Following the September 11 toppling of the World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon attack, a defined culture of fear about radical Islamic terrorist groups has spread throughout the United States, and much of the Western world. This fear has been spread primarily through the communication venues we have to relay information (TV, radio, newspaper, and Internet) and the subsequent popular dialogue created by this media coverage. At the heart of the “war on terror” lie two groups of people – Islamic fundamentalists and neo-conservatives. You’ve probably heard these terms ricocheting around for a while now, but how much do you really know about the historical and social context behind the ideologies of these two groups? Its time to dig deeper than what the media is presenting about the “war on terror,” and the Media Literacy Club has just the event to make that happen.
For the next three Monday nights, the club will present a three-part documentary film titled “The Power of Nightmares.” The film goes in-depth to “show what created (neo-conservative and Islamic fundamental) ideologies, and made them ‘otherized’ in our eyes— especially with radical Islam, with the hate that’s driven in media about their ideology and culture,” said Holly Robinson, co-coordinator of the Media Literacy Club.
The three part series, produced by BBC2, goes to the heart of the ideologies and the history that have been used to instill a deep fear of terrorist attack in the Western world. The unpacking of the fears and illusions surrounding Islamic fundamentalists, and understanding the context that the neo-conservative political agenda grew out of, are, according to the film, critically important to our understanding of the “war on terror.” Fear of terrorism has been fueled by lack of understanding of the roots of Islamic religion and neo-conservative political beliefs, and the film illuminates these ideologies from historic and cultural perspectives.
“We fear that which we do not know,” said Robinson. “By watching mainstream news, by enveloping it on a daily basis, one can begin to feel very depressed and helpless. It’s made people push important issues away, as well as informing themselves about what’s going on in the world. Fear sells- if people are afraid, they’re going to tune in to see what they can do next. But mass media’s goal is not to solve problems— it’s to inform people of what they are.” We are left with fears resulting from information that has been sensationalized and tweaked, and no clear understanding of the context surrounding the problems exposed in the news, or what we might be able to do to change them.
“The Power of Nightmares” was recently shown at Pacific Lutheran University, and Robinson said, “people were really ignited by the issues.” Now the film is here at Western, and you have the opportunity to further educate and ignite yourself and your friends!
A great way to dispel the cultural fears created by mainstream media’s voice is to educate oneself on the underlying values, social systems, and cultural forces that inform and surround any issue. Seeing an alternative to the information mainstream media has been relaying about the “war on terror” is one way to deepen your understanding and knowledge of the complexities of this issue.
“The more informed you are, the more ammunition you have,” said Robinson. “People are naturally good, and when they learn about things they’re prone to help. Once you have that ammunition, you’re likely to use it.” Hopefully, the film will provide more perspective and information that you can use as this ammunition. “The Power of Nightmares” will be shown November 7, 14, and 21, at 7 p.m., in Communications Facility 120. Come, watch, think, learn, act.