Tom Cerber, who blogs at The Politic has called our attention to this piece of propaganda, er, I mean incisive analysis, to be broadcast on CBC. Aside from implying a moral equivalence between Sayyed Qutb, a founding theorist of radical Islam, and Leo Strauss (a linkage we also find in an execrable book), the film claims that "the idea that we are threatened by a hidden and organized terrorist network is an illusion."
Here’s an interview with Adam Curtis, the producer, writer, and narrator, after the documentary first aired on BBC last year. His central contention:
The attacks on 11 September were not the expression of a confident and growing movement, they were acts of desperation by a small group frustrated by their failure which they blamed on the power of America. It is also important to realise that many within the Islamist movement were against this strategy.
So, yes, Islamists are a threat, but not anything we have encountered before and certainly not sufficient to justify the extreme measures we’re taking against them. Of course, without this threat the evil neo-cons wouldn’t have the justification for building their American empire.
And while I’m at it, here’s a typical distortion from an unofficial transcript:
VO: But Qutb was not alone. At the same time, in Chicago, there was another man who shared the same fears about the destructive force of individualism in America. He was an obscure political philosopher at the University of Chicago. But his ideas would also have far-reaching consequences, because they would become the shaping force behind the neoconservative movement, which now dominates the American administration. He was called Leo Strauss. Strauss is a mysterious figure. He refused to be filmed or interviewed. He devoted his time to creating a loyal band of students. And what he taught them was that the prosperous liberal society they were living in contained the seeds of its own destruction.
Professor HARVEY MANSFIELD, Straussian Philosopher, Harvard University: He didn’t give interviews, or write political essays, or appear on the radio—there wasn’t TV yet—or things like that. But he did want to get a school of students to see what he had seen: that Western liberalism led to nihilism, and had undergone a development at the end of which it could no longer define itself or defend itself. A development which took everything praiseworthy and admirable out of human beings, and made us into dwarf animals. Made us into herd animals—sick little dwarves, satisfied with a dangerous life in which nothing is true and everything is permitted.
VO: Strauss believed that the liberal idea of individual freedom led people to question everything—all values, all moral truths. Instead, people were led by their own selfish desires. And this threatened to tear apart the shared values which held society together. But there was a way to stop this, Strauss believed. It was for politicians to assert powerful and inspiring myths that everyone could believe in. They might not be true, but they were necessary illusions. One of these was religion; the other was the myth of the nation. And in America, that was the idea that the country had a unique destiny to battle the forces of evil throughout the world. This myth was epitomized, Strauss told his students, in his favorite television program: Gunsmoke.
So the fact that Strauss wasn’t a media figure, and was uninterested in being a media figure, makes him mysterious at least, perhaps secretive and conspiratorial. But the difference between a man who inspires terrorists and one whose goal is to get people to read and think carefully about the permanent questions seems to elude this filmmaker.
Update: Tom Cerber actually watched the first hour-long installment last night.