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Summary of Adam Curtis Part 1 The Power of Nightmares

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The Power of Nightmares Part 1 -- Baby It's Cold Outside by Adam Curtis

"Rise of the Politics of Fear": "The first part of the series explains the origin of Islamism and Neo-Conservatism. At the same time in the United States, a group of disillusioned liberals, including Irving Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz, look to the political thinking of Leo Strauss after the perceived failure of President Johnson's "Great Society".

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Summary of Video by Pal Simon

Politics of Fear

American Neoconservatives and Radical Islamists have created the Politics of Fear.

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This video compares the political thinking of American neoconservatives and radical Islamists and shows how both have created the politics of fear. Both had some origins in the writings of Islamic political philosophers such as Sayyid Qutb and Leo Strauss, who basically advocated the need of moral values in society to overcome the evils of liberalism, communism and other evil ideas that result from liberal questioning of first principles. Out of such political thought there arose the organization of the the conservative movements in United States and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Iran. Both these organizations inspired society to revolt against other countries, the United States against the Soviet Union and the Muslim Brotherhood against the imposition of secular governments in their countries.

An original proponent of conservative thought was an Islamic political philosopher, Sayyid Qutb. He saw Americans as selfish and materialistic. (To learn more about him look up Sayyid Qutb and the Origins of Radical Islamism: John Calvert.) Another advocate of these ideas was Leo Strauss (see note 1), who saw the world divided between good and evil. Straussian followers stressed the fundamental weaknesses of U.S. society by its emphasis on individualism and liberal values, which leads to people questioning all values. And so under leadership of both Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood was a neoconservative movement to teach society the evils of secularism and materialism. Such were the organizing ideas of the Muslim Brotherhood.

The Brotherhood helped Nasser overthrow the British rule in Egypt in the period 1952, but were not happy with Nasser government because once in power he was establishing a secular government, which they opposed. They began to organize against Nasser, but Nasser received support from the U.S. The CIA went to Egypt to help Nasser establish security agencies for Nasser's regime. In 1954 Qutb and other Muslim Brotherhood members were arrested by the agencies of the Nasser government that had been established by the CIA, and tortured by "torturers who had been trained by the CIA." While Qutb survived for the time, he was even more convinced of the evils of secularism and need for jihad, advocated violent revolution. (Note: Qutb believed that contemporary societies, both Islamic and non-Islamic, are in a state of jahiliyya resembling the 'state of ignorance' of Islam in pre-Islamic Arab societies. As these societies are based on the principle of domination of one man over another instead of the belief in the sovereignty of God, Qutb considers modern jahiliyya pervasive and complete. See at: Sayyid Qutb's Concept of Jahiliyya as Metaphor for Modern Society | Sujata Ashwarya Cheema - Academia.edu). In 1966 Qutb was put on trial for treason and executed under Nasser regime. But his ideas were taken up by Ayman Zawahiri (see note 2), who became mentor to Osama Ben Laden.

On the other hand neoconservatives in U.S. also believed the world was divided between good and evil. They believed that President Johnson's Great Society programs had failed to improve society, that "liberalism" and liberal programs were the cause of riots in Detroit and increases in crime and murder in the 60s. And they insisted we must rescue society from moral decay by engaging in a battle of good versus evil. Neoconservatives tried to show Soviet Union was the center of all evil in the world and thus had to be confronted and defeated by the good countries.

Neocons justified their belief that the U.S. was a good country and Russia the bad, giving credence to the ideas of Richard Pipes that the "mindset" of Soviets was to destroy America, and the writings of Russian historian Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (see note 3), who was a Russian novelist, historian, and critic of Soviet totalitarianism. He helped to raise global awareness of the Soviet Union's forced labour-camp system for political opponents. Among neoconservatives were Paul Wolfowitz (see Wolfowitz Doctrine note 4) and Donald Rumsfield and others who had studied Straussian philosophy and "become disillusioned with liberalism" as being of any societal value. Curtis contends that many of these neoconservatives had studied the ideas of Leo Strauss and been influenced by them, and that individualism would lead to moral decay and society needed to be unified in purpose, evidently patriotism and the goal of combating evil countries.

Others argued contrarily that every county does some bad things and some good things. Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State under President Nixon, according to this video, had different ideas from the neocons. He believed the world would be better by international cooperation, "global interdependence," rather than division by ideologies. His effort was to bring world peace by negotiation with other countries. In 1972 a treaty brokered by Kissinger to limit nuclear arms was to be the "end of fear," the beginning of an era of "detente." But the neoconservatives did not appreciate Henry Kissinger's vision. They were set on destroying the idea of global cooperation. They allied themselves with Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney.

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After Nixon was impeached neocons allied with Donald Rumsfeld (then the new Secretary of Defense under Gerald Ford) and Dick Cheney (Ford's chief of staff).

Once Gerald Ford became president Donald Rumsfeld continued a politics of fear. He made speeches claiming Russia was ignoring the treaty brokered by Kissinger, and was secretly developing weapons and planning to attack of U.S. The CIA disagreed and said there was no evidence of this, but the neoconservatives convinced President Ford to set up a Team B (chaired by Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Pipes), to investigate and try to disprove CIA's assessment. Even finding no evidence Russia was in fact secretly planning to attack U.S, they insisted that it was that the evidence was somehow "invisible," but obvious by the "mindset" of Soviets to conquer the world.

In 1978 neocons set up a Committee on the Present Danger to publicize the findings of Team B and convince the public of this threat. They insisted it was necessary to save society from liberalism and failure to Great Society programs of Johnson. Ronald Reagan became convinced. So was the public, and the neocons began to have a more powerful influence due to their vast amounts of "fairy-tale" propaganda.

By late 70s Egypt was developing a middle class that was benefiting from flood of Western capital and, on the surface, becoming more Westernized and more secular. One beneficiary was a doctor, Ayman Zawahiri, benefiting economically from this growing middle class, yet maintaining, in 1977, that Anwar Sadat's Open-Door policy was allowing too much Western influence into Egypt and was corrupting society with materialism and creating millionaires in Egypt. Sadat insisted the Egyptian middle class was benefiting from the Open-Door policy and that complaints were not justified and he denied it was creating millionaires in Egypt. He said it was black propaganda from the Soviet Union against Westernization of Egypt.

In 1977 Kissinger had been negotiating with Sadat in Egypt to come to peace with Israel, on grounds that world peace required it. When Sadat went to Jerusalem to come to peace terms with Israel, Islamists called this a betrayal of their cause and a corrupting influence. Sayyid Qutb's influence on the the Muslim Brotherhood led to their idea that if Sadat negotiated with Israel he could no longer be considered a Muslim and so could not speak for the Islamic world. This was the position of Ayman Zawahiri, mentor of Osama Ben Laden. Ayatollah Ruhollah-Khomeini (see note 5) agreed that Egypt and Islamic countries were being corrupted by Western influences with the ideas of "freedom" and lack of moral values.Together with Azwahiri and others they formed an organization for an Islamic jihad and planned to kill Sadat in "a shocking way." They believe this would shock Muslims back into reality of the corruption of life without Islam. Some of them killed Sadat, but Muslims did not react as the jihadists expected. Many were sent to prison and tortured, including Azwahiri, who stood firmly in the beliefs of Qutb and became even more convinced of the illness of society and firmly of the belief that those who turned away from Islam should be killed.

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Palsimon, formally educated in journalism & law, is an independent progressive activist & writer, focusing on guarding integrity of media & government. (.)



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