Friday, July 22, 2005

Philosophies of the Global War On Terror

Thanks to a random slashdot post I came across a very interesting documentary today. It's called The Power of Nightmares, created by filmmaker Adam Curtis. There are three one-hour episodes. It is available for free download from the Internet Archive. I found their download to be very slow, and looked elsewhere. You should have no problem finding it on your bittorrent tracker of choice. The BBC also has an intersting Q and A with Curtis. I've only got the first episode so far (bloody download limits). It's a great look at the origins of the neoconservative and jihadi philosophies and their rise to power, portraying both as a rejection modernity and liberalism. There's wonderful footage of some of the primary figures (young Rumsfeld cracked me up, the man never changes). I found the Reagan-era stuff in particular to be utterly fascinating. I would love to see an academic discussion of the film. There are a gazillion discussions of it on the internet, but nearly all from highly politicized viewpoints, either accepting the film in its entirety or trashing it in every regard. One of the more substantive criticisms I could find was a charge in this National Review article that the conclusions of a book that the film attacks, The Terror Network: The Secret War of International Terror were later verified by the Stasi files. There is also some discussion of criticisms in the film's wikipedia entry. I found it to be fairly even-handed, at least in discussion of the philosophies (although Curtis' version of historical events seems more subject to question), and honestly thought that Leo Strauss and Sayyid Qutb (who Curtis holds to be the seminal visionaries on each side) had interesting and important points to make. It's starting to seem that many of the important political and sociological events of the day can fit within the frame of mankind struggling with the onrush of modernity.

Update (7/24): Finished watching the series. It makes some fairly startling claims in the latter part, and presents really interesting arguments to back them. Quite a thought-provoking program, you should give it a look.

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