All entries for Friday 29 October 2004

October 29, 2004

You Can Help Save The World! (Maybe)

This entry will meander a little.

First, things first, who has watched Adam Curtis' new documentary on BBC2, titled:

The Power of Nightmares?

Anyone? It's a three part show documenting the parallel rise of the Neocon movement with that of Islamic Fundamentalism, and the resulting culture of fear which drives the world today. It is good. It is really good.

The entire show is very cleverly edited and put together, and the ideas are fresh and appear certainly to be very genuine. Unlike say, Fahrenheit 9/11, the tone of the documentary is factual rather than polemic, and Curtis' direction is always pretty unbiased – he, unlike many others, always allows his sources to speak for themselves.

Some brilliant moments off the top of my head:

  1. The Soviet ambassador to the US pleading with Wolfowitz for the Americans to help them withdraw from Afghanistan, and set up a stable government there. Wolfowitz refuses, demanding the Soviets immediately withdraw. The Russian warns that leaving so suddenly would not create a democracy, but a theocratic tyranny...
  2. The CIA boss believing the Soviets were responsible for ALL global terrorism, even though his analysts informed him that the 'evidence' for this was created as black propaganda by the CIA itself…
  3. How the radical Islamicists in Algeria, basing themselves on a system of Absolute Belief, decided that all mankind must be killed, except of course themselves…

Curtis' central thesis is that much of the global terrorist threat is a fantasy. Not that of course there are no terrorists – but rather they represent scattered groups of individuals with individual views, united only in that they have a common enemy. The idea of a coordinated, 'evil' force is an illusion. Curtis suggests that the Neocons and Islamicists are feeding off the actions of each other and hence growing in strength.

Needless to say, Fox derided it as anti-americanism. The NRO attempted to attack it by gross strawmen and extraordinarily weak 'evidence'. Examples:

In Curtis's world, it is Strauss, not Osama bin Laden, who is the real evil genius.

No a single bad word was said about Strauss in the film. The most serious attack was that he was idealistic. Half the film was spent watching the rise of the radical Islamicists. Curtis' point is that there are no 'evil' geniuses, full stop.

Pipes, perhaps the world's leading expert on Kremlin ideology, is left looking an amiable dunce. British viewers, unaware of his distinguished career, will be none the wiser. Pipes tells NRO in response to it all: "The allegations made by Ms. Cahn and others about Team B are so preposterous that I would be at a loss to answer them: they are similar to those made by the Holocaust deniers. They sort of leave you speechless."

Curtis did say that Pipes was an eminent expert on ideology. But Curtis' attack was that Team B was meant to analyse evidence to come up with a conclusion, for which Pipes is uniquely unsuited because he had a preset view of the Soviet Union he had formed without access to the evidence. Quoting the target does not a rebuttal make.

Oh yes, if you haven't seen the show, I'm afraid there is only the last of three episodes remaining. Sorry.

But the story goes on… The Guardian Newspaper, perhaps inevitably, is the most enthusiastic supporter of 'The Power of Nightmares'. Praise appeared in a column by freelance journalist Charlie Brooker, called:

Screen Burn

Now, for those unfamiliar with the Guardian, Screen Burn is a weekly column appearing at the start of the newspaper's TV guide. It represents a satirical preview of the week in television. Brooker liked, and presumeably still likes the Power of Nightmares alot, and also commented on the US election debates. But it wasn't his description of Kerry as a haunted tree, his claim that a Bush victory would disprove god would got anyone's attention. It was his last sentence:

John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr – where are you now that we need you?

Wham! The conservative media whipped itself into a fanactical rage. Brooker, they said, was inciting murder. Wham! Wham! Brooker should be arrested and sent to Guantalamo bay. Wham! Wham! The Guardian should be banned from reporting from the US. Wham! Wham! Within hours, people were coming up, claiming to be sickened, claiming to be taken aback by this 'absolute lack of human decency.'

The Guardian withdrew the article, leaving an apology in its place. (Though a mirror still exists run by a supporter.) Brooker said it was a joke, but of the course the Right still would not believe him.

You may stop laughing now. Is this situation not utterly insane? The pro-Bush people are actually saying that they believe a TV guide is a site for political incitement to violence, and that an article about next week's television is a serious political platform. If Brooker was complaining about Kerry, or Blair, the likes of the Mail would be jumping all over with the freedom of speech card. Political correctness would have gone far more than mad. For God's sake, these people are trying to outlaw humour!

And even more infuriating is the sheer hypocrisy of the rightwingers who made this an issue.

Absolute nastiness

They do this almost all the time. Consider the following:

I wonder do you think Rupert Murodch get his papers investigate background of this reporter.... I dont' think SS can't do jack about UK Guardian I know who could... Scotland Yard and Brit MI-5

Then tell me again why I'm wrong in wishing that the next earthquake moves San Francisco about a hundred miles out to sea, and dumps it two thousand feet below the surface.

How to handle a peacenik? Fix bayonets.

a company of US Navy Seals - Republican to a man - to descend upon the offices of the Guardian, bag the lot of you, and transport you to Guantanamo Bay, where you can share quarters with some lonely Taliban shepherd boys.


The last is written in the blog of Tim Blair, an Australian conservative. Which is where I come in. I've decided to write emails to him, challenging him to change the title of his blog post on the grounds that it is just as 'sickening' as Brooker's column. The idea is that this would expose the way they are distorting the issue, and perhaps draw a little fire away from other things. It's a small measure, but it is something?

Anyone wanna help out?

The ability to give the impression of moral indignation is all that is required. Come on, folks, just leave a comment. We don't want this guy to win… do we? For updates, watch this spot.

Oh, and:

Let's all assassinate Bush!
Let's all assassinate Bush!
Let's all assassinate Bush!
Let's all assassinate Bush!
Let's all assassinate Bush!

Hey, even flames from the far right is publicity, and there is no such thing as bad publicity.

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