Sunday, November 07, 2004

Mything the Point

Many of you may have heard of the recent BBC production, The Power of Nightmares, written and produced by Adam Curtis. The documentary was aired in late October. The entire three hour program is now posted online.

Curtis proposes that international terrorism is a myth, one that is promulgated by a camarilla of neoconservatives, surreptitiously bending the mind of our impressionable president. He posits that neoconservative politicians plot to build a national ideology based around an irrational fear of terrorism, appealing to a nightmare vision. In so doing, Curtis purports that neoconservatives mirror the very ideologues they seek to destroy: Islamic fundamentalists like bin Laden who want to build an Islamic caliphate.

Curtis' BBC documentary is stylistic and masterfully edited; it's compelling to watch even as a poor-quality Real Media video. My initial take was that in an effort to debunk Reagan's simplistic 'evil empire' view of the Soviet Union as mere myth, the communist empire is portrayed somewhat benignly, to say the least. I was also struck how Sayyid Qutb and his protégé Ayman al Zawahiri are apparently the moral equivalents of Paul Wolfowitz and Irving Kristol, portraying each as potent progenitors of antithetical mirror-image mythological ideologies---conveniently grouping together both sides of the current war into a single threat. We are all the hapless victims of a malevolent game akin to Mad Magazine's Spy versus Spy, it seems. Arab Islamic pathological Jew hatred, for example, hardly figures into the equation.

Clive Davis has a good rebuttal to Curtis' masterpiece, for a fuller analysis.

The documentary is worth watching because terrorism that is portrayed as mere myth is a rising meme within liberal circles. I have encountered the phrase 'terror myth' several times over the past few weeks. Curtis' slick BBC production might have popularized the phrase. I would hate to see the terrorism myth-myth fully infect the Democrats, lest they become completely irrelevant. They've become inconsequential enough as it is. So by all means, watch the documentary if you have the time, and garner your own opinions. What are the grains-of-truth? That we are all susceptible to suave, persuasive ideologues? If so, is Curtis exposing the truth or just promoting his own? Curtis has his salient points---I'm wary of the Republican's proclivities for old time religion and single-mindedness too---but I don't really know if I want to fully believe any of these people---Curtis, the BBC, the neoconservatives, the Christian fundamentalists, or the kiffiyeh-donning effigies formerly known as Democrats. This era is hallmarked by powerful groups assuming that people's minds are for rent, and that they really can't think, but instead just follow. Slick production values and an air of superiority are all you need to get votes. The condescension that we are subjected to from all sides these days is stunning.

Disassembling myths is an equal opportunity profession. Perhaps the BBC might consider spending some of the British public's monies on a few more myth-busting documentaries, in time for airing on the eve of the next American election, for maximal influence:

How about a program debunking the myth of Lenin as a well-meaning, misunderstood warrior for the tired, oppressed working masses? Or the myth that, for the sake of humanitarianism, we were right to pull out of Vietnam, if belated, only to leave thousands of South Vietnamese to their deaths at the hands of the communists? What about the myth of Che? Or Fidel? Arafat? Ortega? Mumia? How about the myth of an all good, all powerful UN, unprejudiced by corruption, greed and an unworkable utopian vision of global socialism? Or how about a documentary about the myth of the European Union's manufactured 'European Man' identity, supposedly trumping established, ageless national identities like being German, French or Spanish? What about exposing the myth of a contained Saddam, safely defanged in his huge sandbox, plotting only the architectural design of his next presidential palace? Or blood-for-oil---myth or fact? Is it a myth that soft power trumps all? What about the myth that those darned Jews are at the root of all international and sociological problems, controlling the media and Bush's reptilian pea-sized brain? You know---Jews like Wolfowitz, Pearle and Kristol. Or how about a documentary exposing the myth that Palestinians really, truly actually do want to live side-by-side with Israel--cross their hearts and hope to die? Or how about a quick educational show about the myth that an Arab 'Palestine' ever was or ever should be a nation to begin with? Or the myth that all cultures are equally valid? How about the myth that the Democratic party---more and more under the influence of elite plutocrats like George Soros and certain well-quaffed husbands of billionaire ketchup titans---represents the interests of the common man, the worker, and the suburban middle class? Is global warming caused exclusively by human industrial activity another myth, I wonder? What about the myth that virtually no war is worth fighting, because all causes are besmirched and corrupted by one-sided opportunism and misinformed bias, having no legitimate claim to self defense---except for the noble savages, the Palestinian terrorists? Or how about the myth about the decline of the dumb, religiously zealous middle Americans in flyover country dominating politics, the same folks that voted for an unintelligent know-nothing from Crawford, Texas?

The most poignant documentary the BBC could make would be one exposing the myth that documentarians and the news media seek only to illuminate the ignorant masses with the unbiased truth, and are above manipulating their audiences to their leftward political agenda. Do any of the Beeb's famously impartial documentarians have the stomach to expose the leftist rot passing for news at the New York Times, the BBC or Reuters? There's a cabal, if there ever was one.

By all means, let's fully undress all the sacred cows out there. Let's strip them bare, down to the bone, to the very marrow. Every single last one.

Enjoy the documentary.