The Living Dead
Part 3 “The Attic”
By Adam Curtis (1995)
In Part 3 of The Living Dead, his series exploring the elite’s selective rewriting of history, Adam Curtis explores Margaret Thatcher’s dramatic reprisal of Britain’s “glorious golden age.” According to Curtis, Thatcher rose to power thorough detailed study and imitation of Winston Churchill’s speeches and rhetoric. In this respect, she was very different from most “perception management” artists in that she really believed she was going to restore Britain to its former power and glory.
Curtis suggests that Churchill was also convinced he was going to restore Britain to its eighteenth century imperial magnificence and became really depressed when he failed to do so.
The documentary offers quite a convincing analysis of the “messianic vision” that facilitated the rise to power of both Churchill and Thatcher. In Thatcher’s case, it was based on her romanticized childhood reading of history and incorporated a substantial amount of fantasy. This vision, strongly enforced in Britain’s private schools and military academies, emphasizes morality, discipline, patriotism, tradition, hierarchy, idealization of the monarchy, and respect for authority. Although this intensely hierarchical system only benefits a tiny minority of British society, its romantic pageantry is often extremely effective in winning middle and working class votes.