Saturday 11 September 2010, 14:50

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis

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This is the story of the man who tried to kill the previous Pope in 1981 and how in doing so he unwittingly helped create one of the great religious beliefs of our modern age.

It is the belief in a global network of terror - and the conviction among its believers that anyone who questions it is a heretic.

It begins with a very brave, but also very obsessive, Lieutenant Colonel in Vietnam called Alexander Haig. Here he is talking as his troops bulldoze and flatten a Vietnamese village.

He perfectly expresses the American military's famous explanation - "It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

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Haig's career then took off - and in 1969 he was made Henry Kissinger's assistant.

Almost immediately he became involved in the secret bombing of Cambodia.

The American military was convinced there was a giant secret bunker hidden in Cambodia from which the North Vietnamese were directing their attacks. The bombing, followed by an invasion, was going to destroy it.

But the bunker was never found. It seems never to have existed.

But it became a vision that was going to possess Haig, and others, in the years to come. That somewhere there is a hidden central control where the enemies of America are co-ordinating their attacks.

They know this secret place exists. Even if there is no real evidence.

And you can do bad things and cut corners in order to prove it exists.

Here is some footage - first from the invasion with an American Major from the US Cavalry convinced they are going to find the bunker. Then William Shawcross describing the illegal things that Haig was involved in. Followed by a report of what they did find.

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Haig then became President Nixon's chief of staff during Nixon's final - paranoid - days.

After that he became the commander of NATO in Europe. And as his power grew so did his vision of the hidden threat. In 1979 Haig made a speech about what he called the new "global disease of terrorism" which he was convinced the Soviet Union was behind.

Up to this point the terrorists in Europe and Latin America and elsewhere had been seen as disparate groups. They might know each other - but they were separate movements driven by their own weird interpretations of leftist or rightist theory.

Haig was saying - no, they are all part of something bigger. Here is part of his speech.

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Then - a month later - a group of terrorists tried to kill Alexander Haig.

The German group, the Red Army Faction, hid a bomb under a bridge in Belgium and detonated it as Haig's motorcade went over it. But they mistimed it by a few seconds.

For Haig it was evidence of an international plot to get him.

By now Haig was not alone.

In July 1979 a conference was held in Jerusalem to discuss the phenomenon of "International Terrorism". It was organised by a young Benjamin Netanyahu at the Jonathan Institute, named after his brother who had been killed by terrorists at Entebbe.

All sorts of people were there, including George Bush Snr, many Neoconservatives who would become influential in Bush Jnr's adminsitration, and Prime Minister Begin.

But the agenda of the conference was shaped by a new breed of what would become known as "terror experts". And all of them were convinced by the new theory that the KGB were running almost all terrorism around the world.

They were also great, and sometimes very weird,characters.

One was an Australian journalist and novelist who wrote for the British Economist called Robert Moss.

Moss was one of the earliest promoters of the idea of hidden Soviet control. And in 1976 he helped write the speech for Mrs Thatcher that led the Soviets to call her the Iron Lady.

Later - in the mid 80s - Moss decided he had found a route to perceiving higher truths in the world. Truths hidden from ordinary mundane consciousness.

Through his dreams.

He developed a system he called Active Dreaming. You can find his theory here.

"When we act to bring the energy and imagery of dreams into physical reality, we become poets of consciousness and infuse our world with magic. Deep into multidimensional reality"

Another "terror expert" was a French historian called Annie Kriegel.

She had been a hardline Stalinist in the French Communist Party, but had turned violently against the Soviet Union.

Kriegel was convinced that all the terrorist acts in the Middle East were being co-ordinated from Moscow. This was music to the ears of Benjamin Netanyahu and the Israeli leaders who were seeking further US support.

In 1982 Kriegel wrote a book that said that the massacres in the Sabra-Chatila camps were organised by the Soviets and carried out by German terrorists under KGB control.

But perhaps the most important expert was another ex-communist. An American called Claire Sterling.

Sterling was a journalist who lived in Italy. She took all the "evidence" of Soviet control that was produced a the conference and bundled it up together into a book called The Terror Network.

It had a dramatic thesis.

It said that there was a "Global Terror Network" underneath the surface of most Western societies and the Middle East.

That all of them - the Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof gang, Provisional IRA, South Moluccans, Japanese Red Army, Iranian terrorists, Turkish People's Liberation Army, Spain's ETA, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Fatah, the military arm of the Palestine Liberation Organization were all part of a grand Soviet scheme.

The aim of the scheme was to force the police in a Western democracies to crack down on individual freedoms. Then a repressive police state would emerge and breed resentment - making the masses ripe for Communist revolution.

One of Sterling's closest friends in Italy was a young American academic called Michael Ledeen. He was fascinated by the theory.

And then early in 1981 he became a special assistant to the new US Secretary of State in the first Reagan administration.

Who was General Alexander Haig.

Haig read The Terror Network and immediately bought Sterling's theory - because it proved what he instinctively knew about the Soviet threat.

And few days later Haig went to Congress and publicly accused Moscow of "training, funding, and equipping" international terrorists. He announced that "international counterterrorism will take the place of human rights."

William Casey, the new head of the CIA also read and believed Sterling's book.

The only problem was the no-one else took it seriously.

Many of those running the Reagan administration knew that the Soviet Union was supporting and arming liberation movements in the developing world, but they didn't believe in the Global Terror Network.

Casey met with his CIA analysts. He told them that the book - The Terror Network - "has told me more than you bastards whom I pay $50,000 a year."

His analysts then patiently explained to him that much of Claire Sterling's evidence was composed of Black Propaganda they themselves had invented and spread around Europe to discredit to Soviets.

Even Reagan - for all his anti-communism - didn't take it seriously.

But then - on 13th of May 1981 - Mehmet Ali Agca tried to kill the Pope in Rome.

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Agca was a member of an extreme right wing Turkish group called the Grey Wolves. But at first Agca said he had done it on his own - it was neither right or left, he said. He was tried and put in prison.

But then in May 1982 Agca suddenly changed his story.

But he didn't say he had done it as a member of the extreme right. Instead he insisted he had been part of a communist conspiracy to kill the Pope that had been organised by the Bulgarian secret service - and was being controlled behind that by Moscow.

Here is a bit of Agca shouting to the Italian press as he was taken from prison for more questioning. Telling them that he was part of a KGB plot.

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Claire Sterling seized on this and went into action. She talked to lots of "intelligence informants" in Italy and the rest of Europe and wrote an article for Readers Digest. It caused a worldwide sensation.

Sterling said that Agca showed the incredible spider's web that Moscow had created to control terrorism throughout the world. It had been built in such a way that it was normally impossible to see the links. But, like a flash of lightning on a dark night, Agca had shown how web really worked.

In his case, the KGB controlled the Bulgarian Secret service, and they in turn controlled the Turkish criminal mafia.

The Bulgarians had told the Mafia to find someone who could never be suspected of being linked to Moscow, bring him to Rome and tell him to shoot the Pope.

He would be interpreted as a Muslim fanatic, while Moscow would be rid of a Polish Pope who was a supporting the Solidarity movement in Poland.

Claire Sterling became a media celebrity. She appeared on TV across America and the world. Here she is on Nationwide in December 1982 putting forward her theory.

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Sterling's theory caused consternation in the Reagan administration, and especially in the CIA.

Almost all CIA officers and analysts were united in a belief that what Sterling was saying was rubbish. They produced an internal report saying there was no evidence linking the KGB to the assassination attempt.

But the head of the CIA, William Casey, was convinced by Sterling.

A senior CIA analyst called Melvin Goodman testified in 1991 to a Senate Committee as to what Casey then did.

He forced CIA officers to alter the report's main judgements and to "stack the deck" in favour of KGB complicity. The sections of the report that expressed doubts and had counter arguments were erased.

The altered report was then sent to the White House. And it became one of the underpinnings of President Reagan's increasingly simplified view of the world - that there was an interconnected network of terror in the world.

Although a new puppet master had also appeared, along with the Soviet Union - Iran.

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Meanwhile the Pope now travelled the world in a protected, high-defence series of pope-mobiles.

Here is a report from the Pope's visit to Britain in 1982 about how British Leyland have built both the standard model and super-giant protected version - under guidance from terror advisers.

I very much like Kevin Beadle from British Leyland who is interviewed. He is so deadpan - the reporter must have hated him.

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But then it all went wrong for the global terror theory.

Agca was put on trial again, but this time with seven others. They were accused of being part of a Soviet backed conspiracy to kill the pope.

But the problem was that the prosecution seemed unable to produce any real evidence.

And then Agca himself started talking in court. And it became increasingly clear that he was disturbed and delusional. At one point he announced to the court that he was Jesus Christ and the world was about to end.

Some journalists tried to keep the faith and said that the mad ramblings and his lies were part of a cunning plan. But others began to report the case as a growing fiasco.

Here is BBC news report from the courtroom which gives you a really good idea of how Agca really was out where the buses don't run.

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In the end all of the accused were acquitted because there was absolutely no evidence against them.

People went back and looked at Claire Sterling's writings. They pointed out how she also seemed to have no real facts. There were lots of footnotes and references. But when you analysed them they were mostly from secondary "terror experts" who had relied, as she had, on the same Western intelligence sources.

What this meant was that she was citing the same intelligence sources, directly and indirectly, under different names. This then produces a cumulative effect on the unsuspecting reader through a kind of echo chamber.

It was the beginning of the fundamental problem with much of today's "terror industry". They quote each other to produce an illusory breadth of research - when in fact they are often being manipulated by a few intelligence sources with facts they have no ability to check.

And at the same time another media phenomenon rose up.

The terror drama-doc.

At the very time that the Agca-Soviet theory crumbled, the BBC made a film for their "Sunday Premiere" slot called "The Most Dangerous Man in the World".

Here are some extracts. It stars Martin Shaw as a very evil member of the Turkish Mafia.

I've put some captions in explaining how the extracts fit into the story.

I love the bit where some Marxist students try to turn Agca by telling him they can offer "experimental theatre, Brecht and girls".

And there is also great moment where Agca goes to the secret traing camp in Syria where all the world's terrorists come to be trained. And he tells his friend:

"These cats are dealers who deal in rare and expensive violence. The pure stuff"

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What Agca had helped create was a powerful modern myth.

It is the idea that underneath all the chaotic violence that marks the modern world there are hidden patterns. Networks of terror that are orchestrated by America's deadly enemies.

This myth reappeared after September 11th 2001. It then fell away again after the debacle in Iraq.

But now it is re-emerging yet again with Iran. And one of the leading promoters is Michael Ledeen. He was Claire Sterling's friend in Italy who did so much to promote the idea in the early years of the Reagan administration.

In his latest book, Accomplice To Evil, Ledeen claims that now Iran is the key lynchpin of a Global Terrorist Network which is engaged in a war against the West.

The reason that no-one can see this network he says is that the mullahs are brilliant at covering their tracks.

At the front of the book he quotes Baudelaire - "The loveliest trick of the Devil is to persuade you he does not exist."

Ledeen is a fascinating man. In the 1970s he wrote a great book about the Italian poet and revolutionary politician, Gabriele D'Annunzio

In 1919, in the chaos at the end of the Great War, D'Annunzio took over the city of Fiume. He was joined by a strange mixture of Futurist artists and revolutionaries from both left and right.

D'Annunzio tried to create a new kind of society in Fiume. He mixed politics with modern art and old religious myths to try and create a heightened awareness among the masses. His aim was to give them a vision of a new kind of world.

The experiment at Fiume has often been portrayed as the beginning of Italian fascism. But Ledeen makes a powerful case that it was far more than that.

What D'Annunzio invented, Ledeen says, is the shape of all modern mass politics. He created melodramatic, theatrical settings to manipulate the masses and so radicalise them.

Behind this was D'Annunzio's belief that there was a hidden, higher reality in the world which the old elites and cowardly politicians prevented ordinary people from seeing.

As Ledeen puts it about D'Annunzio:

"The forces he had awakened (at Fiume) constituted a kind of 'Superworld'. Those, in contrast, that opposed them were an 'Underworld'. It was a poetic vision. It was not fascist or leftist. It was a new way of doing politics.

D' Annunzio's style was the politics of mass manipulation, the politics of myth and symbol which have become the norm in the modern world."

The problem with mass politics today is that we increasingly have no idea what is myth and theatre, and what is really true. And I'm not convinced that Michael Ledeen does either.

In the 1920s D' Annunzio built himself a beautiful garden on the shores of Lake Garda. It expresses his belief that you can shape the world to be what you want it to be. In the midst of it is a real navy cruiser which he hauled up the hillside and embedded in the rocks.

And above it all is a giant mausoleum in which D'Annunzio and some of those who accompanied him in Fiume are buried together.

The whole place is a memorial to D'Annunzio's 'Superworld'.

Here is some footage I took of the Garden. Followed by some old archive of D'Annunzio and his followers in the revolutionary world of Fiume.

Plus some video of the 'Superworld' that the American neoconservatives tried to create nearly a hundred years later.

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    Comment number 1.

    "Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you."

    There may not be a 'network' between the disparate terror groups, guided from a central hub; but that wouldn't stop KGB and CIA agencies from funding, and 'suggesting' targets, to these quasi-independent terror groups.

    According to Yuri Bezmenov, KGB subversion need only involve 'nudging' local discontents into a left leaning attitude; feeding them with money, equipment, and some well worded propaganda. The idea is not to 'lead' them, but encourage them to be useful idiots in promoting local crisis. Then when the ideal regime comes to the 'rescue', the subversives are rounded up and shot by their previous benefactors, because they have no further use of them, and their knowledge of the black operations, make them dangerous to the new regime.

    And what is sauce for the KGB, was sauce for the CIA; so that any local group of discontents, residing in contested ground (like Afghanistan), could find themselves being funded by both East and West.

    The art seems to be for giving enough support to terror groups to keep the crisis going, without giving them any true power. Israel might be an exception to that policy.

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    Comment number 2.

    Amazingly wonderful, thoughtful piece. Thanks for all the effort.
    Religion is backwards; religion used to be a flat earth & the sun going around the earth.
    Religion likes docility; it can get downright nasty with people who refuse to be docile. Every country with an established church was/is the same - intolerant and brutal.
    The "good news" was put together, consolidated for a “pagan” emperor named Constantine. This was 2000 years ago; Constantine was a very brutal.
    Europe always needed money to go & fight the infidel (terrorist?). Europe was in the business of murdering the infidel. In Europe itself this was called "feudalism”.
    These were the "dark ages". People wore armor and slashed with swords. The religion that Constantine personally designed, the one we inherited, the one we lovingly retain today, was a work of terrorism.
    If you really want to get terrorized dig up the roots of Christianity - how the Romans created a hierarchical religion of idolators & feudal warlords and called them Pope, Bishops, Cardinals and "Father".
    These religious persons burned - not Korans - but every courageous, thinking, decent human being, tortured them, burned them alive. These murderers were false Christians. The false Christians defined Christianity and selected the works to be included in the Bible, which as far as I am concerned is more or less the platform for terror.
    If you are not Christian, you cannot be saved. You must convert...or die.
    The American founding fathers knew better. Early Christianity they knew was a fabricated pagan religion made to look something like Christianity. The real followers of Christ...hunted down, tortured, killed. The Church called them “heretics.” The real Christians weren’t into money and power. The real Christians were butchered and burned until the 14th century. The last of them sought shelter in the Pyrenees, and were hunted down by the hundreds. In Southern France, drive the “Cathar Trail”, and you will come to the end of real Christianity.
    Then Britain put Israel smack dab in the middle of Palestinian Land, and the Palestinians refused to say thank-you. This is history, lied about, but history nonetheless. If Muslims were going to be angry at the west, it would have been about Britain, France and, later on, the United States, putting the spying, thieving, Jewish Zionism in their country.
    The west, primarily the United States, exports terrorism, protects terrorism.
    Israel blows up hospitals full of sick people. Americans shoot people for sport in Afghanistan. We have religion!
    There is real terror afoot. Real terrorism is corporate culture and organized crime. If you wonder why there are no candidates that talk about the real issues, why nothing is being produced in America, why corporations pay no taxes, why we fight war after war based on lies, the answer is this: Our government, along with Britain and so many others, are owned by corporations, banks, all slaves to a real international conspiracy that we call the “global economy.”
    You won’t find the truth in any church, mosque or synagogue. The truth is a process of admitting that everything you have learned may be and probably is a lie, a lie that serves real terrorism.
    Is there some hope?
    Take back your brain, think for yourself. Believe nothing that you cannot prove for yourself. Refuse to walk on four legs and baaa like a sheep. Stand for what you believe. Stand and be counted...

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    Comment number 3.

    Another fascinating and entertaining piece; thank you.

    I think a large part of the problem is that we have crisis-managers in power, who thrive on crises, and thus have no incentive to achieve stability, as that would render them obsolete. At the moment, it seems they don't want to hand over management to those who are concerned about the ecological crisis, as they have a different skill-set; they would rather wait until there are tangible crises to be dealt with, which would necessitate their skills to save us, rather than 'defuse the bomb' and leave us to deal with just our own day-to-day problems.

    I read of an old Chinese curse: "may you live in interesting times." I think that the role of art and culture should be to redefine the concept of 'interesting' so that it does not involve deadly force, without impairing each persons ability to reach within themselves to deal with the issues of life. Hell of a trick to pull off, tho'!

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    Comment number 4.

    Excellent thought-provoking material as usual, Adam, and I particularly appreciated the way in which you highlighted the solidifying of the overall narrative and then the collapse of that narrative's coherence between about 1979 and 1985. 'The Most Dangerous Man in the World' is an astonishing piece (in the sense that it seems so astonishingly naive!), and seemed a suitable coda to the whole story, with everything conducing to the condition of Muzak at its end. Yesterday's Black Ops Misinformation becoming the next day's cheap televisual schlock.

    Obviously, the idea of the global terrorist hub seems paranoid and ridiculous even for the days of optimum Cold War brinkmanship, though it does seem evident that, throughout the 70's, many of the separate terrorist movements around the world (developing, or so it seems to me, from an interesting combination of nascent post-colonial nationalisms, crime syndicalism, and - which is less studied- the peculiar come down from the influences of 60's counter-culture) were, in fact, in relatively close contact with one another's operations, supplying fellow freedom fighters with arms and training, and farming out operations of collective interest on a not irregular basis. It is clear that Baader-Meinhof members undertook initial training with the PLO; that the Japanese Red Army was closely affiliated with the PFLP, which also utilised the services of internationals, such as the infamous Carlos the Jackal etc. Equally, what seems to have motivated the ecumenical attitudes of such groups was both a sense of 'outsider' status common to all, and, as importantly, a collective adherence to Marxist-Leninist principles of one stripe or another. In this sense, the notion of a worldwide terrorist plot led from Moscow did not, I suppose, seem as far fetched as it might have done to certain suggestible commentators in the early 80's. However, as you so rightly allude to, Adam, the majority of these groups differed greatly in the ultimate ends sought, which were often of a distinctly local, rather than global, concern, though they sometimes collaborated in finding the means to achieve those ends. The idea of the global plot orchestrated from Moscow can be seen for what it truly was - abject, and poorly researched, paranoia!

    Of course, another perspective on this may be that it was all the easier for commentators within NATO countries to give credence to such a notion when it is clear that their own clandestine operations designed to undermine potential Soviet fifth columnism were so well-entrenched, pervasive, secretive and working through 'false fronts'. GLADIO, about which much remains unclear to this day, but which appears to have been especially influential in encouraging Italian right wing paramilitary response at CIA behest throughout the 'Years of Lead' in the late 70's/early 80's, would be just one such example.

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    Comment number 5.

    Even more interesting (and this I had no previous idea about, although I have just been googling the information) the Turkish 'Grey Wolves' (to whom Agca professed his initial affiliation) are said to have been, themselves, a GLADIO instrument (i.e. a sizeable right wing poltical party/militia sponsored as anti-Communist detterent by US paymasters). As with most GLADIO policy, it is alleged that they would often create 'false flag' operations in order to sustain the 'strategy of tension' - that's to say, to create terrorist attacks that could then be blamed on the activities of the Communist movement in order to further discredit the Soviets. Wheels within wheels...!!

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    Comment number 6.

    As to Haig, wasn't it him, who as Secretary of State in 1981, on the day of another almost successful assassination attempt (when Reagan was wounded by John Hinckley) attempted to abrogate supreme power to himself as 'Acting President', violating the line of succession, because the Vice President, none other than George Bush Snr., was absent, and it was feared Reagan was likely to die ? It seems to be suggested by the tape transcripts that have survived from the fractious Cabinet meetings that took place at the time that the US came perilously close to sparking a diplomatic incident with the USSR regarding the increased number of Soviet submarines held to be cruising off Atlantic coasts, and that urgent demands were made to check the status of available nuclear deterrents. One suggestion that Haig appears to have been concerned by, in the days before it was confirmed that Hinckley was a lone nut, was that the assassination attempt had been orchestrated by Soviet espionage, and was a prelude to full scale war. Given that Haig was being backed by men like William Casey and Casper Weinberger, it is almost certainly a good thing that Reagan managed to pull through on this occasion, whatever anyone may think of his later policies in office!

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    Comment number 7.

    For the BBC movie: the "girls, brecht, experimental theatre" part is almost correct. Though they never read anything as complicated as Brecht at the time. Most complicated they went was "ABC of socialism" by Huberman or something like that. I remember that Georges Politzer was also popular. Althusser is very popular now.

    At that time, the understanding in the turkish left was "The theory is completed by Marx and Engels. The problem now is to apply it. So, dont become a donkey loaded with books. Become a guerilla and fight against fascism". So the left was not really an intellectual movement. They liked to think themselves as intellectuals, though.

    There is a mirror reflection with what is written above: At that time, and now, both turkish ultra left and ultra right believed that all their misfortunes were caused by CIA agents embedded within them. They were regularly shooting members of their organizations accused of being CIA agents. Myth or fact? Nobody knows.

    First generation of turkish leftists were trained by PLO in bekaa valley under the syrian watch. On this count too, the movie was correct.

    Of course, the facial expressions, mimics and body language of the actors were completely British. Their sense of humour included.

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    Comment number 8.

    Dear All,

    Whilst I realise this probably isn't appropriate I was wondering if anyone could point me in the right direction of contacting Adam?



    Adam if your reading this Id love to volunteer in any capacity you may need - research/admin/teas maid!


    Tom Kitchin

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    Comment number 9.

    But the IRA's acquisition of arms through Libya in the 1980s helped transform the organisation into one that could fight a devastating and sustained campaign.

    The first arms connection with Libya was discovered in 1973 when a ship laden with guns and ammunition, the Claudia, was apprehended off the Irish coast. According to Libya's leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, he resumed contact with the IRA in 1986 after the UK assisted the US in bombing Tripoli.

    It is believed that three substantial shipments of arms reached Ireland before the French authorities apprehended a ship, the Eskund, laden with some 150 tonnes of weaponry.

    It is these supplies from Libya which provided the IRA with its most significant and infamous weapon: Semtex.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    I'm fascinated by the D'Annunzio connection, but I also have to admit that I find your conceptual leap a bit far fetched. In what way is modern politics like the proto-fascism engendered by D'Annunzio? I don't think many people find your average modern political rally to be theatrical or particularly exciting; things that are suppodsely the bread and butter of the "Superworld" that briefly flourished in Fiume. You can see the clear visual link between the rallies held by D'Annunzio in Fiume and those done by his Fascist descendants in wider Italy and Germany, but I struggle to remember a similar scene happening in a modern context.

    As for the footage of D'Annunzio's grave that you shot (is that actually you?): it's very pretty, but again I fail to see the clear link between the two ideologies. It might be because there's an incrougity between the footage of the intial invasion and the happy crowds seen in Fiume. Are you just making a general point about the futility of idealised political projects, a sort of riff on Plato's "Republic" for our modern pop cultural age? Maybe it's because the Iraq venture was such a disorganized failure from the start that it's difficult to correlate it with the eerie ordeliness of D'Annunzio proto-fascist utopia. I'll have to give Ledeen's book a shot in any case.

    And remember, "correlation does not equal causation". ;)

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    Comment number 11.

    Fantastic, thought-provoking stuff again, Adam. On this showing you should be directing the video for Nine Inch Nails' next single!

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    Thank you Adam Curtis for continuing to inspire and expand my understanding of contemporary political unreality.

    I came across an interesting episode of the Twilight Zone called He's Alive, describing the rise of an American dictator figure, using the power of myth.

    Dennis Hopper gives speeches that resonate chillingly with what's happening in America today.

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    Comment number 13.


    I don't think you read that properly. The connection to D'Annunzio is not ideological - Ledeen argued that D'Annunzio was neither right nor left - the link is indirect; it is to be sought in the inspiration Ledeen drew from D'Annunzio. Here is Curtis' key sentence in this regard:

    "The problem with mass politics today is that we increasingly have no idea what is myth and theatre, and what is really true. And I'm not convinced that Michael Ledeen does either."

    This is not about ideology... this is about a certain type of - for want of a better phrase - political aesthetic. What Ledeen admired in D'Annunzio was not his ideology, but his style; his fashioning himself as half-way between a poet and a prophet; half-way between being a myth-maker and a stage director.

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    Comment number 14.

    Oh, and Curtis... you're crazy if you don't stick that video on YouTube so that fans of that song can seee that amazing piece of visual work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    The 'strongest' memes seem to need to just hit the right people at the right time rather than become the most wide spread. The global network idea was so shabby but just fitted the right holes making the right connections.

    * * *

    This project/book/article - - is a brilliant realisation, explaining better what history is and how it is created.

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    Comment number 16.

    @AJ - I came across that yesterday, there was actually a link from the brilliant Bad Science website.

    I saw this article on the BBC today and I think it's pretty interesting

    There's also a petition to downgrade the status of the Pope's visit. When you read it you can see their point I think, on abortion, child abuse etc. I'm not a religious man, but something doesn't sit right for me about that, about the righteous atheism which underpins it. It's like there's a feeling people want to throw religion away, but how much have spiritual pursuits contributed to the secular world? I think quite a lot.

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    Comment number 17.

    One other thing on a perhaps bizarre and (seemingly) unrelated note - is anyone familiar with the Tao Te Ching and can anyone recommend a translation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @the art teacher

    You're entitled to your opinion of course. But atheists are struggling to stand up for reason and justice in a world that seems to be falling very much fervently into madness. As you can see, we've been scapegoated by the Pope today, who seems interested in rewriting history, and the Catholic Church's role in Germany, Spain and Italy during WW2, and blames us evil atheists. The new narrative is to attack secularism and atheism for all the world's problems, coming from both right and the left. Expect to see religion dominating politics in the near future.

    I think Adam Curtis is someone who understands the struggle of ordinary people trying to make sense of the world that seems to be constantly in crisis and in need of a symbolic and mythological explanation. If only they were to grasp reason, justice and most of all art, they would defeat authoritarian and totalitarian states, that seek to manipulate and control the masses for their own agendas.

    Atheists want to raise the consciousness of the masses so that they can think for themselves, make their own moral judgements, be free and seek a common progressive goal for civilisation. All these are threatened by authoritarianism, either religiously or politically. But the propaganda from the media and politicians is sending a very different message.


  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    To the art teacher - seemingly unrelated (but then, I suppose we might assume a causal connection somewhere!) - certainly, the standard English language scholarly edition of the Tao I used to browse was Arthur Waley's translation from the 30's. I got into Waley mainly because Borges was obsessed by him, and, although I think some of the renderings may be a bit old fashioned for today's taste, he was a genuine scholar of Chinese culture of great note. But you probably wouldn't need to purchase a copy of Waley straight off - I'm sure plenty of versions of his work must be circulating on the Net, and you could try him out that way, if you haven't already.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    @ egbert_the_atheist

    As an 'old atheist', I'm growing deeply sceptical regarding the true motives behind the 'New Atheist' movement. I can't look at Dawkins any more, without seeing the Fabian Polly Toynbee peering over his halo.

    These 'New Atheists' rap themselves in the flag of science, but contribute nothing to it. Their hobby doesn't need scientific authority if it is based on good reason; hence science gets nothing from the deal, yet risks political association with those driving that campaign.

    You might ask yourself: why does 'science' need to challenge religion now; when real science was doing splendidly, thank you very much, for the last 200 years; whilst religion was busily sinking into private contemplation?

    As a games player, my instinct is roused; I smell Fabians, and Marxist-Feminists. And I see the rising of a state that will suffer no other gods before it. A bureaucracy that so shames its own politicians that spawned it, that the Leviathan of the state no longer needs to take orders from the etiolated parliamentary democracy; that it keeps alive as a half dead stalking horse, to decoy the 'free men' from thoughts of insurrection.

    If you want to "...stand up for reason and justice...", you must accept that others require their beliefs; and it is no crime of itself for somebody to harbour irrational thoughts. But unnatural deeds?

    If some homosexual priests engaged in pederasty (otherwise re-branded for maximum propaganda as: paedophilia), and the Vatican tried to hide this embarrassment from public gaze; then it goes some way to prove that Catholic policy is not promoting homosexuality, or indeed, homosexual paedophilia.

    Meanwhile, Marxist-Feminism, of which I believe includes 'New Atheism', promotes homosexuality, and offers pseudo-scientific evidence that homosexual couples make better parents than biological parents. Coupled with the state Leviathan's practice of removing children from their biological families at the slightest pretext; to have them adopted to same sex foster 'parents', and you have a system of state sponsored homosexual abduction.

    Further, the 'New Atheists' declare the "religious indoctrination of pupils" as "child abuse". But manage to skip over the fact that their feminist champions, who are now running all the state schools up and down the country, are doping boys with Ritalin, by the million.

    And, unlike the Catholic Church, the Marxist-Feminist New Atheists, do not hide these transgressions, because they see them as just and good.




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