The BBC today broadcasted the first episode in a series of three about
The Power of Nightmares, which is intended as an explenation of how the current climate of fear came about and how this is largely an illusion:
This series shows dramatically how the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organised terrorist network is an illusion. It is a myth that has spread unquestioned through politics, the security services and the international media. At the heart of the story are two groups: the American neoconservatives and the radical Islamists. Both were idealists who were born out of the failure of the liberal dream to build a better world. These two groups have changed the world but not in the way either intended. Together they created today’s nightmare vision of an organised terror network. A fantasy that politicians then found restored their power and authority in a disillusioned age. Those with the darkest fears became the most powerful.
At first, this sounded like too little, too late, but having watched the first episode now, it was actually quite good. A clear concise look at how those two very different groups, the US neocons and radical conservative Islamists of the Bin Laden type came to be and came into power. It was …interesting to see how Michael Ledeen, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and all the other neocon bitplayers were up to the same shit in the seventies, the same hyping of an apocalyptic confrontation between good and evil, pursuing the same stupidities we now see displayed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
What this documentary confirmed for me were two things. First, as the blurb above says, that the neocons were and are not motivated just by polical and material gain, but are idealists, followers of a warped and moral bankrupt ideology true, but still idealists. The second, how much they assume the world revolves around themselves. Not just in their monumental arrogance, but in the way they imagine everything that happens in the world is aimed at them, is about them. It cannot be that people have legitamite grievances, or are fighting their own conflicts; it all has to be part of either a massive Soviet conspiracy (then) or a massive Islamic Jihad (now).
The other interesting thing this documentary made clear is how similar the underlying impulse is behind the neocon and Islamist movements. Both are afraid of freedom, to put it simplistic. Both are created by people who want rigid structures in their life, who cannot deal with the freedom even a late capitalist society offers. Its an impulse that is at the fundament of every authoritarian movement, whether it calls itself conservative, Islamistic, Christian, fascist or even communist. It can even be found in libertarianism.
It is an attitude that should be anathema to real socialists, as it goes right against one of socialism’s central concepts: that people are capable of governing themselves and do not need structure or guidance from above, do need to be lied to. Which is why I’m surprised that some who still call themselves socialists can actually support the neocon adventures.