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Adam Curtis : Daft Punk


The final part (I really hope it is the final part) of Adam Curtis’ trilogy on “Evil” Computers and “Devillish” Enviromentalists – “All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace” – a title drawn from a poem written by what would appear to be a madman – has now been uploaded to YouTube, allowing me to view it without taking part in the memory-eating public monitoring disappointment that is BBC iPlayer :-

Adam Curtis certainly reveals himself as a little monkeyish in this episode, throwing overarm and underhand javelins at “liberals” of all hues and cries, particularly environmental ones; and throwing in liberal references to primates wherever he can, seemingly to suggest that mankind has un- or de-evolved by adopting computing tools and studying the natural world.

I can’t say for certain whether he is recommending the opposite of liberalism, freedom and liberty, which would of course be totalitarianism. But he seems to be implying that liberal society and open source networking bring humanity to dictatorial, warped, centrally-managed control, which would in fact be a good definition of totalitarianism. I can’t fathom the alternative he might be driving at. Apart from his assertion that there is no hope for the future.

He shows a fascination with intelligent people bleeding to death, probably as a reference to society and intellectualism losing too much “blood” sanity to survive. [JOKE ALERT] On the other hand it might be a coded message to Richard Dawkins, who he probably doesn’t like very much. [JOKE OVER]

Curtis reveals himself as not being very cognisant with information technology, nor the liberating powers it offers to mankind. He also doesn’t seem to understand that his accusations of liberal interference in resource-rich Africa by Europeans (and Americans) could equally well be described as residual paternalistic colonialism.

He seems to revel in opening up some ridiculous theories proposed by neo-eugenicists, self-referential genetic mathematicians, that came along with some psychologically wounded fundamentalism, both religious and conspiracy theory crankdom.

Adam Curtis’ film didn’t unteach me anything about systems and computer programming, which is still all good, and gets us to the Moon and geostationary orbit and stuff, and handles logistics for just-in-time delivery of aspirin and nail scissors. In fact, without systems and programming, Curtis wouldn’t have been able to research and make this film, so I don’t see what he can possibly complain about. The whole series is like an ill-fitting suit slung on some out-of-date thinking, if visually and aurally stimulating.

I felt it was a punch too low to have a go at David Attenborough in the middle of all this by association – he’s a national hero and I won’t have a nod nodded against him. Of course, for Curtis, since Attenborough’s a man of the environment, and has filmed in Africa with gorillas, he must be a choice target, typifying all that Curtis appears to believe is worst.

I don’t think I really learned anything from this final episode in particular, apart from being informed that the early Internet meme that suggested that medical science induced the emergence of HIV has finally taken a silver bullet and a stake through the heart, and the fact that some people are very, very strange, even when they have high IQs.

Not worth the BBC licence fee, in my humble opinion.

One reply on “Adam Curtis : Daft Punk”

It’s not about how computer systems don’t work – they clearly do. What Curtis is trying to say is that if you put your faith blindly into some iteration of techno-utopianism, you will be dissapointed. In fact – going by his whole body of work – any utopian ideology, be it capitalist, socialist, environmentalist or fundamentalist, will bite you in the arse eventually.

Adam Curtis is not suggesting radical alternatives to anything but showing us how even the most well intentioned dreams can turn into nighmares.

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