Paranoid Utopia: The Nightmare World That Thrive Would Give Us.
The makers and fans of Thrive are fond of stressing that they want a better world. Their ideas for creating a better world involve, first and foremost, ending the conspiracies that they insist are screwing up the planet, and second, implementing far right-wing libertarian political and economic ideology on a broad scale. As I wrote in a blog a few months ago about how the world of conspiracy theories is changing, Thrive represents a progression along the road of using conspiracy theories to sell a particular ideology. Zeitgeist: The Movie pioneered this idea, but Thrive has taken it a step farther. Thrive is aimed at a new generation of conspiracy theorists who aren’t satisfied merely to spread their erroneous versions of what they think the facts are, but to remake the world in an image more to their liking.
The problem, of course, is that the conspiracy theories are false, and their adherents’ ideas for changing the world are based on an incorrect and often downright delusional view of reality. That means that their solutions will have very severe unintended consequences, because their solutions aren’t aimed at solving real problems in the real world, but rather solving fake problems that exist only in their fantasy world. This blog will explore what sort of world we might end up with if these people had their way.
This vision is, by definition, speculative. But then again, so is George Orwell’s 1984, a book that many conspiracy theorists cite as prescient gospel truth, and which many believe is literally coming to pass now (or already has).
This article is not a prediction of what I think will come to pass, just as Orwell’s wasn’t either. This article is a profile of what may come to pass if conspiracy theorists of the sort who support Thrive had free reign to build the world that they say they want.
Setting the Scene: After the Next American Revolution.
Conspiracy theorists sometimes try to warn me about what’s going to happen to me in the future. They like to say things like I’m a “traitor” and a “collaborator,” and that I’ll get some kind of just deserts at some point in the future. This reasoning, which is (like most things conspiracy theorists believe in) not fully thought out, assumes that there will be some sort of “revolution” where presumably the current political order will be undone, the conspiracies that these people believe in will be halted, and those who supported them will be punished.
Thrive does not explicitly speak of such a revolution, but it’s clear that its adherents implicitly look forward to one. Foster Gamble talks about “obsoleting” the Global Domination Agenda. He is unwilling to be more specific than this, but it’s clear that he has in mind some sort of radical inversion of the current status quo. That is one way to describe a revolution.
This is a vision of the United States that exists approximately 50 years after a revolution, spearheaded by political and economic thinkers who believe (like the makers of Thrive do) in the most dominant conspiracy theories of today’s world, has swept away the old political and economic order. Whether that revolution is achieved by peaceful or institutional means, or (probably more likely) by violence, is not relevant. This article also presupposes that the conspiracy thinkers who take power believe in the same sort of far right-wing libertarian ideology that the makers of Thrive advance. This is not too farfetched. Libertarian ideology is becoming increasingly identified with conspiracy theories and conspiratorial belief systems—witness the high levels of support Ron Paul has received from people who believe in conspiracy theories. (Foster Gamble supports Ron Paul for President).
In this article I’ve included a section that demonstrates not only Thrive’s ideology, but also that proposed by followers of the Zeitgeist Movement, who similarly believe in conspiracy theories and have used them to advance an ideological plan for the future. Zeitgeist: The Movie was a key progenitor of Thrive, and many of its followers have shared the same goals, tactics and mindset, so it’s appropriate to treat them together.
Without further ado, let us travel ahead in time to the world conspiracy believers have built.
The Money System: No Fed, No Fiat, No Funding.
Just as in our world today, the key factor in the America that conspiracy theorists have built is money. The problem, however, is that there isn’t any. In a post-conspiracy America, there are no banks or formal financial institutions. In the past 50 years, conspiracy theories regarding banks, finance and currency—infused with libertarian propaganda—became so prevalent that the banks either collapsed, were outlawed, or were driven out of business. Needless to say the U.S. Federal Reserve was the first to go. “Fiat currency” is the ultimate evil, the tool of the Illuminati for world domination, so the very appearance of it is social taboo. Just as libertarians and conspiracy theorists today demand, the U.S. is back on the gold standard: all currency is backed by gold. However, early in the revolution, large corporations quickly purchased all of the gold bullion in the United States from the failing banks. All of this gold is still held in their vaults, heavily guarded. It never enters circulation. Gold and gold-backed currency are still traded by the large corporations, but in purely theoretical transactions that take place on balance sheets and in computer programs.
As a result of this situation, there is no currency in circulation. The U.S. Treasury stopped printing money decades ago. In fact, due to massive de-funding of government, the U.S. Treasury no longer exists. No one has seen a piece of paper currency or coin except in a museum.
But because the amount of gold bullion in the United States is only a tiny fraction of the amount of money needed to keep the economy moving, and because the gold reserves are under effective control of private corporations, America has become a land of barter economies. Corporations who wish to do business with each other trade favors, contractual obligations and customers; this form of barter has been unofficially institutionalized in the form of “credits,” which are not backed by any precious metals. Ironically, credits exactly mimic most of the features of “fiat currency” that has been supposedly outlawed and socially stigmatized. In rural areas, as we will see, the chief form of currency is ammunition. Needless to say, the ideals of a conspiracist economy and the realities do not match up.
The Cities: Corporate Feudalism.
The supplanting of democracy by conspiracist thinking and libertarian ideology had the effect, during the revolution, of dismantling government at all levels. Because there is no effective law and the economy collapsed, the result was large-scale anarchy. Major cities are the only islands of calm in a sea of violence and lawlessness.
These major cities are all run by an interlocking coalition of corporations—the same ones that control all the gold and all the wealth in American society. The major function of these corporations is to sell social services to city residents, and they are all monopolies. The Law Enforcement Corporation sells physical security. The Habitation Corporation sells housing. The Food Corporation sells food. The Justice Corporation sells access to the wholly-privatized court system. There is no economic competition. There is also no regulation. Prices are fixed, but in this environment prices don’t matter, as we’ll see.
The cities are walled enclaves, heavily guarded by military personnel, where residents have at least a chance at a life above the anarchy and poverty of the outside world—but at a huge cost. The price for a house alone in one of the cities is far beyond the amount of gold, credits or barter that any ordinary person could ever possess in a lifetime. Nevertheless, the corporations waive their prices and admit new residents in exchange for lifetime commitments to work for them—commitments secured by immense debt loads. This form of indentured servitude is essentially feudalism: the workers cannot quit, cannot lobby, cannot organize, and can be fired and expelled from the city for any reason or no reason. Social mobility is unknown. It is impossible for a common worker—one who cleans the streets, works in the restaurants, drives the bus, provides childcare, etc.—to rise above his or her station; the debt load that the common person has taken on in exchange for living in the city is insurmountable in a dozen lifetimes. In fact, the corporations have begun to tack the balance of peoples’ unpaid debts on to the debts of their children in exchange for agreeing to let their children continue to live in the city after they reach the age of majority. In this way, the corporations acquire an underclass of hereditary serfs, bound to the land and the lord, just like medieval feudalism. These serf-like customers are often traded between corporations as a form of barter.
The corporations have no incentive to treat the workers well. So many more people want to get into the cities than the number of slots available. Consequently the labor supply is cheap and inexhaustible, so any concessions to workers are an unnecessary drain on efficiency. Workers toil 14 hours a day, seven days a week. If they get sick, they are fired and sent out of the city. The workforce is all-white. African-Americans, Asians, Native Americans and especially Jews are forbidden from even entering one of the cities. Because there is no government left to enforce anti-discrimination laws and the Law Enforcement Corporation has a corporate policy to ignore them, even egregious discrimination goes completely unpunished.
Although they live better than anyone else in the society, the directors and managers of the corporations don’t live without fear. The influence of conspiracist thinking at all levels of society makes a stable existence very precarious. All it takes is one errant accusation that a person is working for the Illuminati, or even sympathizes with the Illuminati, and the person will be ostracized from society, fired from his job and quite possibly expelled from the city itself. Evidence is irrelevant, and legal process is unnecessary; an accusation, even an implausible one, is tantamount to guilt. Savvy businessmen routinely accuse their rivals of being Illuminati agents. Promotion and demotion within corporations is due far less often to merit and hard work than it is personnel shifts as a result of firings and expulsions from the city, most of them reactions to conspiracy allegations. Consequently, the corporations are poorly-run, grotesquely wasteful and rife with incompetence. Because they have a captive base of indentured customers, however, and competence and efficiency have no economic value, the ineptitude of the corporate managers has no effect on profits.
Because the corporate management class clearly understands that their power and influence is based on the conspiracist order, they have a vested interest in perpetuating belief in conspiracy theories. In addition to the “legitimate” corporations ruling the cities, there is also a shadowy Conspiracy Corporation. The service this corporation provides is to stage violent incidents, plant fake evidence and deliberately sow distrust and fear among the cities’ populations. The Conspiracy Corporation’s customers are the other corporations who run the city, and who pay it to create havoc as a means of controlling the customer-serfs through fear. Every few weeks the Conspiracy Corporation instigates a random shooting or other act of violence in a public place, which is heavily publicized and blamed on the Illuminati. This fiction maintains the public’s belief that the Illuminati exists and is actively seeking to undermine society. Ironically, in a society built on reaction to nonexistent conspiracies like the Illuminati or New World Order, something very close to what the Illuminati was imagined to be has come into actual existence—thus turning conspiracy theorist beliefs into a self-perpetuating cycle.
The Countryside: Mad Max With Pogroms.
If life is bad in the cities, it’s even worse in the countryside. Government—feared and vilified by conspiracy theorists as the root of all evil—simply does not exist, although the laws, including the U.S. Constitution, are still technically on the books. Outside the cities, there are no police, no local or state officials, and no organization of any kind. There are no courts. There are no hospitals. There are no schools. Roads crumbled into dust decades ago because no one was around to maintain them. No one provides any private social services. For one thing, the big corporations have nothing to gain by selling their services outside the city; the rural population has no money to pay for them anyway. For another, they don’t need the business; they’ve got more customers than they can serve within the walls of the cities. Outside those walls, people manage to survive—barely—by tilling their own tiny farms at a subsistence level.
The level of violence in the countryside is shocking. During the revolution, the only personal liberty that was even remotely respected was the right to bear arms, and out in the country you can’t survive without heavy firepower. Family farms are defended by minefields, barbed-wire fences and kids toting automatic weapons. In many areas, warlords have managed to take over the more productive farms, resulting in irregular patchworks of fiefdoms that are constantly fighting with each other. In addition to outright barter, ammunition is the chief de facto currency in these areas. Heavy weaponry looted from abandoned U.S. military bases is the chief source of power. Life in this libertarian paradise is, in the famous words of Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short.”
Disease takes a terrible toll on all sectors of society, including the rich in the cities, but out in the countryside it’s particularly bad. Vaccines of any kind are distrusted as tools of the Illuminati. As a result, diseases that are easily preventable—polio, measles, rubella, chicken pox, etc.—kill and cripple tens of thousands every year, especially children. Infant mortality is frightful. There are no doctors in these outlying areas. They too were denounced long ago as tools of conspirators; during the revolution many doctors, accused of hiding cancer cures and collaborating with Illuminati-controlled pharmaceutical companies, were massacred or driven out of business. Even medical knowledge itself is dying out since all the medical schools were closed long ago.
The people who fare the worst in this society are Jews. Universally blamed for the imaginary conspiracies that supposedly brought society to the brink of ruin, Jews are refused entry to the cities, and in the countryside they are ruthlessly persecuted and massacred with regularity in horrific pogroms that resemble those of medieval Europe—except with automatic weapons. What few Jews remain have walled themselves up in heavily-armed ghettos with even worse conditions than the countryside whose virulently anti-Semitic (and heavily-armed) population they are hiding from. Nevertheless, as much as they hate Jews, the common people and the more powerful warlords of the countryside cannot organize any collective efforts to exterminate them, as much as they would like to. This inability is the only thing that allows the insular Jewish communities that still exist to carry on, hopeful that someday conditions will change and the world will come to its senses.
Zeitgeist City: A Special Corner of Hell.
One of the walled cities that exists in the anarchic countryside is a medium-sized settlement in swampy Florida. It was established during the revolution as a “Test City” for the RBE or “Resource Based Economy” model, advocated by an almost-forgotten conspiracist organization called the Zeitgeist Movement. Everyone calls this place “Zeitgeist City” for that reason. Inside its heavy steel walls, the convergence of paranoid conspiracist thinking and failed utopian ideology has created a very special kind of hell.
Zeitgeist City is a city of contrasts. In the center of its broad circular plazas there stands a gilded statue of Peter Joseph, creator of the Zeitgeist films, who is regarded in the city as sort of a savior and saint. Beyond the buildings and well-trimmed lawns, however, Zeitgeist City resembles Calcutta on a bad day. Thousands of people are crammed together in pathetic hovels with no running water or electricity. Except for the tasks assigned (without pay, of course) by the city’s ruling elite, there are no jobs; the ideology of an RBE society has outlawed labor as unnecessary. Crime is rampant, but, as the existence of crime conflicts with RBE ideology, it is generally ignored. Most people survive on a black market barter economy, the existence of which is ignored because it is also inconsistent with RBE ideology. Nearly everyone lives a hair’s breadth above starvation level. Although a central feature of the city is large-scale hydroponic vertical “farmscrapers,” these buildings are so energy-intensive and inefficient that they cannot grow very much food, and are not even functioning most of the time.
Everything in Zeitgeist City—every article of clothing, every shoddy consumer good, every plastic tub of tasteless processed food—is catalogued with a bar code. The worst offense in Zeitgeist City is to be caught possessing anything that doesn’t have a bar code. Armies of inventory control techs armed with laser scanners fan out through the city every day, scanning everything. All the codes are fed daily into a central computer system, which then allocates the resources according to a mysterious algorithm. Goods are then redistributed every morning according to the computer’s dictates. Thus, if the computer has decided that a spoon you own is better allocated to the family living next door to you in your squalid apartment, you must give it up to them. This redistribution occurs every day at the distribution centers, where Zeitgeist City dwellers spend most of their time waiting in line either to give up their possessions or receive somebody else’s. The lines, the distribution center and even the computer making the decisions are all under the control of the city’s elite rulers, who call themselves the Allocators. They enforce their dictate through violence. Anyone caught disobeying the dictates of the computer, or possessing property not officially allocated to them, is rounded up by the Allocators’ heavily-armed thugs and sent out of the city as slaves.
In theory the computer allocates resources based on “the scientific method.” Because this concept is meaningless when applied to resource allocation, however, in reality the computer distributes resources purely by random chance. That the resource allocation algorithm in the computer is actually a random number generator was such a closely-guarded secret that knowledge of it has died out. Even the Allocators themselves believe the computer has a methodology; they mistake the random decisions of the computer for “the scientific method,” and they don’t possess enough scientific acumen to notice the difference. Therefore, belief in the infallibility of the distribution computer has become a religious belief in Zeitgeist City. No one dares to question it.
Because Zeitgeist City produces virtually nothing, not even for its own people, it is entirely dependent upon imports of food and needed supplies from nearby Miami, a corporation-controlled walled city. Zeitgeist City compensates Miami by sending it regular shipments of slaves to replenish its labor force. In order to keep this arrangement going the Allocators insist that they possess a short-range missile, tipped with a nuclear warhead, with which they will obliterate Miami if the flow of aid ever stops. In reality there is no warhead and the missile is a non-functioning mock-up stolen from an aerospace museum, kept poised menacingly to the south in a public park surrounded by flowers and hedges. Zeitgeist City’s walls are heavily defended with heavy-caliber machine guns and SAM missiles. The Allocators tell their populace that the city is constantly under siege by Illuminati goons—referred to as Trolls—who are seeking to destroy the city in order to eliminate the proud example of RBE superiority. In reality the city is not under siege and the Trolls do not exist, but the Allocators fire the weapons along their walls a few times a day to promote the illusion that the siege is continuing. As in any other walled city, accusations of Illuminati complicity are routinely used as tools of terror to keep the populace in order, and an unending stream of pro-RBE and conspiracist propaganda flows from the Allocators’ many loudspeakers all over the city, within which every inhabitant is forever in earshot.
The Allocators claim, and not without some foundation, that Zeitgeist City is “the most progressive community in the United States.”
The revolution that brought the conspiracy order to power was profoundly anti-intellectual. Experts on anything—especially scientists (who explained how things really worked), economists (who argued against the economic changes), historians (who explained how the past had really occurred) and doctors (who were accused of suppressing cancer cures and tainting vaccines)—were mercilessly persecuted and massacred. In the revolution, all the universities were closed. Many libraries were burned or destroyed, their books distrusted as tools of the Illuminati. The Internet was regarded as a much more pure and reliable source of knowledge, because the Internet contained “the truth” about conspiracies and books did not. As a result, in this conspiracist order, systemized education barely exists, libraries are virtually nonexistent, and most books are locked away and forgotten in vaults owned by the major city corporations—similar to the way books in the Middle Ages were locked up in monasteries.
The corporate managers of the cities, understanding that their power rests upon the perpetuation of conspiracy theories, carefully control what knowledge gets out to the common people. Any book or document that even remotely refutes or even questions conspiracy theories has been destroyed or altered after the fact to support conspiracy explanations. In this world, Osama bin Laden is lauded as a martyr, on whom the Illuminati unfairly blamed 9/11 and then assassinated him for this imaginary crime. Books or websites about Adolf Hitler routinely omit the Holocaust and instead laud his pro-free-market policies. American history books are wildly inaccurate, and present the country’s history as a relentless narrative of exploitation and conspiracies by the Illuminati and the Jews. Even science books contain numerous errors and omissions.
But, not many people read these books anyway; in fact, literacy has declined greatly because education as we now know it has ceased to exist. Most common people get all of their information from the Internet, which is controlled by the Information Corporation. There is very little written text on the Internet. Most material is either in the form of pictograms or videos. Almost all are either pornography, or simple morality plays dramatizing the evil and immorality of the Illuminati and the Jews. Most of these videos are less than a minute long and feature some hideously gory act of violence. Even very young children are desensitized to the most horrible images of human suffering, having been exposed to an unending stream of images of brutal retributions carried out against Illuminati sympathizers. Schools in the cities—at least for the common customer-serfs—consist almost entirely of pods where children surf the Internet for a few hours a day. Elite parents send their children (at exorbitant cost) to schools run by the Education Corporation, and in these schools there is some basic instruction in reading, math and shoddy third-rate science, but interspersed with very heavy doses of conspiracist and libertarian propaganda.
As the knowledge of true history, true science and critical thinking gradually fades, society is rapidly losing any real sense of its past or itself. Almost all events in history are reduced and simplified to a one-note narrative of exploitation by the Illuminati followed by the redemption of the revolution. Ancient history and the origins of man are described as being the result of extraterrestrial visitation. No one in this society knows that humans built the pyramids; even well-educated elites accept and honestly believe that all prehistoric structures of this nature were constructed by aliens. The major religions are all waning in practice. There are very few churches left. No one in this society has read or even heard of Shakespeare, of Tolstoy or of Leonardo Da Vinci. No one has ever been to an art museum or a music concert. In 100 years’ time, the collective store of human knowledge existing on Earth will have been reduced by half or more. It is truly a new Dark Age.
The Environment—A Rising Tide of Disaster.
Because there is no government, no environmental regulation and the city corporations have no incentive to be environmentally responsible, America is a stinking cesspool of environmental degradation. The corporation-run cities generate power through burning coal and oil—all reserves privately owned and controlled, of course. The cities export their garbage to the countryside where it sits in rotting heaps, breeding diseases and cancer clusters among the semi-feral rural population. Rural dwellers routinely build and furnish their own houses from the refuse of the cities, much of it contaminated. Because the corporate-run cities have no need for water treatment facilities—they can simply pump their sewage into the rivers at zero cost—rivers downstream of the major cities are indescribably foul. There are few forests left, the rural residents having deforested their lands for firewood.
The worst problem is global warming. Because the conspiracist order denounced anthropogenic global warming as a scam and a hoax by the Illuminati, even mentioning the existence of this problem is absolutely forbidden. Absolutely nothing has been done to ameliorate global warming—in fact, America’s carbon emissions since the revolution have increased, despite having much less industry, because the corporations that run the cities have changed over to dirtier and more inefficient means of energy production and industrial usage. Rising sea levels have inundated coastlines. In the larger coastal cities like New York, makeshift seawalls have been built to hold back the ocean (built by slave labor of customer-serfs), but in rural coastal areas, the rising sea levels have turned many areas into fetid swamps. These swamps breed mosquitoes, which results in a high incidence of malaria in areas where it had once been thought to be eradicated. Combined with society’s distrust of doctors—thanks to conspiracy theories about suppressed cancer cures and tainted vaccines—the mortality from tropical diseases is much higher than it was before the revolution.
Global warming has also made peoples’ jobs of feeding themselves much harder. Food crops are more difficult and costlier to raise, invasive and parasite species are hardier and more difficult to kill, and erosion of desiccated topsoil has turned Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas into semi-arid wastelands incapable of cultivation. The increased strength of hurricanes due to global warming results in large swaths of the Atlantic coast being decimated at regular intervals—and because there is no government there are no relief agencies. No one pays any attention to these problems. In the cities, even mentioning the words “global warming” will mark you as an Illuminati sympathizer; in the countryside, the scientific knowledge to explain what’s happening no longer exists. In the meantime greenhouse gases continue to foul the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. The disaster of global warming is now, fifty years after the revolution, far beyond man’s capacity to reverse it.
When the sun sets on this bleak country, filled with pollution and decay, its rays bleed through layers of carbon dioxide vapor and sulfuric acid. It sets on mosquito-infested marshes that were comfortable beachfront communities 60 years before. The clouds approaching on the horizon are filled with acid rain. Their caustic drops fall on acres of landfills and junkyards, oozing poison into a water table already contaminated with toxic chemicals and human feces. This is the brave new world that conspiracy ideology has built.
No sane person would wish for a world characterized by these specific results: desperate impoverishment, corporate feudalism, widespread violence, resurgent disease, intellectual and cultural stagnation, and environmental devastation. But this could very well be the world that would result from the policies and ideologies advocated by conspiracy theorists. Failure to understand the world and its problems as they really are, and blind adherence to ideologies and systems of thought that are clearly at odds with objective reality, will undoubtedly result in unintended consequences.
Yet, on some level, this is exactly the world Thrive wants to give us. This is a world where no one pays taxes, where there is no government coercion, where the Federal Reserve has been abolished and currency backed by gold, where the “free” market is totally unfettered, and where the populace is vigilant against conspiracies of any kind. This is a world where all people thrive.
Well—maybe not all.
Tags: 1984, conspiracy theories, corporate feudalism, dystopia, Federal Reserve, fiat currency, follow the money, future, George Orwell, Global Domination Agenda, gold standard, Illuminati, Jacque Fresco, libertarianism, libertarians, Mad Max, money, paranoia, Peter Joseph, Pseudoscience, reasoning, Resource Based Economy, revolution, Ron Paul, social engineering, Thrive, Thrive Debunked, utopia, Venus Project, Zeitgeist
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