Another Negative Review of Thrive Hits the Nail on the Head
More than two months after its release, Thrive is still struggling to command any significant positive attention in mainstream circles. As I pointed out not long ago, the film has placed itself in a difficult niche: by its reliance on conspiracy theories it becomes toxic to the mainstream, but even many hard-core conspiracy theorists do not trust it because of Foster Gamble’s corporate associations and the ridiculous delusions that its imagery, especially its promotional poster, is “NWO occult symbolism.”
The film’s search for mainstream acceptance was dealt yet another blow a few weeks ago with a scathing review posted on the award-winning UK green/sustainability blog Transition Culture, one of the most widely read environmental blogs in Britain. TC’s founder, Rob Hopkins, lectures and blogs about topics regarding peak oil and the transition from our current unsustainable energy practices to more locally-oriented and eco-friendly solutions. Far from being a sympathetic audience to Thrive, Mr. Hopkins savaged the film, and for many of the same reasons I criticize it on this blog: its factual inaccuracies, its promotion of conspiracy theories, and its pandering to New Age sensibilities largely divorced from positive real-world solutions to the problems it purports to respond to.
“What do you do when you are the heir to the Proctor and Gamble fortune and you have spent years surrounding yourself with new agey thinking and conspiracy theories? You make a film like ‘Thrive‘, the latest conspiracy theory movie that is popping up all over the place. I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me “have you seen ‘Thrive’?” Well I have now, and, to be frank, it’s dangerous tosh which deserves little other than our derision. It is also a very useful opportunity to look at a worldview which, according to Georgia Kelly writing at Huffington Post, masks “a reactionary, libertarian political agenda that stands in jarring contrast with the soothing tone of the presentation”.
Mr. Hopkins is especially critical of Thrive maker Foster Gamble’s questionable approach to evidence and reasoning. He writes:
“Visually the film is like some kind of Star Trek fan movie crossed with a National Geographic wildlife film, and is largely built around Gamble’s own years of ‘research’ into the question of what it is that “stops life on earth from thriving”. A reasonable question to ask, but his approach can hardly be called ‘research’ due to the low standards he accepts as ‘evidence’ and his all-round lack of critical analysis. His research, such as it is, is cherry-picked to deepen and support his established worldview, rather than the worldview being built from a careful analysis of the evidence. As we’ll see, this is a dangerous foundation.”
Taking the film’s major arguments in turn, Mr. Hopkins reaches largely the same conclusions that we have here at Thrive Debunked. Regarding free energy machines, Mr. Hopkins raises precisely the same point that our contributors have repeatedly raised, most notably in an article involving Adam Trombly:
“[A]ll we are offered as evidence is some grainy film of machines that could be anything doing anything, and some smart computer graphics of spinning torus shapes. If this amazing breakthrough that would rewrite science and win Nobel Prizes for anyone involved were actually a reality, and if you were going to spend huge amounts to make a film to argue for their existence which you would then put out into the public arena, surely you would get a working model of such a device into the studio with some impartial scientists to verify it in operation? If they actually exist, and actually work, then this wouldn’t be a big challenge surely?”
A lot of Thrive supporters have come to this blog to argue that “free energy” is real. I almost always have the same point: show me the evidence! And Adam Trombly’s website, or a YouTube video supposedly depicting “free energy” machines, does not constitute evidence. By evidence I mean, show the machine to somebody reputable who can replicate it and verify that it actually works. This is precisely the point that Transition Culture is making.
Mr. Hopkins then takes Thrive to task for training a fire hose of conspiracy nonsense directly at the audience:
“Then we are bombarded with the full range of conspiracy thinking. 9/11 was an inside job, there is a conspiracy to suppress natural medicines, “Big Brother’s not coming, it’s already here”, we are one step away from a “military dictatorship”, a climate treaty in Copenhagen would have been “a tax base for tyranny”, there are ‘chemtrails’ in the sky to deliberately poison us, there is a deliberate attempt to reduce the world’s population underway, there is only a cancer epidemic because all the cures have been suppressed, etc, etc…
Gamble wheels out the classic conspiracy theorists’ gambit, “could I be wrong? Perhaps. But what if I’m not?” No, you are wrong. And even if you were right, you have presented us with so little evidence to back up you claims that you would have no way of knowing whether you were right or not.”
This again strongly supports the point we’ve been making here. The main function of Thrive, as I recently detailed toward the end of this entry, seems to be to account for the reason why New Age concepts such as “free energy” have not transformed the world into a magical utopia. The reason? Evil conspirators are preventing it from happening. Conspiracy theories are not the whole game for Thrive, but they’re a major part of it.
Mr. Hopkins’s ultimate indictment of Thrive has also been echoed on this blog: that the movie diverts attention from real issues, such as anthropogenic climate change, and instead urges its audience to hate imaginary bogeymen and focus its actions on bringing them down. He says:
“‘Thrive’ is dangerous because it invites us to put our faith for the future in a fantasy. A fantasy that free energy is possible, a fantasy that the only thing that is preventing us from creating a benign and enlightened society is a handful of powerful families….
It’s not about ‘free energy’, it’s about learning to appreciate what a precious thing energy is and learning to live well with less of it. It’s not about ‘no involuntary taxation’, it’s about taxes that disincentivise the things that are narrowing our future options, and incentivising the things we need to get in place urgently. It’s not about ‘no government’, it’s about truly democratic government using its considerable powers to build resilience, decarbonise society, shift the collective focus. The few countries in the world that are actually seriously engaging with the climate issue are those with stronger government, not weaker government.”
I agree completely with these statements. I believe anthropogenic climate change is the most serious issue facing the world today. The makers of Thrive don’t even believe that anthropogenic climate change is happening! How can they even pretend to address this problem when they refuse to accept that it exists? “Free energy” is not the answer, because “free energy” does not exist. Better energy is the answer, and we know that exists because many people, companies and government agencies in numerous countries are out there developing it right now. We will not kick the fossil fuel habit overnight, but we need to begin a transition to cleaner, more renewable energy. This technology will not drop out of the sky, handed to us on a silver platter from bug-eyed aliens. It will be human beings—research labs, some corporate, some private, universities and think tanks, as well as NGOs—that create these solutions. Given the serious lack of faith that Foster Gamble and the other makers of the film seem to have in the ability of human beings to accomplish great things, I remain skeptical that Thrive offers any real solutions. It is, in short, part of the problem, not part of the solution.
I recommend reading the full review.