Awareness | Debate | Action
The Trap is a Adam Curtis documentary film originally produced for the BBC in three episodes. It talks about the modern political realities, where the policies came from and the massive failures of those ideals and how they have ended up exactly where they did not want to be.
This episode 1 starts in the Cold War and shows the seeds that were sown to produce the modern political reality. Curtis examines the rise of game theory used during this time, and the way in which its mathematical models of human behavior filtered into economic thought. It explores the relation of self-interest at the family level to society as a whole, and how this knowledge is inevitably used to manipulate society for their own self-interested gain, or more so the gain of the few. (Highlights from Friedrich von Hayek, John Nash, R D Laing)
The Trap - 1 - Fuck You Buddy
This episode 2 focuses on the 1990's and how the politicians decided to apply the model of a free market economy to the rest of society and consequences of these actions being felt all over the world in western democracy's. It shows how individuality have been driving factors in politics, causing politicians to act as servants of the peoples' immediate desires rather than stewards of society.
The Trap - 2 - The Lonely Robot
The final 3 program of Curtis' 2007 series focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin. Curtis briefly explains how negative liberty could be defined as freedom from coercion and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one's potential.
The Trap - 3 - We Will Force You To Be Free
"This film does not condemn politicians but rather presents their actions in a very ideological view. It does not look at money as the main motivating factor being politicians' actions but rather ideological principles. The film takes the viewpoint that their stated motives are the actual ones, i.e. neo conservatives want to promote democracy, and meshes these ideologies with world events to explore the concept of freedom. The end result is a rather theoretical film and a simplistic yet elegant look at our complex world. Though I do think that political actions are based on more than ideology, there is no doubt that ideology does play a role in the actions of politicians. This program gives interesting insight into how these ideologies shape the world. " http://freedocumentaries.org
Economist Max Steuer criticised the documentary for "romanticis[ing] the past while misrepresenting the ideas it purports to explain"; for example Curtis suggested that the work of Buchanan and others on public choice theory made Government officials wicked and selfish, rather than simply providing an account of what happened.
In the New Statesman, Rachel Cooke argued that the series didn't make a coherent argument. She said that while she was glad Adam Curtis made provocative documentaries he was as much of a propagandist as those he opposes.