Monday, August 22, 2011

The Trap

Summer breaks are great times for movies.  Adam Curtis is a British documentary director for the BBC.  He has released many interesting documentaries such as The Power of Nightmares, which compared Qutbism to American neo-conservatism.  He recently put out a new title, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, but I'm more interested in his 2007 film, The Trap.

The Trap is a film about how liberal ideologies have become logically trapped into a world that is not very attractive and paradoxically less free.  Curtis blames models created by game theorists and public choice theorists in the 1940's, 50's, and 60's as being incorrect descriptions of the human condition.  He inserts an old interview with Friedrich Hayek, who when asked where altruism fits into his philosophy, quickly responds that "It doesn't."  This ultimately seems to be the main sticking point to Curtis' complaints.  He does not believe that the Nash equilibrium is as prevalent as the models would suggest.  Similarly he does not believe that Public Choice is a good description of politics.  The main problem with Curtis is that he does all of his documentaries in a dramatic and tightly wound fashion.  He tells the story of game theory and public choice as though it were a massive conspiracy played out by the Rand Corporation on the unsuspecting citizens of the world.  As with so many political documentary-makers, his film is short on answers other than 'this is wrong.'

I'm drawn to The Trap for the same reason I was drawn to The Power of Nightmares, the high drama.  I remember seeing that film and feeling uneasy about Leo Strauss despite the fact that I was only drawing my information from a distortion artist that was trying to poison my well against Strauss' ideology before I had ever learned about it.  I wonder what viewers of this documentary think of Hayek, James Buchanan, John Nash, Richard Dawkins, and Isaiah Berlin.  Buchanan and Nash both have Nobel prizes in economics, but Curtis goes out of his way to make them look strange and radical.  New ideas are very powerful, but they are only as effective as the manner in which they are presented.  Game Theory and Public Choice offer important insights to large parts of individuals lives, but despite the fact that they are half a century old, they are still novel to many people.  This film might introduce the subjects to many or most of the viewers view this and what impression do they gather?

The film is actually three one hour television programs.

"Fuck You Buddy"

"The Lonely Robot"

"We Will Force You To Be Free"

Ultimately I'm interested in these because Curtis is a good communicator.  I would like to learn from him because if I were ever to make a documentary film, I would use many elements of his style.  I enjoy all of his music and visual montages.  They compliment one another very well.  His visual style and tempo perfectly matches that of the Internet driven generation.  He seems so much more polished and intellectual than Michael Moore, but actually he plays just as loose with the facts.  Enjoy, but with the caution that I've hopefully provided.  Try to observe Curtis' points for what they are: trying to stick holes in well rounded and accepted principles.  If you are interested, Buchanan and Hayek are worth reading as well.  Then, at least, you can judge for yourself.  Welcome to Summer Break infotainment!

No comments:

Post a Comment