HyperNormalisation is a 2016 BBC documentary by British filmmaker Adam Curtis. In the film, Curtis argues that since the 1970s, governments, financiers, and technological utopians have given up on the complex “real world” and built a simple “fake world” that is run by corporations and kept stable by politicians.

The fiscal crisis in New York City and the emergence of the idea that financial systems could run society; shuttle diplomacy between then-US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and Middle Eastern leaders in the Arab-Israeli dispute and the subsequent retreat by Hafez al-Assad of Syria; and the onset of hypernormalisation in the Soviet Union.

The Human Bomb
How, following the United States’ involvement in the 1982 Lebanon War, a vengeful al-Assad made an alliance with Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran. They planned to force the US out of the Middle East by encouraging civilians to carry out suicide bombings on American targets in the region, thereby avoiding reprisals. In February 1984, the U.S. withdrew all its troops from Lebanon because, in the words of then-US Secretary of State George P. Shultz, “we became paralysed by the complexity that we faced”.

Altered States
By the mid-1980s, banks and corporations were joining up through computer networks to create a hidden system of power, and technological utopians whose roots lay in the counterculture of the 1960s also saw the internet as an opportunity to make an alternative world that was free of political and legal restraints.

Acid Flashback
John Perry Barlow’s vision of cyberspace as the 1990s equivalent of the Acid Tests. Barlow, who had been part of the LSD (also known as “acid”) counterculture in the 1960s and founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation, wrote a manifesto called A Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace. Addressed to politicians, it declared “the global social space we are building to be naturally independent of the tyrannies you seek to impose upon us”. Two computer hackers—Phiber Optik and Acid Phreak—knew that in reality corporations were using the internet to exert more control over the lives of people than governments had done in the past, and they demonstrated that hierarchies did exist online by obtaining Barlow’s credit record from TRW Inc. and posting it on the internet.


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