The Trap – A Peculiar Kind of Freedom

Adam Curtis’ three-part documentary: The Trap

…tells a tale of early days of what we have these days come to call “neoliberalism”. Drawing as it does on BBC Archives of the time it focuses on the peculiarly British version then called Thatcherism, and its entangled twin Reaganism. There are many threads carefully entwined together here and many players in the cast and few come out in a good light.

Many folks critique psychiatry for serving a “neoliberal agenda”.  This telling sheds light on how psychiatry is one of pillars upon which that neo-liberal agenda is built and without which it couldn’t exist.

You’ll see R.D. Laing, David Rosenhan having fun sticking out their tongues at psychiatry and changing bugger all  beyond providing further grist to the mill for psychiatry to go further down the route it had already chosen: scientismification, or giving the appearance of science without any of the encumbrances of science.

You’ll see Elliot Spitzer throwing open open the doors to the brave new world in which he stripped away all clinical judgement from the process of psychiatric diagnosis – proudly explaining how a lay interviewer gathers the data to be fed, on a punched card, into giant  building-filling computer.

The computer makes the diagnosis.

These days we skip the computer, the clinician gets you to do the work – hands you a checklist then counts how many boxes you ticked. That’s it.
If, that is,  you make it that far since most folks will diagnose themselves or each other using an app on their phone while waiting months for the appointment.

The whole piece is about freedom- a very “peculiar kind of freedom” or  as Curtiss narrates in the closing minutes of Part 1 F*ck You Buddy:

“a very narrow and specific type or freedom that meant shedding all ideas of working for the collective or public good and becoming instead an individual, constantly calculating what could be to one’s advantage in a system defined by numbers.

At the root of this were the simplified, self-interested creatures that John Nash had created back in the 1950s to make his game theory equations work.

But now the aim of the system of targets and incentives was to turn public servants into just these simplified beings – individuals who calculated only what was best for them and  did not think any longer in wider political terms.”

It is a right ripping yarn.

Part 1:  F*ck You Buddy

Part 2:  The Lonely Robot

Part 3:  We Will Force You To Be Free


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