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Adam Curtis: The TV elite has lost the plot

The stupidity of crowds

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I've noticed in the reaction to The Trap - the attacks specifically avoid the ideas you're raising. Were you expecting that?

No, I was expecting more people to argue with me. To say "you're wrong" - to raise an argument. What you get is - anyone who joins up the dots in a way that doesn't fit with the received wisdom of particular groups is accused of being a conspiracy theorist.

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.

From Adam Curtis BBC series: "What happened to our dream of freedom"

The Trap (2007)

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.

This was pointed out to me once by a man who ran a focus group, and it's the reason I made The Trap.

He said, "Everyone out there" - and we're looking through the mirror - "thinks they are an individual. But actually more and more people are exactly the same. Not only in how they dress, but how they feel about themselves and about each other." They talk in the same language.

“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’”

And I researched it, and it's true - he's completely right. We live in an age where we think we're completely individualistic, but actually, we're more conformist than we have been since the 1960s.

And the media has a big part to play in this...

Yes but no.

We have a big part to play in this. In an age where there are no leaders that inspire us, or take us beyond ourselves, we seek that order. It's a nice, happy, contented world. But actually it's a static world, because it doesn't lead anywhere. And that was the feeling I was trying to tap into in The Trap. Which is, yes, it's a sort of system of order - but actually, it's got stuck. And I think people are beginning to feel that...

But you won't move out of that until someone comes along and says, "Have you thought of it this way?" - and that's what we should be doing in television.

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Next page: The glory of TV

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