Adam Curtis: All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace (3/3)

Part 3: The Monkey in the Machine and the Machine in the Monkey Or: The Episode You Shouldn’t Bother Watching I know that quite a few people were disappointed by the first two episodes in Adam Curtis’s series. I rather liked them, but to me the third episode really went off the rails. The Rwanda Watusi vs Bahutu genocide, caused by an imposed myth, is undoubtedly bad. It brought to mind a much longer lasting—yet in many ways similar—deadly myth: that of the Jewish exile to Egypt, their return to the Holy Land, and their racial separateness from the Palestinians.

Well, you certainly showed him!

“We did it because of Barack Obama. He said all those people in the Midwest, you’ve got to have compassion for them because they’re clinging to their guns and their Bibles. I found that quite offensive. We all go to church on Sunday and we all carry guns.” –Mark Muller, car salesman, quoted by BBC News

Obesity and climate change

BBC news: Obesity needs to be tackled in the same way as climate change, a top nutritional scientist has said. In that case, let me get my soapbox… You know, there is absolutely no proof that people are getting fatter. Sure, there are fat people around, but that’s just part of the long term historical trend towards people being better fed. The occasional truly fat person is just a statistical blip.

Mast debate

A recent BBC Panorama documentary has suggested that wifi Internet might be a major health hazard. Scary quotes about chromosome damage and radiation exposure have appeared all over the Internet. Unfortunately, the documentary’s conclusions are junk science. Let’s start off by noting the inverse square law, a piece of basic physics which applies to electromagnetic radiation exposure. Basically, the strength of a signal varies in proportion to the distance squared.


Someone has unearthed video footage from 9/11 of BBC news announcing the fall of the WTC7 building, in detail…half an hour before it happened. The reporter announces the fall of the building, adding details like exactly how many floors it has, when it’s still visible in shot. The BBC say that it’s all just an innocent mistake due to confusion. And that their reporter can’t remember who might have told her that WTC7 had fallen.

The end of air travel?

As a result of the latest alleged foiling of a terrorist plot, new restrictions have been placed on airline travelers flying between the UK and US. Specifically: No laptops. No PDAs. No iPods or other electronic audio or video players. No books. No cameras. No beverages or other liquids. As someone used to flying, I don’t set foot on a plane without at least a book, an audio player to drown out the screaming children, and a large bottle of water.

Life on Mars

I’ve been watching Life on Mars. The setup is: Manchester police inspector is in the middle of a very tense investigation and turbulent personal situation, when he’s hit by a car. He wakes up, apparently in the same spot, but in 1973. As far as he can tell, he’s really in the past—but from time to time, he also hears sounds that suggest that it’s all his imagination, and he’s really in a coma in a hospital bed in 2006.

Compare and contrast

The original story in New Scientist: Goth subculture may protect vulnerable children About half of teenage goths have deliberately harmed themselves or attempted suicide, a new study suggests. But joining the modern subculture – which grew out of the 1980s gothic rock scene – may actually protect vulnerable children, researchers say. The respun story on BBC News: Goths ‘more likely to self-harm’ Teenage Goths are more likely to self-harm than those in other social groups, a study has found.

Squirrel news

From Russia via the BBC, news that a pack of squirrels joined forces and killed a dog that had been barking at them. Let’s just say I’m a bit skeptical. Meanwhile, not much sign of The Twins recently. I think one of them might have been the squirrel I saw flattened down the street. Longtail and Blacktip visit regularly. Tiny too, though he doesn’t like the feed box, and we’ve run low on corn cobs.

Katrina and the waves

So it’s a total disaster in New Orleans. Three levees are breached, one of them has a hole over 150 meters across. 80% of the city is under water up to 6 meters deep. The entire city is without electrical power or water supply. It’s estimated that it will be 9–12 weeks before they can even get rid of the water, much less get the city habitable. Interstate 10 is broken chunks of floating concrete; there’s no route into the city for trucks and other major vehicles.