"Tivo-ifies the web" Paul Kedrosky

The Living Dead

Running time: 1 hour

Part 2 (1 hour)

Part 3 (1 hour)

I have previously posted links to almost all of Adam Curtis’ superlative documentary series apart from this, which examines how the memory of the Second World War was manipulated and changed during the Cold War, in various countries and to suit political ends.

Curtis’ documentaries are always worth watching, they fulfill the instinctive craving that humans have for conspiratorial drama while remaining intelligent, a patently difficult task considering the paucity of other examples. To be fair, Curtis’ pieces are less about secretive cabals than unabashed manipulation through political spin, in an era of manufactured consent.

Despite being a fan of Curtis’ films, I have a problem with the core intellectual premise than envelopes almost everything that he has done. Not only are there few of the secret cabals of the conspiracy theorists that Curtis outshines, which would be like trying to herd tigers (its difficult enough to organize ordinary people, let alone powerful ones with large egos), there is no need for manufactured consent on the scale of what Curtis alleges.

Curtis’ argument is by design, that people are manipulated deliberately. This is something that I would argue is an example of teleological illusion, the hardwiring of human brains to see a creator in everything. If we turn the chain of cause and effect around the other way, then consent isn’t so much fabricated by others, but self-emergent, fabricated by personal desire. Since this requires far less effort, it is more likely to happen most of the time.

The counter argument is that manipulation clearly exists in the real word, from totalitarian propaganda to the seemingly banal world of advertising. The rebuttal is therefore a bit more subtle: that the evolutionary niche that allows for the survival of such things as advertising in a society, and the subsequent manipulation of instinct and desire is actually a product of that desire and driven by it.

This has different implications. Unlike undesirable political manipulation, if the marketplace for distortion of reality is created by us, and if we overcome our irrational desires through reason, it will go away.

We create a fiction to feed our desires and this is a more powerful force than the standalone manipulation comprising manufactured consent, which in turn is more likely than active conspiracy.

In other words, the real world is controlled by Self-delusional Consent.

history, politics, series

7 comments on “The Living Dead

  1. ivana says:

    As eloquent-ish that editorial may be, you may need to read up on the legacy of Cameron’s work a bit more. Why not try the nastiest medicine “The Shock Doctrine” by Naomi Klein. Do correct me if I’m wrong, much more thought went into your posting than my response. About to watch episode 3.
    By the way, thank you for your site and best regards.

  2. ivana again says:

    Controllers as victims of their own delusions is a resplendent fact unfolded here, nontheless, I’d like my memory erased of this tryptich. WHY? So my subconcious can giggle at the collective delusion that selective erasure of memory is possible, for the rest of my life. Half German and half Chilean I am; it’s all f*in connected, not as a single conspiracy, but as shining examples of sh*t gone awry under the watch of megalomaniacs.
    Back to 3.

  3. Tom Whitwell says:

    Thank you! I’ve been searching for this series for about five years, having watched it when it first came out. Being called ‘The Living Dead’ didn’t help much…

  4. Tom Foremski says:

    Excellent choice Dave, I love this stuff.

  5. What a joy to be over the great firewall of China and on a reasonably fast connection in Bangkok to watch this. I’m pretty sure that some of the thoughts you put forward in your post are along the lines on Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s books; The Black Swan and Fooled By Randomness. He talks about narrative fallacy which is the way that history is often rewritten. Great stuff.

  6. Thomas Deittert says:

    Congratulations for your exellent site!
    I watched the first part of this documentary and I think it is pretty good. Although the inside is not that new.
    I wonder when it was released because – just for the record- Horst Mahler, the lawyer interviewed as a member of the student movement and as a former leftwing terrorist is now a notourios Neo-Nazi. So much for self -delusion

  7. Jonathan says:

    It was made in 1995 – and you’re right since then Her Mahler seems to have had a “re-awakening” see -
    http://www.ejpress.org/article/21489

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