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An interview with the documentary filmmaker Adam Curtis (economist.com)
229 points by mpweiher 70 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 123 comments



An anecdata on that topic.

I am working for a subsidiary of big company.

Six months ago, while other parts of the company were divested, the plan was to keep us. Evey internal communications from the top management were saying basically "we are proud to be a strong pillar of BigCo going forward"

Now, it seems the plan have changed and we are going to be divested as well. Now the same top managers have all the same discourse (literally copy paste): "This is a new chapter opening, we are all very excited, and this will open new opportunities".

I don't blame top management or internal communication, but really you cannot have two opposite strategies in six months, and in both case think that is the best thing since sliced bread because it is basically meaningless.

So, top management knows they are repeating the empty official party line, employees knows that it is essentially a smokescreen, but everyone pretends everything is planned and this is working as intended, and everything's going to be great. The reality is that no one as the slightest idea of what is going on. If you step back, this is actually quite comical.


Apropos of simply chatting around the topic, I always (well, for the last five years or so - took me many years to get to this point) say out loud in such meetings that if there's no budget for it, the company doesn't really care.

In the last year, after the powers-that-be said they believed in training, saying that out loud has won my team 5% of their time and some capital expenditure for training (works out to a little over a day every month that can be spent on the company dime explicitly reading, watching training materials or other such), and when those same powers said they believed in continuous improvement of the product, on the order of 15% of the team's time can now be booked to just that; working on things that don't provide new features or bugfixes for customers, but just make the software better in general. I was surprised at just how much it turned out that the company really did believe in continuous improvement of the product, when I challenged the powers-that-be to put their money where their mouth is; I am a little worried that if I hadn't opened my mouth, we wouldn't be doing it, but then I suppose that's why people like me are employed - to open our mouths.

I'm not sure know I would spend budget in support of "being proud to be part of BigCo going forwards", but I'd still ask for it and still say that if there wasn't any, it wasn't true. Money seems to sharpen the corporate mind very effectively and force people to actually confront the values they espouse.


If your in frontline management isn't that basically your job? To translate company goals to on the ground action?

I suppose its a little surprising to hear upper management is not spouting BS, but I now also wonder how much of that is frontline management simply not acting on the vision.


If your in frontline management isn't that basically your job? To translate company goals to on the ground action?

Surely that's everyone's job? To know and understand the company's goals and ensure that their actions are in support. I certainly try to ensure that everyone on my team (is "software team lead", one among many, considered frontline management? I honestly don't know where people draw the lines) knows what the bigger goals are, and I routinely push questions and comment about those goals back up.

I try to advocate that it is never wrong to pursue the company's goals, and demand from directors that people who come a cropper while, in good faith pursuing the direction that the directors have set, will not suffer for it. We are quite a small company so it's quite easy to badger directors to provide direction. Don't know how this would go in a larger company.


That’s an inspiring story. Awesome how you compelled them to put their money where there mouth is.


It’s equally frustrating to listen to them speak in person, going on and on about how enthusiastic they are and about our incredible growth potential, and knowing that every word is entirely disconnected from base reality or indeed anything that anyone in the room cares about. Then they fire a bunch of people, issue some stock buybacks, and quit.


> and quit

I can't stress enough how big of a factor this is in this whole thing. If they were forced to go down with the ship, this kind of nonsense would disappear very quickly by simple natural selection.

It's like with diseases: the more viral, the more lethal[0]. And to be clear: I am not accusing these people of being evil in their intentions. I am saying that the system itself is selecting for exploitation.

[0] https://www.ted.com/talks/paul_ewald_asks_can_we_domesticate...


Problem is, your average employee has no power to make a change to the rules. Maybe if there was a union involved. Typically though the people who abuse the rules and the people who make the rules are the same people.


Sounds right to me. All you can do is collect paychecks and find another pirate ship to climb aboard to repeat the process in hopes of continued/better gains.


Corporate communications get auto trashed in my inboxes. These emails are nothing more than propaganda. The only CCs that I’ve seen to be somewhat useful were Q&A sessions. I guess it’s harder to lie directly to someone face without the help an editor.

Sidenote: At least with PizzaCo’s daily email spam I get a $8 supreme pizza if I’m ever in the mood for some delivery style pies.


Sometimes I wonder if the cheerleaders really notice that they said exactly the opposite a few months ago. Some people seem to be wired to enthusiastically go with the flow without thinking too much about it. Maybe they really believe what they are saying?

You see the same in politics. Example: People strongly believe that deficits are destroying the country while the "other" side is in power. Then "their" side comes in, increases deficits and these people immediately forget what they thought about deficits before.

Maybe Orwell's "doublethink" in 1984 was just an observation, not fiction.


Iron Law of Oligarchies (...Institutions, Companies, etc.):

"...the people who control institutions care first and foremost about their power within the institution rather than the power of the institution itself. Thus, they would rather the institution "fail" while they remain in power within the institution than for the institution to "succeed" if that requires them to lose power within the institution."

http://www.tinyrevolution.com/mt/archives/001705.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_law_of_oligarchy


People think you need to be living under a cartoonish totalitarian dictatorship in order to be brainwashed. Liberal capitalist democracies have arguably figured out a more effective way.


Specifically this concept is known as 'inverted totalitarianism' for those Googling along at home.


Amen to that. I remember the first time I listened to Chris Hedges, with his weird round glasses, going on about this and thinking .... well, go read the wiki entry while you still can. It's good.


This is not a new phenomenon though. It has existed since liberal democracies formed. Think of the robber barons and yellow journalism in the 19th century.

If your society allows a minority of people to amass great power or wealth - whether through monarchy, fascism, socialist bureaucracy, or representative democracy and capitalist accumulation - you will find those people abusing their power.


I'm in the same situation and it's even more ridiculous since there are only weeks between "we want to grow to 5000 people (from several hundred)" but now they start with firing people.

I understand what they think they are doing. Replacing older people with young folks but the company has already a bad reputation for doing this in the recent decade. So...there will be no growth and the reputation will be even worse when they are done with the purge all this while those employees take away experience necessary to acquire new jobs or even direct client relations.

Mad corporate world.


They're taught to build narratives and stories because it sounds sincere and they think their employees are looking for assurance. In most cases they are probably right on both counts.

It is all bullshit of course, but if you want to earn you have to learn how the game is played.


We have always been at war with Eastasia.


The singular of (anec)data is surely (anec)datum.


One of the more unique insights here:

"Its downside is that it’s a static world. It doesn’t have any vision of the future because the way it works is by constantly monitoring what you did yesterday and the day before, and the day before that. And monitoring what I did yesterday and the day before and the day before that and doing the same to billions of other people. And then looking at patterns and then saying: “If you liked that, you’ll like this”."

"They’re constantly playing back to you the ghosts of your own behaviour. We live in a modern ghost story. We are haunted by our past behaviour played back to us through the machines in its comparison to millions of other people’s behaviour. We are guided and nudged and shaped by that."


The obvious counterpoint is that much of civilization has been stasis.

Also, the sum total of years in the post-surveillence world we now live in may be too small a sample-duration to conclude that it isn't subject to the same fluctuations of disruption that have occured throughout history.

Tldr: history teaches us that it's only a matter of time before shit goes bananas.


that made me think of one of the more unique 4k demos:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcMxdFo7RAc

(can't call this an intro, it's more of a demo than many demos)


Fans of Adam Curtis, particularly his characteristic use of 'historical collage' to create a compelling narrative, might be interested in the book trilogy 'U.S.A' by John Dos Passos. It's a great read.

A quote from Adam himself:

"The biggest influence I’ve ever had was actually a novel my father gave me to read at the age of about 13. It was a novel called USA by John Dos Passos. At that age, it just got me. You can trace back everything I do to that novel because it’s all about grand history, individual experience, their relationship. And also collages, quotes from newsreels, cinema, newspapers. And it’s about collage of history as well. That’s where I get it all from."*

*https://web.archive.org/web/20140116091402/http://filmcommen...


Wow, thanks for the recommendation...this interview is blowing me away. So much insight.


Adam Curtis is great. He's been making films for about 30 years and has a large fimography. Early in his career he's made some 20th century history documentary series, very recommended. Lately he's been making great films about contemporary phenomenon, I loved both of his last films, Bitter Lake (2015) and HyperNormalisation (2016). Highly recommended, especially the latter.


I've only seen "The Century Of The Self" and "The Power Of Nightmares". Both were great documentaries, of historic value IMO.

One can find them here [1]. Not only there, they're also available on Archive.org.

Dutch public broadcasting TV (NPO) has broadcasted various of his documentaries in the past, including with subtitles.

[1] https://thoughtmaybe.com/by/adam-curtis/


I love all the films I've seen by him, but I feel like Hypernormalisation was a cut above the rest. Adam Curtis feels like a continental philosopher (yes, I know he's British) making films instead of writing books and Hypernormalisation feels like his Magnum Opus. This interview is probably a great way to get the same in writing.


I feel similarly. I try not to stress this point, so that people don't ignore the rest of his filmography, which would be a great pity.


Great recommendations, just read the HyperNormalization excerpt and it is like world gamification and something that Nassim Taleb was writing with other words since Fooled by Randomness.


HN crowd should be all over "All watched over by machines of loving grace".


> “Everyone knew it was fake, but because no one had any alternative vision for a different kind of society, they just accepted this sense of total fakeness as normal.”

I don’t think there is a lack of vision out there, see the book Four Futures for example. In the case of the Soviet Union speaking out about things not working was a good way to get punished. Most of us have experienced the same thing in corporate america. Everyone around the cooler says “this is broke” one guy says as much and loses his head.

It seems we are just incapable now of agreeing to collective visions, which require compromise, and supporting each other in making that happen. Something has caused us to become incapable of compromise. Everyone is beaten down by the past century and no longer want to trust each other, or something like that.

Perhaps communication now is just too impossible to allow this to happen. It’s become seemingly much much easier to attack and divide people than bring them together. Hard to see how to change that without some really low level change happening.


"The problem I have with a lot of investigative journalism, is that they always say: “There should be more investigative journalism” and I think, “When you tell me that a lot of rich people aren't paying tax, I’m shocked but I’m not surprised because I know that. I don’t want to read another article that tells me that”. What I want is an article that tells me why, when I’m told that, nothing happens and nothing changes. And no one has ever explained that to me."

I think he is making a big mistake here. There are a lot of things we "already know" that aren't actually true or we don't know the extent. We should appreciate people who deliver data that we can then try to explain. there is already way too much opinion going around that has no data to back it up.


While that may be true about misinformation/underinformation, it still seems ultimately pointless if nothing is being done about it...


It seems that way but nothing should be done without hard facts.


> The opposite of stability is a politics of imagination. There is a yearning that there must be something more than the repetition we hear every day that “if you like this you’ll like that”. I think it’s coming but I take your point, you are right, there is fear of that. But the job of a good politician is to say, “Yes, I understand your fears but look, it’s not right and we can do better than this”. I’m waiting for a politician on the left to come along and say that. So far, I haven't seen one.

I'm very curious why he thinks Bernie Sanders doesn't qualify. Regardless of what you think of his political views, the political story he was selling fits this description to a T.

I suspect it's not that these politicians don't exist, it's that the rest of the political establishment also is afraid of them and cooperates to keep them out. Kind of like how managers never fire themselves.


Yanis Varoufakis - Either we end up with a Star Trek-like utopia where we harness technology and use its wealth-producing capacity for the common good, or we get The Matrix, a dystopia in which the miserable masses have their energy sucked out of them by unseen forces and are fed illusions to keep them quiet. Eventually even the elites will become servants to the machine



The constant railing against this vague concept of "the establishment" doesn't really help progress the discussion to limit the influence of the establishment either. It's essentially a strawman. I can't argue about the establishment because it means something different to everyone and varies depending on the circumstances.

I'd find it ridiculous to argue that Bernie's influence doesn't represent one part of the political establishment these days. Bernie has been a member of congress for how long now? He also ran a relatively successful campaign for the Democratic nomination and gained a lot more influence as a result.


> I'd find it ridiculous to argue that Bernie's influence doesn't represent one part of the political establishment these days

Emphasis "one part", and definitely not the national part of the democratic party with the top-down power to force things through. You have to think about, for the lack of a better term, the meta-politics here. And the irony is that the rest of the Democrats themselves did not see how they only disenfranchised a large chunk of their own voter base by rejecting what he had to say.


That's the thing about having such a large party though, it isn't just Establishment plus Bernie parts. There are a lot of overlapping parts consisting of many people who have legitimate interests and are willing to help.


He means that he's looking for a politician who is a partisan of the left but who does not play partisan politics.

So, as you say, someone like Bernie Sanders who is a social democrat (and therefore who by definition is someone a large swathe of the population loathes instinctively) but who is able to communicate to both the left and the right saying, “Yes, I understand your fears but look, it’s not right and we can do better than this”

I think it's a very tough ask. Inequality is breeding division and extremism, I don't see how one magic or special person can appeal to both sides of the aisle. In a way, nearly all politicians are like Macron fiddling while Paris burns.


Seen from Europe, Bernie Sanders is just a mainstream centre-left politician, he wasn't proposing anything particularly controversial.


Of course, but that is not the point. The point is that from the American point view his proposals were still something that they as a society could aim for, not something they already have.


Europe is already more socialized than any 'communist' could dream of.

Try sorting this table and see which continent floats to the top:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_reven...


That's quite a piece where he simultaneously laments the common sense that leadership is corrupt and everyone knows it, and at the same time dismissively mocks "liberal hysteria" over Russian election interference and their compromising of the president, which is literally the giant glowing core of executive branch corruption in this administration.


Russell Brand also interviewed Adam Curtis about this film also, on his podcast - https://www.podchaser.com/podcasts/under-the-skin-with-russe...


Just adding to the Adam Curtis podcast appearances - he was also on Chapo Trap House: https://soundcloud.com/chapo-trap-house/episode-65-no-future...


Good interview with Adam Curtis and comedian Tim Heidecker (yes, that Tim Heidecker from Tim and Eric) here, too: https://soundcloud.com/thetalkhouse/tim-heidecker-with-adam-...


This episode is great! One of my favorite podcast episodes, well, ever. Curtis' last monologue at the end is really something else - I find myself listening to it pretty regularly.


I wrote off Russell Brand at first, frankly probably because he’s a handsome, charismatic, successful man. But after listening to his stuff at length, I had to admit to myself that I liked him and respected him. I don’t agree with some of the stuff he says, but I respect his passion and intellect.


Completely agree, +1.


From the article, this is so incisive:

The problem I have with a lot of investigative journalism, is that they always say: “There should be more investigative journalism” and I think, “When you tell me that a lot of rich people aren't paying tax, I’m shocked but I’m not surprised because I know that. I don’t want to read another article that tells me that”. What I want is an article that tells me why, when I’m told that, nothing happens and nothing changes. And no one has ever explained that to me.


This is very insightful: "Every morning Donald Trump wakes up in the White House, he tweets something absolutely outrageous which he knows the liberals will get upset by, the liberals read his tweets and go “This is terrible, this is outrageous,” and then tell each other via social media how terrible it all is. It becomes a feedback loop in which they are locked together. In my mind, it’s like they’re together in a theatre watching a pantomime villain. The pantomime villain comes forward into the light, looks at them and says something terrible, and they go “Boo!!”. Meanwhile, outside the theatre, real power is carrying on but no one is really analysing it."


The President of the United States wields real power, full stop.

He is not an absolute monarch, and other powerful forces may have their own designs, but it's disingenuous to suggest the head of government in the world's largest economy and biggest military power is purely a sideshow to "real power" carrying on elsewhere.


The fact of wielding real power means very little in the face of impersonal structures and systems beyond anyone's (and this includes the president's) control. These systems often appear natural and wield powerful ideologies. This was discussed since the early 50s and continued into the studies of Althusser, Marcuse, Debord (Society of the Spectacle) and the like. They allege no sinister concrete plot, only awareness of the very real motions of a system abstracted away from any individual or group, and that includes any and every politician, CEO, etc.


> The fact of wielding real power means very little in the face of impersonal structures and systems beyond anyone's (and this includes the president's) control.

No, it doesn't. It means a lot, as is evident in the effect of Presidents on the actual behavior of government.

Yes, there are legal, bureaucraticd traditional constraints on Presidential power (but the Presidential power also extends to altering all of those things, though not arbitrarily and instantly.)


Sure, but point is maybe the tweets and trolling the media are the sideshow?


Does Trump do anything that he doesn't tweet about? It seems like as soon as he does anything, he has to pat himself on the back by yelling about it on Twitter.

So, genuine question - has this administration done anything that hasn't been widely publicized or discussed in the media?


Why is it disingenuous? Trump can barely make plans minute to minute, never mind day to day or year to year. If he wasn't insulated by his inherited wealth he'd either be a homeless bum or in jail.

When has Trump ever contributed to a detailed industrial or economic strategy for the US?

That's never been his job. His job has always been to be the dummy in the window display, while the shop behind him is sold off and looted.


> Why is it disingenuous? Trump can barely make plans minute to minute, never mind day to day or year to year. If he wasn't insulated by his inherited wealth he'd either be a homeless bum or in jail.

Quite the contrary, he has a unique talent for naming things and people for example that will get people to talk about for months or years. Think about his liberal use of expressions like fake news for instance. That seems to come to him naturally, not to mention his particular brand of original taglines and scornful epithets. Many of these words had an impact, in his election, in the first place, but also in the shaping of American politics.

The failure to recognize his talent is actually what hinders his opposition the most.

You may not like his unique form of marketing genius, but it's a creative force to be reckoned with. After all, this is a man who dubbed himself a stable genius, no less. Then you could say marketing BS is not a talent, or rather talk about creative destruction and fraud—but that wouldn't be very effective against it.

Believe it or not, naming is a field that supports added value. Some companies would pay good money for some of the gems he produced over the years. If Trump wasn't insulated by his inherited wealth he would probably do very well as a copywriter (short copy).


> Quite the contrary, he has a unique talent for naming things and people for example that will get people to talk about for months or years. Think about his liberal use of expressions like fake news for instance.

But he didn't introduce that term into wide discussion, his critics did to label the phenomenon closely resembling the m.o. of Russian state propaganda that was deployed in favor of Trump (which it is increasingly obvious resembled that because it largely was a Russian state propaganda effort.)

The practice of adopting and widely using such a term that has been deployed by critics to neutralize the criticism is not unique to Trump, it's a fairly standard, well-established reaction in politics.

While it's true the front business that is used to justify his wealth has been more about brand marketing than real estate, that doesn't mean he's a marketing genius. His real secret of success has been willingness to corruptly funnel money while cultivating a playboy image with a superficially plausible business front.


Like it or not, whoever holds the office of POTUS is extremely, extremely powerful, and Trump has massively influenced the U.S. economy.

> he'd either be a homeless bum or in jail

How could we possibly know this?

> When has Trump ever contributed to a detailed industrial or economic strategy for the US?

Trade with China. The rollback of NAFTA. The (attempted) undermining of the ACA. Tax reform. Etc. Etc. While he is not an absolute monarch, he appoints the cabinet members who oversee the expenditure of trillions of dollars, and government spending IS government policy. If he doesn't like what they do or views them as not implementing his will, he fires them (or insists on their resignation). See Rex Tillerson (State), Jeff Sessions (Justice), Tom Price (Agriculture) and various sub-cabinet level executive branch employees for further evidence.

> the shop behind him is sold off and looted.

Evidence?


The NAFTA rollback never actually happened. In the end, it’s still here and just slightly tweaked[0], and arguably should have been tweaked after 24 years.

WRT the cabinet, honestly, the people in it are not really any different from any other Republican administration. I may vehemently disagree with John Bolton, Jeff Sessions, and Scott Pruitt, but are these any different from GWB’s administration?

The real damage Trump has done, is the radical pronouncements and the destruction of perceptions. From a policy perspective, he hasn’t done really anything out of the normal, except implementing a white nationalist immigration policy. Well, that and personal grift.

[0] http://www.marketplace.org/2018/11/30/economy/whats-new-abou...


Yup. Yuval Harari calls it an "emotional puppet show" that doesn't produce any outcomes. https://youtu.be/v0sWeLZ8PXg?t=700


It's a shame, because it means nothing important is actually being done, so nothing is getting better. Everyone is too busy either making outrageous statements, or reacting to them.

It's the same in Australia. There have been 7 leaders in 10 years[1], so for the last 10 years the only thing that has happened in Australia is a whole bunch of arguing about who is in charge, a bunch of very expensive elections, and a bunch of very expensive struggles to swap leadership, and very expensive by elections to replace the people who decide to leave after their own party votes them out.

Nothing is actually getting any better.

[1] I like to say Australia has had more coups than Congo :)


> Nothing is actually getting any better.

This is an outrageously strong statement. Many of the things that have gotten better in history have benefitted from the state changing laws, but many many things improve without that. It’s important to remember that politics are only a component of society.

Just as important, when “nothing” doesn’t happen, you can also get laws that make things worse, such as the encryption backdoor legislation.


There is an esoteric/occult idea that if you want something to stick around, you oppose it directly. Something "bad" (and I'd call the willful ignorance and lowest common denominator style of the current White House bad) actually moves towards chaos and dissolution. Fight it, and you lock it into it's current orbital position. This is not right/wrong or good/bad, simply a kind of physics.


Furthermore, when people are shocked and go "what did he just say?! whatever will he say next??", that doesn't make his supporters defensive, it makes them proud. That is, proud of Trump pissing off the people they are sick of being ignored by. I don't mean to paint all Trump supporters with one brush, but I remember when he said stuff like how he could shoot someone in broad daylight and his supporters wouldn't mind... I was instantly reminded of things Hannah Arendt had written about the Nazis. I'm sorry to "Godwin it" like this, but it's important IMO:

> To them, violence, power, cruelty, were the supreme capacities of men who had definitely lost their place in the universe and were much too proud to long for a power theory that would safely bring them back and reintegrate them into the world. They were satisfied with blind partisanship in anything that respectable society had banned, regardless of theory or content, and they elevated cruelty to a major virtue because it contradicted society’s humanitarian and liberal hypocrisy.

-- Hannah Arendt

Ignore the cruelty and all that -- but having lost ones place in the universe? Check, I'd even say that applies to all of us in a way, and for some people it's very painful, unfair and demeaning. I think they're in parts correct to feel betrayed and angry; because it's not all "just the inevitable result of progress", or "how the world changed" -- without hustlers causing pain for personal gain we'd probably have even more progress, with nobody just outright left in the ditch. The trouble is when that turns into blind partisanship with something that makes "respectable" society turns its nose up, but doesn't actually solve those problems, even makes them worse.

And then society has literally no response for 2 years and counting than to turn its nose up some more, while sweeping under the rug how insane it was to let Clinton instead of Sanders run against Trump, without skipping a beat. Because hey, at least it's not being or supporting Trump, right? So while I don't know what will come after Trump, I know that if this continues, whatever comes next will be worse, simply because what is going on is more of what "caused Trump" if you will.


In terms of policy, and beliefs, Trump wasn't that far outside the Republican mainstream -- because of course his views are informed by the mainstream. He certainly wasn't the most capable or qualified among the Republican field to actually address anyone's grievances. He wasn't even the most extremist in his ideology. The only things he had going for him were his personal wealth and entertainment value.

So what "response" does society owe a group of people who seem to care more about having a voice for the contempt they feel towards modernity than actually having their issues addressed? Trump supporters can't have their cake and eat it too. They could have had a President who was strong on immigration and protectionism but who wasn't also a raving narcissistic blowhard. If you're going to argue that Trump supporters are correct to feel betrayed and angry, fair enough -- but the response of "society" to Trump and his supporters and their exclusionary response to that anger is not entirely unjustified, either.

It simply isn't true that "society" is composed of feckless elites incapable of self-awareness on one side (inevitably the side with all of the liberals, feminists, most immigrants, "city dwellers" and Democrats in it), and Trump supporters with their righteous indignation on the other. It isn't true that there has been literally no response to Trump other than "society turning up its nose even more", and it isn't true that the situation with Bernie has been swept under any rug, "without skipping a beat."

Unfortunately, it seems that your comment, while rightly denouncing blind partisanship, also falls prey to populist propaganda that encourages a blindly partisan view of society and its issues.


> So what "response" does society owe a group of people who seem to care more about having a voice for the contempt they feel towards modernity than actually having their issues addressed?

Well, it's not just their issues, and of course the response would be to address those issues. Also, like it or not, they also are part of society, misguided or evil or racist or not. So what does "not owing a response" mean, then?

> If you're going to argue that Trump supporters are correct to feel betrayed and angry, fair enough -- but the response of "society" to Trump and his supporters and their exclusionary response to that anger is not entirely unjustified, either.

There is a difference between having an opinion on and talking about the bad things someone else does while doing good things and/or preventing them from doing those bad things, and just talking and making memes. Rolling one's eyes may be "justified", but that's like saying the people who didn't support Trump don't have to be productive because the Trump supporters started it.

> It simply isn't true that "society" is composed of feckless elites incapable of self-awareness on one side (inevitably the side with all of the liberals, feminists, most immigrants, "city dwellers" and Democrats in it), and Trump supporters with their righteous indignation on the other.

Where did I state it like that? You acknowledge that it could be argued that some people are justified betrayed and angry, now you knock down this straw man, while saying I have fallen "prey" to populist propaganda.

So where does the correct feeling of having been betrayed fit in? I guess that just falls between the cracks, once again. Who wants to talk about that when you can scold me for a claim I never made, right?

If anything, I'd say there's righteous indignation about racism and sexism on one side, righteous indignation about let's call it oligarchic concerns on both sides, a total lack of self-awareness on both sides. But then you don't get to call me prey of blind partisan views so that doesn't work.

But one thing is sure, it wasn't Trump who fucked over Occupy. Republicans sure fought it, but I find it impossible to just pin it on them. Occupy was very easy to get itself to fuck itself over, and it's really high time to talk about why that is. We wouldn't even be talking about Bernie Sanders or Trump if Occupy had gone anywhere good, you know?

> It isn't true that there has been literally no response to Trump other than "society turning up its nose even more"

Can you give examples? And why did you start your comment with basically explaining how society owes them no response other than an exclusionary one, then?

> it isn't true that the situation with Bernie has been swept under any rug, "without skipping a beat."

The media and people in forums did not skip a beat at least from what I saw, for the most part it was just Trump with a bit of Hillary, no more Sanders after the election. If you disagree, I'd need examples of a beat being skipped and that actually getting any attention. (To not even speak of the claim that it has not been swept under ANY rug)

> Take, say, the Bernie Sanders campaign. Which I think is important, impressive, he is doing good and courageous things, he is organizing a lot of people. That campaign ought to be directed to sustaining a popular movement which will use the election as kind of an incentive, but then go on. And unfortunately it's not. When the election's over, the movement's gonna die. And that's a serious error.

> The only thing that's gonna ever bring about any meaningful change is ongoing, dedicated popular movements which don't pay attention to the election cycle. It's an extravaganza every four years; you have to be involved in it, so fine, we'll be involved in it. But then we go on. If that were done you could get major changes.

-- Noam Chomsky

But instead it's circus.

What "populist propaganda" did I fall prey to? Populist propanda by whom? Hannah Arendt? Noam Chomsky? Trump? What is the informational content of it, other than your own straw man about completely ignorant elites (which includes immigrants and women etc. apropos nothing of anything I was talking about, just to set the emotional stage some) on one side and righteous indignation on the other?


>Where did I state it like that? You acknowledge that it could be argued that some people are justified betrayed and angry, now you knock down this straw man, while saying I have fallen "prey" to populist propaganda.

And then society has literally no response for 2 years and counting than to turn its nose up some more, while sweeping under the rug how insane it was to let Clinton instead of Sanders run against Trump, without skipping a beat

Here, you claim that "society" has had no response to Trump's supporters, or their issues, other than to "turn its nose up some more." This implicitly defines two groups, "society" and "them", the latter being Trump supporters, and ascribes the quality to the former of an inability to respond to the latter with anything but a snobbish gesture of elitist contempt.

This is not a description of reality, this hyperbole and stereotype of a kind only invoked by Trump supporters before wallowing in their persecution complex and lecturing everyone else about why Trump's election is their fault.

And as an aside, it's odd how often Trump supporters seem to invoke their own chosen candidate's election in the pejorative like that. As if the only reason they voted for him was to punish society with his execrable presence.

>So where does the correct feeling of having been betrayed fit in? I guess that just falls between the cracks, once again. Who wants to talk about that when you can scold me for a claim I never made, right?

That's just it - plenty of people feel betrayed. Liberals and Democrats feel betrayed, but Trump supporters see them as the enemy. City dwellers and people who don't work in the steel mills and coal plants feel betrayed, but Trump supporters see them as part of the elitist establishment. Immigrants and the children of immigrants feel betrayed, but Trump supporters see them as the horde storming the walls of Rome, stealing their jobs and their culture.

>Can you give examples? And why did you start your comment with basically explaining how society owes them no response other than an exclusionary one, then?

I don't need to give examples to counter obvious hyperbole, and I never said society owes them no response other than an exclusionary one, I said society's response to their exclusionary ideals is justified.


> this is not a description of reality, this hyperbole and stereotype of a kind only invoked by Trump supporters

Oh, and something like "a group of people who seem to care more about having a voice for the contempt they feel towards modernity than actually having their issues addressed?" isn't hyperbole? Or saying Trump supporters see immigrants as the horde storming the walls of Rome, and so on?

And saying this kind of hyperbole is only invoked by Trump supporters (and I guess people who "fall prey" to their propaganda.... by having read Hannah Arendt and being reminded of something she said by an outrageous statement of Trump, without even being aware of anything any Trump supporter said about it, ever) isn't hyperbole, either. That's just sound logic, right?

> before wallowing in their persecution complex and lecturing everyone else about why Trump's election is their fault.

I actually asked you for examples of what you would consider a different reaction other than sweeping it under the rug. You talk a lot to not do that, while ignoring the rest.

> it's odd how often Trump supporters seem to invoke their own chosen candidate's election in the pejorative like that. As if the only reason they voted for him was to punish society with his execrable presence

Yeah, that was kind of the point of the Hannah Arendt quote. That's not "odd", you're just not thinking about it.

> That's just it - plenty of people feel betrayed.

Nah, that's not "just it", while that's all true:

> Liberals and Democrats feel betrayed, but Trump supporters see them as the enemy. City dwellers and people who don't work in the steel mills and coal plants feel betrayed, but Trump supporters see them as part of the elitist establishment. Immigrants and the children of immigrants feel betrayed, but Trump supporters see them as the horde storming the walls of Rome, stealing their jobs and their culture.

it's more importantly more bloat and emotional stage setting to avoid the question: Where does that some Trump voters correctly felt betrayed about some things, which you acknowledged, fit in? That was the question, and you just go on and on about anything but that, implying more of that "it's their fault they started it", while after mentioning "wallowing in their persecution complex" no less. I don't actually like reading stuff into stuff although I'm much better at it, but if I was so inclined, I would extrapolate from what you there, and what question it was a non-answer to, that because they see people with legitimate grievances as their enemy, it's fair game to do the same.

But I'm not American, I don't care who started what, I'm not talking about fairness, I'm not talking about who is "better", I'm talking what I see now, about who should act smarter than they do. I'm talking about people who consider themselves intellectuals, and intellectually honest.

> I don't need to give examples to counter obvious hyperbole

Oh, because it's "obvious", since you can simply get hung up on the word "literally" and call it a day?

You just say I ascribe an "inability to respond to the Trump supporters with anything but a snobbish gesture of elitist contempt", as if that was so laughable, you can't possibly be expected to give a counter example.

How would I prove the absence of something? You say there is no absence, not an inability but an ability -- so show me an example of that. Because I literally, actually literally, have no idea what you could mean. When I say that as far as I saw, it was swept under the rug, I'm not playing to an audience, I'm being honest.

> I never said society owes them no response other than an exclusionary one, I said society's response to their exclusionary ideals is justified

And the functional difference is what, exactly?

> So what "response" does society owe a group of people who seem to care more about having a voice for the contempt they feel towards modernity than actually having their issues addressed?

I replied "to address the issues that are real", while mentioning that it's hardly just "their" issues, but you ignored that, too.


This will probably be unpopular opinion but I found it striking how he feels the biggest problem with Trump is how liberals react to him, not the vast numbers of ignorant crypto racists the who put him in power and continue to support him.


> not the vast numbers of ignorant crypto racists the who put him in power and continue to support him.

That arguably is not a problem with Trump, but a problem with the reactionary nature of modern American politics, and the success with which the alt-right and white supremacist movements hijacked the anti-globalist sentiment behind Trump and resold it as being fundamentally about lower-class white struggle.


> That arguably is not a problem with Trump

It's absolutely a problem with Trump, since his Presidential run was designed specifically to exploit it (somewhat ironically, given that his stated reason for abandoning his first Presidential campaign, for the Reform Party nomination in 2000 was in part to avoid being associated with David Duke, who was competing for the same party’s nomination; Trump would in the 2016 campaign claim never to have heard of Duke after Duke endorsed him.)


He's saying the problem is that Trump doesn't have an effective political opposition.


Just the other day I was in downtown Seattle and there was a protest going on - which isn't a strange occurance - and as someone who is probably even further to the left than these protesters, I couldn't help but think that while I essentially agree with everything the protesters are saying, it is a real shame that these people are so bad at communication, unification, and even garnering any real enthusiasm about them. They're bad at their jobs.


That is no wonder to me. None of their outrage touches my heart anymore. To me its just screaming. I stopped listening. Which is probably very unfair, because everyone wants just to live a good life. People have some different ideas on how to achieve them. I did not expect such a divide.


Yet the opposition won the largest midterm house victory in decades. All that liberal outrage may have been useful. Conservative elites who laugh at the whole process will have us to thank when we finally take a much needed check against an outrageously corrupt and incompetent administration.


He is trolling them, and I find it hilarious, though it’s also about keeping himself in the spotlight. I suppose a narcissist.


There is no need for him to do any of that: the president of the United States is in the spotlight regardless.


He has been in office almost 2 years, and in headline news every, single, day.


> know very well that in 200 years the world > won’t look much like the world we’re living in now."

This will happen not because of AI or nuclear fusion reactors or space travel or lab-grown meat.

I love Curtis's documentaries and agree with the central thesis that the models/stories to describe the world leave us trapped and need to be switched for better ones, but I think he is underestimating the potential for Climate Destruction to force a reconfiguration.

Politicians have always been mountebanks surfing on the wave of change initiated by either physical realities or collective imaginings... they don't create new models, they just latch onto whatever seems opportune.


Based on his repeated mention of climate change in the interview, I wouldn't conclude that he is disregarding the possibility of climate change reconfiguring human civilization, rather, I'd venture that it is perhaps so obvious, that he failed to mention it?


I'm not sure. Although it is an excellent interview it feels like some follow-up would be good on a couple of points, one of them being whether he believes that climate destruction is going to leave anything resembling a civilization behind. There is a slight suggestion that he believes that liberal pessimism is ignoring some wonderful new opportunities inherent in the complete destruction of a stable, predictable climate.

Also he completely ignores that the Corbyn manifesto and recent speaking tours have emphasized that a reshaping of the UK economy to emphasize green jobs in a low-growth, post-Brexit world is exactly the sort of inspiring leadership which claims is lacking.

I suspect he just does not want to look at what the left of the Labour Party is proposing.


I'm a huge Curtis fan and have seen and read just about everything he has done, even his early appearances with talking dogs on That's Life! https://youtu.be/ajsCY8SjJ1Y

I flew to NY to see Massive Attack vs Adam Curtis in 2014 and it was probably the best live event I've seen this century so far https://youtu.be/25g6ShHtzWo

Excited to hear Curtis is back in action and doing more films, presumably still for the BBC where he seems to be a lifer.

I thought this was a great, thought provoking interview. He did tackle the darker side of banking he briefly discusses in relation to UK economic austerity in this short Newswipe piece 'oh dearism' https://youtu.be/3UstNBrmJFc

An interesting aside though - before Hypernormalization Curtis literally disappeared online for about 14 months - no news stories or Google alerts and quite a few links about him disappeared. Glad he's back and looking forward to seeing the new material.


"If you take climate change, which is a serious issue, it’s been co-opted by pessimistic baby-boomers and turned into a dark nightmarish scenario, rather than saying that we need to restructure power and resources in a way that could make the world a better place. That would have been a really good way to deal with climate change. Instead, it got possessed by a dystopia which I think reflects that generation’s fear of mortality because they can’t see anything going on beyond their own death."

Ultimately this is true, we preach dystopia because we cannot see beyond our lack of power (ability, influence), our fear of instability, fear of death. We cannot even begin to imagine what such restructuring would look like.

All the while the dystopia is steadily becoming reality.

And that's the hard part, and imagination, especially political imagination, and very especially progressive political imagination should be the antidote. Less static, and less managerial. Let's feedback management.

I guess he is right that dystopianism and right-wing populism (racism and so on) are governed by (the same kind of) fear and anger.

This interview certainly gave me things to think about.


This. I think if we, as a species, wanna survive the next two generations we need a more radical approach to fix climate change. It should be ranked as the #1 issue to resolve, quasi the "ultimate goal". And this, my fellow HNers, won't happen by pointing fingers or call out people.

The political establishment as we know it has to go. We _ALL_ have to pull in the same direction and have to put common interests above individual wealth and greed. I'm not at all left but I can't tolerate that big corporations are getting a tax cut or even cheat the tax system while the little man has to pay their fair share. I have seen how much money goes down the drain every year with authorities (eg. Pentagon) don't even know what they are spending it on. All this has to stop. We need common sense here: take $ out of politics (make senators can only be elected for 2 terms max), stop fighting wars overseas, address climate change where people don't wanna see it (ie. Superbowl half time show, Sunday television, etc), change our perfectly trimmed backyards into mini farms, completely stop relying on fossil fuels, replace plastics wherever possible (eg. food industry could leverage technologies based on corn starch), and much more.

And all begins with you!

Unfortunately a Trump or even Sanders won't help us here either. We need to skip the forward thinking by at least 20 to 50 years or the planet will be in jeopardy.

(Disclaimer: Granted, it's not always easy to hear the truth about what's wrong with the world. But the sooner we start rolling up our sleeves and cleaning up the mess the sooner we will be getting ROI, ie. clean water, clean air, progress in healthcare, just to name a few).


> If you take climate change, which is a serious issue, it’s been co-opted by pessimistic baby-boomers and turned into a dark nightmarish scenario

I hear this much more from millenials than baby-boomers. If anything baby-boomers are pretty laissez-faire about the whole thing which only feeds further into the millenial distrust.


> “ ... it’s been co-opted by pessimistic baby-boomers and turned into a dark nightmarish scenario ... “

Similarly, this is how Christianity's public image was killed in the West.


Can you explain what you mean by this? Priests raping kids did it for me with Catholiscm....and people like Blair and Bush murdering people en masse to serve their fairy overlord sealed the deal for protestantism. Not sure how this ties in?


It's certainly multifaceted. I could write a pretty substantial article on this topic.

My comment was mostly alluding to the unsupported imagery of a fire and brimstone pit of eternal torment for all non-believers. There's also excessive pessimism about the implications of Christian values not being mandated by legislature (ex: abortion).

For your concerns, I would attribute those to the collapse and corruption of internal governance systems. Without much exposition, churches do a pretty terrible job of ensuring their leaders are moral and capable of conveying responsible interpretations of doctrine. Again this is more or less due to fatalism. EG: "Humans are inherently sinful, therefore there's nothing we can do about awful leaders"

If anyone is actually interested in a related article, send me an email. I'll assume that, if a few people spend the effort to send me an email, it will be worth the effort to synthesize a responsible article.


The is an excellent 3 min deconstruction of Adam Curtis' work on YouTube [1]

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1bX3F7uTrg


A great article. This is pretty much summarises everything I an raging about on HN. Every citizen of a self respecting nation has a personal responsibility to fight wrongs, and be sensible and rational in how he treats others.

Western society has become greatly desensitised to idiocy and wrongs.

Today's popular culture celebrates the "war on reason." We should reject and destroy it.


> Every citizen of a self respecting nation has a personal responsibility to fight wrongs, and be sensible and rational in how he treats others.

I think everybody already does so. But right and wrong are very subjective things and this fighting the wrongs is contributing a lot to the global mess.


>But right and wrong are very subjective things

is "the earth is flat" a subjective wrong ? is "climate changes unless you change" a subjective wrong ? is "poverty" a subjective wrong ? is "education is important" a subjective right ? is "rules of law" a subjective wrong ? is "same gender, same pay" a subjective right ?


is "the earth is flat" a subjective wrong?

No.

is "climate changes unless you change" a subjective wrong?

Yes. Define "change". Also, climate changes without individual change. Also, individual change isn't going to impact climate change.

is "poverty" a subjective wrong?

Do you mean the source of poverty or how to deal with it? Either way, yes both of those are subjective.

is "education is important" a subjective right?

Yes, this is subjective. Many people have massive student debt and education that doesn't offer them any sort value in the employment marketplace.

is "rules of law" a subjective wrong?

Yes, how it's carried out very much so.

is "same gender, same pay" a subjective right?

Yes, because a lot of people would say we've already achieved that in the west and a lot of people feel the opposite.

I think you've picked some of the most subjective issues of modern times as your examples of things that are objective in nature.


>individual change isn't going to impact climate change.

Each individual not changing is not going to help either. Inaction makes it worse.

> Do you mean the source of poverty or how to deal with it? No, I mean "poverty is a bad thing and we should work to eradicate it". As for 'how to deal with it', it's a polical choice.

>"education is important" Yes it is. Both for basics (democracy, "being able to make an 'educated' choice when I vote", ) and "AI is coming to get you"

>people have massive student debt This is mostly a US problem, no ? The world is bigger. (see https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=9656905 )

>education that doesn't offer them any sort value in the employment marketplace. But at the same time, the "learn to code in 30 days" business is booming, because there are jobs there. And education is used at least as a proxy when hiring.

>is "rules of law" a subjective wrong? Business can only prosper if rules of law is enforced. So I see "rules of law" as an objective 'right'. "How" is the essence of "rules of law".

>I think you've picked some of the most subjective issues of modern times as your examples of things that are objective in nature.

Actually, I voluntarily selected the ones where it makes people uncomfortable to acknowledge they are on the wrong side of the "right and wrong", to illustrate what I see as the parent point "every citizen of a self respecting nation has a personal responsibility to fight wrongs".


You picked a bunch of partisan issues then claimed your side is "right" and the other side is "wrong". I'm not even commenting on what's right or wrong, I'm just saying it's subjective.


Thank you, I think I understand your point about subjectivity now.

I have another question, if you can: can you comment on what is right and what is wrong in absolute, if anything is ?


I think you can be correct or incorrect about facts (such as the earth being round) but that human society is too complex and there are too many individual and conflicting desires to say that there's a one dimensional scale of good->bad that you can judge it on.

Take that remote island tribe that recently murdered a Christian missionary. Was it good or bad that he went there? Was it good or bad that they killed him? Is it good or bad that anthropologists are trying to keep them isolated? Is it good or bad that they want to stay isolated?

I don't think those questions can be answered. Society is an emergent behavior built up from individual wants, desires and compromises. There's stability and instability at a macro level but I don't think there's good or bad. There's just different.

It strikes me that a lot of modern political thought has embraced pieces of post-modernism but at some level has almost reverted to fundamentalism. "Good" vs. "evil" doesn't sound like the options we should be discussing in a post-religious society.


>[list of good or bad question about what happened in North Sentinel Island ] > I don't think those questions can be answered

I don't understand why not. More exactly, if we decide that there is nothing "right" or "wrong", just "dimensions and scales and we can't decide without offensing someone", isn't that a bleak state of mind (and of society) ?

>"Good" vs. "evil" doesn't sound like the options we should be discussing in a post-religious society.

So only religion can define "good" and "evil" ?

Not society as a whole ? or the law - would you agree that the law is just a slowly written process to write down the current state of mind of a society ?

What about "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" ? Also just an opinion ? or it's a "religious"-like text and therefore we can talk about "right" and wrong ?


> I don't understand why not. More exactly, if we decide that there is nothing "right" or "wrong", just "dimensions and scales and we can't decide without offensing someone", isn't that a bleak state of mind (and of society) ?

Not at all! You can have your own personal moral code that you live by. It's also not about not "offending someone". It's just acknowledging that people have different perspectives and that even if you believe 100% in something, there's someone out there that won't agree with you and their lived experiences will justify that position for them.

> So only religion can define "good" and "evil" ?

I'd say yes as those are religious concepts. You can have non-religious empathy that compels you to not "hurt" other people but I wouldn't say there's an objective "good" or "evil".

> What about "Universal Declaration of Human Rights" ? Also just an opinion ? or it's a "religious"-like text and therefore we can talk about "right" and wrong ?

I would say this is a religious like text. It just so happens that many people agree with it. Back to logical facts though, if one posits that there is no higher power then it's definitely a fact that society has been built up from individuals imperfectly communicating over time and not some objective truth.


I think you are misunderstanding the meaning of subjective.

"the earth is flat" let's say this is clearly wrong for you and me, is it wrong for the guy who wants to launch a rocket to prove it's right (there were news about him few weeks ago)? So while his views are wrong from the viewpoint of the majority, they are right from his own viewpoint.

Same for the rest of your examples.


to me, subjective: a thing/a thought based on or influenced by personal feelings, tastes, or opinions.

The parent was saying "personal responsibility to fight wrongs": to me, it means some people are wrong (as in they believe something that is wrong, even, if of course, they think they are right). But it is just wrong, not subjectively wrong.

And it is my duty to do something about it (either convince, educate, or even censor,...).

So I guess you are right, I don't understand your point about "But right and wrong are very subjective things and this fighting the wrongs is contributing a lot to the global mess." Because the way I read you is "stop trying to 'fight' the wrong, and the mess will be less".


Yes, they are, mostly, when you dig into the details below the platitudes.


if you can elaborate, I'm interested.


Reason without memory and facts is used every day to promote idiocy and wrongs. It's a long read, but one of my favourite books:

VOLTAIRE’S BASTARDS: THE DICTATORSHIP OF REASON IN THE WEST http://www.johnralstonsaul.com/non-fiction-books/voltaires_b...


Adam Curtis is amazing. If you don't know his work, I would highly recommend checking it out [0].

[0] https://thoughtmaybe.com/by/adam-curtis/


The director states:

>"With the rise of that hyper-individualism in society, politics got screwed. That sense of being part of a movement that could challenge power and change the world began to die away and was replaced by a technocratic management system."

I understand that in the US, election campaigns are data-driven but beyond that are either of the two major political parties platforms managed and/or guided by a "technocratic management system"?


Love Adam Curtis's work but he is completely wrong about a lack of story/vision being presented by current leaders: under Jeremy Corbyn the Labour Party is poised to present a complete re-envisioning of manufacturing and employment, based upon a Left-exit from the European Union: something anathema to majority of "educated thinkers" in the U.K. https://novaramedia.com/2018/06/24/financial-globalisation-h...


Why was the title changed? Will all interviews be changed like this?


This is very interesting, and Curtis has a lot of great insights, but it seems like moves from accurate insight to hyperbolic and emotional conclusion many times during the interview.

For example:

"No one is really sure what Trump represents. My working theory is that he’s part of the pantomime-isation of politics. Every morning Donald Trump wakes up in the White House, he tweets something absolutely outrageous which he knows the liberals will get upset by, the liberals read his tweets and go “This is terrible, this is outrageous,” and then tell each other via social media how terrible it all is. It becomes a feedback loop in which they are locked together. In my mind, it’s like they’re together in a theatre watching a pantomime villain. The pantomime villain comes forward into the light, looks at them and says something terrible, and they go “Boo!!”. Meanwhile, outside the theatre, real power is carrying on but no one is really analysing it."

I think this is a great insight, and it's true: but is "no one" paying attention to any other news? Surely many organizations are provably doing so every day. Why don't they count as "someone?" Presumably because they don't fit Curtis' definition of the cultural mainstream. But, Curtis (at least in the interview) never defines the cultural mainstream. What is inside it, what is outside it, and why? Would two individuals define the cultural mainstream the same way? What if my cultural mainstream does include people who are "analyzing the real power?" It seems that the conclusion based on his insight is meant to be emotionally powerful and impactful, except that anyone should be able to think of counterexamples.

He makes this mistake the whole article. Here's another extraordinarily brilliant insight: (I'm not being sarcastic here, I think this is genius and he's really onto something)

"I think the old mass democracies sort of died in the early 90s and have been replaced by a system that manages us as individuals. Because the fundamental problem is that politicians can’t manage individuals, they need us to join parties and support them and let them represent us as a group identified with them. What modern management systems worked out, especially when computer networks came into being, was that you could actually manage people as groups by using data to understand how they were behaving in the mass, but you could create a system that allowed them to keep on thinking that they were individuals."

He expands on this idea, adding more insight and precision until finally stumbles into this:

"They’re constantly playing back to you the ghosts of your own behaviour. We live in a modern ghost story. We are haunted by our past behaviour played back to us through the machines in its comparison to millions of other people’s behaviour. We are guided and nudged and shaped by that. It’s benign in a way and it’s an alternative to the old kind of politics. But it locks us into a static world because it’s always looking to the past. It can never imagine something new."

I can't possibly see how this can be true. Creativity is dead? We can't imagine new things because facebook (or the internet, or modern media) exists? I'm being a bit dismissive here, but I don't see how he can support this claim. People are coming up with new ideas all the time.

Again, his insight about how the internet and algorithms allow systems to cater to and control individuals was genius. But, the conclusion he draws from that insight is deeply emotional, catastrophic, and not very well constructed. It sounds like the sort of emotional mistake someone might make in therapy: "I'll never find another girlfriend again," or "I'll always be socially unpopular," etc.


Yeah hes a good public speaker and story weaver. Its 'exciting' to listen to his words, even though the subject matter may be bleak. He has a flare for the dramatic and that sells.


> Surely many organizations are provably doing so every day. Why don't they count as "someone?" Presumably because they don't fit Curtis' definition of the cultural mainstream. But, Curtis (at least in the interview) never defines the cultural mainstream. What is inside it, what is outside it, and why?

As I understood it, the mainstream is the relevant/influential part of the society. Surely somebody is paying attention to most of the things as they are easy accessible these days but to what outcome?

> I can't possibly see how this can be true. Creativity is dead? We can't imagine new things because facebook (or the internet, or modern media) exists? I'm being a bit dismissive here, but I don't see how he can support this claim. People are coming up with new ideas all the time.

Are they really? I mean on one hand he's talking about visionary developments of systems (political, economical, etc.) but I don't see anything substantial there. We had a really great opportunity for it when the whole post-crisis occupy thing was going on but it seems like it used all the energy on self organizing or discussions about how discussions should run (seen it happen actually in the Frankfurt camp in Germany). Right now we're back at "holding it together when mad man are breaking it with stupidity" (which they probably do). Meanwhile the deep left groups where you'd expect is still re-dreaming dead concepts that did not work out in the past already. This is where they meet the alt right, where nothing is really "alt" about them.

Now you're talking about Social Media, what is the new thing there? Todays meme? Which is also based upon some past joke. Then we have the world of products. What is there actually new? The newest robot doing the stuff we did before? The new version of the old machine we had but now with a screen and the ability to talk? The new phone that has a notch now? Or is it maybe the new food, which is actually the old food grown the old way because back then everything was better. This is the world of the general public. My world. Maybe your world too and I don't see it.

When I went to Japan, I was confronted with a product palette that was immense. The famous Kit-Kat portfolio for example. The electronic toys, etc. I went in the mall there an it got a sudden backflash of me going into an ALDI when I came to Germany from Poland at the end of the 80s and suddenly I wonder: is this maybe just a shift. Is there really new stuff out there if you are Japanese in Japan?

My personal hope for an idea we can all start dreaming of and working upon is space. I really hope that people like Musk and nations investing into this widely open area of ideas may give us some perspective.


It is good to note that they passed over Ayn Rand. Many Americans are surprised when I tell them that so much of Ayn Rand's maxims are a direct copy and paste from different communist manifestos.

Maligned societies look much like each others once you scrape off their ideological facades.

Best quote:

> I often think that one of the reasons why there is so much pessimism around, especially among the baby-boomer generation, is that they cannot face the terrible fact of their own mortality. So what they have to do is project that onto the whole planet.


Honestly, I thought this was the weakest point of an otherwise very interesting interview.

Where is the evidence that it is the baby boomers who are viewing climate change in dystopian terms? For most of their lives it has been a bad thing in the future. The current young are the first generation growing up with evidence of it happening and knowledge that they’ll be around to experience the downsides.

I see much more concern about climate change from younger people. Maybe Adam Curtis would just say the baby boomers are more fatalistic about it.


Which maxims are those? It doesn't help to ccompare societies on the basis of rhetoric (appearance) rather than logic (essence), so I'm skeptical of your point.


Then it will be her maxims like "family is legalized prostitution" (literally, the same quote from either Lenin or Trotsky and her,) statement on "setting man free from men" and on and on and on with her equating any social process to material/financial interaction. No wonder, some reasonably suggest that she might have been an actual cryptocommunist as the "objectivism" she birthed is strikingly similar to whatever rationalisations communist regimes around the world made for their existence.

The biggest selling point that second world country regimes had for the masses was the material abundance out of nowhere, second to "liberation" of common men from moral norms and duties.

Back in twenties, the unwashed masses did genuinely believe that they are instating the communist system for their own rational self interest


Well, a good one to begin with is: "whose don't work, don't deserve to eat" a line common to many on that political axis

Second to that is to "judge everybody on its own worth" – just add some imagination to see how different definitions of "worthlessness" been thrown left and right in totalitarian states.

In the end, the meat under the sauce is the same.


http://laissez-fairerepublic.com/tenplanks.html

here they are. Which ones are you referring to??


A lot of his points are echoes of what the economist Mark Blyth uses to point out the lack of narratives in politics of today. While it is true that people do respond to narratives, it's questionable how far that goes. Both brexiters and Trump offered narratives (of some vision of britain and an american economic rennaissance) , and it did work. Yet the majorities were feeble, not overwhelming (especially considering the lack of narrative on the other sides). Even trump could not motivate the US today to go on another space race like in the 60s. It is thus possible that democracies have transformed away from the collectivist spirit irrevocably. Indivudualism has been on the rise since forever, and (apart from an alien invasion) there doesnt seem to be any major forces countering it. Today's collectivist politics are either identitarian (the easy solution / instead of endless politics, vote by color) or mildly globalist, like climate change politics. While both have fierce supporters and detractors, the main mass of voters says "meh" to both.

Then again, even the mega monolith called China will not be able to control its well-trained citizenry when the hypergrowth stops. Despite remarkable progress and optimism, the chinese don't seem to be going for "space races", instead those megaprojects appear to be more driven by personal ambition of their leader. Maybe bowling alone is the future of politics, more personalized, individualized and decentralized societies. The republics of large narratives may already belong to history and maybe we should stop expecting the "return of religions".




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