Friday 26 April 2013, 15:03

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis


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 of millions of people. It was fake, but it was incredibly powerful because she believed it. And the power of her belief raised up ghostly dreams from Britain's past that still live in people's imaginations - long after she fell from power.

The problem with wonks is that they can't deal with emotion and feeling, and they don't like stories. It means that they cannot connect at all with the feelings and imaginations of the voters. Yet the think-tankers have built a sarcophagus of economic discourse around Westminster.

What we are waiting for is a politician to come along who can connect with our imaginations and inspire us about political ideas instead of boring us to tears.

The film stars a wide range of characters - including Flanagan and Allen:


Members of the Political Wing of the Irish National Liberation Army:


Deborah Kerr:


PC Claude Morrell:


Mrs Thatcher and her friend Airey Neave:


And the ghost of Winston Churchill:


Here's the film.

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    Comment number 1.

    Us wonks are properly into stories and emotions, Adam. See, for instance,

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    Comment number 2.

    Body language @42min 29sec: priceless!

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    Comment number 3.

    Another wonderful film. Thank you. The notion of plunging into the nation's psychic vaults to conjure up such a powerful romantic vision is almost avant garde in its intensity: Churchill and Thatcher the deranged artists of a conjured collective imagination. Brilliant. One day when you are not quite so full pelt, we would love to conduct an interview with you for online international arts magazine

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    Comment number 4.


    If is possible pass this message to Adam Curtis - at his documentary "The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey" he mentioned George Price as a inventor of idea "is altruism a defense mechanism" this idea is stolen from Friedrich Nietzsche book "Will for power" where he uses exactly same sentance

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    Comment number 5.

    Thanks Adam, and thanks for explaining that the Massive Attack work is your main focus for now. I hope to settle down an watch this soon!

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    Comment number 6.

    Once again, the most incisive commentary to come out of the BBC is by Adam Curtis. Love the mischievous ending of the film.

  • Comment number 7.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 8.

    Having now watched this in full, I wonder if the Britain described in this film has finally passed on, with Thatcher's generation. Perhaps the British (and particularly the English) are less susceptible to this myth of 'Greatness' any more? I'd appreciate others views on this.

    It is perhaps ironic that the Thatcher focus on individuality in fact helped break down a sense of collective consciousness.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Please, sir, may I have another way of viewing your movies in the U.S. on my iPad?
    Any recommendations?
    Thank you for your work from "The Mayfair Set" to "The Century of the Self" and beyond.

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Thanks Mr Curtis. I think that was one of your best ever. Now I know how to mislead a nation for generations to come. The analysis by the Irish bloke was nearly as good as your own.

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    Comment number 11.

    Your feeble reposts can only sate our hunger for a time. You've chosen to bring back the kind of investigative journalis that your followers crave fore. Either teach people who will carry your torch for you, or make posts that will sate our hunger for meaningful information,

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    @Entrophy - you're totally missing the point.

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    Comment number 13.


    I would agree that we as a country given the passage of time be less susceptible to the idea that we are exceptional. The recent history witnessed by the current generations is obviously quite different to that of Thatcher's generation which would have still seen the last vestiges of colonial rule and grown up on stories of military conquest and empire. And also, as you self make the very pertinent point that Thatcher herself ushered in the Neoliberal ideology of self-interest above all else, a theory that continues to this day to be politically and economically the guiding doctrine.
    Thatcher's legacy is all pervasive and I personally look at political parties like UKIP and it seems it is not just her Neoliberal policies that seem to remain. I am all for a more decentralised economy so agree to an extent with their stance on the EU but the uber-nationalism of Mr. Farage I fear is of the dangerous negative variety along the lines of Thatcherite style patriotism, jingoism, exceptionalism and warmongering (UKIP would increase military spending by 40%). But once again it seems in the midst of economic crisis the working classes are becoming vulnerable to the right wing false populism of the xenophobes looking to blame foreign scapegoats for all our problems. History has shown that the reestablishment of nationalism quickly turns into the negative variety if it is not accompanied by policies that support the public, collective good. UKIP’s planned public spending cuts, welfare cuts, corporate tax cut’s don’t offer this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    @Simon Eaves

    I think your analysis is accurate Simon - I was watching the results come in yesterday, and couldn't help but feel that UKIP have become the new myth makers/users.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Thank you for posting this film, a remarkable analysis of the Thatcher mystique.

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    Comment number 16.

    Big Brothers - yes, I have a real one and at least 3 imaginary ones.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    My other 'big brothers' may contact you because of me. Please watch out for traps and do take great care. I am apparently a 'very dangerous' person

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    Just to let you know, Adam, that I am on Facebook under my true name which is Monika Magdalena Burbo. Re: the Big Brother, yes, I do have two, one real and a few out off their rocker. You are most welcome to ask me any questions you wish but please remember everything I do is being hacked into - even during the night.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    Agent provocateur at 5.33?

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    Comment number 20.

    Amazing that 'going backwards' includes not being at war!


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