Adam Curtis: The TV elite has lost the plot

The stupidity of crowds


People just want something good to watch, and be stimulated by. Not talked down to.

Quite!

But the idea as well that intrigues me is that we're being "oppressed by gatekeepers"! Give me a break - it's almost autistic. One good example is the BBC's Digital Assassin Day last summer. They tried to get all the bloggers to tell them what they thought they should be doing, it was all about a new democracy and "user generated content". But in the end, four times as many BBC people were involved in staging this than members of the public who eventually showed up. That tells me people at the BBC are far more neurotic about this than they need to be. Why do they think they need to do that?

No, but you see the reason for that is it isn't their fault. They have come into a world where they don't know what's going on. It's lack of confidence.

Our political leaders and our media elite - I know the BBC very well - simply lack confidence.

They're very nice, and they're very intelligent people. But they lack confidence about what is really going on in the world. It's collapsed. In the face of that they are easily seduced by another idea of democracy that they can "serve the people" by doing this.

Adam Curtis 1992 BBC series: Pandora's Box

Pandora's Box (1992)

Because their remit is Public Service Broadcasting. That is the problem - in an age where there is no elite, how do you do Public Service Broadcasting?

What they need to do is take the internet, and instead of portraying it as some sort of platform in which they just show people's dogs falling down stairs, they should use this and find a way of imaginatively constructing new things out of it. It'll be complicated, because the internet is quite anti-narrative, it goes all over the shop, but I know full well someone somewhere will take that and turn it into something like a Dickens novel, and use it to take people out of themselves. And I tell you, there's no one at the BBC thinking like that. And it's about time they did. Because all they do is go on and on and on about "Platforms" and "Delivery" - as if it's just process.

It's a time of great technical invention but it's a time of [artistic] stagnation. We need to take this [innovation] and create something imaginative out of it. These people are paid a lot, they have a lot of influence, and they could do wonderful things. It's time they got on with it.

They lack the sort of 'oomph' to say, "No, our job - as you said - is not to talk down to the people but to construct something that is just awesome, that makes them look at the world in a different way".

What people suffer from is being trapped within themselves - in a world of individualism everyone is trapped within their own feelings, trapped within their own imaginations. Our job as public service broadcasters is to take people beyond the limits of their own self, and until we do that we will carry on declining.

The BBC should realise that. I have an idealistic view, but if the BBC could do that, taking people beyond their own selves, it will renew itself in a way that jumps over the competition. The competition is obsessed by serving people in their little selves. And in a way, actually, Murdoch for all his power, is trapped by the self. That's his job, to feed the self.

In the BBC, it's the next step forward. It doesn't mean we go back to the 1950s and tell people how to dress, what we do is say "we can free you from yourself" - and people would love it.


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