Adam Curtis - blog & documentaries

Adam Curtis is the world's best documentary maker. He has worked for the BBC here in the UK for the past few decades. And is the best thing about that organisation. He is also a legend in the UK - regularly winning all the major awards for his work.

The main vision underpinning his work is that as a modern society we are taught to think of ourselves as being free. Whilst at the same time - we unquestioningly accept supposedly scientific and objective theories which limit our true freedom. But because we unquestioningly accept them as being true we never think to truly challenge these ideas. Even though these ideas are not objective and are fact built on often radical political ideaologies which we have being taught to take for granted.

And this vision underpins many of the developments in war, media and consumerism over the past 100 years.

But along the way - Curtis unearths many fascinating facts and overlooked archive footage to help his communicate his ideas. And that is half the fun of his work.

I think the best documentary by him (to start with) is 'The Power Of Nightmares'. It discusses the rise of al-Qaeda and the Neo Conservatives.

Surprisingly they both have their roots in America, were born around the same time - and were radically different responses to the same problems identified with modern American society.

Curtis has an interesting propulsive feel to his films as he layers on thousands of sound clips, quick edits, old movie clips, interviews and pieces of music into a collage which continually hits you about the brain.

On top of this - Adam Curtis narrates his documentaries. And his voice has a strange feel to it. Like it is a ghostly observer from the future commenting on the present. Mixed with the sceptical outlook common among the educated classes of the English elite.

His stuff used to be all over YouTube - but it seems the BBC is trying to crack down on that. So - I recommend watching the first three minutes of the documentary here. In the opening to the film - Curtis sets out the idea and vision which he will be exploring in his film:

And if you want to check out the rest of his documentaries - you can find his most recent ones archived here:

Anyway - I don't want to discuss Adam Curtis' documentary work here.

Since - to my continual amazement - he is also the world's best blogger.

Curtis spends thousands of hours buried away in the BBC archives looking for old footage to use in his documentaries. And along the way he often shares this footage as part of the long blog posts he puts together.

In some ways the blogs are even better than his films since you get to go into his ideas and material much more deeply than you would in a film (which has to appeal to millions of casual TV viewers).

As such - I just want to point out some of my favourite blog posts - so that those of you who may be interested - can get a feel for the excellent work Curtis is doing in this field.

Below is a quick take on some of his blog posts. But - they are all worth working through. The post are a mixutre of fascinating information, startling theories and brilliant archive footage. I just hope the videos will work for those outside of the UK. If not - it is worth trying to use a proxy server to access them.


This post sets out the strange roots of supposedly 'fair and balanced' economic/management institutions, and the fake objectivity they used to promote a far-right economic agenda. And the curious link it had to the Kennedy assasination:

This excellent post discusses the story of Colonnel Gaddafi and how his image has being continually used and shaped in the western media by himself and by the west. In order to achieve different goals. It seems Gaddafi has always being happy to be the 'walk-on baddie' for whatever goal the west was currently pursuing.

A post covering the history of yoga, body-building and the ideology which underpinned the nation building in Iraq

The mixing of religion and politics in US and Iranian politics. This didn't start to happen until the 1970's and the story behind it is fascinating. Luckily the two domains have always being separate here in the UK:

This posts covers the rise of the radical left in the US and UK over the past 50 years. Which unlike previous eras has being driven by pessimisim instead of idealism.

The recent Arab Spring has it's roots in the assasination of the Egyptian president Anwal Sadat who was killed 30 years ago. This post covers this - and links to an interesting documentary from 30 years ago which reveals how the west and Egypt saw president Sadat as two very different people.

This posts uses the car industry as a way of uncovering the failures of communism. And in more recent times (here in the UK) the failure of financial venture capitalism.

How the attempted assasination of the pope in 1981 created a mythology about international terror cells which were based around world plotting dastardly attacks. And how that myth created the template which was later used by the west in their portrayal of al-Qaeda:

How the financial crisis of 2008 has its roots in the cosumer boom of the late 70's and early 80's when politicians decided to encourage the expansion of consumer credit as a way of papering over the lack of rises in real wages, and the growing division between the richest and the poorest in society.

This is an old story. But it is the single most important thing people need to know today. In order to understand the hatred for the west in the Islamic world. It is partly because of the West's support for Israel.

But just as important - is the West's role in launching a political coup in Iran in 1951. Once you learn about this - you will start to see that the Islamic world is wise to be sceptical about the West's goals and political projects.


The above covers my highlights from the blog. It is a resource without compare on the web. And I recommend all readers spend time on the blog. I have learned more about the nature of current politics and society from Adam Curtis than I have from any other source.


PS Just to keep everything in one place. Here is a post where I talk about an incredible interview (with a guy called Francis Beveridge). For those who find they enjoy the work of Adam Curtis. Then I think you will enjoy this interview. It is my favourite of all the old archive footage that Adam Curtis has uncovered:
A new post from Adam Curtis. It discusses the history of MI5. It is a fascinating piece. It turns out MI5 Is one of the most inept organisations in Britain. They have never actually caught a spy themselves, and were so poor at doing so, that in the 80's they became convinced there must be a Russian mole at the top of the organisation who was leaking all their secrets to the enemy. The wild speculation even extended to the Prime Minister (Harold Wilson) being suspected of being a Russian spy.

Things were so bad, in the 1980's, that Margaret Thatcher wanted nothing more to do with such a bumbling set of idiots. And things haven't improved in recent years. First we had the rubbish intelligence about the nonexistents WMD in Iraq. As well as clear intelligence failures in the run up to the London bombings.

MI5 are now reduced to only hinting at all the dastardly plots they have prevented but which they cannot detail for 'security reasons' (so most likely just more bullshit). But still have the time to arrest female shop workers for writing poetry:

I am calling bullshit on MI5.

The only respect they have now is due to the bi-annual PR pieces coming out of the James Bond franchise. The last Bond film was a weird example of the respect and high regard they are held in. There was a scene in which 'M' (played by Judy Dench) was answering questions from a committee of MP's about why the security forces needed more funding. At which point she glowered and spoke of the terrible plots that the MP's would never know about which had been succcessfully disrupted by the security forces.

Which is fine. Except the whole plot of the last James Bond film involved MI6 losing a disk which had the name of every British spy in the world on it! For fucks sake!

Anyway - for those who want to look into the strange incompetent history of MI5, you should check out this excellent post:

And to finish. The most famous MI5 spy of recent years is David Shayler. Who is now a woman called Delores. And who now claims to be The Messiah: