Adam Curtis HyperNormalisation 2016


MUSIC: The Vanishing American Family by Scuba Z EXPLOSION We live in a strange time. Extraordinary events keep happening that undermine the stability of our world. Suicide bombs, waves of refugees, Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, even Brexit. EXPLOSION Yet those in control seem unable to deal with them, and no-one has any vision of a different or a better kind of future. MUSIC: Something I Can Never Have by Nine Inch Nails This film will tell the story of how we got to this strange place. It is about how, over the past 40 years, politicians, financiers and technological utopians, rather than face up to the real complexities of the world, retreated. Instead, they constructed a simpler version of the world in order to hang on to power. And as this fake world grew, all of us went along with it, because the simplicity was reassuring. Even those who thought they were attacking the system – the radicals, the artists, the musicians, and our whole counterculture – actually became part of the trickery, because they, too, had retreated into the make-believe world, which is why their opposition has no effect and nothing ever changes. MUSIC: The Vanishing American Family by Scuba Z But this retreat into a dream world allowed dark and destructive forces to fester and grow outside. Forces that are now returning to pierce the fragile surface of our carefully constructed fake world. # In dreams # I live… # The story begins in two cities at the same moment in 1975. One is New York. The other is Damascus. It was a moment when two ideas about how it might be possible to run the world without politics first took hold. In 1975, New York City was on the verge of collapse. For 30 years, the politicians who ran the city had borrowed more and more money from the banks to pay for its growing services and welfare. But in the early ’70s, the middle classes fled from the city and the taxes they paid disappeared with them. So, the banks lent the city even more. But then, they began to get worried about the size of the growing debt and whether the city would ever be able to pay it back. And then one day in 1975, the banks just stopped. The city held its regular meeting to issue bonds in return for the loans, overseen by the city’s financial controller. Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Today, the city of New York is offering for competitive bidding the sale of 260 million tax anticipation notes, of which 100 million will mature on June 3rd, 1975. The banks were supposed to turn up at 11am, but it soon became clear that none of them were going to appear. The meeting was rescheduled for 2pm and the banks promised they would turn up. The announcement on behalf of the controller is that the offer, which we had expected to receive and announce at two o’clock this afternoon, is now expected at four o’clock. Paul, does this mean that, so far, nobody wants those bonds? We will be making a further announcement at four o’clock and anything further that I could say now I think would not advance the interest of the sale, which is now in progress. Does this mean that you have not been able to sell them so far today? We will have a further announcement at four o’clock. What happened that day in New York marked a radical shift in power. The banks insisted that in order to protect their loans they should be allowed to take control of the city. The city appealed to the President, but he refused to help, so a new committee was set up to manage the city’s finances. Out of nine members, eight of them were bankers. It was the start of an extraordinary experiment where the financial institutions took power away from the politicians and started to run society themselves. The city had no other option. The bankers enforced what was called “austerity” on the city, insisting that thousands of teachers, policemen and firemen were sacked. This was a new kind of politics. The old politicians believed that crises were solved through negotiation and deals. The bankers had a completely different view. They were just the representatives of something that couldn’t be negotiated with – the logic of the market. To them, there was no alternative to this system. It should run society. Just by shifting paper around, these slobs can make 60 million, 65 million in a single transaction. That would take care of all of the lay-offs in the city, so it’s reckless, it’s cruel and it’s a disgrace. There would be a fair number of bankers, of course, who’d say it’s the unions who have been too greedy. – What would your reaction be to that?
– I guess they’re right in a way. If you can make 60 million on a single transaction, and a worker makes 8,000, 9,000 a year, I suppose they’re correct, and as they go back to their little estates in Greenwich, Connecticut, I want to wish them well, the slobs. But the extraordinary thing was no-one opposed the bankers. The radicals and the left-wingers who, ten years before, had dreamt of changing America through revolution did nothing. They had retreated and were living in the abandoned buildings in Manhattan. The singer Patti Smith later described the mood of disillusion that had come over them. “I could not identify “with the political movements any longer,” she said. “All the manic activity in the streets. “In trying to join them, I felt overwhelmed “by yet another form of bureaucracy.” What she was describing was the rise of a new, powerful individualism that could not fit with the idea of collective political action. Instead, Patti Smith and many others became a new kind of individual radical, who watched the decaying city with a cool detachment. They didn’t try and change it. They just experienced it. Look at that. Isn’t that cool? I love that, where, like, kids write all over the walls. That, to me, is neater than any art sometimes. “Jose and Maria forever.” Oh, there’s a lot of things, like, when you pass by big movie houses, maybe we’ll find one, but they have little movie screens, where you can see clips of, like, Z, or something like that. People watch it over and over. I’ve seen people, I’ve checked them out. All day! I’ve gone back and forth and they’re still there watching the credits of a movie, cos they don’t have enough dough, but it’s some entertainment, you know? Instead, radicals across America turned to art and music as a means of expressing their criticism of society. They believed that instead of trying to change the world outside the new radicalism should try and change what was inside people’s heads, and the way to do this was through self-expression, not collective action. U V W X Y Z But some of the Left saw that something else was really going on – that by detaching themselves and retreating into an ironic coolness, a whole generation were beginning to lose touch with the reality of power. Shut up. Shut up! One of them wrote of that time, “It was the mood of the era “and the revolution was deferred indefinitely. “And while we were dozing, the money crept in.” SOBBING What’s your date of birth, Larry? But one of the people who did understand how to use this new power was Donald Trump. Trump realised that there was now no future in building housing for ordinary people, because all the government grants had gone. But he saw there were other ways to get vast amounts of money out of the state. Trump started to buy up derelict buildings in New York and he announced that he was going to transform them into luxury hotels and apartments. But in return, he negotiated the biggest tax break in New York’s history, worth 160 million. The city had to agree because they were desperate, and the banks, seeing a new opportunity, also started to lend him money. And Donald Trump began to transform New York into a city for the rich, while he paid practically nothing. At the very same time, in 1975, there was a confrontation between two powerful men in Damascus, the capital of Syria. One was Henry Kissinger, the US Secretary of State. The other was the President of Syria, Hafez al-Assad. The battle between the two men was going to have profound consequences for the world. And like in New York, it was going to be a struggle between the old idea of using politics to change the world and a new idea that you could run the world as a stable system. President Assad dominated Syria. The country was full of giant images and statues that glorified him. He was brutal and ruthless, killing or imprisoning anyone he suspected of being a threat. But Assad believed that the violence was for a purpose. He wanted to find a way of uniting the Arab countries and using that power to stand up to the West. Four, three, two, one. Kissinger was also tough and ruthless. He had started in the 1950s as an expert in the theory of nuclear strategy. What was called “the delicate balance of terror.” It was the system that ran the Cold War. Both sides believed that if they attacked, the other side would immediately launch their missiles and everyone would be annihilated. Kissinger had been one of the models for the character of Dr Strangelove in Stanley Kubrick’s film. Mr President, I would not rule out the chance to preserve a nucleus of human specimens. It would be quite easy. At the bottom of some of our deeper mineshafts. Henry was not a warm, friendly, modest, jovial sort of person. He was thought of as one of the more… ..anxious, temperamental, self-conscious, ambitious, inconsiderate people at Harvard. Kissinger saw himself as a hard realist. He had no time for the emotional turmoil of political ideologies. He believed that history had always really been a struggle for power between groups and nations. But what Kissinger took from the Cold War was a way of seeing the world as an interconnected system, and his aim was to keep that system in balance and prevent it from falling into chaos. I believe that with all the dislocations we now experience, there also exists an extraordinary opportunity to form, for the first time in history, a truly global society carried up by the principle of interdependence, and if we act wisely, and with vision, I think we can look back to all this turmoil as the birth pangs of a more creative and better system. If we miss the opportunity, I think there’s going to be chaos. The flight has been delayed, we understand now. Kissinger will be arriving here about an hour and a half from now, so we’ll just have the press informed and then we’ll stay in contact with you… And it was this idea that Kissinger set out to impose on the chaotic politics of the Middle East. But to manage it, he knew that he was going to have to deal with President Assad of Syria. President Assad was convinced that there would only ever be a real and lasting peace between the Arabs and Israel if the Palestinian refugees were allowed to return to their homeland. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were living in exile in Syria, as well as in the Lebanon and Jordan. Have you found that the Palestinians here want to integrate with the Syrians at all? Oh, no. No, never. They don’t want… Not here or neither in Lebanon or in Jordan, never. No, because they want to stay as a whole, as…Palestinian. As… They call themselves, “Those Who Go Back” – “al-a’iduun”, you say in Arabic. Assad also believed that such a peace would strengthen the Arab world. But Kissinger thought that strengthening the Arabs would destabilise his balance of power. So, he set out to do the very opposite – to fracture the power of the Arab countries, by dividing them and breaking their alliances, so they would keep each other in check. Kissinger now played a double game. Or as he termed it, “constructive ambiguity”. In a series of meetings, he persuaded Egypt to sign a separate agreement with Israel. But at the same time, he led Assad to believe that he was working for a wider peace agreement, one that WOULD include the Palestinians. In reality, the Palestinians were ignored. They were irrelevant to the structural balance of the global system. The hallmark of Kissinger’s thinking about international politics is its structural design. Everything is always connected in his mind to everything else. But his first thoughts are on that level, on this structural global balance of power level. And as he addresses questions of human dignity, human survival, human freedom… ..I think they tend to come into his mind as an adjunct of the play of nations at the power game. When Assad found out the truth, it was too late. In a series of confrontations with Kissinger in Damascus, Assad raged about this treachery. He told Kissinger that what he had done would release demons hidden under the surface of the Arab world. Kissinger described their meetings. “Assad’s controlled fury,” he wrote, “was all the more impressive for its eerily cold, “seemingly unemotional, demeanour.” Assad now retreated. He started to build a giant palace that loomed over Damascus… ..and his belief that it would be possible to transform the Arab world began to fade. A British journalist, who knew Assad, wrote… “Assad’s optimism has gone. “A trust in the future has gone. “What has emerged instead is a brutal, vengeful Assad, “who believes in nothing except revenge.” The original dream of the Soviet Union had been to create a glorious new world. A world where not only the society, but the people themselves would be transformed. They would become new and better kinds of human beings. But by the 1980s, it was clear that the dream had failed. WOMAN GASPS WOMAN SPEAKS RUSSIAN The Soviet Union became instead a society where no-one believed in anything or had any vision of the future. RUSSIAN SONG PLAYS Those who ran the Soviet Union had believed that they could plan and manage a new kind of socialist society. But they had discovered that it was impossible to control and predict everything and the plan had run out of control. But rather than reveal this, the technocrats began to pretend that everything was still going according to plan. And what emerged instead was a fake version of the society. The Soviet Union became a society where everyone knew that what their leaders said was not real because they could see with their own eyes that the economy was falling apart. But everybody had to play along and pretend that it WAS real because no-one could imagine any alternative. One Soviet writer called it “hypernormalisation”. You were so much a part of the system that it was impossible to see beyond it. The fakeness was hypernormal. TANNOY ANNOUNCEMENT IN RUSSIAN In this stagnant world, two brothers – called Arkady and Boris Strugatsky – became the inspiration of a growing new dissident movement. They weren’t politicians, they were science fiction writers, and in their stories, they expressed the strange mood that was rising up as the Soviet Empire collapsed. Their most famous book was called Roadside Picnic. It is set in a world that seems like the present, except there is a zone that has been created by an alien force. People, known as “stalkers”, go into the zone. They find that nothing is what it seems, that reality changes minute by minute. Shadows go the wrong way. There are hidden forces that twist your body and change the way you think and feel. The picture the Strugatskys gave was of a world where nothing was fixed. Where reality – both what you saw and what you believed – had become shifting and unstable. And in 1979, the film director Andrei Tarkovsky made a film that was based on Roadside Picnic. He called it Stalker. WIND WHISTLES I, Ronald Reagan, do solemnly swear… ..That I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States. ..that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States. The new president of America had a new vision of the world. It wasn’t the harsh realism of Henry Kissinger any longer, it was different – it was a simple, moral crusade, where America had a special destiny to fight evil and to make the world a better place. The places and the periods in which man has known freedom are few and far between – just scattered moments on the span of time. And most of those moments have been ours. The American people have a genius for great and unselfish deeds. Into the hands of America, God has placed the destiny of an afflicted mankind. God bless America. But this crusade was going to lead Reagan to come face-to-face with Henry Kissinger’s legacy… ..and, above all, the vengeful fury of President Assad of Syria. EXPLOSION Israel was now determined to finally destroy the power of the Palestinians. And, in 1982, they sent a massive army to encircle the Palestinian camps in the Lebanon. Do you know… Do you know how strong the Israelis are? Do you know how many tanks they have outside Beirut? Do you know how strong they are? HE TRANSLATES That means “We are not ready to surrender”. Young, young, young! NEARBY EXPLOSIONS Keep going! Dashed into this building here because the PLO guys with us expect that, sooner or later, there will be a huge explosion. There’ve been several of these in the last few minutes. As you can see, there’s enormous damage in all the buildings round here. EXPLOSION Quick, quick! DISTANT EXPLOSIONS Two months later, thousands of Palestinian refugees were massacred in the camps. It horrified the world. But what was even more shocking was that Israel had allowed it to happen. Its troops had stood by and watched as a Christian Lebanese faction murdered the Palestinians. This was the first of the massacres we discovered yesterday. Now, 24 hours later, the stench here is appalling. But the effects on the Israelis of what their Christian allies did here and in dozens of other places around this camp are going to be immense. There’s always been a risk of such massacres if Christian militiamen were allowed to come into Palestinian camps, and the Israelis seem to have done nothing to prevent them coming into this one. In the face of the horror and the growing chaos, President Reagan was forced to act. He announced that American marines would come to Beirut to lead a peacekeeping force. Reagan insisted that the troops were neutral. But President Assad was convinced that there was another reality. He saw the troops as part of the growing conspiracy between America and Israel to divide the Middle East into factions and destroy the power of the Arabs. Assad decided to get the Americans out of the Middle East. And to do this, he made an alliance with the new revolutionary force of Ayatollah Khomeini’s Iran. And what Khomeini could bring to Assad was an extraordinary new weapon that he had just created. It was called it “the poor man’s atomic bomb”. CHANTING: Ayatollah Khomeini had come to power two years before as the leader of the Iranian revolution. But his hold on power was precarious, and Khomeini had developed a new idea of how to fight his enemies and defend the revolution. Khomeini told his followers that they could destroy themselves in order to save the revolution providing that, in the process, they killed as many enemies around them as possible. This was completely new, because the Koran specifically prohibited suicide. In the past, you became a martyr on the battlefield because God chose the time and place of your death. But Khomeini changed this. He did it by going back to one of the central rituals of Shia Islam. MUSIC PLAYS Every year, Shi’ites march in a procession mourning the sacrifice of their founder, Husayn. As they do, they whip themselves, symbolically re-enacting Husayn’s suffering. Khomeini said that the ultimate act of penitence was not just to whip yourself, but to kill yourself… ..providing it was for the greater good of the revolution. In the name of God, the compassionate, the merciful, good afternoon. “An Iraqi Soviet-made MiG-23 was shot down “by the air-force jet fighters of the Islamic Republic “over the north-western Iranian border region of Marivan “at 10.08 hours local time, Saturday,” said the Joint Staff Commands communique numbered 1710. Khomeini had mobilised this force when the country was attacked by Iraq. Iran faced almost certain defeat because Iraq had far superior weapons, many of them supplied by America. So, the revolutionaries took tens of thousands of young boys out of schools, put them on buses and sent them to the front line. CHANTING Their job was to walk through the enemies’ minefields, deliberately blowing themselves up in order to open gaps that would allow the Iranian army to pass through unharmed. It was organised suicide on a vast scale. This human sacrifice was commemorated in giant cemeteries across the country. Fountains flowing with blood red-water glorified this new kind of martyrdom. And it was this new idea – of an unstoppable human weapon – that President Assad took from Khomeini, and brought to the West for the first time. But, as it travelled, it would mutate into something even more deadly. Instead of just killing yourself, you would take explosives with you into the heart of the enemy and then blow yourself up, taking dozens or even hundreds along with you. It would become known as “suicide bombing”. In October 1983, two suicide bombers drove trucks into the US marine barracks in Beirut. It was seeing something move that took me out of my trance. And then I recognised, “Oh, yes, marines were in that building. “A lot of marines were in that building.” And that’s when I ran down and… And it was a black… black marine. He looked white. The dust had just covered him. The massive explosions killed 241 Americans. The bombers were members of a new militant group that no-one had heard of. They called themselves Hezbollah and, although many of them were Iranian, they were very much under the control of Syria and the Syrian intelligence agencies. President Assad was using them as his proxies to attack America. Whoever carried out yesterday’s bombings – Shia Muslim fanatics, devotees of the Ayatollah Khomeini, or whatever – it is Syria who profits politically. The most significant fact is that the dissidents live and work with Syrian protection. So, it is to Syria rather than to the dissident group’s guiding light, Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran, that we must look for an explanation of the group’s activities. Destabilisation is Syria’s Middle-Eastern way of reminding the world that Syria must not be left out of plans for the future of the area. There are no words that can express our sorrow and grief for the loss of those splendid young men and the injury to so many others. These deeds make so evident the bestial nature of those who would assume power if they could have their way and drive us out of that area. But despite his words, within four months, President Reagan withdrew all the American troops from the Lebanon. The Secretary of State George Shultz explained. “We became paralysed by the complexity that we faced,” he said. So, the Americans turned and left. For President Assad, it was an extraordinary achievement. He was the only Arab leader to have defeated the Americans and forced them to leave the Middle East. He had done it by using the new force of suicide bombing. A force that, once unleashed, was going to spread with unstoppable power. But at this point, both Assad and the Iranians thought that they could control it. And what gave it this extraordinary power was that it held out the dream of transcending the corruptions of the world and entering a new and better realm. – TRANSLATION:
– One should defend the realm of Islam and Muslims against heretics and invaders. And to fulfil this duty, one should even sacrifice one’s life. We believe that martyrs can overlook our deeds from the other world. It means that, after death, the martyr lives and can still witness this world. By the middle of the 1980s, the banks were rising up and becoming ever more powerful in America. What had started ten years before in New York, the idea that the financial system could run society, was spreading. But unlike older systems of power, it was mostly invisible. A writer called William Gibson tried to dramatise what was happening in a powerful, imaginative way, in a series of novels. Gibson had noticed how the banks and the new corporations were beginning to link themselves together through computer systems. What they were creating was a series of giant networks of information that were invisible to ordinary people and to politicians. But those networks gave the corporations extraordinary new powers of control. ‘Good morning. South-West Development. May I help you?’ Gibson gave this new world a name. He called it “cyberspace” and his novels described a future that was dangerous and frightening. Hackers could literally enter into cyberspace and as they did, they travelled through systems that were so powerful that they could reach out and crush intruders by destroying their minds. In cyberspace, there were no laws and no politicians to protect you. Just raw, brutal corporate power. But then, a strange thing happened. A new group of visionaries in America took Gibson’s idea of a hidden, secret world and transformed it into something completely different. They turned it into a dream of a new utopia. They were the technological utopians who were rising up on the West Coast of America. They turned Gibson’s idea on its head. Instead of cyberspace being a frightening place, dominated by powerful corporations, they reinvented it as the very opposite. A new, safe world where radical dreams could come true. Ten years before, faced by the complexity of real politics, the radicals had given up on the idea of changing the world. But now, the computer utopians saw, in cyberspace, an alternative reality. A place they could retreat to away from the harsh right-wing politics that now dominated Reagan’s America. The roots of this vision lay back in the counterculture of the 1960s, and, above all, with LSD. We’ve got some more acid over here if you want to go ahead. Many of those who had taken LSD in the ’60s were convinced that it was more than just another drug, that it opened human perception and allowed people to see new realities that were normally hidden from them. See, the ones that have white in them are really great. SHE GIGGLES I feel like a rabbit. It freed them from the narrow, limited view of the world that was imposed on them by politicians and those in power. In the United States, in the next, five, ten, 15 years, you’re going to see more and more people taking LSD and making it a part of their lives, so there will be an LSD country within 15 years. An LSD society, there will be less interest in, obviously, warfare, in power politics. You know, politics today is a disease, it’s a real addiction. Politics, politics, politics, politics. Don’t politick, don’t vote – these are old men’s games. Impotent and senile old man that want to put you onto their old chess games of war and power. 20 years later, the new networks of machines seemed to offer a way to construct a real alternate reality. Not just one that was chemically induced, but a space that actually existed in a parallel dimension to the real world. And like with acid, cyberspace could be a place where you would be liberated from the old, corrupt hierarchies of politics and power and explore new ways of being. One of the leading exponents of this idea was called John Perry Barlow. In the ’60s, he had written songs for the Grateful Dead and been part of the acid counterculture. Now, he organised what he called “cyberthons”, to try and bring the cyberspace movement together. Well, you know, the cyberthon as it was originally conceived was supposed to be… ..the ’90s equivalent of the acid test and we had thought to involve some of the same personnel. – You and I and Timmy should sit down and talk.
– OK. That is good. And it immediately acquired a financial quality or a commercial quality that was initially a little unsettling to an old hippy like me, but as soon as I saw it actually working, then I thought, “Ah, well, if you’re going to have an acid test for the ’90s, “money better be involved.” Instead of having a glass barrier that separates you – your mind – from the mind of the computer, the computer pulls us inside and creates a world for us. Incorporates everything that could be incorporated. It incorporates experience itself. Barlow then wrote a manifesto that he called A Declaration Of Independence Of Cyberspace. It was addressed to all politicians, telling them to keep out of this new world. It was going to be incredibly influential, because what Barlow did was give a powerful picture of the internet not as a network controlled by giant corporations, but, instead, as a kind of magical, free place. An alternative to the old systems of power. It was a vision that would come to dominate the internet over the next 20 years. Governments of the industrial world, cyberspace does not lie within your borders. We are creating a world where anyone, anywhere, may express his or her beliefs, no matter how singular, without fear of being coerced into silence or conformity. I declare the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose on us. We will create a civilisation of the mind in cyberspace. May it be more humane and fair than the world your governments have made before. It’s begun. This is the key to a new order. This code disk means freedom. But two young hackers in New York thought that Barlow was describing a fantasy world, that his vision bore no relationship at all to what was really emerging online. They were cult figures on the early online scene and their fans followed and recorded them. They called themselves Phiber Optik and Acid Phreak and they spent their time exploring and breaking in to giant computer networks that they knew were the hard realities of modern digital power. My specific instance, I was charged with conspiracy to commit a few dozen “overacts”, they called them. Among a number of things having to do with computer trespass and… and I guess computer eavesdropping, interception. Unauthorised access to federal interest computers, which is pretty vague law. Communications network computers and so on. In a notorious public debate online, the two hackers attacked Barlow. What infuriated them most was Barlow’s insistence that there was no hierarchy or controlling powers in the new cyber world. The hackers set out to demonstrate that he was wrong. Acid Phreak hacked into the computers of a giant corporation called TRW. TRW had originally built the systems that ran the Cold War for the US military. They had helped create the delicate balance of terror. Now, TRW had adapted their computers to run a new system, that of credit and debt. Their computers gathered up the credit data of millions of Americans and were being used by the banks to decide individuals’ credit ratings. The hackers broke into the TRW network, stole Barlow’s credit history and published it online. The hackers were demonstrating the growing power of finance. How the companies that ran the new systems of credit knew more and more about you, and, increasingly, used that information to control your destiny. But the system that was allowing this to happen were the new giant networks of information connected through computer servers. The hackers were questioning whether Barlow’s utopian rhetoric about cyberspace might really be a convenient camouflage hiding the emergence of a new and growing power that was way beyond politics. But cyberspace was not the only imaginary story being created. Faced with the humiliating defeat in the Lebanon, President Reagan’s government was desperate to shore up the vision of a moral world where a good America struggled against evil. And to do this they were going to create a simple villain. An imaginary enemy, one that would free them from the paralysing complexity of real Middle-Eastern politics. The perfect candidate was waiting in the wings. Colonel Gaddafi, the ruler of Libya. The Americans were going to ruthlessly use Colonel Gaddafi to create a fake terrorist mastermind. And Gaddafi was going to happily play along, because it would turn him into a famous global figure. Colonel Gaddafi had taken power in a coup in the 1970s but from the very start, he was convinced that he was more than just the leader of one country. He believed that he was an international revolutionary whose destiny was to challenge the power of the West. Gentlemen, the Queen. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN PLAYS When he was a young officer, Gaddafi had been sent to England for training and he had detested the patronising racism that he said he had found at the heart of British society. Yes, I attended a course. I had been in England in 1966 from February to August. You had the best months. HE CHUCKLES I was in Beaconsfield, a village called Beaconsfield, in an army school. In fact, we were ill-treated in that place from some British officers. I think the officers were Jews, maybe Jews. Ill-treated in what sort of way? In many ways. They ill-treat us every time. By being rude or by bullying or…? In their own behaviour towards us, they ill-treated us. They hate us in there because of colonisation. It is the result of colonising. Once in power, Gaddafi had developed his own revolutionary theory, which he called the Third Universal Theory. It was an alternative, he said, to communism and capitalism. He published it in a green book, but practically no-one read it. He had sent money and weapons to the IRA in Ireland to help them overthrow the British ruling class. But all the other Arab leaders rejected him and his ideas. They thought that he was mad. And by the mid-1980s, Gaddafi was an isolated figure with no friends and no global influence. Then, suddenly, that changed. In December 1985, terrorists attacked Rome and Vienna airports simultaneously, killing 19 people, including five Americans. There was growing pressure on President Reagan to retaliate. It’s time to rename your State Department the Capitulation Department. Get off of your stick, Mr President. The American people are sick and tired of being kicked around. You talk tough, let’s see you use some of these billions and billions and billions of dollars’ worth of weapons that you’ve asked us to approve. Your words are cheap talk. President Reagan immediately announced that Colonel Gaddafi was definitely behind the attacks. These murderers could not carry out their crimes without the sanctuary and support provided by regimes such as Colonel Gaddafi’s in Libya. The Rome and Vienna murders are only the latest in a series of brutal terrorist acts committed with Gaddafi’s backing. But the European security services who investigated the attacks were convinced that Libya was not involved at all and that the mastermind behind the attacks was, in fact, Syria – that the terrorists had been directed by the Syrian intelligence agencies. But the Americans say that the attack at Rome Airport was organised by Gaddafi, not by Damascus. What do you say? – No, we don’t have any evidence…
– You have no evidence? ..supporting such an…affirmation. The only evidence we have shows a Syrian connection. You say that it was Libya and the President – said the evidence of Libya’s culpability was irrefutable.
– Yeah. But the Italian authorities to whom I’ve spoken say emphatically on the record that their investigations have shown that it was entirely masterminded by Syria. I don’t agree with that at all. Well, they interrogated the surviving terrorists. I must just say I don’t agree with that. But you’ve no evidence that Libya was in on the planning either. Our evidence on Libya is circumstantial, but very strong. But why does the President then say it’s “irrefutable”, if you call it “circumstantial”? Well, people can be convicted and sentenced in our courts on circumstantial evidence. But what made it even more confusing was that although there seemed to be no evidence that Gaddafi had been behind the attacks, he made no attempt to deny the allegations. Instead, he went the other way and turned the crisis into a global drama… It is not a time of saying. It is a time of war, a time of confrontation. ..threatening suicide attacks against America. TRANSLATION: Gaddafi now started to play a role that was going to become very familiar. He grabbed the publicity that had been given to him by the Americans and used it dramatically. He promoted himself as an international revolutionary who would help to liberate oppressed peoples around the world, even the blacks in America. Gaddafi arranged for a live satellite link to a mass meeting of the Nation Of Islam in Chicago. Brothers and sisters, it is with great honour and privilege that I present to you the leader of the al-Fateh Revolution from Libya, our brother Muammar al-Gaddafi. APPLAUSE Gaddafi told them that Libya was now their ally in their struggle against white America. ..To express my full support and support of my country to your struggle for freedom, for emancipation. Gaddafi promised that he would supply weapons to create a black army in America of 400,000 men. “If white America refuses to accept blacks as US citizens,” he told them, “it must therefore be destroyed.” Gaddafi also invited a group of German rocket scientists to come to Libya to build him a rocket. He insisted that it had no military purpose. Libya was now going to explore outer space. I think it is peaceful and civil… Civilian? ..civilian activity for investigation of space and something like this and it has nothing to do with any military things. But no-one believed him. Journalists warned that Gaddafi was really preparing to attack Europe, vividly dramatising the new danger. That is something like this which goes that way to put something into space. But the same device tilted, say, to an angle of 45 degrees could, of course, become something very different – a missile possibly carrying a warhead. That would put Libya within range of an enormous area. A chilling proposition with its range of 2,000km. The Americans and Gaddafi now became locked together in a cycle of mutual reinforcement. In the process, a powerful new image was created that was going to capture the imagination of the West. Gaddafi became a global supervillain, at the head of what was called a “rogue state” – a madman who threatened the stability of the world. And Gaddafi was loving every minute of it. So, you think, in the past, his decisions sometimes have been taken too quickly… – Maybe, maybe.
– ..on world affairs?
– Maybe. I think, sometimes, that is what has made people in the world – nervous of you, perhaps?
– Maybe. HE CHUCKLES Then, there was another terrorist attack at a discotheque in West Berlin. A bomb killed an American soldier and injured hundreds. The Americans released what they said were intercepts by the National Security Agency that proved that Colonel Gaddafi was behind the bombing and a dossier that they said proved that he was also the mastermind behind a whole range of other attacks. President Reagan ordered the Pentagon to prepare to bomb Libya. But again, there were doubts – this time, within the American Government itself. There were concerns that analysts were being pressured to make a case that didn’t really exist… ..and to do it, they were taking Gaddafi’s rhetoric about himself as a global revolutionary and his manic ravings and then re-presenting them as fact. And, in the process, together, the Americans and Gaddafi were constructing a fictional world. The analysts were certainly, I’m convinced… pressured into developing a prima facie case against the Libyan Government. From the somewhat incoherent ravings of a maniac, both interceptions of a clandestine nature and interceptions of an open radio broadcast or whatever, as well as other sources, quotations of his, one can assemble a neatly-put-together package demonstrating that the man had violent interests against the United States and its European allies. The European intelligence agencies told the Americans that they were wrong, that it was Syria that was behind the bombing, not Libya. But the Americans had decided to attack Libya because they couldn’t face the dangerous consequences of attacking Syria. Instead, they went for Gaddafi, a man without friends or allies. Libya had less downsided consequences, if you will. There’s less Arab support for Gaddafi, we figured there would be less Soviet support for Gaddafi. There’s no question that Libya was more vulnerable than Syria and Iran. – He was a soft target?
– And that is certainly an element, of course. In April 1986, the Americans attacked Libya. Their targets included Colonel Gaddafi’s own house. Immediately after the attack, Gaddafi appeared in the ruins to describe what had happened. – TRANSLATION:
– The family were asleep and my wife was, that day, tied down to the bed because she had a slipped disc. I tried to rescue the children and the house started to collapse, as you can see. And the bombs started to land. They concentrated on the children’s room so that they would kill all the children. Our small adopted daughter was killed and two of our children were injured. But, yet again, Gaddafi might have been lying. Ever since then, there have been rumours that his adopted daughter actually survived. But many other children were killed in the raid because the American bombing was so inaccurate. Gaddafi realised that the attention of the whole world was now focused on him and he grabbed the moment to promote his own revolutionary theory, The Third Way, as a global alternative to democracy. – TRANSLATION:
– I feel that I’m really responsible for conveying the Third Way theory and the Green Book to the rising generations, to the young American and British people, so that we can rescue America and Britain and these generations of young people from this theory, this electoral party theory which enabled an imbecile like Reagan to rule the mightiest power on Earth and use it to destroy other people’s homes and enabled a harlot like Thatcher to rule a great nation like Britain. – MAN:
– Wow, look at that. What the heck is that? Oh, my God, look at that. Holy crap! It’s just moving really slowly. Wow! – Look, look, look! Come here, come here!
– What is it doing? What the heck?! Guys, it’s… – Whoa!
– Oh, my gosh! Wow! – What is happening?
– Dude, what is happening?! – What is going on?
– Oh, my gosh! – Oh, my God, guys!
– Guys, is that a freaking UFO? – Wait, can you get a good video?
– What is it?
– What the hell? In the 1980s, more and more people in the United States reported seeing unexplained objects and lights in the sky. At the same time, investigators who believed in UFOs revealed that they had discovered top-secret government documents that stated that alien craft had visited Earth. The documents had been hidden for 20 years and they seemed to prove that there had been a giant cover-up. But, actually, the reality was even stranger. The American Government might have been making it all up, that they had created a fake conspiracy to deliberately mislead the population. The lights that people imagined were UFOs may, in reality, have been new high-technology weapons that the US Government were testing. The government had developed the weapons because they, in turn, imagined that the Soviet Union was far stronger than it was and still wanted to conquer the world. The government wanted to keep the weapons secret, but they couldn’t always hide their appearance in the skies so it is alleged that they chose a number of people to use to spread the rumour that these were really alien visitations. One of those chosen was called Paul Bennewitz who lived outside a giant air base in New Mexico and had noticed strange things going on. Years later, I sat down with Paul at dinner and told Paul exactly that everything we did was a sanctioned counterintelligence operation to convince him that what he was seeing was UFOs and that what we didn’t want him to know was that he had tapped into something on the base and we didn’t want him to ever disclose that. We kind of planted the seed in Paul that what he was seeing and what he was hearing and what he was collecting was, in fact, probably, maybe, UFOs. Bennewitz and others chosen by the agency were, it is alleged, given a series of forged documents. Many of them were top-secret memos by the military describing sightings of unidentified aerial vehicles. The documents spread like wildfire and they formed the basis for the wave of belief in UFOs that would spread through America in the 1990s. – What the fuck is that?
– That’s a… That’s crazy, bro. Is that that space, uh…? And it also fuelled the wider growing belief that governments lied to you – that conspiracies were real. What the Reagan administration were doing, both with Colonel Gaddafi and with the UFOs, was a blurring of fact and fiction but it was part of an even broader programme. The President’s advisers had given it a name – they called it “perception management” and it became a central part of the American Government during the 1980s. The aim was to tell dramatic stories that grabbed the public imagination, not just about the Middle East, but about Central America and the Soviet Union and it didn’t matter if the stories were true or not, providing they distracted people and you, the politician, from having to deal with the intractable complexities of the real world. Reality became less and less of an important factor in American politics. It wasn’t what was real that was driving anything or the facts driving anything. It was how you could turn those facts or twist those facts or even make up the facts to make your opponent look bad. So, perception management became a device and the facts could be twisted. Anything could be anything. It becomes how can you manipulate the American people? And, in the process, reality becomes what? Reality becomes simply something to play with to achieve that end. Reality is not important in this context. Reality is simply something that you handle. But something was about to happen that would demonstrate dramatically just how far the American Government had detached from reality. The Soviet Empire was about to implode. And no-one, none of the politicians, or the journalists, or the think tank experts, or the economists, or the academics saw it coming. That’s it! Whoo! Get ready to work out. GUNSHOTS The collapse of the Soviet Union also had a powerful effect on the West. For many, it symbolised the final failure of the dream that politics could be used to build a new kind of world. What was going to emerge instead was a new system that had nothing to do with politics. A system whose aim was not to try and change things, but rather, to manage a post-political world. One of the first people to describe this dramatic change was a left-wing German political thinker called Ulrich Beck. Beck said that any politician who believed that they could take control of society, and drive it forward to build a better future, was now seen as dangerous. In the past, politicians might have been able to do this. But now they were faced with what he called “a runaway world.” Where things were so complex and interconnected, and modern technologies so potentially dangerous that it was impossible to predict the outcomes of anything you did. The catalogue of environmental disasters proved this. Politicians would have to give up any idea of trying to change the world. Instead, their new aim would be to try and predict the dangers in the future, and then, find ways to avoid those risks. Although Beck came from the political left, the world he saw coming was deeply conservative. The picture he gave was of a political class reduced to trying to steer society into a dark and frightening future. Constantly peering forward and trying to see the risks coming towards them. Their only aim, to avoid those risks and keep society stable. It only lasted for a few seconds so you were basically shocked, you really didn’t know what was going on at the time. Where were you in the building and where was the explosion? – EXPLOSION
– Oh, my God! But a system that could anticipate the future and keep society stable was already being built, pieced together from all kinds of different, and sometimes surprising, sources. All of them outside politics. One part of it was taking shape in a tiny town in the far north-west of the United States called East Wenatchee. It was a giant computer whose job was to make the future predictable. The man building it was a banker called Larry Fink. Back in 1986, Mr Fink’s career had collapsed. Shoot! He lost 100 million in a deal and had been sacked. He became determined it wouldn’t happen again. Fink started a company called BlackRock and built a computer he called Aladdin. It is housed in a series of large sheds in the apple orchards outside Wenatchee. Fink’s aim was to use the computer to predict, with certainty, what the risk of any deal or investment was going to be. The computer constantly monitors the world and it take things that it sees happening, and then, compares them to events in the past. It can do this because it has, in its memory, a vast history of the past 50 years. Not just financial, but all kinds of events. Out of the millions and millions of correlations, the computer then spots possible disasters, possible dangers lying in the future and moves the investments to avoid any radical change and keep the system stable. Today, I’m going to deliver 1.8 million reports. Execute 25,000 trades. And avert 3,000 disasters. I’m going to monitor interest rates in Europe. – Silver prices in Asia.
– Droughts in the Midwest. I’m going to witness 4 billion shares change hands on the New York Stock Exchange. And record the effects on 14 trillion in assets across 20,000 portfolios. – I am Aladdin.
– I am Aladdin. And, today, I’ll find the numbers behind the numbers. I will see the trends the models don’t. – The connections.
– The risks. – I am Aladdin.
– I am Aladdin, and I will get the data right. I am 25 million lines of code. Written by hundreds of people. Across two decades. I’m smarter than any algorithm. More powerful than any processor. Because I am Aladdin. Because I am Aladdin. I am Aladdin. I am Aladdin… Aladdin has proved to be incredibly successful. The assets it guides and controls now amount to 15 trillion, which is 7% of the world’s total wealth. But Wenatchee was also a dramatic example of another kind of craving for stability and reassurance. More of its citizens took Prozac than practically any other town in America. When a person’s central nervous system is changed by an SSRI, with that medicine they will view things differently and they will be strangers. They look at things differently. I have a chemical up here that changes me. I think differently. For me it was like walking around like this for my whole life and really not knowing that I was near-sighted. I mean, really. I mean, no-one had ever offered me glasses. And then, all of a sudden, here comes somebody that says, “OK, now try these on. Try this Prozac on.” And I tried it on and for the first time in my life I went, “Whoa! Is this the way reality really is?” Your perception can be changed and it’s frightening and it’s scary to people. It speaks of science fiction almost. Well, the medicine just kind of lets you listen to what needs to go on. And then your doctor, every time you come back, says, “You’re looking so much better.” And then every time I go in he goes, “You’re so beautiful.” You know? He isn’t even sucking up. He’s being nice, you know? “You’re beautiful, you’re nice, you’re friendly. “You’ve got so much going for you.” I think, “Yeah, I do.” So, I go out and tell my friends, “I feel so much better about myself.” Mom goes out, “Oh, I feel so much better about myself.” So, your friends start saying, “I’ve seen such an improvement. “I’ve seen such improvement.” And everybody improves all the way around. They see improvement. It’s like everybody’s brainwashing each other into being happy. But there was a more effective way of reassuring people that was being developed that did not involve medication. It, too, came from computer systems but this time, artificial intelligence. But the way to do it had been discovered by accident. Back in the 1960s, there had been optimistic dreams that it would be possible to develop computers that could think like human beings. Scientists then spent years trying to programme the rules that governed human thought… ..but they never worked. One computer scientist, at MIT, became so disillusioned that he decided to build a computer programme that would parody these hopeless attempts. He was called Joseph Weizenbaum and he built what he claimed was a computer psychotherapist. Just like a therapist, people could come and talk to the machine by typing in their problems. Weizenbaum called the programme “Eliza”. He modelled it on a real psychotherapist called Carl Rogers who was famous for simply repeating back to the patient what they had just said. And that is what Eliza did. The patient sat in front of the screen and typed in what they were feeling and the programme repeated it back to them, often in the form of a question. He says I’m depressed much of the time. Well, I need some help. That much seems certain. One of the first people to use Eliza was Weizenbaum’s secretary and her reaction was something that he had not predicted at all. I asked her to my office and sat her down at the keyboard and then she began to type and, of course, I looked over her shoulder to make sure everything was operating properly. After two or three interchanges with the machine she turned to me and she said, “Would you mind leaving the room, please?” And yet she knew, as Weizenbaum did, that Eliza didn’t understand a single word that was being typed into it. You’re like my father in some ways. – You don’t argue with me.
– Why do you think I don’t argue with you? – You’re afraid of me.
– Does it please you to think I’m afraid of you? My father’s afraid of everybody. My father’s afraid of everybody… Weizenbaum was astonished. He discovered that everyone who tried Eliza became engrossed. They would sit for hours telling the machine about their inner feelings and incredibly intimate details of their lives. They also liked it because it was free of any kind of patronising elitism. One person said, “After all, the computer doesn’t burn out, “look down on you, or try to have sex with you.” What Eliza showed was that, in an age of individualism, what made people feel secure was having themselves reflected back to them. Just like in a mirror. Artificial intelligence changed direction and started to create new systems that did just that, but on a giant scale. They were called intelligent agents. They worked by monitoring individuals, gathering vast amounts of data about their past behaviour and then looked for patterns and correlations from which they could predict what they would want in the future. It was a system that ordered the world in a way that was centred around you. And in an age of anxious individualism, frightened of the future, that was reassuring, just like Eliza. A safe bubble that protected you from the complexities of the world outside. And the applications of this new direction proved fruitful and profitable. If you liked that, you’ll love this. What was rising up in different ways was a new system that promised to keep the world stable. Its tentacles reached into every area of our lives. Finance promised that it could control the unpredictability of the free market… ..while individuals were more and more monitored to stabilise their physical and mental states. And, increasingly, the intelligent agents online predicted what people would want in the future and how they would behave. But the biggest change was to politics. In a world where the overriding aim was now stability, politics became just part of a wider system of managing the world. The old idea of democratic politics, that it gave a voice to the weak against the powerful, was eroded. And a resentment began to quietly grow out on the edges of society. But the new system did have a dangerous flaw. Because in the real world, not everything can be predicted by reading data from the past. And someone who was about to discover that, to his own cost, was Donald Trump. One day a man called Jess Marcum received a phone call. It was from Donald Trump and Trump was desperate for help. Marcum was a strange, mysterious figure. He had been a nuclear scientist in the 1950s and studied the effect of radiation from nuclear weapons on the human body. Then Marcum had gone to Las Vegas and become obsessed by gambling. He had a photographic memory and he used it to instantly process the data of the games as they were played. From that, he could predict the outcome. And he always won. The Las Vegas gangsters were fascinated by him. They called him “The Automat”. Where are we going? Let’s go. Go, go, go. Donald Trump was one of the heroes of the age. But, in reality, much of this success was a facade. The banks that had lent Trump millions had discovered that he could no longer pay the interest on the loans. Trump’s empire was facing bankruptcy. His wife Ivana hated him because he was having an affair with Miss Hawaiian Tropic 1985. And then, a famous Japanese gambler called Akio Kashiwagi came to one of Trump’s casinos and started to win millions of dollars in an extraordinary run of luck. Trump, who was desperate for money, panicked as day-after-day he watched millions being siphoned out of his casino. So, he turned for help to Jess Marcum. Marcum came to Trump’s casino in Atlantic City. He analysed all the data about the way the Kashiwagi had been playing. He then told Trump to suggest a particular high-stakes game that he knew the Japanese gambler could not resist. His model, Marcum said, predicted that Kashiwagi had to lose. And after five agonising days, he did. Kashiwagi lost 10 million and he gave up. Donald Trump was elated. He thought he’d got his money back. IN JAPANESE: Before Kashiwagi could pay his debt, he was hacked to death in his kitchen by Yakuza gangsters… ..and Donald Trump didn’t get his money. Trump’s business went bankrupt and he was forced to sell most of his buildings to the banks. And he married Miss Hawaiian Tropic. In the future, he would sell his name to other people to put on their buildings and he himself would become a celebrity tycoon. President Assad didn’t want stability. He wanted revenge. In December 1988, a bomb exploded on a Pan Am plane over Lockerbie in Scotland. Almost immediately, investigators and journalists pointed the finger at Syria. “The bombing had been done,” they said, “in revenge for the Americans “shooting down an Iranian airliner in the Gulf a few months before.” And for 18 months, everyone agreed that this was the truth. But then, a strange thing happened. The security agencies said that they had been wrong. It hadn’t been Syria at all. It was Libya who had been behind the Lockerbie bombing. But many journalists and politicians did not believe it. They were convinced that the switch had happened for the most cynical of reasons. That America and Britain desperately needed Assad as an ally in the coming Gulf War against Saddam Hussein. So, once again, they blamed Colonel Gaddafi as the terrorist mastermind. Syria, of course, was, unfortunately, accused of many terrorist outrages and of harbouring terrorist groups. It appears that we have now restored relations with them, as have the Americans. They’re now our friends, although we’ve got no real assurances on the past whatsoever. It strikes me as very strange indeed that many of the things we thought were previously the responsibility of Syria have now, dramatically, become the responsibility of Libya. But Assad was not really in control. Because he had released forces that no-one would be able to control. The force that, ten years before, he had brought from Iran to attack the West – the human bomb – was now about to jump, like a virus, from Shia to Sunni Islam. In December 1992, the militant group Hamas kidnapped an Israeli border guard and stabbed him to death. The Israeli response was overwhelming. They arrested 415 members of Hamas, put them on buses and took them to the top of a bleak mountain in southern Lebanon. They left them there – and refused to allow any humanitarian aid through. THEY CHANT AND SHOUT But the Israelis had dumped the Hamas militants in an area controlled by Hezbollah. They spent six months there, and during that time, they learnt from Hezbollah how powerful suicide bombing could be. Hezbollah told them how they had used it to force the Israelis out of Beirut and back to the border. The first sign that the idea had spread to Hamas was when a group of the deportees marched in protest towards the Israeli border, dressed as martyrs, as the Israelis shelled them. But it soon became more than just theatre. Hamas began a wave of suicide attacks in Israel. – REPORTER:
– Just before nine, at the height of Tel Aviv’s rush hour, the bomb ripped apart a commuter bus. An amateur cameraman recorded the scene in the moments afterwards as a dazed woman was helped out of the smouldering wreckage. I didn’t want to believe that under my house there is a bomb. And when I realised it’s a bomb, I… I started to cry. Because it was the first time I saw it in Tel Aviv. Hamas sent the bombers into the heart of Israeli cities to blow themselves up and kill as many around them as possible. In doing this, Hamas were going much further than Hezbollah ever had. They were targeting civilians, something Hezbollah had never done. The tactic shocked the Sunni world. This was something completely alien to its history. Not only did the Koran forbid suicide, but Sunni Islam did not have any rituals of self-sacrifice – unlike the Shias. The most senior religious leader in Saudi Arabia insisted it was wrong. But a mainstream theologian from Egypt called Sheikh Qaradawi seized the moment. He issued a fatwa that justified the attacks. “And,” he added, “it was also justified to kill civilians, “because, in Israel, everyone – “including women – serve as reservists. “So, really, they are all part of the enemy army.” – TRANSLATION:
– It’s not suicide. It is martyrdom in the name of God. Islamic theologians and jurisprudence have debated this issue. Israeli women are not like women in our society, because Israeli women are militarised. Secondly, I consider this type of martyrdom operation as an indication of justice of Allah, our Almighty. Allah is just. Through his infinite wisdom, he has given the weak what the strong do not possess. And that is their ability to turn their bodies into bombs like the Palestinians do. Hamas kept sending the bombers into Israel. Sometimes day-after-day. The horror overwhelmed Israeli society and it completely destroyed the ability of politics to solve the Palestinian crisis. Instead, in the Israeli election of 1996, Benjamin Netanyahu took power. He turned against the peace process, which was exactly what Hamas wanted. And from then on, the two sides became locked together in ever more horrific cycles of violence. # Netanyahu! # The human bomb had destroyed the very thing that President Assad had first wanted. A real political solution to the Palestinian question. – REPORTER:
– It was just after one o’clock and the market was full of shoppers. SIRENS WAIL Streams of ambulances came to carry away the dead and the injured. It was a place of appalling suffering. But even with the first grief came the immediate political impact on the peace process. Peace impossible! This moment, it will be the end! It must be the end of this bloody peace process. And, in America, all optimistic visions of the future had also disappeared. Instead everyone in society – not just the politicians – but the scientists, the journalists, and all kinds of experts had begun to focus on the dangers that might be hidden in the future. This, in turn, created a pessimistic mood that then began to spread out from the rational technocratic world and infect the whole of the culture. And everyone became possessed by dark forebodings, imagining the very worst that might happen. # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Forever # Oh, dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Forever… # SHATTERING EXPLOSIONS # ..Dream, baby, dream # Oh, baby, we gotta keep that dream alive # Keep that dream alive # Forever # Oh, dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Dream, baby, dream # Oh, dream, baby, dream, baby, dream, baby # Dream, baby, dream, baby # Oh, dream, baby, dream… # SCREAMING PANICKED SCREAMS RUMBLING, SHATTERING GLASS # Oh, you keep that fire, burning, baby # Oh, you gotta keep that flame burning brightly, baby… # CRASHING EXPLOSIONS SILENCE DISTANT SIRENS The attacks in September 2001 were suicide bombs, but now on a huge scale. They demonstrated the terrifying power of this new force to penetrate all defences. They had come to kill thousands of Americans on their own soil. 20 years before, President Reagan had been confronted by the first suicide bombers. They had been unleashed by President Assad of Syria to force America out of the Middle East. But rather than confront the complexity of Syria and Israel and the Palestinian problem, America had retreated and left Syria – and suicide bombing – to fester and mutate. They had gone instead for Colonel Gaddafi and turned him into an evil global terrorist. But, in the process, this changed the way people saw and understood terrorism. Instead of a violence born out of political struggles for power, it became replaced by a much simpler image of an evil tyrant at the head of a rogue state who became more like an archcriminal who wanted to terrorise the world. All the politics and power dropped away. The problem was just them and their evil personalities. And after 9/11, this led to a new, and equally simple, idea. That if only you could remove these tyrannical figures, then the grateful people of their country would transform naturally into a democracy, because they would be free of the evil. We owe it to the future of civilisation not to allow the world’s worst leaders to develop and deploy, and therefore, blackmail freedom-loving countries with the world’s worst weapons. We know they’ve already got chemical and biological weapons there. We know that they’re certainly doing their best to acquire nuclear weapons technology. If we allow them to do that, and do nothing about it, then, I think, later generations will consider us deeply irresponsible. Both Tony Blair and George Bush became possessed by the idea of ridding the world of Saddam Hussein. So possessed that they believed any story that proved his evil intentions. And the line between reality and fiction became ever more blurred. In September 2002, the head of MI6 rushed to Downing Street to tell Blair excitedly that they had finally found the source that confirmed everything. The source, he said, had “direct access” to Saddam Hussein’s chemical weapons programme which was making vast quantities of VX and sarin nerve agents. The nerve agents were being loaded into “linked hollow glass spheres”. But then someone in MI6 noticed that the detail the source was describing was identical to scenes in the 1996 movie The Rock, starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage. Really elegant string-of-pearls configuration. Unfortunately, incredibly unstable. What exactly does this stuff do? If the rocket renders it aerosol, it could take out the entire city of people. – How?
– It’s a cholinesterase inhibitor. Stops the brain from sending nerve messages down the spinal cord… A later report into the Iraq War pointed out, “Glass containers were not typically used in chemical munitions…” ..seizes your nervous system… Do not move that! “..and the informant had obviously seen “a popular movie known as The Rock “that had inaccurately depicted nerve agents being carried “in glass beads or spheres.” ..that’s after your skin melts off. My God. That there is a threat from Saddam Hussein and the weapons of mass destruction that he has acquired, is not in doubt at all. Hafez al-Assad had died in 2000. His son, Bashar, became the new president of Syria. But he couldn’t escape the inexorable logic of what his father had started. 20 years before, his father had sent Shi’ite suicide bombers to attack the Americans in Lebanon. Now, as America and Britain invaded Iraq, Bashar decided that he would copy his father. But what he was about to let loose would tear the Arab world apart – and then come back to try to destroy him. STATELY FANFARE PLAYS Bashar Assad had was never supposed to have been president. It was always going to have been his elder brother, Bassel. But then, Bassel had died in a car crash. So now, Bashar took over the giant palace that his father had built above Damascus. Up to this point, Bashar had not been interested in politics. He was fascinated by computers. He founded the Syrian Computer Society and brought the internet to the country. His favourite band was the Electric Light Orchestra. But now, he was president. And he set out to attack America. Bashar Assad was convinced that the invasion of Iraq was just the first step of a plot by the Western powers to take over the whole of the Middle East. He knew that the invasion had outraged many of the radical Islamists in Syria and what they most wanted to do was to go to Iraq and kill Americans. So, Bashar instructed the Syrian Intelligence Services to help them do this. Syrian agents set up a pipeline that began to feed thousands of militants across the border and into the heart of the insurgency. And it grew. Within a year, almost all of the foreign fighters from across the world were coming through Syria… ..and they brought suicide bombing with them. The Americans estimated that 90% of the suicide bombers in Iraq were foreign fighters. But it began to run out of control. Most of the jihadists had joined the group al-Qaeda in Iraq that then turned to killing Shi’ites in an attempt to create a civil war. And the force that had originally been invented by the Shi’ites, suicide bombing, now returned and started to kill them. Then, this. EXPLOSION STUNNED SILENCE A moment of silence before people realised what was happening. SCREAMING A few seconds ago, we just had repeated explosions in the street below me. People are now fleeing in terror from the central square around the mosque. – This is what everybody feared…
– DISTANT EXPLOSION We just heard another explosion in the distance. ..that somebody would try to target this religious festival to try to bring about a sectarian conflict in Iraq. SCREAMING There was panic. A terrified stampede. But some of these people were running into the next bombs. EXPLOSIONS We counted at least six separate explosions. MUSIC DROWNS AUDIO Tony Blair and George Bush were faced by disaster. Iraq was imploding. While, at home, they were being accused of lying to their own people to justify the invasion. What they desperately needed was something that would show that the invasion was having a good effect in the Arab world. So, they made an extraordinary decision. They turned for help to the man who they had always insisted was one of the world’s most dangerous tyrants. Colonel Gaddafi. And, instead, they set out to make him their new best friend. It was going to be the highest achievement of Perception Management. A man who had been created by the West as a fake global supervillain was now going to be turned into a fake hero of democracy. And everyone, not just politicians, would become involved. Public relations, academics, television presenters, spies, and even musicians were all going to help reinvent Colonel Gaddafi. It would show just how many people in the Western Establishment had, by now, become the engineers of this fake world. Ever since he had been accused of the Lockerbie bombing, Colonel Gaddafi had been a complete outcast. The West had imposed sanctions on Libya and the economy was falling apart. But then, suddenly, Tony Blair broke live into the BBC evening news. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, is about to make a statement, the BBC understands, from Downing Street. It’s of international significance. He’ll be making his statement at any moment now. We can see pictures of him in Durham… – This evening…
– Here he is. ..Colonel Gaddafi has confirmed that Libya has, in the past, sought to develop weapons-of-mass-destruction capabilities. Libya has now declared its intention to dismantle its weapons of mass destruction completely. This decision by Colonel Gaddafi is a historic one, and a courageous one, and I applaud it. Today, in Tripoli, the leader of Libya, Colonel Muammar al-Gaddafi… ..publically confirmed his commitment to disclose and dismantle all weapons-of-mass-destruction programmes in his country. Colonel Gaddafi now became, for Western politicians, a heroic figure. His decision to give up his weapons of mass destruction seemed to prove that the invasion of Iraq could transform the Middle East. And Tony Blair travelled to meet Gaddafi in his desert tent. To welcome him back into what one journalist called, “The community of civilised nations.” But, as in the past, nothing was what it seemed with Colonel Gaddafi. In reality, Gaddafi did not really have the terrifying weapons of mass destruction that he was promising to destroy. His nuclear programme had stuttered to a halt long ago and never produced anything dangerous. He had managed to buy some equipment on the black market, but his technicians had been unable to assemble it. His biological weapons were non-existent. All he had was some old mustard gas in leaking barrels. But now, he had to pretend to have a terrifying arsenal of weapons. And the West had to pretend that they had avoided another global threat. And then the made-up stories became even more complicated. As part of the deal, the West said that if Gaddafi admitted that Libya had done the Lockerbie bombing, then they would lift the sanctions. But many of those who had investigated Lockerbie were still convinced that Libya hadn’t done it. That, really, it had been Syria. But Colonel Gaddafi confessed. His son, Saif, was interviewed about this confession. He said that his father was simply pretending that he had been behind the Lockerbie bombing to get the sanctions lifted. That new lies were being built on top of old lies to construct a completely make-believe world. You have to accept, or you had to accept at the time, a responsibility, because you have to accept responsibilities, you have to pay compensation in order to get rid of sanction. We did that, not because we are convinced that we did it, but because of the final exit out of this nightmare. So, what you’re saying is that you accept responsibility, – but you’re not admitting that you did it.
– Yes. And this is all a sham, you’re saying, just to get sanctions over with so that you can start normal diplomatic relations with the West. OK. OK. What’s wrong with that? It’s a very cynical way to behave, as a country, isn’t it? – Many people would say…
– First of all… I mean, the Americans and the British, they told us to write that letter. They told us to pay compensation. And then, they opened their embassies and they restored their relation. They came to us. It was their game. Not our game. Does the… Does the leader know there’s a picture on the television? – Will you tell him?
– Oh, good. Thank you. INDISTINCT CONVERSATION Public relations companies then came to Libya to do what they called “reframing the narrative”. One firm was paid 3 million to turn Gaddafi into what they described as a modern world thinker. CREW MURMURS OK. We’re going in ten. They did this by bringing other famous world thinkers and TV presenters out to Libya to meet the colonel and discuss his theories. Hello, and welcome to Libya In The Global Age, A Conversation With Muammar Gaddafi. But first, let’s get the story so far of Libya. One world thinker was called Lord Anthony Giddens. Coincidentally, he had a theory which he called “The Third Way” which had inspired Tony Blair. Colonel Gaddafi’s own theory was called “The Third Universal Theory.” Lord Giddens later wrote about his talks with the Libyan leader. “Colonel Gaddafi likes my term ‘the third way’ “because his own political philosophy “is a version of this idea. “He makes many intelligent and perceptive points. “I leave enlivened and encouraged.” That for 40 years, the leader of Libya, Muammar Gaddafi… And then, Colonel Gaddafi achieved his lifelong dream. He was invited to address the United Nations. He spent almost two hours explaining his Third International Theory. And also demanding an investigation into the shootings of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King. When he was in New York, Gaddafi was offered a tent, just like the one he had at home, in the gardens of a grand mansion. The man who made the offer was Donald Trump. – TRUMP:
– ‘I’ve dealt with everybody. – ‘And by the way, I can tell you something else!’
– What? ‘I’ve dealt with Gaddafi.’ – What did you do?
– ‘Excuse me. I rented him a piece of land. ‘He paid me more for one night than the land was worth ‘for the whole year or for two years. ‘And then, I didn’t let him use the land! – ‘That’s what we should be doing.’
– Was that over in New Jersey? ‘I don’t want to use the word “screw”, but I screwed him. ‘That’s what we should be doing!’ People in Britain and America now began to turn away from politics. The effect of the Iraq war had been very powerful. Not only did millions of people feel that they had been lied to over the weapons of mass destruction, but there was a deeper feeling – that whatever they did or said had no effect. That despite the mass protests, and the fears and the warnings – the war had happened anyway. Liberals, radicals and a whole new generation of young people retreated. They turned instead to another world that was free of this hypocrisy and the corruption of politics They went into cyberspace. # Once upon a time it was you by the door # I… # By now cyberspace had become even more sophisticated and responsive to human interaction. The online world was full of algorithms that could analyse and predict human behaviour. The man behind much of this was a scientist called Judea Pearl. He was the godfather of modern Artificial Intelligence. Pearl’s breakthrough had been to use what were called Bayesian Belief Networks. They were systems that could predict behaviour, even when the information was incomplete. But to make the system work, Pearl and others had imported a model of human beings drawn from economics. They created what were called rational agents, software that mimicked human beings but in a very simplified form. The model assumed that the agent would always act rationally in order to get what it wanted. Nothing more. One of the early utopians of cyberspace, Jaron Lanier, warned of the implications of this. “The agent’s model of what you are “interested in will always be a cartoon. “And in return you will see a cartoon “version of the world through the agent’s eyes.” And, he added, “It will never be clear “who they are working for – you or someone else.” New technology began to allow people to upload millions of images and videos into cyberspace. And the web – which up to that point had seemed like an abstract otherworld – began to look and feel like the real world. INDISTINCT No, not yet. From videos of animals, personal moments of experience, extraordinary events, to horrific terror videos, more and more was uploaded. HIP-HOP MUSIC PLAYS And in a strange, sad twist, the first terrorist beheading video that was posted online was that of Judea Pearl’s own son, Daniel Pearl. He was a journalist for the Wall Street Journal and had been kidnapped by radical Islamists in Pakistan. They recorded what they said was his confession… ..and then his killing. My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m a Jewish-American. I come from… On my father’s side of the family, are Zionists. My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I’m Jewish. Only now do I think about some of the people in Guantanamo Bay must be in a similar situation. This was a new world that the old systems of power found it very difficult to deal with. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the security agencies secretly collected data from millions of people online. One programme was called Optic Nerve. It took stills from the webcam conversations of millions of people across the world, trying to spot terrorists planning another attack. The programme did not discover a single terrorist. But it did discover something else. A top secret assessment said… But increasingly, people were using the internet in other ways – to present themselves as THEY wanted to be seen. I guess the video blog is about me. I don’t really want to tell you where I live because you could, like, stalk me. The web drew people in because it was mesmerising. It was somewhere that you could explore and get lost in in any way you wanted. But behind the screen, like in a two-way mirror, the simplified agents were watching and predicting and guiding your hand on the mouse. Stop… I nearly… threw my phone away! Stop! Stop! – Pose.
– Pose. And snap a selfie… PHONE CAMERA WHIRS – There you go.
– There you go. They play with themselves. But what they don’t know… As the intelligent systems online gathered ever more data, new forms of guidance began to emerge. Social media created filters – complex algorithms that looked at what individuals liked – and then fed more of the same back to them. In the process, individuals began to move, without noticing, into bubbles that isolated them from enormous amounts of other information. They only heard and saw what they liked. And the news feeds increasingly excluded anything that might challenge people’s pre-existing beliefs. # And now it’s all right # I know my own lie # Is coming to say # You will call out # Yourself # I know I thought # Makes my face and hands cold # And I # Ooh # Ooh # Ooh… # The version of cyberspace that was rising up seemed to be very much like William Gibson’s original vision. That behind the superficial freedoms of the web were a few giant corporations with opaque systems that controlled what people saw and shaped what they thought. And what was even more mysterious was how they made their decisions about what you should like. And what should be hidden from you. But then, the other utopian vision of cyberspace re-emerged. Taking over the roadway. CHANTING Take it! CHEERING AND WHOOPING CHANTING After the financial crash of 2008 the politicians saved the banks. But they did practically nothing about the massive corruption that was revealed in its wake. And the reason they gave was that it might destabilise the system. Public anger burst out. The Occupy movement took over Wall Street and then the Senate in Washington. The issue is that certain individuals that are very wealthy, have pretty much corrupted our political system and this is the heart of it. This is the Senate building. These people have been cut off and they’ve corrupted our democracy and it’s literally killing people. I’m an Iraqi war vet. I went to Iraq in 2009. I’ve seen what happens first hand when we let corruption rule our elected government and democracy. We’re coming here today just to raise awareness. What drove the Occupy movement was the original dream of the internet that people like John Perry Barlow had outlined in the early 1990s. In his Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace, Barlow had described a new world free of politics and the old hierarchies of power. A space where people connected together as equals in a network and built a new society without leaders. Now, the Occupy movement set out to build that kind of society in the real world. The camps were to be the models. All the meetings used the idea of the human microphone. People throughout the crowd repeated a speaker’s words so everyone could hear them. – ALL:
– We are now going to vote… – SPEAKER:
– ..on whether to stay here for the next two hours… – ALL:
– ..on whether to stay here for the next two hours… – SPEAKER:
– ..or leave now. – ALL:
– ..or leave now. But if someone wanted to challenge the speaker, the human amplifiers also had to repeat THEIR words so their voice had equal power. – SPEAKER:
– ..what she said… – ALL:
– ..what she said… – SPEAKER:
– ..was that…
– ALL:
– ..was that…
– SPEAKER:
– ..the proposal… Each person was an autonomous individual who expressed what they believed. But together they became components in a network that organised itself through the feedback of information around the system. You could organise people without the exercise of power. CHANTING CAR HORNS BLARE The crisis in Egypt. CHANTING AND SHOUTING A march through our main streets. Looks like chaos. Looks like police is running around and a few hundred people walking down the street. Then, almost immediately, the Arab Spring began. The first revolution started in Tunisia, but it quickly spread to Egypt. On January 25th 2011, thousands of Egyptians came out in groups across Cairo and then started moving towards Tahrir Square. It seemed like a spontaneous uprising but the internet had played a key role in organising the groups. One of the main activists was an Egyptian computer engineer called Wael Ghonim. He worked for Google in Egypt but he had also set up the Facebook site that played the key role in organising the first protests. As hundreds of thousands took over Tahrir Square, Ghonim gave an interview on Egyptian TV. But Ghonim was also overwhelmed by the power this new technology had, that a computer engineer with a keyboard could call out thousands of people… some of whom then died in the midst of the protests. Many liberals in the West saw this as proof of the revolutionary power of the internet. Again it seemed to be able to organise a revolution without leaders. A revolution powerful enough to topple a brutal dictator who had been backed by America and the West for 30 years. But the internet radicals were not the only ones who saw their dreams being fulfilled in the Arab Spring. Many of the political leaders of the West also enthusiastically supported the revolutions because it seemed to fit with their simple idea of regime change. It might have failed in Iraq but now the people, everywhere, were rising up to rid themselves of the evil tyrants. And democracy would flourish. So when an uprising began in Libya, Britain, France and America supported it. And suddenly, Colonel Gaddafi stopped being a hero of the West. All the politicians, and the public relations people, and the academics who had all promoted him as a global thinker suddenly disappeared. And Gaddafi became yet again an evil dictator who had to be overthrown. His son Saif said, “The way these people are “disowning me and my father is disgusting. “Just a few months ago, we were being treated as “honoured friends. “Now that rebels are threatening our country, these cowards “are turning on us.” Colonel Gaddafi retreated to the ruins of the house that the Americans had bombed 30 years before and addressed the world. – TRANSLATION:
– Muammar Gaddafi is the glory. If I had a position, if I were a president, I would have resigned. I would have thrown my resignation in your face. But I have no position, no post. I have nowhere to resign from. I have my gun, I have my rifle to fight for Libya. Withdraw your children from the streets. Take your children back. They are drugging your children. They are making your children drunk and they are sending them to hell. Your children will die. What for? In November 2011 a large convoy was spotted driving at high speed away from Colonel Gaddafi’s home town of Sirte. An American drone, controlled from a shed outside Las Vegas, was sent to follow it. CAR HORN BEEPS CAR HORNS BEEP The operator fired a missile at the lead car of the convoy. Gaddafi then fled – looking for shelter from the oncoming rebel forces. He hid under the road in a drainage pipe. But instead of becoming a democracy, Libya began to descend into chaos. And the other revolutions were also failing. The Occupy camps had become trapped in endless meetings. And it became clear that there was a terrible confusion at the heart of the movement. The radicals had believed that if they could create a new way of organising people then a new society would emerge. But what they did not have was a picture of what that society would be like, a vision of the future. The truth was that their revolution was not about an idea. It was about how you manage things. And those who had started the revolution in Egypt came face-to-face with the same terrible fact. Social media had helped to bring people together in Tahrir square. But once there, the internet gave no clue as to what kind of new society they could create in Egypt. The movement stalled. And a group that DID have a powerful idea – the Muslim Brotherhood – rushed in to fill the vacuum. The Brotherhood took power in an election and one of them, Mohamed Morsi, became President. The liberals and the Left were shocked. And, bit by bit, they turned back to the military, protesting, asking them to save the revolution from being captured by Islamists. In the spring of 2013, the military took action. They arrested the President and killed hundreds of his supporters who protested. And an extraordinary spectacle unfolded in Tahrir Square. Thousands of the liberal activists who had begun the revolution two years before, summoned by social media, now welcomed the military back by waving their laser pens at the helicopters flying overhead. The crowd had been summoned there once again by Facebook. After the failure of the revolutions, it was not just the radicals – no-one in the West had any idea of how to change the world. At home, the politicians had given so much of their power away, to finance and the ever-growing managerial bureaucracies, that they in effect had become managers themselves. While abroad, all their adventures had failed. And their simplistic vision of the world had been exposed as dangerous and destructive. But in Russia, there was a group of men who had seen how this very lack of belief in politics, and dark uncertainty about the future could work to their advantage. What they had done was turn politics into a strange theatre where nobody knew what was true or what was fake any longer. They were called political technologists and they were the key figures behind President Putin. They had kept him in power, unchallenged, for 15 years. Some of them had been dissidents back in the 1970s and had been powerfully influenced by the science fiction writings of the Strugatsky brothers. 20 years later, when Russia fell apart after the end of communism, they rose up and took control of the media. And they used it to manipulate the electorate on a vast scale. For them, reality was just something that could be manipulated and shaped into anything you wanted it to be. GLASS THUDS But then a technologist emerged who went much further. And his ideas would become central to Putin’s grip on power. He was called Vladislav Surkov. Surkov came originally from the theatre world and those who have studied his career say that what he did was take avant-garde ideas from the theatre and bring them into the heart of politics. Surkov’s aim was not just to manipulate people but to go deeper and play with, and undermine their very perception of the world so they are never sure what is really happening. Surkov turned Russian politics into a bewildering, constantly changing piece of theatre. He used Kremlin money to sponsor all kinds of groups – from mass anti-fascist youth organisations, to the very opposite – neo-Nazi skinheads. And liberal human rights groups who then attacked the government. Surkov even backed whole political parties that were opposed to President Putin. But the key thing was that Surkov then let it be known that this was what he was doing. Which meant that no-one was sure what was real or what was fake in modern Russia. As one journalist put it, “It’s a strategy of power that keeps any opposition “constantly confused – “a ceaseless shape-shifting that is unstoppable “because it is indefinable.” Meanwhile, real power was elsewhere – hidden away behind the stage, exercised without anyone seeing it. And then the same thing seemed to start happening in the West. By now it was becoming ever more clear that the system had deep flaws. Every month there were new revelations, of most of the banks’ involvement in global corruption, of massive tax avoidance by all the major corporations, of the secret surveillance of everyone’s e-mails by the National Security Agency. Yet no-one was prosecuted, except for a few people at the lowest levels. And behind it all, the massive inequality kept on growing. Yet the structure of power remained the same. Nothing ever changed – because nothing could be allowed to destabilise the system. But then the shape-shifting began. CHEERING Thank you very much. So nice. So amazing. So amazing. – WOMAN:
– We love you.
– What? That’s OK. I love you more, OK? CHEERING The campaign that Donald Trump ran was unlike anything before in politics. Nothing was fixed. What he said, who he attacked and how he attacked them was constantly changing and shifting. Trump attacked his Republican rivals as all being part of a broken and corrupt system – a politics where everyone could be bought, using words that could have come from the Occupy movement. You’ve also donated to several Democratic candidates, Hillary Clinton included, Nancy Pelosi. You explained away those donations saying you did that to get business-related favours. And you said recently, “When you give, “they do whatever the hell you want them to do.” – You’d better believe it.
– So what specifically did they do? If I ask them, if I need them… You know, most of the people on this stage, I’ve given to, just so you understand, a lot of money. I will tell you that our system is broken. I give to many people. Before this, before two months ago, I was a businessman. I give to everybody. When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them, two years later, three years later, I call them. – They are there for me.
– So what did you get?
– And that’s a broken system. But at the same time, Trump used the language of the extreme racist right in America, connecting with people’s darkest fears – pushing them and bringing those fears out into the open. Get the fuck out of here! Our country, motherfucker! Our country! Proud fucking American! Made in the USA, bitch! Made in the fucking USA! Don’t fucking come back, burrito bitch! Go fucking right back to jail, motherfucker! Build that fucking wall for me! Trump! Donald Trump! Fuck you! I love my country! Yeah! I’ll fuck like at least ten of you up in one session, you fucking pussy! Many of the facts that Trump asserted were also completely untrue. But Trump didn’t care. He and his audience knew that much of what he said bore little relationship to reality. This meant that Trump defeated journalism – because the journalists’ central belief was that their job was to expose lies and assert the truth. With Trump, this became irrelevant. Not surprisingly, Vladimir Putin admired this. MAN SPEAKS RUSSIAN The liberals were outraged by Trump. But they expressed their anger in cyberspace, so it had no effect – because the algorithms made sure that they only spoke to people who already agreed with them. Instead, ironically, their waves of angry messages and tweets benefitted the large corporations who ran the social media platforms. One online analyst put it simply, “Angry people click more.” It meant that the radical fury that came like waves across the internet no longer had the power to change the world. Instead, it was becoming a fuel that was feeding the new systems of power and making them ever more powerful. But none of the liberals could possibly imagine that Donald Trump could ever win the nomination. It was just a giant pantomime. Then of course there’s Donald Trump. Donald Trump has been saying that he will run for president as a Republican, which is surprising, since I just assumed he was running as a joke. LAUGHTER Donald Trump often appears on Fox, which is ironic, because a fox often appears on Donald Trump’s head. LAUGHTER Donald Trump owns the Miss USA Pageant, which is great for Republicans because it will streamline their search for a vice president. LAUGHTER Donald Trump said recently he has a great relationship with the blacks. though unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I bet he’s mistaken. LAUGHTER But underneath the liberal disdain, both Donald Trump in America, and Vladislav Surkov in Russia had realised the same thing – that the version of reality that politics presented was no longer believable, that the stories politicians told their people about the world had stopped making sense. And in the face of that, you could play with reality, constantly shifting and changing, and in the process, further undermine and weaken the old forms of power. CHILDREN SING And there was another force that was about to dramatically reveal just how weak politics had become in the West – Syria. CHILDREN SING The attack happened here at a central police station in Damascus. Police say the bomber came up the stairs, police then opened fire, and then police say he detonated the explosives. And the damage is here to see. Behind me, the pockmarked walls where the ball bearings hit. Blood splattered on the walls. And the force of the blast caused walls to collapse. And everything is topsy-turvy, everything destroyed. By now Syria was being torn apart by a horrific civil war. What had started as part of the Arab Spring had turned into a vicious battle to the death between Bashar Assad and his opponents. And at the heart of the conflict was the force that his father had first brought to the West – suicide bombing. THEY SPEAK IN OWN LANGUAGE Back in the 1980s Bashar Assad’s father had seen suicide bombing as a weapon he could use to force the Americans out of the Middle East. But over the next 30 years it had shifted and mutated into something that had now ended up doing the very opposite – tearing the Arab world apart. Hafez al-Assad’s dream of a powerful and united Arab world was now destroyed. In Iraq, extremist Sunni groups had used suicide bombing as a way to start a sectarian war. And now groups like Isis brought the same techniques into Syria to attack not just Assad’s son but his fellow Shi’ites. And like his father, Bashar Assad retaliated with a vengeful fury. And the country fell apart. – MAN:
– Allahu Akbar. WHOOSHING Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar. ROARING My fellow Americans… tonight I want to talk to you about Syria – why it matters and where we go from here. Faced by the war, western politicians were bewildered. They insisted Bashar Assad was evil. But then it turned out that his enemies were more evil and more horrific than him. The question before the House today is how we keep the British people safe from the threat posed by Isil. This is not about whether we want to fight terrorism, it’s about how best we do that. So Britain, America and France decided to bomb the terrorist threat. But the effect of that was to help keep Assad in power. WHOOSHING CLATTERING Then it became more confusing. Suddenly, the Russians intervened. President Putin sent hundreds of planes and combat troops to support Assad. But no-one knew what their underlying aim was. They seemed to be using a strategy that Vladislav Surkov had developed in the Ukraine. He called it non-linear warfare. It was a new kind of war – where you never know what the enemy are really up to. – MAN:
– Allahu Akbar. The underlying aim, Surkov said, was not to win the war, but to use the conflict to create a constant state of destabilised perception – in order to manage and control. MAN BREATHES HEAVILY Allahu Akbar. ORCHESTRA PLAYS In March 2016 the Russians suddenly announced with a great fanfare that they were leaving Syria. And a concert was held in the ruins of Palmyra to celebrate the withdrawal. But in reality, the Russians never left. They are still there, and still no-one knows what they want. HE SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE And within Syria there was a new Islamist ideologist who was determined to exploit the growing uncertainties in Europe and America. He was called Abu Musab al-Suri – the Syrian. HE SPEAKS IN OWN LANGUAGE Al-Suri had originally worked with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, but he had turned against him. Al-Suri gave lectures that had a powerful effect on the Islamist movement. He argued that bin Laden had been wrong to attack the West head on, because it created a massive military response that had almost destroyed Islamism. Instead, al-Suri said, independent groups or individuals should stage random, small-scale attacks on civilians in Europe and America. The aim was to spread fear, uncertainty and doubt – and undermine the already failing authority of western politicians. The effect of the attacks shocked Europe and America and gave powerful force to the new politics of uncertainty and anxiety. I’m sure that you, with me, share the absolute horror and total revulsion at what happened in Paris last Friday. And I’m afraid there is, and we have to be honest and frank about this and talk about these things without being fearful, there is a problem with some of the Muslim community in this country. There is a problem. And we have to be honest about it. Our politicians, I’m afraid, haven’t had the guts. APPLAUSE This could be the great Trojan horse of all time, because you look at the migration… Study it, look at it. Now they’ll start infiltrating with women and children. Both the Brexit campaign in Britain and Donald Trump in America did exactly what al-Suri had predicted. They used the fear to dramatise a world where everything – even going to a restaurant – had become a risky event. And what had been seen as doomed campaigns on the fringes of society that could never win became frighteningly real. I am genuinely freaked out right now about this whole Brexit thing. Because we’d all been told that it wasn’t going to happen, like it was going away, it was going away from Brexiting and on to the staying. And because I had this, like bedrock belief… I have friends who, like, live and work in London, and they said, “Don’t worry, we’re a very sensible people.” LAUGHTER “This isn’t going to happen. It’s a lot of talk, “but we don’t do that sort of stuff here.” Um…they were wrong. LAUGHTER And that really kind of crushes my view of, like, what can happen that is bad that we don’t think is going to happen. Like it’s just not supposed to happen. CROWD GASPS CLANKING DRIPPING CLANKING I fear that we are watching the stirrings of fascism in Europe again. And I genuinely never thought it would be my country that did that. I thought this would be America. I thought America was the people who were so filled with hate. Not us. And I’m so disappointed. I’m so hurt. Zee. MUSIC: Standing Room Only by Barbara Mandrell. # You must think my bed’s a bus stop # The way you come and go HE COUGHS # I ain’t seen you with the lights on # Two nights in a row # So pack your rusty razor # Don’t bother with goodbye # Your cup runneth open # But mine is always dry # Standing room only # I can’t stand no more # Standing room only # Outside my door # Don’t help me set the table # Cos now there’s one less place # I won’t lay Mama’s silver # For a man who won’t say grace # If home is where the heart is… # This is my right to free speech going on here, OK? # Then your home’s on the streets # Me, I’ll read a good book # Turn out the lights and go to sleep # Standing room only # I can’t stand no more, no more # Standing room only # Outside my door… # TINNY MUSIC PLAYS INDISTINCT SPEECH Oh. – You’re on video.
– Oh. Say bye, Heather. VIDEO OFF

85 thoughts on “Adam Curtis HyperNormalisation 2016

  1. 19:31 – 19:53

    I can't sympathise with the situation but I can empathise with the sentiment on a number of levels. Very cool and interesting documentary.

  2. i feel like this is going to end in a big big war or at the least a massive global destabilisation that will come after a long attempt to have a very 1984-esque world order

  3. does not also this very documentary play into our feeling of total helplessness, of crushing impotence in the face of a world order that is completely relentlessly indifferent to citizens and any attempt by people to want to direct the course of history towards a better future
    – you watch it and will just as much throw up your arms in despair and retreat into entertainments and distractions…- what exactly is anybody supposed to do now? we are all habituated to using social media to organise but in doing so itself is a tool to keep everyone lock in ttheir own little bubbles?

  4. Another very insightful film by a filmmaker i very much admire.
    We are living in an age in which we are all locked into our own bubbles with no particular one powerful enough to set a global trend. Whats the future have in store for us? what can we believe in? If the politicians can not offer us a vision of a better world then what are we striving towards? What purpose do we have? Will we see the re-eminence of religion? Will we, as Samuel Huntington predicted move towards a clash of civilisations whereby people adhere to ancient traditions and cultural values over "the facts" that seem to posses liberal bias as far as many on the right are concerned.

  5. Oh Big Brother. This is some slick propaganda, cutting off sentences just at the right moment to twist what the person really meant, etc….all in fine form in this one. Didn't go into what the Muslim Brotherhood did and how popular the military is with people who want a secular society and unpopular the military is with the Islamists. In fact, people who have worked for both CNN/MSNBC say they have total freedom at RT and are censored by CNN and MSNBC.
    It's the CIA who is spreading disinfo here because their drug trade is at risk with the boarder wall.

  6. Also didn't point out that Hillary sold twenty percent of our uranium to Russia and John Podesta made millions off the deal as did Harry Reid. Russia backed out of the deal when the whole sorted mess came out. That is treason conveniently left out of this propaganda rag of a film.

  7. Just shocking to discover how we all took for granted so many "fake versions of the world" and seem to have retreated in a simplified illusion where fakeness has become accepted by everyone as real, the supernormal.
    This antipropaganda pamphlet offers food for thought on how ruthless politicians, a predefined cyberspace and a runaway financial system are all shifting our perception of reality. You could easily add the runaway climate change to the state of the hypernormal, I can recommend the documentary Racing Extinction to sense what kind changes can effectively be made.

  8. To me this documentary seems to encourage skepticism, even in the face of apathy and hopelessness. DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. The New World Order is not 'political' it is the world of multinational capitalism… do not believe them…

  9. Well, the BBC seems to have gotten the better of the formerly stellar Adam Curtis. This is a really disappointing whitewashing of the West's sinister role in the Syrian conflict, which is not most accurately understood as a civil war, but a foreign invasion by western-backed jihadis carrying out a regime change operation by proxy for the NATO and GCC states. Notice the requisite bashing of Putin as well, finding malevolence in Putin's mild, almost non-committal description of Trump as "talented." The MSM in turn created the whole "bromance" thing out of it, a distortion that seems to have backfired on them. I wouldn't expect anything else from the BBC, but I would've hoped for better from Curtis.

  10. Wow this documentary is giving the false impression that Syria attacked America with suicide bombers. The timing is too coincidental to not be neocon propaganda.

  11. Great documentary until the last half hour – journalism in America is part of the corporate media/tech/banking apparatus that this documentary was exposing – they are not the arbiters of truth and justice that they once were (or were believed to be). Surely Curtis is aware of this. Politicians are not any more or less "truthful" than the supposed journalists that Curtis is defending. The real story is not lying politicians or narcissistic Americans, but a reflexive feedback loop that is monitored by the media/tech/banking conglomerates that decides the "reality" Curtis is talking about, influences the allowed "opinions" via politics and media (dialectics), and decides the outcomes via lobbying and usage of the military industrial complex. Kissinger remains much more the story than the mainstream rendering of Trump.

  12. I wrote this reflecting on this doco: https://medium.com/extended-response/the-dynamics-of-media-bubbles-af6599d680b8#.kkmljkvtb

  13. We can see through the lines of your mixed truth n lies filmic ego trip , fooling most with your subtle use of hyberbole and blatant non-truths bolstered by a mass of distactive truths……u fuckin hypocrite non human peice of self righteous self important …self self self im allright jack attituded up SNOB! FUK OFF

  14. We need to find a form of modern politics that can unite the concerns of materialism and identity politics without creating division. This division is what prevents the successful formation of new social movements.

  15. His helplessness in this one is not only a downer, it is wrong. Nothing changes? Everything changes, but slowly. Slavery no longer exists, Stalin is dead. Is he looking for some sort of revolution that will fix everything at once? Been there, done that, got the Tshirt. On the back it says "fail."

  16. This is just NWO programmed bullshit. If you want to know what's really happening in Syria check this link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GE6TLAFgO4Y

  17. does anybody knows who's the elderly couple killed of the video which is interleaved with Bridget Fonda exercising?

  18. That muscly racist bonehead motherfucker screaming about how American he is makes my blood boil so much. The very definition of pig headed American idiot who is 100% sold on the idea that he is great because he is American. What a buffoon.

  19. Never heard of Adam Curtis before. He seems to be an interesting guy. This is a very zoomed out point of perspective and it is certainly worth to watch…

  20. man kinda one-sided view of "foreign" relations

    crazy irony in a documentary about the normalization of fake reality

  21. This is probably the most incredible documentary I've ever seen, but it falters when it addresses the present. I think Curtis can take an almost omniscient perspective on the past, but wrt the present, he seems to be participating in the exact phenomenon he's describing; he's totally duped by the contemporary reaction to the things that this film has described so articulately.

    What I mean is that he's portrayed the current chaotic and insane state of culture as an error. It may be so, but it is what humanity is for the time being, and his attempts to oppose its continual manifestations seems pathetic and anachronistic.

    He spent nearly 3 hours flawlessly justifying why things are as they are, and then he attempts to paint it as ridiculous. I for one was convinced that our current state of affairs was inevitable.

  22. Bullshyt propaganda with a fresh millennial style, lol, and NO REAL HISTORICAL CONTEXT WHERE WAS THE CIA IN ALL THIS?

  23. "Nothing is f****d here, yr being very un-Dude."

    Let's all fight Wall Street

    Together nothing can stop us

  24. That was interesting but I take it with a grain of salt. The people behind this want views and clicks as much as anyone else. Also, it could have been an hour shorter without all the unnecessarily long clips that did nothing to advance the narrative.

  25. doesnt make any mention of how the rise and fall of soiet russia was engineered and controlled by zi0nist banksters

  26. statistical (probabilities) mechanics of complex networks, large scale of data mining, combinatorial math… Kahneman – Nassim Taleb – antiOblomov as a Jewish Bolshevist

  27. Politics will never actually solve anything, because not everyone will be happy. It's a constant push and pull, between whatever parties are in power. “There are no solutions. There are only trade-offs.” – Thomas Sowell

  28. This is fuckin manipulative and gimmicky… and answers nothing..

    oh and the ending is blatant anti-Trump propaganda…. smh

  29. This is nonsense. The documentary spends at least a quarter of its time weaving a global conspiracy narrative around the early years of Libya and Gaddafi, yet fails to mention how it all ended with the US and a coalition of allies bombing Libya and murdering Gaddafi. It also pretends to be sweeping in scope yet skips from Reagan to Bush administrations as though the Clinton years didn't even exist. Early and random footage of Trump is spliced in to no effect or meaning. This is a series of scraps left on the cutting room floor. The most generous analysis is that is was brutally edited, prey to the very shadowy forces it alludes to yet utterly fails to confront or explain.

  30. Watch the news and you gotta admit, it's not normal. But has the West become hyper-normal like Russia in the 1980's? I don't know.

  31. H . Kissinger , Larry Fink , Joseph Weizenbaum, Jess Marcum (Markovich ) B. Netanyaho , Judea Pearl , The Strugatsky brothers , … is it more than me who see a common thread here ?

  32. Ronald Reagan was also a pedophile, he brought cocaine into the country. It's a lie he's was acting and was just as evil as the rest.

  33. Um yeah his documentary left out so many facts about the Middle East and how the us government has been paying radical groups to reak havoc in the Middle East in able to destabilize and isreal will annex land into Syria. And he's def biased against Donald trump and putin

  34. Actually I don't like donLd trump but his regime has been more transparent than any. And I tend to believe him more since he can lie if he does he gets attacked by the media. Why didn't that happen to Obama?he did so many evil things, as did the rest

  35. If y'all want true facts watch the journalist from Australia called Pilgner. He's actually telling the truth an interviews and reads wikileaks.

  36. The BBC? Really? The liars that gave us the Iraq war. In any democracy, the real power lies in the hands of the media, for most people, that is where they get their information from in order to make their choice come voting time. Most people in the democracy are stupid and unable to think for themselves and have little to no interest in politics, they rely entirely on the media to tell them the truth and therein lies the rub. Whomever controls the media controls the politicians because without the media their message would never reach enough people, this also allows the owners of the media to remain in the shadows whilst the politicians take all the flak. The best thing anyone can do in order to gain back a small part of their freedom is to throw out the TV, they don't call it programming for nothing, you have been conditioned to think in a certain way, a way which does not benefit you at all, throw it out, now.

  37. Great until the last half an hour where it fails to acknowledge 9/11 was an inside job; committed by the elites which Trump and Brexit are a direct countenance to. Furthermore there is blatant hypocrisy whereby the 'Facebook kids' of the Arab spring are said to be merely this, and people in the West standing up to their political masters are portrayed entirely as white supremacists.

  38. 1 – who owns banks and internet infrastructure rules 2- Putin is not reading from teleprompter, so if he is lying – he is master of lying

  39. The part about AI algorithms puting people into bubbles on social media is bullshit. People put themselves in their own bubbles. Facebook doesn't choose your friends for you, Twitter doesn't choose who you follow.

  40. Good film. Not one of Mr. Curtis's best. Seems like he tries to cover too much in one film and ironically over simplifies a lot of complex geopolitics! There is a driving point about counter-culture being divisive in modern society- but more than his other works i'm left thinking- so what is the answer? what should a worthy politician be like?

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