Sunday, March 11, 2007


As those who watch TV (or listen to the radio) in the UK will know from the trailers, our old friend, Adam Curtis, is back tonight. Rather predictably making it 'Documentary of the week', the Radio Times says:
If most factual TV is bangers and mash, this is thick-cut, rare steak. Adam Curtis's previous, visionary series The Power of Nightmares analysed radical Islam and the fear of terrorism. Here he takes on an even bigger idea: freedom. [..I]t's [..] quite brilliant TV.
Karl French in the FT also describes 'Power of Nightmares' as 'dazzling'.

There is an everyday kind of myth creation. Take for example the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah. This is quite generally referred to now as an attack by Israel on Lebanon (for example, Michael Cockerell in 'Blair: the inside story, Part 3' states that Blair was isolated in supporting Israel's attack), ignoring the fact that it was a response by Israel to Hezbollah's agression. This is a fairly straightforward illustration, but it shows how a sort of "official version" of history can be quickly established, regardless of facts that were generally accepted at the time.

There is, however, a slightly more subtle point to be made about the events of last summer. Much of international opinion at the time focused on the "disproportionate" nature of Israel's response and called for an immediate ceasefire. But now this is largely forgotten and people look back on what is seen as a "defeat" for Israel or a "victory" for Hezbollah. In fact, though there are substantial criticisms that can be made of its military campaign, Israel gained significantly from the ceasefire that was eventually concluded, which it might not have done had it agreed to an earlier ceasefire.

As I said, that is the everyday kind of myth building. But then somebody like Curtis comes along and, by an even more outrageous selection of facts, projects a more far-ranging theory and everybody says, "Oh, so that's how it all hangs together. Except that it doesn't.

I wonder if Curtis's new series will mention Lebanon 2006. We shall see. But I doubt whether I will be bothered to take it apart in the same detail as I did the last one.


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