Margaret Thacher: Channeling Churchill’s Messianic Vision

The Living Dead

Part 3 “The Attic”

By Adam Curtis (1995)

Film Review

In Part 3 of The Living Dead, his series exploring the elite’s selective rewriting of history, Adam Curtis explores Margaret Thatcher’s dramatic reprisal of Britain’s “glorious golden age.” According to Curtis, Thatcher rose to power thorough detailed study and imitation of Winston Churchill’s speeches and rhetoric. In this respect, she was very different from most “perception management” artists in that she really believed she was going to restore Britain to its former power and glory.

Curtis suggests that Churchill was also convinced he was going to restore Britain to its eighteenth century imperial magnificence and became really depressed when he failed to do so.

The documentary offers quite a convincing analysis of the “messianic vision” that facilitated the rise to power of both Churchill and Thatcher. In Thatcher’s case, it was based on her romanticized childhood reading of history and incorporated a substantial amount of fantasy. This vision, strongly enforced in Britain’s private schools and military academies, emphasizes morality, discipline, patriotism, tradition, hierarchy, idealization of the monarchy, and respect for authority. Although this intensely hierarchical system only benefits a tiny minority of British society, its romantic pageantry is often extremely effective in winning middle and working class votes.

History as Fiction: How the Ruling Elite Rewrites History

The Living Dead

Directed by Adam Curtis

Part 1 – “On the Desperate Edge of Now”

Film Review

The Living Dead is an early Adam Curtis documentary regarding collective perception control techniques ruling elites use to retain power. It specifically addresses the technique of re-creating national history to ensure that populations selectively recall positive historical eras while suppressing all memory of negative events. Only Parts 1 and 3 are available in full on YouTube (Part 2 “You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough” is available but the audio is too distorted to be intelligible). Tomorrow I’ll post Part 3, about Margaret Thatcher channeling Winston Churchill’s messianic vision.

In Part 1, Curtis focuses on the Nuremberg war crimes trials of 1945-46. He maintains these trials were the first major propaganda assault against any historical memory of atrocities and war crimes the US and Britain committed during World War II (see British and American War Crimes During World War II).

In the US, the official determination to re-frame World War II as the “just war” would prove very troubling for individual veterans who had witnessed American atrocities (Kurt Vonnegut writes about it in Slaughterhouse Five and Joseph Heller in Catch 22).

The resulting disconnect between official accounts and their lived experiences often resulted in intense feelings of apprehension, hopelessness, isolation and fear of impending disaster. (It sure did in my father.)

The film features an excerpt from a secret film the US army made about a program designed to help veterans “forget” their troubling memories.

The Mythology of Science and Technology

Pandora’s Box: A Fable from the Age of Science

Directed by Adam Curtis (1992)

Film Review

Pandora’s Box is Curtis’s first documentary (at least that I can find on YouTube) about the history of perception management, mass indoctrination and collective thought control. His films, a treasure trove of the hidden history that is censored in our schools, offer a unique perspective on the role of government and media in manipulating the way we view ourselves and our relationship with society and the ruling elite.

First appearing on BBC television in 1992, the six-part series explores the collusion between engineers, corporate oligarchs and the public relations industry to hoodwink the industrialized world into believing science and technology would solve all the world’s problems. It was a process that granted a dangerous amount of power to pseudo-rational engineer/technocrats – who in many instances proved far less rational than the general population.

As Curtis demonstrates in Part 1, a parallel process occurred in the non-capitalist Soviet Union under Stalin.

Part 1 The Engineer’s Plot – concerns the powerful impetus to electrify and industrialize the Soviet Union after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Lenin, who believed industrialization was vital to the success of Communism, was famous for the dictum: “Communism is Soviet power plus electrification.”

Part 2 To the Brink of Eternity – concerns the development of Game Theory at the Rand Corporation (a right wing think tank closely allied with the Pentagon and US intelligence) and whiz kids like Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who nearly led us into a global nuclear holocaust. Clips depicting McNamara’s use of Game Theory to manage the Vietnam War are particularly comical.

Part 3 The League of Gentleman – concerns the capture of British economic policy by Milton Friedman’s pseudo-scientific monetarism under Margaret Thatcher. This would result in the total decimation of Britain’s manufacturing base and skilled workforce (and economy).

Part 4 Goodbye Mrs Ant – concerns the glorification of the chemical industry after World War II, resulting in the total contamination of the environment (and our bloodstreams) with DDT and similar synthetic pesticides. Curtis also traces the backlash against this environmental destruction that started with Rachel Carson’s 1962 Silent Spring and culminated with the birth of the ecology movement at the University of Wisconsin in 1968.

Part 5 Black Power – concerns the destructive myth perpetuated by Wall Street and the World Bank that massive technology projects would magically solve the problem of third world poverty. Curtis specifically examines the massive Volvo damn project the World Bank funded for Ghana (and Kaiser Aluminum) in 1960. And how shameless exploitation by Kaiser (and the collapse in the world cocoa price) left the country worse off than ever.

Part 6 A is for Atom – concerns the massive snow job the nuclear power industry did on the US, British and Russian public in promoting nuclear energy as a totally safe and cheap form of virtually unlimited energy. According to Curtis, nuclear engineers knew as early as 1958 that nuclear power was far more expensive than other energy sources – and would require massive government subsidies. They also knew by the early sixties that standard safeguard features were unreliable in preventing nuclear accidents. When they pointed this out to the Atomic Energy Commission, the government bureaucrats decided too much money had been invested in nuclear power to admit they were wrong.

Brexit,Trump, Syria and the Fabricated War on Terror

Adam Curtis Forced Hypernormalisation BBC

Directed by Adam Curtis

Film Review

Curtis, one of my favorite documentary makers, has a unique ability to conceptualize and describe the collective psychological conditioning the political elites subject us to – and the unintended consequences  of their use of public relations (as opposed to diplomacy and statecraft) to retain power. In this fascinating documentary, he explores the link between the rise of Putin and Donald Trump, the Brexit vote in Britain and the fabricated War on Terror. He also explains Syria’s critical role in this process, dating back to Hafeez al-Asaad (1970-2000) and his dream of unifying the Arab world against western exploiting.

The Concept of Forced Hypernormalisation

According to Curtis, “forced hypernormalisation,” is a term coined by the Soviets to describe a psychological control technique in which politicians retain power by projecting a vastly oversimplified view of world. Curtis maintains that Ronald Reagan was the first president to embrace this version of popular control, as he projected US foreign policy as a simple matter of good vs evil and encouraged Americans to withdraw from frustrating social and political concerns by focusing on their individual selves.

Curtis begins his capsule history of forced hypnormalisation with the invention of the strategy of suicide bombing by Hafeez al-Asaad and Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini (when he was losing the Iran-Iraq WAR). Al-Assad (using Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia) would force US troops to withdraw from Lebanon with a dramatic suicide bombing of Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.

Through the 1980s, Syria would engage in several other dramatic anti-US suicide bombings. However because Reagan felt retaliation against Syria was too risky (due to the support al-Assad enjoyed from other Arab leaders), he would blame Gaddafi, who other Arab leaders viewed as a madman, and bomb Libya instead. Gaddafi, eager for the notoriety, was always happy to take the credit.

Incessant Shapeshifting in US and British Foreign Policy

Thus a pattern emerged where US and British foreign policy became an indistinguishable mixture of fabrication and reality. The public got their first clear view of this strategy with the fabricated reality (ie non-existent weapons of mass destruction and non-existent links between Saddam Hussein and al Qaida) used to justify the invasion and occupation of Iraq. This film also includes an intriguing account (the first I have seen from mainstream media) of the 30+ year Air Force Intelligence campaign to promote popular belief in UFOs.

Putin and Non-Linear Warfare

Curtis contends Russian information specialist Vladislav Surkoff, one of the dozen or so technocrats who keep Putin in power, is also a master of this ceaseless shapeshifting geared towards undermining people’s perception of the world. It is nothing for Surkoff to simultaneously promote Russia’s antifascist movement, nationalist neo-Nazi groups, human rights groups and the Russian Orthodox Church. In foreign policy, the Russians refer to this approach as “non-linear warfare, and they have used it in the Ukraine and Syria. The end result is the west never really knows what their real intentions are.

Enter Donald Trump

Donald Trump is also a master at this type of shapeshifting, with his unique blend of extreme right wing racism and anti-corporatism.  He’s notorious for constantly reversing and contradicting himself, and his speeches are a complex mixtures of facts. The fact he’s so difficult to pin down makes it extremely difficult for the media to attack him.

Reducing Foreign Policy to Good vs Evil

Bitter Lake

by Adam Curtis (BBC) 2015

Film Review

By now, people will have noticed I’m a bit of an Adam Curtis fanatic (Curtis also produced The Century of the Self). Like all his documentaries, Bitter Lake focuses on propaganda and ideological manipulation by the political elite. This film traces how fanatical Muslim sects like the Taliban and ISIS are the direct result of western colonization of the Middle East – and how US and British leaders deliberately deceive their citizens by reducing foreign policy to a simple metric of good and evil.

In Afghanistan, this oversimplification created an extraordinary dilemma for US and British troops and confronting the spontaneous Afghan insurgency that opposed the occupation. They naively believed they were bringing democracy to Afghanistan. In reality, they were substantially increasing the power and brutality of corrupt, heroin-trafficking war lords. The documentary artfully intersperses great footage of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with video from the more recent US occupation. The parallels between the two are uncanny.

Roosevelt’s Meeting with the Saudi King

The film takes its title from a 1945 meeting Roosevelt had with Ibn Saud, the king of Saudi Arabia, at Bitter Lake on the Suez Canal. The purpose of the meeting was to draw up a mutual security agreement that would keep Saudi oil fields under US control.

Curtis goes on to trace the rise of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia, starting with the Wahhabist Bedouins who first brought the House of Saud to power in 1932. There was constant tension between the Saudi princes, who sought to modernize Saudi Arabia, and the Whahhabists, who opposed all imperialist development and sought to transform the country into a seventh century caliphate.

In 1964, King Faisal sought to alleviate this tension by sending the Wahhabists abroad to fight the growing influence of communism in the Muslim world. With US support, he used them to set up up madrassa throughout the Muslim world to train low income boys in Wahhabism.

The Economic Impact of Higher Oil Prices

In 1973 the US-Saudi relationship experienced a major breakdown when the US sided with Israel in its war against its Arab neighbors. By quintupling the price of oil, King Faisal forced the US and Israel to agree to a ceasefire.

The higher oil prices led to a total transformation of the global economic system. It caused mucho petrol dollars to flood into the Middle East, which the Saudis and other Mid East governments turned over to US and British banks to invest for them. This would provide the impetus for the “financialization” of the global economy, in which western capitalism would abandon manufacturing to focus on creating and selling financial products.

Higher prices for all commodities would also result in massive economic instability in the western world over the next seven years. A steep reduction in manufacturing jobs and wages would led to widespread popular unrest, which would bring right wing governments to power in most western democracies.

The Soviet Invasion

Curtis carefully outlines the historical events in Afghanistan that would lead to the overthrow of the monarchy in 1973, the Marxist revolution in 1978, the Soviet invasion in 1979 and the US/Saudi collaboration to recruit Saudi Wahhabists to defeat the Soviet occupation. The most prominent of these freedom fighters, known as the Mujahideen, was a Saudi highway engineer and CIA asset known as Osama bin Ladin.

Reducing Foreign Policy to Good vs Evil

Like Ronald Reagan, George W Bush attempted to reduce the US role in Afghanistan to a simple battle of good vs evil. The political reality was far more complex. US and Saudi intervention during the Soviet occupation brought corrupt warlords to power who supported their fiefdoms through Afghanistan’s heroin trade.

The Taliban, consisting mainly of Afghan orphans raised in Pakistani Madrassa, were primarily driven by a desire to end the heroin trade and this endemic corruption, which they (rightly) blamed on the interference of western imperialists in their country’s domestic affairs.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hdcji_bitter-lake-2015-adam-curtis-documentary-1-of-3-720p_shortfilms

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hdd54_bitter-lake-2015-adam-curtis-documentary-2-of-3-720p_shortfilms

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x2hde2l_bitter-lake-2015-adam-curtis-documentary-3-of-3-720p_shortfilms

The Neocon Myths Behind Afghanistan and Iraq

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 3 Shadows in the Cave

Film Review

Part 3 concerns the mythology the neoconservatives created around international terrorism to justify the US wars against Afghanistan and Iraq.

The US Invents al Qaeda

The final video starts with the car bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in August 1998. These were the first attacks Bin Laden and Zawahiri organized against US interests as part of their new international jihad (see How the CIA Funds Jihad). They recruited four bombers from training camps Abdullah Azzam started during the Soviet occupation.

Contrary to the myth promoted by the neocons, these camps were exclusively dedicated to training Muslims to conduct jihad in their own countries (e.g. Uzbekistan and Chechnya). Their leaders wanted absolutely nothing to do with international terrorism or Bin Laden’s jihad against the US. They allowed Zawahiri and Bin Laden to recruit from these camps because he was financing them. Nevertheless, even members of Islamic Jihad opposed what they were doing.

In Jan 2001 the US government brought the embassy bombers to trial in the US. They also tried Bin Laden in absentia. To charge him under existing US law, federal prosecutors had to prove an organized group he commanded carried out the bombings. Because no such group existed, they invented one. The name al Qaeda came from a paid FBI informant.

9-11

Immediately following his election George W Bush, like his father, totally rejected the neoconservative’s insistence that the US should invade other nations and “dictate how to run their countries.”

9-11 would change all this, propelling Richard Perle, Wolfowitz, Cheney and Rumsfeld to international power with four terrifying myths:

  1. That Bin Laden was responsible for the 9-11 attacks (according to official FBI accounts, Khalid Sheik Mohammed was responsible for the “plane operations).”*
  2. That “al Qaeda,” a phantom organization the neocons latched onto for propaganda purposes, was a genuine international entity running sleeper cells in 50-60 countries.
  3. That “al Qaeda’s” ultimate goal was to force the US to live under Islamic fundamentalism.
  4. That the invasion of Afghanistan was essential to destroy the heart of “al Qaeda.”

During the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, the US and NATO allied themselves with the Afghan Northern Alliance. The latter hated the foreign Muslims who came to came to Afghanistan for training and received a generous bounty for handing them over to US troops. Nearly all of them ended up in Guantanomo, despite having no connection with bin Laden or international terrorism.

The Role of Hollywood

Following the US invasion, the neocons invested two new myths. The first was that bin Laden was hiding out in a sophisticated bunker built into the Torah Borah caves on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The second was that the US was harboring a vast network of terrorist sleeper cells preparing a new attack on US soil. Although both were totally discredited by mid-2003, these myths would be solidified in the public mind by dozens of TV dramas about hidden terrorist sleeper cells in major US cities.

A popular theme of these dramas was the dirty bomb*, which according to actual DD tests was unlikely to kill anyone because the radiation produced by a dirty bomb was so dispersed.

So-called “dirty bombs** featured prominently in most of these productions, despite numerous Pentagon tests demonstrating dirty bomb radiation is too widely dispersed to kill anyone.

World Leaders Rush to Sign On

Inspired by the immense power this ideology of fear gave political leaders, other western leaders quickly signed on to the terror agenda. When the neocons began circulating the new mythology in mid-2002 that Saddam Hussein was linked to al Qaeda and 9-11, British Prime Minister Tony Blair became one of its most vocal proponents. Despite knowing from the outside that the war on Iraq was based on fabricated evidence.


*This video was produced in 2003, when it was still widely believed that 19 Muslim hijackers were responsible for the attack on the Twin Towers. This version of events is now totally discredited.
**A dirty bomb is an explosive device made from nuclear waste combined with conventional explosives – with the intent of spreading radioactive material over a widely populated area
***This revelation is all the more remarkable given that Curtis made this documentary prior to Dr David Kelly’s so-called “suicide” in 2003. Kelly worked for the British Ministry of Defense and was a former UN weapons inspector in Iraq. He came to public attention in July 2003, when a BBC journalist published an-off-the record discussion about the British role in fabricating evidence about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. He died under extremely suspicious circumstances in later that month. A group of British doctors is demanding a fresh investigation into Kelly’s death: Doctors Claim Cover Upl

http://vimeo.com/84421510

Marketing Terror

The Power of Nightmares

Directed by Adam Curtis

BBC (2003)

Part 1 Baby It’s Cold Outside

Film Review

This final series of Adam Curtis documentaries is the oldest and, in my view, the best. It has special relevance given the current western crusade against evil incarnate (and CIA creation) ISIS.*

The Power of Nightmares traces the parallel movements of radical Islam and neoconservativism – how both rose to power by inventing terrifying fantasies which they promise to protect us from them.

Curtis begins by tracing the roots of radical Islam, which dates back to 1949 when Egyptian scholar Sayed Qutb attended college briefly in Greely Colorado. Qutb was instantly repelled by the pervasive decay, crassness and vulgarity stemming from America’s fanatical devotion to individualism (an ideology perpetuated by saturation pro-consumption messaging by Edward Bernays’ public relations industry – see The Science of Thought Control).*

The Americans Qutb met were unbelievably selfish and materialistic and lived lonely, sterile lives surrounded by perfectly manicured lawns.

Returning to Egypt in 1950, he was horrified to see that that western individualism, materialism and moral degradation had corrupted his own country, thanks to the invasion of American pop culture.

Believing Islam provided a moral framework to protect Egypt from this selfish individualism, in 1952 he joined the Muslim Brotherhood and supported Gamal Nasser in overthrowing British rule in Egypt.

The CIA Teaches Egypt How to Torture

As Nasser’s vice president, Anwar Sadat (who would become president in 1970) invited the CIA to set up Egypt’s security services and train them how to torture members of the growing Muslim Brotherhood.

As often happens, torture radicalized Qutb. He came to believe that individualism unleashes a barbarous violence and that Muslims infected by materialism cease to be true Muslim. This, in turn, makes them legitimate targets for assassination.

Following Qutb’s execution for treason in 1966, Dr Ayman Zawahari assumed leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood. After Sadat signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979, Zawahiri founded the Islamic Jihad (IJ). The treaty was taken as evidence that Sadat was no longer a true Muslim and thus a legitimate assassination target. In 1981, IJ members of his military guard would assassinate him.

Leo Strauss: Father of Neoconservatism

Leo Strauss, German-American political philosopher and Zionist, is considered the father of neoconservatism. Refusing to give interviews or publish articles, Strauss spread his ideas by surrounding himself with a dedicated band of students at the University of Chicago.

Like Qutb, Strauss was horrified by the moral degeneration and social decay he witnessed in the fifties and sixties. He blamed it on liberalism, with its claims hat morality his relative ( i.e. that each individual is entitled to set their own standards of morality). He taught that political leaders had an obligation to set strong moral standards by creating powerful myths for the masses to live by.

In the early seventies, his students, Irving and William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz and Francis Fukyama, would formally launch the neoconservative movement to disseminate the myth that the US is the only force for good in a world full of evil.

According to this world view, any country or individual that opposes US policies is satanic. The neoconservatives were perfectly aware they were deliberately creating a fear-inducing myth. Yet according to their Straussian belief system, this was a necessary myth and a necessary fear for the overall good of society.

The Neocons Target Henry Kissinger

Their initial target in their crusade against evil was Nixon’s National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger. In 1972, Kissinger was trying to reduce fear and instability through world cooperation, détente with the Soviets and propping up fascist dictators (he called this Realpolitik).

Recruiting Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (Secretary of Defense and Chief of Staff under Gerald Ford) to the neoconservative cause, they blanketed the media with claims that the Russians were cheating on the nuclear test ban treaty. This directly contradicted CIA evidence that Soviet air defenses were on the verge of collapse, owing to the sorry state of the Soviet economy. So the neocons claimed the Soviets had devised methods of cheating the CIA was incapable of detecting.

When Carter assumed the presidency in 1976, they would revive the Committee on the Present Danger to promote their mythology that the Soviet Union posed a growing threat to the US. Ronald Reagan would be their most prominent recruit.

Politicizing Christianity

Simultaneously, like the Muslim Brotherhood, the neocons embraced fundamentalist Christianity as a vehicle for enforcing socially redeeming moral values. Fundamentalist pastors had always discouraged their congregations from participating in the political process. Guided by the neocons, they reversed themselves, transforming millions of fundamentalists into popular force to lobby for the neoconservative world view.

In 1980, millions of them voted for the first time for Ronald Reagan.


*See excellent article by British historian Nafeez Ahmed tracing the history of ISIS: How the West Created ISIS

** As I am. What emotionally balanced rational being wouldn’t be repulsed by the empty sterile lives Americans lead?

 

http://vimeo.com/84414208