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Adam Curtis: another manager of perceptions

by Jonathan Cook

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Hypernormalisation

Adam Curtis’ new, near three-hour documentary HyperNormalisation, showing on BBC iplayer, is being garlanded with predictable praise from liberal commentators. As ever, Curtis joins the dots in interesting, and sometimes compelling, ways. But HyperNormalisation also continues a trend by Curtis of using his insights to present a deeply conservative, disempowering and ultimately false impression of the world.

His recent films have been premised on the notion that our societies are driven almost exclusively by a struggle of ever-more complex ideas, often dangerous ones, and only marginally by economic forces. As it has become ever harder to find plausible solutions to an increasingly inter-connected world, and as western leaders have become ever more lost in the moral and ideological darkness of modern life, those who have excelled are the usual suspects – from Syria’s Assad and Putin’s Russia to Donald Trump.

HyperNormalisation is best when it deals with “perception management”. The west’s repeated reinventions of Libya’s Col Gaddafi – first as a bogeyman, then as a hero, then as a bogeyman again, depending on the needs of the day, and always at odds with the reality – is an incisive rebuttal to those who believe the media are committed to telling us meaningful things about the world. Though Curtis does not explicitly draw this conclusion, much of his film suggests correctly that the corporate media are the chief managers of our perceptions.

But much else is weak and unconvincing. The idea, for example, that the Occupy movement in the west and the Tahrir Square revolution in Egypt failed for the same simple reason – that they had no vision of what came next – concisely illustrates much of what is wrong with Curtis’ thinking.

In Egypt, the revolution failed primarily because the secularists had little organisational structure behind them, after decades of repression, and because the forces of reaction – Egypt’s military-industrial complex – were too well-entrenched and sophisticated to be so easily ousted. The Islamists under Mohammed Morsi were allowed temporary and very limited access to the levers of government power by the miiitary in a move to divide the opposition. Morsi’s rule inevitably pitted the Islamists against the liberal secularists. Morsi was given enough rope to hang himself, antagonising the secular opposition so that they would welcome the military’s return. But in truth, the military never went away. There was never a vacuum in Egypt, of ideas or anything else. The army was just sophisticated at perception management – so good at it, in fact, that Curtis himself seems incapable of seeing behind the curtain.

The other major disappointment is his choice of easy villains. So the exemplars of perception management become Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump, rather than Tony Blair and Hillary Clinton. But the idea that Putin and Trump somehow took perception management to a whole new level is preposterous. It again signals that Curtis is falling for the very “perception management” he claims to be exposing.

Curtis tells us how in the 1950s the US military fed to Americans who had seen UFOs fake documents to encourage them to believe they had witnessed visitations by aliens. It was a way to deflect attention from the more problematic reality: that they had seen the US military experimenting with new weapons systems.

Perception management is now rife in everything we are told. Little of the coverage that matters most in our media, itself part of the corporate power structures Curtis occasionally alludes to, can be trusted. Gaddafi’s treatment should remind us of this. Support for Trump – and for Bernie Sanders, and for Jeremy Corbyn in the UK – is a symptom of the public’s disillusionment with western leaders. Trump taps into this disllusionment, too often with brutally ugly – but satisfyingly concrete – answers. Walls against Mexicans!

Sanders and Corbyn, on the other hand, have tried to find real answers to questions other politicians and the media barely acknowledge. Because they are searching for solutions to problems that have been intentionally obscured, their political struggle is much harder and their voices more easily marginalised. Sadly, Curtis adds to this mystification of western politics rather than exposing it. He mentions neither Sanders nor Corbyn.

Curtis is similarly misleading in attributing to Putin what he describes as new moves to create a hollow, diversionary politics of false-flag democracy movements, youth organisations, human rights groups and opposition political parties. But anyone who has been following the US state department’s colour revolutions of the past two decades will know that Putin did not invent the wheel here. He is playing a dirty politics in which Washington has long excelled.

Instead, Curtis repeats his by-now common refrain: that western leaders have no solutions to the world’s complex problems. So in Afghanistan and Iraq, George Bush and Tony Blair followed predecessors like Ronald Reagan in casting the world simplistically as a fight between good and evil. Their opponents were portrayed as demonic genuises.

In this way, Curtis effectively lets Bush and Blair off the hook. They fell for an idea, a mistaken and lazy one. They wanted the best for us, to protect us from these evil masterminds, to rebuild a reassuring world for us. They may have been wrong, but their intentions were good.

It is no surprise that Curtis only briefly deals with the US-UK attack on Iraq and even then does not mention oil as a factor, or the fact that Cheney and others made huge financial gains from the dissolution of the Iraqi state, or that the Iraq war generated a weapons sales bonanza for the military-industrial complex, or that there were geo-strategic interests for the US and Israel in weakening Arab nationalism. These issues are off Curtis’ radar, so well has his own perception of events been managed.

Similarly, the section on Curveball entirely misses the significance of this Iraqi defector. Curtis notes that Curveball, whose real name was Rafeed al-Janabi, took a dubious scenario from a Hollywood thriller – about nerve agents contained in glass spheres – to bolster his claims that he could verify Saddam Husein’s WMD programme. Curtis presents this as further proof that all of us, even security services like the CIA, are losing our connection to reality, so blurred has the line between fiction and fact become.

But that is not the lesson of Curveball. German security services who originally interviewed him pointed out the improbability of his testimony from the outset. Britain’s MI6 did not believe Curveball either. But their warnings were ignored by the CIA and the White House. Curveball did not manage anyone’s perceptions. He was simply another illusion by which the US could manage our perceptions, our resistance to a country being cynically destroyed for its resources and to reconfigure the Middle East.

Conversely, Curtis concludes with an assertion of such stunning political puerility that it undermines almost everything that has gone before. He argues of Putin’s involvement in Syria: “The Russians are still there – and no one really knows what they want.” Curtis does not know what “the Russians want” only because his preceptions have been carefully managed by the western media. Russia has very obvious strategic interests in being there. Among other things, it is trying to prevent the takeover of another country on its doorstep by Islamic jihadists, to halt the further destabilisation of the Middle East, and to prop up a key ally in Russia’s front against US expansionism.

“Great Games” of this kind between global superpowers have been going on for all of modern history. There is precisely nothing new about them, or mysterious.

The complexity Curtis luxuriates in is really not so complex. The world is divided between those who have power and wealth, and those who do not. The battle for the powerful is to keep their power, as it always has been. And that requires keeping the rest of us docile, misinformed and filled with a sense of hopelessness. Curtis is simply playing his part in managing our perceptions – and doing so in great style.


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44 Comments

  1. Glad I’m not the only one who thought this documentary was ridiculously stupid. It’s just a bunch of fear mongering, disjointed images pieced together with ominous music and haphazard connections between events that feels forced with little critical thinking behind them. This is the conservative view of the world – always afraid of everything – technology, had leaders, etc., always quivering at the thought of change. News flash: autocratic, crappy leaders have existed for most of humanity before any of these new technologies. I dunno, I just found the whole thing a monstrously stupid piece with no solutions to offer.

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  2. Jacek Dabrowski says

    ” The world is divided between those who have power and wealth, and those who do not. The battle for the powerful is to keep their power, as it always has been. And that requires keeping the rest of us docile, misinformed and filled with a sense of hopelessness. .” – except that this is the exact message I got from his art doco. The things you pointed out he skipped on are totally obvious.

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  3. Jonathan’s piece is great. I should read Curtis’s to be fair, but I really don’t think I need to. The confusion and chaos that the global 1%’s game playing have led to have their origins and Jonathan simply and clearly addresses them.

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  4. It gets really confusing. And discouraging. “But in truth, the military never went away.” Indeed, In my reading around, More than once I’ve come across mention of color revolutions and hybrid war that, in fact, the US (and it’s allies and proxies) begin with invisible maneuvers (like using social networks alongside phony expressions of unrest and opposition from media sources and from dupes) and the cooptation of students and young people who are then urged to push for ‘democracy’. Egypt no doubt harbored many who were properly oppressed, who properly yearned for freedom, but, apparently, there was much manipulation going on there as well. Chomsky, at the time, expressed amazement and said he had never seen anything quite like it. Chomsky isn’t uninformed or stupid or lacking analytical skills. Therefore, if he had actually missed the manipulation, then it was invisible. But we know more about color revolutions now than we did then.

    It was clear to me that the fool, and authoritarian, Morsi was only being used and I warned whoever was reading my posts (I am not a journo) that Morsi was dancing with the Devil. But here’s the world’s foremost champion of democracy, misleading all those young people and other sane Egyptians into thinking that they were going to get democracy, in order to squeeze the very hope for it completely out of Egyptian society by maneuvering to give the Egyptian army even more freedom, funds and power and the obedient (to uncle Sam) Egyptian (collective) strong man ruler position.

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  5. chrisb says

    One of the masters of perception management is Vladimir Putin. Quite how he managed to persuade loads of socialists in Western Europe that he was a socialist, while governing a hugely unequal society, I do not come close to understanding.

    I am equally baffled how anyone can claim to seriously analyse Russia’s involvement in Syria without mentioning Tartus.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Alessandro says

      chrisb, I think you may be misinterpreting people’s reasons for taking Russia and Assad’s side in Syria. The issue isn’t whether or not Putin is a socialist, as he very clearly isn’t anything of the kind. It’s that the war in Syria was begun and escalated by reactionary and terrorist groups and NATO military in an attempt to extend their global hegemony. The U.S. is the world’s leading imperial power and doesn’t like it when other countries try to assert their independence – see Nicaragua, Bolivia, Venezuela, the Philippines, Cuba and of course China and Russia. I don’t support Putin, but I will defend other countries’ right to act independently of United States policy.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well put, Allesandro. I’ve encountered the same misplaced accusation – on the “irony” of socialists defending Putin – in Grauniad BTL exchanges, and with liberals elsewhere. They too assumed the only reason the left would defend a foreign state or leader is that it sees them as also on the left.

        In January my open letter to an Owen Jones struggling with the same misconceived formula put it thus:

        “Since America is still the greatest power on earth, its post 1990 behaviour reckless and terrifying, I’m glad we have Vlad. Let me put this more plainly. Should Washington succeed in replacing him with someone more biddable, it would be a Bad Thing for Russians and for progressives everywhere. Not because Putin’s nice – we agree he isn’t – and not because he’s on the left – ditto – but because America unbridled should scare the pants off each and every one of us.”

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    • Russia is involved in the Syrian war because the Syrian government requested Moscow’s assistance in fighting ISIS, Jabhat al Nusra, all other terrorist groups linked to these organisations and their various allies who include the US, the UK, Australia, Denmark, Belgium and other Western nations. The Russians have a dog in this war because many if not most terrorists fighting in Syria have come from Chechnya or Dagestan within the Russian Federation, and might return there.

      Tartus has never been mentioned because it is a naval base on lease to Russia. Russian involvement in the war is confined to aerial attacks and bombardment though Russian advisors are also involved.

      Russia is a mixed market economy with both capitalist and more socialist-oriented features. Sure, there are inequalities just as there are in most other economies. But the economic situation in that country has been improving since 2000, even with Western economic sanctions and low global oil prices (both instigated by the US and Saudi Arabia in efforts to derail the Russian economy) against it.

      If anything, the Left (for want of a better term) in most Western countries loathe Putin. I’m not sure that he’s that much of a perception manager.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Alessandro says

        Well-put Jen. Yeltsin was a disaster for the vast majority of Russians, but under Putin the country has recovered. It’s true that he hasn’t prosecuted most of the oligarchs, but he also put a stop to what I can only call the criminal firesale of public assets.

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    • writerroddis says

      Tartus is Russia’s sole remaining former USSR naval base outside Russia. So yes, Russia has interests in Syria that, among many other things, put it at odds with western imperialism. Having been too weak to prevent regime change and homicidal chaos in Iraq and Libya, Moscow drew a line in the sand on Syria. Tartus is indeed one of the reasons Putin stands by Assad. The “pipeline war”,/a> is another. But who is baffling you with claims to “seriously analyse Russia’s involvement in Syria without mentioning Tartus”?

      Liked by 1 person

    • rtj1211 says

      He does not try to claim he is a socialist. ON the contrary, he has openly stated that he represents conservative values. He inherited an enormously unequal Russia in 1999 and has done what he can to try to reverse that somewhat. Go too far and he would have been bumped off by the mafia. If you read between the lines he is pretty tough with oligarchs and improved the lot of ordinary Russians before the oil blockade instigated by US/Saudi tycoons.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. archie says

    Watched this documentary last night on UTube ( no longer subscribe to the Tory propaganda machine that the BBC has become ) , and agree with Cooks analysis of it , although it touched on some of the issues there was no follow through of any depth and felt like it was almost a Vox Pop type production with distracting film clips some of no relevance to the subject being discussed. Overall I was left with a feeling of hopelessness and questioned my support for any political party as it “was all useless” . Thus , is this what Curtis set out to achieve , all be it inadvertently as Cook contends that Curtis has had his perception managed . Thanks to Cook for this analysis and I have now re-calibrated my perception of Curtis accordingly and continue to support Corbyn and his drive to bring and fight for a better Labour Party free of the SPIN merchants like Alistair Campbell and Co .

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  7. Alan Brown says

    Excellent article.I heard James Corbett talking about this a while ago.Ive only seen the trailer for this film,and it was obvious that this was going to be an excuse note for Western foreign policy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Alas and yes – a gatekeeper.
    If he was a reluctant gatekeeper he could give cues for the perceptive to pick up on.

    But the idea of using psyops and then making it clear that they are psyops whilst asserting they are not – of a nature to render thinking and critical dialogue almost impossible without standing out as a ‘nutter’, an offensive violator of ‘decency’ or a danger to society is true enough – though he didn’t reveal how fake a lot of it is. In fact he simply operates the purveying of dissociative and destructive device by not offering or acknowledging the cure, the basis of sanity and the freedom from investment in stories that operate as narrative control – even the story about such stories.

    There is a direct causation chain of ideas to identities to behaviours. But Curtis offers an obfuscation because the engineering or manipulation of ‘consent’ is a form of mind control, undertaken by design and implemented over many generations by what could be called dark arts. Our own minds are used to work against us – not unlike parasitic takeover.

    In the event of being compromised or hacked – the first thing is to notice it, then not to act on it – in any significant way – and then to go clear into a silence in which the mind is not utilized, but rested or given disregard in a directly felt desire for unconflicted truth (call it what you want – but if you WANT it you know that what is running in your psychic-emotional space is NOT the true of you – or you would still be struggling in its web.

    The silence is a point of nowhere else to go or be – yielding into this is not loss but a sudden shift of recognition – as a true wholeness of being IS your current awareness. It is recognizable YOU – and a felt acceptance and connected sense of life that is also a basis of a perspective in which to recognize what you want in a way that has practical application. From this quality of depth one can also immediately feel what is meaningless to you as well as what you appreciate and feel called or attract to.

    It isn’t that you ‘lose your mind’ so much as being refreshed from a state of besieged conflicted identity in which the mind serves rather than attempting to lead the witness. Whether I describe this in a way that makes sense – the practice is one of receiving form a place that is not the result of a manipulative intent – be that of others – r your own – and that the key here – because if the dark artists have ongoing access to your trigger points it is because you are operating in the same waveband.

    Redeeming the currency of a sanity of thought, feeling, word and deed is a from the ground up. That Corbyn represents a willingness to arrive at outcomes through communication is a reflection of such a desire in many of us – but communication is not limited to words, thoughts and rational presumptions of rules or shared meanings or intent. It is a true Art – and the capitalisation indicates it is synonymous with true being and not an artifact of mimicry operating a mask of pretence.

    Pre-sense is First – and presence is also a capacity to discern, and feel a way amidst tricks and trap and baitings designed to induce guilt, division or invalidating response. No one can stay free who hasn’t cleared the trigger points – and the belief one can beat the devil at its own game is an entirely false confidence that is easily lured into overextension and then faced with loss of face or compromise with the devil to be ‘allowed’ to continue with certain adjustments and key conditions. Once you are in the only way out is a complete renunciation – or one is only drawn further into lie, bondage and sacrifice. A false identity can never ‘work’ for you or those you love.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Curtis has lost his way — while his early programs concentrated upon specific ideas and how they went from isolated instances to mainstream ideas: game theory for instance, the ones he does now are like an all in history of the world. They are way too broad as you say and thus simplistic. Its also one reason why they have become so long. Plus of course analyzing game theory and the rise of psychoanalysis and how these strands of thinking have found a legitimization underlying neo-liberalism means he is following a single stranded idea and thus avoids the charge that he is ignoring other elements or is being too simplistic.
    Now he’s discussing perception management which means his discussion has itself to be inherently normative. Thus your correct charge that he himself is a perception manager. He needs to give himself a right hook and calm himself down.

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  10. Jonathan Cook has always been a highly perceptive writer and his criticism of Adam Curtis is spot on.

    I would add to Cook’s article my observation that Curtis arrives at the conclusions he does by selectively cherry-picking only those examples that support and bolster his particular viewpoint, and which enable him to ignore the real political and economic forces behind apparent chaos. Almost without exception, Curtis’ documentary series like “All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace” choose to compare and contrast odd examples like, say, the history of Rwanda and Burundi with other carefully chosen examples of self-regulating systems to draw out supposed connections, somehow leaving out the devastation that French divide-n-rule colonialist policies inflicted on the Tutsi and Hutu peoples living in those countries, only to arrive at the same old conclusions that the world is becoming an ever more complex and contradictory place. The only reaction is to reel back in frozen horror.

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    • I have the impression he is targeting a specific audience – liberals who know they are being lied to but aren’t about to go to some crazy conspiracy website to try to figure out what is going on for themselves. They still need to be told by an authority figure what is going on. The answer is no one’s in charge and everything is spiraling out of control but thankfully there’s no real malevolence in the world. It’s just human foibles and good intentions gone awry. Good thing they didn’t go to that conspiracy website. They might have been mislead!

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  11. “The idea, for example, that the Occupy movement in the west and the Tahrir Square revolution in Egypt failed for the same simple reason – that they had no vision of what came next – concisely illustrates much of what is wrong with Curtis’ thinking.”

    I have to take issue with this comment, largely because, in the UK, the Labour Party has become the embodiment of “no vision”. Despite the xenophobia and general hatefulness towards anyhone or anything “other” into which much of our population has been guided by both government and (most of the) MSM propaganda over the last six years, Labour, neither Corbyn nor the PLP, has said virtually nothing over the last few weeks and, as a direct result, has become near invisible.

    Where’s the passion, the coherent policy, the oppostion to a bunch of ideological and economically illiterate clowns who know how to divide us and manipulate us with lies as they make most lives worse, the stand for something decent, the acknowledgement that a democracy demands the acceptance of compromise with the electorate as a means of moving towards a better world?

    I simply cannot believe there is any point in any movement or political party that gives the impression of being so consumed by the search for political nirvana somewhere up its own backside that it has nothing to say while the world burns.

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    • archie says

      I agree with you regarding the clowns that purport to be the Government at present , but with respect , Corbyns Labour party has been busy at local level where it matters most .There have been 2 weeks ago street stalls across the country demonstrating against new Grammar Schools and the following week with local protests against NHS cuts to try and keep that up in the media. Remember you are not hearing or seeing things that Labour are doing at the moment because it suits the MSM not to report it . As regards to Labour having no vision then have a look at the 10 pledges that Corbyn has set out as a party policy template .That’s a better vision then the Torys are pushing .
      The only one’s , as you put it , up ones backside are the PLP who still are continuing to destroy local party democracy vis a vie Wirral CLP .

      Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, come on! It really can’t be right to be focus exclusively on local level matters, that Corbyn’s coterie musy know by now will not reported fairly and probably not at all, but say precisely nothing loud and clear, with passion and anger, to condemn the vileness of the reactions from both the MSM and some Tories to giving shelter and protection to a handful of desperate refugees into this country.

        It’s simply not credible to hide behind the MSM’s treatment of Corbyn, or 10 pledges I doubt many outside the most committed party members could recite, or the behaviour of the PLP because, to the uncommitted, who must be drawn Labour’s way if they are EVER to be re-elected, and many already committed, who don’t understand the deafening silence from Labour, it looks like fiddling while Rome burns.

        Why cannot Corbyn’s labour party be both busy at a local level AND objecting vociferously to the government’s actions. Is it really such an outrageous demand to suppose they might be committed and able to fight on two fronts simultaneously?

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        • archie says

          In respect of focus , it is exactly that focus , at grass roots level that is going to effect more change than any top down approach as seen before in the Blair years. That is the main point of Corbyn’s ideals , that is the democratisation and re-invigoration at the local level. There is no “hiding” behind what the MSM does or does not do , but the re-iteration of such facts continues to keep it in perspective , after all the topic was about perception management and that is what happens to Labour constantly via the MSM no matter what Labour says or does .
          In respect of the non-committed then by local action at their level that’s ,once again , where hearts and minds will be won , “people buy from people” not from some slick presentation by some master spin doctor like Blair or Campbell .AND we are busy at local level doing exactly what you so passionately request, but you will be disappointed if you expect ranting and frothing from Corbyn as that is simply not his style .That however , does not mean he is any less committed or passionate about things .
          Perhaps you would like to join us locally wherever you reside ,and get stuck in taking the fight to the Tories ?
          Meanwhile the PLP do continue to fiddle , there I agree with you.

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          • grumpyaccountant says

            I take on board everything you say but….

            I said nothing about ranting and frothing but, if Corbyn, who I acknowledge is a fundamentally decent man with what appear to be very good intentions, hardly ever tackles Tory crap head on, you surely cannot deny that the people who really need to be persuaded that Labour cares about them now, the undecided, the essentially decent Tories and Kippers who don’t like the bile emanating from their party of choice, need to hear some positive, reasoned argument, not ranting and frothing, against the offending policies, not just when the bottom-up revolution has been completed, but as and when those policies are announced.

            If I was only sufficiently mobile, I would take up your suggestion to get stuck into the Tories locally, if only to make the point I have been trying to make here.

            Peace and good luck.

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  12. Great review.

    The mere fact that Curtis airs on the BBC is indication enough for me that he is not going to be effectively clarifying the world’s crises in the manner of writers like Cook.

    The It’s all just a set of co-incidences and cock-ups, (that keep benefitting the same groups of people) meme is looking a bit thin these days wouldn’t you say?

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    • It’s all just a set of co-incidences and cock-ups, (that keep benefitting the same groups of people<

      The Guardians get out clause.

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  13. Mass thought-control, or perception management if you will, began to emerge in the 18th and 19th centuries, with Alexis De Tocqueville’s magnum opus, ‘Democracy in America’ (1835) and John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ (1859). Both men were anticipating the coming of mass society and the methods whereby the elites were beginning to fashion instruments for manipulating the thought processes of the masses. This, of course, was before the advent radio and television and the various other technologies of mass communication which have massively expanded and refined this process.

    According to Mill:

    ”In politics it is almost a triviality to say that public opinion now rules the world.’ But what gave rise to this particular phenomenon? ”The mass do now not take their opinions from dignitaries in church or state, from ostensible leaders, or from books. Their thinking is done for them by men such like themselves, addressing them and speaking in their name on the spur of the moment, through the newspapers.” This was a prescient observation on Mill’s part given the development of the ‘Yellow Press’ under the auspices of Hearst, Rothermere et al., later in the 19th century.

    Even earlier De Tocqueville had noted that, ”The characteristics of the American journalist consist in an open and coarse appeal to the passions of his readers; he abandons principles to assail the characters of individuals, to track them into private life and disclose their weakness and vices.”

    Does this sound familiar? Donald Trump maybe?

    And whilst we are at it how about this for farsightedness.

    ”Not only are the Anglo-Americans united by common opinions, but they are separated from other nations by feelings of pride. For the last 50 years no pains have been spared to convince the inhabitants of the United States that they are the only religious, enlightened, and free people. They perceive that, for the present, their own democratic institutions prosper, while those of other countries fail; hence they conceive a high opinion of their superiority and are not very remote from believing themselves to be a distinct species of mankind.” (De Tocqueville, Ibid)

    Hmmm, exceptional, indispensable people perhaps.

    Not only is thought manipulated and shaped by those in control of the communication institutions; distraction is another arrow in the quiver of mass thought-control

    Last word to writer George Gissing in his novel ‘New Grub Street’ (1891), one of the characters opines

    ”Let me explain my principle, I would have the paper to address itself to the quarter-educated; that is to say, the great new generation which is being turned out by the Board schools, the young men and women who can just read, but who are incapable of sustained attention. People of this kind want something to occupy them in the trains, and on buses and trams. As a rule they care for no newspaper other than the Sunday ones; what they want is the lightest and frothiest, chitty-chatty information – bits of stories, bits of description, bits of scandal, bits of jokes, bits of statistics, bits of foolery … Everything must be very short, two inches at the utmost; their attention cannot sustain itself for more than two inches. Even chat is too solid for them, they want chit-chat”

    Sadly, this seems to be the case.

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    • damien says

      Your last paragraph is excellent — and critical. Previously, an elite ruled the nation — for good or bad, mostly bad. Now we live in a “flatter” society, one where the power structures, the media and the official public ethos affirm that we are all equal. In terms of moral entitlements, to fairness and equity, this is a good thing. But in terms of managing public debate on important issues and national governance its a problem.

      If you have a ten second attention span, no knowledge of history, can’t see others’ points of view and are endowed with an excessive sense of entitlement then your political vote has the same merit as a phone vote for Australian Idol — that is, a pop phenomenon reflecting your latest mood swing.

      It can’t be good for government yet we see this philosophy reflected in popular new expressions of democracy. For instance, the “Citizen Jury” scam being run in S.A. in order to bring in a nuclear waste industry. Apparently, if democracy is good then “more democracy” — even if it’s of a questionable kind that is damaging to current real democratic functions — must be even better. (It isn’t. It’s a con by the corporate sector.)

      The second is the call to give 16 year olds the vote. I taught 16 year olds for years. They are great people all of them and some have knowledge and adult judgement. But many are children, uninformed and lacking in an adult perspective. But if they have an I-pad and can vote for Australian Idol then that qualifies them to vote in national elections. Er,… no.

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  14. damien says

    Curtis effectively lets Bush and Blair off the hook …They may have been wrong, but their intentions were good.

    Perhaps it’s worth reminding people about FBI translator Sibel Edmonds who was monitoring FBI wiretaps conducted from before 9/11. In her 2009 interview by Phillip Giraldi in The American Conservative magazine she says:

    “The monitoring of the Turks picked up contacts with Wolfowitz [Paul Wolfowitz, US Undersecretary of Defense] and Perle [Richard Perle, senior US policy advisor and war hawk] in the summer of 2001, four months before 9/11. They were discussing with the Turkish ambassador in Washington an arrangement whereby the US would invade Iraq and divide the country. The UK would take the south, the rest would go to the U.S. They were negotiating what Turkey required in exchange for allowing an attack from Turkish soil. The Turks were very supportive, but wanted a three-part division of Iraq to include their own occupation of the Kurdish region.

    … Meanwhile [Brent] Scowcroft, who was also the chairman of the American Turkish Council, Baker, Richard Armitage, and [Marc] Grossman, began negotiating separately for a possible Turkish protectorate. Nothing was decided, and then 9/11 took place.”

    The American Turkish Council (ATC) was supposedly a cultural/business agency based in the US. In reality it was staffed by the highest echelons of US foreign policy and Turkish officials. They’re real aim: the implementation of covert US foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia. These guys on the ATC were all major US backers of Israel and several of them were investigated at various times by the FBI for passing classified Intelligence to AIPAC, Israel’s primary US lobbying agency. This was all before 9/11.

    It is clear that a US invasion of Iraq was being planned from before 9/11.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d love to know the full extent of what Sibel Edmonds knows about 9/11- but she’s been gagged. The 9/11 Ommission wouldn’t go near her although she wrote to them. She’s offered to tell all and name names – on live primetime TV – but has not had any offers so far. Another carefully manicured perception by the M$M that somehow al Qaeda did it perhaps?

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  15. Perception Management for Dummies:
    1. Make sure you do lots of what you want to accuse the opposition of doing.
    2. Turn around basic ideas so black becomes white and white then becomes black.
    3. When the opposition reacts to this skulduggery accuse them of what you have been doing all along!
    For all of this to work effectively you need a delivery system* which will cost you a lot more money than your opposition can afford.
    * A delivery system will include: corporate backers, mass media, judiciary, military and militarised police.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Excellent commentary Jonathan. Well done and thank you.
    I once attended a public meeting where Curtis was one of an “anti-Extablishment” panel of four. He was scathing about our government and its actions in the Middle East, particularly. The issue of “9/11 Truth” was raised from the floor. The entire panel dead-batted it.
    I asked Curtis specifically, “How is it that you criticise “government to the point of using the word “evil” yet when it comes to evidence that wouls prove your case and have a genuinely powerful effect in arresting the continuation of these evil actions you simply won’t go there?”
    He stuttered and was helped by one of the other panellists who interjected with a meaningless and diversionary comment.

    Curtis is a gatekeeper.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Davide says

    “His recent films have been premised on the notion that our societies are driven almost exclusively by a struggle of ever-more complex ideas, often dangerous ones, and only marginally by economic forces.”

    Oh lordy, now where have I heard talk like that before? From the Bush administration, as related by Ron Suskind:

    ‘The aide said that guys like me were “in what we call the reality-based community,” which he defined as people who “believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality.” I nodded and murmured something about enlightenment principles and empiricism. He cut me off. “That’s not the way the world really works anymore,” he continued. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you’re studying that reality — judiciously, as you will — we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.”

    Who besides guys like me are part of the reality-based community?’

    Hearing self-styled leftists repeat rhetoric like this – and a lot of them do – is very depressing. There is a reality out there in which there is war and staggering inequality. There’s nothing subjective about bombs exploding next to you, nor about working 12 hour shifts in unsafe conditions to not quite make ends meet. This is not to say ideas aren’t influential, but to say that they, rather than economic forces, drive society is to callously dismiss the real suffering that said economic forces cause millions of people around the world every day. As the author points out, the U.S. didn’t invade Iraq because they really thought it was a struggle between good and evil, rather they had specific geopolitical and economic reasons for doing so, and Bush administration officials and the military-industrial complex at large made out like bandits on war contracts.

    Also, just on the topic of Occupy, I went to several Occupy Toronto marches, and while at the time I was very optimistic and intrigued by it, thinking about it in the aftermath and why it flopped over like a limp noodle at the first signs of adversity, I think it failed because it was largely driven by careerists, political opportunists and pseudo-leftists who had some vague ideas about anarchism and/or reforming capitalist society. There was no unity, to the extent that people actually actively resisted the drawing up of a list of demands, lest one individual disagree with it. In fact just about every attempt at positive action was shot down in exactly that way. In the end it was just a performance, and when the police evicted the park everyone gave up and went home. It had no staying power because the movement had no coherent goals and never gained the support of the workers on whose behalf it claimed to advocate.

    Liked by 1 person

    • damien says

      … I think it [Occupy] failed because it was largely driven by careerists, political opportunists and pseudo-leftists who had some vague ideas about anarchism and/or reforming capitalist society.

      I agree. The lack of a political agenda meant they were an easy mark for the authorities.

      The Occupy movement is remarkable not just for its scale of civil protests globally but for the abrupt and controlled manner in which it was shut down. The Domestic Security Alliance Council (DSAC) consists of US military and intelligence agencies, the FBI, Homeland Security and major US corporations set up to monitor “domestic terrorists” — you know, environmentalists, trade union officials and the like.

      In 2011 US intelligence services surveilled peaceful Occupy movement protestors in over 50 US cities and gave confidential briefings to corporations on individual protesters as part of that process. In Nov 2011 they shut down the movement in a nationally coordinated exercise while Pres. Obama was out of the country visiting South East Asia. US corporations and policing services are now a seamless entity with the same goal: domestic population control.

      The same shut down steps occurred globally in Canada, Australia, NZ and the UK in the same month. The UK protesters were able to hold out for six months by making appeals through the courts. In 2012 the US passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) containing the following disturbing new legal provision:

      “A person commits the offence of terrorism, when with the intent to intimidate or coerce a significant portion of a civilian population; he or she knowingly commits a terrorist act.”

      Any US civil protester is a terrorist by definition. And US policing authorities can deal with them as such. Civil protests exist by State permission.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Karl Rove was the Bush aide who was later identified as the source of the “We are an Empire…” quote. He is also credited with the “Scheherazade strategy”:
      “When policy dooms you, start telling stories – stories so fabulous, so gripping, so spellbinding that the king (or, in this case, the American citizen who theoretically rules our country) forgets all about a lethal policy. It plays on the insecurity of Americans who feel that their lives are out of control”
      (According to Ira Chernus, professor at the University of Colorado – http://www.mindfully.org/Reform/2008/US-Empire-Reality1jan08.htm)
      Especially note that the President only “theoretically rules.” To interpret what he inadvertantly admitted was that Cheney really was running the country from Site R or Mount Weather – that the Continuity Of Government programme was enacted after 9/11 – and that a Shadow Government within the Government was running the show.
      Talk about the ultimate in the management of perceptions and reality based communities – Obama has extended the Patriot Act and COG measures – for all we know the real policy in America continues to be brought to us directly from a hollowed out mountain in Virginia! #whoisrunningthecountry?(https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Weather_Emergency_Operations_Center)

      Like

  18. writerroddis says

    Excellent review. Just back from a month in Asia, I watched this on the say so of a friend. It’s perceptive in places but offers an idealist worldview that pays scant attention to the material forces driving the horror show – the perceptively managed horror show – that is Really Existing Capitalism in an age of inter-imperial rivalry at its most dangerous level in at least thirty years

    Like

  19. Oddlots says

    CIA Flashback: “We’ll Know Our Disinformation Program Is Complete When Everything the American Public Believes Is False.”

    Finally: “Mission Accomplished.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • paulcarline says

      If it were only the American public we would have less to fear. But it’s the vast majority of the public in the Anglophone world and a very large percentage of the European public, both of which have been subjected to the same heavy disinformation programme – and not just since 9/11. We can go back to at least WWI to see how the so-called ‘elites’ manipulated the news to pursue their own ends – primarily economic wars, including preventing the alliance between Germany and Russia that those elites feared.

      Like

      • So what was the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact if not an alliance between Nazi Germany and the former Soviet Union?
        It was not necessary for the western ‘elites’ to manipulate the news for or against this purpose.
        It was obvious from any reading of Mein Kampf that Hitler would order an attack against the then Soviet Union, with – or without – any alliance or pact between them.

        Like

        • Your enemys enemy is not your friend says

          But this is the bizarro world version of american exceptionalism. Other states’ elites are simple saps incapable of independent thought.

          Like

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