Sunday, January 08, 2006

The Power of Nightmares (movie review)

Tagline: idealistic humans, ill-prepared for future shock, look for ideological solutions, but end up being tortured and/or committing atrocities instead.

The narrator's thesis is that politicians, finding their happy talk wouldn't fly, switched to scary talk to keep a grip. Their failing futurism was roughly Johnson Era liberalism and the War on Poverty. When that war seemed lost (witness Detroit), and Vietnam proved a debacle, the Chicago-based neocons fanned out and dove deep, aiming to rebuild a storyline around battles America could actually win for a change.

Getting the new script enacted would require educating the CIA about the real Russian mindset, an apparently hopeless task until Casey came along, a blessing in disguise. Plus they had to mobilize an army of traditionally apolitical church people by stoking their hatred of gays who pee on the crucifix (Pat Robertson's image).

These strategies eventually paid off, as the USSR eventually did exit the world stage, taking its hated Berlin Wall along with it. Mission accomplished. Finishing off in Afghanistan and Iraq would make the world safe for democracy, once people like Clinton and Bush Sr. (future golf mates) could be shoved to the sidelines.

In the meantime, Sayyid Qutb and his disciples, in reaction against this same vacuous liberalism (Jahiliyyah), inspired a long-running jihad, feeding the neocon dream of an evil worth lionizing, then killing.

And the battle continues to this day, with politicians grooving on all the raw fear they get to work with. The media likes it too (war sells). Everyone gets guns, kicks back and enjoys the ride -- except the bad guys and sore losers like Michael Moore.

The narrator, backed by an army of talking heads, counters that the USSR imploded for reasons unrelated to neocon heroism, and that a globally organized Al Qaeda is largely a media myth based on an earlier Mafia example (law enforcement needed a known quantity to go up against).

Soon, the narrator promises, the politicians will run out of gas. However, minus any new futurism to replace the failed one, one wonders if this is really cause for celebration. I guess we're back to vacuous liberalism again, and future shock part two (bird flu anyone?).

The editing was pretty slick, with lots of funny juxtapositions and embedded messages. Rumsfeld plays his usual Strangelovian self, showing us those vast Al Qaeda undergound apartments, computer equipped and well ventilated -- hysterical.

We liberals in the audience (upscale art museum venue, medium sized auditorium, fairly well packed) squirmed a bit at the suggestion Kissinger was really on the right track after all. Plus the CIA's talking heads (fun to see Bearden again) got to speak on the side of sanity and have the last word -- a curious role reversal since those crazy 1960s.