspects of life, but terrorism is a fact of life and Curtis almost seems to suggest that a laissez-faire approach to terrorism would be equally as effective (of course, the documentary aired before the 2005 London bombings took place). The new backscatter x-ray machines slowly being deployed in US aiports, for example, wouldn't get there without political legislation, and to me they look like a necessary step in advancing security in air travel (virtual nudity in front of a complete stranger be damned).

Nevertheless, I agree with 90% of what Curtis is saying in the film, which is more focused on the way politicians publicly manipulate the threat of terrorism for their own, and the economy's, gain, rather than any behind-the-scenes steps they may actually take. Also, it should be pointed out that what I agree or disagree with Curtis about has 0% bearing on anything. All told, 100% of Americans should watch The Power of Nightmares. Here's the trailer:

UPDATE: For some reason the whole thing is now on Google video. Get while the getting's good.

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