Friday 26 April 2013, 15:03
I'm afraid I haven't been posting any stories recently. The reason is that I am in the midst of putting together a live show with Massive Attack. It's a joint production between the BBC and the Manchester Festival.
I've had quite a few requests to put up a film I made a while ago about Mrs Thatcher - called The Attic. It's about how she constructed a fake ghostly version of Britain's past, and then used it to maintain her power. But also how she became possessed and haunted by this vision.
I'm putting it up as a bit of a corrective to the terrifying wonk-fest that took over after Mrs Thatcher died. A conveyor belt of Think Tank pundits and allied operatives poured into the TV studios and together they built a fortress around Mrs Thatcher's memory that was rooted in theories about economics.
They did this because economics is the only language that wonks understand. It's a view of the world where they see the voters - the people who put Mrs Thatcher in power - as simplified consumption-driven robots.
What was missing was the fact that Mrs Thatcher was also a powerful romantic politician who created a strange but compelling story about Britain's past that connected with the imagination...
Tuesday 5 March 2013, 16:07
One of the guiding beliefs of our consuming age is that we are all free and independent individuals. That we can choose to do pretty much what we want, and if we can't then it's bad.
But at the same time, co-existing alongside this, there is a completely different, parallel universe where we all seem meekly to do what those in power tell us to do. Ever since the economic crisis in 2008, millions of people have accepted cuts in all sorts of things - from real wages and living standards to benefits and hospital care - without any real opposition.
The cuts may be right, or they may be stupid - but the astonishing thing is how no-one really challenges them.
I think that one of the reasons for this is because a lot of the power that shapes our lives today has become invisible - and so it is difficult to see how it really works and even more difficult to challenge it.
So much of the language that surrounds us - from things like economics, management theory and the algorithms built into computer systems - appears to be objective and neutral. But in fact it is loaded with powerful, and very debatable, political assumptions about how society should work, and what human beings are really like...
Wednesday 30 January 2013, 18:52
The West is worried about the rise of Islamism in Africa. There are two big fears - one is that there is a new international terror network that will come and attack Europe and America. The other is that sneaky Islamist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood will get themselves elected - and then promptly abolish democracy.
But behind these fears is an incredibly simplified - almost fictional - vision of the world. It possesses the minds of many western politicians, journalists and associated think tank "experts". And at its heart is a kind of filter that wipes away anything complex about power and the struggles for power in African countries - and replaces that with a simple picture of the world as divided between goodies (us in the west) and dangerous frightening baddies who are out to destroy us.
It's both blind and arrogant. And it's terribly dangerous.
To try and bring it into focus I want to go back twenty years and tell two dramatic stories. In them lie many of the roots of today's western fears - but also, in the details of both stories are keys to understanding two crucial things that we ignore today at our peril. One is the complex local power struggles that have helped the...
Thursday 20 December 2012, 15:19
THE POLITICAL USE AND ABUSE OF ANIMALS ON TV
Animals have been a central part of television from the very beginning. But over that time the way animals are portrayed on TV has varied enormously - not just in the way they are filmed, but in the stories they are used to tell the viewers.
And the truth is that the animal programmes are far more about us than they are about the animals. They are really about how we see ourselves. I have always been convinced that animal programmes are one of the most powerful ideological expressions of our time - telling stories that both express and reinforce...
Friday 30 November 2012, 11:21
HOW THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD, HAMAS AND THE ISRAELI RIGHT BECAME CO-DEPENDENTS IN AN ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP
Last week there was yet another cycle of horrific violence in the Gaza strip. This week there are demonstrations in Cairo driven by fears that the revolution is being hi-jacked by the Islamists. Liberals in the west look on baffled and horrified. What they thought was a glorious revolution in the Arab world is morphing into something they don't understand. While Gaza is like some brutal other planet forever possessed by hi-tech assassinations and bearded aliens dragging corpses around...
Wednesday 14 November 2012, 15:22
I have always been fascinated by the way music can completely change the way you watch film - and how you feel as you watch the images.
For the last year or so I have been collecting all sorts of footage of people dancing that I found in the BBC archives. In all I gathered over two thousand shots culled from all kinds of programmes. I then cut some of them together to music by the wonderful 70s German band Neu.
I think it gives a sense that we are all together in the dance.
I then took exactly the same sequence of images - I haven't altered even a frame - and put them to a montage of some very different music. There are all sorts of songs and pieces in there - but it owes a great deal to the great romantic musical genius of our age - Burial.
I think that this other version nbsp;you tolook at the people dancingin a very different way. The feeling it evokes ishow separate we are - and how isolated we sometimes are from one another.
Sunday 21 October 2012, 14:32
HOW COLONEL GADDAFI AND THE WESTERN ESTABLISHMENT
TOGETHER CREATED A PANTOMIME WORLD
Things come and go in the news cycle like waves of fever. A year ago Colonel Gaddafi was killed and an avalanche of camera phone footage of his last minutes was played again and again on the news channels. Then it stopped - and Gaddafi disappeared off into the dark.
What remains is all the footage recording Gaddafi's forty year career as a global weirdo. But the closer you look at the footage and what lies behind it - you begin to discover an odd story that casts a rather unflattering light on many of the elites...
Monday 6 August 2012, 18:22
To celebrate today's successful landing on Mars I thought I would show a film of a man who claimed to have got to Mars a long time ago. He did this back in the late 1950s by communicating telepathically with the beings who inhabited the Red Planet. He also claimed that his mother went there on a UFO. And what's more the BBC took him very seriously.
He was called George King. He was a London taxi driver who back in 1956 had a strange experience. He was washing the dishes when he heard a voice which said
"Prepare yourself. You are about to become the voice of Interplanetary Parliament"
As a result...
Saturday 16 June 2012, 15:46
AMERICA'S DANGEROUS LOVE AFFAIR WITH COUNTERINSURGENCY
At the beginning of this year one of the weirdest characters ever to become involved in the present Afghan war died. He was called Jack Idema and he was a brilliant con-man. For a moment, during the early part of the war, Idema persuaded all the major TV networks and scores of journalists that he was some kind of special forces super-hero who was using all kinds of "black ops" to track down and arrest the terrorists.
In reality, before 2001, Idema had been running a hotel for pets in North Carolina called The Ultimate Pet Resort. He had been...
Friday 11 May 2012, 14:02
Bahrain, along with Syria, has become a symbol of the failure of the Arab Spring to deliver real democracy and freedom across the Arab world. The media in Britain portray a rigid, oppressive almost feudal elite who are stubbornly holding out against the inevitable wave of modern freedoms and political justice.
But what is hardly ever mentioned in the press and TV reports is that this very system of oppression, the rock against which the dreams of democracy are being dashed, was largely created by the British. That, throughout most of the twentieth century, British advisers to the Bahraini royal...