Tag Archives: Adam Curtis

Osama bin Laden and the power of nightmares

A couple of days ago, I read what in retrospect was a fortuitously timed article on CNN.com. After detailing Osama bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora, Tim Lister ended by noting that OBL probably wasn’t hiding in the ‘tribal’ area on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border at all. He reckoned that the fugitive might be holed-up in the wilds of Kunar, a remote zone that includes places where “no man has set foot”.┬áLister was, as we know today, only half right. Osama bin Laden was actually hiding near Islamabad in what seems to have been relative comfort. He was shot dead last night by US special forces.

So the era of bin Laden at #1 on the FBI’s most wanted list (he was already there when the September 11th 2001 attacks happened), is over. I can’t help but feel that it makes little difference now. Because America has already accepted mortal head wounds as ‘justice’, permanent internment camps as ‘security’, and permanent war as normality.

Adam Curtis’s film “The Power of Nightmares” dealt with the twin forces of militant Islamism and neo-conservatism that ended up shaping much of the current geopolitical landscape. Together (and they must always be taken together, for they needed each other desperately), they succeeded in causing probably over a million deaths, most of which occurred in the middle-east. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend that you try to get hold of a copy. UPDATE: As Erik points out in the comments below, the film is available to watch or download for free at the Internet Archive.

If all this is making you nostalgic for the days of “Get this!” Iberian Notes, check out this online novel which features a familiar-sounding character. It’s eerie.

More national policy soon. Until then, sleep well: they haven’t invented their new nightmare yet.

Adam Curtis: It Felt Like A Kiss

I’ll be writing a post soon about the last ten years and the effect they’ve had on me. One of the very many things I have to be grateful for during this decade is discovering the films of Adam Curtis.

Curtis’s documentaries focus on the political and social history of the 20th century, criticising much of the psychological methods of power employed during those years. In The Power of Nightmares, Curtis illustrated how governments learned that the best way they could explain their worth to us in a post-cold war world was by building a new culture of fear directed at enemies which could never be defeated. The Trap investigates the various definitions of freedom and how these contrary views impacted on societies.

It Felt Like A Kiss is instantly recognisable as a Curtis film (the Helvetica typeface, the often shocking archive footage, the powerful soundtrack). But it is significantly different to those I mentioned above. Detailing “how power really works in the world”, IFLAK eschews any narration beyond occasional visual prompts. The film is instead a tapestry of powerful images played over a soundtrack of some fantastic music from the 50s through to the 90s. Like some kind of amazing, extra-long pop video.

And in It Felt Like A Kiss, it’s the music that I most adore. Ranging from Roy Orbison to the Velvet Underground to the Phil Spector-produced title song, Curtis selects a phenomenal playlist of well known and more obscure pieces. The soundtrack reminded me of how much I loved some long-neglected albums, and finally got me to listen to a ton of ‘Wall of Sound’ records, many of which are of unimpeachable quality and beauty, however mad their producer is.

The film cannot currently be obtained legally, so you’ll have to download it. I’m hoping that Curtis will release his documentaries on DVD some time soon (a box set of those would be fantastic). If you’d rather not download a film illegally, you can listen to much of the soundtrack on this Spotify playlist.