Adam Curtis

craner

Beast of Burden
Ha ha, yes I remember all of that. I can be a lot more zealous than that, now. My thought processes were still slightly contaminated by continental philosophy in 2004, I can see that; also, I was full of my World War Four thesis, but couldn't be fucked to read Leo Strauss. Apart from that, I was corrrect on every point.
 

craner

Beast of Burden
It was more difficult in those days, mind, you felt you were telling people things for the first time; the calibre is slightly higher now, but it's not as amusing.

I eventually read Leo Strauss -- Sean Shapiro guided me, and it was quite illuminating, slightly Talmudic. He gave me a new appreciation of John Locke and Machiavelli. I didn't see much connection between that and war, I must say, even through the tenious associations of Wolfowitz, Billy Kristol or Abram Schlusky.
 

vimothy

yurp
This programme sounds like a fantastic target for a Vimothy deconstruction, if it's not beneath his contempt.

I HAVEN'T SEEN IT DON'T HURT ME.
Personally, I've always found Curtis to be completely infuriating. I watched the first episode of Machines of Loving Grace recently and it had the same effect.

He's obviously doing something right, because a lot of people enjoy his programmes, but his actual arguments are absurd. I mean, really--I came away from Machines of Loving Grace seriously contemplating the idea that Californian hippies unwittingly planted the seed of Randite evil in the internets and so caused a balance-of-payments crisis in Asia in the '90s.

I'm not sure if he even makes the direct link overtly--possibly not because it's nonsensical and bizarre--but it's certainly implied through all the nudges and winks, archive footage and ominous music.

It's not just the analysis either. Whenever I watch Curtis' programmes I think of the South Park episode where Cartman discovers that Family Guy is written by a family of manatees floating round a tank and picking subjects at random. Every time, the same formula.
 

lanugo

von Verfall erzittern
Without prior knowledge of any of the US intelligence agencies a bunch of Arab students hijack three planes with box cutters and manage to crash one of them into the WTC , which then collapses at free-fall speed, and another one in the Pentagon - the most secure building in the world -, approaching it in a manoeuvre pilots say is physically impossible (more than 40 security tapes showing this impact are confiscated for security reasons). Luckily, the passports of the perpetrators survive the total pulverisation of the airliners so that the attack can immediately be linked to an evil turbaned terrorist mastermind who is hiding himself in some cave in Afghanistan. All attempts of the US intelligence and military apparatus to locate the elusive terror overlord fail, despite their budget being higher than the combined GNP of several industrial countries. Finally, two wars, 10 years and more than 1 million civilian deaths later the one man responsible for the attacks is discovered in a cozy mansion in the heart of Pakistan. The heroic and inspiring new American leader doesn't hesitate and orders the execution of the public enemy number one which is swiftly carried out by a team of trained killers. The public does not get to see any evidence of the death of its archenemy but is reassured that his porn collection was considerable. In the aftermath of the entire operation, Pakistan is conveniently accused of having provided refuge to the diabolic terrorist leader and a new war is on the horizon, this time involving China and a couple of nukes. To be continued.

To all the oh so critical minds on here: Does this narrative strike you as "mythopoeisthesizing" and "propagandistic" as well?

No, wait, I forgot, it's the truth and any one who says otherwise is a conspiracy theorist.
 

rob_giri

Well-known member
I mean, really--I came away from Machines of Loving Grace seriously contemplating the idea that Californian hippies unwittingly planted the seed of Randite evil in the internets and so caused a balance-of-payments crisis in Asia in the '90s.

I'm not sure if he even makes the direct link overtly--possibly not because it's nonsensical and bizarre--but it's certainly implied through all the nudges and winks, archive footage and ominous music.
Urgh, can't you see that the narratives he weaves are meant for creative, imaginative purposes - to suggest connections and fundamental human flaws and, in a larger 'poetic' sense, to evoke in the viewer a sense of the archetypal forces guiding human action and running through history. As I stated above, he's not saying that these are direct causes any more than he was proclaiming in The Power of Nightmares that the song 'Baby it's Cold Outside' caused 9/11. It's just a humourous, alternative, brilliantly witty way at looking at history.
 

you

Well-known member
Anyone read's Curtis' blog here? I have a little but not enough to determine how he feels about his work - However I expect he takes it quite seriously and regards himself as making quite shrewd sociological connections and readings across histories. The 'oh it's a joke' argument feels a little ( literally ) pretentious. Picking apart his dodgy links or oblique connections feels entirely valid.

Links to support this anyone?

OH - and that word - mythopoeisthesizing should be mythopoiesthesizing, my bad - poeisis - there is poiesis : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poiesis
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esthesic_and_poietic
so a sort of kaleidoscope of myths-that-pro-create-in-a-context sort of thing is what I was getting at I guess
 

grizzleb

Well-known member
I think the point someone made earlier is right - he wants to undermine the traditional narratives that we've been conditioned to accept - I think the variety of the stories he tells points to some sort of pluralistic notion of history. I think it's significant that he starts everything (even his blog posts) with 'this is a story about...'. I think he probably does think there's some validity about the points he's making, but only within the context of thinking that all history is essentially up for grabs and debatable. I'm not sure that the two necessarily conflict.

He also does bring actual facts into his documentaries and blog posts, he isn't just making stuff up.

Also I think there has been a general shift in his work away from what can be seen as something akin to 'normal' documentaries to something more expressley artistic in vision.
 

rob_giri

Well-known member
The 'oh it's a joke' argument feels a little ( literally ) pretentious. Picking apart his dodgy links or oblique connections feels entirely valid
'Oh it's a joke' does not at all relate to what I was talking about, you just didn't understand what I was saying. Of course it's important to be critical of what he's saying, but not to the point where your missing out on the subtle humour/sattire etc by taking it all overly-literally.

I think the point someone made earlier is right - he wants to undermine the traditional narratives that we've been conditioned to accept - I think the variety of the stories he tells points to some sort of pluralistic notion of history. I think it's significant that he starts everything (even his blog posts) with 'this is a story about...'. I think he probably does think there's some validity about the points he's making, but only within the context of thinking that all history is essentially up for grabs and debatable. I'm not sure that the two necessarily conflict.

He also does bring actual facts into his documentaries and blog posts, he isn't just making stuff up.

Also I think there has been a general shift in his work away from what can be seen as something akin to 'normal' documentaries to something more expressley artistic in vision.
Exactly. As there is no overarching metanarrative to history other than that which is invented by groups with power interests (a topic which the whole of Curtis' series 'The Living Dead' explores directly) it becomes necessary to utilize a more imaginative and poetic way of exploring how things might vaguely be connected by fundamental human impulses - taking the power back and redefining history for oneself, with an imaginative uncertainty. The 'this is a story about' technique that he uses captures this willing vagueness perfectly, as you say, and doesn't conflict with hard facts as we might immediately assume. Pluralism shouldn't be a defeatist strategy of accepting some weak PoMo dread that it's impossible to know anything, but rather an open channel to experiment with more critically engaging and lateral ways of thinking about power, history and human nature.
 
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IdleRich

IdleRich
There does seem to be some difficulty in resolving the themes of Century of the Self (psychoanalytic techniques in the service of capitalism have led to a highly individual society in which people see themselves as unconnected individuals whose selfishness is justified, and an ultimately uncaring and inhuman society) and the second part of All Watched Over.... (mistaken ideas about ecosystems and the interpretations of these ideas have led to humans seeing themselves selflessly as nothing more than cogs in an inhuman machine).
So... are we too individual or are we too willing to sacrifice our individualism? I find it hard to see that we can be both.
 

rob_giri

Well-known member
Different sorts of individualism innit. CoS was talking about the aspect of individualism when it comes to nothing more than a selfish pursuit of petty self-interest, and how this distorts and disempowers peoples' (collective or individual) natural right to political autonomy. Second episode of 'All Watched Over..' talks about another way in which we've lost sight of this autonomy - by being conditioned to believe through science that we'll be forever subjugated through depersonalization to the big, balanced power politics of our era, until we learn to take power into our own hands. Until power is managed responsibly and in the light of egalitarian visions, we remain subject to existing political structures.

I liked his critique of the communes in the end, mirrors other times he's mentioned hippies and his criticism of them as being composed of people who idealize models of freedom but never manage to free themselves of the vestiges of exploititavely individualistic capitalist ideology because of their inability to realize how much said ideology is moulding their visions of freedom. They remain tied to it by trying to run away from it.

The message of the communes, as he states, is that they tried to get away from power, but power didn't go away. Only when one can simultaneously envision freedom and egality whilst tackling the issues of power and dominance head-on can things hope to change.

Interestingly, what you've written may well represent a common misunderstanding about 'individualism'. Individual power put towards fulfilling desire, or individual power put towards fulfilling collective/individual higher will. This is why Crowley's 'Do what thou wilt..' has been misinterpreted to mean 'Do whatever the fuck you want', when really it meant 'find your highest good and pursue it'. Anyway, examples in the occult are many.
 

IdleRich

IdleRich
"CoS was talking about the aspect of individualism when it comes to nothing more than a selfish pursuit of petty self-interest, and how this distorts and disempowers peoples' (collective or individual) natural right to political autonomy."
Sure, but I still find this irreconcilable with the idea that we've subsumed our whole identity into being a cog in a machine with ideas that grew from communes. The point to me is that both these strands exist but separately and this isn't what he suggests when he calls something The Century of the Self - he's implying more universality than exists. A fairly small gripe admittedly.
 

grizzleb

Well-known member
Interestingly, what you've written may well represent a common misunderstanding about 'individualism'. Individual power put towards fulfilling desire, or individual power put towards fulfilling collective/individual higher will. This is why Crowley's 'Do what thou wilt..' has been misinterpreted to mean 'Do whatever the fuck you want', when really it meant 'find your highest good and pursue it'. Anyway, examples in the occult are many.
Which is really just an Aristotelian eudaimonism but without the idea that what is good for the human is what is good for everyone.
 

grizzleb

Well-known member
The other thing about Curtis is that he provides so much material for debate, the subjects, the construction of his narratives, the content of his analysis and the broad questions of what history is and how we should look at it are all present in a way that provides so much stimulation for discussion and dissection. Every decent forum I've looked at has had lots of debates going in different strands and directions. That can only be a good thing, and the BBC should be praised for it.

I think his blog is even better. Everyone should read/watch (he intersperces his text with archive footage and sometimes old bbc documentaries in their entirety) his amazing blog series on Afghanistan.
 

rob_giri

Well-known member
Which is really just an Aristotelian eudaimonism but without the idea that what is good for the human is what is good for everyone.
I can dig it.

The other thing about Curtis is that he provides so much material for debate, the subjects, the construction of his narratives, the content of his analysis and the broad questions of what history is and how we should look at it are all present in a way that provides so much stimulation for discussion and dissection. Every decent forum I've looked at has had lots of debates going in different strands and directions. That can only be a good thing, and the BBC should be praised for it.

I think his blog is even better. Everyone should read/watch (he intersperces his text with archive footage and sometimes old bbc documentaries in their entirety) his amazing blog series on Afghanistan.
Precisely. I think he's really aware of this and thus isn't afraid to make bold statements. It's as if he's doing them for discussions sake alone.

In a lot of ways reading his blog for me has been a lot more educational and stimulating than the films. That Afghanistan one 'Kabul City Number 1', in it's entirety, is a complete masterpiece. Spent a whole day and night going through it, and the films, last year. A wild ride. That alone would make a brilliant doco.
 

you

Well-known member
I think the point someone made earlier is right - he wants to undermine the traditional narratives that we've been conditioned to accept - I think the variety of the stories he tells points to some sort of pluralistic notion of history. I think it's significant that he starts everything (even his blog posts) with 'this is a story about...'. I think he probably does think there's some validity about the points he's making, but only within the context of thinking that all history is essentially up for grabs and debatable. I'm not sure that the two necessarily conflict.

He also does bring actual facts into his documentaries and blog posts, he isn't just making stuff up.

Also I think there has been a general shift in his work away from what can be seen as something akin to 'normal' documentaries to something more expressley artistic in vision.
Good call! That whole spiel at the start of his stuff just went straight past me.

I've just watched the 2nd AWOBMLG, definitely left me feeling more enthusiastic about the themes validities. The 1st one left me as down right cynical, this 2nd instalment not so much. Plus it had pretty much everything I like in it, ecology, cybernetics, BMF, counter culture communes.

 

slowtrain

Well-known member
Just watched the first one (will watch the second one today probably)

Really enjoyed and have pretty much nothing to contribute here that hasn't been already said... But...

What was that Ayn Rand did/said that convinced Greenspan to drop his 'logical postivism'....?

It's been really bugging me, coz I can't for the life of me see how she could override that (as far as I know) pretty strong argument?
 

rob_giri

Well-known member
Perhaps Rand taught him to drop the self-doubting nihilism of his logical positivistic attitude ('am i real? whoah') and embrace a more practical and hardlined morality.
 

slowtrain

Well-known member
Perhaps Rand taught him to drop the self-doubting nihilism of his logical positivistic attitude ('am i real? whoah') and embrace a more practical and hardlined morality.
Yeah, that's sorta what is implied - but I can't really figure out how he could be so into that logical positivism and then drop it for that half-baked Randian thing.
 
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