The Trap…

what’s happened to our dreams of freedom?

“The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom” is a 2007 BBC documentary series directed and produced by Adam Curtis (think: Hypernormalisation). It consists of three one-hour episodes which explore the concept and definition of freedom. In short, Curtis argues that today’s idea of freedom is based on a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures.

Episodes

01. — “F**k You Buddy.”
In this episode, Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.
📹  watch episode 1

02. — “The Lonely Robot.”
The second episode underscores the first but develops the theme that the drugs such as Prozac — Happy Pills — are being used to normalise behaviour and make us behave more predictably… more like machines.
📹  watch episode 2

03. — “We Will Force You To Be Free.”
The final episode focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty that were introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin.* Curtis explains how negative liberty might be defined as freedom from coercion, and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one’s potential.
📹  watch episode 3


P.S.

* “The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” This ancient Greek aphorism, preserved in a fragment from the poet Archilochus, describes a thesis put forward by Isaiah Berlin regarding the philosophy of history. Although there have been many interpretations of the aphorism, Berlin uses it to mark a fundamental distinction between human beings who are fascinated by the infinite variety of things and those who relate everything to a central, all-embracing system. Berlin’s extraordinary essay offers profound insights about Tolstoy, historical understanding, and human psychology.


Isaiah Berlin’s essay:
📙 The Hedgehog and the Fox

According to Berlin, humans can be divided into two categories: hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a single defining idea (he cites: Plato, Dante, Hegel, Nietzsche and Proust), and foxes, who draw on a wide variety of experiences and for whom the world cannot be summed up into a single idea (he cites: Aristotle, Erasmus, Shakespeare, and Joyce).

The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).
The American Dream
“The American Dream”
— Gabriel H. Sanchez (BuzzFeed, 2018).

English dogs

Quite why the British love dogs so much I dunno, maybe it’s cos they like to boss people around — dear reader I joke! I’m a proppa anglophile. Dogging is one thing (I’ll let you look up this pastime yourself) but, what’s it mean to be called a “poodle” or a “lapdog”?

Private Eye
Private Eye — subtext: The U.K.’s Prime Minister is a ‘control freak,’ he only appoints Ministers who will agree with whatever he does or says.

Poodle
[insult]
In politics, “poodle” is an insult used to describe a politician who obediently or passively follows the lead of others. It is considered to be equivalent to lackey. Usage of the term ‘poodle’ is thought to relate to the passive and obedient nature of this breed of dog.

Lapdog
[insult]
A weak person who is controlled by someone else.

Here’s one more but it’s Chinese in origin:

Running dog
[insult]
This is a pejorative term for a person who unquestioningly helps more powerful people. It is like being called a ‘yes-man’ or a ‘lackey.’ Usage of the term ‘running dog’ is thought to relate to the tendency of dogs to ‘blindly’ follow after humans in the hope of receiving food or a favour of some kind (e.g., shelter or a pat on the back).


FOOTNOTES

More Private Eye covers etc.

Political satire
Subtext: The U.K.’s PM is being pulled in two different directions.

Without fear

Without favour

Index-on-Censorship
🤐🙈🤐🙉🤐🙊


Free societies are societies in motion, and with motion comes tension, dissent, friction. Free people strike sparks, and those sparks are the best evidence of freedom’s existence.


— Salman Rushdie

Journaist's toolbox
   The Journalist’s Toolbox


Censorship is the child of fear and the father of ignorance.


— Laurie Halse Anderson


To forbid us anything is to make us have a mind for it.


— Michel de Montaigne


To prohibit the reading of certain books is to declare the inhabitants to be either fools or slaves.


— Claude Adrien Helvetius


Adam was but human—this explains it all. He did not want the apple for the apple’s sake, he wanted it only because it was forbidden. The mistake was in not forbidding the serpent; then he would have eaten the serpent.


— Mark Twain

Censorship
   حجب الإنترنت لإسكات المنتقدين

To manipulate

mass media’s sole role?

Noam the older
“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
— Noam Chomsky

There are a few key books to read if you wanna know more about the media and how it works and what it does. Simply put, the media is:

[1]

News outlets (papers, television and internet platforms) that report on, generate and distribute news.

However, many people believe that corporate media — owned mostly by very rich and powerful men — comprises of:

[2]

Entities that work in manipulative ways to keep rich people rich and poor people meek and acquiescent of the political structures that keep them poor.

To be honest, not all media outlets are the same as each other (see reviews of the key newspapers and news magazines here). As I say elsewhere on this site, news should be printed without fear and without favour. What do I mean by this? Well I mean that we shouldn’t need to be afraid to report the whole truth and nothing but the truth and, we shouldn’t show favouritism (especially if under duress or as a consequence of bribery).

without-fear---without-favour
Bust and words of Adolph Ochs, The New York Times headquarters. In greater, but still abridged, detail: “The New York Times will give the news in concise and attractive form [it will] give the news impartially, without fear or favour, regardless of party, sect, or interests involved, [provide] a forum for the consideration of all questions of public importance, and to that end, invite intelligent discussion from all shades of opinion.”

The books I recommend are:

Manufacturing Consent
Herman, E. S., & Chomsky, N. (1988).

Media and Democracy
Curran, J. (Ed). (2011).

The Shock Doctrine
Klein, N. (2007).

Public Opinion
Lippmann, W. (1922).

The Conquest of Bread
Kropotkin, P. (1892).

To end with, I’ll quote:

“Those who are able to see beyond the shadows and lies of their culture will never be understood, let alone believed, by the masses.”

— Plato

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”

— Karl Marx

“Social media is the opium of the millennials onward.”

— Anna Bidoonism

Communal Goodness

of benefit to one and (hopefully) all…

Audio one, Liberalism in Retreat by Robin Niblett

Audio two, China and the World by Evan A. Feigenbaum

In economics, philosophy and political science, the ‘common good’ tends to relate to what is shared and beneficial to (most) members of a given community (or economy or group of countries).

References
Feigenbaum, E. A. (2017). China and the World. Foreign Affairs, 96(1), 33–40

Niblett, R. (2017). Liberalism in Retreat. Foreign Affairs, 96(1), 17–24


Grant Wood (1891-1942), American Gothic, 1930
The 1930’s, think of the Great Depression; think of the lead up to WWII.

p.s. ‘Ubique’ is Latin for “everywhere,” and tends to imply omnipresence (the property of being present everywhere). Think of the adjective ‘ubiquitous.’ e.g., “Nowadays, smartphones are ubiqitous.”