BBC2, Sun 18 Mar, 9pm
Writer and director Adam Curtis gained waves of acclaim and acres of flak for his Power of Nightmares series which suggested that the threat to the West from a network of Arab terrorist cells is nothing short of a politically-motivated fantasy. Now he’s back to flatten another myth, that our hard-won post-WW2 freedoms have been nothing but a big fat lie and that through various agencies, we the people have been brainwashed into believing that true liberty exists. The opening episode featured everyone from anti-psychiatry guru RD Laing to anti-society milk-snatcher Margaret Thatcher and on to messed-up mathematician John Nash (played by a jittery Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind) as it traced the various interests who sought to break down the established governing structures, not for some woolly notion of the ‘public good’ as they claimed, but for pure greed and self-interest.
This second episode shows that during the 90s, even when the US and UK moved to the liberal left after periods of upheaval through radical conservatism, there was little change in this programming of the human experience and that people were becoming little more than robots, going unthinkingly along with the prevailing wind of Blair’s changes and Clinton’s reforms. It all paints a rather bleak yet compelling picture, albeit spoiled by the relentless fast-cutting and barrage of non-sequiter images which somehow signify ‘paranoia’ or ‘distrust’ or ‘fear’. At the end of one hour, Curtis appears to have wielded, consciously or otherwise, the subtle behavioural and mind-altering techniques he savages in the series.