Saturday, January 16, 2010

Creating the Enemy, One Way or Another

In Power of Nightmares, BBC documentary producer offers a revealing look at the politics of fear.

In the series, Curtis treats fear as a substitute for political ideology. During the course of the films, he posits that several of the threats used to provoke this environment of fear were largely constructed by politicians in search of a new pathway to power.

Curtis' thesis, however -- that there is no organized terrorist threat in the world today -- has a ludicrous conspiracy theory-esque quality to it. It seems especially so in the wake of the the events of Christmas Day, an attack that could have been successful if not for the vigilance of the passengers onboard the plane.

However, the recognition of this threat doesn't come without risks of its own. A sick passenger was detained less than a day after the initial plot was foiled.

At the same time, a portion of Curtis' thesis provokes an interesting thought: that the additional notoriety Al Qaida enjoyed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks has helped it greatly expand its area of influence, helping them capture the loyalty of individuals who otherwise would have remained entirely marginalized.

So even if the world knows full well that Curtis' argument is not true -- that the existence of globalized Islamic terrorism existed well in advance of 9/11 -- to opine that it may not have grown as strong as it has since if not for the attention paid to 9/11 and, later, 7/7, is not at all an unreasonable proposition.

Then again, one may wonder precisely what Adam Curtis may imagine the alternative would have been. To ignore the threat posed by terrorism -- domestic or global -- is unthinkable, for reasons that are self-evident.

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