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Adam Curtis

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BBC is brilliant these days.


Stwewart Lee's musical episode was one big "Fuck You" to Michael McIntyre that had audience members at the recording walk out...and get abused for it. Hilarious stuff.


Psychoville 2 has been quality as well.


But All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace has been the best of the lot. Just watched the first episode last night and i can't do it justice...


Adam Curtis has always adopted a grander, leftfield approach to his documentaries. He tackles abstract concepts and ties them into politics and real-life events. 2002's The Century of the Self connected Freud, his family and his ideas with the wider world. All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (BBC Two), his new and insightful documentary, traced links between Ayn Rand's Objectivism and Bill Clinton's affair, the September 11 attacks, the economies of the Far East and the financial crisis. And this was only the first part.


Rand's Objectivism, we're told, has given birth to a culture of selfishness among the world's most powerful. For the uninitiated it discourages altruism and pushes for every man and woman to become solely selfish beings, driving their own interests to the bitter end. There is no time for weakness, religion or irrationality and each person should make their priority their own happiness. Rand set out this belief in her two best-selling novels, The Fountainhead (1943) and Atlas Shrugged (1957). Generally, critics hated her but she amassed a cult following nonetheless.


The books themselves are difficult to sum up effectively. To fully understand Rand you need to read her writing. When I read The Fountainhead a few years ago I knew little of her. At first I loved her strong approach to her subjects. By the end I hated her. Her beliefs were personified by the characters of Howard Roark and Dominique Francon and after a while their incessant need to be cold, selfish and two-dimensional just becomes daft and unnecessary. The pair even end their relationship because they believe their feelings for one another to be too powerful and are fearful that they may lead to irrationality and weakness. Essentially I just wanted to yell at the characters “get over yourselves”.


But in the comparatively innocent world of the 40s and 50s, we have to wonder whether she could have envisaged the potential trouble such an idea could foster. This is a time before computers ran everything and before the power of some (without guns) really could affect the whole world.


Curtis told us the financial crisis came about because money and property were sold and resold in increasingly complex ways. When these became so mixed up and muddled what the bankers were selling didn't really exist any more, yet their greed spurred them on. Companies hid away their debts and the government bail-out loans provided to the crumbling economies of the Far East were really only given to repay the Western investors who had interests there.


The subjects were approached non-laterally, with Curtis continually linking back to Rand's ideas, weaving threads all the way through that connect them together. He cuts in vast swathes of actuality footage and news bulletins from the 80s and 90s along with arty cutaways of windy trees and fast zooms into big buildings to suggest instability. The voice-over informs us of what we're seeing in a matter-of-fact way and the music laid across varied from classical to futuristic electronica. The whole effect is a Rand-esque, dream-like, dystopian feel. This is very much Curtis taking an auteur approach to his documentary – his creative personality is all over it and the effect is enthralling.


What he reveals is the dangers of human beings at their most selfish and self-satisfying. Showing no compassion or consideration for your fellow human beings creates a chasm between those able to walk over others and those too considerate – or too short-sighted – to do so.


However I would guess that Rand would not have been pleased by a bunch of bankers inventing money that wasn't there. More likely the lack of perfectionism in their work would have annoyed her.



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Louis Theroux in the LA Jail was really well done also, one of his best imo. Did you catch that one? Part 2 is on Sunday.


Aye, the lad who was going to take his shoes was a good laugh.


Was reading this week that the California prison system is only fit to hold 80,000 people and there's currently over 140,000 so the courts have told them they have to release 60,000. Give or take. Perhaps that lad will get out and come for Louis and his cowboy shoes.




Getting back to the topic though. The show also highlighted what mugs we are posting on here. The internet has turned us into commodities. IP Board, IPS and Peasepud use our brain dumps for free to turn a profit from entertaining the thousands of members that use the board.


We fight lowering wages and slave labour everywhere else, but on the internet we put in all this work for nowt. It's small fry on here, but on Facebook and Twitter it's exploitation on an unbelievable scale. Almost convinced me to close my account.



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  • 2 years later...


Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events.


But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis - leaving us bewildered and disorientated.


And journalism - that used to tell a grand, unfurling narrative - now also just relays disjointed and often wildly contradictory fragments of information.


Events come and go like waves of a fever. We - and the journalists - live in a state of continual delirium, constantly waiting for the next news event to loom out of the fog - and then disappear again, unexplained.


And the formats - in news and documentaries - have become so rigid and repetitive that the audiences never really look at them.


In the face of this people retreat from journalism and politics. They turn away into their own worlds, and the stories they and their friends tell each other.


I think this is wrong, sad, and bad for democracy - because it means the politicians become more and more unaccountable.


I have made a film that tries to respond to this in two ways.


It tells a big story about why the stories we are told today have stopped making sense.


But it is also an experiment in a new way of reporting the world. To do this I’ve used techniques that you wouldn’t normally associate with TV journalism. My aim is to make something more emotional and involving - so it reconnects and feels more real.


BBC iplayer has given me the opportunity to do this - because it isn’t restrained by the rigid formats and schedules of network television. It is like an art room at school - a place you can go to experiment and try out new ideas, and get away from the teachers.


It is also liberating - both because things can be any length, and also because it allows the audience to watch the films in different ways.


The film is called Bitter Lake. It is a bit of an epic - it’s two hours twenty minutes long.


It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence - and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened - because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.


But there is one other country at the centre of the film.




This is because Afghanistan is the place that has repeatedly confronted politicians, as their power declines, with the terrible truth - that they cannot understand what is going on any longer. Let alone control it.


The film shows in detail how all the foreigners who went to Afghanistan created an almost totally fictional version of the country in their minds.


They couldn’t see the complex reality that was in front of them - because the stories they had been told about the world had become so simplified that they lacked the perceptual apparatus to see reality any longer.


And this blindness led to a terrible disaster - support for a blatantly undemocratic government, wholesale financial corruption and thousands of needless deaths.


A horrific scandal that we, in our disconnected bubble here in Britain, seem hardly aware of. And even if we are - it is dismissed as being just too complex to understand.


But it is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil - but instead really tries to makes sense of it.


I have got hold of the unedited rushes of almost everything the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan. It is thousands of hours - some of it is very dull, but large parts of it are extraordinary. Shots that record amazing moments, but also others that are touching, funny and sometimes very odd.


These complicated, fragmentary and emotional images evoke the chaos of real experience. And out of them i have tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan.


A counterpoint to the thin, narrow and increasingly destructive stories told by those in power today.





Out in January. The trailer is available to view at the link

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His new feature length doc is available on iPlayer



Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories and politicians react randomly to every new crisis - leaving us bewildered and disorientated.


Bitter Lake is a new, adventurous and epic film by Adam Curtis that explains why the big stories that politicians tell us have become so simplified that we can’t really see the world any longer.


The narrative goes all over the world, America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia - but the country at the heart of it is Afghanistan. Because Afghanistan is the place that has confronted our politicians with the terrible truth - that they cannot understand what is going on any longer.


The film reveals the forces that over the past thirty years rose up and undermined the confidence of politics to understand the world. And it shows the strange, dark role that Saudi Arabia has played in this.


But Bitter Lake is also experimental. Curtis has taken the unedited rushes of everything that the BBC has ever shot in Afghanistan - and used them in new and radical ways.


He has tried to build a different and more emotional way of depicting what really happened in Afghanistan. A counterpoint to the thin, narrow and increasingly destructive stories told by those in power today.





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Excellent that like. Knew quite a lot of the stuff before but had never seen it brought together in such a coherent way before. Would agree with HMHM's take on it too like. Not really one to warm the cockles of your heart.

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Would also add that it isn't just the politicians simplifying stuff as I've seen the BBC just describe any chief executive of any company as just 'Bosses'. The American influence is unbelievable as well. Almost ten minutes of One O'clock half hour BBC news programme had two different reporters, one in Boston, one in New York to tell that one had some snow, but not as much as thought, the other to say that they had more snow than New York but things were carrying on as 'they were used to it here.' :lol: SO FUCKING WHAT?! (And don't get me started on SKY).

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Still haven't had a chance to watch it.


Everything in it's right place I suppose. BBC deserve credit for keeping Curtis on the payroll to produce his excellent blog, docs like this and his shorter snippets that sneak into Charlie Brooker, taking people who tuned in to see him make amusing comparisons between celebrity big brother contestants and inanimate objects unawares.

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Watched this last night.....not trying to be smug but there wasn't a great deal that was completely new to me (didn't know the yanks built the likes of the Kajaki Damn though) but the way it's put together is just phenomamal. The way Curtis uses some horrific footage in a seemingly random way to illustrate not only the brutality but also the futile nature and pointlessness of the various factions' lust for power is very effective.

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Not exactly unplifting overall obviously but that bit where the lass is trying to teach the Afghan kids about conceptual art :lol: :lol: :lol:

I thought the most upsetting bit of footage was the lass begging with her two bairns laid down in the main road.

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Not exactly unplifting overall obviously but that bit where the lass is trying to teach the Afghan kids about conceptual art :lol: :lol: :lol:

I thought the most upsetting bit of footage was the lass begging with her two bairns laid down in the main road.

That bit personified the total ineptness of the whole Afghan saga.

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I have a new film going up on iPlayer this Sunday - the 16th. Here’s a background to what the film is about. And a trail.


We live in a time of great uncertainty and confusion. Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks. And those who are supposed to be in power are paralysed - they have no idea what to do.


This film is the epic story of how we got to this strange place. It explains not only why these chaotic events are happening - but also why we, and our politicians, cannot understand them.


It shows that what has happened is that all of us in the West - not just the politicians and the journalists and the experts, but we ourselves - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all around us we accept it as normal.




The film has been made specially for iplayer - and is a giant narrative spanning forty years, with an extraordinary cast of characters. They include the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, the early performance artists in New York, President Putin, intelligent machines, Japanese gangsters, suicide bombers - and the extraordinary untold story of the rise, fall, rise again, and finally the assassination of Colonel Gaddafi.


All these stories are woven together to show how today’s fake and hollow world was created. Part of it was done by those in power - politicians, financiers and technological utopians. Rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, they retreated. And instead constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang onto power


But it wasn’t just those in power. This strange world was built by all of us. We all went along with it because the simplicity was reassuring. And that included the left and the radicals who thought they were attacking the system. The film shows how they too retreated into this make-believe world - which is why their opposition today has no effect, and nothing ever changes.


But there is another world outside. And the film shows dramatically how it is beginning to pierce through into our simplified bubble. Forces that politicians tried to forget and bury forty years ago - that were then left to fester and mutate - but which are now turning on us with a vengeful fury.





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