The always great Adam Curtis has begun a new series on his BBC blog with “YOU THINK YOU ARE A CONSUMER BUT MAYBE YOU HAVE BEEN CONSUMED“. This first installment focusses on the father of the modern american right – one time richest Texan and its greatest bigamist – H.L. Hunt. You could easily think that this is all about those rich plutocrat bastards and the Kennedy assassination and miss that there is much more going on here. I’m looking forward to the coming installments.

One of the guiding beliefs of our consuming age is that we are all free and independent individuals. That we can choose to do pretty much what we want, and if we can’t then it’s bad.

But at the same time, co-existing alongside this, there is a completely different, parallel universe where we all seem meekly to do what those in power tell us to do. Ever since the economic crisis in 2008, millions of people have accepted cuts in all sorts of things – from real wages and living standards to benefits and hospital care – without any real opposition.

The cuts may be right, or they may be stupid – but the astonishing thing is how no-one really challenges them.

I think that one of the reasons for this is because a lot of the power that shapes our lives today has become invisible – and so it is difficult to see how it really works and even more difficult to challenge it.

So much of the language that surrounds us – from things like economics, management theory and the algorithms built into computer systems – appears to be objective and neutral. But in fact it is loaded with powerful, and very debatable, political assumptions about how society should work, and what human beings are really like.

But it is very difficult to show this to people. Journalists, whose job is to pull back and tell dramatic stories that bring power into focus, find it impossible because things like economic theory are both incomprehensible and above all boring. The same is true of “management science”. Mild-mannered men and women meet in glass-walled offices and decide the destinies of millions of people on the basis of “targets” and “measured outcomes”.

Like economics it pretends to be neutral, but it isn’t. Yet it’s impossible to show this dramatically because nothing happens in those glass-walled offices except the click of a keystroke that brings up another powerpoint slide. It’s boring – and it’s impossible to turn it into stories that will grab peoples imaginations – yet hundreds of peoples’ jobs may depend on what is written on that slide.

Warning: watching too much Dan Smoot will make you taste throw-up in your mouth.