The Trap: What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom is a BBC documentary series by British filmmaker Adam Curtis, well known for other documentaries including The Century of the Self and The Power of Nightmares. It began airing on BBC Two on 11 March, 2007.
The series consists of three one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically “how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom.”
1. “F**k You Buddy” (11 March, 2007)
In this episode, Curtis examines the rise of game theory during the Cold War and the way in which its mathematical models of human behaviour filtered into economic thought.
2. “The Lonely Robot” (18 March, 2007)
The second episode reiterated many of the ideas of the first, but developed the theme that the drugs such as Prozac and lists of psychological symptoms which might indicate anxiety or depression were being used to normalise behaviour and make humans behave more predictably, like machines.
3. “We Will Force You To Be Free” (25 March, 2007)
The final programme focussed on the concepts of positive and negative liberty introduced in the 1950s by Isaiah Berlin. Curtis briefly explained how negative liberty could be defined as freedom from coercion, and positive liberty as the opportunity to strive to fulfill one’s potential. Tony Blair had read Berlin’s essays on the topic, and wrote to him in the late 1990s, arguing that positive and negative liberty could be mutually compatible. He never received a reply, as Berlin was on his deathbed.