2019-11-15 The Century of the Self

I’ve started watching The Century of the Self, Part 1. There are four parts.

I found a copy on YouTube at the time and downloaded it in 2018 after reading a discussion online. [1] It’s also available from the Internet Archive. [2] [3] [4] [5]

A few minutes in: Using propaganda for peace! Renaming propaganda to council on public relations… I’m liking this documentary already!

A bit later, the first experiment: convincing women to smoke in public. WTF this callousness is what creates evil in the world. 🤮

The idea that somebody had to discover a way to turn objects like cigarettes into a way to make a statement (”torches of freedom” and all the cigarette ads ever that followed), and that many other people were willing to come along, and benefit from the manipulation of their fellow humans… The disgust still lingers when people talk about marketing, when they work in marketing.

Did I think my stance against consumerism was a kind of hidden knowledge and nobody else had studied it? Or had the noise drained out all the truth from advertising? When I look at this documentary and hear bankers say we need to change society from a needs culture to a culture of desires, that people must be trained to desire new things before having used up the old, it’s as if somebody had removed my earplugs and said: yo, you’re not alone. We all know this! We’ve been doing it for years.

@technomancy asked me whether it was for a mature audience. Hah, I wouldn’t dare tell an American what to show or what not to show to their kids. The Atlantic is a cultural gulf we all try to ignore. I’m 24 minutes in and I’ve seen pictures of the first world war, but no corpses; I’ve seen women smoke but nobody was naked; there was no cruelty or torture. After all, it was shown on British television. If you’re watching it with kids ten or twelve years old and talk to them about advertising, you’re going to be fine. Also, I have no kids. 😃

This four part series looks like a must-see.



Thanks for recommending these! I watched them the other night and thought they were great.

I’ve seen another documentary by Adam Curtis called HyperNormalisation that I liked too, will have to go through his whole filmography.

– rjt 2019-11-20 11:09 UTC

You are welcome! 🙂

On Mastodon, I also saw the following recommendations:

@clew said: “There’s a book called No One Makes You Shop at Wal-Mart that’s good on that. Tom Slee. Not especially about Walmart, as it happens.”

@dredmorbius also recommended HyperNormalisation, and The Loving Trap.

@ludibrium recommended Noam Chomsky - Manufacturing consent (1992).

@krozruch said: “I’ve been going through all of Adam Curtis’ documentaries recently. The Mayfair Set most recently - which is more relevant to Brexit than I may have realised. All of them have something to say. I first watched a handful of them (The Power of Nightmares, The Century of the Self, and All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace) as they came out and talked about them a lot. I’m working on reviews of a few of them now. Great stuff!”

So I guess you’re not alone.

– Alex Schroeder 2019-11-20 17:33 UTC

Adding his blog (which was last updated in 2016) to this little shrine to A. Curtis.

Seriously though, we seem to be victims of our circumstances and free will is a necessary illusion so that we can face ourselves in the mirror.

AlokSingh 2019-11-29 14:21 UTC

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