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Nightmares about Nightmares

It has been a couple of hours since I watched The Power of Nightmares on BBC 2, the first programme in a major new BBC series. I put off writing about the program so I could decide whether I really wanted to get into what, I suspect, will be a can or worms. However, the issues this program raised are too important to be ignored.

Many libertarians will find the thesis of the programme attractive. This thesis being that a group of statists called ‘neo conservatives’ (inspired by the philosopher Leo Strauss) has created a series of imaginary threats to the United States, myths, to justify government power and to (in their own view) give the mass of ordinary people meaning and purpose in their lives. The Platonic ‘noble lie’ of our time. I can see in my mind the joy of (for example) people at the Ludwig Von Mises Insititute and the joy of people in the Libertarian Party, and the joy of old style Conservatives.

And I must say that have great respect for many aspects of the people in the above paragraph. I too dislike neocons (a neocon on BBC Radio Four’s Start the Week show on Monday defined neoconservatism as acceptance of the Welfare State, of deficit finance, and of a positive duty for the United States government to spread democracy all over the world – and I oppose all those beliefs). I also questioned the Iraq war (and got attacked here for asking what the war was supposed to be about – although I accept that once Britain and the United States are at war with a bunch of terrorist scum it is too late for opposition “I would not start from here” directions are not very good). However, I can not support The Power of Nightmares because this progam is based on lies. The program claimed that the neocons and specifically President Ford’s “Team B”. and later groups (both Team B. and the later groups were largely controlled by people who were not neocons, but the program, rather quietly, accepted that – so let me leave that aside for now) made up the Soviet arms build up of the 1970’s. It was one of the ‘myths’ that the wise CIA rejected. The trouble is that there WAS a massive Soviet arms build up in the 1970s (at the very time that the United States military was in decline). This was even accepted by Russia (at least in the Yeltsin years I do not what the Putin government is saying). The evidence is overwhelming – it is not some Plato-Strauss ‘myth’.

The program claimed that Soviet support for terrorist groups was another ‘myth’ indeed that the wise CIA rejected this ‘myth’ because they know it was originally based on CIA lies about the the Soviet Union. The trouble is that the Soviet Union DID support terrorist groups. The Marxist ones (including some in the Middle East as well as east Asia, Europe, and Latin America) were natural targets for Soviet support, and support them it did. The basic point of the Soviet Union was to spread Marxism all over the world – oh sorry this is another ‘neocon myth’.

On the basis of the above if The Power of Nightmares claims that ‘neocons’ have made up a ‘myth’ about an international network of Islamic terrorist network, I will take it as an indication that such a network does indeed exist. Do not laugh. The program was already laying the ground work for claiming that no such network exists – just a few isolated individuals. And that these individuals are the way they are because of the wicked United States. For example the United States corrupted Egypt – under President Sadat the economy was controlled by a “handful of millionaires”. The basic fact that Egypt was (and is) a state dominated economy and that Sadat only allowed a bit of private enterprise round the edge was utterly ignored.

“But” the defenders of the program will cry “The Power of Nightmares contained lots of interviews with neocons and other people who would defend all of what you say above”. So it did, but it did not allow any of these people to present the evidence for what they said – it allowed them to say something and then (at once) treated what they said as utterly absurd. The program (and I suspect the whole series) has an agenda – and that agenda is to spread lies. Many of them (although not the one about Sadat) may be nice lies for libertarians and traditional American Conservatives to hear, but they remain lies. And the people who were interviewed by the program, in order to be held up to contempt, would have better advised to say “no I will not be interviewed by you, because you are from the BBC and will leave out any facts you do not like”.

One last point (returning to something I mentioned above). A particular target of the program was Donald Rumsfeld – although the program accepted that Mr Rumsfeld is not a neocon, he is just ‘right wing’ (which, in BBC language, means ‘evil’). If people are interested in what Donald Rumsfeld is really like I would suggest they read page 391 of Milton and Rose Friedman’s memoirs Two Lucky People (paperback edition 1999).

70 comments to Nightmares about Nightmares

  • S. Weasel

    Generally, the moment I read the word “neocon” I (figuratively) wad up whatever I was reading and toss it in the round file. It’s a label that says as much about the person using it as the person it describes.

    Errr…no offense intended, Paul. Perhaps it sees more general use in the UK. In the US, it always arrives with a boxcar full of baggage.

  • madne0

    I had heard of this show. I alos heard that they claimed the Soviet buildup in the 70’s was “bogus” as was Soviet support of terrorists.
    From that moment on i knew the show was nothing but, excuse my French, bullshit.

  • R C Dean

    Sounds like its taken straight from the tranzi template. US Bad. Poor misunderstood Soviets. Evil manipulating Jewish, err, “neocon” behind the scenes.

  • Rob Read

    It just proves the BBC is the Nightmare.

    The left has stoppped vying for power, it’s now lying for power.

  • Pete_London

    By crikey am I glad I was in the pub last night whilst this bullshit was infesting the airwaves. The preview was enough to set the alarm bells ringing and that alone said nothing more than governments (you can guess which ones) have created myths to keep us scared.

    Likewise as soon as I hear ‘neocon’ I just shut down the conversation/tv/radio and move on.

    Weasel – the tranzies have picked up the word and it has come into more common use over here but I doubt they realise what comes with it. Whenever a lefty uses the term in front of me I simply ask them why that person is judenhass. They do find it so disarming when the barbs are turned back on themselves.

    Makes me glad I refuse to pay the BBC tax. If I’m ever dragged up in court for my refusal this crap will be just one of a long list of justifications.

  • GCooper

    I’m afraid my reaction was the same as madne0’s. The moment I heard the BBC’s trailers I concluded it was likely to be about as accurate a guide to reality as an Independent leader article.

    Life is just to short to waste time paying any but the most cursory attention to the BBC’s shameless, lying, distorted coverage of world events.

  • ernest young

    So, let me get this straight, – please excuse me, I always have trouble with political definitions, – a neoconservative is someone who supports socialism and is a fellow traveller of communism, and thereby belittles any story of the spread, or build-up of marxism, in the hope that the rest of us just continue bumbling along, not noticing and not caring too much about about the takeover by a group of ‘statist elites’.

    Doesn’t sound too much like Rumsfield and co., more like Blair, Brown, Kinnock, Schroeder and Chirac – if you substituted the UK, or the EU for the US, the BBC2 programme may have been more credible.

    Wouldn’t ‘neo-socialist’ be a better description? or is ‘neo-conservative’ used in a deliberate attempt to further defame, (as if it was needed), the label ‘Conservative’.

    All of the tricks, denials and smokescreens mentioned in the post would seem to be much more in the style of ‘the Left’, than of ‘the Right’.

  • John Thacker

    “Neocon” had a long and distinguished history in the USA. Essentially, it describes a set of people who made the move from the Left to the Right during the 20th century. These people had many things in common: Many were Jewish, and almost all were intellectuals. They were notable for being intellectuals and versed in analytical tools of statistics and the social sciences, and brought those with those to bolster the arguments of the Right against the Welfare State and other issues. Neocons tend to eschew the moral arguments from first principles favored by both libertarians and paleocons, preferring to argue in a pragmatic way, with reams of data. This often does mean accepting the Welfare State when it doesn’t seem broken, but opposing it and trying to make it more efficient when it is. Neocons tend to be socially liberal or permissive, and generally pro-immigration as well, many being immigrants or the sons of immigrants, in opposition to the paleocons.

    Most importantly, neocons are associated with former liberals who deserted the Left over discovering the evils of Communism, or growing tired of those on the Left who always prefer to blame the West, and most especially America, no matter what the situation. They are another type of older liberal– not the classical liberal label beloved of many libertarians, but still a univeralist belief in liberty and freedom, all part of the classical American belief. However, unlike most libertarians, neocons have both a willingness to use and a belief in the efficacy of using military power to safeguard and promote liberty and democray.

  • John Thacker

    However, in recent times what was always a fairly neutral label, and one well understood by me and used by conservative magazines such as the National Review without insult, has been adopted and twisted, without regards to its actual meaning.

    Mr. Young– No, not at all. Most of the neocons became such because they were former socialists or leftists who were horrified by Communism and wished to stop it. Certainly they did not abandon all of their statist instincts, but one should not always be too picky about allies.

  • Tim Sturm

    I saw most of the programme and what an absolute load of bollocks it was. I was truly gobsmacked that the BBC could get away with such a blatantly one-sided piece of propaganda.

    The term “neo-conservative” is applied at key emotive points along with bizarre, off-the-wall music, underscoring the conspiracy theme. R C Dean has it exactly right: it paints US foreign policy as a planned strategy by dark forces operating behind the scenes.

    Total rubbish.

  • ernest young

    John T,

    Thank you for the definition. It makes it all the more surprising that it is now used more as an general insult, and a ‘catch-all’ bad guy category, rather than a political label, especially as it seems to have its roots in academia….

    My definition of Euro-politik as being ‘neo-socialist’, is perhaps also, not too far from being an accurate description then…

  • Sandy P

    neo-socialist, commie-lite, mutated monarchy, what’s the diff?

  • Paul Marks

    In today’s “Daily Telegraph” James Walton published a review of “The Power of Nightmares” which accepted every lie in the programme (English spelling).

    Mr Walton even repeated nonsense that the programme (very quietly) accepted was not true – for example James Walton refers to Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (back in the days of President Ford) as “young Straussians”.

    Don Rumsfeld as a follower of Leo Strauss – oh well.

    The Daily Telegraph is the leading Conservative newspaper in Britain. Will anyone now say that B.B.C. lies have “no effect” or are “water off a duck’s back”?

  • I too watched this programme. I found it rather odd that whenever they allowed the “neocons” to present their point of view they’d only allow them to assert the propositions which the programme claimed were complete myths. They never had them explaining why they claimed, e.g. that the Soviets were building up their arms. Yet whenever someone spoke in favour of the programmes agenda, they’d let them go into detail.

    Thing is, people will watch this programme and will believe it without knowing the history involved. And as many of the people who are labelled neocons in this programme are currently in the US government, it is clearly lining up current US govt policy re the “War on Terror” to be shot down.

    BTW, can anyone supply references, e.g. to books or articles, detailing the Soviet arms build-up in the 1970s?

  • John Thacker


    It’s not completely surprising. The label, while technical, never really got out of academic use, or more precisely out of technical use by conservatives and conservative academics. Conservative intellectuals long have talked of libertarians, paleocons (think Old Right, isolationist, anti-immigration, etc.), and neocons as strands of the conservative movement in the USA, and about fusionism, the name given to the continual movement to come up with a conservativism that fuses elements from all these into something more or less acceptable to all wings. (There are other wings, too, such as realists, and just plain conservatives who take elements from the various groups. The Evangelicals are not easy to describe, either.)

    What happened is that the general public and media never knew these terms. The paleocons have long been suspicious of the neocons for a variety of reasons– their willingness to use military power, their belief in foreign adventures to bolster democracy and liberty, their approval of immigration, their skepticism of moral arguments, and in general their universalizing impulses. (Also, not completely absent from these circles is a skepticism about the many Jewish neocons, their attachment to Israel, and so on.) Libertarians, especially the passionately anti-interventionist libertarians, have also long looked askance at the willingness of many neocons, many former leftists or socialist, to accomodate themselves to aspects the welfare state, at least in the case of popular things like government schools, and especially at the willingness to intervene. Neocons are rarely passionate about the moral case against the welfare state, though social science data can move them to oppose, for example, the pre-reformed welfare program in the US. (And thus, they do have common ground with the neo-liberals, the elements of the Left committed to “social justice” and government intervention, but doing so with efficiency and with things like using internal markets within government.)

    It’s perhaps natural that the most anti-interventionist wings of the Right would despise the most pro-interventionist group. And so, the media found no shortage of libertarians and paleocons willing to blame everything on the neocons, the most passionate advocates of intervention. The media took this and ran with it, never bothering to explain or discover exactly what a “neocon” was. Ironically, the neocons themselves are the least likely to want to invade any country based on oil or economic reasons; they see liberty first and strategic reasons second, but money comes last.

  • ian

    I must have seen a different programme – for a start it did not argue that Soviet support for terrorist groups was a myth – what it was talking about was the attempt by the neo-cons attempt to claim that every single terrorist organisation in the world was funded by the Soviets – whcih is patently nonsense since some of them were funded by the US!

    I think too many people have attempted to jump on the anti-BBC bandwagon. I’m amazed to find so many people here willing to accept the authoritarianism of Rumsfeld and his cronies, for the sake of a few cheap shots.

  • ernest young

    Everything taken into consideration, – they do not seem to be such a bad bunch.

    The last sentence: the neocons themselves are the least likely to want to invade any country based on oil or economic reasons; they see liberty first and strategic reasons second, but money comes last. – seems to be the one that the BBC et al, just cannot fathom, given that they judge everyone else by their low standards of morality.

    Once again , thanks for taking the time to reply…

  • Why did the Soviets carry out a massive arms build up in the 1970’s? It seems like a very odd thing to have done for a pauper State like the USSR, especially given that they must have known the US ccould always match them.

    I too would be interested in some links or literature on this.

  • Mike

    Ian — and of course you accepted the proposition that the neocons “claim that every single terrorist organization in the world was funded by the Soviets” because the BBC told you this was true.

    I’ve never met you, but I think I know what you look like, having seen the picture next to the entry for “credulous” in the dictionary.

  • ernest young


    Saw your comment as I posted mine.

    I’m amazed to find so many people here willing to accept the authoritarianism of Rumsfeld and his cronies, for the sake of a few cheap shots.

    In what way is he more authoritarian than any other person with his responsibilities? not forgetting that the US regards itself as being ‘at war’ with militant Islam, and he is Sec. of Defense. Are you suggesting that he do things ‘UN’ style, and threaten them with empty threats and suchlike.

    Compared to the ‘diktat’ style of Blunkett et al, the man is refreshingly open and direct. Because his management style does not meet with your approval, does not make him wrong… he makes his decision, and he accepts the responsibility for it, which is probably another reason that you are uncomfortable with his manner.

  • GCooper

    Thanks to Paul Marks for saving me from having to be the first excoriate James Walton’s drivel in today’s Telegraph.

    We’ve discussed the alarming Leftist control of the “soft” sections of this newspaper before in these comments, but am I alone in feeling that the paper as a whole has drifted alarmingly in recent weeks?

  • Ian,
    If I recall it correctly – it did rather jump out at me – the programme said that the Neo-Conservatives believed that there was a global network of terrorists supported by the Soviet Union. It did not say that they believed all terrorist groups were Soviet-backed. It then went on to give the impression, to say the least, that this was, in fact, a myth, because the CIA said it was a myth. Never once did it look at the factuality of the claim, except to say that the CIA at the time said it was a myth.

    The overall propagandistic value of that particular sequence gave one the impression that the Neo-Conservatives were imagining things…Whether these things existed or not was immaterial to the programme.

    I believe many of the terrorist groups even worked on each other’s turf (e.g. the Baader-Meinhof gang went to Beirut for a while to cross-train with the PFLP, and the IRA training in Libya with Arab terror groups). So there was a network…But this wasn’t even explored.

    Also many people credit the demise of the Soviet Union to an arms race with the US in which they could not keep up. So something was going on there.

  • John Thacker

    Mr. Young–

    No problem, especially since it’s such an area of confusion. There are conservatives who believe in the exercise of US power sheerly to increase US power, prestige, standing in the world, all those tradition reasons that most countries do. Those people aren’t “neocons,” though. Those people are generally called “realists,” among other things. The neocons often hate the realists, viewing them as amoral. Neocons want a vigorous foreign policy, but an ethical one. Unlike the left, they don’t view US strategic interest as an actual detriment to foreign policy, rather strongly favoring acts that help the US strategically, but they require a moral dimension as well.

    As such, the invasion of Iraq is a neocon-ish policy. Strategic reasons, combined with a sense of moral purpose. Realists distrust the latter, much of the Left distrusts the former.

  • Bender

    Dont forget what Neocon is generally code for in parts of the world today.

    Its been alluded to, so someone just say it.

  • Why did the Soviets carry out a massive arms build up in the 1970’s?

    In 1967 the Soviets ran a huge military exercise (DNIEPER) which was the first to recognize a non-nuclear option. Until that point doctrine called for the cooperation of nuclear and conventional forces. With the possibility of no nukes their conventional forces were very much insufficient to their aims so there was a large conventional build-up. Richard Simpkin talks about Ex DNIEPER and its consequences a little in Deep Battle. I don’t know of more detailed sources but I’ll bet most of them are in Russian because it seems that the build-up was little understood in the West.

  • Matt Foster

    Dont forget what Neocon is generally code for in parts of the world today.

    Its been alluded to, so someone just say it.

    The Jews

    Or more specifically, the newcomer Jews to the Conservative movement… hence the original coining of the term neoconservative. I believe, although I may be mistaken, that it was Pat Robertson who is first on record as using the term, and it was meant as an insult.

    Some conservatives have in fact embraced the term, such as Irving Krystol who wrote a book entitled: “Neoconservatism: The Birth of an Idea”. However it seems to me that the word is still very much tainted by racial bigotry and collectivist stereotyping. Think about the “Jewish Cabal” that secretly influences President Bush, or the “Jewish Plot” to paint France as an anti-Semitic country referenced by M le Président Chirac in a letter last year, or the “Bush-Sharon Axis” rhetoric favored by some Oxbridge friends of mine.

    When I hear people use the term, I frequently will point out its sordid history. Generally the person using it looks horrified when they find out that they are in fact allied with Mr Robertson.

    Matt Foster

    PS Lest anyone get the wrong idea, I am not myself conservative in anyway, neo, paleo or otherwise. I am a liberal in the grand tradition of von Mises, Bastiat and Hayek.

  • Richard Easbey


    You are indeed in good company; one could hardly do better than to admire and emulate the Big 3 you mention.

  • cessair

    “Neocon” is a phrase that is overused in American political discussions and has come to refer to anyone the left thinks is an evil war mongerer. While it may be true that once upon a time there were such being as “neocons” the movement is for the most part dead. There is only one left. National Review did an excellant series on the subject last year which dispells the myths and origins of the much abused concept. It can be found here: http://www.nationalreview.com/goldberg/goldberg051603.asp(Link)

  • If the Burkian sentiments are still alive and well in Britain, then I feel that you should be quite distrustful of neoconservatives, for I think they are nothing more than modern-day Jacobins, crazed ideologues babbling about spreading of liberty and democracy while building guillotines.

  • JK

    I’m with Julius here, looking for some literature to back up Team B. I find it much easier to believe that the Soviet Union was falling apart than that it was powering ahead.

    The way that Power of Nightmares told it, Team B did things like take manuals put out by the Soviet military seriously, whereas the CIA dismissed them as for show. From what I know about the Soviet Union, the CIA methodology seems much more sound.

    So did the Soviets have a non-acoustic submarine detection system, as Team B claimed? What other things did Team B get right? Or am I missing the point?

    If the point is, as Pipes said, about the Soviet mentality, I’m afraid I disagree. The Soviet Union was evil. It intervened around the world. But it (or rather the Soviet elite) was not interested in taking over the world. It was interested in survival, pure and simple.

  • ian

    Mike – before you start throwing insults around – check what I wrote. I did not state a belief – I corrected what I saw as an inaccurate report. Clearly if I want to see your picture I look next to the dictionary definition of arrogance.

    Ernest Young – if you want a idea of what I mean by authroitarian look to the Patriot Act – or in the UK the Civil Contingencies Bill – both alarmingly authoritarian – even totalitarian – in their implications.

  • John Thacker

    And yet, Ian, Rumsfield is certainly not a necon, and nor is the Patriot Act a particularly neocon type of idea. One merely has to look at the list of who voted for it. (Of course, most people, whether they support it or oppose it, have no idea of what is it in the Patriot Act anyway. Plus they blame everything they don’t like on it, regardless of any connection. The vast majority of it consists of things like allowing a single warrant to be obtained for a person, and then used on any mobile phone he has, rather than requiring a separate warrant for each phone the person ones, and a new warrant each time he changes phones. Which has a civil liberties costs to be sure, but not a totalitarian one.)

  • Verity

    G Cooper – I would put the beginning of the decline of The Telegraph from a serious paper to a purveyor of mindless pap around six months ago.

    I first began to notice when the cutesy-poo headlines that are acceptable for a magazine section, if there aren’t too many of them in one issue, immigrated from the magazine into the news section. I’m sorry, I can’t remember any of them offhand, but no matter how dire the news, if a sub could make a cute little pun, he/she would be permitted to do so.

    Then political discourse began seeping out of the opinion columns and being replaced with mumsy pieces. Last Sunday the opinion section had oneserious, thoughtful political piece, by Matthew d’Acona. Everything else was ‘social issues’. A piece on abortion. Not one but two columns on Prince Harry, and I can’t remember the rest. I didn’t linger.

  • Verity

    G Cooper – You’re not alone. I began to notice the softening of The Telegraph around six or eight months ago.

    First, the cutesy-poo headlines that are appropriate – if used sparingly – in a magazine section migrated into the news section. No matter how serious the item, if the sub could think of a cute, punning headline, he/she was allowed to do so.

    Then they abandoned all pretence of having a serious opinion section. Last Sunday, there was one thoughtful political column – Matthew d’Acona’s piece. Everything else was social issues. An article on abortion, for example. Not one, but columns about Prince Harry. I read d’Acona’s column and didn’t linger.

    They have also developed an devil-may-care attitude to facts, even in the case of the leader writers.

    And even as the rest of the country reels back at the mention of his name, The Telegraph is becoming increasingly approving of Tony Blair.

    And then, of course, the editor refused to run Mark Steyn’s piece a couple of Tuesdays ago. (Steyn says on his site that they were unable to come to an agreement, so I am assuming it was more than just the Billy Connelly remarks. I think they simply didn’t like the rest of the column either because the left would consider the whole thing in poor taste.) And that’s the nub. The Telegraph’s gone left. That would certainly explain why the deeply drab Andrew Marr is still wittering readerlessly away.

  • Mike

    Ian — that picture doesn’t really do me justice. There’s a better one next to “supercilious”.

    Moving along, are you actually familiar with the contents of the Patriot Act? It’s hard to believe you are given your comments. You must have read the bizarre description that used to be up on Wikipedia or something on Buzzflash. Would you please quote JUST ONE specific provision of the act that supports your thesis that it has “authoritarian” implications, or, for extra credit, that Rumsfeld & Co. are “authoritarian”?

    By the way, to borrow from Inigo Montoya: you use that word a lot. I do not think it means what you think it means.

  • Verity

    Please forgive the double post. I got an error notice on the first one that the site wasn’t available and my computer shut the Comments section down. So I rewrote it without checking first.

  • lindenen

    ” If people are interested in what Donald Rumsfeld is really like I would suggest they read page 391 of Milton and Rose Friedman’s memoirs Two Lucky People (paperback edition 1999).”

    Ok. I have to know. What does it say? What happens?

  • T. J. Madison

    It should also be remembered that “the neocons” aren’t a monolitihic order, anymore than “the administration” is.

    Take Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, for example. Usually they’re lumped into the same group, but they seem very different to me. Wolfowitz, for example, seems to have been a strong proponent of the Iraq War for reasons of personal and national honor. He was very upset when the Kurds and Shias were sold out after GW I and felt that the US had some obligation to make things right (using my money, of course.) He comes across (to me, at least) as being noble if somewhat misguided.

    Perle comes across as being a much sleazier character. Being one of Netanyahu’s campaign advisors isn’t exactly an endearing quality, for example.

  • DavidBruno

    This pernicious series of programmes is part of the left’s re-writing of history which would not matter if many of the viewers knew more facts of history and were less susceptible to today’s ubiquitous conspiracy theories.

    Trying telling the peoples of Hungary (invaded and made part of the Soviet Union in 1956) and Czechoslovakia (ditto 1968) that the imperial objectives and military might of the Soviet Union were ‘myths’.

    Reagan played a very clever game in the 1980s by accelerating the arms race to a level that the Soviet Union simply could not finance due to its weak economy.

    THis helped to strengthen the hand of the dissident groups in the Soviet Union’s satellites who were trying to end communist power from within.

    As a result, there were peaceful counter-revolutions throughout Central and Eastern Europe in the 1980s that have now established democracies in the region.

    No doubt the programme makers will try to convince viewers in forthcoming programme that 9/11, Madrid, Bali etc etc and the human-rights denying religious fascists behind them who want to re-establish Islam as the dominant global political power are figments of our imagination and that the whole thing is a conspiracy theory.

    Quite frankly, the programmes could only be made by people who do not support the values of liberal democracies. It is scandalous that the BBC should pay for such rubbish with taxpayers’ money – but that is sadly and predictably ‘another story’….

  • Paul Marks

    Someone asked me for proof that there was a massive Soviet arms build up in the 1970s (during a period when the United States military was in decline).

    I have no such proof to hand. Any more than I have proof that Germany invaded Belgium in 1914.

    If I had known that the Soviet arms (army, navy, air force, and nuclear) build up would ever be denied. I would have kept all the papers I owned as a young man – and the acceptance by Russia (in the Yeltsin years) of what the Soviet Union had done.

    As for the claim that the Soviets did not fund every terrorist group in the world. That is NOT the impression the programme wished to create – what the programme wanted people to believe (and in the case of the Daily Telegraph’s Mr Watson they clearly do believe) is that the Soviet Union was not in the habit of funding Marxist terrorist groups.

    On for the claim that the Soviet Union was only interested in survival (rather than in supporting international Marxism): A regime just interested in survival would not (for example) have spent billions in Cuba.

    The existance of a Maxist regime in Cuba (or in Vietnam – or any other distant places) is hardly in the “Russian national interest” or anything like that. Nor is funding Marxist groups in Britain (and other Western nations) – which the Soviet Union did from soon after 1917 right to the collapse of the Soviet Union.

    Of course the Soviet Union also supported non Marxist groups. For example allowing the German government to train forces in Russia in the 1920’s (to get round post WWI restrictions) and actively supporting the National Socialist government in Germany from 1939 to 1941 (supplies of natural resources as well as a military alliance).

    The connection with Germany was justified as an effort to weaken the West. However, it almost proved a suicidal error for Russia (even from a Marxist point of view) in 1941.

    One aspect of this support for National Socialist Germany was the line taken by the “Daily Worker” in Britain. From attacking the nonMarxist socialists in Germany before 1939 the Daily Worker suddenly went soft on them (and tried to undermine the British war effort – just as the Comrades did in France). Then (in 1941) the National Socialists were wicked again.

    The Daily Worker (and other Communist journals and other institutions in the West) twisted and turned in line with whatever Soviet policy was that week – this is not surprising as the Soviet Union was giving them money.

  • Paul Marks

    On Donald Rumsfeld:

    He has a record as a free market man with a close connection to Milton Friedman going back to the early 1960’s.

    Certainly men like Rumsfeld and Friedman are not free market by OUR standards (horror or horrors they are even in favour of government funded education for the children of the poor) – but by mainstream poltical standards they are free market people indeed.

    And in his free market opinions and in he doubts about “nation building” in various distant places Donald Rumsfeld is no neocon.

    Also remember that Mr Rumsfeld and President Bush have been attacked for such things as not putting ENOUGH American troops in Iraq, not going into the Sudan, and wishing to gradually pull out most American forces from places like Germany.

    The Kerry campaign (and the usual suspects, such as the “New York Times”) have made these attacks.

    Yes I know that Senator Kerry (and the New York Times and ……..) have attacked the Bush Administration for being too aggressive – that does not stop them from attacking the Bush Administration for not being aggressive enough.

    About the only thing that could get me to support the Bush Administration (in spite of all its wild spending on the Medicare extention, “No Child Left Behind”, and all the rest of the unconstitutional absurdities) is the dishonest nature of the attacks upon it.

    That and my horror of the idea of “President John Kerry”. Yes I know I should support yet more welfare statism to push the system over the edge to final collapse.

    However, I draw back from the horrors of ending the present system by collapse. I know that Mr Bush is very unlikely to be telling the truth when he says he is interested in reforming such things as Social Security – but if there is only a 1% chance that he is telling the truth does this not deserve support?

    In the end I just do not know.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    The BBC producers also have a nerve claiming that there is no terrorist threat of real moment while simultaneously pushing another conspiracy theory about neocons and usual blather. The producers seem remarkably credulous on that score.

    The fact that the BBC is able to produce this crud out of a tax — the licence fee — only adds to the insult. I have a few friends who work for the BBC and they would confirm just how bad its current affairs coverage now is.

  • storyx

    I’m also curious about that page in the book. What does it tell about Rumsfeld?

  • ernest young

    A link for you to follow:


    See the bit where the idiot reporter describes the ‘Nightmares’ programmes as a ‘must see’. What a moron…

    I never realised that GB was in such a sorry state, that articles such as the one linked to, are published by any newspaper, let alone the Guardian, surely indicates just what a dung heap the general media had become.

    While you are there, – read the last sentence – makes you proud to be English doesn’t it?

    God help you all!….

  • ernest young

    Oops! looks as though the page linked to has been taken down – or overwhelmed.. now tha didn’t take long, did it? refers to an article by Charles Brooker (I think that is correct). in Sundays paper.

  • lindenen

    Hey, storyx, I finally figured out how to find what was on page 391. Go to Amazon and search for the book and then search in the book for page 391. I was disappointed in what it said. Basically it said that Friedman thought Reagan made an enormous mistake not selecting Rummy for VP. I was expecting actual insight into Rumsfeld’s personality, which is something I’ve long been curious about, and haven’t been able to get good information on this.

  • Verity

    Ernest Young – No, I could access it just fine. And yes, had Brooker written this sentence about Nelson Mandela or the lovely Captain Claw, Trevor Phillips would have had members of the Met jumping out of squad cars guns drawn and with helicopter cover with searchlights within five minutes of publication. I believe it’s referred to as “incitement to murder”. Or am I being over imaginative?

  • Paul Marks

    Yes Milton Friedman does express deep regret that President Reagan choose George Herbert Walker Bush rather than Donald Rumsfeld.

    The connection between Milton Friedman and Donald Rumsfeld goes back to the early 1960s (when Rumsfeld was a young Congressman). Milton Friedman formed a strong conviction that Donald Rumsfeld was both a strong free market man and a good man.

    I know that Milton Friedman is not a pure free market person – he is an interventionist (negative income tax, education vouchers, fiat money…….).

    However, compared to the mainstream Milton Friedman is one of the good guys – and so is Donald Rumsfeld. Although he is (for my taste) too much a part of the realist tradition of security policy – accepting the need to sometimes ally with the evil to destroy America’s enemies.

    Of course in the past the United States has allied both with Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China (both these regimes murdered tens of millions of people and were dedicated to the destruction of the United States) – at least Donald Rumsfeld has never taken realism that far.

    I have a nasty feeling that Donald Rumsfeld’s life in politics will look similar to that of Palmerston. A man well versed in economic policy – who ends up spending his life in security policy. I only hope that Rumsfeld does not suffer the same fate as Palmerston – the collapse of his policy (in Palmerston’s case the collapse of the policy to contain Prussian militarism: With Bismark’s illegal tax increases of 1861, followed by the war against Denmark in 1864 and the war against Austria the year after Palmerston’s death – perhaps Palmerston was too disturbed by a fear of Second Empire France to really concentrate on Prussia).

    Finally for those libertarians who believe that all politics is inevitably evil (or just a waste of time), the page I cited indicates Donald Rumsfeld’s success in private business.

  • Ziggomatic

    A question for all you libertarians; why are you such greedy, selfish arseholes? If it weren’t for you lot, I might consider calling myself a libertarian.

    Peace out brothers and sisters.

  • ernest young

    See – being a selfish greedy arsehole does work, even if only for keeping the stupid prats away!…

  • bil

    Fascinating how many people will condem a program that is only a third of the way through its thesis (this was part one of three) and essentially stopped in the early 80’s (pre-US/Islamist involvement against the Soviets in Afghanistan)

    Secondly the programme didn’t deny Soviet support for terrorist groups, what they denied was that there was some sort of worldwide terrorist soviet dominated conspiracy that included groups like the IRA (who get/got most of their support from the US, and refused alliances with “leftist” groups) and the Red Brigades (who iirc are Trotskyist and so are more likely to get ice picks from the USSR then militrary help). You may not have liked the USSR but to sugest they were responsible for all the ills in the world is niave bordering on stupidity

  • Paul Marks

    Well “bill” calling me stupid does not alter the fact that the plain intention of the B.B.C. programme was to deny that the Soviet Union supported terrorist groups (which Soviet supported groups did it mention?) and to deny that there was a massive Soviet military build up in the 1970’s (at a time of a decline in the United States armed forces).

    Such things were “myths”. That was the impression to be left in the minds of the viewers.

    Am I going to watch the other programmes in the series? No – I accept that it is possible that the next two programmes might say “the first show in this series was a pack of lies – we are sorry”, but I regard this as unlikely.

    I have watched and heard and read enough hate filled antiAmerican rubbish to last me a lifetime. Although, no doubt, I will watch and hear and read a lot more.

    I try to give a new series or a new book or magazine a chance. Just today I bought a copy of the B.B.C.’s History magazine – and it contained some rather nasty lies about the policy of the United States government over the last few years.

    The U.S. government is not high on my list of loved things (indeed it has treated the United States Constitution as a bit of toilet paper for many decades) – but compared to the “Progressive” types at the B.B.C. it is the lesser evil.

    By the way, nice touch about “the U.S.” supporting the socialist I.R.A. (there have been many factions of “I.R.A” and they have often killed each other, but all of the factions in my lifetime have been socialist)

    “Of course I did not mean the American government, I meant private individuals” is what you might say if anyone pulled you up about this.

  • Grant

    This thread is a disgrace.

    I’ve watched the first two parts of this documentary, right? I can tell the narrator is using a broad polemic style to drive home his thesis that the ‘war on terror’ is largely a fantasy used by governments to regain their authority over a jaded electorate.

    On the one hand this thesis is obviously true to some extent. The terrorist threat is overstated and used to political advantage by both conservative and socialist leaders. Terrorism did not begin on 11/9/01, but the constant focus upon it did. Blunkett is using it as pretext to propose locking people up for refusing to sign up for a national ID card. Bipartisan red-under-the-bed scaremongering group The Comittee on the Present Danger have, now the danger is long over, updated themselves to hype terrorism instead. To dismiss the thesis of this documentary, as opposed to the way it is presented in this particular instance, is both retarded and dangerous.

    On the other hand I can see the narrator glossing over certain details in order to make his broad points. You can (and will) call it lying, but the fact is he’s making his point in a broad, simplistic way that will appeal to people who are potentially sympathetic to his thesis at the cost of alienating those who are not. This is typical of those who argue the antithesis, now that I come to think of it.

    In the absence of other evidence I’m going to help propogate this documentary far and wide. I’m sick of hearing stories on the news about how terrorists might build a ‘dirty bomb’ when I remember the same channels running documentaries which studied the threat and showed that such a weapon would be less than useless – suggesting that whoever made it would die, and one or two of the people exposed might get cancer in twenty years. It’s a poor terrorist weapon that’s less effective than a packet of cigarrettes. So why does it still come up on the news as though it’s a credible threat?

    So, I’d like some unbiased critical examination of the documentary. Bearing in mind that he’s going to gloss over certain issues in order to get to the point of the argument, are there facts he’s stated wrongly? Are there enough omissions and distortions to undermine his central point? Who better to answer these questions than non-partisan libertarians and self-described critically rational individualists?

    I guess I’ll have to look elsewhere for critically rational individualists, because all I see here is a gathering of intellectually lazy fucks. You found an inaccuracy, can’t produce any evidence to back it up, and call it a lie, and assume that one lie means the whole programme – including unseen episodes – must be based on lies. Yeah, great critical thinking there. I’m so glad I’ve got the benefit of your opinion. What else do we have “Rummy isn’t a neocon!” and “The soviets supported SOME terrorists!” When called on to support the latter you stop talking about what the programme said and resort to mind-reading: “That is NOT the impression the programme wished to create – what the programme wanted people to believe…” I’m sorry, but I watched the programme and received the clear impression that he was pointing out a habit of blaming _any_ act of terrorism on a soviet-sponsored network, as opposed to the acts of Marxist terrorists with actual Soviet links.

    Instead of backing up your factual criticisms of the programme you exaggerate what the programme says and then attack your own exaggerations as absurd. Well, the are. I’m sure this is a much more easy line of attack but it isn’t any use to people like myself, who are willing to listen and concerned with the truth, but who don’t already agree with you.

    The same high standards of critical thinking run throughout the thread. Anyone who uses the word neocon is a dirty socialist who hates jews. Any group made up largely of jews or founded by jews is clearly above reproach over any matter. Using certain words or making certain claims automatically invalidates all other claims a source might make, regardless of whether they are based on earlier dubious claims. The use of “antiAmerican” to mean “antiRepublican.” Bemoaning (but not supporting) the evil of the BBC, the Guardian, the Independent, the socialists. Claiming that a documentary can be disregarded because of its ‘bizarre, off-the-wall music’.

    Give me something I can use to make up my mind or stop wanking, because you’re only going to convince each other.

  • Paul Marks

    I do not know whether any of Grant’s comments are aimed at me or not.

    However, I told the truth about the programme I watched. It was a programme based on lies.

    If other programmes in the series were not based on lies, fair enough (I did not watch them).

    I am not in the habit of giving liars second chances. Perhaps this is not very Christian of me, but there you go.

  • c

    I am glad Grant made that comment at the bottom of what I also found a very lazy circle jerk.

    I came here looking for rigorous criticism of a series that on occasion brushed over inconvenient facts but am not convinced by being asked to simply accept it was “lies”.

  • Paul Marks

    “c” does not like the word “lies”.

    My problem is as follows:

    If a programme says that the Soviet arms build up of the 1970’s (at a time of decline of the United States armed forces) and Soviet support for terrorism, are “myths” – then that programme was either made by morons who do not know what they are talking about, or the programme was made by liars.

    My guess (I admit it can be no more than that) is that the programme was made by liars.

  • Grant

    I’ve since seen plenty of evidence to support the claims that Team B lied and exaggerated the military strength of the USSR in just the way this documentary claims.

    Form you, however, I’ve seen nothing but the bald accusation and a lot of masturbatory back-slapping.

    If I may speak for c, I would suggest that c objects not to the word but to your use of it without backing up your claims.

    I would like to see some rigorous criticism of the series, particularly the third episode – the one which actually deals with our current situation; the other two are basically prologue. However, I think it’s pretty clear I’m not going to find it here.

  • Paul Marks

    To Grant.

    I have said (several times) that I only watched the first programme – so how could I write about the third episode? If someone makes a show that is full of nonsense, why would I watch the next couple of episodes?

    I admit that the other episodes could say “we made a mess of the first episode, but you can trust us about what we say now”, but I think it very unlikely. If someone tells me something that is not only untrue but absurd, then (yes) I am not likely to trust anything else they say about the same subject.

    At best the people who made “The Power of Nightmares” did not know what they were talking about, and I regard it as more likely that they did know the facts and just decided to lie (although, I admit, I could be wrong about that).

    Perhaps if you actually read what I wrote, rather than writing about “masturbratory back slapping” (do you really think my penis is that long?), you would do better.

    The first show called the Soviet arms build up in the 1970s (at a time of the decline of the United States armed forces) a “myth”, it was not a myth. The show also claimed that Soviet support for terrorism was a “myth”, it was not a myth.

    This programme was clearly of a similar standard as the C4 show that claimed that the invasion of Britain by germanic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D. did not happen. Well made, but rubbish.

  • Ellison

    The Power is Nightmares is just now coming to the US. It is shattering! Easily one of the best, most interesting, comprehensive and creative reports relating to the actions leading to the War on Terrorism.

    No US reporting to date has covered such ground so extensively. The San Francisco International Film Festival is honoring “Nightmares” this year. Most Americans are going to see this and demand answers, leading to more investigative reports on the highly questionable actions of the White House administration.

    Thank you, Adam Curtis and the BBC, for doing the investigative work, and connecting the dots, in such a powerful and meaningful way as created in The Power of Nightmares.

  • David

    Thanks to the CBC for airing this very interesting film. I’m thankful to live in a society where some intelligent discourse is still possible. The North American media, in general, has appreciably avoided any responsibility for intelligent reporting in recent times it appears, which is probably why this film elicits some passionate responses. Curtis’ thesis is an interesting one and not really too speculative, especially when there is really plenty of substance to back up his contentions. The neocon position isn’t a new one – the politics of fear, like negative political campaigning, has a successful track record in the historical record. Any radical or marginalized group in attempting to redress an inequitable framework for their own prosperity may use whatever means appropriate to their philosophy. It’s a pity that Curtis (nor our media) doesn’t challenge the basic problem of individual freedom and democracy in modern society – values that serve the political rhetoric of our day, but aren’t well understood any more, especially when we are supposed to interpret these values in a global manner. These values are treated as commodities, like schools, clean water treatment facilities and hospitals, which can be flown in and transplanted anywhere on the globe. The neocon argument, presented on Kristol’s http://www.newamericancentury.org website in its “Statement of Principles” establishes American global leadership, prosperity and principles as the road forward. Coincidentally, many of the signees to this doctrine are a Who’s Who of the current US establishment.

    It appears that the collaborators to this doctrine have forgotten that ones freedoms may impinge on anothers freedoms and that a more inclusive and collective definition might be necessary to avoid conflicts. One can’t get too far with this analysis without introducing ethiks [couldn’t submit this response without the spelling mistake – questionable content!] or morals into any discussion – what’s good for me must also be good for you and everyone. If not, then it shouldn’t be regarded as something universal. I think most of us are deluded into believing the rhetoric without much further thought. We believe in the concepts of freedom and democracy and with the help of the scriptwriters words are forced into supporting projects that are supposed to bring these values to others. Any argument must become impassioned in order to avoid any detailed or historical analysis that might otherwise put a different slant on the ideas presented. Curtis does a reasonable job of this and it is interesting that some reviewers are branding of his views as leftist. This kind of label is more confusing and speaks more about the user of the label than the object of its intent. It is not surprising to me that the neocons have an agenda, just as any group (including those branded as “extremist”) has a philosophy or creed central to its reason for existence. It is certain that the neocon or extremist agenda will not benefit everyone and that both groups rely on propaganda to enlist support. The political value of fear is supported by the historical record and what is clearly absent from the analysis is what price we are prepared to pay if we support such a policy. It is clear that some of our leaders are prepared to pay any price. The quickness of these men to adopt the “precautionary principle” in the “war on terror” was an interesting and chilling point – our legal system will surely implode if some are guilty until proven innocent.

  • John Brissenden

    I nearly gave up before reaching the interesting part of this thread, but I am glad I didn’t. Much blog comment on TPON suffers from being a) your standard right-wing bleat and b) snobbish harrumphing from history/political philosophy ‘experts’ who don’t understand the difference between an academic journal and a peak-time television programme.

    I digress. One other thing is missing from this thread, as from so much bloggery on this subject: it ignores the crucial element of the series’ thesis, namely the unwitting community of interest between the Straussian worldview and the Islamist nationalism spawned by Qutb. The suggestion is not merely that Straussism promotes the need for a permanent enemy, but that the motivation for Islamist nationalism is similarly cynical. Whoever we are, we are being used by one or the other.

    What say you?

  • Paul Marks

    As I have said many times: As the “facts” given in the first episode of “The Power of Nightmares” are false, why should I believe anything that is said in the other episodes?

    I have never got a reply on this from any of the supporters of the show.

    As for “right wing”, it is hard to know what people mean by this term (as some of the most ardent collectivists in history are called “right wing”, but also some anticollectivists are called “right wing”) – I suppose all “right wing” means is “people the New York Times happens not to like”.

    As for the policies of President Bush: Well I thought that “No Child Left Behind” was absurd, as was the Medicare extention.

    President Bush greatly expanded government spending and did nothing about the credit bubble financial system – so I can not say that he is my favourate President in history.

    Oh, I have never had kind thoughts about the war in Iraq either.

  • John Brissenden

    So Paul…you comment on one-third of something you refuse to view in its entirety, and rather than engage in debate about the central proposition of the series you stay in your comfort zone of internecine hair-splitting. “Critically rational”? If only!

  • NeoDude

    Michael Harrington is usually credited with coining the phrase. He was the first person to use it to describe ex-Socialist, working on The Right, in the United States. These “neoconservatives” maintained many of their leftist presuppositions concerning the role of The State, but striped most of the liberal/progressive/pluralistic beliefs, from the foundation replacing it with right-wing theories. (This is why, I suspect, libertarians called them Right-Wing Socialist). Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, accepted the label with glee.

    As I did further research, I discovered that there was a Neo-Conservative movement in Germany, after WW1 to about 1933. And I think this was Harrington’s motivation for using the word. (Harrington and Kristol, being the committed leftist they were and was, would have certainly been familiar with latest stuff in sociology and all things anti-fascist).

    “In the decade and a half between the close of World War I and the assumption of Adolf Hitler the German people faced the imposing tasks of absorbing defeat in the war, of adjusting to a peace settlement universally regarded in Germany as unjust, and of coping with armed insurrection, runaway inflation, reparations payments and the depression. In response to this series crises there arose among the nationalist-minded intellectuals of the Right an ideological movement referred to by some of its participants as the “conservative revolution.” These intellectuals were “conservative” in the sense of wanting to retain or revitalize certain traditional political, economic, and cultural forms and values which they felt were more in keeping with pristine Germanic character than were the “alien” forms associated with the Weimer democracy; they were “revolutionary” because they felt that only by embracing these traditional forms and values to revolutionary extent could Germany rejuvenate her national life and restore her political power. In general the conservatives revolutionaries-or neo-conservatives-were anti-Western, anti-Liberal, and anti-Semitic. Hence they often found themselves en rapport with the National Socialist, though for the most part the conservative revolutionaries were not Nazis in the strict sense. Nonetheless, as the 1920’s progressed, the movements represented by the two groups became more closely entwined. The Nazis allowed the largely congenial writings of the conservative revolutionaries to complement their own intellectually barren ideology, while the conservative revolutionaries viewed the dynamism of the Nazi movement as the necessary practical engine for dislodging the Weimer system and opening the way to true volkisch state. Yet once the National Socialist had seized power in 1933, they quickly lost patience with the independent-minded conservative revolutionaries, while the latter soon grew dismayed by the crudeness and fanaticism of the de facto Nazi regime. As a group, the conservative revolutionaries remained true to themselves and after the mid-1930’s played no positive role in the Hitler regime.

    The Fichte Society: A Chapter in Germany’s Conservative Revolution
    Nelson Edmondson
    The Journal of Modern History, Vol. 38, No. 2. (Jun., 1966), pp. 161-180.

    But the damage had been done. I have other articles from the late fifties and early sixties, which describe a movement of Germans desperate to establish German exceptionalism and preeminence within Europe. Many thought the Nazis were just crazy…but they were better than liberals and leftists, this is clear in all the writings. The Nazis were first and foremost Good Germans, who would never betray the homeland.

    I don’t know if it was Harrington or Irving Howe, but one of them, jokingly commented that Leo Strauss would have appreciated the Nazis more, if they were not so anti-Semitic. (It certainly drew lots of laughter) The Nazis were radical because they saw biology and culture as one-and-the-same. I’m assuming Harrington or Howe was also suggesting that Strauss would have no problems chucking the racial purity and striving, instead for cultural purity.

    More on the early use of “neo-conservatives” if you have access to JSTOR:

    Hans Zehrer as a Neoconservative Elite Theorist
    Walter Struve
    The American Historical Review Vol. 70, No. 4 (Jul., 1965), pp. 1035-1057

    Democracy, the New Conservatism, and the Liberal Tradition in America
    Stuart Gerry Brown
    Ethics Vol. 66, No. 1, Part 1 (Oct., 1955), pp. 1-9

  • NeoDude

    Social Democrats, USA
    Copyright: 1996, SD, USA

    Kristol described the current Republican coalition as consisting primarily of two main strains: economic and social conservatives. The economic conservatives are anti-state and the social conservatives are anti-liberal who view liberalism “as corroding and subverting the virtues that they believe must be the bedrock of decent society.” He believes that the differences between the economic conservatives and the social conservatives produce “tensions” between the two groups. Kristol’s long range view is that the social conservatives represent “an authentic mass movement that gathers strength with every passing year.”

    Splitting the Republican Coalition


    This leads to the issue of the role of the state. Neocons do not like the concentration of services in the welfare state and are happy to study alternative ways of delivering these services. But they are impatient with the Hayekian notion that we are on “the road to serfdom.” Neocons do not feel that kind of alarm or anxiety about the growth of the state in the past century, seeing it as natural, indeed inevitable. Because they tend to be more interested in history than economics or sociology, they know that the 19th-century idea, so neatly propounded by Herbert Spencer in his “The Man Versus the State,” was a historical eccentricity. People have always preferred strong government to weak government, although they certainly have no liking for anything that smacks of overly intrusive government. Neocons feel at home in today’s America to a degree that more traditional conservatives do not. Though they find much to be critical about, they tend to seek intellectual guidance in the democratic wisdom of Tocqueville, rather than in the Tory nostalgia of, say, Russell Kirk.

    The Neoconservative Persuasion


    In his foreword to the first paperback edition of The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism (1978), sociologist Daniel Bell announced that he was “a socialist in economics, a liberal in politics, and a conservative in culture.” People “might find this statement puzzling,” Bell went on, “assuming that if a person is radical in one realm, he is radical in all others; and, conversely, if he is a conservative in one realm, that he must be conservative in the others as well. Such an assumption misreads, both sociologically and morally, the nature of these different realms.”1

    Disjoining the Left: Cultural Contradictions of Anticapitalism

  • Paul Marks

    I was accused of not being rational because I pointed out errors of fact in the first episode of the “Nightmares” show. Supposedly I should have gone out of way to see the next two shows in the series to see what other stuff they came out with.

    This would have rather like hearing a man saying I am six feet tall and have a full of head of hair (when I am in fact 5.8 and bald) and hanging about to see what else the man said about me.

    In political history if someone says things that I can check and they turn out to be false, I do not care to listen to other things he wants to say about modern affairs (which are much more difficult to check, than developments that occured decades ago).

    Still there is the other basic method of misleading people – not the blatent lie, but the false association.

    I am not a neoconservative (I am libertarian)and I was not even in favour of the war on Iraq, but I will not remain silent when people start talking about neoconservatives (many of whom are Jewish) and “fascists” and “Nazis”, as if neoconsservatives are connected to these folk. Such comparisons are both false and evil (stand by for “I did not say that neocons were Nazis or Fascists”

    As for conservatives in general. Well the word “conservative” has been used to describe all sorts of (widly different) political positions.

    For example, a conservative may follow the ideas of Edmund Burke. And (at least as I read Burke) that would mean being generally hostile to both efforts by the state to plan the economy AND to enforce morality.

    Such a conservative would believe that traditional morality (the moral development of human beings) is much better off without special laws or inspectiors.

    Actually I see little conflct between the view of law in Edmund Burke and the view of law held by libertarians (best expressed, in my opinion, in Bastiat’s essay “The Law”), i.e. that the criminal law is about going against the violation of a person’s body or goods.

    As a final point, whilst I freely admit that “conservative” has been used to mean all sorts of different (contracdictory) things (indeed I admit that above), how on the hell is the German nationalist Fichte a conservative?

    Surely if “conservative” meant anything at all in the context of the German speaking lands it meant someone who stood for the old Kingdom’s, Grand Dukedom’s, Free Cities (and so on) – i.e. so one who was against “German Unification” and Prussian statism (a target of Burke even back in the 18th century “Annual Review” days).

    This reminds of when I was a boy (sadly many years ago) and heard that Bismark (both the creator of the first proto welfare state in the modern world, and the arch violator of all traditional rules of conduct in the German speaking lands – and outside these lands) was a “conservative”. That is when I gave up on the concept of “conservative” (any destroyer of such old Kingdoms as Hanover had no charm for me) and went looking for another word to describe myself.

    Of course the word “liberal” was also confused in meaning, even in the 19th century. For example, the Italian liberals seem to spend most of their time increasing taxes by taking over various plances (in the own “unifications”) and imposing things like conscription (in places like Sicily).

    In Latin American “liberal” just seemed to mean (again even in the 19th century) someone who wished to rob the Roman Catholic church, and whilst I am not a Roman Catholic that did not seem just.

    Even in Britain people who called themselves “liberals” seemed to believe in all sorts of nasty things as far back as the early 19th century (Birth, Marriages and Deaths Registration Act of 1836 – to give just one example).

    In the United States “liberal” seemed to mean a supporter of the Whig party, and I did not agree with much that Henry Clay and his people said (later I found out that Clay had spoken on both sides of almost every issue – but that is another story).

    So whereas I wanted to call myself a “Classical Liberal” or a “19th Century Liberal”, this went against the facts.

    I wanted a principle of law that opposed the violation of one person by another (I agree with Salmon P. Chase that “slavery” is a series of common law offenses – false imprisonment, assault,……). But did not try and make men “just and good” (Aristotle’s basic error, although when he is not writing against Lycrophon he does not seem to hold this position with any really force – indeed he normally holds a much restrained view of government). For the state can not do that, and its efforts make people less (not more) moral.

    Still, I am getting off the subject (a defect that I have). The bottom line is that the first episode of “The Power of Nightmares” was full of errors of fact, which I supect were deliberate. The next two episodes were about more recent events (of which I know little), but were made by the same people – and, therefore, were not worth watching as these people had proved themselves to be untrustworthy.

    As for calling neocons “Fascists” or Nazis” (oh sorry, these words just happened to be in the same sentence – there was no intention to mislead at all). Well that is not good.

  • Paul Marks

    The above is good example of my terrible typing. Oh well, it is my birthday and I am not at my best.

    “So what is your excuse for typos when it is not your birthday”.

    Well (as the politicians say) “that is a good question”.

  • Rummsfeld's Butt Plug

    “If a programme says that the Soviet arms build up of the 1970’s (at a time of decline of the United States armed forces) and Soviet support for terrorism, are “myths” – then that programme was either made by morons who do not know what they are talking about, or the programme was made by liars.”

    Thye programme DOES NOT say this.

    The program is true and accurate.

    I challenge anyone to prove otherwise.