Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Not such a beautiful mind

Fans of TV documentaries that feature archive footage of social scientists in nylon shirts, set to music from John Carpenter horror movies, had a real treat last Sunday...

Yes, Adam ‘Power of Nightmares’ Curtis is back and in top form

Curtis is the film-maker who is almost single-handedly supporting BBC TV’s increasingly ill-deserved reputation for not being totally shit.

In his films Curtis explores how different elites – be they political, scientific or economic – adopt new ideologies and then try to impose those ideologies on society; normally fucking everything and everyone up in the process.

Curtis is not a conspiracy theorist. Curtis deals with memes rather than conscious conspiracies - though, to be honest, the end-results would be the same regardless of whether there was a grand hidden plan or not.

And that’s often the problem with bandying a term like ‘conspiracy theory’ around in a pejorative way.
If you try and document how a particular group or class falls in love with an idea and then tries to implement that idea should that be written off as a conspiracy theory? Some people do.

Curtis’ latest series is a three-parter called ‘The Trap’ and it seeks to explore...

how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today's idea of freedom

and it’s ace.

It hasn’t appeared on Googlevideo yet but a couple of torrents are available – and a reason in itself to get to grips with downloading torrents and testing just how unlimited your ISP’s download limits really are (after, obviously, satisfying yourself with the legality of downloading BBC shows from the Net)

My personal highpoint of the first episode was the interview with John ‘not such a beautiful mind’ Nash. The man who won a noble prize for proving mathematically that fucking people over was a rational thing to do, even if everyone loses out as result.

Nash has softened a little over the years and he explained to Curtis, somewhat apologetically, that he was suffering from paranoid schizophrenia and hearing voices at the time.

Unfortunately, that didn’t stop sociopaths like the people at the RAND Corporation and others incorporating Nash’s ideas into the kind of insane Cold War strategies that inspired Dr Strangelove, or rationalisations for pointlessly bombing the shit out of North Vietnam, or turning provision of state education and healthcare in the UK into a target-driven fuck up.

The mathematically proven way to win the Vietnam War...

Given all the wonderful things that have flowed from Nash’s ideas it’s a real shame that Curtis missed a trick when interviewing him. Every time Nash answered one of Curtis’ questions I was just begging for Curtis to say ‘I’m sorry. What are you talking about? I didn’t ask you anything’, then make some ‘whoo whoo’ noises and skip off out of the room.

It’s the least we could do for John

Part Two. Next Sunday. BBC2. 9.00pm. Be there.