BTS 2/16/09: Adam Curtis' "The Trap" ; KPFK Winter Fund Drive

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Adam Curtis (Century of the Self) has a new documentary, The Trap, which examines game theory and the Prisoners Dilemma as the strategic underpinning of the Cold War, based on the belief that humans are alone, act in their own self interest, and make rational choices – and will always betray. A Rand study showed the opposite, that humans cooperate and make the choice not to betray, but no matter – the analysts simply believed they had chosen unfit subjects but the model was correct. The theory came from work of John Nash, a paranoid schizophrenic deeply suspicious of everyone around him. He later repudiated his own theories as part of his illness. Curtis believes that this mathematical model of society, run on data and based on an exaggerated notion of human selfishness, (and the economic theories of von Hayek) has created a ‘cage’ for the Western world.

Using Britain under Blair and America under Clinton and then Bush, Curtis examines the “cage” these theories have created. Drugs like Prozac and psychological symptoms of anxiety and depression were being used to normalize behavior and make humans behave more predictably like machines. Curtis observes that the game theory/free market model is deeply flawed and the only people who behaved exactly according to the mathematical models created by game theory are economists themselves, and psychopaths! Finally, Curtis examines the concepts of positive and negative liberty introduced by Isaiah Berlin, which Tony Blair tried to implement .. The documentary reviews the Blair government and argues it achieved the opposite of freedom and the type of liberty it engendered lacked any kind of meaning and its military intervention in Iraq had provoked terrorist actions in the UK, which were then used to justify restrictions of liberty at home. The program concludes that the logical conclusion of following these models – as governments have for the last 50 years – has resulted in a society without meaning populated by selfish automatons.

There is more – and we will be offering this documentary as a thank you gift today for those who contribute to our winter fund drive and become listener-sponsors of KPFK. As the economy sinks there is a small investment you can make that will make a difference: keeping alternative voices on the air, bringing you information, analysis and understanding that will help in navigating these turbulent waters. Please consider pledging and show your support.