Tag Archives: Adam Curtis

The International Adam Curtis Society – Inaugural Post #AdamCurtis

As self-appointed President of The International Adam Curtis Society, I reach out in a gesture of goodwill to worldwide admirers of Adam Curtis’s works. Join the society, and help, as a collective, to push the next phase of human evolution by engaging with Adam Curtis’s works via the written word. Specifically, the task of all society members is to break free from the constraints of ‘hauntology’ and ‘individualisation’ – both terms that Adam Curtis uses to describe the stuck state all of Western society finds itself in.

As President I will direct the society’s agenda on a monthly basis, seeking engagement from members in the form of guest blog posts, tweets, etc., that will appear, initially, as part of the textual silence project until a dedicated website can be set up. Such writings will discuss aspects of Adam Curtis’s works, with the aim of shattering the widespread public apathy that currently exists, and which leads, inevitably, to a kind of atrophy induced by a rapacious capitalist system that seeks to nullify all existential threats to its existence.

The work you are tasked with as a member of The International Adam Curtis Society is serious and you are unlikely to reap any reward from it in your lifetime. However, remember Adam Curtis’s comments on The Civil Rights Movement of 1960s’ America, where he remarks that people the world does not know the names of are the people who did the real work of the movement. Such work is arduous. But it is important. Follow in their footsteps. Be glorious in word and deed. Seek nothing in return, other than a better world for all human and non-human animals.

In the spirit of past movements a Manifesto will be drawn up, but this will take time. Meanwhile, take the following memory of mine as the foundation from which all action shall spring:

Growing up as a child in 1970s Britain, born into a working class community, and regularly exposed to the glitz and glamour of American TV programmes, a devastating blow was dealt to me as a five or six year old. It was the realisation that I would never grow up to meet my childhood hero: Captain Buck Rogers of the 25thCentury. This may sound laughable, but the dawning comprehension that I would need to live for over 500 years (an impossible task) shattered my childhood, thrusting me into a period of seriousness that exists to this very day (and yes, I soon realised that he was a fictional character, but nevertheless, it’s the spirit of the memory that I want you to retain). And so the spirit is this – it is that we can live free from imposed boundaries, we can reach for new worlds, we can concentrate human intellect on a far larger goal than profits and trinkets, and that we can utilise the age of technological advancement to resign late stage capitalism to a footnote of human evolution. Fear and hate and discrimination and violence and profiteering have no place in this quest. Love and empathy and understanding and peacefulness and commonality, for both human and non-human animals, must be our guiding light, here.

If you wish to join The International Adam Curtis Society, comment on this post in the first instance, leaving an email by which you can be contacted by myself and by other members. And remember… we are about to create something new in the world, where power struggles, the language of war and hierarchies, the practices of profiteering have no place.

We are The International Adam Curtis Society.

We know no boundaries.

With love,

President Matthew Alexander…

(The International Adam Curtis Society series of blog posts will not use imagery, web links, or anything other than the written word to convey its message. Distraction and entertainment is not our goal.)


Current Adam Curtis Obsession #1

Tying in with a recent article on the “unstoppable rise of veganism,” a podcast of Russell Brand’s interview with Adam Curtis, “Do We Really Want Change?,” offers a potential route forward from the seemingly destined-to-fail calls for change that we have witnessed over the last decade or so, whether the Occupy Movement in the west, or the ripples of revolution around the middle-east.

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Curtis identifies an actual, though brief, moment in history that resulted in monumental change, and which came from the Civil Rights movement in the southern states of the U.S.:

“White activists and black activists joined together and they spent years giving their lives, and in many cases literally, up to trying to change the world, which they did, and they surrendered themselves to that” (0:22:20 – 0:22:30).

Curtis details the success of the movement and the subsequent failure of the New Left as the rise of “individualism” takes hold, disrupting the coming together of groups of people, instead spreading the message that to be “true” to yourself is the real “goal” in life and that from that (being an individual) the world will change as a result (which it hasn’t). So, with veganism on the rise (around 1% of the U.K. population is believed to be vegan) is it time to recognise that when veganism is most challenging and difficult that it is at its most effective?

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What I mean, here, is that the growing trend for multinationals to assimilate veganism into their practices (many of them dubious in nature) is perhaps yet another example of individualism working for the benefit of the corporations and managers of capitalism. The capitalist model has tapped into the fact that being vegan is not always easy (you can’t just nip into any old shop to buy a snack without inspecting the contents of that pack in the first place (and even then you need to be clued up to the names that are used to describe the ingredients).

So, instead of the practices of old, where (and this is true, I’ve heard many a vegan testify to this) vegans would meet with other vegans to discuss foods that they can eat, sharing knowledge, and maybe even discuss activism and the like (perhaps they can be called We-gans), “new vegans” are being presented with a rich array of products that save them from having to do so, thus removing some of the discomfort and inconvenience of having to “go out of your way” to source information. In doing so, vegans are being kept isolated from one another in that there is a lack of incentive to grow the vegan community (perhaps they can be called Me-gans) – instead, becoming individual vegans, just as the markets require us to be.

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A great example of this has to be McDonald’s new “Vegan” Burger, which reads like a contradiction in terms, or just a really sick joke. One of the largest killers of animals on the planet asking vegans to come into their “restaurants” and sit side-by-side with carnivores? Bizarre, but true. The motives behind the launch of the McVegan can only be linked to profit, for there can be no ethical reasons behind the decision, as the animal slaughter continues unabated.

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So, try not to get too excited at veganism going “mainstream” because you may just get what you didn’t ask for. Instead, think of the myriad ways that you, in your small but perfectly capable way, could disrupt carnivore practices. You could write about it, talk about it, or just do something about it (pouring super glue in the locks of McDonald’s doors as you pass a closed store (making sure that it was dried in time that no McD’s employee would suffer any harm in the process) would be illegal and childish, of course)…


Stephen Hawking, #AI, and the “History of Stupidity”

Following on from the very brief post on Adam Curtis’ #Hyper-Normalisation, which is riveting viewing despite its length being around 166 minutes, and despite the fact that it, like most of Curtis’ productions IMO, leaves you feeling oddly numb as the end credits roll, kind of like you’ve seen too much and can’t quite process the wave after wave of stupid human behaviour being presented to you in film format, it’s fascinating to hear Professor Stephen Hawking’s view that: “We [humans] spend a great deal of time studying history, which, let’s face it, is mostly the history of stupidity.” And you’d have to admit, he’s got a point here.

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So, with that in mind, and very much “on-trend” in terms of what’s going on in the world, and as was touched on in Hyper-Normalisation, what’s the deal-i-o with AI? Is it likely to be, as Pro Hawking (can we just call him the Hawk?) predicts, “either the best, or the worst thing, ever to happen to humanity?” Now, surely that will depend on your viewpoint in the first instance. Watching @Gemma_Chan1 on How to Build a Human the other night, it was interesting to hear views from experts who feel we may need to curb AI’s remit before it even comes into existence, and that AI needs to be for our benefit – but curb it from doing what, precisely, and who are the “we” that we are speaking of?

For instance, AI may reach a level where it decides that we are truly a very stupid species and that things need to change. But what things might it want to change, and how would that impact upon “humanity?” The show gave us a brief glimpse of AI gone rogue, with an example of a Twitter account run by AI that ended up all misogynistic and racist and stuff – so that’s not a great future.

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But what if a supremely intelligent form of AI were to come into existence, take a bit of time to look around and do its research before coming up with the following list of things that need changing:

  • The practice of thinking that the best way of keeping peace on the planet (even though that seems never to have happened, thus far) is to invent the deadliest weapons you can think of that would annihilate the population if used in sufficient numbers.
  • The practice of allowing “humane” end-of-life procedures for animals you care for, whilst at the same time leaving humans to suffer some awful and agonisingly slow deaths through sickness/illness, and the like.
  • The practice of encouraging/forcing the bulk of “civilised” populations to be placated into doing endless tasks that are, and always will be, meaningless – whether that be shopping, working (unless it’s a job that truly benefits society), or engaging in forms of entertainment.
  • The practice of viewing some humans as less human than others, and therefore less worthy of basic human rights – like adequate access to healthy sources of food and water, and the provision of shelter and a safe environment.

And those are just four examples of things that we might consider to be stupid ways of living. What if AI messed with those things? What would that look like, and, more to the point, who would object?


Adam Curtis’ #Hyper-Normalisation

Only part-way through this film, but there’s sufficient substance to start a post, and the most intriguing thing about Curtis’ film, Hyper-Normalisation, so far, is the use of the phrase “collective action,” as opposed to what appears to be a scathing critique of the “individual” who observes life with a kind of “hip irony.” The sentiment, here, and remember that the film isn’t finished yet, seems to be one aimed at pricking the senses, perhaps stirring viewers to a form of collective action. The questions that keep popping up with respect to this are: but what kind of collective action can we imagine when we have to make a film that spells out the state of hyper-normalisation? What, if any, collective action is possible when, for instance, and here’s a seasonal reminder, we have the whole weight of corporate marketing aimed at convincing us that we need to give things to each other in excess, or to buy those things for ourselves, and often with credit (money that we don’t have), because that’s a good way to celebrate the life of Jesus Christ?

Side note: Some of the things that we could buy right now – drones with cameras (up to £1300); VR (virtual reality) goggles (up to £100); and, showing how desperate corporate marketing is when it comes to not letting us rest for even a moment, wireless headphones (up to £250), with the accompanying tag-line: “Run off that Christmas Pudding.” And, on a separate note, we can also see the ways in which we are kept pigeon-holed when we stop to consider the sections that tell us which gifts are acceptable/suitable “For Him,” and “For Her,” each with the very simple colour scheme of blue for boy, pink for girl.

Anyway, back to the film for now.


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