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Taxation without representation is tyranny. James Otis
What was beginning to emerge in the 1920s was a new idea of how to run mass democracy. At its heart was the consuming self, which not only made the economy work but was happy and docile. And so created a stable society. Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self, BBC 2002
He [Bernays] was about to help create a vision of the Utopia that free market capitalism would build in America if it was unleashed. ibid.
Freud was not alone in his pessimism. Politicians like Adolf Hitler emerged from a growing despair in the 1920s about democracy. The Nazis were convinced that democracy was dangerous because it unleashed a selfish individualism, but didn’t have the means to control it. Hitler’s party, the National Socialists, stood in elections promising in their propaganda that they would abandon democracy because of the chaos and unemployment it led to. ibid.
Psychoanalysts were convinced they not only understood these dangerous forces but they knew how to control them too. They would use their techniques to create democratic individuals because democracy left to itself failed to do this. Adam Curtis, The Century of the Self II: The Engineering of Consent
The ultimate political goal at the heart of our age is the idea of individual freedom. In Britain our government has set out to create a revolution that will free individuals from old elites and bureaucracies. A new world where we are free to choose our lives not be trapped by class or income into predestined roles … ‘To liberate Britain from all the old class divisions, old structures, old prejudices [Blair] …’ Adam Curtis, The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom: Fuck You Buddy, BBC 2007
It is a very strange kind of freedom. The attempt to liberate people from the dead hand of bureaucracy has led to the rise of a new and increasingly controlling system of management driven by targets and numbers. While governments committed to creating freedom of choice in all areas have actually presided over a rise in inequalities and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. The consequence has been a return of the power of class and privilege. And abroad the attempt to create democracy has led not just to bloody mayhem but a rejection of the American-led campaign to bring freedom. ibid.
[Friedrich] Von Hayek had fled the Nazis and now taught at the University of Chicago: Hayek was convinced that the use of politics to plan society was far more dangerous than any problems produced by companies. Because it inevitably led to tyranny and the end of freedom. ibid.
They [strategists] turned to a new idea called Game Theory. Game Theory had been developed as a way of mathematically analysing poker games. ibid.
A military think-tank called the Rand Corporation: and the strategists at Rand used Game Theory to create mathematical models that predicted how the Soviets would behave in response to what they saw the Americans doing. ibid.
Underlying Game Theory was a dark vision of human beings who were driven only by self-interest constantly distrusting of those around them. ibid.
The mathematical genius John Nash … In reality Nash was difficult and spiky; he was notorious at Rand for inventing a series of cruel games. The most famous he called Fuck You, Buddy. ibid.
A system driven by selfishness did not have to lead have to chaos. He proved that there could always be a point of equilibrium in which everyone’s self-interest was perfectly balanced against each other … Selfishness always led to a safer outcome: it was called the Prisoners’ dilemma. ibid.
In the early ’60s R D Laing set up a psychiatric practice in Harley Street in London. He offered radical new treatments for schizophrenia and quickly became a media celebrity. But his research into the causes of schizophrenia convinced him that a much wider range of human problems were caused by the pressure-cooker of family life. Laing decided to investigate how power and control were exercised within the world of normal families. And to do this he would use the techniques of Game Theory. ibid.
Laing produced matrices which showed how just as in the Cold War couples use their everyday actions as strategies to control and manipulate each other. His conclusion was stark. That what was normally seen as acts of kindness and love were in reality weapons used selfishly to exert power and control. From this research, Laing argued that the modern family, far from being a nurturing caring institution, was in reality a dark arena where people played continuous selfish games with each other. ibid.
Laing was radicalised by his findings. He believed that the struggle for power and control that he had uncovered in the family was inextricably linked to the struggle for power and control in the world. In a violent and corrupt society the family had become a machine for controlling people. Laing believed that this was an objective reality revealed by his scientific methods, above all by Game Theory. But these very methods contained within them bleak, paranoid assumptions about what human beings were really like, assumptions borne out of the hostilities of the Cold War. ibid.
The system that was trying to control your mind and destroy your freedom … What Laing and the counter-culture were doing was tearing down Britain’s institutions in the name of freedom. ibid.
A group of right-wing economists in America now put forward a theory why this was happening. At the heart of their idea was Game Theory. They said that the fundamental reality of life in society was one of millions of people continually watching and strategising against each other, all seeking only their own advantage. An assumption had become a truth. The self-interested model of human behaviour that had been developed in the Cold War to make the mathematical equations work had now been adopted by these economists as a fundamental truth about the reality of all human social interaction. ibid.
Public Choice theory … James Buchanan: ‘no meaningful concept that could be called the public interest.’ ibid.
Psychiatry, said Laing, was a fake science used as a system of political control to shore up a violent collapsing society. Its categories of madness and sanity had no reality. Madness was simply a convenient label used to lock away those who wanted to break free. ibid.
All human judgment would be removed and replaced instead by a system based on the power of numbers; they gave up on the idea they could understand the human mind and cure it; instead, American psychiatry created a new set of measurable categories that were only based on the surface behaviour of human beings. ibid.
More than 50% of Americans suffered from some type of mental disorder. ibid.
This new system of psychological disorders had been created by a an attack on the arrogance and power of the psychiatric elite in the name of freedom. But what was beginning to emerge from this was a new form of control: the disorders and checklists were becoming a powerful and objective guide to what were the correct and appropriate feelings in an age of individualism and emotion. ibid.
In November 1989 the Berlin Wall collapsed and the Cold War was finally over. A new era of freedom had begun. The shape that freedom was going to take would be defined by the victors – the West, and as this programme has shown, the idea of freedom that had now become dominant in the West was deeply rooted in the suspicion and paranoia of the Cold War. ibid.
The Neo-Conservatives were beginning to believe that their ideal of freedom was an absolute. And that this then justified lying and exaggerating in order to enforce that vision. The end justified the means. Although they portrayed the Contras as freedom fighters, it was well known that they used murder, assassination and torture. And also were allegedly using CIA-supplied planes to smuggle cocaine back into the United States. And to finance the Contras, the Neo-Conservatives were even prepared to deal with America’s enemy – the leaders of the Iranian revolution. In 1985 those running the Nicaragua operation held a series of secret meetings with Iranian leaders in Europe. They arranged to sell the Iranians American weapons; in return the Iranians would release American hostages held in Lebanon. Then the money from these sales would be used by those running Project Democracy to fund the Contras. The only problem was that this was completely illegal. And the President knew it. Adam Curtis: The Trap III: We Will Force You to be Free, BBC 2007
What was beginning to emerge was the problem of spreading freedom around the world. To do it those leading Project Democracy had turned not just to manipulation and violence but were beginning to undermine the ideals of democracy in America. The very thing they were trying to create abroad. It was the corruption of freedom that Isaiah Berlin had warned of. ibid.
In 1989 across eastern Europe the people rose up to overthrow their communist leaders. It was a remarkable series of revolutions. All driven by the desire for freedom and the ending of tyranny. ibid.
A form of order and a new kind of democracy in which the market, not politics, gave people what they wanted. But things didn’t work out how the theory predicted. ibid.
A new elite was beginning to emerge who snapped up vast sections of Russian industry: they became known as the Oligarchs. ibid.