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All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace


Comrade
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Didn't quite catch how the Lewinsky scandal was related to everything else being discussed in the programme - was it linked to the description of Clinton sitting in the White House with nothing to do, and mainly there so it could be juxtaposed against the talk about Ayn Rand's relationships?

I'm a bit skeptical about how direct Curtis' link was between Rand's selfish philosophies and Silicon Valley: wasn't the hippy/Californian university culture also very influential in the early days of the Web, with things like the Whole Earth Catalog and GNU GPL? Some of the techie types on Twitter have been making this criticism (here and here for example) - but then, I suppose they would say that! Then again, maybe those altruistic elements were tiny compared to the juggernaut economic forces being tackled in these documentaries.

Still, no matter how accurate or tenuous Curtis' connections might be, the audio/visual style was great. Favourites: the long slow-motion shot of Lewinsky staring at Clinton, Clinton poking around in his mouth, and shots of Chinese politicians set to villainous DUN DUN DUN music. :D

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I think it's fair to say he uses broad strokes with his storytelling, but if you're trying to tell a complex story which happened over decades in an hour of tv, you probably have to a little. I can certainly forgive him the occasional faux pas.

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I think it's fair to say he uses broad strokes with his storytelling, but if you're trying to tell a complex story which happened over decades in an hour of tv, you probably have to a little. I can certainly forgive him the occasional faux pas.

It baffles me how much otherwise rational people will let Adam Curtis get away with. He truly is the Martin Durkin of the left.

Of the stuff in there which wasn't wantonly reductionist or absurd conspiracy territory, there's really nothing left which wasn't covered more accurately and convincingly by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.

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I think the Clinton-Lewinsky thing was a comment on how instinctive emotions like love and power override rationalist determination. Much like how Ayn Rand's thought fell apart as her life did. I was struck by what she said to Nathaniel upon the break up. "You've let objectivism down!". This part of the story was very nicely told I thought - you have to applaud the courage with which Curtis told a few stories with images alone. The drawn out shot of Clinton and Lewinsky stood out for this. It gave the space to consider how it all related back to the core thesis of love and power.

One bit I thought was slightly unfair was on Clinton's push for a balanced budget, which in the first instance was funded by progressive tax rises on the rich. He cut much government spending, but maintained many of the most crucial elements.

In the most part, a virtuous piece of agitprop, stunning argued and beautifully put together. I think the greatest compliment I could give it is that it covered many areas I already know significant amounts about, told simple stories with very few errors, and tied everything together with great grace, leading to the kind of synthesis which only Curtis can achieve; the juxtaposition of two narratives that makes you consider both anew.

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It baffles me how much otherwise rational people will let Adam Curtis get away with. He truly is the Martin Durkin of the left.

Of the stuff in there which wasn't wantonly reductionist or absurd conspiracy territory, there's really nothing left which wasn't covered more accurately and convincingly by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.

Naomi Klein is about as accurate and academic as Curtis. In fact, The Shock Doctrine uses the same trick of juxtaposing seemingly unrelated narratives. Curtis' work doesn't stand up as serious academic work, but then neither does Klein's. Both paint grand narratives that are basically allegorical.

I find I can forgive Curtis more for his faults. I think of him as an artist. He is, after all , a film maker. But if I wanted to read a book about neoliberalism I turn to someone like Philip Mirowski, not Naomi Klein.

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I'm a bit skeptical about how direct Curtis' link was between Rand's selfish philosophies and Silicon Valley: wasn't the hippy/Californian university culture also very influential in the early days of the Web, with things like the Whole Earth Catalog and GNU GPL? Some of the techie types on Twitter have been making this criticism (here and here for example) - but then, I suppose they would say that! Then again, maybe those altruistic elements were tiny compared to the juggernaut economic forces being tackled in these documentaries.

I think that's a bit of a rubbish complaint - it's not as if Curtis ever claimed that Ayn Rand was the saint of every single early internet type, but she was an undeniably major influence, and that brought about later philosophies. He didn't mention open source or whatever because they weren't relevant, not because he doesn't know they exist.

Anyway, overall I was a little disappointed - probably because one of the main reasons I enjoy Curtis' docs are because they expose the underlying philosophies of events that I'd never heard of, but in this case I was well aware of Ayn Rand and her influence on international banking. Also, to be honest, I think with some of the longer bits where he just shows clips with music are beginning to slip into the realm of self-indulgence. Still, I'm looking forward to the rest of the series, and I'm sure it will all tie together quite satisfactorily.

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It would be good to get a full track list - I certainly spotted the Moon theme, something off either NIN's Ghosts or the Social Network OST, and a Burial track, Forgive I think.

Really good programme, am going to have to watch it again I think.

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The programme just goes to show, that no matter what system humans choose to live by, there will always be an elite who rise to the top and use their power and influence to propegate that elite status.

..It's all the proof you need that Darwin's theory is correct.

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Open source software might even be used by a randian fruitcake as an example of a better society created by people using rational self interest - it's in the interest of linux programmers to have a robust operating system, so they build one. Of course that would ignore the different motives they might have to work on it.

Did you see the shame on your woman's face when she accepted that she was being altruistic? Chilling stuff. That wizened russian hag has a lot to answer for.

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It baffles me how much otherwise rational people will let Adam Curtis get away with. He truly is the Martin Durkin of the left.

Of the stuff in there which wasn't wantonly reductionist or absurd conspiracy territory, there's really nothing left which wasn't covered more accurately and convincingly by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine.

The people in his films are always shown to be acting with good intentions, under a conception of the world that they sincerely believe. He's never indulged the idea of there being a conspiracy at work. For example, in opposition to most on "the left" he's always held that oil wasn't a major motivation for the Iraq war, instead emphasising the influence of neo-con ideology over Blair and Bush.

There's always going to be a degree of reductionism and generalisation involved in telling a story about the influence of an ideology. I don't think Curtis would deny that.

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I only watched the show due to the trailer and the title - I knew nothing of Adam Curtis or Ayn Rand. I found it quite interesting and well put together, but I hope next week there is more focus on the computers.

I used my phone to identify a couple of the tunes included, the one from Moon in particular was annoyingly familiar last night but I just couldn't place it.

Clint Mansell - Welcome to Lunar Industries

Kraftwerk - Radioaktivät

Pino Donaggio - Sally & Jack

Leonard Cohen - Suzanne

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Also used was Pino Donaggio's theme from Carrie and the final track from NIN's With Teeth: Right Where It Belongs.

There was also something that sounded like a remix of a track from Eno's Apollo (Atmospheres and Soundtracks).

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Watched this without catching up on any of his other series, despite meaning to. Excellent, in most ways. I have problems with the title at this point, but that might be because the BBC basically trailed it as Terminator 2. The central idea of "trusting the machine" seemed a bit shoehorned-in at times, but that's all my nit-picks. Impatient for next week.

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I'm sure his thing about "machines developing models" was a simplification on his part, but surely it wouldn't have killed him to say that lots of people trust the computer models and thought them to be infalliable, despite the fact that the models were developed by entirely falliable humans, this being their major weak point. I don't think that computers just spontaneously start to model complex systems.

Anyway, that's my commoditised thought for the day. I hope that you all enjoyed feasting on my little piece of emotion and drama there.

Also bill clinton picking his teeth.

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I do enjoy his stuff, but every documentary seems to be structured in the same way:

- There's some sort of 20th century thinker who comes up with new a way of doing something

- Peoples' lives change because of this new method of doing the thing (usually shown through studies)

- Corporations/the powerful political elite make money off it somehow

- Conclusion: People only have the illusion of freedom

I didn't realise that South Korea/Thailand had been an experiment though. The whole thing about China towards the end was pretty interesting too.

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Anyway, that's my commoditised thought for the day.

Where did he say he'd got that phrase from - didn't he say it was in a newsgroup post from about 15 years ago? If so, he (and his researchers) have very impressive Google Groups-fu. :ph34r:

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Fucking hell, that was a convincing narrative of corruption and ineptitude. Has the IMF ever actually successfully helped anyone?

Well the IMF are the lenders of last resort, you go to them because no one else will give them any money, so they do sort of help. If you have to go for them, you are pretty much fucked already.

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Burial "Forgive" ?

Yep! Just listened to the whole song for the first time on youtube. Good stuff! I've been meaning to get into Burial for a while, just haven't got round to it.

I know I'm gonna like it, as he seems to be the precursor to a lot of the recent dubstep I've been enjoying.

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Didn't quite catch how the Lewinsky scandal was related to everything else being discussed in the programme - was it linked to the description of Clinton sitting in the White House with nothing to do, and mainly there so it could be juxtaposed against the talk about Ayn Rand's relationships?

I don't think it was linked to any of the themes in the programme but it was highlighted as Clinton was preoccupied dealing with Lewinsky and couldn't deal with the group of economists who were trying to tell him Asia was about to go pop. Secretary of the Treasury, Rubin, kept it from Clinton.

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I quite enjoyed it, as I have with most of his other efforts. Of course, he presents a heavily Marxist narrative and pulls of his usual rhetorical tricks, but that's fine. Any historical account, no matter how balanced it may appear, will only ever be one of the infinite number of stories that can legitimately be told about a particular event. Having said that, Curtis does push the limits of "truth" a little further than most documentary makers. In sum, enjoy the nice music and the quirky archival footage, but don't take it too seriously.

Also, anyone curious about the role computers play in stock market trading may find this article interesting: http://www.lrb.co.uk/v33/n10/donald-mackenzie/how-to-make-money-in-microseconds

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Mondays episode of this was interesting. Again he's way too reductive and sometimes seems to get confused about how computer models and that actually work, but it was interesting to see the argument that the people who made a lot of computer models could only think of things in terms of computers. However he could really have done with reading up on chaos theory a bit, as I'm sure that most be effecting computer models of these things.

Also the thing about how the uprisings all basically ended up in the same situation 6 months later or whatever, I wonder if the same will prove true in the middle east after this arab spring malarky.

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Also the thing about how the uprisings all basically ended up in the same situation 6 months later or whatever, I wonder if the same will prove true in the middle east after this arab spring malarky.

It's already proving true. All that the Egyptian uprising did was increase the power of an already dominant military.

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  • 3 weeks later...

The last part of this was by far the best.

He pulled together a lot of stuff from his previous works and put all the pieces together to make a decent attempt at the overall big picture. Not perfect, but a great attempt, which felt like a conclusion, not just for this series but for the last 3 or 4 combined.

Now to watch them all again over the next few months :D

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