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Adam Curtis: The TV elite has lost the plot

The stupidity of crowds

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We should be saying to people "I'm going to take you out of yourself and show you something you haven't thought of, which is either awesome, or incredible, or will inspire you". But we don't. We've instead an equivalent of a Victorian book of etiquette. We've simply reinforced those simple definitions of what is ordered and disordered.

We say, "Your child is too fat, and this is the order". Or, "You feel that way, well that's disordered, I would do this".

And it's not imposed - we all want it - but it leads to a static world. That's what I was trying to say.

It's interesting how people are responding to this infinite abundance of information, and they seem to respond by going to what's familiar and what looks ordered. And the groupthink you get on the internet that you see in these 'blogrolls' is a very seductive world. All the reference points you need are there, people are familiar and known, and people fall into this rabbit hole. I guess it's not surprising - when there are suddenly a million routes home, you choose the one most familiar to you. It's an off-the-shelf belief system.

At a time when there isn't anything to give you confidence beyond yourself - you live in the "empire of the self" - then it is inevitable that you will seek those like you, because it will give you a sense of collective purpose. It will give you a sense of collective security.

And that's exactly what the internet is about - "If you like this book, others before you have bought these books..." And it works to create those little circles. All those little radio stations which tell you, "If you played this, other people have played this..."

Adam Curtis BBC The Trap: Part One: "F*ck You Buddy"

The Trap (2007)

On the internet, you're constantly monitoring other people's choices to see what those people who you think are like you do, and they say, "OK I'll do that to be like that". And what that leads to, again, is Balkanisation.

And it's what advertisers rather like, because it gives them a definition.

Where does this rhetoric come from - that we're being empowered, or there's some kind of revolution taking place, where real power is being destroyed or inverted?

I think that genuinely came from a utopian ideal at the beginning of the internet - that this really could be the people's channel. And once something gets enmeshed in the currents of power it never turns out the way you expect. So it's interesting to chart how that happens, and that's exactly what has happened with the internet.

The utopian idealists have kept the rhetoric, but it is actually rapidly becoming something else - which is a simplifying system of social order. Not control, order. That is what it is all about.

Groups of people seek those who are like themselves, work together to actively make that ideal. And those grouplets then work together themselves to create a stable and harmonious system. You could argue that's a utopian ideal - it suits the particular economic system, it suits the idea of us as producers not consumers - and this technology is helping shape it.

But it's a very static world and I sense people are frustrated by that - it's so unprogressive. So... unpopulistic.

It's very bland as well - who on earth wants to be a node in the hive mind?

OK, I agree with that. But if you accept you do want to be a part of the hive mind - then hives in the past have done incredible things. They went to the moon! Groups have done incredible things. What's strange about this is that we have a group system here, but it's doing anything. It's not changing the world. It's not taking the place of old views. It's stopped.

We have a simulation - a simulation of a "group".

We have the equivalent of a collective mind... and it worries about whether we have a compulsive disorder. Or which percentage of them are theoretically obese!

I mean, cry me a river about those poor people with obsessive compulsive disorders! That is such a low horizon of what human beings can achieve.

And above all, what I ache for is a world where people really dream of incredible things, and above people who are in charge of the media, people who paid a lot of money, actually use their imagination and intelligence to take me places and tell me things I don't know.

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