The Power of Nightmares

,    »  -   56 Comments

The Power of NightmaresThe Power of Nightmares, subtitled The Rise of the Politics of Fear, is a BBC documentary film series, written and produced by Adam Curtis. The series consists of three one-hour films, consisting mostly of a montage of archive footage with Curtis's narration, which were first broadcast in the United Kingdom in late 2004 and have been subsequently aired in multiple countries and shown in several film festivals, including the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

The films compare the rise of the American Neo-Conservative movement and the radical Islamist movement, making comparisons on their origins and noting strong similarities between the two. More controversially, it argues that the threat of radical Islamism as a massive, sinister organised force of destruction, specifically in the form of al-Qaeda, is in fact a myth perpetrated by politicians in many countries—and particularly American Neo-Conservatives—in an attempt to unite and inspire their people following the failure of earlier, more utopian ideologies.

Baby It's Cold Outside

 

The Phantom Victory

 

The Shadows in the Cave

2.2k
8.21
12345678910
Ratings: 8.21/10 from 28 users.

More great documentaries

56 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Max

    Another examination of the recent self inflicted schizophrenic politic. Curtis at his best.

  2. KMan

    This one was really good. Highly recomended.

  3. kamala

    my instincts were right, i just couldn't articulate them. makes me almost want to believe in something (other than individual freedom), but i know better than that! thank u, thank u to the makers of this doco. :*)** sniff sniff.

  4. chocolatestarfish

    the last part claims that al quaeda is not an organisation but merely an idea shared by a couple of disorganised; that seems a bit too much for me... sure they didnt have sophisticated cave-fortresses in the afghan mountains BUT
    they were big enough of a danger and tightly organised to exert the 9/11 attacks and as khalid sheikh mohammad admitted to planning an attack on the L.A. library tower.

    al quaeda is no new soviet union empire of evil but a serious threat that needs to be dealt with. leaving them be transports us back to the eve of sep. 10th 2001.

    apparently this documentary was produced after the madrid train bombings and BEFORE the 7/7 london bombings... how would've the conclusion of the producers turned out with 56 british citizens dead due to al quaeda inspired terrorism.

  5. Yavanna

    Fascinating doc - a must watch indeed.

    Chocstar - "the last part claims that al quaeda is not an organisation but merely an idea shared by a couple of disorganised; that seems a bit too much for me"

    Have you watched any 911 related documentaries? I must assume not. People are conditioned to shy away from "conspiracy theories" - after all only "crack-pots" would believe such things wouldnt they? A conspiracy theory could be 2 people planning to cheat at an exam test or so big that it encompasses thousands of people in multiple countries. Look at the history of Prescott Bush if you want some historical evidence that CTs are real and evidenced. Just google Prescott Nazi Gold. That should get you started.

    With regards to your comment on 7/7 - who knows. 7/7 is infinitely less documented as opposed to 911 but similarities are discussed. For instance: on 9/11 training exercises were being played out for exactly what happened; on 7/7 training exercises were active and the exact scenario to what happened employed.

    A good doc to watch in conjunction with this one would be:
    "War and Globalization: The Truth Behind 9/11" which goes into more detail of the al-quaeda myth.

  6. Nielsch

    @Chocolatestarfish

    Upon reading your post, all I could think about were the statisctics: For every 1 American that dies in a foreign terrorist attack, 58 people die in the US because of lack of healthcare. So ask yourself, what do you fear more: the ghosts in the cave or subjects that really do have influence over your daily life..?

    Please educate yourself regarding developments since 9/11 and the 'War of Terror', before posting. And about the 7/7 attacks, ask yourself; If you were a suicide bomber, would you really leave HALF of your explosives in the car..?
    7/7 stinks as much as 9/11.. Madrid was real terrorism in my opinion, because it was the only country that actually released the (horrible) footage of the attack.

  7. Randy

    To all of you conspiracy theorists, WTC Truthers, I say to you, grow up, get a real education, and stop thinking that Alex Jones is going to give you the "inside knowledge". I understand you feel inadequate compared to people that have advanced degrees, but, you know, you can get them, too... if you WORK hard enough, like I did.

    This doc was not proof of any of your consiracy theories. This stuff is taught openly in political science classes. It does not mean what you THINK it means.

    What it means is, a sad little guy named Leo Strauss who loved "Gunsmoke" and "Perry Mason" thought that evolution and the destruction of the christian god in America would mean that people would turn into animals, so he had to make followers that would instill the TRUTH: that only god could be moral, everything else was evil...

    This infected islam, as well, naturally. And that was the cause of 9/11, ultimately.

    What you and I must know, is that even without any god at all, we can be moral, upstanding citizens of society. Something he didn't know, which makes him dumber than you and I.

    No conspiracy theories, just sad little men who like TV. You can easily be better than them with a real education.

  8. ResearchYourself

    To you Randy,

    Alex Jones can get pretty obnoxious sometimes, that's for sure. However, before you go trying to insult people, you should do some research of your own. America has a history of "false flag" events. If you search it you can find General McNamara stating that the Gulf of Tonkin incident never happened, but yet it was what kicked off the Vietnam War. You could also look up the "Northwoods Document" (unclassified now).

    A REAL education would be ALL the facts surrounding 9/11. Ever hear of PNAC, (Project For A New American Century) and it's members including: Dick Cheney, Jeb Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and how in 2000 PNAC wrote a document called "Rebuilding America's Defenses" stating how America needed to have permanent military bases established in the middle east in order to secure our oil and other interests there, and how the American people would never stand behind just going and occupying a country...? The Document stated: "The process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbor." This was written one year prior to 9/11.

    There's a lot of money to be made in wars. The Rockefellers and Bernard Baruch each made some $200 million off of WW1. Some men only think in terms of money. With Cheney heading up Halliburton and Bush with his oil ties, heck, that's a win win. Did you know that the head of the ISI, who was said to be the guy who wired the $100,000 to Muhammed Atta, (head hijacker), was here on "Official Business" from September the 6th through the 13th, 2001? "Truthers" as you call them just want some questions answered.

    Something else you should look up is "Black September". On September 6th, 1970 three planes were hijacked, (and an attempted fourth), by Palestinian terrorists and then blown up in Jordan on Septmeber 12th. It's seems highly unlikely that while Bush and Condoleeza Rice were saying that they "couldn't imagine anyone ever using planes as weapons", that the Intelligence Agencies weren't aware of this. Now I don't want to start calling you people "Coincidentors" but, if that doesn't make you raise an eyebrow...you're just Fox News Retarded.

    I suggest you further your education and watch "The Money Masters" to see who really runs your country, before you start singing along with Toby Keith.

  9. eireannach666

    @Randy

    I have to agree. Leo Strauss and his kind are strange individuals with radical religious ideas and have no buisness on the political stage. The neoconservatists are no more than pushers of extremist christian fundamentalism and irrational thinking.

    Science should run the political stage and religion should be seperated from its position of power. Ill say it again, what ever happened to seperation of church and state? This is the problem with the system we have. Government can never be fair and/or just with religion breathing down its neck about every non-religious idea brought to the table. Thus , leaving no room to think and work outside the box.

    This doc only confirmed my opinion on the neoconservative movement. Ridiculous.

  10. WTC7

    Hi Randy,

    I guess that many of us are grown up enough and do have some education, for which they HAVE WORKED hard to get (which by the way does not necessarily play a decisive role in measuring intelligence and ability for independent thinking). Also, an attempt to put everyone who thinks independently (and differently from you too Randy, as not everybody has to have the same opinion about things that agrees with yours) in the same basket with Alex Jones is a bit cheap, ineffective too, way to put your point through and I would have expected more from you.

    On the other hand, you are right when you say that this doc is not a proof of conspiracy theories, but I don't think that was its aim. The way I see it, it is an attempt to describe the evolution of the neocon ideology and its rise to prominence in the US politics. You are also right that this is being widely discussed among the political theorists, but it does not mean it is not important that such an ideology has influenced (and still is) the US foreign policy. I don't know what you think others, including me, are THINKING it means, but, with respect, I think it is really not important what you personally think about it.

    The last paragraph of your post I'm referring to is absolutely correct in my view - "even without any god at all, we can be moral, upstanding citizens of society." Spot on!

  11. WTC7

    ... & now, after having watched the last part of the doc, I think, as a whole it points toward some quite relevant concerns in terms of the obvious manipulations of the existing US policies

  12. Matty

    This film is bizarre. Am I to take it that the war on terror was waged almost exclusively on misinformation from the US, which somehow metamorphed into evidence?

    I find it impossible to believe anything these days. I had been hoping that the more I read/watch the more I would be able to form my beliefs, however I'm finding that I am becomine rapidly more sceptical every day.

  13. JPW

    Overall, I think this is a fantastically made documentary with a coherent hypothesis, which (as I understand it) argues that both Islamists and neoconservatives use 'nightmares' and the power of fear to advance their goals.

    I feel I must, however, take to task both the film and some of the comments which, to me, appear to demonstrate a lack of understanding of both Leo Strauss, and neoconservatism more generally. Firstly, Strauss himself was not a political theorist, nor did he advocate any particular position on how to best advance society. Indeed, reading political counsel into Strauss is a risky and difficult task, as anyone who has attempted to understand his views will most likely argue. Strauss, as I see it, was far more concerned with academia and what he perceived as an abandonment of antiquity in the study of philosophy. Nowhere in any of his writings does he call for 'noble lies' or 'pious frauds' to coerce the masses as part of a sinister plot.

    Further, I feel the links between Strauss and the neoconservatives are overblown at best, outright fabricated at worst. Indeed, I would like to have explained to me what is 'Straussian' about neoconservative foreign policy. Also, I feel the film has too wide a definition of neoconservatism, as, if one considers the main doctrines of neoconservative thought, many of the individuals fall more into the the traditional/paleoconservative camp, I would argue (in particular Rumsfeld and Cheney). I think what sets the neocons apart from more traditional conservatives in terms of US foreign policy is their clear moral clarity, and Manichean perception of global politics. In this sense, it is easy to see why 9/11 represented such an opportunity for them to work towards their goals, as 'Al-Qaeda' could be dressed up as such an existential threat. Therefore, as I said above, I believe Curtis' main argument on the use of fear in achieving political goals is sound.

    Whether or not those goals are good or not is, obviously, a different debate.

  14. Randy

    @JTW

    Actually, my main problem with Strauss, (other than he having been a total fruit cake), was his insistance, (and the present day insistance that persists), is that without religion, there would be no morality.

    The neo-cons think that if we don't believe the bible, we will run around like wild animals murdering everyone we see.

    That is a real monsterous, dangerous, falicy.

    In fact, the exact opposite is true. Religion causes immorality.

    Yes. It does.

  15. isitus

    As a European citizen this is extremely well-documented documentary which also states how our government is following the similar tracks adopted from the states -

    "Either you with us, or against us", then our littleman jumped to the USofAmaster with whiping tail, with the consequences of both the Iraq-war, which went from nuclear(never to be found)-terror threat to "saving a people"

    Now still in Afghanistan . .

    A "new" right-wing nationalistic party, is gaining seriously ground, because of there extremely well-coordinate placement of fear in our country - towards Arabic-nationalities and other minorities.

    What to do in just this small fraction of serious problems?

  16. commentor

    It was good not to see any regional point of view in the documentary series. But something was missing on the reasoning wars with Green Politics' Precautionary Principle. Giving a Green Politics view on that matter could raise the doc. series objectivity.

  17. Jenn

    This is one of those documentaries that everyone needs to see.

  18. Jo

    The first video link isn't working. Anyone else having this problem?

  19. Vlatko

    The video is fine @Jo.

  20. Elvis P.

    It's all about Power....for as long as there is oil....after oil these people will all look like you and me, pupets at the mercy of Mother earth.

  21. Rebecca

    Given the recent events in Egypt, I came back to watch this for a 2nd time and I'm glad I did. I'm still trying to make sense of what is behind the revolution-is it a true populist uprising, or is the Muslim Brotherhood behind it? The fact that the movement (if you could call it that) leading to Sadat's execution was spurred by the peace talks with Isreal and the cozy relationship with the west seems eerily similar to what I've heard many of the protesters saying when asked about the reason for their outrage. In any case, this is an excellent doc, thanks for posting it Vlatko!

  22. adilrye

    Is it really religion? It seems like he is more of a nationalistic fan of Plato, not really a religious guy. At least from this doc.

  23. adilrye

    From what I've seen (part 1/3) this is a fascinating doc. I took from it that in today's age, the two most polarizing world views out there namely, Neo-Conservatism and Qutb's Islamism are basically based on the same thing: fear. Ironically, it's fear of each other that drives them. And to see their long and interconnected history is very eye opening.

    It's really a Platonic view of society: the most desirable structure is one where the people fear something and thus rally around an elite and common morals. Fear of chaos, fear of the unknown...fear of anything. This fear allows the political structure to endure, and cannot exist without something or someone to fear.

    P.S. This doc is a little dated, because he scoffs at the idea of an attack in the UK, yet, a year later, there's a bombing in the Tubes, from homegrown terrorists, to boot. I agree that the threat is exaggerated greatly, but he shouldn't act as if it doesn't exist at all.

  24. snig27

    I think he covers 7/7 despite the fact it is in the future. He talks of the thread from those inspired by what is created and the increased possibility of terror strikes as a result of the mythology that the war on terror bought with it.

    Amazing documentary.

  25. Hodd

    Adam Curtis docs are excellent! Check out Century of the Self if you haven't already.

  26. Mark Stouffer

    Adam Curtis is full of crap. The Soviet Union didn't exist? Al Quaida didn't exist? The US is in no way special or unusual in world history? Next he will try to prove that the 4th of July never happened.

  27. Mark Stouffer

    It is funny seeing Curtis say that attacks on the London Tubes were a fantasy swept up by the media. He works for the media, only instead of sweeping up he is sweeping under.

    It is funny seeing him portray his insight that the planned attack were fantasy as some profound revelation, esepecially after such attacks have occured with devastating effects. Has he toned down his "fantasy" insight since then? No. Now he wants to tell us that the American Revolution, freedom, and the World Wide Web are a fantasy. Nothing is happening in the Middle East.

  28. vulturewoman

    did you watch the whole 3 parts? By your comments, I'm not under the impression you did.

  29. Mark Stouffer

    I did. Now I could suggest that you don't know what you are talking about, as you have done, or we could actually discuss the issues. You pick.

  30. sekulär demokrat

    Thanks!!! Now I know that 1000 women dying in honorkilling only in Pakistan every year is a dream. And the demonstration for Sharia in Egypt is a dream. Also the islamist in Somlia who stone people and the killers in Iran is only a dream. WOW !! I am so happy.

  31. Jeremy

    Stating that the ideology behind the attack was a fantasy, and insinuating that Curtis stated that the attacks themselves were fantasy, is lewd and insidious. Are you dense sir? Because that is the only thing I can assume based off of your statements.

    I know many people that were in the wars, they themselves admit it was a total crock of slop, literally, every one of them, from the Marine to the army to the navy, most of them told me the "haji's" were quite friendly and most the terrorists were in fact, merc's from other areas being sent there to fight and it was only possible by western funding, I was told many times of soldiers finding US munitions where they should not have been.

    Anyways, from what I have personally been told, by dozens of people that have ACTUALLY been there, this Documentary seems to be legit, I will show it around and get more opinions from some vets.

    Also after briefly searching some of the mentioned examples of cover-ups by American media etc, it is all there, go look for yourselves. including the bill clinton media slam that was all bogus, etc, it's pretty bad guys, wake up America, now is the time to get smart.

  32. Jeremy

    Once again, I seriously can't believe that two people now have mis-taken his words, I guarantee you 100% he is not attempting to say that 1000 women dying is a dream...

    What he is saying, Sk Dem, is that THE IDEAS THAT MOTIVATE THE 1000 KILLINGS are a dream. As in, the beliefs these people mercilessly kill for, are a pipe dream, a bogus sham. And it's on both sides of the line..

    You get it yet? ...

    srsly saddening to see such misunderstanding, did we not all take english in school, do we not understand metaphors, analogies, sarcasm? If you are foreign, no disrespect, but learn the language better before attempting to dissect the 2nd hardest dialect the world offers...

  33. Mark Stouffer

    You are making the distinction that the motivation for the attacks was a fantasy but the attacks were real? That is still false though. There is a very deeply held belief that drives these attacks, and that belief was not created by "the media". It was created by someone else.

  34. Jeremy

    @ Mark - "You are making the distinction that the motivation for the attacks was a fantasy but the attacks were real? That is still false though. There is a very deeply held belief that drives these attacks, and that belief was not created by "the media". It was created by someone else.

    Never said it was created by the media, neither did the documentary, if you paid attention, the individuals that spread these beliefs are also discussed. The only thing I noticed that he put on the media was their bias, and non-conclusive reporting style that misdirected the real reasons behind the problems. Which comes back to your comment, you say they are a deeply held "belief" that is driving the attacks... I say that a fantasy and a belief can have a lot in common. They are both ideas about how one denomination thinks the world should or could be...

    And to any further onslaught of misunderstanding, I am not saying that the people that hold these fundamentalist views are a fantasy, nor am I saying that them holding beliefs is a fantasy, their beliefs are definitely real, a blood spattered body tells no lies. What I am saying, is that Curtis is implying that THEIR BELIEF'S are Fantasy, as in they believe in it, but it's still untrue. Get it yet?

    Good day

  35. Jeremy

    How can you claim to be smarter than one of the smartest men in the world, did you ever wonder why 99% of the smartest people in the world admit that the black boxes WERE found, that 1,500 engineers vs the MILLIONS that disagree VEHEMENTLY with them are indeed misled, Dylan Avery proven to be a fraudster MULTIPLE times, and Steven Jones, the guy that claims to have found Thermite in the rubble, ya he lied. He's currently unemployed and all of his evidence was FAKE, he's facing charges if I remember right. You would know this if you were watching anything other than FAKE documentaries about a conspiracy so effing huge, only a M*RON could think our government could pull off. The buildings were designed different than most modern sky scrapers, extra support beams were removed to save weight, and the other tower that was engineered by the same people collapsed overseas from guess what??? An EFFING fire.

    The evidence is completely refutable, and even if there was a conspiracy and manipulation, I'm sorry bud, but there are other groups out there besides the Islamists and the American Government that can pull stuff like this off.

    If you said something like, "powerful people MAY have helped feed information and ideas to the muja hadim which in turn made it's way to Osama Bin Laden, who used this information, as well as contacts around the world to make sure people were not prepared on the day of the attack, and used outside resources including military training from the CIA received in prior years to pull it off." Would make much more sense, and is easily viable. Did you ever consider that the people who pulled this off produced or paid to have these documentaries made in an attempt to under-mind and further destabilize our country? I mean, if you were the mastermind of 9-11, wouldn't it be easier to throw people WAAAY off the trail, by mixing in theories of explosives, and drone airplanes, than to provide a real investigation which might actually give away what really happened?

    Like I said, I do think there could have been people that helped make 9-11 happen, there are a lot of people that hate America. But to say that Adam Curtis, is not aware of something that he has been covering for 30 years, is ignorant. And if you were not aware, this documentary earned a BAFTA. If you know anything about documentaries you would know that a BAFTA is only given to a select few films that are found to be 100% factual. If any of the thousands of professionals, historians, scientists, or peers find a single lie, mis-truth, or omission of fact, it cannot earn a BAFTA. It did.

    But by your logic, then I guess thousands of unrelated professionals must be a part of the conspiracy too, but let me guess... They don't even know they are part of it right? Am I right?

    Some people man I swear...

  36. Jayjay30

    when an idea demands LIFE (yours or of another's), it's a dangerous one there for must not be pursued.

  37. manfruss

    Let's move forward!! I bet everyone in the world wants something simple. Access to resources for the best life possible, and the freedom to live that life without prejudice and bigotry from others. Honestly this is easy to achieve if everyone has their needs met. Let's eliminate profit and the monetary-market paradigm from history. It's outdated and holding us back. Just like the "truth" of divine right of kings.

  38. Neo Anderson

    The ignorance of the common American is only exceeded by their greed, the Air force has a term for it, “followership”.

  39. GoldenZamboni

    Holding us back, its the only reason we are where we are. Stalin and Lenin tried to meet everyone's needs through price fixing and everyone suffered. You want corrupt government to take over more aspects of society. There is no Utopian solution, life it hard. It has always been so.

  40. Ben

    Hey Jeremy, my name's Ben. I was trying to research the whole 9/11 thing and I just wanted to know if you could tell me where to find any info about the tower you were talking about that was overseas: "and the other tower that was engineered by the same people collapsed overseas from guess what??? An EFFING fire."

  41. TonyS

    This is wonderful! I'm glad I found it again. Good job bbc!

  42. Jules Manson

    If the BBC produced it you can safely bet that it will be outstanding and reveal things which the American media conglomerates would prefer to keep hidden. And then there is Adam Curtis. He is probably the best non-fiction film maker of our time. His insight into politics and other social topics is nothing short of brilliant especially when he documents the true nature of government and society and the role of corporations (and technology) which lock is into an illusion of a free democracy that we cannot escape from. All his film productions are a must-see.

  43. Jessica Charnley

    Before watching this doco I had been one of the stupid ones to believe that the Twin Towers were executed by the US Government to get into the middle east for oil. Watching this completely changed my mind (thankfully). I now finally feel I have an understanding of our world today and the history that has led up to it. Amazing documentary! Really good informed comments from you and I can't believe these idiots that have misunderstood the message or taken it "oh so literally" because they are obviously very unintelligent and probably believe everything the media and government tell them.

  44. Gregor A Mcivor

    aye the guy that made the films amazing,adam curtis,he has an amazing way of making you question what you thought you believed.he has another film on here called 'the mayfair set',its about a group of british gamblers who pretty much currupt the world.
    you'll really enjoy it if you liked this.

  45. Tiffany Overly

    Adam Curtis is my hero!!

  46. Tiffany Overly

    Everything makes sense now, but I kind of miss my ignorance. I was raised thinking America was great and we had it all figured out and now I'm realizing that was about as true as the sleeper cell terrorists in video 3... Jeremy, you are amazing.

  47. Kelly Kafir

    Islam has 1400 years of violence.

  48. Kelly Kafir

    Qutb was a Shafi'ite - they believe in cutting out a woman's clitoris and her outer labia and sewing up the inner labia to leave a small hole near the anus. This is to prevent a woman from having sexual pleasure and to supposedly keep her chaste until she is married. It is called female circumcision or Female Genetalia Mutilation. Watch Desert Flower if you want more info.

    "Sayyid Qutb was an Egyptian author, educator, Islamist theorist, poet, and the leading member of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in the 1950s and '60s. In 1966 he was convicted of plotting the assassination of Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser and was executed by hanging.

    Even though most of his observations and criticism were leveled at the Muslim world, Qutb is also known for his intense disapproval of the society and culture of the United States, which he saw as obsessed with materialism, violence, and sexual pleasures. (oh wait until you hear about what Islam condones!!) He is one who shaped the ideas of Islamists and particularly of groups such as Al Qaeda."

  49. Kelly Kafir

    don't be a tool, dear. America is great. Not perfect but it is good and I have been around the world.

  50. Kelly Kafir

    The masses NEED to be led??? You think that is ok?

    Oh yeah, the USSR didn't put missles on Cuba, right... what a stupid mockumentary this is.

  51. Shaz Tomkins

    the 4th of july happens once a year, every year since the current calendar was adopted. what's your point? ;D

  52. Shaz Tomkins

    the towers were turned to dust. there are many scientific anomalies surrounding the event. the 'truth' movement is but a layer of the cover-up. what could do what was done? nothing we know. what could it be used to do rather than used as a weapon? the possibilities are endless and not fantasy. it would benefit the world, and render current filthy and corrupt powers that be (in every way) powerless, and of no value. once these various attempts to shine a light (yay for them!) begin to open your minds, check out the work of dr. judy wood and andrew johnson (checktheevidence) and other true experts who put their findings and those of the official conspiracy theory up for scrutiny in a court of law. peace.

  53. Anum Khan

    and Christianity has more..

  54. Matt

    I too have been all around the world. A country that condones illegal wars that result in the death of millions - or arming those who engage in these vicious wars, genocides, and military dictatorships - is not a great country.

Leave a comment / review: