"The documentary is inspired by the unpredictable events of recent times – from the rise of Donald Trump to Brexit, the war in Syria, the endless migrant crisis, and random bomb attacks. It seeks to explain both why these chaotic events are happening, and why we and our leaders can't understand them. Curtis's theory is that Westerners - politicians, journalists, experts and members of the public alike - have retreated into a simplified, and often completely fake version of the world. But because it is all-encompassing, we accept it as normal.
HyperNormalisation explores this hollow world by looking back at 40 years of events, and profiling a diverse cast of characters such as: the Assad dynasty, Donald Trump, Henry Kissinger, Patti Smith, the early performance artists in New York, President Putin, intelligent machines, Japanese gangsters and suicide bombers."
(Holly Barrett, 22nd September 2016, Royal Television Society)
"Individual freedom is the dream of our age. It's what our leaders promise to give us, it defines how we think of ourselves and, repeatedly, we have gone to war to impose freedom around the world. But if you step back and look at what freedom actually means for us today, it's a strange and limited kind of freedom.
Politicians promised to liberate us from the old dead hand of bureaucracy, but they have created an evermore controlling system of social management, driven by targets and numbers. Governments committed to freedom of choice have presided over a rise in inequality and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. And abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to enforce freedom has led to bloody mayhem and the rise of an authoritarian anti-democratic Islamism. This, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain. In response, the Government has dismantled long-standing laws designed to protect our freedom.
The Trap is a series of three films by Bafta-winning producer Adam Curtis that explains the origins of our contemporary, narrow idea of freedom. It shows how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today's idea of freedom. This model was derived from ideas and techniques developed by nuclear strategists during the Cold War to control the behavior of the Soviet enemy."
"So much of the news this year  has been hopeless, depressing and above all confusing. To which the only response is 'Oh Dear' But what this film is going to suggest is that defeatist response has become a central part of a new system of political control and to understand how this is happening you have to look to Russia and to a man called Vladislav Surkov who is a hero of our time. Surkov is one of President Putin's advisors and has helped him maintain his power for fifteen years, but he has done it in a very new way. He came originally from the avant-garde art world and those who have studied his career say that what Surkov has done is import ideas from conceptual art into the very heart of politics."
"My aim is to try to get people to look at those fragments of recorded moments from Afghanistan in a new and fresh way. I do feel that the way many factual programmes on TV are edited and constructed has become so rigid and formulaic – that the audiences don't really look at them any more. The template is so familiar.
I am using these techniques to both amplify and express the wider argument of Bitter Lake. It is that those in power in our society have so simplified the stories they tell themselves, and us, about the world that they have in effect lost touch with reality. That they have reduced the world to an almost childlike vision of a battle between good and evil.
This was the story that those who invaded Afghanistan carried with them and tried to impose there – and as a result they really could not see what was staring them in the face: a complex society where different groups had been involved in a bloody civil war for over 30 years. A world where no one was simply good or bad. But those in charge ignored all that – and out of it came a military and political disaster.
But the film also tries to show why Western politicians have so simplified the world. Because Afghanistan's recent past is also a key that unlocks an epic hidden history of the postwar world."
(Adam Curtis, 24 January 2015, The Telegraph)
"The new series, called All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace, takes complicated ideas and turns them into entertainment by the use of the vertigo–inducing intellectual leaps, choppy archive material and disorienting music with which all Curtis fans are familiar. The central idea leads Curtis on a journey, taking in the chilling über–individualist novelist Ayn Rand, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Alan Greenspan, the 'new economy', hippy communes, Silicon Valley, ecology, Richard Dawkins, the wars in Congo, the lonely suicide in a London squat of the mathematical genius who invented the selfish gene theory, and the computer model of the eating habits of the pronghorn antelope.
You can see why Zoe Williams once wrote that, while watching one of Curtis's programmes, 'I kept thinking the dog was sitting on the remote. ...'
Now he has moved on to machines, but it starts with nature. 'In the 1960s, an idea penetrated deep into the public imagination that nature is a self–regulating ecosystem, there is a natural order,' Curtis says. 'The trouble is, it's not true–as many ecologists have shown, nature is never stable, it's always changing. But the idea took root and spread wider–people started to believe there is an underlying order to the entire world, to how society is structured. Everything became part of a system, like a computer; no more hierarchies, freedom for all, no class, no nation states.' What the series shows is how this idea spread into the heart of the modern world, from internet utopianism and dreams of democracy without leaders to visions of a new kind of stable global capitalism run by computers. But we have paid a price for this: without realising it we, and our leaders, have given up the old progressive dreams of changing the world and instead become like managers–seeing ourselves as components in a system, and believing our duty is to help that system balance itself. Indeed, Curtis says, 'The underlying aim of the series is to make people aware that this has happened–and to try to recapture the optimistic potential of politics to change the world.'
The counterculture of the 1960s, the Californian hippies, took up the idea of the network society because they were disillusioned with politics and believed this alternative way of ordering the world was based on some natural order. So they formed communes that were non–hierarchical and self–regulating, disdaining politics and rejecting alliances. (Many of these hippy dropouts later took these ideas mainstream: they became the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who decided that computers could liberate everyone and save the world.)...
He draws a parallel with those 1970s communes. 'The experiments with them all failed, and quickly. What tore them apart was the very thing that was supposed to have been banished: power. Some people were more free than others – strong personalities dominated the weak, but the rules didn't allow any organised opposition to the suppression because that would be politics.' As in the commune, so in the world: 'These are the limitations of the self–organising system: it cannot deal with politics and power. And now we're all disillusioned with politics, and this machine–organising principle has risen up to be the ideology of our age.'"
(Katharine Viner, 6 May 2011, Guardian)
Episode 1: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: Love and Power', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 23 May 2011
Episode 2: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: The Use and Abuse of Vegetational Concepts', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 30 May 2011
Episode 3: 'All Watched Over By Machines Of Loving Grace: The Monkey In The Machine and the Machine in the Monkey', First broadcast BBC Two, 9:00PM Mon, 06 June 2011