Adam Curtis – England

Adam Curtis (born 1955) is a British television documentary maker who has during the course of his television career worked as a writer, producer, director and narrator. He currently works for BBC Current Affairs. He is noted for making programmes which express a clear (and sometimes controversial) opinion about their subject, and for narrating the programmes himself … // … Curtis subsequently taught politics there but left for a career in television. He got a job on the show That’s Life! where he learned to find humour in serious subjects. He went on to make documentaries on more serious subjects but retained his playful tone.  Curtis’s intensive use of archive footage is a distinctive touch of his. An Observer profile said: Curtis has a remarkable feel for the serendipity of such moments, and an obsessive skill in locating them’ … // … The Observer adds “if there has been a theme in Curtis’s work since, it has been to look at how different elites have tried to impose an ideology on their times, and the tragi-comic consequences of those attempts.” Curtis received the Golden Gate Persistence of Vision Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005.[1] In 2006 he was given the Alan Clarke Award for Outstanding Contribution to Television at the British Academy Television Awards. Curtis is amongst those on the editorial ’steering committee’ of the weekly email gossip newsletter Popbitch. [March 10, 2007: Forget Osama, fear Blair] … (full text).

He asks: Should we be worried about the threat from organised terrorism or is it simply a phantom menace being used to stop society from falling apart? (BBC: the Power of Nightmares, Baby It’s Cold Outside, 3 August 2005).

HE STATES: We dreamed up al-Qaida. Let’s not do it again with evil ideology … (full text, August 30 2005).


Adam Curtis – England

Watch these videos:

Scare at Virginia Tech, Nov. 13, 2008 – … Adam Curtis, VT Freshman: “It was really scary because all the stuff going on, I just had no clue what happened”.

Century of the Self, Oct. 23, 2008: … Today we want to explore that history through the words of Adam Curtis …

Neo-Fantasies and Ancient Myths: a long Interview with Adam Curtis on The Power of Nightmares, by Robert Koehler, not dated.

… His new series will be about the world economy in the nineties. Head of BBC Current Affairs, Peter Horrocks, said: “It is excellent that Adam has rejoined the BBC and a reflection of the creative health of current affairs on BBC TWO that he has decided that he wants to work here … (full text, Nov. 6, 2002).

Find him and his publications on ;
on IMDb; on wikipedia /documentaries; on Google Video-search; on Google’s self created video-search for Adam Curtis; on Google Book-search; on Google Group-search; on Google Blog-search.

… Adam Curtis, who wrote and produced the series, acknowledges the difficulty of saying such things now. “If a bomb goes off, the fear I have is that everyone will say, ‘You’re completely wrong,’ even if the incident doesn’t touch my argument. This shows the way we have all become trapped, the way even I have become trapped by a fear that is completely irrational.” So controversial is the tone of his series, that trailers for it were not broadcast last weekend because of the killing of Kenneth Bigley. At the BBC, Curtis freely admits, there are “anxieties”. But there is also enthusiasm for the programmes, in part thanks to his reputation … (full text).

He says: … “If you look at The Trap, there is no conspiracy – the word doesn’t enter into it. It’s a straight history of ideas which have shaped psychology, politics, culture and science over the past 30 or 40 years. It fits them together. These ideas have been out there – they influenced Mrs Thatcher, they influenced Richard Dawkins, and many of them can be traced to the Cold War. Now someone would argue this is a new form of censorship. Systems that purport to be open and free – systems of political management, and the internet – are becoming ways of shutting debate down. Of simplifying – not of controlling, that’s the thing – a new simplified sense of order. In an age where people don’t know what’s what, we sort of agree with that. We look for order and want that. And our politicians can’t give it to us – our media elites can’t give it to us because they don’t know what’s what anymore. So far from creating a new richness and openness, we all work together to create a new system of agreed order, because we want it. It’s not that we’re not bad people, that’s what happens in an age of populism, a populist democracy. The elites have given up, so no one’s telling you what’s what any more, we don’t want that any longer – so we’re beginning to work together sooner and actually, that’s exactly what I was being accused of. So what we’re living through is a period of intense conformity. It is the great paradox of the age … (full interview text).

He writes: … We must be aware of this distinction so as to avoid a witch-hunt against the whole Islamist movement. We may not agree with its reactionary vision of the political use of Islam and the pessimistic, anti-progressive beliefs that lie at the heart of Qutb’s teachings, but it is essential to realise that there is no inherent link between these ideas and terrorism. There are worrying signs that journalists are confusing the murderous beliefs of a genuinely destructive minority with the political ideas of a much wider movement. By lumping Islamism into a frightening, violent, anti-western movement led by the “preachers of hate”, they risk exaggerating and distorting the threat yet again. The real danger is that, by suppressing Islamism, we will make its ideas more attractive to already marginalised young men. In the process we may inadvertently drive them further towards the extreme militant wings of the movement, and prove yet again the old adage that the real threat to democracy from terrorism is not the action but the reaction. (full text, August 30 2005).

… Indeed, the subtlety of the series was that, despite its brave and provocative message, The Power of Nightmares had a wonderful institutional calm and order. And if it did seem as if the BBC itself was saying these things, then that grand entity had to move quickly to ascertain that the point of view belonged to Adam Curtis. But, of course, the entire Curtis career has been based on the notion that a documentary can be so thoroughly researched and so deeply thought out that the result carries a natural authority, and a quiet but forceful undermining of all the contrived hysteria and paranoia that can sustain false nightmares, the spinning of dread and the misleading of the public … (full text).

… Es obligado conocer la obra de Adam Curtis si se desea comprender el funcionamiento de la sociedad, geopolítica, e historia modernas. Sus documentales nos abren la puerta al conocimiento del mundo en que vivimos … (full text).

He says also: … “What I am saying, is that I don’t think al-Qaeda exists in the way that we have been asked to understand it. There are awful atrocities, of course, and there is militant Islamic fundamentalism. But the idea of a global network of terror run by Osama bin Laden, unique in its threat, which we have been told about for three years now is, I believe, a myth. I have backed this belief up with ideas that I think show the reasons why this myth has been created … and: You look at Bleak House, say, and Dickens throws 10 strands of news stories together and sees where they lead him. I love the idea of that … and: They pulled some of the trails for my series out of respect for the family of Kenneth Bigley. That kind of madness is that? If a bomb went off here tomorrow, I have no doubt they would pull the series itself. They have discussed that. My rational argument would be immediately that this does not defeat my point in any way. There are of course bad people in the world who have bombs. But that does not justify the scale of the fear that currently possesses people. We have been prepared by politicians and the media to expect nightmares, even to need them. If nothing else we need to get a grip … (full text).

And he says: . … “In this series, The Power of Nightmares, I am critical of the neoconservatives, I’m critical of the Islamists, I’m critical of the ways politicians from different parties have chosen to use the fear that emerged out of these actions. You couldn’t tell what I actually think. My personal politics have nothing to do with this. I’m just grumpy because I can’t understand why, for example, my own organization has reported things like these sleeper cells in the way they have. I can’t understand it, they’re so sloppy. They get it wrong. I have just been sitting in a trial about a so-called sleeper cell in my country and the jury quite rightly dismissed the charges against eight of the people and convicted one guy of conspiracy to cause a public nuisance because he was a nasty horrible Islamist who had downloaded some recipes from the Internet – from an American Supremacist site, interestingly – and tried to make the poisons. The poisons were so pathetic that they couldn’t even kill the mice they were tested on in the laboratory … and: I mean, it’s just weird. Actually, what I’m saying is, the thing that fuels these programs is not a sympathy for a particular side or another, it’s just a general grumpiness about the way reality is being portrayed. And then on top of that, I’m trying to ask, well, why are they obsessed with portraying this fantasy? So there are two levels in my films. There is a factual story and then, on top of that, I try and say, hang on, why has this happened? And I say, well, it could be this. I don’t necessarily believe that’s true, I’m trying it out. And it’s so weird, the way everything is being reported here and in my country; there must be some reason behind it … and: It’s trying to work out actually how reality does work. How fact and fiction mix together and how that’s then used by powerful organizations and why”. (full interview text, May 30, 2005).

And then he says: … “To be honest, the neoconservatives are their own worst enemy. They’ve created something out of their own fevered imagination, which was borne out of the Cold War.  That’s one of the great unexamined areas – how recently the Cold War ended and how so many of our institutions and our mindset and everything is still trapped in that. And that’s also true of a lot of journalists who are—I mean, I’m not so sure in America, but in my country, a lot of the senior journalists had a very good Cold War and still have that mentality as well. They hang on to it. You know, that’s why they kept on thinking there were hidden things out there in Iraq.  I don’t think they made it up, I think they genuinely believed it in Iraq.  Because that’s what the Soviets were like. They hid these things … and: You get trapped by this. Trapped by a false idea. That’s what I was trying to describe in The Power of Nightmares. Once you get trapped by your imagination, you think the worst and therefore you have to plan for the worst. It becomes a self-fulfilling thing … and: That’s right.  Last night on television someone who was pro-the Iraq war was saying that the alliance between the insurgents in Iraq and the foreign fighters is the equivalent of the Nazi-Soviet pact and that that’s what we’re really fighting against.  It’s all so weird.  That the men who sit in neon-lit rooms with very nicely done tables and who question you and tell you things, are actually weird … and: That’s the whole point – that’s what’s so fascinating about our time.  The banal and the weird are one and the same thing. (full interview text, by Errol Morris, October 31, 2005).


Sevenoaks School;

Television Nominations 2004;;

short video: Bush defends capitalism (for economic growth), 1.26 min, April 10, 2008;

The Guardian (until 1959, The Manchester Guardian) is a British newspaper … ;

on wikipedia:

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