The highlight of last night’s Newswipe - Charlie Brooker’s rather weak British answer to the Daily Show in the US - was a brief video by Adam Curtis, the maker of such brilliant documentaries as The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares.
Curtis, in a typically bold narrative, argued that the hippy counterculture had changed the way we see global events, leading us to see situations like the famine in Ethiopia or the Kosovo War through the simplistic hippy framework of innocent and heroic individuals versus corrupt political systems.
The global ’solution’, in this hippy framework, is for direct aid that side-steps corrupt political frameworks - the Blue Peter aid project to Biafra in 1969 launched this, and Live Aid was the culmination of it.
But the simplistic vision broke down, he argued, during the Hutu / Tutsi wars of the 1990s - first the Tutsis were portrayed by the western media as the innocent heroes, but then the Tutsi massaces of Hutus, and the ensuing civil war, showed the story to be much more politically complex, with no obvious ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’.
But the media can’t handle such complexity, so the result is we’re shown repeated images of evil and suffering, without any political framework in which to comprehend it. The end is ‘oh dearism’ - the attitude of a depressed hippy.
It really reminds me of the western world’s response (including my response at the time) to the 2004 Orange Revolution in Ukraine: kids in tents and good-looking rebel politicians standing up to corrupt political leaders, what’s not to like?
Then the Orange leaders spend the next five years arguing and fighting, and the country descends into a major economic crisis. Oh dear.