Mentally processing Adam Curtis’ HyperNormalisation

I watched Adam Curtis’ latest documentary HyperNormalisation.  I watched it in two sittings, because it is nearly 3 hours long and there is a lot to think about in it.

I was in two minds about watching it, because his documentaries are mostly made in the same way, so much so that there are now plenty of spoofs out there and even Adam Curtis Bingo.  I didn’t expect there to be anything new about HyperNormalisation.  There would be a mixture of fact and fiction, tenuous connections, loose ends, not to mention the sense of unease I’d feel for days afterwards.

His works have been described as ‘a man pushing a supermarket trolley full of film clips and shouting at passing cars’

What is the value in a view of the past that is potentially not entirely ‘true’?

But I watched it, because I wanted to see what his new thesis was, how he could possibly tell us yet another story about how we got to here.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I have however spent the last 10 days feeling uneasy.

Is it any wonder?  To me the film raised key points which, true or not, lead the viewer to question what is happening now, with a new critical lens.  If you don’t have a spare 3 hours (or 10 days of unease) then The New Yorker has a very fair summary of what’s in the film and its key points.

Since I started watching and thinking about it, lots of questions have been whirling around in my mind.

How much of Brexit or Trump or world conflict/Syria or anything is what it seems, when it has been translated for our consumption and cognition by government sponsored propaganda, corporation-controlled traditional media and our algorithmic social media echo chambers?

How much power does anyone have?  Does the world run on a system that politicians and corporations have the power to change?  To tinker with?  In Curtis World apparently not, the system is unmanageable and that individuals with votes or protests have no power whatsoever.  Because the politicians have no real power, neither do the people who vote for them.  And the angry mob has no vision, no big idea.  They know more about what they don’t want than what they want.

The lack of a vision for how things ought to be is very sad.  In capitalism, there have to be have nots, and so it only really suits the haves and those who believe they could be a have. Communism and global conflict has not been replaced with a liberal vision and collective effort to achieve peace and prosperity.  The world system is chaotic because there are those who just won’t play the game. We get the sense that what will be will not be the result of political planning but the triumph of force, in terms of weapons, technology, ideology or numbers.

Is the fear of the mob the new Fear?  ISIS not terrifying enough, we now fear a world without a defined future.  Where crowds are stupid but seem to get what they want.  Where are we going?  We certainly won’t have much of a clue tomorrow if Trump gets in.  But should we fear the mobs of Brexiters and Trump fans?  Or are they the sideshow for the really scary thing we just don’t quite understand?

What big idea could provide people with a vision, what big idea has a workable process, what big idea is achievable on a global scale?  How do you get the world, corporations, religions, ideologies, to cooperate, to collaborate on saving the world?

I love to ask questions and usually I have some answers.  Usually I like a bit of postmodern mindbending.  But I am at a loss. I’m sure most other people are too. Conspiracy or not. Someone sane and kind and nice better come up with a big idea with universal appeal quickly. And make it achievable. I know I’m being a hippie and an idealist but I mean it. I want the world to still be in one piece when my kid grows up.


Filed under Play

2 responses to “Mentally processing Adam Curtis’ HyperNormalisation

  1. Curtis has stated that one possible next step was a return to romanticism. It’s possible, particularly if we don’t trust experts anymore. The change agent of course, is technology. There’s looming on the horizon the battle between the dark enlightenment and the accelerationists.

    I liked this handy four box diagram from Jacobin as well for thinking about a political future.

  2. katebordwell

    Hmmm yes, interesting 4 options. Hope the last one (which seems the most likely) doesn’t happen. BTW how can an enlightenment be dark?

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