Adam Curtis is arguably Britain’s best documentary-maker, famous for his investigative work on history, politics, society and the media. In The Power Of Nightmares (2004) Curtis examined the parallel rise of Neo-Conservatism and radical Islamism. In Century of the Self (2002) he investigated consumer culture, modern advertising and psychology. In his latest short film (The Rise Of ‘Oh-Dearism’), Curtis focuses on mass media, and how the government use conflicting information to keep us in a constant state of confusion about what is actually happening in the world.
“So much of the news this year has been hopeless, depressing and above all, confusing: to which the only response is Oh Dear.” Curtis begins, proposing that this defeatist, helpless attitude is exactly what those in power want us to say. He first looks at Russia, where Putin’s PR guy makes it his job to confuse the general public about what is real and what is fake by backing everyone from far-right groups to liberal progressives, and even supporting those who oppose Putin himself. In other words, cognitive dissonance (confusion arousing from having conflicting beliefs and ideas) is intentionally manufactured by those in power, to better control and manipulate people.
Next, Curtis asks whether we in the West are also being played by our governments, to keep us in a state of constant confusion which makes dissent almost impossible. Curtis focuses on Britain, but those of you in the States, Canada or Australia will no doubt recognize the key features of his argument, too. Does any of this sound familiar?
“Everything we’re told by journalists and politicians is confusing and contradictory. Troops have come home from Afghanistan, but nobody seems to know whether it was a victory or a defeat. In Syria, we are told that President Assad is the evil enemy, but then his enemies (ISIS) turn out to be even more evil than him. So we bomb them, and by doing that we keep Assad in power.” Curtis goes on to examine the lies we are told about the economy, which will also ring true on both sides of the pond.
This clip is an absolute must-see. A playlist of all Adam Curtis documentaries can be seen here