THE TRAP: WHAT HAPPENED TO OUR DREAM OF FREEDOM

Director Adam Curtis
Year 2007
Starring Ayn Rand, John Nash, R.D. Laing, Margaret Thatcher, Frantz Fanon and Ayatollah Khomeini
Run Time 180min
More Info IMDb

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Individual freedom is the dream of our age. It's what our leaders promise to give us, it defines how we think of ourselves and, repeatedly, we have gone to war to impose freedom around the world. But if you step back and look at what freedom actually means for us today, it's a strange and limited kind of freedom.

Politicians promise to liberate us from the old dead hand of bureaucracy, but they have created an evermore controlling system of social management, driven by targets and numbers. Governments committed to freedom of choice have presided over a rise in inequality and a dramatic collapse in social mobility. And abroad, in Iraq and Afghanistan, the attempt to enforce freedom has led to bloody mayhem and the rise of an authoritarian anti-democratic Islamism. This, in turn, has helped inspire terrorist attacks in Britain. In response, the Government has dismantled long-standing laws designed to protect our freedom.

THE TRAP is a series of three films by Bafta-winning producer Adam Curtis that explains the origins of our contemporary, narrow idea of freedom. It shows how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today's idea of freedom.

I. Fuck You Buddy
The first episode examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.

II. The Lonely Robot
The second episode develops the theme that drugs such as Prozac and lists of psychological symptoms which might indicate anxiety or depression are being used to normalise behavior and make humans behave more predictably, like machines.

III. We Will Force You To Be Free
The final part in this series focuses on the concepts of positive and negative liberty introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin. It argues that following the path of negative liberty to its logical conclusions, as governments have done in the West for the past 50 years, has resulted in a society without meaning populated only by selfish automatons. But is this really freedom?

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