Adam Curtis presents: All Watched Over By the Machines of Kevin Spacey

Noseybonk can see you  

The Noseybonk saga has been interrupted by lengthy intermission, so today’s ‘Story so far’ is an especially comprehensive one, and is brought to you by Adam Curtis.  

Curtis’ recent BBC series, All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, explained how the world has gone to hell in a handcart because the ideas of Ayn Rand were adopted by a covert political-economic-military elite for the purposes of global oligarchic control.  

It marked a radical departure in terms of style and tone from his previous production, The Trap, which explained how the world has gone to hell in a handcart because the ideas of mathematical game theorist John Nash were adopted by a covert political-economic-military elite for the purposes of global oligarchic control; and is also in stark contrast The Power of Nightmares (which explained how the ideas of political philosopher Leo Strauss were adopted by a covert elite for the purposes of global oligarchic control) and The Century of Self (which explained how the ideas of Sigmund Freud were adopted by a covert elite for the purposes of global oligarchic control)…  


[clip: A train full of sleeping Japanese salarymen packed like sardines in a crushed tin box, interspersed with footage of a baby antelope chewing something green. Music: theme from The Magic Roundabout]  

[voice-over: whine, nasal, incredulous, unusual stresses] On the sixteenth of December 2010, renowned poet Grayson Ellis found himself trapped, at the bottom of a well, in the shadow of Titterstone Clee, a prominent hill in Shropshire, England.  

With him in the well was one Rod Lidl, a newspaper journalist of dubious reputation and hygiene. How did the two men come to be in that unlikely place, half-frozen in the darkness?  

The answer is a surprising one. And to understand it we must go back, three decades in time.  

This is the story of how a Hollywood film actor, influenced by the ideas of an Anglo-Swiss philosopher, came to rule the world, and in the process tricked us into believing that the internet could set us free from the human condition.  

It is a very strange story.  

And it begins in Las Vegas…  

[clip: A plate of yams, revolving. Cut to black and white archive footage of two small children eagerly examining a telescope.
Music:  ‘Je t’aime, moi non plus’ by Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin]  



[voice-over: incredulous nasal whine] In 1983, members of a secretive organisation called ‘The Society of Esculent Affairs’ (formerly known as ‘Candied Yam Affairs’), which described itself as ‘a company of Bio-Sensualistic Event Planners, Caterers, & Erogenous Chefs’, convened at an exclusive hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. They had come to hear a lecture.  

The lecture was being given by the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Zizek, and his subject was the role of the potato in the forthcoming triumph of soviet communism over the decadent west.  

[clip: a tawny owl, sleeping]  

But so unhinged were Zizek’s views, and so offensive his manner of expressing them, that all but one of the audience walked out within the first seven seconds.  

The one person to remain behind was an Irish academic, critic and opponent of Israel. And his name was Tom Paulin.  

[clip: Tom Paulin on The Late Review programme, describing something as ‘extraordinary’]  

But as well as being an influential member of ‘Candied Yam Affairs’, Paulin was the founder of another secretive society, called ‘The Spiked Armadillo’. This was a paramilitary terrorist cell, devoted to promoting the works of elusive English poet Grayson Ellis.  

At the end of the lecture, which Zizek delivered in full, for five and a half hours, despite having just a single audience member, Paulin approached the Slovenian philosopher and shook his hand, recruiting him instantly to the Spiked Armadillo.  

[clip: Burt Reyonolds, wearing a Stetson, eats an ice-cream and gets some of it in his moustache.
 Music: ‘Prelude a l’apres midi d’un faun’, by Debussy]   

Meanwhile, at that exact moment, five thousand miles away and some 27 years later, the Anglo-Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton was sitting in a lounge at Gatwick airport, spying on women in the name of research.  

[clip: Alain de Botton writing in slow motion, intercut with Boeing 747s landing and a giraffe giving birth. Music: ‘Save All Your Kisses For Me’ by Brotherhood of Man]  

 De Botton was using his laptop to send messages via the social media network Twitter. But these were no ordinary Tweets. Cleverly disguised as risible philosophical inanities of zero intellectual merit, each was in fact a coded message which could only be understood by one man.  

And that man was sitting at desk three and a half thousand miles away, in New York. His name was Art Garfunkel, an adult contemporary singer-songwriter who had achieved chart success as part of a folk-rock duo in the 1960s, but who had since fallen on hard times.  

[clip: Simon and Garfunkel waving to crowds of well-wishers. Cut to a donkey stumbling]  

Using a slide rule and a copy of the Bible, Garfunkel was able to translate de Botton’s apparently cretinous messages and combine them to form song lyrics or bizarre prose-poems. Some of these prose-poems he posted on his website, on the pretext of art. But, following instructions from a mysterious third party, some of them he wrote out in neat, and he posted them to an address in Britain.  

And that address was the home of Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. But why was Garfunkel doing this? His answer is that he thought he was helping to promote the 2012 Olympics in some way.  

But it was all an elaborate ruse.  

Because the mysterious third party instructing Garfunkel on which prose-poems to send to Boris Johnson, was an Australian computer hacker and egotist, and his name was Julian Assange.   

 [clip: The Black Rabbit of Inlé from the movie Watership Down. Music: ‘Bright Eyes’ played at half-speed]  

For Assange knew that Boris Johnson had a deep-seated horror of mortality, which manifested itself in the form of a terrifying phantom called ‘The Black Rabbit’, and which had haunted the Mayor, since he was first saw the film Watership Down, at the tender age of 32.   

And by using Art Garfunkel, whose song ‘Bright Eyes’ could instantly conjure up Johnson’s bête noire, Assange knew that he could influence the Mayor to act in certain ways.  

But why did Assange want to influence the Mayor of London, and to what end?  

The answer is a surprising one. And to find it, we must go back to the tenth  of September, 2001.  

[clip: George W Bush playing golf. Cut to an ants nest. Cut to a 1960s French discotheque.
Music: ‘Up Up and Away in My Beautiful Balloon’ ]

 On the tenth of September 2001, members of ‘The Spiked Armadillo’ – the paramilitary terrorist cell devoted to promoting the works of elusive English poet Grayson Ellis – including Tom Paulin, Slavoj Zizek and Bernie Clifton, recruited their most high-profile member yet.  

They met him in a motel on the outskirts of Los Angeles. He was a well-known movie actor and he had recently made a film about a man who might or might not be an alien from another galaxy. And his name, was Kevin Spacey.  

[cut to still of Kevin Spacey smiling. Cut to film of grasshoppers mating]  

The very next day, two planes flew into the World Trade Center, New York.  

[clip: 9/11, but not the usual clips, ok? Music: ‘How Deep is your Love?’ by the Bee Gees]  

A decade later, Julian Assange won the Amnesty International UK media award for his work on Wikileaks, a website which exposed human rights abuses by western governments.  

Then on the fifteenth of December 2010, a major Hollywood studio announced that it would be making a movie of Assange’s life. Lined up to play the role was actor Kevin Spacey, who bears an uncanny physical resemblance to the Australian activist.  

But then something strange happened.  

[montage: man slicing carrots. Cut to Valerie Singleton laughing hysterically. Cut to the Grand Canyon filmed from a helicopter. Cut to a jam factory near Swanage. Cut to Muhammad Ali and George Foreman squaring up prior to the ‘Rumble in the Jungle’ fight. Cut to Noel’s House Party, circa 1989.
Music: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang]  

 On the day following the studio announcement that there was to be a film made of Julian Assange’s life, the elusive poet Grayson Ellis fell into a well in Shropshire, under the shadow of Titterstone Clee. At almost exactly the same moment, journalist Rod Lidl wrote a blog post for the Spectator, which was heavily critical of Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls.  

Two months later, Assange was arrested on suspicion of sexual misconduct. The same day, Kevin Spacey moved from bookmakers’ favourite to rank outsider to play Assange in the move, with Matt Damon now installed as the most likely candidate.  

Soon after that, Boris Johnson publicly complained that, despite being Mayor of London, he had failed to win a single ticket in the ballot for the 2012 Olympic Games.  

Johnson, like millions of other people, including you and me, had been attempting to purchase his Olympic tickets on the internet.  

This was the very same internet on which Assange had published leaked information about human rights abuses by western governments, and which we, the general public, had been fooled into thinking could free us from the burden of the human condition….  

[montage: a succession of owls in flight. Cut to a doctor listening to a child’s heartbeat with a stethoscope. Cut to an open-plan office full of obsolete computers. Cut to a plate of yams, revolving. Cut to people on the escalators at Baker Street tube station. 
Music: something bleepy by Radiohead]  

 …But we were wrong.  

And on 23rd May 2011, actor Kevin Spacey posted a message to the social network site Twitter. It read: I took this tonight along the Mall. The UK welcomes Obama. Cool seeing the Stars and Stripes all over London.  




Blogmanship Watch: A fair’sfairman scoops the thread

It is heartening to see the ploys of Blogmanship – the art of winning arguments on the internet without really knowing what you are talking about – being taken up so enthusiastically by the younger generation, both at Metafilter and Reddit.  

There are some promising Blogmen here, though inevitably schoolboy errors abound. One likely lad by the name of HughHoney, keen as mustard, even has a crack at using Montgomerie’s Meta-Stopper (Mongomerie famously claimed that all blog arguments could effectively be won with the simple statement ‘I wondered when somebody was going to say that’) but then wonders why the thread doesn’t come to an immediate halt.  

Clearly HughHoney hasn’t bothered to purchase the Blogmanship manual, since the section on ‘Lastwordmanship’ clearly explains that winning the thread and having the last word on it are quite different things. Don’t make the same error yourself: buy Blogmanship now!  

But on to this week’s case study…  

Annotated Case Study: The Spectator, 23 May 2011

Today’s Blogmanship Case Study comes from Rod Lidl’s blog for the Spectator (The BBC’s pro-Israeli bias… 23 May 2011), and the subject is Israel, traditionally a happy hunting ground for blogmen of all stripes.  

The nominal ‘debate’ here is over whether the BBC is inherently biased towards Israel or Palestine in its news coverage, but students of Blogmanship need not concern themselves with the trifling rights and wrongs of that one.  

Observe instead the real contest here, fought over grammar. Note in particular the elegant one-step-two-step non-sequiturial condescensionplay of blogman ‘Fergus Pickering’, who takes an early lead in the thread, only to be trumped in turn by an expert piece of ‘fair’sfairmanship’ (the ploy of defeating both your opponent and ally in a single comment) from ‘Ben’, who emerges clear winner of the stalemate.  

May 23rd, 2011 10:34pm
Every charity in the region, the un, it’s judge, a Jew called Richard goldstone and the entire world comment called israel s attack on gaza a war crime.
Why are you centering on the BBC, what is this spectator agenda and witch hunt, alongside it’s pals in news international all about?
Come clean about your motives

Instantly we can see that Patricia is an earnest pro-Palestinian laywoman, entering the lions’ den of the Spectator. How will the big cats approach this tasty morsel?  

rod liddle
May 23rd, 2011 11:26pm
It’s because we’re all Jews, Patricia, and we secretly rule the world.  

A surprisingly early entry from Rod Lidl himself here, eschewing the aloofmanship privileges of the host and choosing to engage directly with the commenter. Not usually advisable for big names, as mixing with the hoi polloi can lead to stickiness. The sarcasmploy, while smart and sharp, is also risky. Overall, not Rod’s best day at the office.  

Fergus Pickering
May 24th, 2011 3:43am
It is one of the right’s burdens to correct the language of the left. Patricia, you mean its, not it’s. Also, rferring to someone as X, a jew, is a usage usually reserved for Y, a fascist. Curious, but there it is.  

….Here’s better Blogmanship. The opening non-sequitur, heavy with world-weariness, instantly asserts superiority. Fergus doesn’t come close to addressing Patricia’s claims, yet we’re already snickering at her. ‘Curious, but there it is’ is solid condescensionplay.  

May 24th, 2011 2:15pm
rod – please don’t act the simpleton.
You seem happy to repeat Mel’s BBC/Israel mantra.
But are you willing to disassociate yourself Melanie’s blog, in which she infers that all Palestinians are terrorists?  

But wait! The prey has teeth… Wisely ignoring Fergus Pickering’s grammatical challenge (despite the unfortunate open goal of his ‘rferring’ typo), Patricia goes straight over his head for the big name.  

Fergus Pickering
May 24th, 2011 5:36pm
Oh dear Patricia, there you go again. Mel doesn’t infer it; she implies it. Were you educated in a comprehensive school, you poor thing?  

Fergus bites back, hard. The twin prongs, ‘Oh dear Patricia’ and ‘you poor thing’, make for a formidable condescension pincer-movement, threatening mate…  

May 25th, 2011 11:54pm
“…Mel doesn’t infer it; she implies it…”
Actually, she could be doing either. And she might actually be doing both, at different times.  

…And there it is. Correctly identifying that the Blogmanship battleground in this thread is not about the BBC but minor points of grammar, Ben enters and, with the impeccable timing of the practised abovethefrayman, produces a Stopper that defeats both the laywoman Patricia and the blogman Fergus. Textbook stuff; and the keen youngsters of Metafilter and Reddit would do well to take heed. 

To be continued. Illustration by The Spine. Noseybonk can see you.
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6 thoughts on “Adam Curtis presents: All Watched Over By the Machines of Kevin Spacey

  1. Gaw
    June 16, 2011 at 08:39

    I can’t decide whether Adam Curtis or Noseybonk should be my all-explaining guru.

    June 16, 2011 at 10:18

    Was Noseybonk on maternity leave and how are the twins. Two shillings and threepence, that’s what a Tony Curtis haircut cost, ca 1958, the ducks arse it was called, talking of ducks arses it is rumoured that Val ‘call me a friend of royalty’ Singleton was…oh, never mind.
    He ruined it you know, the Pennine Way long distance walk, that Bloke Noaksy, him and his mutt, there it was, minding it’s own business when along comes the Blue Peter circus. three months later, like Oxford St full of suvveners called Smiffy, never recovered.
    And what, may one enquire did the duo get up to in the tent at night? “yer wetting me leg Shep” yeah, right.

    PS, The Dabblers blogging for wallys is being ordered as I type, hope it’s worth the small fortune sized asking price.

    June 16, 2011 at 11:19

    Noseybonk is the King of the internet.

  4. Worm
    June 16, 2011 at 11:57

    I just came on here looking for amusing pictures of cats

    June 17, 2011 at 10:34

    Brilliant outline! I suggest you pitch it to the BBC without delay.

    June 18, 2011 at 17:59

    Outstandingly funny and spot on as Noseybonk is, nothing is quite so self parodying as the comments on Curtis’ own blog in which Russian conspiracy theorists and art school intellectuals compare him to Hegel and engage in post-structural Blogmanship. The Blog is also, to give him credit, one of the best things online that isnt the Dabbler. ..or possibly not.

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