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A couple of interviews with Adam Curtis

Published by marco on

The following video is an excellent interview by Chapo in which they just let him talk. The documentary they discuss is his most recent one, Can’t Get You Out of My Head (the link is to a YouTube playlist of all 4 hours in 4 videos. The videos were published by “Adam Curtis Documentary” and were aired on the BBC, so there’s a good change that they’ll survive.

502 − Units of One feat. Adam Curtis by Chapo Trap House on March 03, 2021 (YouTube)

Curtis did another interview in Can’t Get You Out of My Head w/ Adam Curtis by Red Scare that was just as good. The discussion were similar—they interviewed Curtis about the same 4-hour series, so his talking points are similar—but they’re different enough to be worth listening to.

At 19:30

Adam: The real question is: can you have nationalism that doesn’t just kind of inexorably lead to a kind of etho-racism or to fascism. I don’t know. No-one’s ever told me. We’re terrified of it, because the last time it was tried, it led to horror. […] In a way, you could argue that that’s why we tried to live in a world without big stories—and we’re now paying the price for that. Because the left has sort of got itself frozen. It’s terrified of embracing nationalism, but it’s too frightened to try and imagine something new. And, therefore, what it tries to do is just tinker with the little bits. The voting pattern in your election of last year, just shows that millions and millions of people are angry, and want to vote, want to press that button that says “fuck off”. Despite that Donald Trump did absolutely nothing of what he promised, and despite the fact that he handled the pandemic so atrociously. They still want to vote for him. That’s real power. It’s not going to go away.

Anna/Dasha: Well, I think the vast majority of people are not as invested in stability as the managerial technocratic class is—because things have gotten so bad for them.

Adam: I just think that, if stability is all you’ve got to offer as your ideology—and no story—then you’re in quite a weak place, given that history is a dynamic force. And the people outside your stable world don’t really care whether things are stable or not—and are quite happy to let it rip because they’ve got nothing to lose.”

At 1:19:30

Adam: I think it’s a generation who come out of that modernism of our time, that somehow thinks that you can reinvent the world and just cut that past off, that you can just do it. […] The past haunts all of our societies. I know you’re skeptical of Black Lives Matter, but it did something very similar as Brexit did in my home country. What it did was remind you that you’re haunted by the past. […] That past still preys upon you. And until the left and the liberals acknowledge that, they’re going to always have problems, because it’s inside their heads as well.”

At 1:40:00

Adam: The question no-one has quite answered is whether mass democracy is possible in the age of hyper-individualism. […] It was born out of mass democracy—individualism—but then it starts to eat away at it. And what you get are these strange figures who are powerful […] but they corrode collectivism. And what we’re waiting to see if whether the politicians of the future can somehow find a way of combining that very powerful force of individualism with the new force of collectivism. If they can, then mass democracy is going to flourish in a way that we can’t possibly imagine—and it will be fantastic. If they don’t, then we might be heading toward a B.F. Skinner world where you just simply observe, get and gather the data, and give them the treats to get them to do what you want to. I don’t know which. I hope it’s the former.”

Adam: What B.F. Skinner said was, in a way, sort of religious. He said that human beings are not liberated when they are controlled by their feelings. Human beings are actually imprisoned by their feelings. Because if what guides you is all that stuff that goes on in your head, minute by minute, then actually you’re terrible prisoner—of the strange, weird shit that goes on inside your head. […] What I hope is that, really, individualism is just beginning. […] How do we get that individualism to work together in a collective way without denying its individualistic nature? And I think that’s the key thing of our time. But, quite frankly, worrying about whether Putin gave you Donald Trump is a blockage against thinking about those things. That’s the problem. It’s the distrust and the subconscious distrust that the liberals have at the moment.

Anna/Dasha: It’s not only an abdication of freedom, it’s also deeply undignified.

Adam: Yes, that’s another way of putting it. Very good.”