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 21.

    Is that Laurence Olivier reading the Milton ar the 26.15 mark? Anyone know where I could find the recording?

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    *at the 26.15 mark . . .

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    At 42 mins . . .

    . . . is that the Monty Python troupe?

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    Comment number 24.

    Off topic, but in an area that Adam is interested in, this video may be of interest about the right hand and left hand of the brain....

    The video essentially suggests by focusing too much on detail, we have lost the context - which could lead us to an empty world. Has echo's of Adam's thoughts from 'the trap'. Also talks about the paradox of a quest for freedom while simultaneously living in a intensely monitored world.

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    Comment number 25.

    Reading George Orwell made me think about the myth of Englishness...and how the left can be as afflicted as the right :-) (quote from My Country Right or Left)

    To this day it gives me a faint feeling of sacrilege not to stand to attention during ‘God save the King’. That is childish, of course, but I would sooner have had that kind of upbringing than be like the left-wing intellectuals who are so ‘enlightened’ that they cannot understand the most ordinary emotions. It is exactly the people whose hearts have never leapt at the sight of a Union Jack who will flinch from revolution when the moment comes...

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    Comment number 26.

    Just to let you know that in your blog: "Mental Channel Number One- The Man from Mars" a link to the BBC programme 'Lifeline' of May 1959 is broken! The link is not working; please rectify as it is a fascinating piece of TV.

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    Comment number 27.

    Another stunning film, Adam, which I remember from first time round. The whole series is compelling and reminds us of how little this material now figures in our own national self-understanding. Astonishing how the romantic fantasy of the national past recurred in all the vox pops on Mrs Thatcher's death, but rarely found its way into the television and radio studios, or the newspaper columns

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    Comment number 28.

    At the start of the film there's text reading "The Living Dead - Three films about the power of the past". Anyone know what the other two films are?

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.


    I am trying to reach Adam Curtis to see if he might be interested in coming to lecture in our art school at Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts this coming year. We are developing a really special lecture series which I can tell him more about if you can give me a direct email. My email address is [Personal details removed by Moderator]

    Link to information about our school is:

    Corin Hewitt

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    As a Canadian, who has lived in London and New York City and experienced these events over a lifetime as a member of Generation X and wondering what has gone so horribly wrong with our elites and their narcissistic delusions, I find Adam Curtis' work invaluable in catalyzing consciousness. As in any story of the great, there is both tragedy and comedy here, the full scope of our Anglo-American absurdities and hubris across the page of history. And so, I thank you for this great work and continue to wonder how long this strange winter of delusion can continue to chill the evolution of our species into a more decent and truthful world. Would love to see Mr. Curtis delve into the strange story of Ronald Reagan as well and the contradictions and painful truths of that mad puppet king, but I suppose we need to find an American Adam Curtis for that, if such a thing would be possible. Thank you again and looking forward to your next posting.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Thanks alot Adam, Another wonderful film. I was delighted to find this web site. I wanted to thank you for your time reading this wonderful! I really enjoyed every bit of it and I've marked to ensure that the blog post something new.

    Pakistani Newspaper In Urdu

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.


    Another great piece, as always.

    It would be very interesting to hear your take on the actions and stances of the Lehi (Stern Gang) group, and the tragic (and often bizarre) ironies of their actions and ideals, from the assassination of Folke Bernadotte and the attempted alliance with Nazi Germany, to one of their leaders ultimately becoming the PM of Israel.
    That story seems riddled with tragic ironies and examples of one extreme leading to another - which is very relevant given the recent attack in the UK and its backlashes.

    Please keep up the fantastic work.

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.


    Would you be interested in making a programme looking at the information and disinformation around the new world order. It is hugely divisive issue these days. Ahead of the Bilderberg conference we have the David Icke, Alex Jones, British Constitution, UK Column, libertarian, super conspiracy slightly pseudo science groups who will be on one side of the opposition. Then on the other, the Occupy, UK UNcut, Tax Justice type groups who will bet there. This all is part of what seems a bitter war of disinformation. The prior group seem to think any global agreement on say Climate Change, or international trade agreements and the UN is all a New World order Act to control freedoms of people. The other group may agree with the former on their view of the power of money and banking, the project of the new Amercian century and little else. Films like Thrive and Zeitgeist are quite influential but also very contentious and this whole debate seems to be ripping opposition apart. Any thoughts or plans. Sorry, not got your personal e-mail

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    Comment number 34.

    Thanks for another great documentary getting through them all slowly. I am a visual artist currently completing my MA in Dublin and am fascinated by an older documentary you did called 'The Way of All Flesh', a wonderful and disturbing story about Henrietta Lacks, which has informed my most recent work. I have a project coming up in the summer and was hoping to screen that documentary as part of this project and was wondering if that was ok with you?
    Keep up the great work!

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    A month and a half is gone and I couldn get hands on my ususal Curtis fix. Please give us the stuff or recommend a good detox facility.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Imaginative and informative as Adam's blogs always are, it is absolutely the right state of affairs that he is busy instead telling stories as stunning audiovisual projects. Roll on the next TV series! (First, we take Manchester, Manhattan and Berlin)

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    Comment number 37.

    Ah, Mr. Curtis, thank you for always keeping the perspective. The world needs more people like you. I can't wait to get home tonight to watch the film.

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    Comment number 38.

    I've been reading a lot of Al Gore, and more especially due to my laziness, watching youtube videos of his recollections on America's past and present. If he'd have somehow gained office in the US, I feel we'd have gained a leader who could express things without sounding like a policy wonk.

    However, the pentagon and corporate America would never have let him put his "outrageous" ideas into action. I'm often struck by Chomsky's words that US democracy is actually a "guided democracy", with far more in common with Iran, than we will ever truly acknowledge or accept.

    The US, and western democracy, isn't controlled by "religious" autocracy, instead its controlled by a military-and-monetary "autocracy", they run everything of importance at arms-length.

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    When I say "Al Gore", I actually mean "Gore Vidal" - what a mistake to make! I apologise!

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Interesting blog about the potential for revolution/collapse in our society because of austerity and inequality. Adam territory I think! Good read.


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This is a website expressing my personal views – through a selection of opinionated observations and arguments. I’ll be including stories I like, ideas I find fascinating, work in progress and a selection of material from the BBC archives.

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