Nine Inch Nails was scheduled to begin shooting a video for "Survivalism" on February 5, 2007, in the Los Angeles area. It was directed by Alex Lieu, Rob Sheridan, and Trent Reznor.
The video was circulated on the Internet on March 7, 2007, when Nine Inch Nails played the Carling Academy Brixton in London, England. USB pen drives containing low and high resolution versions of the video were found at different locations in the venue by concert-goers.
The video consists of a series of images from a console of secret cameras installed in an apartment block. As the camera moves between the footage, viewers are able to see into the lives of a number of residents, including:
- A catatonic older couple watching television with a portrait of Jesus behind them.
- A man looking after his drugged spouse (and in one scene possibly dripping or injecting the fictional drug "opal" in her eyes).
- Two men having sexual intercourse in bed. (Covered by the US Bureau of Morality image in the TV edit.)
- A topless woman applying make-up in a bathroom. (Covered by the US Bureau of Morality image in the TV edit.)
- A man sitting at a table staring at his food.
- Three men in a shop (and later in an alley) working with stencils.
- A man in his cubicle surfing the Internet on his Apple laptop computer.
- Nine Inch Nails performing the song in a room.
Still image from the black and white video with the band.
There are also cameras directed at hallways and stairs inside the apartment block. After about a minute, these screens show a SWAT team armed with submachine guns assembling outside. They enter in formation, and eventually break down a door (on which the letters "REV 18 3–4" are stenciled, a reference to a passage in the Bible) and enter the apartment where the band is playing. The noise disturbs all the residents, who momentarily stop what they are doing and move off to investigate, then return to their activities. At this point, a number of cameras have been turned off and show static. The band is no longer in their room. It has been torn asunder and a large smear of blood is visible on the floor. The final shot shows a bleeding corpse being dragged around a corner and out of sight.
The Bible passage referenced by the door is from the Book of Revelation, a passage describing the fallen city-nation of Babylon and how she has been corrupted by luxury and adultery, and how people are being called to leave this whorish nation behind and not share in her immorality to keep from sharing in her judgement. (see here)
The time code in the monitor sometimes changes the last digit for a letter. This eventually spells out "THE_TURNEDTO_". In addition, several Bible verses that reference water and blood are shown throughout the video. "Isaiah 15:9" on the graffiti wall, "John 19:34" on the picture of Jesus behind the couple, and "II Kings 3:22" and "Exodus 7:21" in the board behind the man with the laptop. This led to the discovery of the Year Zero website, which was a collage of a hand picking a man up out of the wreckage of a crumbling bridge, claimed to be drawn by a prison inmate. There are various biblical quotations surrounding the drawing, and capital letters (un-capitalized letters in the second paragraph) align to form the word "francesca" once in the first paragraph, and twice in the second.
Francesca has two documented meanings; 'free', and 'from Franconia' or 'from France'.
The music video is available for download (both the lo-res and hi-res version) at the album's website.
At the end of 2007, Rolling Stone readers voted the video as the best music video of year.