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THE POPE AND THE AXIS OF TERROR

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Adam Curtis | 13:50 UK time, Saturday, 11 September 2010

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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Comments

  • 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.

  • 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...

  • 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'!

  • 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.

  • 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...!!

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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?

    Thanks

    Alternatively

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

    Faithfully,

    Tom Kitchin

    dr.robotnik01@gmail.com

  • 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.
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/1482426.stm

  • 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". ;)

  • Comment number 11.

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

  • 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.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xnNkl5HIqMU&feature=related

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

  • Comment number 13.

    @Juan

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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 - http://booktwo.org/notebook/wikipedia-historiography/ - is a brilliant realisation, explaining better what history is and how it is created.

  • 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

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9001000/9001751.stm

    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.

  • 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?

  • 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.

    Peace

  • 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.

  • 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.

    Regards,

    JimmyGiro

  • Comment number 21.

    @Leeravitz - thanks very much for the info, much appreciated.

    Well I've caught the gist of what the Pope is saying. In reality he's head of the Catholic Church so it's more likely he'll become the new face of Durex than call the faith and it's practise into deep question.

    But perhaps he's saying this - look, some terrible things have happened in the world in the name of religion and God and righteousness and absolute truth. But other terrible things have happened because of other ideas. The loss of reason and humanity throughout history is not solely attributable to organised religion.

    I don't know if you've experienced this, but I think it's ridiculous when people come out with "religion starts all wars", as a truism. Last time I checked people start wars. Where does ditching religion get us? If the intention is for reason to win out over superstition and fear, ok I can understand this. But those don't derive simply from religion. And by painting faith, or atheism, as in any way the root of society's problems could lead us to terrible places.

    There's also a question of whether embracing reason is the road to enlightment and human happiness. It's complicated. But to explain the connection for why I was asking about Taoism, and related to a kinda epistemological idea.....I watched Curtis' last film on this blog, went and found the song that's dubbed over the top, it comes from a NIN album, this album originally had a different title, this title was a quote taken from a sci-fi book, and the title of the book itself is taken from a (mistranslated) Taoist writer.

    And this is the quote -

    "To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven."

    I absolutely love that. And looking more into Taoism I'm interested by these questions around the nature of knowledge. (and I think is a relevent to a blog where one of the postings is 'How much do you know?')

    I agree with what StenkaRazin says I think (what I understand, most of it is 'above my fireplace'), particularly "I see the rising of a state that will suffer no other gods before it". I've read a bit of a guy called John Gray. He's a bit gloomy. But one of the things he says is that atheism today is actually modelled on Christianity in some way. He says the same thing about the Enlightenment, that it's become a religion in itself. Reason is the only truth. My fear is that if this is at the heart of this idea, isn't it just postivism?

    I could go on, but I don't know what I'm talking about and I've got work to do.

  • Comment number 22.

    @all that atheist posturing

    There is no link between religion and irrationality. Religious people can be perfectly rational; while scientists can act as nut-jobs (think those 'experiments' under the Third Reich).

    Besides Western rationalism is firmly grounded in Christianity - especially in Decartes proofs against skepticism; modern mathematics can be firmly traced to Islam. Even in the 20th century Einstein and Bohr were able to articulate their fundamentally different viewpoints of science via the notion of God.

    (Einstein said that "God doesn't throw dice", while Bohr said "Don't tell God what to do")

    The problem with most atheists is that they are entirely ahistorical. They know nothing of the history of ideas; little about the philosophy of science and absolutely nothing about theology. It's terribly unfortunate but atheism is often grounded on ignorance - especially an ignorance of history and a low appreciation of our cultural heritage.

  • Comment number 23.

    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.

    Starts off intelligent, sane.

    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.

    Still going strong.

    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?

    A little sloppy in his historiography, but okay.

    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.

    Still going... wait, huh?

    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?

    Sounds good. Wait, unnatural deeds? Cue wingnuttery in 3...2...1...

    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.

    What?

    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.

    He's jumped the shark, folks.

    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.

    Release the hounds of paranoia!

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


    We have ourselves a nutter.

  • Comment number 24.

    As you can see by some of the above replies, you can see what we're up against.

    Perhaps the Roman historian Polybius said it best:

    "Then as long as some of those survive who experienced the evils of oligarchical dominion, they are well pleased with the present form of government, and set a high value on equality and freedom of speech. But when a new generation arises and the democracy falls into the hands of the grandchildren of its founders, they have become so accustomed to freedom and equality that they no longer value them, and begin to aim at pre-eminence; and it is chiefly those of ample fortune who fall into this error. So when they begin to lust for power and cannot attain it through themselves or their own good qualities, they ruin their estates, tempting and corrupting the people in every possible way. And hence when by their foolish thirst for reputation they have created among the masses an appetite for gifts and the habit of receiving them, democracy in its turn is abolished and changes into a rule of force and violence.

  • Comment number 25.

    @ arg11,

    Do you read the Guardian?

  • Comment number 26.

    Ahh yes, the Guardian. A once great newspaper has devolved into moral nihilism. Don't believe what you read. And I don't think there is one serious newspaper left that has not lost sense.

  • Comment number 27.

    Thanks adam. I found that post fascinating. Could I repeat a little joke told to Uri Avnery in Israel.

    The attempt on the Pope was a mistake. Agca saw God in a dream and was told "Go to the Holy City and kill that damned Pole", but instead of going to Jerusalem and killing Menachim Begin, he went to Rome and ....

  • Comment number 28.

    adam, you da man.

  • Comment number 29.

    @arg11

    I think our friend has tried to cobble together some sort of confused history of the stronger strains of Western liberalism - that's why he comes across as, erm, a bit wierd.

    I think the link he's trying to draw between Dawkins and the, er, 'Marxist-Feminists' is how this group - which can broadly be defined, I think, as strong-armmed welfare state liberals with an overconfident secularist outlook - has been the key driving force into the rise of a now very defective welfare state, which complements a very defective corporate economy.

    Does this rise have anything to do with atheism? I think it may. But more importantly it has to do with an unflinching and rather vulgar belief in the power of scientific rationality to organise and run our societies (a central theme in Curtis' work - just so people don't think we're straying too far off topic here).

    The argument is best laid out in the eminent historian Christopher Lasch's 'Haven in a Heartless World'. And our friend is indeed right in some senses - neo-Marxists and certain types of feminists played a large part in the construction of the ideology that was to back-up the 'therapeutic culture' we live in today.

  • Comment number 30.

    I'm pretty sure moustachism has more to do with the evils of dictators than atheism. And any intelligent educated person (with the exception of apologists) knows that our civilisation rests on the ideas and culture of the ancient Greeks, not Christianity which has done nothing but hold back civilisation.

  • Comment number 31.

    Really, really good article Adam. You're the kind of person who actually gets people thinking with your articles. Can I ask a favour? DON'T stop writing...ever!

  • Comment number 32.

    @ egbert_the_atheist

    A common misconception - one for the Dawkins readers, but not for anyone seriously interested in the history of ideas.

    Of course an awful lot of Western rationalism is grounded in the culture of the Greeks but that doesn't mean that Christianity didn't play a large part.

    The most obvious example - which you conveniently ignored - is in Descartes discussion of certainty. How do we know that the world isn't concocted by some mean demon trying to trick us? Descartes 'disproves' this skeptical position by bringing in the notion of God. This point is in no way redundant, even today. The founder of modern cybernetics and information theory brought this question up in his classic book 'The Human Use of Human Beings'. Similar discussions have animated the general outlook of contemporary physics - such as those undertaken by Bohr and Einstein (two very different views of the world) and also discussions about the fundamental laws of thermodynamics (especially in relation to the meaning of the phenomenon of 'entropy').

    That's not to even mention the influence Christian (and Muslim) ideas have had on the human sciences. Sociology was invented by an Islamic scholar - who derived his idea of 'society' from the idea of 'God'. Psychology as a discipline too cannot escape from the Christian tradition. That explains a great deal about why some of the greatest psychologists of the 19th century wrote in the Christian tradition - whether positively, like Kierkegaard, or negatively, like Nietszche. The list is endless.

    So much for 'holding back civilisation'...

    But then atheists aren't usually ones for serious argument or discussion. Their world-view is always fixed because they possess the certainty that some of us unfortunately self-critical people lack. How much I pine for my adolescent years when I didn't think it arrogant to 'know' that there was no God. Unfortunately I grew out of that when I began to see how Western Reason was actually constructed.

  • Comment number 33.

    @the atheist guy

    Oh, and you forgot to tell me... if religion is the bug-a-boo of irrationality why is it that were actively atheistic - regimes were the most destructive ever to come into existence. The USSR is the best example. They based their social organisation on rationalisation and look what happened.

    I'm not saying that these regimes committed atrocities because they rejected the notion of God (remember secular states don't reject the concept, they just shrug their shoulders). But this says a lot about under what circumstances human beings act irrationally. It seems that irrationality and religion are not necessarily linked in any definitive fashion.

    But tell that to preachers like Dawkins who constructs a religion of his own - a religion of scientism - which explains all the evils of the world as stemming from a common source. Hmmm...

  • Comment number 34.

    Once again, moustachism must be the culprit for all the evils of the world: Karl Marx had a moustache, Lenin had a moustache, Stalin had a moustache, and Hitler had a moustache. The evidence is irrefutable.

    If Christians are claiming Einstein as one of their own, they really are seriously in trouble.

  • Comment number 35.

    ...Einstein had a moustache.

  • Comment number 36.

    Oh right... I see... er... good joke... really funny. All that's lacking is a link to a c-razy .jpeg. Here you go, put some high-larious text in there:

    http://www.giantbomb.com/evil-moustache/92-3158/all-images/52-324992/snidely_whiplash/51-973085/

    I'm thinking: "Mustaches... the root of all evil." Something like that...

    Anyway, I didn't claim Einstein was a Christian, you must not be reading what I say. I said that Einstein and Bohr were still able to argue their fundamentally different conceptions of physics based on reference to Newton's conception of God. This shows - quite definitively, I think - that Christianity and modern science/rationalism are deeply intertwined.

    But then, all you'd have to do is read someone like Descartes or Pascal to realise that rather obvious point...

  • Comment number 37.

    @ StenkaRazin

    See how deep the conspiracy goes! Even Einstein was evil.

    "I cannot forgive Descartes. In all his philosophy he would have been quite willing to dispense with God. But he had to make Him give a fillip to set the world in motion; beyond this, he has no further need of God."--Blaise Pascal

  • Comment number 38.

    There was an interesting exchange between Philip Ball and Sam Harris:

    http://www.project-reason.org/archive/item/what_should_science_dosam_harris_v_philip_ball/

    regarding the extent to which 'New Atheism' is required. Philip Ball entitled one of his critiques: "How much reason do you want?"; and Sam Harris dumped Philip Balls critique into his website's 'sin bin'.

    In my opinion, the debate, and the accompanying comments, showed the rift between the New and the Old forms of atheism.

    The difference maybe how we regard the 'redundancy' of god within science: Old atheism regards god as redundant to natural theories, and leaves it at that; whilst 'New Atheists' insist that the redundancy implies absolute proof of negation, and hence the requirement of negation becomes a prerequisite of 'reason' itself.

    Regards,

    JimmyGiro

  • Comment number 39.

    @ stenkarazin

    I'm not sure what your point is. There really is no difference between various atheists. The gnu atheists are simply more outspoken and find religion not only untrue but harmful. Any sane person that examines history and conflict around the world, would come to the same conclusion. Although our apologistic friends want to establish lack of belief as the reason for such murder! (Moustachism is still denied by apologists).

  • Comment number 40.

    @egbert

    Consider some of the difference between Italian, and German Fascism. Both practised the 'right' to national pride of state via the elimination of enemies; but Germany also practised the eugenic removal of the unworthy.

    Now Old and New atheists are happy not believing in god; but 'New Atheists' insist that 'reason' and 'science' cannot be conscionable with the unterthought by the religious folk.

    So if a good Aryan scientist like Richard Dawkins says: "2 + 2 = 4", then it is good. But if Ratzinger says the same, es ist nicht gut.

  • Comment number 41.

    This is what one Roman Catholic had to say when writing to Einstein:

    "We deeply regret that you made your statement . . . in
    which you ridicule the idea of a personal God. In the past
    ten years nothing has been so calculated to make people
    think that Hitler had some reason to expel the Jews from
    Germany as your statement. Conceding your right to free
    speech, I still say that your statement constitutes you as
    one of the greatest sources of discord in America."

    Apparently, the Catholic had the audacity to equivocate Hitler's idealogy with that of Einstein, a non-believer Jew. Is there no depth that Christian will go to justify their unreasonable beliefs.

  • Comment number 42.

    I've enjoyed reading these posts, interesting.

    @egbert 41. You can't be serious, right? Generalisation much? This just in - anyone can be a nutter whether they believe in God, or believe in no God, or believe that Elvis lives. I mean the statement seems misguided. But I think there is a point where pure scientism, teleological obsession, certain theories of evolution etc. where these can easily pervade, and manifest in eugenics and ethnic cleansing, because the moral and emotional impulse is removed. Fair? I mean Dawkins argues that altruism is essential to species survival, but that is still a rational argument. If altruism isn't found in nature, or in evolution, if it isn't efficienct or progressive to a certain end, does that make altruism worthless? I think that's postivism, I think that's an addiction to reason. And I refer back to the Taoist quote; there are epistemological contraints, therefore claims to absolute knowledge are perhaps the only things we can recognise as untrue. Well I wouldn't go that far, but you get my point.

    Did anyone see the program 'The End of God'? I watched it yesterday on Iplayer. It's pretty good, I'd recommend it.

    Also did anyone see the Stephen Hawking program telling us about alien life? Absolute bongo I thought. It was more like Ricky Gervais Flanimals, seriously. Then Hawking comes out with 'we shouldn't try and make contact with alien life because they would most likely destroy us for the resources of the Earth'. Cheers Steve. I mean he's got it all worked out hasn't he, because he's smart and that. Insane.

    What's a lot better is something I found on this site. It's Melvyn Bragg talking to a bunch of academics about the Frankfurt School, I think on BBC Radio 4. It's absolutely fascinating, and I think really has significance in relation to Adam Curtis' stuff.

  • Comment number 43.

    @the art teacher
    I agree, that irrationality and immorality are not confined to god-delusion, but surely this does not excuse irrational and immoral actions done in the name of God? I'm sure there are plenty of delusions out there, perhaps communism is a great example of a godless delusion. Saying that well, belief in God isn't the only evil, is no excuse for saying, well then communism is okay, or Stalinism is valid because there are other evils in the world.

    As for Dawkins, I wonder if you've ever read him? "The God Delusion", perhaps, an example of the 'new atheism' people are complaining about. And Hitchens' "God Is Not Great" which present the case that religion is not only untrue but harmful. Maybe perhaps worth a listen? They have sold many millions and spread atheism far more widespread than ever before in history. But rather than attack Dawkins and Hitchens personally (as if this is a valid rational approach anyway) why not actually read what they have to say.

    Also, Stephen Hawking has a new book "The Grand Design" why not read that rather than resort to personal insults and attacks.

  • Comment number 44.

    I understand you're not excusing terrible acts committed in the name of secularism because you're against religious belief. And I have no problem with a lot of God Is Not Great. It's a powerful argument that he makes. But I just don't agree with strands of Atheism (and I do think this is encouraged by Hitchens) that say religion is at the heart of most of our problems. I couldn't agree more that terrible things have been done in the name of God. But my only argument really is that we don't know if it's a delusion or not, really, and I don't think it's existence has been entirely negative.

    What Stalin did was terrible. But I don't hate Marxism. And I think rationalisation has led to some bad aspects of modern society. But I don't hate the Enlightenment or the natural sciences. And I think the relationship between religion and it's abuses is the same. If you think by it's definition religion leads to suffering and is implicitly wicked, then I can understand that argument - the books you talk about make a compelling case. But I don't think it's always true that religion leads to these things.

    I'd also say I don't think I was attacking Dawkins. I just don't agree with him and think there are drawbacks to a society that would be based on such views. And I didn't personally insult Hawking. I just thought his program was silly. He's done fascinating work don't get me wrong. But do you see what my point is? It's interesting what he said about not contacting aliens, because he refers to Columbus and what happened to the native americans. That reveals something quite profound I think, about the way we view ourselves, and dare I say it perhaps something about a kind of deterministic view of evolution - that any intelligent life we find won't be able to unbind itself from, I'm not sure how to put this, from conquest, from consumpton, from self interest, in the same way that we've failed to. Hopefully that makes sense.

  • Comment number 45.

    @the art teacher

    Did you hear about the Catholic Astronomer who wants to Baptise the aliens as soon as they make contact? 'No matter how many tentacles'.See here:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/religion/the-pope/8009299/Pope-Benedict-XVIs-astronomer-the-Catholic-Church-welcomes-aliens.html

    Right now, is a battle of hearts and minds. The hatred and vicious personal attacks, against honourable men, are being encouraged by the propagandists and even other so-called atheists. Of course, none of this is at all rational, and it's every bit as sinister as the injustices that are being pointed out by these very brave men.

    And Dawkins is right now, being attacked by the media for trying to expose the injustice of paedophile priests continuing on with their evil sexual abuse without prosecution. This is a scandal of tremendous proportions. If only Catholics and believers were to stop complaining about his 'shrill, aggressive potty mouth' and actually do something about this terrible crime.


  • Comment number 46.

    egbert_the_atheist wrote:

    "And Dawkins is right now, being attacked by the media for trying to expose the injustice of paedophile priests continuing on with their evil sexual abuse without prosecution. This is a scandal of tremendous proportions. If only Catholics and believers were to stop complaining about his 'shrill, aggressive potty mouth' and actually do something about this terrible crime."

    What if these "tremendous proportions" are themselves propagandist exaggerations?

    http://www.spiked-online.com/index.php/site/earticle/9548/

    If so, then it would not have been the first time that Marxist-Feminists perpetrated a mass lie of tremendous proportions. Remember the false memory syndrome:

    http://www.salon.com/books/memoirs/index.html?story=/books/int/2010/09/20/meredith_maran_my_lie_interview

    "During the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of Americans -- most of them middle-class, 30-something women in big cities, like me -- became convinced that they'd repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, and then, decades later, recovered those memories in therapy."

  • Comment number 47.

    Anyone else having trouble with RSS feed? I don't think it's updating on new blog posts.

  • Comment number 48.

    Egbert wrote "Right now, is a battle of hearts and minds. The hatred and vicious personal attacks, against honourable men, are being encouraged by the propagandists and even other so-called atheists."

    I find this chilling.

    If Mr Curtis is correct in The Age Of Terror about the Islamist terrorists descent into "reasoned" hell then we are seeing the same descent being played out here. The New Atheists are even condemming other atheists, no doubt people who don't read Prof. Dawkins, for not being the "right" sort of atheists!

    @The Art Teacher. Thanks for highlighting Bragg discussing The Frankfurt School. I'll listen to it this weekend. The Frankfurt School is being mentioned quite often on the blogosphere (usually in negative tones). It will be good to hear an unbiased discussion of it which, for me at least will be an introduction. I'd be interested to hear what you made of the programme.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ DerekMc

    Either people are indeed 'paranoid' according to Adam Curtis, or they simply don't read posts clearly. I said Dawkins et al, are being attacked by atheists not that they are attacking.

    And Marxist-Feminists, are they the ones with the moustaches?

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi Egbert

    First of, if I've written anything which irks you, then I apologise. That was not my intention. I thought I saw in your words a judgement call on the integrity, motivations and ultimately, "loyalty" of atheists who have not adopted the new thinking. And then, I read into that a schism in the atheist community.

    Secondly, I wrongly referenced The Age Of Terror when I should have said The Power Of Nightmares. (esp the 1st episode, "Baby, it's cold outside.") It's on youtube.

    I was asking if your comment shows that atheist ideology is radicalising in the same way Mr Curtis lays out the Islamic thinking of Qotb became radicalised. And instead of looking back at history, could we look at the radicalising of Atheism and predict where it is going? A warning from a foreseeable future, if you like.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Power_of_Nightmares

    No, I didn't think you were saying that Prof Dawkins, et al, were attacking some atheists for being the wrong sort, I said that the New Atheists were doing the attacking.( you posted earlier, Post 39, "gnu-atheists." Is this the preferred address to use now?) Maybe I should have said "the more radicalised followers of New(Gnu)Atheist thinkers."
    And your use of the dismissive "so-called" kind of makes me think that you are attacking the old atheists. We read and hear the sniffy "so-called" a great deal nowadays in the media and on the blogosphere: So-called war on terror; So-called climate change. It is designed and employed to devalue the next words in the audiences minds. But I acknowledge that I could be very wrong on this and I'll genuinely listen to what you say in reply.

    You also grouped the so-called atheists with propagandists. (I assume you mean religious propagandists.) So-called atheists, opening a new front and joining in the attacks by religious nutters on "honourable men" like Prof. Dawkins - is that right? Do you think the old atheists are trying to undermine the new(gnu)atheists, like Prof. Dawkins, from within the atheist movement? Do you think this campaign is being orchestrated? It would be interesting to hear from somebody who has the inside track of the atheist movement.

    I know you have been talking with StenkaRazin about moustaches. I'm afraid I don't know any hirsute women nor their political persuasion!;-)

    Although I believe the Marxist, feminist Marie Stopes was known to carry a cut throat razor in her handbag. But that might have been because she was Scottish. :-)

    All the best

    Derek

  • Comment number 51.

    @DerekMc - I did hesitate in mentioning the BBC Radio show about the Frankfurt School actually. It might sound weird, but for anyone who's kind of travelled this journey of discovering these ideas, I didn't want to spoil it. That might sound strange, but I was concerned that it might a bit like jumping to the end of a book.

    I'm going to listen to it again I think. But I recall kind of smiling, recognising what their ideas were, and how it broadened my understanding of The Trap. I'm not an active member of the blogosphere, but I'm surprised their ideas are unpopular, I'd be interested to know why? Is it the association with Marxism, or their broad pessimism, or maybe that they challenge what now is an extremely dominant picture of the world that most people have? Who knows?

    I didn't like their view of popular culture, that essentially it's trash solely existing to perpetuate the current system, the current 'organisation of power' perhaps. I think they felt art had become product and that it should actually not draw people in with it's beauty; it should be ugly and reveal the world. It reminded me a little of Brecht's Verfremsdungeffekt, they wanted people to be alienated by art, not seduced, because otherwise the relationship involved became one of dominance and submission. I think. I'd be interested to hear other people's inpretation.

  • Comment number 52.

    @Derek

    Of course I have seen The Power of Nightmares, I am a huge admirer of Adam Curtis, and I see very much where he's going with this all. He continues to show me new perspectives on modern culture, which I greatly appreciate. I would never heard of Edward Bernays or Leo Strauss if it weren't for Adam Curtis.

    As for new atheism, think of it as an attack on the special status that religion holds within society, that it is often a given that religion gives society its 'morality' and that is above criticism. So what new atheists are doing is taking their scepticism and rationalism a bit further, to moral scepticism. What they're trying to achieve is consciousness raising, that religion holds no right to any claim to morality, but rather such institutions are corrupt and unjust and cause more injustice in the world.

    And to really understand this perspective, a sober reading of such books as God Is Not Great, and The God Delusion, will show that this new atheism is really not radical at all. And in fact, it's very mainstream selling millions of copies and changing the minds of believers far more than any previous discussion between atheists and theists.

    But now there is a huge backlash and attack on the new atheists. A propaganda war has erupted, to discredit Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and others, rather than deal with their actual arguments and claims. And this is mainly being waged within the media. And so too atheist journalists are joining in with this bizarre reactionary backlash. They accuse the new atheists of being aggressive, shrill, strident, etc., but are these accusers not the very ones who are using personal attacks?

    And so the new atheists are attacking back at their accusers, why are you attacking us and pointing the finger at us, when paedophile priests go free to abuse more children, or while angry muslims make death threats to cartoonists. And why indeed are the media obsessed with attacking people who are pointing out the injustices, isn't there something rotten going on here? Isn't that part of what the media should be doing themselves? Each time some new article comes up attacking new atheists, it uses the same old rhetoric, but no rational criticism at all.

    Perhaps it is also because the new atheists have been pointing fingers at theology and philosophy as having no rational justification. And here is perhaps the real origin of the intellectual backlash and propaganda war.

    Feel free to peruse all the articles about new atheism in the media, in particular the serious newspapers, and see for yourself.

    Best Wishes,
    Egbert

  • Comment number 53.

    Has anyone seen an interview given by Yuri Bezmenov, in 1984, explaining what the soviets were up to during the cold war era?

    You can see his interview here:
    http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=4CDAB99FAB5980BA

    It might help, given the current situation today, in explaining the narrative we now find ourselves in.

  • Comment number 54.

    I tell you one thing that's a bit scary - typing in Frankfurt School into Youtube and seeing all the anti-Semetic stuff, and people going on about Obama being a communist on the videos.

  • Comment number 55.

    @ The Art Teacher.

    It's strange how things work out.

    Mr Curtis starts a project and says:

    "It is the story of how, with the rise of individualism, we all stopped defining ourselves by politics and being part of collective groups, and believing in collective ideas.

    And instead we started to define ourselves by culture - both popular and high-brow - because music and style and art allowed us to give expression to our individual identities, rather than supressing them in the greater interest of the group."

    Whilst you're typing about The Frankfurt School:


    "... their view of popular culture, that essentially it's trash solely existing to perpetuate the current system, the current 'organisation of power' perhaps. I think they felt art had become product and that it should actually not draw people in with it's beauty; it should be ugly and reveal the world. It reminded me a little of Brecht's Verfremsdungeffekt, they wanted people to be alienated by art, not seduced, because otherwise the relationship involved became one of dominance and submission."

    Yip, the blogosphere is almost completely barking mad and a genuinely scary place. Which is why Bragg's programme is so welcome.

    Cheers

    Derek

  • Comment number 56.

    "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".

    The BBC makes me laugh, it must be a talent to twist every article to imply that Muslims are victims and Christians are evil, not matter what the story.

  • Comment number 57.

    Great work from Adam Curtis as ever - surely the most insightful documentary film-maker in the country.

  • Comment number 58.

    Just looked into D'Annunzio and wrote a post about him, inspired, of course, by Curtis' over-arching narrative - fascinating:

    http://fixingtheeconomists.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/in-the-long-dark-shadow-of-gabriele-dannunzio/

  • Comment number 59.

    I have to say Adam, I wish that your documentaries were required viewing in all schools in America.. Perhaps then we would begin to educate people in how we are manipulated by so many factions.. Yes there seems to be purpose behind some of the actions, but the most of the manipulation is experimental, and as such even the perpetrators don't know what the results are going to be.. We now live in a fear ridden world than can be controlled well enough to bring up our anger and lash out at each other, while the perps are hidden behind the veil of our own anger.. We can no longer see that we are being duped, and the planet is suffering deeply for our errors.. Thank you for producing such brave films, your work is greatly appreciated by many..

  • Comment number 60.

    56, that's your interpretation, not a rational one either?

    To this whole 'Secularism gave us Despots', was not Communism a faith too?
    Think about it, it has it's icons, Marx, Engels, Lenin, lots of factions, Trotsky, the break by Mao with the USSR, certain dates to be celebrated, it offers both an explanation for the world - in this case class, economics - with an ideal for living, a guide to how society should be.
    Does any of this sound very much much an organised faith?

    But we think differently about this one, since it's origins were much closer to today, the 19th Century, compared to other faiths.
    We see the regular faiths as ones with origins much further back, why?

    I'd argue that Nazism was one too, though a very short lived one that effectively destroyed itself, in this case though, more of a death cult, Hitler and co had more in common with Jim Jones than a larger faith.

    Blind adherence to a faith is no different to blindly following a creed like Marxism, both when followed in this way have a way of making bodies pile up in mounds.

    There are no 'organised secular plots' it's up there with secret UN bases in Nevada set to destroy the American way of life, bunkum.
    The only major organised plots I'm aware of was the longstanding one to protect, hide, cover up the crimes of, child molesting priests.

  • Comment number 61.

    Ağça was on Turkish television last night. He reiterated some things he has said since coming out of prison. It's confirmed once again that the Communist plot was a myth. Ağça claims that he was hired by the Vatican government "to injure and not kill" the Pope.

    He said: "The order to kill the pope had come from the Vatican Secretary of State Agostino Casoroli. The Vatican's man, Father Michele came to me and the negotiations began. They told me 'hit him but don't kill him. Injure him'. The pope would be shot and the communist Soviet Union would be dissolved. In 4 to 5 months I received 40 to 50 thousand dollars from the Vatican. I bought the gun myself.

    "The pope visited me in prison on 22 June 1983. We spoke for 22 minutes. It's interesting that he never even asked me about the assassination attempt. Because he knew. 'I'm praying for you every day', he said. Then he told the Italians around him to go away and gathered the Polish around him. There was another Vatican intelligence agent with me, but he's dead now. I'd told the agent named Father Michele that I wouldn't reveal his real name."

    To understand just a little bit of world politics, you must first grasp the concept of "false flag operations".

 

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