Adam Curtis Quotes

Nobody trusts anyone in authority today. It is one of the main features of our age. Wherever you look, there are lying politicians, crooked bankers, corrupt police officers, cheating journalists and double-dealing media barons, sinister children’s entertainers, rotten and greedy energy companies, and out-of-control security services.
Things come and go in the news cycle like waves of fever.
In our age of individualism, we see computers as ways through which we can express our individuality. But the truth is that the computers are really good at spotting the very opposite. The computers can see how similar we are, and they then have the ability to agglomerate us together into groups that have the same behaviours.
Sometimes history repeats itself. And sometimes it doesn’t.
Documentaries shouldn’t just reflect the world: they should try and explain why reality is like it is.
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.
We live in a time when all elites, whether on the left or the right, believe in rigid rules that say there is no alternative to the present political and economic system.
James Goldsmith is important because he used the power of the markets to break up the cosy patrician elite that ran Britain and its industries in the 1950s and ’60s. In the process, Goldsmith helped transfer power in this country away from politics and towards the markets and the financial sector.
Both individuals and societies tell themselves stories to simplify and make sense of the messy chaos of reality.
I have always wanted to make a series of films which would be like an ’emotional history’ that conveys what it feels like to live through history as an experience rather than a grand story. It would be about the relationship between the tiny fragments and moments of personal experience, and the continual backdrop of big events.
Events keep happening that seem inexplicable and out of control. Donald Trump, Brexit, the War in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, random bomb attacks.
Al-Qaida became the new Soviet Union, and in the process, Bin Laden became a demonic, terrifyingly powerful figure brooding in a cave while he controlled and directed the al-Qaida network throughout the world. In this way, a serious but manageable terrorist threat became grossly exaggerated.
There is a lurking sense that there is a kind of seedy corruption underlying a lot of public life today. But while journalism does a very good job of describing that corruption, it is failing to bring it into a bigger focus. To explain what it is all about.
I have always been fascinated by the way music can completely change the way you watch film – and how you feel as you watch the images.
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.
In the early 1970s in Washington, a small group of young conservative activists came together to try and change American politics. They called themselves the New Right, and they were convinced that unless they did something drastic, the liberals and the left-wingers in America were going to take over the country.
A conveyor belt of Think Tank pundits and allied operatives poured into the TV studios, and together they built a fortress around Mrs. Thatcher’s memory that was rooted in theories about economics. They did this because economics is the only language that wonks understand.
As well as our relationship with Afghanistan, I am researching the legacy of other European empires – in Africa. We think of those empires as history, but actually, they still haunt our everyday lives in the strangest of ways.
Together, the western elites and Gaddafi helped to lead us into a simplistic two-dimensional vision of the world – full of exaggerations and falsehoods. A fake bubble of certainty that has imprisoned us in the West – and is now preventing us from understanding what is really going on in the world outside.
Everyone goes on holiday in Britain. Even Hell’s Angels.
In many cruise ships, there are hundreds of workers from some of the poorest countries on earth who are paid minute amounts of actual wages – sometimes less than two dollars a day – to attend to the passengers’ needs.
When communism collapsed in 1989, the big story that had been hardwired into citizens of western countries – that of the global battle against a distant dark and evil force – came to an abrupt end.
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.
The latest rule is: you cannot have protectionism – otherwise you will get a world war. Other rules say you cannot have collective ideas that involve the surrender of the individual to the group – otherwise, you get totalitarianism or, even worse, religion.
Tony Blair believed in a consumerist idea of democracy.
When you bring God into politics, very strange things happen.
BP is accused of destroying the wildlife and coastline of America, but if you look back into history, you find that BP did something even worse to America. They gave the world Ayatollah Khomeini.
Tyler Kent himself is weird and mesmerising – but still unrepentantly anti-Semitic.
Of course there are many factors that led to the Iranian revolution, but back in 1951, the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – which would later become BP – and its principal owner, the British government, conspired to destroy democracy and install a western-controlled regime in Iran.
Tyler Kent was a horrible man. He was a rabid anti-communist who believed that the Jews had been behind the Russian Revolution.
Fred Hoyle was one of the first scientists to become famous on television and radio. It was because he told a dramatic story about the universe – about how amazing it is and the extraordinary discoveries that astronomers like him were making.
I have always thought that pandas, in evolutionary terms, are the most sophisticated animals in the world. They cannot look after themselves; they are useless at reproducing. But to compensate, they have managed to persuade the most advanced creatures on the planet – human beings – to care for their every need.
At the end of the nineteenth century, a fanatical craze for physical fitness swept through Britain. Millions of men and women took up gymnastics, body building, and other physical exercises. Such a thing had never happened before, and it was given a name – Physical Culture.
I have always been fascinated by the story of Henrietta Lacks.
There are two – parallel – universes of science. One is the actual day-to-day work of scientists, patiently researching into all parts of the world and sometimes making amazing discoveries. The other is the role science plays in the public imagination – the powerful effect it has in shaping how millions of ordinary people see the world.
The problem with wonks is that they can’t deal with emotion and feeling, and they don’t like stories. It means that they cannot connect at all with the feelings and imaginations of the voters.
Henrietta Lacks’ cells are immortal. They are known as the HeLa cell line, and they have become deeply involved in all sorts of medical and genetic research – sometimes in the most unexpected ways.
In ‘Mad Men,’ we watch a group of people who live in a prosperous society that offers happiness and order like never before in history and yet are full of anxiety and unease. They feel there is something more, something beyond. And they feel stuck.
‘American Honey’ takes you into the feelings of a girl travelling through the United States while giddily in love. You see modern America through her intense feelings. But again and again the film pulls the rug out from under your feet – scenes never play out as you expect.
Following the principle that you should know your enemy, the BBC has assiduously recorded the relentless rise of Rupert Murdoch and his assault on the old ‘decadent’ elites of Britain.
The idea of elegance and aristocratic indulgence of an ocean cruise was born out of the image of the rich men and women who ruled the British Empire slowly sailing to India and the Far East while sipping gin and tonic on deck – served by men in white jackets.
I have a suspicion that the politicians’ revival of the old behaviourist ideas and techniques will be helped and reinforced by a powerful ally – the machines we have built. The computers.
One of the main functions of politicians – and journalists – is to simplify the world for us.
Throughout the western world, new systems have risen up whose job is to constantly record and monitor the present – and then compare that to the recorded past. The aim is to discover patterns, coincidences and correlations, and from that, find ways of stopping change. Keeping things the same.
Politicians used to have the confidence to tell us stories that made sense of the chaos of world events. But now there are no big stories, and politicians react randomly to every new crisis – leaving us bewildered and disorientated.
The Kurds had always had a bad time. They were oppressed by the Ottoman empire. Then, at the end of the First World War, they were promised a homeland, but the new Turkish state refused to give them any land, while the British went and created the new state of Iraq and sent aircraft to bomb the Kurds there into submission.
At its heart, ‘South Park’ has a touching faith in human beings: that despite their absurdities and flaws, people have the capacity to create a better world.
In the battle for Kobane on the Syrian border, everyone talks about the enemy – IS – and the frightening ideas that drive them. No one talks about the Kurdish defenders and what inspires them.
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.’
Back in the 1950s, America set out to intervene in Syria, liberate the people from a corrupt elite, and bring about a new democracy. They did this with the best of intentions, but it led to disaster. And out of that disaster, the Assad regime rose to power.

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