Documentary filmmaker, Adam Curtis, is famed for his documentaries investigating the media, history, politics and society. Curtis had examined the simultaneous rise of both Neo-Conservatism and Radical Islam in “The Power Of Nightmares,” filmed in 2004. He had investigated consumer culture, psychology and advertising in the modern era with “Century of the Self,” in 2002. And with his latest short film, “The Rise of ‘Oh-Dearism’,” he has chosen to focus on the mass media and how governments use conflicting information to keep people in a persistent state of confusion about the true state of real-world events. I agree enough with his main premise to recommend his documentaries to others, but I am not a fan of the assumptions that Curtis is fond of making. That being said, I would like to point these out as I explain his newest documentary; I believe that I owe you, the reader, this small amount of critical thinking at the very least.
“So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing and above all, confusing: to which the only response is, ‘Oh Dear.’” Curtis began. He had proposed that this pessimistic, depressed train of thought is exactly what those in power want us to be in.
He begins with Russia, where Putin’s PR team had apparently attempted to confuse the general public about reality by supporting everyone. This includes people from far-right groups as well as liberal progressives. They had even shown support for those who opposed Putin himself. This is known as cognitive dissonance, or confusion arising from having conflicting beliefs and ideas, a technique that is intentionally manufactured by those in power to better control and manipulate people.
This perception of Russia is perhaps the most commonly purveyed by Western media, though I would point out that this is the only country that had dared to house Snowden from the inevitable fate that had befallen Bradley Manning; protecting him from a “free” country where potential threats to the “national security” always outweigh the very real atrocities that its elites purvey.
Next, Curtis questions whether we in the West are also being played by our governments to keep us in a state of constant confusion, which makes dissent almost impossible. Curtis focuses on Britain, but his arguments could as easily apply to those of us living in the US, Canada and Australia.
“Everything we’re told by journalists and politicians is confusing and contradictory. Troops have come home from Afghanistan, but nobody seems to know whether it was a victory or a defeat. In Syria, we are told that President Assad is the evil enemy, but then his enemies (ISIS) turn out to be even more evil than him. So we bomb them, and by doing that we keep Assad in power.” Interestingly, all of that bombing has not affected ISIS much at all. Curtis does, ironically, follow the mainstream narrative rather closely for a person that proposes that its primary purpose is to confuse.
“Aging disk jockeys are prosecuted for crimes committed decades ago, while practically no one in the city of London is prosecuted for the endless financial crimes that are being revealed there.” I would note here that Curtis takes a very…. BBC view of the matter; the disc jockeys in question are former BBC employees, Chris Denning and Jimmy Savile. Jimmy Savile, in particular, was allegedly being protected by the BBC and his actions were well known to BBC employees. After all, pedophilia is no small matter, particularly when a thousand victims may have been involved. Surely there were more pertinent distractions that could have been referenced. Pedophilia or corruption seems to be the choice being offered, when neither should be palatable to a normal human being. Curtis does have good reason to shrug off such matters, as I observe later.
Curtis then critiques the lies that are told about the economy, where anybody living in the West could also find common ground. He points out that George Osborn claims that the economy is growing, while wages are simultaneously being suppressed. Osborn claims to be cutting the deficit, but it is later revealed that the deficit is rising. Curtis concludes that “Quantitative Easing” is the core problem that we are being distracted and confused from; indeed, austerity cuts away at the common person’s livelihood while QE pumps even greater sums of money into the hands of the very wealthiest 5%, with the Bank of England claiming that that was not their intent… sure, the biggest theft of middle-income wealth thrown into the laps of the 5% was an accident. Sounds about right.
This clip is important for those feeling confused about the news but are not skeptical enough to look elsewhere; I must point out that his documentaries are hosted by the BBC and that the knowledge he is sharing is hardly new. The BBC propagating views that conclude that the media (dominated by the BBC) is lying, seems to be the very essence of “cognitive dissonance” that he is pointing out when he had described Russia. BBCeption indeed.
Although I do agree with much that Adam Curtis has to say, this does not make everything he says truthful. And while his documentary might wake many up to the injustice around us (Bankers stealing from the middle class), it certainly requires us to accept the very assumptions that he claims to be combating: Russia = evil, Assad = evil, BBC pedophilia = non-issue. The advent of the establishment of “alternative media” is perhaps the most effective manner of affecting opinions. I think it is wise to remember that the very premise of alternative media is to stand independent from the establishment media, to call them out when they lie, or at the least offer an alternative take on an issue. Otherwise, it would make little difference if we were watching Curtis or a BBC presenter; while BBC presenters provide valid information, it is the opinions and interpretations of fact that they choose to present that you should be wary of.
A playlist of all of Adam Curtis’ documentaries can be found here.