YOU THINK YOU ARE A CONSUMER BUT MAYBE YOU HAVE BEEN CONSUMED

Tuesday 5 March 2013, 16:07

Adam Curtis Adam Curtis

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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.

But it is very difficult to show this to people. Journalists, whose job is to pull back and tell dramatic stories that bring power into focus, find it impossible because things like economic theory are both incomprehensible and above all boring. The same is true of "management science". Mild-mannered men and women meet in glass-walled offices and decide the destinies of millions of people on the basis of "targets" and "measured outcomes".

Like economics it pretends to be neutral, but it isn't. Yet it's impossible to show this dramatically because nothing happens in those glass-walled offices except the click of a keystroke that brings up another powerpoint slide. It's boring - and it's impossible to turn it into stories that will grab peoples imaginations - yet hundreds of peoples' jobs may depend on what is written on that slide.

modern

I want to do a series of posts that will go back and reveal the forgotten roots of some of this fake objectivity that surrounds us today. They will be a series of stories that show how over the past fifty years both the political Right and the Left have gnawed away at the idea of objective truth. Sometimes almost colluding together to help bring about today's uncertainty and confusion about where power and influence really lies in our society.

The first is an odd story - with a very strange character at its heart. It is about how in the 1950s the richest man in the world, an oil billionaire in Texas, invented a new form of television journalism. It pretended to be objective and balanced but in fact it was hard core right-wing propaganda. It was way ahead of its time because, in its fake neutrality, it prefigured the rise of the ultraconservative right-wing media of the 1990s - like Fox News, with its copyrighted slogan, "Fair and Balanced"

The billionaire was called H. L. Hunt - Haroldson Lafayette Hunt. He made his fortune in the early 1930s by getting hold of one of the biggest oil fields in America - in the pine forests of East Texas. He was a ruthless, driven man and from early on he became absolutely convinced that he had superhuman qualities that made him different from other humans.

Here is a picture of Mr Hunt which gives you a sense of his conviction about himself.

hunt

 

From the 1920s onwards Hunt was a bigamist. He married two women and raised two families that were oblivious of each other. He told his second wife, Frania, that he was called Major Franklyn Hunt. There was a rocky moment when his picture was on the front page of all the Texas papers because of his spectacular oil deal. Frania asked Hunt if that was him - he told her no, that it was his uncle who had been so clever.

two hunts

Hunt was part of a group of extreme right-wing oil men in Texas who had enormous influence because of their wealth. There is a brilliant book written about this group - The Big Rich by Bryan Burrough. Burrough describes how they had first risen up in the 1930s because they loathed President Roosevelt - "a nigger-loving communist", as one oil man called him. They were convinced that Roosevelt's New Deal was really run by Jews and communists - or "social vermin" as they politely put it.

A Texas congressman called Sam Rayburn summed up this group of right-wing oil men. "All they do is hate" - he said.

After the Second World War H L Hunt did two things. He added another, third, family to his bigamist's collection. And he also turned to the new medium of television to promote his ultraconservative views. In 1950 he wrote a pamphlet putting forward the idea of what he called an "Educational Facts League" - its purpose, Hunt wrote:

"will be to secure a impartial presentation of all the news through all the news channels concerning issues of public interest"

It would, said Hunt, be an organization where ordinary Americans would be supplied with the true facts of political life.

Hunt announced that the organization would be called "Facts Forum" - and he found a man called Dan Smoot to be its public face. Smoot had been an FBI agent - and he was smooth and reasonable. Starting on radio, but then moving to television, Smoot presented a show called Facts Forum which every week would give you, the audience, a balanced presentation of the facts behind the news. Very reminiscent of the later catch-phrase on Fox News - "We Report, You Decide".

facts forum

In fact this declaration of balance and fairness was rubbish. Smoot would begin by presenting the left or liberal viewpoint on a subject in a dull, bland way. Then would enthusiastically put forward the alternative, or what Hunt called, the "constructive" view. This view was simple - all government was bad, business should be left alone - and anyone who disagreed was a communist trying to take over the world. And was probably a Jew as well.

The programmes were radically skewed to promote an ultraconservative agenda while pretending to be neutral and balanced.

There was lots of implied racism in the shows. In his book Bryan Burroughs quotes from one episode where Smoot argued against fair employment legislation - and said:

"Remember that the negroes when first brought to America by Yankee and English merchants were not free people reduced to slavery. They were merely transferred from a barbaric enslavement by their own people in Africa to a relatively benign enslavement in the Western Hemisphere."

Facts Forum became a successful media enterprise - with two syndicated radio shows and three TV shows produced from their own studios in New York. They were backed up by books and pamphlets paid for by Hunt. One was called "We Must Abolish the United Nations" - written by Joseph Kamp. His previous "balanced" books had included one called "Hitler Was a Liberal".

 

hitler book

Here is a wonderful documentary profile of H. L. Hunt. It was made in 1968. By now his first wife had died, the second had got fed up and moved away, and Hunt was now left with only his third wife - Rita Ray.

You get a very good sense of Hunt's obsessive drive to promote his conservative views - sending out endless pamphlets, training young men and women to become part of his League of Youth Freedom Speakers, and even insisting that his whole family sit at the dinner table to listen to one of his new radio shows. It was called LIFELINE. Again Hunt was ahead of his time - because the show fused right-wing anti-communism with fundamentalist religion.

What you don't see is the tragedy of Hunt's life - his eldest son Hassie. He had originally followed his father into the oil business, but had then become violent and paranoid. Hunt had tried his own treatment - bringing in lots of women for Hassie to have sex with. But what had worked for the father didn't do much for the son. Doctors tried ECT - but that didn't work. In the end Hunt was persuaded to let them give Hassie a prefrontal lobotomy and his son spent the rest of his life wandering the Hunt estate like a strange ghost.

At the end of the film Hunt and his wife get up in their living room and sing together "We're just plain folks". It's very spooky. And it's not true.

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Hunt's Facts Forum was the model for much of what was later to come with the rise of the right in the media in the 1990s - both in radio and TV. But Hunt didn't just shape the future of the right, he also had a profound effect on the way the Left too attacked and corroded the idea of objectivity and neutrality in journalism.

It happened because of some pieces of paper that were found in the jacket pocket of Jack Ruby - the man who shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Two of them were scripts from Hunt's radio programme called LIFELINE. The third had a telephone number of one of Hunt's sons.

Many of Lifeline's programmes had attacked John F. Kennedy as a communist dupe who was destroying America - and Jack Ruby had apparently been outraged by such vicious propaganda against Kennedy.

Then it was discovered that a full page advertisement placed in the Dallas Morning News on the day of the assassination had been partly paid for by another of Hunt's sons - Bunker Hunt. It was surrounded by a black, threatening border - and was titled sarcastically "Welcome Mr Kennedy to Dallas"

welcome to dallas

Like his father, Bunker Hunt was an ultraconservative - and the advertisement was placed under a title that echoed Facts Forum. It was called "The American Fact-Finding Committee" who described themselves as "An unaffiliated and non-partisan group of citizens who wish truth". And it accused JFK of all sorts of treasonous acts against America - including:

"Why have you ordered your brother Bobby, the Attorney General, to go soft on communists, fellow-travellers and ultra-leftists in America, while permitting him to persecute loyal Americans who criticize you, your administration, and your leadership?

We DEMAND answers to these questions, and we want them NOW."

As a result newspapers across America attacked Hunt's operations for creating the "climate of hate" in Texas that might have contributed to the President's death. And Hunt and his sons became targets in the FBI investigation that would then become part of the Warren Commission.

And it got worse. In 1967 the ambitious District Attorney in New Orleans, Jim Garrison, opened a new investigation into Kennedy's killing. Garrison started talking about how there had been a conspiracy that might have included certain unnamed Texas oilmen.

Hunt's head of security managed to get hold of a diagram drawn out by Garrison's team where "H L Hunt" was at the heart of a complicated network of lines drawing connections between the Dallas police, Ruby, Oswald, plus all kinds of small-time players in Dallas. And although Garrison's investigation folded in 1969 - it, and its diagrams, became the template for the growing conspiracy theories from the left.

One of the earliest - and most powerful - expressions of this was a film called Rush To Judgement made in 1967 by a left wing filmmaker called Emile de Antonio and a lawyer-turned-investigator called Mark Lane. De Antonio is a fascinating character - he came out of the avant-garde art world, and had worked with Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg - and he shared their knowing distrust of the media world of two-dimensional images that was then becoming so prevalent.

Rush to Judgement sets out to propose an alternative explanation for Kennedy's assassination. At the heart of this other story is the idea that there is a group of powerful, shadowy men in Texas who used their wealth and power to create a distorted fiction - Oswald the lone nut - to disguise their conspiracy. A fiction that the public then believed.

The film interviews a whole host of extraordinary bit players from the Texas world and builds up a very powerful mood of uncertainty and suspicion. Underlying this is a message that says these hidden forces in America will never allow you to know the truth. Which means that what you are told by the media may be a lie. That you are being manipulated.

Just as H. L. Hunt himself was gnawing away at the idea of objectivity and truth through his own TV programmes, so too were the left also using a demonic caricature of H L Hunt to do the very same thing. He and other shadowy figures, the left said, will never let you know the truth.

jfk

Here is a section of the Rush To Judgement film. It had its world premiere in 1967 on BBC television - broadcast for an hour and a half at prime time. The section starts with the presenter in the studio introducing it - and framing how the viewer should interpret it. Then I have cut straight to the latter part of the film - which is all about how intertwined Jack Ruby was with the Dallas police and establishment.

It is long, but I have left it like that deliberately, because I think it is important to see how Emile de Antonio uses a particular technique to persuade you that he is presenting the real truth. The interviews are held long, and an archive interview with the Dallas police chief is used repeatedly to counterpoint them. It has a cumulative power that feels real and also feels like it is allowing you to judge the characters. That technique would rise up and become central to many of the more mainstream liberal documentaries of the last thirty years.

But it is also very much a technique borrowed from avant-garde cinema and in that sense is as artificial a language as anything you see on Fox News.

We report. You decide.

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Mark Lane went on to help write a film in 1973 called Executive Action. It was about how a group of Texas oilmen kill President Kennedy. It was the same idea that resurfaced in Oliver Stone's JFK. But the best, and earliest, caricature of Hunt is in the film Billion Dollar Brain - also made in 1967. It was written by Len Deighton and directed by Ken Russell. The villain is a raving right-wing Texas oilman called General Midwinter who runs an organisation called Crusade For Freedom - modelled on Facts Forum and Lifeline - and wants to use his giant computer to bring down the Soviet Union.

Here's a short clip of General Midwinter in full-on Hunt mode.

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But H L Hunt was far more than a caricature right-wing nutbag. The roots of so much of the distrust of the media today lie back with him and his ideas - with his Facts Forum in the 1950s and the strange role he played in Dallas in the 1960s.

In later posts I want to trace how what Hunt started, spread out from the dark pine forests of East Texas and began to develop into a much more powerful force undermining the idea of neutrality and objectivity in our age.

watching fox

Comments

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  • rate this
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    Comment number 21.

    Great piece. I am looking forward to the next installment. Thank you,

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    Comment number 22.

    Always great to see you post a new article, Adam. This one is especially interesting and important right now. I would love to see you make a actual documentary about it. There really haven't been any respectable documentaries about the far-right and FOX news. Cant wait for rest of this.
    PS: Does anybody else read Adams essays in his actual voice in their heads? I do :)P

  • rate this
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    Comment number 23.

    I meant to say: "It seems to me that rational discourse presupposes that both sides in the discussion [are fundamentally on the same side and really only disagree about means, not ends]."

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    Comment number 24.

    The author of "The Big Rich" is not Bryan Burroughs. It's Bryan Burrough, singular. At least that's what my copy reads. And yes, it's informative. But it's also a damn good read.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 25.

    Thanks for this Adam. I'm particularly interested in paragraphs 7 - 10, "So much of the language ... written on that slide." I look forward to reading more.

    You may be interested in this quote from Stewart Lee.

    "All our universities are turning into book-balancing business schools or results-driven scientific research centres, treating students as client-customers who deserve to see an investment return in the form of increased living standards and higher salaries in exchange for spending their student loans, and funded by patrons and public bodies wanting to see practical results. Once you joined a university to service the global advancement of ideas. Now you employ it to make you more employable. The notion that thinking about abstract ideas like art and life might be an end in itself is being priced out of existence and legislated into oblivion."


    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/10/never-mind-endangered-animals-save-thinkers?INTCMP=SRCH

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    Comment number 26.

    Lord Reith (the first director of the BBC) wrote in his diary how he delberately manipulated radio broadcasts during the General Strike in 1926. Yet BBC trained journalists believe they are learning objectivity. Glasgow university Media Group have proven through their series of Bad News books how biased the BBC is. Yet most people think it is fair. The bias is invisible. The UNESCO Macbride Commisiion wrote about world media being dominated by the UK and the USA as being unfair and biased, those two countries withdrew funding to UNESCO in response. Objectivity is the myth that disguises bias, because objectivity in a subjective world is impossible, large powerful organizations, even the one Mr. Curtiss works for, perhaps especially that one, are never objective.People like to talk about the Nazis or Stalin when talking about propaganda but The British Empire developed a British State more sophisticated and subtle than either of those powers and The BBC is the master of propaganda that the world takes as fact. Of course Mr. Curtiss cannot write about that.

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    Comment number 27.

    OK. Phew, I am in. Got a registration.

    Adam Curtis - I love your work. I am a massive fan. I can only imagine having created work of the quality of yours.

    But I think you may be a little 'post 1950s' in your focus. Surly Machiavelli and co were right on the case, centuries ago, with the whole, "Motivate people through doctrine and fear" argument?

    I have had a feeling recenlty that "the control of the weaker" must be the oldest and most developed human art. Older than prostitution. Older than painting. Older than 'making your hair look good'. Older than warfare. Older and more developed than music.

    Think how advanced technology is now: IPods; the Motor Car, XBoxes; and Sky Plus. All these could be less evolved achivements in the Human arts than the simple art of control.

    Maybe.

    I'd be amazed if they were n't really good at controlling us. They've had enough practice,

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    Comment number 28.

    I find the idea of distrust and objectivity in the media, particularly in our manner of declaring it 'partisan' media or even reflexively and simply 'liberal' media, to be a worthy subject. But I am curious whether Curtis might be accused of similarly questioning objectivity in his last documentary series, all watched over by machines of loving grace- particularly (maybe exclusively) the second episode. Climate science was given a strong dose of implicit skepticism without ever coming right out and stating it.

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    Comment number 29.

    Adam,

    Wondrous, as always.

    "What you don't see is the tragedy of Hunt's life - his eldest son Hassie. He had originally followed his father into the oil business, but had then become violent and paranoid. Hunt had tried his own treatment - bringing in lots of women for Hassie to have sex with. But what had worked for the father didn't do much for the son. Doctors tried ECT - but that didn't work. In the end Hunt was persuaded to let them give Hassie a prefrontal lobotomy and his son spent the rest of his life wandering the Hunt estate like a strange ghost."

    The above really got through to me. It got me thinking about Nietzsche, and his own very personal tragedy - his mental breakdown and death. This champion of the triumph of the will, and much quoted Western philosopher, left the world in greatly unceremonious fashion, as ultimately, we all do.

    Nietzche's decline and death, however, has always been something I've found fascinating, and I've recently got my hands on Bela Tarr's 'The Turin Horse', a dramatisation of the speculated cause of Nietzsche's breakdown - a horse being flogged in a street nearby his street. A film I have yet summoned up the courage to watch.

    I think almost inevitably - an intuitive and searching mind - starts to question the contextual role of what Habermas called the 'project of modernity', or more wider than that the spectre of 'western philosophy', a kind of deeply ingrained 'rationalism' and 'materialism' that pushes hard on a person's stability.

    As other of your documentaries have more than touched upon, drugs are dispensed to treat those malcontent with the modern condition. I feel that in many ways, the failure of the left is due to a collapse in any ideology (or idealism) that economic development, and our own personal security, can be pursued via any other means than flogging horses.

    Hence the attraction of conspiracy theories on the Left. It's not just a reaction to an inability to overcome the problems of 'power', but also a reaction to the systemic problems of 'development' and 'progress'. Maybe what sent Nietzche 'mad' was what the Roman historian Livy described as 'Our modern day' where: 'We can endure neither our vices nor the remedies for them'.

    In the context of oil-based modern society, it's like a realisation that for us to put oil in our cars, we have to endure the likes of H.L. Hunt. It's the price we have to pay. It would appear to weigh heavy on people's unconscious as a vice, but they also cannot face up to the cure, or organising a cure. They are faced with acceptance/acquiescence of the situation, or else accusations of hypocrisy, or madness

    It's basically what you describe in one of your short documentaries as 'Oh Dearism'. It's been about since the days of Rome, and before. It's the 'heavy price' of 'steady progress.' And it was this ideology - actively applied that turned Hunt's son into a strange ghost.

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    Comment number 30.

    The art teacher posted:

    "The thing is that most people didn't study philosophy or economics or political science, and it's quite an insular world, so it can be hard for a lot people to get the benefit. It can be boring like AC says. And it can be almost indecipherable, because the people who've written these great books and have these great ideas tend to be quite smart and the ideas can be complicated, especially in the context of what we already feel we know. Academics and the like have failed in bringing it to people, or maybe failed to even try and communicate these ideas to people.

    I wonder if in one sense it shares the problems of capitalism, in that it's built on a kind of egoism, using specialised language and trapped by a narrow sense of what these ideas are for, in a little world where what matters is a career in the academy, 'peer approval', or just looking clever."


    What you say above is abysmally correct.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 31.

    What the art teacher posted about the academic profession also aligns to what another poster (Steve C) linked from a Stewart Lee article:

    "All our universities are turning into book-balancing business schools or results-driven scientific research centres, treating students as client-customers who deserve to see an investment return in the form of increased living standards and higher salaries in exchange for spending their student loans, and funded by patrons and public bodies wanting to see practical results. Once you joined a university to service the global advancement of ideas. Now you employ it to make you more employable. The notion that thinking about abstract ideas like art and life might be an end in itself is being priced out of existence and legislated into oblivion."

    As someone who currently works in academia, I've become increasing disillusioned by the entire process - but not so much as a consequence of what Stewart Lee outlines. I actually think it's quite important that research has some kind of 'instrumental' basis, i.e. it aims to carry some influence. Although I gladly accept this has gone too far in many disciplines - which have effectively all been 'financialised', 'medicalised', and 'legalised' as subjects, requiring an 'output' to be judged a success.

    What I really find distasteful, however, is the lack of 'engagement' with the person on the street, and abundance of the 'ego' in the academic world. The academic is generally a person who is not comfortable with the man or woman on the street, who are primarily seen as a great obstacle to forging a great career. Actively engaging with the public is seen as a 'destructive' rather than 'constructive' process. Indeed, even teaching enrolled students face-to-face is now seen as a 'tertiary' activity or enterprise, behind writing articles and reviews in peer-reviewed journals that reach a narrower, and narrower audience, or delivering strange, almost autistic presentations at academic conferences.

    Consequently, a 'Tower of Babel' is constructed. The 'professional' at the very top, the 'public' at the very bottom... And this is to be found in most professional careers. It is about constructing a 'profession' that places itself, and its knowledge into a highly 'specialised' set. It comes from the financial, medical and legal professions predominately, and is all about academics, and other professional groups, whatever they may be, seeking to compete with the pay and prestige of financial, medical and legal expert knowledge. We are living in a society in which knowledge of all kinds is effectively 'financialised, 'medicalised' and 'legalised' by 'professionalised' groups.

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    Comment number 32.

    However, this lack of moderation, and engagement, especially within high education, carries dire social consequences - which the Tower of Babel helps to neatly explain. Many academics will say it's caused because they're not invited to do things by the media, or that people aren't interested in their views - and while this is often true, it's also often not really something they want to do, or are encouraged to do - to expose their ideas; despite exposure being another (more accurate) word for education.

    So ultimately, the 'public intellectual' is not asked to be on TV, or in the newspapers, but neither does he or she insist on being on the TV, or in the newspapers. They have become like hedgehogs - protective and reclusive. The academic is becoming like a journalist without a media outlet, an artist without expression, the story teller without a story, and a business person without an organisation, or enterprise.

    In sort, they do not have a real audience, or the means to establish an audience, or even the motivation to do so. They are tasked with writing an unreadable and uninteresting but challenging thesis to gain admission to the academy. In the case of the humanities or social sciences this consists of a great test of their patience, akin to being condemned to lonely plough a large field for nothing but hot air, year after year. This is done to wear them down, and prepare them for their future of doing this again, and again, and again - for a tiny, selected audience of individuals, who understand the jargon that is wholly necessary to master in order to properly join the academy.

    Harold Wilson was once asked to name his greatest success as Prime Minister. he answered simply: 'The Open University'. It has since become strangely and increasingly closed, despite at the lower-end the increase of university enrolments, and at the higher-end the increase of post-graduate studies. This is because as the enrolments have widened, so too has the lack of wider engagement and energy to open thing up, consequently, the gap between those with knowledge and those without knowledge has also widened.

    We have reached a point where we see 'effectively' transferring knowledge as to the detriment of the 'efficiency' of economic development. As despite this 'efficiency' - of business 'freed' from the obligations of social 'effectiveness' - evidently creating a 'Tower of Babel', reducing social cohesion - 'economically' it also appears to be 'efficient'. Emphasis on the 'appears', 'economically' and 'efficient', because it is not socially 'effective'. In other words, what is 'efficient' to sustain business, is rarely 'effective' for the bonds of community. We no longer see that there's a middle-way; it's business or community; it's 'efficiency' (measured targets, outcomes; hierarchies) or 'effectiveness' (planning, sustaining; closing ranks). You can't have both; it's one or the other.

    Economics has become lost and detached from sociology, and we're each encouraged to be individual economists, to help build up the 'Tower of Babel'.

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    Comment number 33.

    Ultimately, however, economics, or the economic development of efficiency gains - is dependent on economic growth, which is dependent on energy, and fossil fuels, which are no longer cheaply obtainable or sustainable, particularly for the hyper-mobile west, and it's much assumed and much advertised 'continuing' 'high' standard of living.

    The simple fact of reducing resources will destroy (and is currently destroying) the complex economic paradigm or superstructure we have been living through - not simply neoliberal economics and our late-modernity of 'individualism' and 'independent consumerism' but an entire epoch of historical development and growth. Indeed, the 'Industrial Revolution', and the 'Modernity' it has led to is better named the 'Fossil Fuels Revolution' and 'Oil-Modernity', because without fossil fuels and particularly oil, the system of production and consumption it rests on would not be possible.

    There's a massive shift that is going to occur, in the future, from a 'global-individual' age to a 'local-collective' age. At the moment we're in a moment of political paralysis and economic denial of our fate.

    It's 'The Last Days of Pompeii', but only because there is no honesty about where we are headed. There is no honesty because as, I said earlier, the Roman Historian Livy got human society nailed n when he said, in the approach to the collapse of the entire Roman edifice, the Roman people were caught like zombies as they stumbled through: "The dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor the remedies for them".


    More here...

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/2013-02-18/4517178.

  • Comment number 34.

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

  • rate this
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    Comment number 35.

    Adam Curtis makes it good to be alive.

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    Comment number 36.

    Well done AC, this is vital work.

    22 mentallo
    Try Robert Greenwald's DVD "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism."

    The Stewart Lee quote reminds me of one of the main parts of Charles Ferguson's Oscar-winning documentary "Inside Job."
    He strongly makes the point that economics academia itself is corrupt in high places and he was brave enough to face some of the so-called intellectuals to provide extremely embarrassing (for them) footage.
    Both may be found on YouTube.

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    Comment number 37.

    After all our combined contributions to the state, it appears we are spectators and never the actors in our little theatre. Has it ever been the reverse? I wonder if the demos have any real voice of influence to be heard when it comes to the policies that govern us collectively.

    The meaning sought out regarding policies through media interaction follows a format of pundits and experts that interpret stances, language and general moods of those who reveal policies.
    In the first paragraph Mr Curtis comments on that these elements of policy making are becoming or have been made invisible to us all in general; perhaps the medias use of graphs and tables to represent statistics are the only elements that enter public debate, and they ARE DEAD BORING. And it appears that statistics are ALL that are discussed ( if not the sleazy private lives of Ministers ). What about the concepts and ideas, "executive memes", that refine, evaluate and determine conceptions regarding the human condition and the re-imagining of our futures with longer-term goals and strategies. Are these too lofty, idealistic themes for political discourse in the public arena? Would David Dimbleby allow comments of this nature on Question Time? ( I have failed to watch for some time )

    Always with parentheses of derision and contempt from the opposition, speeches between Ministers are received and appear to be written by public relations spin doctors and aim more at casting positive/negative light on those in Office rather than an attempt at collaborative communication.
    As the Media covers these stories I am left wondering what use it has, other than maintaining an illusion that we have any ongoing contribution with the policy making other than the vote we cast that establishes a party in Office. Just spectators of the Punch and Judy Show.

    I am a admirer of Mr Curtis's films and find myself enthralled by the style and content of his collective works. Thanks for all the FIlms and continued efforts.

  • rate this
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    Comment number 38.

    Dear Adam Curtis, I wasn't able to find a way to email you, and so am left the hope this comment might be seen by you. I want to thank you for all the amazing journalism you've done, patterns you've revealed, secrets exposed, but more importantly, shown us all our humanity, and our beautiful fallibility. You're certainly a hero of our age sir, Thank You.

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    Comment number 39.

    @True-stories: I agree, there have been protests and there is widespread cynicism and grumbling, but in the UK the rebellious fire of the Thatcher years seems to be absent, either from the people or from the media's portrayal of the people.

    The media is not challenging the logic of 'austerity'. This is a cardinal sin. Productivity goes up every year, profits go up every year, industry becomes more hi-tech and efficient every year... yet the workers, benefits claimants and the disadvantaged have to accept a cut in living standards because of 'past profligacy' even though the majority of wealth was and is in the hands of an elite minority who are thoughtlessly absolved as 'wealth creators'. If Genghis Khan was alive today he would be considered a 'wealth creator' by mere virtue of the fact he owned an empire and employed people. The media doesn't look more deeply into the actual effects the super-rich have on society. Maybe they are not just wealth-creators; maybe they can also be greedy hoarders, tyrants and parasites.

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    Comment number 40.

    Adam is the first reference to Emile de Antonio I've come across outside of watching his interviews and movies on Youtube. Emile de Antonio was an extraordinarily brave and likeable man. I recommend taking the time out to learn his work which predates many of the people who first realised we are being conned by GovCorp.

 

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