The Living Dead: Three Films About the Power of the Past
was the second major documentary series
made by British film-maker Adam Curtis
. This series investigated the way that history and memory (both national and individual) have been used by politicians and others. It was transmitted on BBC Two
in the spring
You Have Used Me as a Fish Long Enough (6 June 1995)
The title of this episode comes from a paranoid schizophrenic seen in archive film in the programme, who believed her neighbours were using her as a source of amusement by denying her any privacy, like a goldfish in a bowl.
In this episode, the history of brainwashing and mind control was examined. The angle pursued by Curtis was the way in which psychiatry historically pursued tabula rasa theories of the mind, initially in order to set people free from traumatic memories and then later as a potential instrument of social control. The work of Ewen Cameron was surveyed, with particular reference to the Cold War theories of communist brainwashing and the search for hypnoprogammed assassins.
This programme's thesis was that a search for control over the past, via medical intervention, had to be abandoned and that, in modern times, control over the past is more effectively exercised by the manipulation of history. Some footage from this episode, an interview with one of Cameron's victims, was later re-used by Curtis in The Century of the Self series.