Tag Archive | Foster Gamble

One Year Later: Thriving No More.

By Muertos

Today, November 11, 2012, is the one-year anniversary of the initial release of the conspiracy theory movie Thrive. The film’s first birthday is, I think, an appropriate time to evaluate the film’s impact on the conspiracy underground and its continuing viability, as well as an assessment of our own efforts on this blog to correct and rebut the film. You might say that this article is a “postmortem” of Thrive, and that characterization wouldn’t be inaccurate. If the movie was intended to create a “new paradigm” or “wake people up,” it seems clear that Thrive has failed to do this on any significant scale. The main argument of this article is that, one year on, Thrive is “thriving” no more.

Thrive’s Declining Popularity: The Empirical Proof.

There is no doubt that Thrive is declining in popularity, and the numbers prove it. According to the website traffic analyzer Alexa.com (you can find stats here) the movie’s main website, thrivemovement.com, has been receiving markedly less traffic over the past several months than it did during either of the months it peaked—in November 2011, when Thrive was released, and April 2012, when Foster Gamble and Clear Compass Media made it available for free as opposed to a $5 fee. Alexa.com shows jagged spikes in the website’s popularity week by week (which is measured in terms of traffic ranking within the Internet as a whole), but each spike is successively smaller, the last one being barely a quarter of the website’s all-time interest spike.

On the day I checked, thrivemovement.com had gone down by 27.38% in “reach” over the past three months alone. That means that the site today is reaching 27.38% fewer people now than it was just three months ago. These stats change day by day, so if you check you will probably see a slightly different number.

The statistics on this blog match this trend almost exactly. Interest in Thrive Debunked has proven, over the past year, to be an extremely keen indicator of interest in the movie itself (I’ll explain why that is later in the article). The daily high for page views in the past year was April 13, 2012. Since then, this blog receives barely a quarter—on a good day—of the number of daily page views than it did on that day. The pattern of traffic on this blog mirrors almost exactly the ebb and flow of traffic for thrivemovement.com, with spikes of ever-decreasing intensity followed by prolonged valleys.

Furthermore, there has been much less comment traffic on this blog in the past few months than there was, say, before July 1. I used to receive as many as ten or more comments a day from various people either pro- or anti-Thrive (mostly pro). Now, days go by without any new comments being posted at all.

Speaking solely in terms of web traffic, Thrive Debunked is like a pilotfish on a whale. Wherever the whale goes, it goes along for the ride. The trajectory is down, down, down across the board. The numbers prove it beyond any doubt.

Why is Thrive Declining?

The answers as to why the movie is declining are less clear, but here I offer a few hypotheses.

1. The movie didn’t contribute anything substantially new—at least nothing that its fans could latch onto as new.

For all of its bluster and bravado about a “new paradigm,” Thrive contributed very little to the conspiracy theory underground that was fundamentally new. All that was new was the packaging, which is a shiny object that can only hope to distract the masses for a limited time. Ancient aliens? Been around since 1968. Crop circles? Old news. Money conspiracies? Lyndon LaRouche was doing that in the 80s. “Global Domination Agenda”? Every Alex Jones radio show since 1998 has been about that. Far right-wing Libertarian political propaganda? Ron Paul was peddling that folderol in 2007; now, after two spectacularly embarrassing failures at running for president, he has (mercifully) been put out to pasture, and his sycophantic fan base is finally fading away.

Substantively, the only truly novel idea contributed by Thrive was the obsession with the “torus” shape. (Of course the idea existed long before, but had never been injected into the conspiracy underground before). This proved to be a non-starter among conspiracy theorists, who revel in gloom, apocalypse and disaster. If it can’t oppress you, take away your freedoms, abduct you, give you an anal probe or blow up the World Trade Center, conspiracy theorists probably won’t be interested in it. So scratch the “torus” idea.

Conceptually and structurally, Thrive did make a significant contribution—that being the continued meld of conspiracy theory ideology and New Age sensibility, a toxic mixture that some academic researchers are beginning to term “conspirituality.” Essentially, Thrive is a document evincing the embryonic creation of a new quasi-religious belief system. But this alone won’t sustain its popularity among conspiracy theorists. If Thrive does go down in history it will be because of its contribution to conspirituality, but this is not an accomplishment that conspiracy theorists can sink their teeth into, because most of them vehemently deny that their belief system even is religious in nature. So, appealing though conspirituality is on a subconscious level, that alone is not going to sustain interest in Thrive.

2. The “Thrive Movement” is largely illusory and is not driving continued interest in the movie.

Another reason why the movie has failed to sustain and increase its reach is that there’s no real organization behind it that’s continuing to push it. We’ve blogged before about how ineffectual, illusory and ephemeral are the “solutions” proposed by the movie—they are mainly talking points aimed at ending the conspiracy theories that the movie insists are out there, but because of course these conspiracy theories do not really exist, the movie’s “solutions” are cures in desperate search of a disease. Beyond that, though, the “Thrive Movement” that you see touted (somewhat disingenuously) on the website does not exist in any real sense. Yes, there are small ad-hoc groups of the movie’s fans that have met on an informal basis in various parts of the country. But a mass movement to motivate action based on the movie’s principles? If such a thing exists, it’s keeping an awfully low profile–which can hardly be what fans of the movie want.

Here is one place where Thrive failed to live up to the predecessor it hoped to imitate, the Zeitgeist Movement, which was similarly a fan club of approbation for the infamous (and roundly debunked) 2007 conspiracy theory movie Zeitgeist: The Movie. As we all know, the Zeitgeist experience was the blueprint for Thrive. Although the Zeitgeist Movement imploded in 2011 and has now shriveled to a tiny burned-out nub of high-commitment supporters who have been largely forgotten by the outside world, between 2008 and 2011 at least there was an organization—centrally directed, and under the leadership of the film’s director and his close associates—out there pushing Zeitgeist: The Movie and its tiresome preachy sequels. Thrive has no such organization behind it. The effort that Foster Gamble has exerted to rally fans of the film around a set of action points has been minimal, and no one else has (so far as I know) stepped up to exert any sort of leadership role in this capacity. Without the benefit of a “street team” out there flogging it, Thrive must sink or swim on its own merit. You can see from the numbers that Thrive is not doing well in swimming against the current.

3. Some conspiracy theorists distrust Thrive, thus limiting its reach even within its own target demographic.

Debunkers and other followers of rational, reality-based belief systems aren’t the only detractors of Thrive. Many conspiracy theorists are deeply distrustful of it, for two main reasons: (1) Foster Gamble’s familial connection to the Proctor & Gamble company, and (2) the film’s promotional poster, depicting a woman taking off a blindfold, which especially paranoid conspiracy nutters think is “Illuminati propaganda.” Thrive has been pilloried in the conspiracy underground for these two characteristics. As a result, the many hard-core, incorrigible, detached-from-reality conspiracy nuts—whom you would expect to be Thrive’s core constituency—reject the film out of hand for these very reasons.

This is a battle that Foster Gamble and Thrive can’t possibly win. It does absolutely no good for Foster Gamble to protest that he has nothing to do with his Proctor & Gamble relatives, because no one will believe him anyway. Conspiracy theorists are notoriously intransigent and will accept anything on faith, however bizarre or improbable, so long as it feeds into their paranoid delusions. Even the suggestion that Foster Gamble is an “Illuminati stooge” is, in the conspiracy underground, tantamount to an immutable sentence of guilty.

The controversy over the poster is even more ludicrous. Any image, anywhere, in any context of a person showing one eye is automatically construed by hard-core conspiracy lunatics as “proof” of “Illuminati symbolism.” No amount of remonstration on the part of Foster Gamble or the Thrive crew could possibly alter this. Therefore, Thrive and its makers are—in the zero-evidence-needed universe of hard-core conspiracy lunatics—guilty right out of the starting gate, and Thrive is viewed as dangerous “disinformation.” This is doubly ironic because many people who accept Thrive as gospel truth accuse rationally-based critics—such as myself and fellow contributor SlayerX3—of being “paid disinformation agents” for even daring to criticize the movie.

Thus, Thrive has a self-limiting factor even within its own target audience. The most paranoid and delusional of conspiracy theorists preach against the film because they think it’s part of a conspiracy, whilst debunkers pile on because it promotes conspiracy theories. In this sense Thrive embodies the worst of both worlds. There is no escape from this vicious circle. If Thrive can’t even unite conspiracy theorists across the wide spectrum of their beliefs, it has absolutely no hope of doing so in the mainstream world where conspiracy thinking is generally not accepted.

4. Thrive cannot make any inroads among mainstream (non-conspiracy, non-New Age) audiences.

This is the most important reason Thrive is declining: it simply can’t attract any mainstream attention, which means its potential fan base is limited to its core constituencies of conspiracy theorists and New Age adherents—at least the ones who don’t distrust it because of Gamble’s familial connection or the image on the poster. The reasons for Thrive’s inability to break through to the mainstream is the subject of the next section.

Preventing Mainstream Acceptance: The Repudiators (and the Debunkers).

Without any doubt the single most important event in the history of Thrive was the signing of a letter, by ten of the people interviewed in the film, repudiating it and stating that they were misled as to the film’s contents. If you’ve read this blog, you know all about the “repudiators” (and if you don’t, start here). This event was “game over” for Thrive. Almost single-handedly, the repudiation—orchestrated most vocally by John Robbins—ended any chance the movie ever had of gaining credibility in mainstream circles.

Now, wherever Thrive is shown or even mentioned, the story of the repudiation follows it. Although the repudiation is not generally a deal-breaker for conspiracy theorists and New Agers who like the movie, it certainly is a deal-breaker for anyone else out there who might otherwise have been attracted to the movie’s message or themes but who wasn’t already a conspiracy theorist or New Age adherent. The explanation Thrive’s makers give for the repudiation—that Robbins and company were part of a “disinformation” campaign against the film—is totally incredible and unlikely to satisfy anyone. It’s tough to interest mainstream media in hard-core conspiracy material anyway, but the repudiation is the kiss of death for Thrive. It simply can’t be explained away, ignored or rationalized. Robbins and company acted out of principle. That’s extremely persuasive.

The Thrive Debunked blog has arguably played a role in preventing Thrive from expanding its fanbase into the mainstream, but probably only a small one. I’ve said many times before that the repudiation, and especially the beautiful essay by John Robbins on why he did it, were far more effective in preventing gullible people from falling for Thrive’s nonsense than anything I or my contributors have done. What I believe we and other debunkers who have spoken against the movie have done is to make it very easy for rational people seeking information on the film to see just how wrong the film and its assertions are. The target audience for this blog has always been people who are curious about the movie, who might have some interest in the subjects it covers, but who are cautious enough to investigate the film before believing what it says. Although that universe of people is quite small compared either to the conspiracy fans who love the film or the vast mainstream who realize from the get-go that it’s not worth their time, this blog has been extremely successful at reaching that target audience. On that front, this blog has been a huge success.

The Cycle of Thrive Discovery—And Rejection.

This blog has become an integral part of the public conversation about Thrive. I know because WordPress tracks the “incoming” traffic to this blog and logs the pages that link to it. The vast majority of “incoming” links follow exactly the same pattern. Here’s how it works:

1. A conspiracy theorist or New Ager discovers the film, watches it online, loves it, and makes a post about it on a web forum or in a chatroom. Almost always this initial post praises the film and recommends it to others, like, “There’s this great movie that shows us how our world really works! Everyone should see it!”

2. A few other conspiracy theorists reply, expressing agreement with the film and thanking the original poster who brought it to their attention. Often, some type of discussion about the film’s specific theories (usually “free energy” or the “Global Domination Agenda”) results.

3. Another poster makes a negative comment on Thrive and says something like, “That movie is crap” or “Don’t be fooled by this nonsense.” This is the poster who will almost always post a link to Thrive Debunked.

4. The original poster returns, defending the movie (usually in a shrill, angry and indignant tone), denouncing this blog and calling me a “paid disinformation agent.” Then the original poster will add a bunch of links to other conspiracy theorist material that supposedly “validates” Thrive.

5. The pro-Thrive and anti-Thrive forum posters argue amongst themselves for a few more posts.

6. The original topic goes fallow and is forgotten as the posters move on to something else.

This pattern repeats day after day, all over the Internet, in country after country. (If you want a recent example of this effect, go here). What is clear from this cycle of discovery and rejection is that Thrive has no staying power. It’s a shiny toy that attracts the temporary attention of conspiracy theorists, and then after it’s been debunked and the requisite “paid disinformation agent” accusations have been vomited up against the doubters of the film, the conspiracy nuts lose interest and move on to the next shiny toy. This demonstrates that, even among conspiracy theorists, Thrive operates at a highly superficial level. It generates very little sustained contemplation, thoughtful discussion or even self-reflection. It’s bubble-gum candy, intellectual junk food. To be sure this is as much the fault of the defective mentality of the conspiracy theorist underground—which vociferously discourages any attempt at intellectual analysis—as it is the failure of Thrive, but it’s telling that there’s so little “there” there behind most public discussions of the film.

But Isn’t The Film Valuable Because It Gets People Talking About Important Issues in Our World?

No.

This argument presupposes that Thrive is ethically neutral–that if it is not true, its untruth is harmless, but if (by wild coincidence) the filmmakers happen to aim a wayward arrow at some real-world issue that needs addressing, Thrive is a net positive because it’s directed at least some energy toward addressing that issue. That’s not the case, because the great deal of damage that its untrue and disingenuous depictions of societal issues cause far outweighs any marginal benefit the film might have by “accidentally” aiming at a valid target.

Let me give you an example. The dependence of industrialized societies on fossil fuels is a crucial issue in our world that must be solved, before anthropogenic climate change renders our environment uninhabitable or hostile. Thrive implicitly does accept the premise that dependence on fossil fuel is bad. However, Thrive’s proposed solution is to rely on “free energy” machines, built from plans given to us by aliens, which will miraculously liberate us from all our energy problems. This is a false solution. Even a fan of the film who is motivated to take action to advance a solution to fossil fuel dependence will have his or her energy diverted in a completely useless direction: advocacy for “free energy” machines that do not exist.

In order to turn this hypothetical Thrive fan into an activist working toward real solutions to energy problems–for example, political lobbying for greater public investment in R&D to develop solar, wind, or geothermal energy–will require reeducating the person to realize that “free energy” is a falsehood and that Thrive has misled them. If they’re already interested in working toward energy independence, it’s likely that whatever stimulus sets them on a more productive path could have interested them in the real solution at the get-go, which means the fact that Thrive turned them on to the issue of fossil fuel reliance is totally irrelevant. In fact, Thrive in this example has been counterproductive, because it wasted the would-be activist’s (and society’s) time by encouraging him to tilt uselessly at the windmills of imaginary “free energy” machines. This is not a net positive.

Even this hypothetical example is extremely speculative because it’s not likely that Thrive will interest people “by accident” in genuine issues and genuine solutions anyway. The issues Thrive cares most passionately about are the conspiracy theories. Consequently, what little “activism” it can hope to ignite will almost invariably be directed at ending these horrible conspiracies. That is not a net good for society. It’s a net negative, because conspiracy thinking is part of the problem and is not a solution to anything.

The Final Truth—The One Thrive Fans Will Never, Ever Admit.

There’s a line in Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It” that goes, “No one wants to be defeated.” Conspiracy theorists are more ferociously resistant to admitting failure and defeat than just about anyone else. In fact, they’re so resistant to the notion that their theories are failing to “wake people up” that they will engage in the most egregious contortions of reality to avoid accepting that the mainstream world either treats them as irrelevant wingnuts or incurable lunatics. Consequently, I predict that Thrive fans who choose to comment on this article will never, ever admit that Thrive is losing, rather than gaining, viewers, and that instead of “waking people up” it’s falling quite quickly into well-deserved obscurity.

Conspiracy theorists love to assert that more and more people are joining their side. They love to say things like, “The worm is turning!” or “We’re gaining critical mass!” Bizarrely, they persist in these delusions even long after the party is over, after it becomes painfully obvious that the mainstream world has passed them by.

Take, for instance, 9/11 Truthers. Right now, the conspiracy theory that maintains “9/11 was an inside job” is less popular now than it has been at any time since the attacks of September 11 happened. I proved this in this article, refuting the absolutely false assertion made by Foster Gamble in Thrive that “a growing number of people” believe in this delusion. In fact, based on poll data, the numbers of people who believe in “9/11 was an inside job” theories is shrinking, not growing. But Truthers will never admit this. To them, the conspiracy theory has to be gaining converts every day. The lack of evidence that Trutherism is becoming more popular is treated as irrelevant, or (more typically) that news of its supposedly growing popularity is suppressed. Truthers will never—never—admit that mainstream society rejected this conspiracy delusion long ago and moved on.

In fact, I’ve had 9/11 Truthers try to tell me that the reason nobody talks about 9/11 conspiracy theories much anymore is because they (the Truthers) have already won—they think the vast majority of the public considers 9/11 a closed issue, having concluded that it was a conspiracy, so there’s no need to debate it anymore! They’re right on one score—there is no need to debate it—but for precisely the opposite reason: mainstream public opinion long ago tossed 9/11 conspiracy theories on the dustbin of history, and trying to gain new adherents to the theory is like trying to sell tickets to the Titanic after the ship has already gone down.

There’s one more powerful piece of evidence indicating that the mainstream world has forgotten about Thrive, and that’s here: the very interesting discussion that took place behind the scenes at Wikipedia over whether Thrive was “notable” enough to warrant an entry in the database. Despite the frenzied efforts of Thrive partisans, the Wikipedia gatekeepers decided that Thrive wasn’t even worth their time. There is no Wikipedia page on Thrive. Nor will there be. It’s not suppression; it’s not propaganda; it’s not the “Global Domination Agenda” paying Wikipedia to snub them. It’s much simpler than that: no one cares.

One Wikipedia editor summed up the argument against Thrive with these very telling statements, which ultimately won the debate:

“This page [the one on Thrive that was eventually deleted] reeks of promotion and has the barest credentials. I must agree with nominator that page created by a known sock puppet of an indef-blocked socker [translation: a known conspiracy theorist troll] should be subject to close scrutiny. [An anti-Thrive Wikipedia user] makes the valid points above this film has no wide interest and zero sources other than blogs…”

This is the truth. No one cares anymore. No one should care. Thrive is dead. John Robbins and the other nine repudiators ended the Thrive phenomenon, if indeed there ever was one. Game over.

Conclusion

This is my final article for Thrive Debunked. After seven years in the arena, I have retired from actively debunking conspiracy theories, and Thrive marks the final chapter in that journey. My contributors and I have, in the past year, successfully refuted every major assertion made in the film. There’s nothing of substance left standing of Thrive. Our work is completed. Thrive has been completely debunked. Even if it wasn’t, John Robbins and the repudiators have rendered further effort in deconstructing the film largely pointless, because it’s clear that the film is not going to have any real resonance in the future beyond the realm of conspiracy theorists and New Agers who already know about it.

But, like a dead oil tanker that continues to leak toxins into the environment decades after the main oil spill has been contained, Thrive will continue to infect a small, steady trickle of viewers with its conspiracy poison, whether its new victims are young people who are just entering the dark and nihilistic world of paranoia, or other potential fans who simply haven’t heard about the movie before. For that reason, this blog will remain up for at least a while. It’s already helped a lot of people, and can continue to do some good, even if it is no longer actively updated.

The conspiracy theorists out there will invariably interpret this as some sort of victory, or perhaps further “proof” that I am a “paid disinformation agent”—maybe my CIA/Project Vigilance masters have stopped paying me, or transferred me to another assignment!—but there’s nothing I can do about that. Conspiracy nutters will make that accusation anyway, regardless of how stupid it is. I am not a “paid disinformation agent,” of course, but the fact that paranoiacs continue to believe that I am gives me no grief at all. I have nothing to prove to conspiracy theorists. This blog wasn’t meant for them anyway; it was meant to reach people who are still capable of rational thought.

What I feel most toward fans of Thrive is not anger or even pity, but sadness. What could have been great hope, promise and energy of a generation of young people who want to change the world has been squandered, bastardized and ultimately wasted by sad obsessions with bizarre conspiracy theories that can do nothing—absolutely nothing—to move our society forward or address the problems within it. This is the tragedy of conspiracy thinking. It is a tragedy upon which I can no longer dwell, and with Thrive now debunked, I no longer have to.

I want to thank the contributors to this blog (SlayerX3 chief among them, though he’s by no means the only one), as well as those behind the scenes who helped me research, fact-check, and keep ahead of developments I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise. I want to thank the readers (you know who you are) who respond tirelessly in the comments, slamming down the endless assaults of idiocy and irrationality spouted by Thrive’s more militant fans. If by some miracle of fate Thrive’s fortunes do turn around—or if Foster Gamble decides to make a Thrive 2, perish the thought—I will be looking to you to carry on my work, and to defend rationality, sanity and reason against the endless waves of woo, bullshit, paranoia and propaganda in which our world is sadly awash. Thanks for a job well done.

Foster Gamble or his fans may not think so, but I, for one, am thriving quite well.

Thanks for reading.

One World Governments–Debunked!

By SlayerX3

This article which debunks the ridiculous “one world government” conspiracy nonsense in Thrive is closely related to my previous article about “world domination conspiracies,” and Muertos’s article debunking the Global Domination Agenda.

The Norm Prison

At 1:18:02 of Thrive David Icke speaks about the fear of what other people think. He cites the ridicule he went through when he lost that fear and decided to speak out. (I’m sure the ridicule has nothing to do with the things he publicly speaks being completely unfounded and insane).

He states how by dictating what is right and wrong, weird and normal, the Illuminati/GDE (Global Domination Elite) have created a prison for the population who is afraid to speak its own mind.

His main point is how these groups would use norms and social standards to keep people from stepping out and showing their “uniqueness,” for if they did the rest of the society would shun them. This would create a social prison where you’re not as afraid of the reaction from the “elites” as you are of the reaction from your relatives, friends and co-workers.

There is a problem with this line of thought, however. Social norms have existed since humans started to live in society and as society changed so did the norms. Social norms weren’t invented by some “global elite.”

I’m certain this segment is aimed towards the people who honestly believe in conspiracy theories, in an attempt to vindicate their status as social rejects.

Icke’s argument seems to equate believing in conspiracy theories–free energy and other pseudoscience–with social injustices. Like a few decades ago interracial marriage and gay marriage were taboos (in some places they still are) but the norms changed for those to be accepted.

But you can’t equate ridiculing someone’s conspiracy beliefs with social injustice. They’re not the same thing. Thrive’s and Icke’s claims have no foundation in reality, and I don’t mean the reality of what is acceptable and what is not. I mean that these beliefs have absolutely no foundation in observable facts. Gamble and Icke make absurd statements and expect people to accept them as if they were a completely valid view of the world.

If you’re an adult male who goes to a “My Little Pony” fan convention you can’t expect people not to give you weird looks. And you shouldn’t expect people to accept that shape shifting reptilians control the world, the Illuminati is responsible for everything important since the 19th century and that Elvis Presley was an alien without them thinking there is something wrong in your head. While the former is a matter of taste and generally harmless, the later represents a group of beliefs that have no foundation in reality, and is extremely harmful.

The World Government Unions

The European Union

Gamble claims the GDE has plans to split the world in several power blocks to make it easier to control. He cites the European Union and the African Union as examples and mention how the Pacific and American Union are on their way.

If I were to talk about how the European Union worked in real life it’d take an entire full length article just to do that, so I’ll summarize and show how things aren’t exactly what Gamble thinks they are.

The European Union is a loose federation of countries, that include most of Europe, with the intent to ease the movement of people and merchandise across its members’ borders. Defense is in the hands of NATO (which includes the U.S.A and Canada).

It has achieved these goals by unifying the currency, applying several legislative policies that are voted on in the EU parliament with the approval of each of its member states.

I also have to mention that the countries who have adopted the Euro as a currency are referred as the Eurozone. Some member states decided to maintain their own currency, like Sweden and the United Kingdom.

There are as many arguments against the EU as there are in favor of it. It is worth mentioning that even among the EU members it is common to disagree with each other whenever a new law or policy is to be applied.

The most recent example is the Greek financial crisis and the “austerity measures” proposed by Germany and France which are being opposed or severely criticized by several other EU members, especially Portugal, Spain and Greece.

Most of the laws (save those on importation tariffs, unions and  industry regulations) aren’t directly imposed on its member states. Nor does the EU dictate the policies its members will adopt in their own countries as long as it doesn’t directly harm other members.

http://www.brugesgroup.com/HowEULawsAreMade.pdf

http://www.ngoeuconnect.ie/content.php?area=3

http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/index_en.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Union  (This splits into several sub sections and main pages)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Euroscepticism

http://www.economicshelp.org/dictionary/c/criticism-eu.html

http://econ.economicshelp.org/2008/04/problem-with-euro.html

This is not a unified “world government” body. It just isn’t.

The African Union

The AU is a political block to push for development within Africa’s borders, defend Africa’s interests and security and promote democratic governments and human rights.

If you have been keeping tabs on the news, you know the AU exists on paper only.

With its massive history of corruption, internal conflict and sheer incompetence, the African Union is anything but unified.

Claiming the AU has created a unified Africa is almost comical. The AU reactions to Somalia’s lawless state, Sudan’s Darfur humanitarian crisis and Libya’s civil war can only be described as totally absent.

Along the history of ethnic, religious and political conflict and with at least one war with one African state against another or a civil war within a member state occurring  at least once every decade makes the African Union the exact opposite of what a unified continent should look like. Not to mention the continent is rife with poverty and disease giving the AU more important problems to deal with than trying to take over Africa.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/African_Union

http://fmso.leavenworth.army.mil/documents/Problems-Plaguing-the-AU-Forces.pdf

The American Union

Gamble claims an American Union is on its way citing trade policies involving the USA, Canada and Mexico (forgetting both South and Central America).

While there are free trade treaties with those countries, there is no political will to unify the American continent. There are people who advocate a unified America much like the European Union. Politicians and citizens from left and right (see what I did there?) have vocal stands against such a union. South and Latin American countries fear more US intervention, abusive policies and lack of sovereignty and the US fears massive immigration, the loss of power in case the US dollar gets replaced by the Amero (theoretical Trans-American currency) and being saddled with the burden of solving several of those countries’ problems.

If the proposed American Union also includes the Central and South American nations, there will be even more problems than just turning the USA, Canada and Mexico into a Union.

There is a massive anti-American sentiment in South and Central America mostly due to past policies US imposed in South and Central America during the Cold War and the economic practices the US adopts which are viewed as unfair in most South and Central American nations.

There is also a strong nationalist fervor and idealism against imperialistic policies (which without doubt the Unification would be perceived as so) within South and Central American countries.

Even if you decided to unify South America into a South American Union there would be a strong political and civil resistance against it. It’s just not going to happen.

The closest thing we have is the Mercosul, which is another free-trade-treaty accepted by most of the South American countries. This is also a source of major political and economic disputes among its members.

NAFTA is currently the only integration treaty ratified by USA, Canada and Mexico. It is a political and economic treaty to promote free trade among those countries.

There is a good share of conspiracy theories regarding the creation of an North American Union, specially about the proposed NAFTA super highway (firmly opposed by Ron Paul).

Why is creating an American Union a challenge? The only fully developed countries in the Americas, economically speaking, are USA and Canada. While most European countries have similar political and economic set ups (which facilitated the creation of the EU), the American continent doesn’t have this advantage. USA’s economic policies are radically different from Canada’s and Mexico’s, let alone all the other Latin American countries. For example, Brazil has major differences with Argentina and Venezuela in how their economies function, and integrating those differences into a single power block would be a political and economic nightmare. Who would make decisions? How would anything get done?

Creating a Union would force the USA and Canada to elevate the status and the condition of all the other members, given the state of poverty the majority of the countries in the Americas are in. This alone would be a gargantuan task big enough to stop a unification process in its tracks.

In the real world, discussions about “unifying” American countries weren’t about creating a European Union-like power, but instead stimulating better cooperation and integration among the American nations using the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America (SPP) as a mediator.

http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/nau.asp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercosur

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NAFTA

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Union

http://www.cfr.org/canada/building-north-american-community/p8102

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_currency_union

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_Free_Trade_Agreement_%28NAFTA%29_Superhighway_System

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Security_and_Prosperity_Partnership_of_North_America

http://factcheck.org/2008/02/wrong-paul/

Pacific Union

Australia is already a member of the Commonwealth and feels little need to integrate itself with the rest of Asia. Japan and China hate each other. North Korea and South Korea unification is a nightmare by itself and if you want to have an idea of how troublesome it would be creating a Pacific Union, put all the issues I mentioned in the American Union with the ones in the African Union together.

Thrive’s lack of gasp in geopolitics is astonishing. Gamble simply doesn’t understand how the world works.

One World Government and “Economic Hit Men”

At 1:20:48 Gamble shows videos of the EU leaders talking about “Global Governance,” again taking it out of context. Both videos refer to how governments all over the globe worked to avoid the worsening of the economic crisis that started in 2008 and the efforts of the G8 and G20 to cope with the economic issues. Both also deal with mentions to create a set of rules to stabilize the financing sectors across the world and the importance of the G20 in future policy making.

Gamble claims groups like the World Health Organization, World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the IFM are tools for the GDE to impose their plans.

Full video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfnTOm3xZp0&feature=related (The part shown on Thrive is at 0:25:00)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MIFvwwIFZ58

The “Economic Hit Man”

Gamble introduces the controversial book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins. The book is about how governments and corporations employ “economic hit men” to bribe leaders in undeveloped countries and “Jackals” to assassinate leaders who don’t comply.

This book was met with a lot of criticism, from how poorly written and simplified it was to the absence of citations and complete vagueness in its assertions.

The book itself is Perkins’s account of the job he did. As for its veracity, basically he says “trust my word on this one.” The book has also been criticized for several inaccuracies regarding policy making and how intelligence agencies work. For example, attributing the NSA (cryptography and code breaking) to an economic organization.

Perkins has explored the conspiracy theory ground both in his book and in his interviews. As result he has become popular in conspiracy theory circles.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confessions_of_an_Economic_Hit_Man

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Perkins_%28author%29

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/02/26/AR2006022601265.html

http://www.putnampit.com/reviews/hitman2.htm

https://www.nytimes.com/2006/02/19/business/yourmoney/19confess.html?pagewanted=all (The text of the interview I mentioned, which is the clip shown in Thrive)

http://www.america.gov/st/washfile-english/2006/February/20060202155604atlahtnevel6.165713e-02.html

The reverse Hanlon’s razor

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.

The above is an idea called Hanlon’s Razor. Gamble and Ms. Fitts subvert Hanlon’s Razor by claiming the government is not only using its incompetence as a facade to hide its plans, but is actually extremely competent in furthering its plans.

I could fill this article with examples of how this is wrong, but I’m just going to cite the latest. SOPA and  PIPA, law that would have given corporations and the government a green light to do as they wanted with the Internet, didn’t pass despite heavy political support and corporate lobbyism. If the government can’t pass laws like this, how are they supposed to create a “one world government?”

Pyramids of information

Right after this, David Icke discusses the “pyramid organization” where the knowledge of the real intentions of the GDE decrease the further down the pyramid you go. Icke cites the Manhattan Project as an example of how such big secret can be kept hidden.

Bad example, the Manhattan Project did have leaks. They stemmed from accidents, incompetence and active espionage. If that was the case how did Gamble stumble with all his “evidence” and lived to tell the tale?

https://www.fas.org/irp/ops/ci/docs/ci2/2ch1_f.htm

There is also a big difference between the Manhattan Project and the kind of “secret” Icke claims is being hidden here. The Manhattan Project was a plan to win the war, which everybody thought was a good goal. People were not likely to object to something that would win the war for their side and save millions of lives. With the GDE plan though, you have to convince people to do something they wouldn’t otherwise want to do. You just couldn’t do it. Also, keep in mind the Manhattan Project existed for a very short period of time (1942 to 1945). You didn’t have to keep it secret for very long. The GDE has to be kept secret over decades or even centuries. It just wouldn’t work.

Conclusion

I’ve shown here how these “one world government” theories are false. Gamble and Icke don’t understand how the world really works, they take information out of context and hope nobody will notice. I noticed.

Thrive as Holy Scripture: The Emerging Religion of “Conspirituality.”

In a few articles on this site (and also in one on my other blog) I make an argument that the movie Thrive is largely a religious document. It is a statement of faith by Foster Gamble, and a plea to its viewers to adopt the same religious faith, which is a synthesis of New Age concepts, conspiracy theories and far right-wing Libetarian political ideology. Thanks to a recent article in the Journal of Contemporary Religion, not only does this idea have academic support, but the faith that Thrive advances now has a name: “conspirituality.”

In January 2011, two authors—David Voas, a professor at the University of Manchester, and Charlotte Ward, an independent researcher in the field of alternative spirituality—published an article called “The Emergence of Conspirituality” in the peer-reviewed Journal of Contemporary Religion. (The cite is Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 26, No. 1, January 2011, 103-121. The abstract for the article is here but unless you have access to an academic database, you will have to pay to download the full article. If you want to see it for free, I suggest you visit a library that has a subscription to JSTOR or another academic database—it’s well worth your time). Although the article—which I only just recently became aware of—was published eleven months before Thrive’s release, I think it is extremely apposite to the film. In fact, if the article had been published after the film’s release, I have no doubt it would have been discussed as a case study of conspirituality.

The Ward/Voas article was peer-reviewed. That means that knowledgeable researchers in the field of contemporary and comparative religion reviewed drafts of it—their identities not known to the authors—and provided critical comments. Peer review is not infallible, but it is the hallmark of academia and it’s what separates publications like academic journals apart from other publications where material may or may not be independently checked. Most major trade magazines and reputable newspapers employ fact checkers, but academic journals operate on a strict system of review. It’s worth noting that virtually none of the “sources” that Foster Gamble and Thrive rely upon are peer-reviewed—such as the now-infamous BLTResearch.com, which is the film’s go-to source on crop circles.

What is “Conspirituality”?

The authors of the article have coined a new word—“conspirituality”—to describe what they see as a recently-emerging religion that melds New Age sensibilities and conspiracy theories. The best way to explain it is to quote from the article itself:

“We argue that conspirituality is a politico-spiritual philosophy based on two core convictions, the first traditional to conspiracy theory, the second rooted in the New Age:

(1) A secret group covertly controls, or is trying to control, the political and social order (Fenster).

(2) Humanity is undergoing a ‘paradigm shift’ in consciousness, or awareness, so solutions to (1) lie in acting in accordance with an awakened ‘new paradigm’ worldview.

Conspirituality is a web movement with diffuse leadership and constantly shifting areas of interest.”

In order to understand what this means, you need to understand how the authors define both “New Age” and “conspiracy theory.” Here’s what they say on that:

“[New Age] groups embrace the idea of a person as an integrated whole, with mind, body, and spirit subject to a common set of principles. The second ideology is conspiracy theory. Here one finds a denial of contingency, the discovery of patterns in events that might otherwise seem to be random, and the attribution of agency to hidden forces.”

The article goes on to explain that the central feature of New Age thinking is this idea of “new paradigm” or “new consciousness.” Many, many examples of this belief can be found in many places, and especially on the Internet, from which most of the authors’ examples were drawn. A frequent theme in New Age milieu is the idea that there is a massive shift taking place, or about to take place, in human consciousness. A good example of this type of message is what some people are saying about the “2012” prophecies. While some people literally do believe that the supposed “end” of the Mayan long-count calendar in December 2012 will mean the end of the world, in New Age circles it’s much more common for people to predict some sort of massive consciousness shift. Whitley Strieber, a noted New Age author (and conspiracy theorist) who is most famous for his claims of having been abducted by aliens, makes this sort of argument here.

As for conspiracy theory, well, that’s easy. If you read this blog or have seen Thrive, you know exactly what this means: bizarre, unsupportable and factually bankrupt assertions like the Illuminati or the “Global Domination Agenda,” “false flag” attacks, suppression of free energy, etc. The authors make the interesting point that the conspiracy theorist underground is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, and usually politically conservative. I’ll return to that point in a little while.

As for how New Age and conspiracy theories go together, I’m going to quote something I published a few months ago. I had an email correspondence with a British academic back in January where he talked about exactly this phenomenon. Here is what he had to say (it’s quoted in this article):

“I suspect that what’s going on is that New Age, now entering its third generation, has developed a theodicy. Now, this is a theological term, but it essentially means an explanation of the existence of evil – why bad things happen to good people. For some of those in the New Age milieu – Foster Gamble, David Icke, Whitley Strieber, Duncan Rhodes and others, all incidentally in middle age and with a long term involvement in the New Age milieu – an explanation is needed as to why, if we’ve entered the Age of Aquarius, is the world less peaceful, equal and progressive than ever? Conspiracy theories offer such a theodicy – the New Age hasn’t happened because evil people prevented it from happening.”

What is an Example of “Conspirituality” In Practice?

One very prominent example cited in the Ward/Voas article is another buzzword that has appeared occasionally on Thrive Debunked: the Zeitgeist Movement. In case you don’t know, the Zeitgeist Movement is an Internet-based organization—many call it a cult, and that term is apposite—which sprang out of the fanbase for the 2007 Internet conspiracy theory film Zeitgeist: The Movie, and which proposes that the world be remade with something called a “Resource Based Economy,” which is basically late-stage Communism with robots and computers standing in for the dictatorship of the proletariat. By melding conspiracy theories (including “9/11 was an inside job” theories, which were the film’s major selling points) with this sort of new consciousness argument, Zeitgeist’s leader, Peter Joseph Merola, minted one of the most paradigm examples of a conspirituality religious organization. Here’s what the authors say about that:

“The second [example of conspirituality] is weighted towards conspiracy theory. It was taken from the Zeitgeist Movement, a web site promoting global activism connected to Zeitgeist the Movie, a 2007 web movie. Zeitgeist alleges, among other things, that organised religion is about social control and that 9/11 was an inside job. The producers claim that the movie has been viewed 100 million times.

[quoted from the Zeitgeist Movement Facebook page:]

The elite power systems are little affected in the long run by traditional protest and political movements. We must move beyond these ‘establishment rebellions’ and work with a tool much more powerful: We will stop supporting the system, while constantly advocating knowledge, peace, unity and compassion. We cannot ‘‘fight the system’’. Hate, anger and the ‘war’ mentality are failed means for change, for they perpetuate the same tools the corrupt, established power systems use to maintain control to begin with. [. . .]

[Ward/Voas comment:] This could be called a ‘spiritual’ awakening.”

What Does This Have To Do With Thrive?

In a word: everything.

Thrive is an even more obvious and clear graft between New Age ideas and conspiracy theory ideology, which according to Ward and Voas is the definition of conspirituality. This is the point I made in my other blog’s article on how the conspiracy theory world has been changing—and in that article I made the point, several times in fact, that Zeitgeist and the Zeitgeist Movement are the progenitors of Thrive, and most likely the example Foster Gamble was trying to follow. But, just to line up a few factors that I think demonstrate that Thrive exemplifies the Ward/Voas concept of conspirituality, let’s look at this:

  • Thrive telegraphs its New Age associations, and tries to sell itself to a New Age audience, early in the film by heavy use of New Age concepts such as crop circles, ancient aliens and UFO contact.
  • One of Thrive’s central messages is that humanity must have some sort of “paradigm shift” if we are to break out of these horrible conspiracies that Foster Gamble says we suffer from.
  • Thrive’s promotional poster features an image of a woman removing a blindfold. The whole theme of “waking up” surrounds promotion of the film. Additionally, many Thrive supporters who have commented on this blog have advised me to “wake up” or employed similar language to urge me to change my thinking regarding the film.
  • Thrive pretends to impart to its audience hidden knowledge or forbidden knowledge that “they” don’t want you to know.
  • Thrive regards factual support of its conclusions as largely unnecessary. By looking at the ridiculous “Fact Check” section of the Thrive website, one sees right away that any factual support for the movie’s assertions is perfunctory, poorly-researched and shoddily done. The message is that it’s faith and belief, rather than facts and evidence, that make the difference between swallowing Thrive’s message and rejecting it.
  • The middle section of the film churns as many conspiracy theories as it possibly can, as fast as it can, and with as few facts cluttering the presentation as possible. It is obvious that this section of the film was built as a sort of “big umbrella” to welcome into the Thrive milieu as many conspiracy theorists as possible by appealing to a very wide range of disparate (and often mutually exclusive) theories.
  • The final section of Thrive purports to offer “solutions” to the problems it identifies. Its solutions either consist of ending the conspiracies, or implementing far right-wing Libertarian political ideology such as abolishing taxes, abolishing education, etc.
  • Thrive and its milieu exist mostly on the Internet. Like the Zeitgeist Movement, to the extent there even is a “Thrive Movement,” it is almost totally web-based. As the article makes clear, the Internet is overwhelmingly the main channel for proselytizing the conspirituality religion.

If the Zeitgeist Movement is a paradigm example of an organization offering a conspirituality religious message, I can see little doubt that Thrive would also qualify. The British researcher I talked to put it in very stark terms. Thrive asks the question, “Why hasn’t this New Age consciousness shift occurred?” and then answers it by pointing a finger at the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and “bankers” and says, “It hasn’t happened because they prevented it.”

An Interesting Angle: Foster & Kimberly Gamble and the Gender Issue.

The Ward/Voas article makes a very interesting point about the gender dynamic within the emerging religion of conspirituality. I hope they won’t mind if I quote them again, because they say it better than I could:

“Notwithstanding these shared principles, there is a wide gulf between the ordinary understandings of conspiracy theory and the [New Age] milieu. The former is male-dominated, often conservative, generally pessimistic, and typically concerned with current affairs. The latter is predominantly female, liberal, self-consciously optimistic, and largely focused on the self and personal relationships. It is therefore far from obvious how a confluence of these two streams could be produced.”

I argue that the husband and wife team of Foster and Kimberly Gamble represents a living example of the union between these previously incompatible belief systems. Foster Gamble, obviously male, seems to be very conservative politically; he believes, for example, that taxation is theft (a classic Libertarian idea) and in Thrive he even denounces the very idea of democracy as a form of tyranny and oppression. [Note: in this discussion I am not conflating political conservatism with support of the mainstream Republican Party in the U.S. I am not alleging that Mr. Gamble is a Republican, just that he espouses at least some politically conservative ideas. They’re not the same thing, though they overlap to some degree]. Clearly Mr. Gamble is concerned with current affairs, and his outlook is relentlessly pessimistic, at least regarding the current state of the world. Kimberly Gamble, by contrast, is shown in Thrive as more of a touchy-feely figure. Her subjects of discussion regard holistic healing, health issues, etc. Also note that in the film Mrs. Gamble generally appears in a much more optimistic-looking setting (a home-like room drenched with light) whereas Foster Gamble usually appears, through bluescreen effects, to be hovering in a dark space.

I believe the husband-and-wife presentation of Thrive was carefully calculated to appeal to both sides of the conspirituality coin. A male figure who speaks well and appears friendly gives the message about evil conspiracies, then recommends the implementation of far right-wing Libertarian political ideology as a potential solution. A female figure, conveying a softer tone, speaks of personal issues and seems well-connected to the New Age milieu. Her message, even more than Mr. Gamble’s, seems to hinge upon belief and faith rather than fact and evidence.

Even beyond the gender dynamic, I believe there is also a generational dynamic. Foster Gamble is in his 50s. He claims in at least one interview to have learned about the principles of conspiracy thinking from his son, who must be in his 20s or 30s. That demographic—white males in their 20s and 30s, or even teens—are the key consumers of conspiracy theory material, which can be witnessed by noting that the overwhelming majority of members of the conspiracy-minded Zeitgeist Movement fall into this category. Foster and Kimberly Gamble may be positioning themselves as sort of a “mother and father” team, administering their philosophy to a global family of New Agers and conspiracy theorists.

The Future?

If Thrive is an exemplar of a conspirituality religious text, what does this mean for the future? How do those of us who still live in the rational world deal with the emergence of conspirituality?

I don’t know the answer to this. I find it interesting that academics are now beginning to study the phenomena that we (those of us who debunk conspiracy theories) have been noting for the past few years, the trend of groups and individuals, like Foster Gamble or Zeitgeist’s Peter Joseph, to use conspiracy theories as a marketing tool to gain adherents to a political, social or religious philosophy. That’s the change I wrote about in my article in February. Does this development make movies like Thrive more or less dangerous, divisive, harmful and irresponsible?

I think it might depend on how conspirituality continues to develop. If it becomes very clear to most people that what Thrive espouses is a religious belief system, people and society at large may come to accept it on those terms, which is fine. Some Christians believe the world was created in six 24-hour days, about 6,000 years ago; many Mormons believe that Joseph Smith actually found golden plates and that a civilization called the Nephites lived in what is now the western U.S. These are accepted as religious beliefs. If adherents of conspirituality believe that 9/11 was an inside job and that aliens create crop circles, I suppose it’s not so bad so long as people realize that these are religious beliefs, which exist in the realm of unfalsifiable phenomenon—faith, essentially—and do not rise to the level of empirical matters that must be proven by actual facts and evidence.

On the other hand, if adherents of conspirituality reject the conclusion that what they’re espousing are religious beliefs, and continue to insist that the things they believe are true as a matter of objective fact—and demand that society act on those matters as if they were fact—I could see this becoming a major societal problem in the decades to come. As a practical matter I don’t them agreeing passively that what they’re peddling is a religion. Believers in the Zeitgeist Movement, to use that as an example again, emphatically reject any suggestion that the organization they follow is a cult or some sort of quasi-religious belief system; they insist it’s based on fact, and they usually insist that the conspiracy theories upon which their movement is based are also facts.

Conversely, the vast majority of Thrive fans who have posted comments critical of this blog seem to believe, for whatever bizarre reason, that the assertions contained in the movie are factual, though I admit that many of them seem more interested in arguing the efficacy of the film’s or the filmmakers’ proposed solutions—the spiritual meat of conspirituality, in a sense—more than the facts. (This is why I get so many comments to the effect of, “Well, what are you doing to save the world?” or “Why don’t you do something more productive with your time?”) As I pointed out in my February article, the arena in which traditional fact-based debunkers have been battling conspiracy theorists over the past few years is rapidly shrinking—largely because conspiracy theorists have come to care less and less about, and swayed less and less by, matters of fact and evidence. It’s the faith and the beliefs that are important to them, not the facts. That’s a world I would rather not live in, but unfortunately I think that’s the world we’re headed for.

Conclusion

The main point of this article is this: I hypothesized some time ago that Thrive is essentially a religious text, proffering beliefs that are probably more correctly classified as tenets of faith rather than matters of fact, and I believe the Journal of Contemporary Religion article lends support to this hypothesis. Furthermore, the Ward/Voas article gives us a name for this emerging religion—conspirituality—and begins to lay an analytical framework for us to understand it.

Boiled down to its core essence, it’s a rather simple equation. New Age beliefs plus conspiracy theories equals conspirituality, a religious belief, and the Internet is conspirituality’s church. I think everyone who sees Thrive should be aware that, when they hear Mr. Gamble’s soothing voice and watch pretty CGI images of glowing purple space donuts, they may well be taking part in a sort of high-tech mass—an initiation rite into a new religious belief system. This system is not an organized church in any traditional sense, but I think the signs are becoming ever more clear that it is a religion, or starting to become one. Where this belief system will take its adherents in the future, no one yet knows.

Noted Canadian Skeptic Show Examines Thrive—And Tells the Truth.

A podcast called “Life, The Universe and Everything Else,” a program put on by the Winnipeg Skeptics association, has turned its sights on Thrive. I spent the morning listening to the podcast, and I recommend it very highly. You can play it from your computer here. The host of the show is Gem Newman (founder of Winnipeg Skeptics, computer science expert), and the guests include Gary Barbon, Mark Forkheim, Robert Shindler, Richelle McCullough and Greg Christiansen. You can see information on who these people are, and what their backgrounds are, here.

The Winnipeg Skeptics are a group of skeptics and critical thinkers who apply fact, logic and critical thinking to wild claims made on the Internet. Just as this blog has done since the beginning, the Skeptics have exhaustively examined Thrive and their review is, needless to say, highly negative. While they find some things to praise in the film, they are extremely critical of the film’s shoddy research, its trafficking in bizarre and divisive conspiracy theories, its promotion of far right-wing Libertarian propaganda, and its reductive and harmful worldview that obscures real problems of income inequality, political corruption and environmental degradation.

Thrive Debunked is mentioned prominently in the episode and I’m proud to say this site was used as a significant source to fact-check and analyze the film. You’ll see links to various articles here on the blog page discussing the episode.

At one point, Mr. Newman reads verbatim from the statement made by John Robbins repudiating Thrive and criticizing its conspiracy worldview—a statement published on this blog with Mr. Robbins’s permission.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, very little on the podcast will be news to you. But it is noteworthy that whenever anyone approaches Thrive with a desire to check its facts and think through its conclusions, they invariably conclude that it is faulty, false and dangerous. We can therefore add the Winnipeg Skeptics’ review to the lengthening list of similar reviews catalogued on this site, such as JREF’s, Transition Culture’s and the Praxis Institute’s.

Do give the podcast a listen. It’s very well-done.

Humanity and Sanity: The Full Text of John Robbins’s Repudiation of Thrive and its Conspiracy Theories.

Probably the single most important event in Thrive‘s short history was the announcement, on April 10, 2012, that nine of the people interviewed in the film had signed a letter repudiating it and claiming that Foster Gamble misrepresented the film to them. (A tenth signatory, Adam Trombly, later joined the letter). Those events as well as the Gambles’ response were covered on this blog as they happened. The architect of the repudiation letter was John Robbins, who was nice enough to write me a note a few months ago specifically expressing his displeasure with the conspiracy theories advanced in Thrive. I found Mr. Robbins’s reasons for opposing the movie closely congruent with my own.

Mr. Robbins recently contacted me with a revised and complete version of his letter regarding Thrive, which he titles “Humanity and Sanity.” Although many of the words and especially the sentiment of Mr. Robbins’s statement have been reproduced here before at Thrive Debunked, I feel it’s important to produce the entire text all in one place for you to see. I think this is the best and most coherent repudiation of Thrive that we’re ever likely to see. Therefore, I offer it to you full, unedited and unabridged.

I haven’t put Mr. Robbins’s letter in block quote format because it’s so long and it would be distracting to read. Everything below the line comes from John Robbins, not me. I thank him for making his letter available to me and giving me permission to post it in its entirety here.

___________________________________________________________

Humanity and Sanity: Standing for a Thriving World

(and challenging the Movie Thrive)

 By John Robbins

Thrive is the name of a richly produced and controversial film that asks, and attempts to answer, some of the deepest questions about the nature of the human condition and what is thwarting our chances to prosper.  Elaborately funded, with appealing imagery and beautiful music, it features interviews with many leading progressive voices.  And yet ten of these leaders have taken the highly unusual step of signing a statement formally disassociating ourselves from the film.

Why have Amy Goodman, Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, Edgar Mitchell, Vandana Shiva, John Perkins, Elisabet Sahtouris, Duane Elgin and Adam Trombly, as well as yours truly, gone to the trouble of signing our names to this public statement?

“We are a group of people who were interviewed for and appear in the movie Thrive, and who hereby publicly disassociate ourselves from the film.

Thrive is a very different film from what we were led to expect when we agreed to be interviewed.  We are dismayed that we were not given a chance to know its content until the time of its public release. We are equally dismayed that our participation is being used to give credibility to ideas and agendas that we see as dangerously misguided.

We stand by what each of us said when we were interviewed.  But we have grave disagreements with some of the film’s content and feel the need to make this public statement to avoid the appearance that our presence in the film constitutes any kind of endorsement.”

I have joined the other signers of this statement, even though there are aspects of the film that I find inspiring, and even though the makers of the film, Foster and Kimberly Gamble, are old friends.

In Thrive, the Gambles have attempted to address some of the crucial challenges of our times.  I appreciate their idealism, their commitment, and their passion.  And I agree with them about some things they state in the movie and on their website — such as that the political system is depraved, the Federal Reserve has been used to consolidate economic power, fiat currency tends to produce a corrupt financial system that depends on ever increasing debt, the tax system is unfair, and enormously powerful economic interests often collude with one another to deceive and defraud the public.  I stand with them as they promote the labeling of genetically engineered foods and in their desire to see our nation cease spending enormous sums on war.  I appreciate that they support local and organic agriculture, their passion for credit unions and local banking, and their opposition to governmental invasion of privacy.  They recommend many action steps that I support.

But I do not agree with some of the core conclusions they draw.  Nor do the other signers of the statement of disassociation from Thrive.  Duane Elgin, one of the signers, says: “Thrive is idealistic, naive, narrow, shallow, and focuses attention away from more productive areas of engagement.”

At the very heart of the Thrive message is what it calls the Global Domination Agenda.  Foster Gamble explains:

“A small group of families are actually controlling virtually every sector of human endeavor…  Their agenda… (is) to take over the lives of all people across the entire planet… to collapse the economies throughout the European Union… to devalue the dollar to almost zero… and to create a one-world government, with them in charge.”

The Thrive movie and website also state that this “small group of families” are developing and experimenting with plans to radically reduce the world’s human population to make us “easier to manage.”

Could this be true?

There is no doubt that staggering wealth and power is today concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of humanity.  The combined net worth of the world’s richest thousand or so people — the planet’s billionaires — is almost twice that of the poorest 2.5 billion.  I believe this disparity to be nothing less than an indictment of our civilization.

It is also certain that networks exist among the most powerful that enable a remarkably few people to shape the world’s economy, to determine what is known and what is not, which views are accepted and which are not, and what priorities and policies will prevail.  More than most of us realize, they decide whether we will live in war or peace and how our treasure will be spent.  And they have proven to be eminently successful at enriching themselves, often at the expense of the common good.  Exposing the global power elite is tremendously important work.  And this, Thrive purports to do.

But the Thrive movie and website are filled with dark and unsubstantiated assertions about secret and profoundly malevolent conspiracies that distract us from the real work at hand.  The conspiracy theories at the heart of Thrive are based on an ultimate division between “us” and “them.”  “We” are many and well-meaning but victimized.  “They,” on the other hand, are a tiny, greedy and inconceivably powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who are deliberately destroying the world economy in order to achieve total world domination.

This way of thinking has an allure, for it distracts and absolves us from the troubling truth that the real source of the problem is in all of us, and in the economic systems we have collectively produced.  If the ills of the world are the deliberate intentions of malevolent beings, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our problems because they are being done to us.  Thinking this way may provide the momentary comfort of feeling exonerated, but it is ultimately disempowering, because it undermines our desire to be accountable for the way our own thoughts and actions help to create the environmental degradation and vast social inequity of the world in which we live.  As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”

The Thrive movie has lavish production values, and presents interviews with many leaders in the consciousness movement, all of which lend a beguiling aura of credibility.  Foster Gamble himself comes across as soft, warm, and inquiring.  Those who have only seen the film may not recognize the agenda and belief system that actually underlie Thrive.

For example, Foster Gamble says that the Japanese earthquake that caused the tsunami that wreaked havoc on the nuclear plants inFukushimawas deliberately created by those seeking absolute world domination, in order to punish the Japanese for not acceding to their wishes.  He explains that “they” are able to use an electromagnetic array project inAlaskacalled HAARP to create earthquakes and tsunamis at will, anywhere on earth.  The catastrophic earthquakes that devastated Haiti and Chile in 2010, he says, were intentionally created via HAARP.  According to this view, these earthquakes were not the result of tectonic stresses and geologic processes.  They were intentional acts perpetrated by a ruling elite with unimaginably sinister intent.

I’m tempted to think that Foster Gamble has watched too many James Bond movies.  But the level of diabolical malevolence in the Thrive worldview makes the villains in James Bond movies seem like Mother Teresa in comparison.

There are many things that are terribly wrong in our world, and some of them are dire.  All living creatures are poisoned and compromised by surging levels of human-made toxins that spew into our environment, relatively unchecked.  We are experiencing unprecedented levels of heart disease, cancer, obesity and childhood diabetes.  Our financial institutions and to a large extent our political system have been hijacked by greedy and at times even sociopathic individuals who seem to feel no sense of responsibility to the well being of the whole.  The world’s military industrial complex is spending more money than ever on guns, bombs, and the machinery of unfathomable destructive power, while governments learn little about how to make peace and hundreds of millions of people go hungry.

But holding these tragedies as the deliberate acts of a tiny group of families seeking total world domination via a global police state distracts us from the arduous work of confronting the true challenges before us.

For example, as an environmentalist I heed the monumental evidence that global warming may be one of the most serious threats faced by humanity and many of the other species on this planet.  Those who have merely seen the movie might not know that Foster Gamble and the Thrive website strongly recommend a film (The Great Global Warming Swindle) which states that man-made global warming is a “lie” and “the biggest scam of modern times.”

The Thrive website opens its climate change discussion with this question:

“How does the premise of man-made global warming relate to the banking elite’s effort to transcend national sovereignty, establish global governance and create a global tax to fund their dominance?”

The insinuation is that the idea of human-caused global warming is being fabricated as an excuse to create a global police state and a tax basis for tyranny.  If this is true, just about every scientific expert in the world has been taken in by the hoax.  A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent of scientific experts agree that it is…

“very likely that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases have been responsible for the unequivocal warming of most of the Earth’s global temperature in the second half of the 20th century.”

It has been personally painful for me to witness friends of mine become caught up in seeing just about everything on earth as part of a vast demonic conspiracy.  When I wrote Foster Gamble to voice my disappointment with many of the ideas in the film and website, he wrote back, encouraging me among other things to study the works of David Icke, Eustace Mullins, Stanley Monteith and G. Edward Griffin.  These are among the people he repeatedly refers to in the movie as his “sources.” It is in these people’s worldviews that Thrive has its roots.

I find this deeply disturbing.  Here’s why…

David Icke is a major player in Thrive.  In fact, he is featured more prominently in the movie than anyone other than Foster Gamble.  An extended interview with him, intercut with supporting material, forms much of the middle section of the film.

Though this is not mentioned in Thrive, Icke is well-known for advocating utterly bizarre theories, including that the entire world is run by a secret group of reptilian humanoids who drink human blood and conduct satanic rituals.  Forty-threeU.S. Presidents, he says, have been such reptilian beings, and many of them have been part of global satanic pedophile rings that murder hundreds of thousands of children a year.  I wish I was making this despicable stuff up, but I’m not.  This is what Icke teaches.

What is Thrive’s relationship to these beliefs?  Foster Gamble explains:

“In our film, we do not go into his (Icke’s) research on reptilians, nor his immensely important investigations into global satanic pedophile rings, because it does not serve our film.  That does not mean that revealing what is happening to hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable every year should not be exposed and stopped.”

Icke’s war on common sense goes even further.  He says that the Global Elite’s plan for world domination was laid bare in a document titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  This document is actually a notorious hoax, published inRussia around 1903.  It supposedly presents a plan by the Jewish people to take over the world, and was a primary justification used by Adolph Hitler as he initiated the Holocaust.  This fraudulent document was also used to justify the violent pogroms and massacres of the Jewish people in pre-SovietRussia.

How anyone could take seriously a man who espouses such “information” is beyond me.  Thrive not only takes Icke seriously, but relies more heavily on his “insights” than on any other source, both in the movie and as a source of “data” for its website.

In a recent interview, Icke seemed to be competing for lunatic of the year:  “What I’m explaining now,” he said, “is that the moon is not a heavenly body but a construct.”

One of the signers of the statement of disassociation from Thrive, former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, has grounds to disagree.  As the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14, he spent nine hours working on the moon’s surface.

Another of Thrive’s primary sources, and another of the authors Foster Gamble told me I should read in order to better understand Thrive, is Eustace Mullins.  I honestly find it difficult to convey the level of anti-semitism in Mullins’s books, without it seeming that I am exaggerating.  So I will let Mullins’s own words speak for themselves:

“We must remember that there is no Jewish crime per se, since the existence of the Jewish parasite on the host is a crime against nature, because its existence imperils the health and life of the host…

This religious ceremony of drinking the blood of an innocent gentile child is basic to the Jew’s entire concept of his existence as a parasite, living off the blood of the host…

The Jews do not want anyone to know what Nazism is. Nazism is simply this–a proposal that the German people rid themselves of the parasitic Jews. The gentile host dared to protest against the continued presence of the parasite, and attempted to throw it off.”

The title of one of Eustace Mullins’s books is: Hitler, An Appreciation.  While Foster Gamble evidently believes that Mullins has shed valuable light on banking systems and other aspects of the “Global Domination Agenda,” I have no interest in looking to such individuals for insight into anything.

The Gambles state that they do not necessarily agree with all of the thoughts and beliefs of their sources, but rather that they have incorporated only those ideas they find useful and with which they agree.  I’m sure the Gambles do not condone Mullins’ overt anti-semitism, but I find it disturbing that the thinking of these men has been used as the foundation for some of the key ideas presented in Thrive.  While I do not believe the Gambles are themselves guilty of anti-semitism, I do believe they are naïve and gullible, and that in depending heavily on sources such as Icke and Mullins they have unwittingly allowed anti-semitism to become a subtext in their work.

As journalist Eric Johnson points out, viewers of the movie may not realize that Gamble’s central thesis, that a handful of families, many of them Jewish, control the world and plan to enslave humanity, is nearly identical to the argument that Joseph Goebbels made in his notorious Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew: that a handful of banking families, many of them Jewish, run the world and seek global domination.

Two of the other sources that Foster Gamble recommended to me so that I might better understand the philosophical underpinnings of Thrive are Stanley Monteith and G. Edward Griffin.  Monteith, who happens to be a neighbor of mine, has long been involved with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and professes that the environmental movement is a pretext for the effort to create a global police state.  The author of two books on AIDS, he says “the vast majority of AIDS information available to the American public has only one purpose – and that purpose is to deceive the people of our nation.”  Monteith’s answer?  He calls for schools to “abandon all comprehensive sex education” in favor of “abstinence only sex instruction.”

G. Edward Griffin is showcased in both the Thrive movie and website.  Both he and Monteith have long been members and officers of the John Birch Society, a far-right political organization that first came to public attention when one of its founders, Robert W. Welch, proclaimed that Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the genial war hero and popular President he seemed, but rather “a conscious, dedicated agent of the international communist conspiracy.”  G. Edward Griffin has written an admiring biography of Welch, who co-founded the John Birch Society along with Fred Koch, the father of today’s notorious Koch Brothers.

Both Thrive and the John Birch Society view government, in Welch’s words, “as always and inevitably an enemy of individual freedom.”  And both see a small group of families, including the Rockefellers and Rothschilds, as behind an utterly malevolent conspiracy seeking total global domination.  The Thrive website features this statement from the second president of the John Birch Society, Larry McDonald:

“The drive of the Rockefellers and their allies is to create a one-world government…all under their control… Do I mean conspiracy?  Yes I do.  I am convinced there is such a plot, international in cope, generations old in planning, and incredibly evil in intent.”

There are only a few of the ultra-right wing sources whose ideas and agendas pervade Thrive.  Another is the economist Ludwig von Mises, whose words and beliefs are cited frequently and sympathetically on the Thrive website.  Many Americans first learned of von Mises when Michele Bachman, seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency, said she read his books at the beach.  Von Mises’s brand of laissez-faire capitalism is hard-core.  In his eyes, nearly all government intervention in the economy is strictly verboten, and taxes are a crime against freedom.

Buoyed by lush visual effects and lovely words, the Thrive film has been attractive to many who know how often we are deceived and exploited by the powers that shouldn’t be.  “In times of universal deceit,” wrote George Orwell, “telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”

But what is the revolution Thrive would bring?  Both the Thrive movie and website call for the end of taxation even for the rich.  Thrive’s goal is a world in which public schools and welfare programs, including social security, have been terminated.  Instead of police, we have private security forces.  As Foster Gamble puts it, “Private security works way better than the state.”

That may be true for the rich who can pay for it.  But who, I might ask, would pay to protect low-income communities if all security was privatized?

Eventually, if Foster Gamble had his way and the Thrive vision was fully manifest, there would be no taxes, no government, and everything would be privately owned, including roads.  “It’s clear that when you drive into a shopping center you are on a private road, and almost without exception it is in great shape,” explains the Thrive website, as though a free market unfettered by concern for the 99 percent would somehow magically meet the needs of all.

I am saddened to see Foster Gamble, an heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune, so oblivious to the realities of those who do not share his privileges.  If all roads are privatized, how will the poor get anywhere?

It is hard to overstate how opposed Thrive is to taxes, even on the ultra-wealthy.  To Foster Gamble’s eyes, any form of government that depends on taxation, including democracy, is unconscionable.  He writes on the Thrive website:

“Democracy…which is born of and sustains itself by taking people’s hard-earned money, whether they like it or not, and calling it ‘taxation,’ – is in and of itself a violation [against life].”

No wonder Amy  Goodman, who appears in the film, is one of the signers of the statement repudiating Thrive.  She has long been the host of what may be the most significant progressive news institution of our time.  While Thrive finds democracy abhorrent because it depends on taxation, her outstanding program is called Democracy Now.

How, you might be asking, did those of us who have signed the statement of disassociation from Thrive ever allow ourselves to be filmed for a movie that advances such ideas?  The answer is simple.  We were grievously misled about what the film would be.

I want to underscore that although I think the Gambles are promoting a destructive agenda (which they kept secret from those of who were interviewed for their film), I do not think either Foster or his wife Kimberly are sinister or malicious, which is why it has been a very painful process for me to write this critique.  I have known them to be kind people who mean well, and I have long considered Kimberly in particular to be one of my closest friends.  But I have found it necessary to speak out in this way, because some of the ideas at the heart of Thrive strike me as frightening and misguided, and they most certainly are not ones with which I or the other signers of the disassociation statement can condone.

I have spent decades exposing and seeking to undermine powerful industries whose ways of doing business are diametrically opposed to the public welfare.  In my view, the deregulation of the economy and the demolition of government programs that Thrive proposes, would take us even further in the direction of a winner-take-all economy in which wealth would concentrate even more in the hands of the financial elites.

As one of the signers of the disassociation statement, evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris, writes:

“Without community, we do not exist, and community is about creating relationships of mutual benefit.  It does not just happen with flowers and rainbows, and no taxes.”

Each of us who have signed the statement have dedicated our lives to creating and conveying positive visions of how to create a truly thriving, just and sustainable way of life.  We have been part of vast movements toward generating a human presence on this planet that is spiritually fulfilling, socially just, and environmentally responsible.  We do not want to see our names, reputations, and influence used to fuel unsubstantiated claims or misguided policies.  We want to see them used to strengthen individuals and communities, and to serve the ability each of us possesses to live with respect for ourselves, for one another, and for the truth of our interdependence.

As another of the signers, Paul Hawken, writes:

“The world is riven by people who are convinced they are right, while others are wrong.  Dualism permeates political, economic, cultural and religious conflict.  It is the true source of suffering and the despoliation of the world.  This wound cannot be healed by the us/them divisions that inform Thrive.  Evil most certainly exists, but the core of evil is ignorance, and it cannot be repelled by righteousness or by making others wrong.  It is only through compassion that we can create true transformation.”

We do not deny the evil in the world.  It is here and it is real.  But there is also hope here, and it too is real.

It is hope that believes we can build trust, build community, and build a better world.  Such hope is not the blind belief in something which has little possibility of ever materializing.  It is the hope which remains open to miracles while investing the sweat and perseverance to lend the Universe a hand in creating those miracles.  It is the hope that is borne from knowing that it is far too late, and our situation far too serious, to indulge in the luxuries of pessimism, paranoia, and finger-pointing.

The state of the world is perilous.  But it is not too late to love, not too late to work to realize our dreams, and not too late to believe in ourselves and each other.

In the end, we are all in this together.  Each step you take to lessen the amount of fear in yourself and the world brings us closer to a world reflective of the beauty that exists — sometimes buried and other times apparent — in each of us.  Every act you take that increases the amount of trust and compassion in your relationships helps us move from a world created by privilege to a world created by community.

As the poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed.  I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

Thrive, Zeitgeist and the Illusion of Conspiracy Activism.

Although the main objective of Thrive is informational—to disseminate conspiracy theories and promote right-wing libertarian political ideology—it cannot be ignored that Thrive’s makers and a lot of its supporters say they want to take action. On this very blog Foster Gamble, creator of Thrive, has dismissed the utility of discussing the factual errors and distortions in his film, in favor of “creating solutions.” Unfortunately, the “solutions” that Thrive fans say they want are aimed overwhelmingly at exposing and combating the various conspiracy theories that the film asserts exist. This is the central tragedy of conspiracy thinking—that it diverts people’s energies and attentions away from solving real problems in the real world, and instead motivates them to solve fake problems endemic to the fantasy world in which conspiracy theorists dwell.

This article will discuss the phenomena of what I call “conspiracy activism.” Thrive is not the first conspiracy movie to spark an activist response. Mr. Gamble’s film exists in the context of a conspiracist underground that has, in recent years, been rapidly transformed by the Internet, and is continuing to evolve quickly. I wrote about this in an article over at my other blog, which I also publicized on this one. You can consider this article to be sort of a companion piece to that one.

What Is The “Thrive Movement” And What Is It Actually Doing?

Before we get to the topic of conspiracy activism in general, let’s look at what “solutions” the Thrive people are promoting. There is no “Thrive Movement” to speak of in any real sense. Foster Gamble is not, so far as I can tell, attempting to exert any sort of real control over the activities or direction of the film’s fans, and I’ve seen no evidence that the fans of the movie are trying to organize themselves.

Clicking the “Solutions” tab on the Thrive website unleashes a dizzying avalanche of propaganda. The vast majority of it is right-wing libertarian propaganda, such as the “Liberty” page which assaults the reader with political diatribes studded with quotes from libertarian deities like Stefan Molyneux, Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. Although Thrive’s political agenda is a serious issue, we and others have dealt with it before. The key message is “vote for libertarians,” and thus we’ll leave the film’s political advocacy at that.

More interesting are the “Critical Mass Actions” tabs. Here the Thrive people have listed twelve specific campaigns they’re promoting, with icons where you (as an Internet user) can “sign up” or else embed the icon itself on another site. If you click the icons so sign up, it produces a box where you fill in your email info and hit submit. Almost all of the links included in the “Critical Mass Actions” sections are to websites or online petitions. Of these twelve campaigns, two are anti-Federal Reserve; three are related to protesting GMO food; two relate to “free energy” devices; two are protests of “chemtrails,” a conspiracy theory promoted by the film; one is anti-nuclear power; one is “protect Internet freedom”; and one protests resource extraction on Native American lands.

The Federal Reserve is what Thrive identifies as the linchpin of a worldwide conspiracy theory to enslave the globe through the use of deceptive currency practices. We debunked the film’s money conspiracy theories here. “Free energy” does not exist, as we have also demonstrated. “Chemtrails” have not been debunked on this site, but they’ve been amply debunked elsewhere; it’s abundantly clear that “chemtrails” are a total fantasy. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to oppose GMO foods, but Thrive couches its criticism of such foods in expressly conspiratorial terms; they think it’s some weird kind of plot aimed at killing people with poisons in the food.

These issues account for nine of the twelve “Critical Mass Actions.” Of the twelve, only three—anti-nuclear power, protecting Internet freedom, and protesting resource extraction on Native American lands—are not somehow addressing the conspiracy theories the film promotes.

Ironically, it is one of these three non-conspiratorial solutions—the Internet freedom icon—that had the most people (5,547 on the day I checked) signed up.

When it comes to what these “Critical Mass Actions” actually are, the website is extremely vague. Here’s what it says when you click on a question about “how do you know when an action reaches critical mass?”

“As actions gain momentum and the most popular ones become apparent we will set a target number for “critical mass.” We will keep in touch via email to make sure you know when we’re approaching critical mass. What determines an effective “critical mass” will vary according to the nature of the action to be taken. The critical mass number will be announced as far in advance as possible and will be determined by what would create significant impact and assure optimal security for participants.”

That’s it. You’ll get an email once they decide how many people they need. In the meantime, it’s a lot of Internet petitions and “getting the word out.” That’s what the Thrive Movement is doing—that, and organizing local screenings of the film itself. The act of promoting Thrive is itself treated as a form of activism to which fans should aspire.

Is This Real Activism?

No. The “solutions” offered on Thrive’s website are ineffective in changing anything in the real world for two reasons: first, the vast majority of them are aimed at ameliorating conspiracy theories that don’t exist; and second, even for the non-conspiratorial goals, there is no actual real-world activity being proposed. Thrive’s brand of activism is a complete chimera.

Take chemtrails, for example. We know for a fact that chemtrails do not exist. The elaborate narrative that conspiracy theorists construct—that a “Global Domination Elite” is spraying chemicals into the sky to sicken and kill people deliberately—is simply fantasy. Yet, Mr. Gamble wants to “Expose Chemtrails With a Mass Protest at NOAA Offices.” Even assuming that legions of Thrive fans get organized and storm NOAA’s headquarters, what effect is this going to have? NOAA can’t do anything because there’s nothing to do anything about. Chemtrails do not exist. This is a “solution” that, even if it’s pulled off, will accomplish exactly zero, except wasting the time of the people involved.

As to the second criticism, it’s difficult to see how these “Critical Mass Actions” will have any effect regardless of the goals they’re aimed at. Take for example the critical mass action about stopping the environmental poisoning of Native American communities—which is a goal I think most people would agree with, and is one of the few that isn’t specifically directed at a conspiracy theory. Here’s what Foster Gamble wants you to click to sign up for:

“In the US, indigenous lands are being exploited and targeted by big business for resource extraction, nuclear dumping, and more. There are proposals for coal, oil, gold and copper mines, coal bed methane, natural gas “fracking,” and nuclear storage that threaten these communities and the environment.  This is a chance to stand up for Native American rights and show that we are committed not just to apologizing for past wrongs, but ending the violations that continue to this day.”

Okay…but how? What does this actually mean?

What are the Thrive fans going to do? There’s no protest march planned. There’s no letter-writing campaign. There’s no attempt to introduce legislation or lobby lawmakers. There’s no fundraiser. There’s no outreach to any of the Native American communities impacted by resource extraction. There’s not even a link to an online petition, as there is for the “End the Fed” suggestion. There is exactly…nothing.

You click on, sign up and get an email. That’s it.

In the meantime—or, should I say, in the real world—if you care about resource extraction harming Native American communities, there are real people doing real things to try to stop this. In less than five minutes of searching online I came across this site for the Wolf River Protection Fund which is seeking to buy key lands to protect the watersheds and wetlands related to Native American communities in Wisconsin. One of the tribes associated with this fund recently celebrated a huge victory by buying out—yes, actually buying out—a mining company that was planning to mine near their lands. That’s activism. Not just clicking on a website—but actually sending your dollars to an organization that is taking action to make a real-world impact. And yes, the Wolf River Protection Fund does take donations.

Thrive isn’t doing anything even close to this.

So If They’re Not Making a Difference In the Real World, What Are They Doing?

They’re promoting conspiracy theories and related ideology—in Thrive’s case, right-wing libertarian ideology. The promotion of the ideology is the ultimate point of the activism.

This is understandable, if you analyze the thought processes of Thrive’s makers and fans from the standpoint of their conspiracy beliefs. They believe that all or most of the world’s problems stem from actions taken in secret by groups of shadowy conspirators. How best to combat these actions? Expose the secrets and shine a light on the conspirators. Then, it is presumed, the nefarious activity will end, and things will get better.

Seen from this standpoint, the act of exposure is the most important action. Therefore, most of a conspiracy theorist’s preferred “solutions” for solving problems start and end from a “get the word out” type paradigm. Indeed, most of the nine conspiracy-oriented Critical Mass Action suggestions on the Thrive website are aimed at information exposure or gaining visibility for something. This is classic conspiracy activism.

Why Do Conspiracy Theorists Engage in Conspiracy Activism?

It used to be that conspiracy theorists weren’t activists. There were certainly groups of them, and there have been conspiracy-related newsletters—especially related to the JFK assassination—circulating for decades. But traditionally they didn’t try to reach out to the mainstream or get others to join them.

That changed with 9/11. The purveyors of conspiracy theories related to the 9/11 attacks—especially Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin—changed the stakes in the mid-2000s by waging concerted, energized campaigns to try to increase the exposure of their conspiracy theories and encourage people to believe in them. Ultimately their success was only temporary; as I pointed out in an earlier blog here, contrary to something Foster Gamble says in Thrive, fewer people believe that “9/11 was an inside job” today than have so believed at any time since 9/11 itself. However, the conspiracy activism of 9/11 Truthers upped the ante and set a new paradigm, vastly aided by the rise of the Internet: if you believe in conspiracy theories, now you’re expected to go out there in public and try to get others to believe in them as well.

As the conspiracy world has changed, and (as I argued in February) conspiracy theorists have gone from defining “victory” as increasing the numbers who believe their theories to selling prepackaged ideologies, the activism component remains. Now what conspiracy theorists are selling are the ideologies, not the theories, but they’re still self-motivated to try to proselytize in exactly the same was Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin did with their nonsense 9/11 theories. I argued in the February blog that it was Zeitgeist: The Movie and its conspiracy-activist offshoot, the Zeitgeist Movement, that cemented this development into the basic blueprint of future conspiracy endeavors.

As there are many instructive lessons for evaluating Thrive inherent in the Zeitgeist story, let’s turn to that next.

Why Conspiracy Activism is Pointless: The Example of the Zeitgeist Movement.

One of the first statements I ever made about Thrive was that it appeared to be “Zeitgeist 2.0.” Clearly the movie imitates a lot of features of Peter Joseph’s notoriously fact-free 2007 Internet conspiracy film Zeitgeist, and even the suggestion of a “Thrive Movement,” aping the Zeitgeist Movement, indicates a kindred spirit.

The Zeitgeist Movement, founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph, attempted to capitalize on the interest generated among conspiracy theorists from the first Zeitgeist film to sell a neo-Utopian ideology called the Venus Project, which resembles late-stage Marxism except with computers and technology in the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The problem with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, however, was that support for the non-conspiratorial (but deeply flawed) “Resource Based Economy” paradigm was built entirely on the backs of conspiracist beliefs and the popularity of Zeitgeist: The Movie. Most fans joined the Zeitgeist Movement because they were attracted by the conspiracy explanations; to the extent the movement’s leaders could motivate them to care about the Venus Project and a Resource Based Economy for its own sake, it was mainly presented as a “cure” for all those horrible conspiracies. As a result, “get the word out” type activist projects meant to promote the Venus Project and Resource Based Economy became increasingly conflated with promoting the Zeitgeist movies and its conspiracy worldview.

The Zeitgeist Movement imploded in April 2011 when the Venus Project side of the organization divorced itself from the group as a result of a dispute over donations. Since then the Zeitgeist Movement has dwindled to an insignificant core of high-commitment fans who do little more than post occasional comments on blogs or YouTube videos. (Zeitgeist Movement supporters constantly show up on the Thrive website comments, still valiantly trying to sell their Resource Based Economy shtick. Few Thrive fans are buying). The Zeitgeist Movement’s attempts at conspiracy activism could never effectively outpace the reach of the films themselves. Unlike the Thrive Movement, the Zeitgeist Movement did have a central, engaged, hands-on leader who directed the group; in fact that was one of its downfalls, because Peter Joseph’s inept leadership of the group transformed it into something very much like a cult surrounding him personally and his films.

The failure of the Zeitgeist Movement can teach Thrive fans an important lesson: that conspiracy activism is inherently self-limiting. Five years after its release, Zeitgeist: The Movie is now old news. Most conspiracy theorists have seen it. The sequels which completed the Resource Based Economy narrative could barely achieve a tiny fraction of the impact that the first film had, because the second and third Zeitgeist films dealt much less with conspiracy theories. Essentially, when Zeitgeist stopped talking about conspiracy theories, the Internet stopped listening. With the market of potential converts already saturated, the Zeitgeist Movement sputtered into oblivion. Once you “get the word out” about your pet conspiracy theories or the ideology you’re promoting by using conspiracy theories, where do you go from there? Zeitgeist couldn’t answer this question. It’s unlikely Thrive will be able to either.

Does Clicking Links, Watching Videos and Signing Online Petitions Really Help?

There’s another more fundamental reason why Thrive’s conspiracy activism will have no real-world impact other than to “get the word out” about what they think the world is like. Most of the consumers of this material, especially those who are heavy Internet users, aren’t really willing to do more than click links, watch videos and sign online petitions. Very, very few of them will actually be motivated to go out of their homes and do something in the real (non-cyber) world. This is just a fact of life. If you put a website up about any cause, however well-intentioned, the more you actually have to do to take action on it, the fewer people you’ll have who will make the effort. People click “like” buttons and share links because it’s easy and they can do it in the flash of an eye. Only the truly devoted will be motivated to get in their cars and go to a preplanned event; fewer still will do that if it will cost them money. This is a self-limiting factor of Internet activism.

The problem is even worse when the main audience you’re preaching to consists of conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are notoriously lazy. Few of them, for example, can even be motivated enough by their beliefs even to pick up a book and read it. To them, videos on the Internet are just as good as books, and they require much less effort to comprehend. Most conspiracy theorists have virtually no awareness of the depth of knowledge the world contains beyond the Internet or how to access that knowledge. Many of them live their lives in an online bubble; if it’s not happening on the web, it’s not worth knowing about. If this is the crowd you’re trying to draw activists from, the chances of finding supporters who are high-commitment enough to meet in person, put together a viable plan of action on something and see it through to the end are much reduced.

That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. In the heyday of 9/11 Truth theories, for example, hundreds of Truthers would gather at Ground Zero in New York City and harass people by shouting conspiracy garbage at them through bullhorns. But what did they do beyond that? Note that even this real-world activity is just another species of “getting the word out,” albeit in an extremely destructive, annoying and disagreeable way that turned off and angered far more people than it attracted. Even the 9/11 Truth organizations, like the ridiculous “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth”—clearly an organization created by the most high-commitment supporters of the conspiracy theory—continue to focus their efforts on “getting the word out” as opposed to actually doing anything. In the very, very few instances where they do try something other than “getting the word out”—like filing a lawsuit, as one group of 9/11 Truthers attempted—they always meet with spectacular failure.

Activism in the real world is hard. It takes money, time, effort and competent people to guide the activity toward any real goal. Conspiracy theorists are mostly kids. They don’t have a lot of money. What time they have they usually spent on the Internet. Exerting real-world effort happens in a few rare cases, but not very often. Competent people who can actually think something through and put something together are about as rare in this subculture as blue diamonds.

As a result, conspiracy theorists rationalize. They lower the bar and define what they are willing to do as “activism.” Thus, the sort of low-intensity effort that they can get many people to do—clicking “like” buttons, sharing links, watching videos and signing online petitions—becomes, in their minds, a substitute for real-world activism. In an endeavor where “getting the word out” has already been defined as the major goal, getting 10,000 people to click a “like” button becomes the equivalent of a smashing victory for right and justice.

Conclusion: Do You Really Want to Help?

This article has demonstrated why conspiracy activism is pointless and counterproductive. I can hear the shouts from angry Thrive fans now: “Why don’t you stop blogging and do something that actually helps?” (This assumes that I do nothing but write blogs all day—obviously an incorrect assumption).

What can you do to make the world a better place instead of watching Internet conspiracy videos or wasting time on the Thrive website (or this one)?

Here’s something you can do: give blood. This is one of the easiest things you can do, and one which has a huge real-world impact—you can literally save someone’s life. Here’s a website where you can type in your zip code and find out where to go in your area to give blood.

http://www.redcrossblood.org/

Here’s something you can do: become a tutor for adult literacy. You can find organizations that do this all over the country. Here’s just one example, from Florida.

http://www.adultliteracyleague.org/volunteers/orientation.html

Here’s something you can do: get a group of people together and assemble care packages of medical supplies for AIDS sufferers in Africa. This has been a hugely successful program. It also has real-world impacts. Here’s how to get involved.

http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/getinvolved/caregiver-kits-church-volunteer-activity

Here’s something you can do: donate money to the American Indian College Fund. This fund helps people from America’s least-college-educated demographic get access to higher education. This helps real people in the real world. Here’s how to donate:

http://www.collegefund.org/content/donate

There you go. Stop watching Internet conspiracy movies and go do some good in the world. You have no excuse now.

Foster Gamble Responds: Thrive and its Solutions are (Evidently) Only For Conspiracy Theorists.

Foster Gamble, the man behind the Thrive documentary, has responded to the open letter I addressed to him last week as well as other statements I’ve made on this blog. He responded in the form of a comment to the blog. I’m going to reproduce the text of Mr. Gamble’s statement in its entirety here in this article. Then, at the end, I will offer my own remarks in response.

Note: some commenters have taken Mr. Gamble to task by putting many of his thoughts in all caps, as if he is shouting. I don’t see it that way. Just how the blog comment system works on WordPress, there was really no other way for him to set off his text from words of mine that he was responding to.

Further note: Mr. Gamble’s statement contains some quotations of mine. Below the line that appears beneath this paragraph, all the words that are not set off in blockquotes are Foster Gamble’s (until we get to my remarks), and the ones in blockquotes are from me. I just want to state this to avoid confusion.

_____________________________________________

Mr. Dead Ones (Muertos)

I was told before launching THRIVE that I would know we were having significant impact when debunkers started devoting entire websites to negative-only commentary. So I guess I should thank you for fulfilling that role.

You claim there are no real conspiracies – despite vast documentation and court cases. You state there are no real zero point energy devices – despite a huge number of eyewitnesses, gag orders, court cases etc. You write off the possibility of contact with UFOs / ET – despite thousands of credible reports, hundreds of hours of footage, over 500 high level military, government, pilot and FAA accounts, and other country’s formal acknowledgement of UFO’s. You seem to think there is not any chance we could actually thrive with freedom for EVERYONE.

Clearly, we disagree. That’s fine- I just wonder what you base your opinions on?

If our predicament on this planet is the result of coincidence and incompetence, why do you hide your true identity? You claim to be afraid of repercussions from actually taking a transparent stand – Afraid of whom? What integrity is there is hiding and then deliberately trying to thwart the efforts of those who would transparently stand for our values, for deeper truths and for new paradigm solutions? I believe such cowardice and shortsightedness feed into the much more dangerous looming police state that you end up supporting through your denial.

If there is no destructive conspiracy to be concerned about and if you are sincere, why not just post your real name, picture, bio and affiliations?

I highly recommend that you take a fraction of the vast amount of time you put into creating only negative and baseless smears against THRIVE and actually do some real investigation so that we can engage in an informed dialog that will add something of value in these perilous times.

I am pausing to take some time to expose some of your most blatant misrepresentations of THRIVE. My input to your assessment is in all caps below.

“How Does Thrive Divert Attention from Real Problems?

Thrive is deeply misguided because it’s diverting its viewers’ attention away from the real solutions that we must pursue to these very real problems. My core grievance with conspiracy theories is that they are false.”

FG – I UNDERSTAND THAT YOU RELY ON COINCIDENCE THEORY AND NOTIONS OF GOVERNMENT INCOMPETENCE TO EXPLAIN THE CONSOLIDATION OF POWER THAT HAS THE MAJORITY OF THE WORLD IN SHACKLES AND AMERICA CAREENING TOWARD A POLICE STATE. I USED TO BELIEVE THAT ALSO. THEN I IMMERSED MYSELF IN RESEARCH AND FOUND CREDIBLE EVIDENCE ACTUALLY MADE MORE SENSE THAN THE MODEL OF INTERPRETATION YOU ARE RELYING ON. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THESE “33 CONSPIRACIES THAT TURNED OUT TO BE TRUE? http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread531572/pg1

“However, it’s the effect of that falsity in the real world which is why opposing conspiracy theories matters. Conspiracy thinking reduces the world into a simplistic black-and-white, good-versus-evil, lightworkers-versus-disinformation paradigm. Against that background, nothing productive can get done.”

FG – AS A 3RD DEGREE BLACK BELT IN THE NON-VIOLENT MARTIAL ART OF AIKIDO, I LEARNED AND TAUGHT THAT THE FIRST IMPERATIVE OF DEFENDING ONESELF AND OUR LOVED ONES IS AN ACCURATE AND THOROUGH ASSESSMENT OF REALITY. CONSIDERING THE VIABILITY OF A CONSPIRACY AND UNDERSTANDING THE CLAIMS OF THOSE OF US WHO SUPPORT CONSPIRACY ANALYSIS IS FRUITFUL- NOT FOR YOU TO BELIEVE IT WITHOUT YOUR OWN DEEP ASSESSMENT, BUT TO CONSIDER IT SERIOUSLY. WHAT IS IT THAT SO MANY INDEPENDENT RESEARCHERS DISCOVER AND RISK THEIR LIVES TO SHARE? WHY JUST DISMISS IT WHEN SO MUCH IS AT STAKE? AN HOUR ON OUR WEBSITE, MUCH LESS AN OPEN-MINDED VIEWING OF THRIVE, WILL MAKE IT VERY CLEAR MY VIEW IS NOT SIMPLISTIC AND NEITHER ARE OUR SOLUTIONS UNPRODUCTIVE. MY INTENTION IS TO EXPOSE THE AGENDA SO THAT OUR SOLUTIONS CAN BE INFORMED. IF YOU DON’T BELIEVE THE FEDERAL RESERVE IS INTENTIONALLY CORRUPT YOU WILL CONTINUE TO LOOK TO THEM TO BAIL US OUT OF THE MESS THEY GOT US IN TO. OR IS IT THAT YOU BELIEVE THAT THIS IS ALL OUR FAULT? I HAVEN’T YET MET A PERSON WHO BELIEVES THEY RIGGED THE ECONOMIC SYSTEM TO SCREW THEMSELVES.

ALREADY CITIES ALL OVER THE WORLD ARE SELF ORGANIZING INTO SOLUTIONS GROUPS BASED ON WHAT IS REALLY GOING ON BEHIND THE SCENES AND GROUNDED SOLUTIONS THAT ADDRESS THE REAL PROBLEMS WITH RESPONSES. THIS IS THE VALUE OF PUTTING THE UNDERSTANDING THAT OUR RESEARCH AFFORDS INTO ACTION.

“Here’s how Thrive operates in this regard.

Problem: environmental degradation caused by reliance on fossil fuels.

Real solution: Work toward developing economically and socially realistic alternatives to fossil fuels, such as renewable energy resources (solar, wind, water power, etc.) as well as smarter solutions in building, land use and lifestyle.”

FG – ALL THAT IS GREAT…AND THERE ARE OTHER OPTIONS TO SUPPLEMENT THESE IMPORTANT EFFORTS.

“Thrive solution: “Free energy” machines developed from technology given to us by aliens will save the world without us having to do anything (except to oppose the “Global Domination Elite.”).”

FG – YOUR PROPOSAL THAT WE ARE ADVOCATING DOING NOTHING UNDERMINES YOUR WHOLE ASSESSMENT OF THRIVE FOR ANYONE THINKING FOR THEMSELVES. AND IF THERE WERE “FREE ENERGY” DEVICES ALREADY DEVELOPED BY CURRENT INVENTORS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES (WHICH I HAVE SEEN), WOULD YOU WANT PEOPLE TO HAVE ACCESS TO THEM? AND DO YOU REALLY THINK THE GOVERNMENT DOES ALL THESE RAIDS, GAG ORDERS, INTIMIDATIONS AND EVEN ASSASSINATIONS ON HOAXERS? THERE IS HUGE EVIDENCE THAT THEY RECOGNIZE THE REAL INVENTORS BECAUSE THEY HAVE THESE TECHNOLOGIES THEMSELVES. WE HAVE SEEN DEVICES THAT PRODUCE MORE ENERGY THAN THEY USE- THAT IS A FACT. GIVEN THE REALITY OF THIS TECHNOLOGY, AND THE TREMENDOUS POTENTIAL IT HAS FOR RESTRUCTURING THE POWER DYNAMIC ON THE PLANET, HEALING LIVES, CLEANING WATER, RESTORING THE ENVIRONMENT, AND SO MUCH MORE THAT WE MUTUALLY WANT, WHY DO YOU CHOOSE TO PROMOTE SUCH AN UNIFORMED AND CYNICAL RESPONSE? WHY NOT CONSIDER SERIOUSLY THE SENSE IT MAKES THAT AN OIL ECONOMY WOULD DENY THE EXISTENCE OF TECHNOLOGY THAT WOULD OBSOLETE THE OIL ECONOMY? YOU SIMPLY LEAVE YOURSELF OUT OF MORE MEANINGFUL AND FRUITFUL DIALOG BY SHOWING NOT JUST YOUR LACK OF RESEARCH, BUT YOUR LACK OF INSIGHT.

“Problem: income disparity and poverty.

Real solution: Work toward meaningful and fair reform of the economic system, policies that promote economic opportunity at the bottom, and make sure businesses and corporations pay their fair share and contribute to our society.”

FG – SOUNDS NICE. HOW DO YOU DO THIS? WHAT IS THE PRINCIPLE IT’S BASED ON? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT WE HAVE BEEN HOPING FOR ALL ALONG THAT HASN’T WORKED? NOW WE ARE SPIRALING TOWARD TYRANNY AND YOU ARE HOPING THAT IT MIGHT JUST SOMEHOW START WORKING? I THINK THAT’S REFERRED TO AS THE TRIUMPH OF HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE– NOT A GOOD STRATEGY WHEN ALL OF LIFE IS ON THE LINE.

“Thrive solution: Take out the “Global Domination Elite.” Taxation is theft; abolish it.”

FG – NOT “TAKE OUT” AS IN “KILL.” BUT YES, REMOVE THEM FROM THEIR POSITION OF DOMINATION OVER AND DESTRUCTION OF BILLIONS OF LIVES. WOULD YOU LEAVE THEM IN PLACE WITH MONOPOLIES ON MONEY-MAKING AND FORCE? CAN YOU DISTINGUISH BETWEEN OBSOLETING AND KILLING? IT’S A VALUABLE ONE TO RECOGNIZE. WE HAVE THE POWER TO OBSOLETE THROUGH NON-VIOLENT NON-PARTICIPATION, AND THAT IS WHAT WE CLEARLY ADVOCATE.

THE INCOME TAX IS ONLY 100 YEARS OLD – DURING WHICH TIME OUR ECONOMY AND THAT OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN DECIMATED BY THE SAME BANKING ELITE YOU SUGGEST WE LEAVE IN POWER AND HOPE TO REFORM. REVIEW OUR 3 STAGE SOLUTIONS STRATEGY – WHICH YOU HAVE NEVER MENTIONED ONCE – TO SEE THAT THE DISNFRANCHISED WILL BE CARED FOR IN STAGE ONE TRANSITION – NOT WITH NEW TAXES, BUT WITH MONEY FROM STOPPING THE WARS, CUTTING THE IMPERIALISM BUDGET OF THE MILITARY INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX EISENHOWER AND KENNEDY WARNED ABOUT, AND FROM ABOLISHING THE FEDERAL RESERVE.

IF SOMEONE TAKES THE MONEY YOU EARNED UNDER THREAT OF VIOLENCE IT IS THEFT. THAT IS HOW INCOME TAX OPERATES. I BELIEVE THE KEY QUESTIONS TO HELP US MOVE BEYOND THIS FAILING OLD PARADIGM ARE:

1) If there were a way to have accessible and good roads, education and healthcare, help for the poor, a respected system of justice etc. – without anyone being violated against their will – as in involuntary income tax – would you want that?

FG – IF SO, THEN WE CAN ENGAGE IN THE IMPORTANT AND DIFFICULT WORK OF FIGURING OUT HOW TO DO THAT. LUCKILY MANY PEOPLE HAVE THOUGHT ABOUT IT AND THEIR INSIGHTS AND STRATEGIES CAN HELP INFORM US. THAT IS WHAT WE HAVE EXPLORED IN DEPTH ON OUR WEBSITE IN HOPES OF SAVING PEOPLE TIME BY OUTLINING KEY PRINCIPLES SO THAT TOGETHER WE CAN FORGE A NEW PARADIGM OF SOLUTIONS TO GET BEYOND TWEAKING THIS FUNDAMENTALLY FLAWED AND FAILING SYSTEM.

2) Just exactly when, for you, is it OK for one human being to take the rightfully gained property of another under the threat of violence?

FG – IF IT IS NOT OK THEN HOW DO WE MOVE BEYOND THE INVOLUNTARY TAX-BASED SYSTEM INTO NON-VIOLATING, VOLUNTARY ASSOCIATIONS? ISN’T THAT WORTH CONSIDERING SERIOUSLY TO YOU? IF NOT, PLEASE GET OUT OF THE WAY OF THOSE OF US WHO WANT TO EXPLORE AND STRATEGIZE A PROCESS THAT WILL TRULY CARE FOR PEOPLE IN THE PROCESS, USING THE BEST OF THE PROGRESSIVE AND CONSERVATIVE WORLD VIEWS BUT ULTIMATELY TRANSCENDING THEM TO A PRINCIPLE-BASED NEW PARADIGM OF HUMAN INTERACTION AND ORGANIZATION.

I TRULY HOPE YOU WILL TRY TO ANSWER THESE TWO QUESTIONS SINCERELY AS I BELIEVE OUR RESPONSES TO THEM, AND OUR ABILITY TO CREATE SOLUTIONS TOGETHER WILL DETERMINE THE SURVIVAL AND THRIVAL OF OUR SPECIES.

“Problem: government corruption.

Real solution: Meaningful campaign finance reform; eliminate (or at least reduce) corporate/business influence in politics; punish wrongdoers; elect honest candidates.”

FG – FULLY AGREED…ALL GOOD…WE LIST CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM AMONG THE TOP 10 RECOMMENDED ACTIONS. BUT WHEN THE VAST MAJORITY OF PEOPLE WERE AGAINST THE IRAQ WAR, THE AFGHANISTAN WAR, THE BAILOUTS, THE PATRIOT ACT, THE NDAA ETC. AND THEY GO AHEAD ANYWAY…AND THEN OBAMA DICTATES WITH HIS EXECUTIVE ORDER SIGNED MARCH 16 THAT HE CAN TAKE OVER ALL RESOURCES, INDUSTRY, LABOR ETC AND RE-INSTITUTE THE DRAFT – JUST BY DECLARING A NATIONAL EMERGENCY -…. MAYBE THERE IS MORE TO THIS PICTURE THAN CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM CAN ACCOMPLISH ON ITS OWN. THE PURPOSE OF OUR FOLLOW THE MONEY PYRAMID ON THE WEBSITE (http://www.thrivemovement.com/followthemoneypyramid) IS TO SHOW THAT THERE ARE AT LEAST 5 LEVELS OF CONTROL ABOVE THE SO-CALLED “GOVERNMENT.” THAT IS WHY THRIVE SOLUTION STRATEGIES ENGAGE AT ALL THE LEVELS.

AND THAT IS WHY WE WANT TO ENVISION AND WORK TOWARD A WAY OF LIFE THAT TRANSCENDS INVOLUTARY GOVERNMENT SYSTEMS THAT RELY ON INVOLUTARY TAXES – COERCION- AND BEGIN THE DISMANTLING OF THOSE CORRUPT SYSTEMS. IF WE HAD THE MONEY THAT WE NOW PAY IN INTERST TO THE CORRUPT PRIVATELY OWNED FEDERAL RESERVE AND CUT THE PENTAGON BUDGET IN HALF, WE COULD AFFORD TO DECIDE FOR OURSELVES HOW TO CARE FOR OURSELVES AND EACH OTHER. WE WOULD HAVE THE MONEY NEEDED TO RESTORE THIS PLANET AND CARE FOR PEOPLE.

WE BELIEVE THAT WHEN PEOPLE HAVE WHAT THEY NEED, THEY WILL BE RESPONSIBLE AND COMPASSIONATE. AND WE DO NOT SUGGEST TAKING AWAY GOVERNMENT SUPPORT UNTIL PEOPLE HAVE THE RESOURCES- WHICH IS WHY YOU AND WE BOTH CONSIDER CAMPAIGN FINANCE REFORM AND HONEST VOTING AND UNDOING CORPORATE PERSONHOOD TO BE SO VITAL.

WHY NOT ENGAGE IN HOW TO BE SURE PEOPLE ARE CARED FOR (AS WE ADDRESS IN STAGE 1) AND ENGAGE IN A THOUGHTFUL EXPLORATION WITH US? WHAT IF THERE WERE RULES PROTECTING EVERYONE’S HUMAN RIGHTS, CONTRACTS, PROPERTY ETC. BUT NO RULERS WITH AGGREGATED RIGHTS TO TAKE MONEY, WAGE WAR, BAIL OUT CRONIES ETC.? REMEMBER THE “NATION STATE” IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MORE VIOLENCE AGAINST ITS OWN PEOPLE THAN ANY OTHER ENTITY IN HISTORY.

“Thrive solution: All corruption is the fault of the “Global Domination Elite.” Rise up against them and destroy them, and everything will be fine.”

FG – OF COURSE IT IS NOT “ALL CORRUPTION.” BUT THE BIGGEST AND MEANEST TRACES BACK TO THEM TIME AFTER TIME. THEY ARE THE ONLY ONES WITH ENOUGH POWER IN PLACE TO BE SO VASTLY CRUEL. “DESTROY THEM?” I NEVER SAID THAT AND NO ONE CAN FIND A PLACE WHERE WE HAVE EVER SUGGESTED THAT. OBSOLETE THEM? ABSOLUTELY! AND SOME TRUTH, RECONCILIATION, RESTORATION AND PROSECUTION TO GO WITH IT!

“Problem: disease in the developing world.

Real solution: Develop medical technology and healthy vaccines, and put social and political institutions in place to distribute medical care to as many people as possible.

Thrive solution: Vaccines are evil tools of the “Global Domination Elite” and should be banned.”

FG – I NEVER SAID ALL VACCINES ARE EVIL TOOLS. I SAID MANY VACCINES ARE DANGEROUS AND THEY HAVE ALSO OFTEN BEEN USED TO HIDE TOXINS AND ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS, LIKE MERCURY, SQUALENE AND MORE, AND USED TO SICKEN OR STERILIZE COVERTLY. THIS IS FULLY DOCUMENTED ON OUR SITE. PLEASE DO YOUR HOMEWORK IF YOU ARE GOING TO SPEAK PUBLICLY AT SUCH A CRITICAL AND DANGEROUS TIME.

“Problem: anthropogenic global warming.

Real solution: Massive worldwide mobilization by governments and business interests to develop clean technology as rapidly as possible, reduce carbon emissions and mitigate areas impacted by global warming disasters. International cooperation on political, economic, and scientific levels.”

FG – AH…DEVELOP CLEAN TECHNOLOGY! AND IN ADDITION TO THE SOLAR, WIND AND GEO THERMAL (ALL GREAT – MY HOME RUNS ON SOLAR – BUT EACH TAKES SUBSTANTIAL RESOURCES AND INFRASTRUCTURE TO BUILD AND OPERATE). WHAT IF DEVICES HARMONIOUSLY TAPPING THE LIFE FORCE – RATHER THAN RADIATION – ALREADY EXIST AND ARE BEING REPRESSED AS COUNTLESS EYE WITNESSES AND COURT CASES AND GAG ORDERS ATTEST? WOULD YOU BE INTERESTED IN THAT? IF IT IS NOT SOMETHING YOU WANT TO FOCUS YOUR ATTENTION ON, THAT’S FINE- BUT WE DO. WHY IS IT EITHER/OR? ISN’T THIS THE BLACK AND WHITE THINKING YOU ARE ACCUSING ME OF?

“Thrive solution: The problem does not exist. Global warming is a hoax, a sham and a conspiracy by the “Global Domination Elite.””

FG – THIS IS AN UTTERLY FALSE CLAIM. WE DO NOT BELIEVE AND HAVE NEVER SAID THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS A HOAX. WE SAID AND DO BELIEVE THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS USED AS AN EXCUSE FOR THE GLOBAL TAX. NOTE THE DISTINCTION. THAT THE CLIMATE IS CHANGING IS NOT IN QUESTION- IT’S WHAT IS CAUSING IT, WHAT SHOULD COMMUNITIES BE DONG TO PREPARE, AND HOW CAN WE STOP IT FROM BEING USED TO CONVINCE GOOD PEOPLE TO SUPPORT A TAX TO FUND THEIR OWN DEMISE.

GLACIERS DON’T MELT ON THEIR OWN. AND WE NEED TO STOP POLLUTING OUR ATMOSPHERE – AS THE ALTERNATIVE ENERGY DEVICES WOULD ACCOMPLISH FASTER THAN ANYTHING. (ALONG WITH PROSECUTING THE INDIVIDUALS RUNNING THE CORPORATIONS WHO ARE DOING IT.)

I AM ASTONISHED THAT JUST QUESTIONING IF THE SUN IS PLAYING A ROLE IN THE WARMING AND WANTING TO HEAR FROM PEOPLE WHO DISAGREE ON THE SUBJECT HAS HAD YOU AND OTHERS WRITE US OFF AS CLIMATE CHANGE DENIERS. THIS IS A CRITICAL ISSUE AND SOME DISCTINCTION HERE WOULD GO A LONG WAY. CLEARLY PEOPLE NEED TO STOP POLLUTING. OUR WORK WITH FREE ENERGY IS IN PART TO HELP IN THIS REGARD.

BUT IT IS A FACT THAT THERE ARE OTHER PLANETS IN OUR SOLAR SYSTEM WHICH ARE WARMING ALSO, AND I DON’T THINK IT’S OUR CARS AND FACTORIES THAT ARE DOING THAT. WE NEED TO FIGURE OUT THE INTERFACE OF HUMAN AND COSMIC FORCES WITH REGARD TO OUR PLANET’S CLIMATE. FOR REAL SELF-DEFENSE…AN ACCURATE AND THOROUGH ASSESSMENT OF REALITY MUST COME FIRST…NOT PARTY POLITICS OR CLAIMING ALL SICIENTISTS AGREE WHEN AT LEAST 31,000 CREDIBLE SCIENTISTS, MANY FORMER AGW ADVOCATES HAVE COME OUT AGAINST THE THEORY THAT HUMANS ARE THE SOLE CAUSE CLIMATE CHANGE.

NO MATTER WHAT THE CAUSE, IT IS HAPPENING, AND WE NEED TO STOP HUMAN-CAUSED POLLUTION – BUT NOT BY LETTING THE CORPORATIONS AND THE RICH BUY THEIR WAY OUT AND THEN TAX PEOPLE TO CREATE THEIR GLOBAL POLICE STATE!

I AM AFRAID THAT IF WE STAND AROUND BICKERING WE MISS THE OPPORTUNITY FOR COMMUNITIES AROUND THE WORLD TO PREPARE ADEQUATELY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE THAT MAY NOT BE ABLE TO BE AVERTED BECAUSE EITHER 1. IT IS CAUSED BY WHERE WE ARE IN OUR CURRENT ORBIT IN RELATION TO THE SUN OR 2. CARBON TAX AND OTHER INNANE RESPONSES ARE INADEQUATE TO MEET THE CHALLENGE IN TIME. IN EITHER CASE, WE NEED TO BE STRATEGIZING TOGETHER AND SUPPORTING THE INVENTORS WHO ARE DEVELOPING THE NEW TECHNOLOGIES- LIKE FREE ENERGY- THAT CAN TRULY IMPACT THIS IN THE SHORT TERM.

I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO GET A SINGLE PERSON WHO IS IRREVOCABLY IDENTIFIED WITH A PARTICULAR POLITICAL PARTY TO ENTER INTO A MEANINGFUL DEBATE ABOUT ALL OF THIS…STARTING WITH SERIOUS RESEARCH FROM ALL PERSPECTIVES AND ADDRESSING AT LEAST THESE QUESTIONS:

What is causing other planets in our solar system to warm at the same time as our planet?

What caused the medieval warming period?

Why can’t polluters be prosecuted directly instead of letting the corporations buy their way out of responsibility with cap and trade?

Are you aware of the plan to make carbon credits the new “one-world currency”?

Why doesn’t someone like Al Gore debate someone like Bjorn Lomborg or anyone publicly?

Why does Gore not mention that in his hockey stick graph the rise in temperature precedes the CO2 instead of vice versa? Since this was pointed out he refuses to discuss it.

Is it possible that the good intentions of environmentalists are being manipulated to create a global tax paid to the world bank that would transcend national sovereignty and fund the one-world government?

FG – WHAT INTERESTS ME IS AN OPEN, HUMBLE EXPLORATION OF THIS CRITICAL AND VAST ISSUE.

“Do you see how this works? This is why Thrive is worth speaking out against.”

FG – YES, I HOPE THIS IS BEING HELPFUL FOR YOUR READERS IN SEEING HOW THIS WORKS, WHAT THRIVE IS REALLY ALL ABOUT AND WHY I AM TAKING THE TIME TO ADDRESS SOME OF YOUR CARELESS MISREPRESENTATION.

“One Last Example: the HAARP Earthquake Machine.

A totally shocking detail included in Mr. Robbins’s letter is his statement of Foster Gamble’s statements about the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan early last year. Mr. Robbins says, “He has said that “they” have a machine in Alaska that enables them to create earthquakes at will, anywhere on earth, and of any desired strength.”

This is a very old conspiracy theory called HAARP. You can read a debunking of HAARP conspiracy theories from noted skeptic Brian Dunning here. It’s one of the stupidest, most irrational and most paranoid conspiracy theories out there, but many people, unfortunately, believe it. I didn’t know until I saw Mr. Robbins’s letter that Foster Gamble has expressed belief in HAARP, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s also a perfect illustration of how conspiracy theories, once they get inside a person’s head, can totally corrode their ability to think rationally about world problems.

If people who believed in HAARP had any significant positions of power, what sort of world would we have? An earthquake and tsunami in Japan, caused by tectonic stresses and geologic processes, would be interpreted through the lens of this conspiracy theory as a man-made act of war, quite naturally inviting some sort of retaliation or response. If Foster Gamble could identify a specific individual or groups of individuals that he thought caused the Fukushima disaster, I would venture a guess that he would want those individuals to be held accountable in some way. This is in the total absence of any evidence whatsoever that an earthquake and tsunami in Japan was caused by HAARP.

Can you see how dangerous this type of thinking is? Furthermore, does the fact that this sort of thinking is on the rise scare you as much as it scares me?”

FG – THIS IS A GOOD ONE TO END ON BECAUSE IT EXPOSES SO CLEARLY THE LACK OF RESEARCH THAT YOU DO, OR WORSE, THE AGENDA THAT YOU MAY HAVE. HAARP IS NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORY OR A BELIEF. IT IS A GOVERNMENT / CORPORATE OWNED ANTENNA ARRAY IN ALASKA – THE LARGEST OF ITS KIND IN THE WORLD.

HAARP CAN FOCUS 3.6 BILLION WATTS OF RADIO-FREQUENCY ENERGY INTO A SINGLE AREA OF THE ATMOSPHERE. WE NEVER SAID WE THOUGHT HAARP WAS RESPONSIBLE FOR JAPAN’S QUAKE. IN FACT, WHAT WE SAID IS THAT WE CHECK INTO MAJOR EARTHQUAKES NOW THAT WE ARE FAMILIAR WITH HAARP’S INVOLVEMENT IN CAUSING OTHER QUAKES. WE CURRENTLY HAVE NO EVIDENCE OF HAARP CAUSING JAPAN’S EARTHQUAKE, HOWEVER, THERE IS AMPLE EVIDENCE OF HAARP INVOLVEMENT IN BOTH THE CHILE AND HAITI QUAKES.

BOTH THE CHILE AND HAITI QUAKES IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWED MAXIMUM CHARGING OF THE HAARP ANTENNA – WHICH WAS CUT OFF JUST AS THE QUAKES STARTED. IN THE CASE OF HAITI, THE US JUST HAPPENED TO HAVE 10,000 TROOPS AT THE SOUTHERN TIP OF FLORIDA WHO MOVED QUICKLY TO TAKE OVER THE HAITIAN CAPITOL AIRPORT. CLINTON AND BUSH SR. TOOK OVER THE RELIEF EFFORT, WHICH HAS DONE LITTLE. MEANWHILE, THE GOLD AND OIL DISCOVERED IN A RECENT RESOURCE ASSESSMENT BY PRESIDENT ARISTEDE BEFORE HE WAS OUSTED IN A CIA-BACKED COUP, ARE NOW LOOKING LIKE THEY WILL END UP IN THE COFFERS OF THE NORTHERN ELITE. THERE ARE MANY PICTURES, PATENTS, VIDEOS, BOOKS, CONTRACTS ETC. WHICH PROVE HAARP’S EXISTENCE – MANY OF WHICH ARE AVAILABLE HERE ON THE THRIVE WEBSITE: HTTP://WWW.THRIVEMOVEMENT.COM/HUMAN-GEO-ENGINEERING-CHEMTRAILS-AND-HAARP.

WE SPENT A DECADE DOING ALL OF THIS TO SAVE LIVES AND TO SAVE PEOPLE TIME. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO USE IT.

PERHAPS THEN WE CAN GET ON WITH AN INFORMED AND RESPECTFUL DIALOG THAT CAN REALLY HELP GENERATE EFFECTIVE SOLUTIONS FOR THRIVING.

___________________________________

My Response

Mr. Gamble, thank you for responding to my open letter. If having a debunking site devoted to your film is a mark of accomplishment for you, then, you’re welcome.

The message I take from your response is a fairly simple one: Thrive and the “solutions” you want to implement are for conspiracy theorists only. Your film and its ideology spring entirely from your conspiracist worldview; nothing that you propose as a “solution” is aimed, in any significant measure, at anything other than curing the horrible conspiracies you see all around you. You say you approve of proposed solutions that address non-conspiratorial issues, such as my suggestion of campaign finance reform, but then you turn around and say that dealing with these horrid conspiracies is so much more important. How is a rational person supposed to respond to this?

Considering that the vast majority of society regards—and rightfully so—conspiracy theories as being fundamentally at odds with objective reality, your approach leaves those who do not share this worldview with little or nothing to take from Thrive and little incentive to get behind your proposed solutions.

I don’t think you realize that you’re doing this, but you are doing it. Go back and look at your response. Every single issue you raise either relies on a conspiratorial assumption, asserts the literal truth of conspiracy theories, or asserts that real solutions to genuine world problems (government corruption, income inequality, etc.) actually involve addressing the perceived causes of conspiracies, or else dismisses those who do not share your belief in conspiracy theories as somehow not offering anything of value.

In short, you have made clear something that I began to suspect some time ago—that literal belief in conspiracy theories is the prerequisite, the litmus test, for being taken seriously by you as someone who has a “solution” to offer. The only “solutions” you truly seem interested in implementing are those that address the conspiracy theories you believe in. Any other benefit is incidental, but in any event irrelevant. For example, if you think the way to tackle income inequality is to “obsolete” the “Global Domination Elite,” I can guarantee you 100% that that solution will fail, because income inequality is not the fault of a “Global Domination Elite.” This is what people mean when they say your proposed solutions are misguided.

Let’s look, very briefly, at a few examples of the issues you raise and see how every single one of them departs from a conspiratorial mindset or asserts that real world problems are actually the result of conspiracies.

The issue of my identity: “I believe such cowardice and shortsightedness feed into the much more dangerous looming police state that you end up supporting through your denial.”

Thrive’s diverting attention from real problems: “I understand that you rely on coincidence theory and notions of government incompetence to explain the consolidation of power that has the majority of the world in shackles and America careening toward a police state.” (Deriding skeptics as “coincidence theorists” is an old conspiracist trope. Coincidence is not the opposite of conspiracy).

Imaginary “free energy” machines: “And do you really think the government does all these raids, gag orders, intimidations and even assassinations on hoaxers?”

Anthropogenic global warming: “How can we stop it from being used to convince good people to support a tax to fund their own demise.”

HAARP: “We currently have no evidence of HAARP causing Japan’s earthquake, however, there is ample evidence of HAARP involvement in both the Chile and Haiti quakes…both the Chile and Haiti quakes immediately followed maximum charging of the HAARP antenna…”

You see? Conspiracy. Over and over again. Conspiracy is the alpha and the omega of your worldview, Mr. Gamble; it is the departure point from which every single one of your proposed solutions proceeds. If a person does not accept the literal truth of the conspiracy theories that you believe in, you dismiss them as not “working toward real solutions.” That’s exactly how you reacted to John Robbins, whose opinion you used to value, at least to the extent that you asked him to appear in the movie; as soon as he repudiated it, though, suddenly you accused him of engaging in a “disinformation campaign.”

This is really the bottom line. I cannot get behind your solutions, because, fundamentally, the problems you want to solve are not the problems we really have. You say you want to address the effects of problems that exist in the real world, such as income inequality, but your analysis of the root cause of these problems is always the same: conspiracy. But the fact is that these conspiracies do not exist. The world you want to change is not the world we live in. It’s just that simple.

What You Don’t Address—Icke and Mullins.

In my open letter I challenged you to repudiate the bizarre theories of David Icke, who believes in shape-shifting reptilian aliens ruling the world. If you believe it’s unfair for critics of your film such as John Robbins to raise Mr. Icke’s bizarre beliefs as a point against you, then why wouldn’t you be willing to denounce those beliefs, if you don’t agree with them?

You did not mention David Icke once in your statement.

Furthermore, I challenged you to explain to us what you like about Eustace Mullins, a conspiracist author whom Mr. Robbins says you recommended to him. I’m particularly curious about what you find redeeming about Eustace Mullins, because you are clearly not an anti-Semite, and yet so much of Mullins’s work is scathingly anti-Semitic. A commenter on this blog posted some quotes from Eustace Mullins’s work. They were so sick, disgusting, racist and offensive that I considered deleting the quotes even though there was no question that they were presented as an example of how hateful, wrong-headed and destructive Eustace Mullins and his views actually are. Ultimately I decided to leave them up, but I feel cheapened and dirty by having them anywhere on my blog. I would really like to know what Eustace Mullins material you think is valuable to your efforts to improve the world.

You did not mention Eustace Mullins once in your statement.

So what do you have to say, Mr. Gamble, about David Icke and Eustace Mullins? The world is waiting to know.

Your Two Questions For Me (Both Trick Questions)

You specifically asked me to answer two questions you posed. Here they are.

“1) If there were a way to have accessible and good roads, education and healthcare, help for the poor, a respected system of justice etc. – without anyone being violated against their will – as in involuntary income tax – would you want that?”

I reject the premise of the question, because it’s a trick question. This question posits an assumption that has not been proven—that accessible and good roads, education, healthcare and justice only come about today by people “being violated against their will” in the form of taxes. That’s not even close to the way things really are.

“2) Just exactly when, for you, is it OK for one human being to take the rightfully gained property of another under the threat of violence?”

I reject the premise of the question, because it’s a trick question. Again, you’re equating the paying of taxes to the “threat of violence.” Maybe your local IRS office is more aggressive than mine, Mr. Gamble, but I have never been threatened with violence if I did not give up my property in the form of taxes. Equating taxes to theft is bad enough; equating them to armed robbery is simply ludicrous.

The purpose of these two questions is to trap the listener into an indictment of the concept of taxation. Since I don’t share your views on the evils of taxation, these questions are meaningless to me.

Conclusion: To Thrive or Not to Thrive?

Mr. Gamble, I received an email yesterday from a woman who had recently seen your movie. She wrote to thank me for creating this blog, for deconstructing the film and for laying out the truth about the claims made in it. She complimented me on being very brave to take on this project.

This woman, and the others like her who’ve written to me, are the true audience of this blog. I didn’t create this blog to harass or annoy you, and I don’t do it to provoke confrontation with fans of the movie (although that of course does take place, as you can see). I do this to reach people like the woman who wrote to me. She didn’t simply take my word for it. She did her own checking, her own research and her own analysis. (And she didn’t even ask me my name!) She came to the same conclusion I did. I guess she won’t be “thriving” any more than I will.

Today we passed 100,000 unique page views on this blog. If even as many as 90% of them are fans of your movie, that’s still 10,000 people who won’t be “thriving” either.

The world I live in—the world which I evidently won’t be “thriving” in—is one where belief is supported by evidence, where argument is logical, where cause and effect have a predictable relationship, and where real problems can be solved by the application of rational solutions. That is the real world, because that’s the way the real world works.

I do not know how your world works. But however it does, I’m glad I don’t live there.

My Open Letter to Foster Gamble: Turn Your Back on Conspiracy—Don’t Let Thrive Define You. (UPDATED!)

This blog, originally published April 30, 2012, was updated May 4, 2012. Scroll to the end for the update.

Dear Mr. Gamble:

I have been motivated to write this letter by yours and Mrs. Gamble’s response, posted yesterday on your Thrive website, responding to John Robbins’s recent statement entitled “Humanity and Sanity: Standing for a Thriving World.” The text of that statement has been reproduced here on John Robbins’s website. I was quite interested to hear what your response would be to Mr. Robbins’s critiques. As I pointed out to the readers of my blog in a recent article, one of the main reasons why John Robbins has felt the need to dissociate himself from your film—its advancement of conspiracy theories—is the core basis of the disagreement I have with Thrive. In fact, John Robbins’s statement expresses my disagreements with you and your film in some ways better than I can myself.

Consequently, I was extremely disappointed by your response. You have not only failed to address the substantive criticisms of the film, but your dismissive and reductive attitude toward the most serious issues with Thrive makes it harder, not easier, to move forward in assessing what’s wrong with the world and how we can make it better. More troubling than that, at least for me, your response indicates that you’ve become very deeply invested in conspiracy thinking and conspiracist ideology—and you’re not doing the world any favors by trying to advance this ideology through your film.

I wish to make several major points here. Some will deal with your response to critics such as John Robbins, while some will go beyond that. I hope you take this criticism in the spirit in which it is intended—which is to help right what I see as a dreadful wrong being done, especially to the young people who’ve seen Thrive and who may choose to believe it without thinking critically about exactly what it is you’re asking them to accept.

You are not a bad person. You are an intelligent, thoughtful, well-meaning person with a very deep desire to help make the world a better place. This much has been extremely obvious from the get-go. If I met you in person I think I’d like you, and you might be surprised to find that I am considerably less nasty or trollish than some of your fans seem to think I am. But, Mr. Gamble, you’re wrong. You’re as wrong as you can possibly be, and you’re becoming part of the problem—you’re not helping us get to a solution. I’m just a blogger on the Internet. I don’t have the resources or clout at my disposal that you do, and I don’t claim to be an activist trying to save the world. But I’m not alone in my criticisms of your film; some very prominent people feel the same way I do.

What is the basis of John Robbins’s disagreement with Thrive?

In your statement, Mr. Gamble, I believe you have seriously mischaracterized the nature of John Robbins’s disagreement with your movie. Your statement yesterday, and previous statements made by you responding to critics of the film, seem to indicate that you think the main basis of disagreement is political—that the film is caught in the traditional left-right divide that you say you want to transcend. This is not the case, and it’s very clear from Mr. Robbins’s statement that this is not the case. He says:

“[T]he Thrive movie and website are filled with dark and unsubstantiated assertions about secret and profoundly malevolent conspiracies that distract us from the real work at hand.  The conspiracy theories at the heart of Thrive are based on an ultimate division between “us” and “them.”  ”We” are many and well-meaning but victimized.  “They,” on the other hand, are a tiny, greedy and inconceivably powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who are deliberately destroying the world economy in order to achieve total world domination….If the ills of the world are the deliberate intentions of malevolent beings, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our problems because they are being done to us.  Thinking this way may provide the momentary comfort of feeling exonerated, but it is ultimately disempowering, because it undermines our desire to be accountable for the way our own thoughts and actions help to create the environmental degradation and vast social inequity of the world in which we live.”

Your response was:

“We believe this is an uninformed and dangerous interpretation that undermines people’s ability to recognize the power we have to change the dynamic.

If you feel you are personally responsible for the mortgage fraud, for the devaluation of the dollar, for the wars of aggression killing millions of innocent people with your money, for the lack of decent health care, and for the lies of the corporate media, then what THRIVE offers is not for you. If you instead believe that we have been deceived and deprived of our power and feel ready to reclaim it, then we encourage you to join with the millions of people empowered by THRIVE to come together in this bold time of awakened action to stand up for our lives and our future.”

This fundamental misunderstanding of John Robbins’s central argument is nothing less than tragic. John Robbins takes Thrive to task for establishing a pernicious “us vs. them” mentality, which he finds (and I agree) dangerous and counterproductive; in your response, however, you get right back up on the soapbox, point an accusing finger at the evil “them” and rage at the people you blame for “deceiv[ing us] and deprive[ing us] of our power.”

In your worldview, Mr. Gamble, bad things are done to us by evil people. Of course I can’t speak for him, but my interpretation of what John Robbins is saying is that we have done this to ourselves. There is no “Illuminati” out there trying to enslave the world. Who put the politicians into office who rolled back regulation of our economic and banking systems, thus leading to the 2008 economic collapse? We, the people did. Who supports, works for and buys the products of the corporations who are profiting from the destruction of our environment? We, the people do. Who is buying the fuel-inefficient cars that are contributing to anthropogenic global warming? We, the people, are. Who is consistently voting against property tax measures that fund schools to educate our children? We, the people, are doing that.

You want to blame a “Global Domination Elite,” or people who happen to be born with the names Rockefeller or Rothschild, for these problems. What I read from John Robbins’s letter is that, instead of looking for someone named Rothschild to blame for our problems, we should instead look in the mirror.

How is it that you don’t understand this is what he’s saying?

Do you not see what you’re doing, Mr. Gamble? You’re holding up a small group of people and telling the viewers of Thrive that they—this evil, sociopathic “other”—is responsible for their problems. You are encouraging the viewers of Thrive to hate those evil people who supposedly did this to us. This is so horrendously destructive, so antithetical to the central ideas of civil cooperation in a democratic society. But the conspiracy theories you espouse, and that you’re pushing through Thrive, reduce the complexities of our modern problems to a very simple and very cynical solution: hate them, the evil “other,” for doing this to us. As soon as the “other” is overcome, our problems will be over.

I cannot get behind this worldview. From my reading of his essay, I think it’s clear that John Robbins can’t either. Speaking only for myself, a worldview such as this is so harmful, negative, toxic and divisive that it absolutely negates the effect of what you think is the positive work you’re doing to improve society. You can do better, Mr. Gamble.

David Icke: do you believe in his “reptilian shape-shifting aliens” theories or don’t you?

Another key part of Mr. Robbins’s disagreement with the film is his objection to the presence of David Icke in Thrive. I agree. I would have to say that, if I were to make a list of the things that bother me the most about your movie, I’d probably put David Icke as #1.

You said:

“Robbins also does not feel comfortable being in a movie with David Icke, who he says “advocates utterly bizarre theories” –although none of the theories John objects to are in THRIVE. Instead, Icke provides a very sound critique of the money system: that banks have the power to create money out of nothing; that the Federal Reserve can rig “booms and busts” by lowering and raising interests rates; and that “the greatest prison people live in is the fear of what other people think.” We benefitted from this analysis, and find that millions of others feel similarly, which is why he’s included in THRIVE. We stand by what Icke says in the film.”

Mr. Gamble, I believe this is totally disingenuous.

You could have gotten any number of people to appear in your film to give a “very sound critique of the money system.” Instead, you chose to get David Icke. Why?

As I pointed out in my article profiling Mr. Icke, I believe the reason you chose David Icke to make this statement, as opposed to someone far less controversial who doesn’t bring the baggage to the table that Mr. Icke does, is because you wanted access to David Icke’s built-in audience of conspiracy believers—an audience that I think you felt, probably correctly, would be uniquely receptive to Thrive. Given the anti-Semitic flavor of David Icke’s ridiculous and untrue theories, if you had done even the slightest bit of due diligence you would have seen that Mr. Icke is absolutely radioactive from a public relations and credibility standpoint. Don’t get me wrong—I think you knew full well what baggage David Icke carries—but you elected to put him in your film anyway. So, my question is, why?

More importantly, if you’re willing to make a distinction between the “very sound critique of the monetary system” (which isn’t that sound, by the way) that David Icke espouses in your film, and his bizarre theories about reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco which he does not espouse in your film, are you willing to go on record as repudiating that very significant portion of David Icke’s belief system? You say it’s unfair of Thrive’s critics to taint you with the extremities of Mr. Icke’s belief system—if that’s the case, will you denounce the beliefs of Mr. Icke that have given John Robbins, and me, and many others, so much consternation?

Are you willing to state, Mr. Gamble, unequivocally and without qualification, that you reject the “reptilian shape-shifting aliens” theories of David Icke, that you dissociate yourself from them, and that you denounce them for the harmful paranoid conspiracy theories that they are?

Don’t just stand on the disclaimer that you’re fond of quoting from Thrive. Tell your audience clearly and without equivocation what you think of David Icke’s reptilian theories. Do you believe them or don’t you?

If you’re willing to make this statement, I think it may help clear the air. If you are not willing to make this statement, would you please tell us (A) what your views are on Mr. Icke’s reptilian shape-shifting aliens theories, and (B) why you included him in your film, when any number of others could have made the same statements about banking that he makes in your film?

What about Eustace Mullins?

In your statement, Mr. Gamble, you breeze casually past the objections to G. Edward Griffin by saying you don’t endorse the John Birch Society. But an even more important objection that Mr. Robbins raised was your apparent endorsement of the theories of Eustace Mullins. Mr. Robbins stated:

“Another of Thrive’s primary sources, and another of the authors Foster Gamble told me I should read in order to better understand Thrive, is Eustace Mullins.  I honestly find it difficult to convey the level of anti-semitism in Mullins’s books, without it seeming that I am exaggerating.  So I will let Mullins’s own words speak for themselves…”

Mr. Robbins then quoted three utterly disgusting paragraphs, dripping with hateful anti-Semitic vitriol, from this book by an author he claims you recommended highly to him. You do not comment on Eustace Mullins at all in your response. Why not?

There’s obviously something you like about Eustace Mullins, if you recommended him to Mr. Robbins. (If he was in error in claiming you did, now’s a perfect opportunity to set the record straight). This is all the more puzzling because I do not believe you are an anti-Semite; Mr. Robbins did not make that accusation either, and it’s clear that you’re not. But the fact is, once you cut out the anti-Semitism, there’s not much left of Eustace Mullins’s philosophy that stands on its own. So please, Mr. Gamble, educate us. Which parts of Eustace Mullins’s philosophy you like, and why? Furthermore, why did you not even mention this very key point of John Robbins’s criticism of Thrive in your response?

Global Warming Denial—Ignoring the Elephant in the Room.

Your statements regarding anthropogenic climate change are, like your mischaracterization of John Robbins’s central argument, profoundly unfortunate. The fact that you deny the irrefutable scientific proof that climate change is being caused by human activity is deeply depressing, and not just to me. Your denial of global warming seems to have been the key reason why Adam Trombly turned against you. It is also one of the key reasons why I find Thrive, and conspiracism in general, so pernicious, because it’s a prime example of how conspiracy theories divert attention away from real problems.

You stated:

“We do not question that the climate is changing…What’s called for here is to distinguish between denying that the climate is changing (which we do not) and valuable inquiry into some of the deeper issues surrounding climate change (which we do). This is a distinction we feel would serve people far more than name-calling and disassociation.”

So, you don’t deny that climate is changing; you just deny the evidence of what’s causing it. This distinction is utterly meaningless.

If you deny that human activity is causing global warming, you are endorsing an excuse to do nothing about it. By definition, if it’s natural, it will resolve itself on its own, right? If global warming isn’t being caused by greenhouse emissions and industrial processes, then there is no meaningful action that we have to take; in fact we shouldn’t take action at all because that would be tampering with a natural process. It seems that you don’t want us to take any action at all about global warming, other than to overcome the “Global Domination Elite” that you say is withholding “free energy” from us. Once we overcome them, all our problems will be solved. Isn’t that the take-home point from Thrive?

Your claim that you’re simply looking out for people in the hopes that carbon taxes don’t take away their freedom is a chimera. There are other ways to fight global warming besides carbon taxes. (For the record, I don’t believe that carbon taxes are the answer, and everyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about the issue of fighting global warming). What actions by governments, business interests and individuals are you willing to support, Mr. Gamble, to reverse anthropogenic global warming?

You can’t deny the causation of the problem and then pretend like you’re still interested in solving the problem. This is the biggest problem on the planet today. What do you suggest we do about it?

Will you please tell us, Mr. Gamble, what action you are willing to support—besides reliance on “free energy” machines—in order to combat and reverse anthropogenic global warming?

HAARP—the Final Frontier of Conspiracist Thinking.

Your statement makes clear that you do believe in HAARP—one of the most farfetched, unsupportable and bizarre conspiracy theories out there, with the possible exception of David Icke’s reptile theories—after all. This is deeply distressing to me. Your attempt to address this subject simply digs you deeper into the hole:

“John Robbins claims we said Japan’s earthquake was caused by HAARP – an electromagnetic antenna array project in Alaska that can focus 3.6 billion watts of radio-frequency energy into a single area of the atmosphere. We hope John said this because he misremembered and was not just distorting this for effect. In fact, what we said is that we check into major earthquakes now that we are familiar with HAARP’s involvement in causing other quakes. We currently have no evidence of HAARP causing Japan’s earthquake, however, there is ample evidence of HAARP involvement in both the Chile and Haiti quakes.”

Okay—so Japan wasn’t HAARP, but Chile and Haiti definitely were!

Do you really think, Mr. Gamble, that this makes you seem any more in touch with objective reality regarding this subject than if you had asserted that the Japan quake was caused by HAARP?

You believe in a magical machine, controlled by the U.S. government, that can cause earthquakes anywhere on earth with the push of a button? Really? Do you appreciate how expressing beliefs such as these negatively affect your basic credibility as someone claiming to have answers for moving the world forward?

When you say things like this, can you really blame us for being skeptical?

The Disease of Conspiracy Thinking

Mr. Gamble, I’ve been debunking conspiracy theories, in one form or another, for seven years now. I’ve seen many tragic examples of what conspiracy thinking can do to a person. I had a friend, a young man, who was a believer in UFO/alien conspiracies and NESARA, a supposedly secret law that will bring unlimited plenty to the whole world if only the Global Domination Elite and their evil alien allies would stop obstructing it. This young man chose not to go to college or to prepare for any sort of meaningful future, because he believed NESARA would be implemented any day now and there would be no need to work or provide for himself. Another man, also a believer in the Global Domination Elite, decided to home-school his children because he feared they were receiving “Illuminati indoctrination” through the public schools. The “home schooling” he gave them consisted of making them watch Alex Jones and other conspiracist videos on YouTube, all day, every day, day after day. You may remember the “Don’t taze me, bro!” incident from a few years ago where a man was attacked with a taser gun at a John Kerry rally. Most people don’t know that the man involved in that incident was a conspiracy theorist; he was convinced Kerry was a member of your Global Domination Elite and was shouting questions about Kerry’s involvement with Yale’s “Skull and Bones Society.” These are but a few examples of the harmful effects conspiracy beliefs can have on a person.

Conspiracy theories are like a virus. They infect a healthy person, replicate inside of them, and then spill out to infect others. A person who believes in one conspiracy theory rarely stops there. Usually they end up swallowing them all. The person infected is no more to blame than someone who catches pneumonia or the flu. I know all too well; I myself recovered from this disease. I am a former conspiracy theorist.

I would like to ask you to think—just think—about your conspiracy beliefs in these terms. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the Global Domination Agenda doesn’t exist, that HAARP can’t create earthquakes, and that anthropogenic global warming is real. If it is possible that the things you believe are factually incorrect, how could you have come to believe them so fervently? Could there be an explanation in the way you’ve thought about them, the sort of evidence you find convincing, the questions you ask, or the people you seek out for information? I’m suggesting this because thinking along these lines is what got me out of conspiracy thinking. The more I insisted upon real evidence, solid arguments, and knowledgeable experts, the flimsier and falser became the conspiracy theories that I thought I believed in. I wouldn’t be surprised if you go down the same road someday. In fact I think it’s likely you will, and someday you may repudiate Thrive, the way Dylan Avery did with Loose Change.

We are all members of this society. We all have a stake in making the world a better place for our children. All I’m asking you to do, Mr. Gamble, is consider approaching these problems from a rational, skeptical and logical standpoint. If you do, it doesn’t mean you feel any less or that your passion for improving peoples’ lives is at all diminished. It’s not about taking the government’s word for anything. Approaching the world with skepticism doesn’t mean that you become more gullible, more trusting or more capable of being manipulated. In fact, you will find that the opposite is true. Let’s approach the world from the standpoint of what’s really out there. The disease of conspiracy thinking makes that very difficult, but this disease, thankfully, has a cure: critical thinking.

You Want to Talk About Solutions? Let’s Talk About Solutions.

In your statements you’ve emphasized that you’d rather talk about solutions to world problems than the problems with your movie. Okay, I have a few solutions. Let’s talk about them. As I said earlier, I lay no claim to being an activist, and I don’t pretend to have a plan to save the world. But with as many fans of your movie as have asked me what my solutions are, I guess somebody wants to hear them.

Solution 1: Stop promoting baseless conspiracy theories.

Diverting attention from real problems in the real world is not helping anybody—in fact, it’s hurting quite a bit. The central teaching of the disease of conspiracy thinking is “they are bad.” Whoever they are changes, but it’s always an external enemy, some super-powerful source that’s opposed to what’s good and proper. So long as we’re trying to overcome them, whoever you think they are, we’re not moving forward.

This is why Thrive is not productive, is not constructive, and is not helpful. It has nothing to do with your intentions, which I believe are good. But the simple truth is that the so-called “facts” your movie promotes are just not true. There is no “Global Domination Agenda.” Banks are not tools of the Rothschilds for world domination. 9/11 was not a “false flag” operation. These things just aren’t true, and it’s very easy to ascertain that they aren’t true. So let’s stop promoting them.

Solution 2: Fight anthropogenic global warming.

The warming of our climate, greatly accelerated to disastrous levels by the activity of human beings, is the single greatest threat to this planet right now. Inaction or denial is unacceptable. Neither can we wait for a “transition” to some nebulously-defined future utopian society in order to save us from global warming. We need action now—a mass program of cooperation between governments, business interests, individuals, and non-governmental organizations, on local, national and trans-national levels. We must reduce carbon emissions. We must change the game to make existing forms of clean energy—not magical “free energy” devices—economical and desirable, things like solar, wind and water power. We should have started doing this 35 years ago. We didn’t. Every day we delay means that the effects of our measures will pinch us that much more in the future.

Solution 3: Promote smarter, better, more compassionate government.

There are very few people in America who believe that our political system couldn’t stand drastic improvement. We need to reduce the impact of corporate money on politics. We need to make sure that government makes decisions that benefit real people before corporations and business interests. We need to increase funding for public education at all levels—and by increase I mean a vast increase, an increase of staggering proportions, a massive diversion of a significant chunk of America’s GDP to education. If we spent on public schools what we spend every year to fight the war in Afghanistan, the entire country would begin to reap immediate and dramatic benefits. Even a five-year program to fund schools at the level that we today fund military expenditures would profoundly transform this country. Education is the cure to so many problems in our society, and it’s a cure that exists now, without waiting for magical technology to swoop down from the sky, as Thrive asserts.

We, the people, have the power to enact these solutions. We can do it right now, in our existing communities; the politicians we send to our statehouses and to Washington, after all, are put there by us. This is what I think John Robbins meant, Mr. Gamble, when he talked about the problems being caused by us. But we have to recognize what our problems really are. Your film does not present the problems as they really are.

Why Listen to Me At All? Because It’s Not Just Me Saying This.

I doubt you’ll think very much about my solutions. Your past statements have indicated that the price of admission to a debate you’re willing to have about solutions is acceptance of the conspiracy theories contained in Thrive. Most likely you won’t take me seriously because I reject those theories. You took a similar tack toward Rob Hopkins and Georgia Kelly, both of whose criticisms you refused to entertain. What you’re doing, therefore, is to close yourself off into an isolated universe—where only the voices of fellow conspiracy believers are heard, a universe where the key litmus test of legitimacy is conspiracist thinking, and where input from the fact-based world is rejected as a mortal threat. Forgive me for being skeptical that any reasonable solutions to societal problems can emerge from such a universe.

If it were just me, some random guy from the blogosphere, saying this, that would be one thing. It would be very easy to dismiss me. Your spokesperson, Lee, has come to this blog several times to insist that because I don’t advertise my name on this blog, somehow this makes my criticisms unworthy of attention, as if the facts and reasoning I present here have no persuasive value unless my name is attached to them. I think this is nothing more than an excuse for refusing to engage with the serious problems surrounding Thrive. You’re fond of citing statistics on the number of people who have seen your movie, or the fact that it’s been translated into such-and-such languages. These statistics do nothing to bolster the veracity of your claims. In fact, they underscore the urgency of the mission of this blog. You claim your film has been seen a million times; my blog has been read by about 100,000 people. If an untruth can circle the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on, those of us who profoundly disagree with your movie have a great deal of work ahead of us.

But it’s not just me. Look at the main points I’ve made here. I take issue with your inclusion of David Icke, with your praise of Eustace Mullins, with your assertions about HAARP, and your conspiratorial worldview. Your friend John Robbins was bothered by these exact same points. Others are too; I’ve talked to many of them, some of them your personal friends and acquaintances. Your response to their very cogent criticisms has done nothing to ameliorate our concerns. If I went off into the sunset or deleted my blog tomorrow, these concerns about Thrive would still remain. That’s one reason I say that this blog is not about me.

Mr. Gamble, I believe you are a good, kind, compassionate and intelligent man. That’s one reason why Thrive bothers me so much, because I think you can do better. We could all benefit from your immense energy and passion to help the world, if it was directed toward that end. Please, Mr. Gamble: turn away from conspiracism. Don’t let Thrive define you.

Sincerely,

Muertos

Update 4 May 2012

Foster Gamble responded to this letter. His response is reproduced in its entirety here, along with my own remarks regarding his thoughts.

“Follow the Money”–Debunked!

By SlayerX3

One of the central passages of Thrive is a section often referred to as “Follow the Money,” which Thrive fans treat as some sort of slogan. This section contains Foster Gamble and others’ views on fractional reserve banking, the Federal Reserve, the economic crisis, and conspiracy theories related to these. This article debunks those ideas.

Fraction Reserve Banking

Disclaimer:

Before the Wikipedia bashing begins, I’m using Wikipedia for two reasons: (1) Simplicity, and (2) it works well for summaries of information, even though I will provide further sources and more detailed information links than Wikipedia can provide.

PS: This part of the movie is incredibly complicated for anyone involved here to deal with, as given that most people don’t understand how economy and politics work by themselves, much less together, unless you’re well-versed in mathematics, economics or political science. Comments that simply complain about how wrong or rigged the actual political and economic systems are will be seen basically as an opinion and not fact.

It also doesn’t help that for the makers of Thrive the current economic system is a scam/conspiracy created by a powerful Financial Elite to perpetuate their own power. Arguing the existence of this conspiracy (Thrive mostly uses misinterpretations and opinions that they exist instead of verifiable facts) feels like beating a dead horse, thanks to our good old friend Confirmation Bias.

When they begin talking about Fractional Reserve Banking, Foster Gamble and and David Icke get a few things right at the beginning. They are right about how saving deposits are used by banks for loans and financing, but the film cuts short the explanation of why this happens and the economic reasons to use fractional reserve banking. Instead of explaining the real reasons behind this, the movie simply dismisses it by saying “it creates money out of nowhere.”

What is Fractional Reserve Banking?

Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB) is a form of banking where the deposits made on the bank are separated in two parts. The first is the amount the bank is allowed to loan and the second is the part the banks is obligated to keep as a reserve. This amount is dictated by the central bank of the country where the bank is operating.

Does it really “create money out of nowhere?”

The answer will depend of which kind of money you’re talking about. If you’re referring to printed money, it can’t “create money out of nowhere,” as the values being loaned and being circulated haven’t been made or printed yet.

If you’re talking about value: yes it can create more value since there is more money circulating than there is physical printed money.

This is much better explained by the links I’ll provide.

Why do banks work with FRB and how come they don’t “run out of money”?

Because it is fluid, FRB allows banks to generate profit and still provide access to people or business to acquire money for whatever reasons they need it–for example, to buy a house or start a business. FRB guarantees there will be money circulating for investments, consumer goods and to accommodate a growing and active economy.

[Muertos comment: this is not a new invention. If we did not have FRB in some form, our economy would be stuck in the early 19th century. The whole concept of modern banking, historically, developed as a means to permit sufficient capital to be accumulated to fund large-scale projects, both public and private. Without something like FRB, we would not have public works projects like dams, sewer systems or transportation, and we would not have privately-funded industries such as computers and information technology, because it simply wouldn't be possible to get enough capital together to even begin to pay for these things. This is the historical reality that critics of FRB refuse to understand.]

The influx of savings deposits and payments on loans that they make usually are enough for most banks to be secure they will have the money needed to honor the withdrawals, as there are more people making payments and saving deposits than there are people making withdrawals of their own savings and assets.

What if there are more people making more withdrawals than the bank has money on reserve?

Remember the credit crisis that started in 2008 and is still kicking? One of the reasons why it went from bad to worse and from worse to a total disaster was because of this–people making more withdrawals than banks had in reserve. In times of economic crisis, if there is a doubt that the banks will be able to honor the deposits made on them, this leads to people and investors to withdraw all their assets within the bank in a really short amount of time, before other depositors can withdraw their share. This creates a cascade effect that can possibly (almost certainly) cause a bank run. This forces the bank to call in its short term loans, draw upon credit lines with other banks or ask for last resort rescue loans from the central bank.

Okay, but how this is bad for people?

In time of a stable economy this not bad for financially responsible people, those who take out loans that are smaller than their average yearly income and can make sure that the accumulated interest won’t surpass all their earnings during the intended financing period. Take for example financing the purchase of a house with a 10 year mortgage plan. It is, however, extremely dangerous for people who to borrow who are in unstable financial situations (like no job security, health problems, addictions) or do not measure how much interest they’re incurring compared to how much they earn, or people who simply don’t care about the long term consequences of their lack of foresight (I can’t miss the chance to throw this jab at the American reader).

In times of instability, however, irresponsible borrowing (and lending) can hit hard even the responsible people hard. This is what happened in 2008.

Gamble continues with a story telling how the fractional reserve banking system was born.

Setting aside Mr. Gamble’s implications of how it is used to create money on the backs of people (which is an arguable question), if you want to know how central banks and fractional reserve banking came to be, look for the history of the  Bank of Amsterdam.

Here are some links that further explain what FRB is and how it came about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional_reserve_banking

http://www.canadabanks.net/default.aspx?article=Fractional-Reserve+Banking

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH2-37rTA8U (Khan Academy on FRB, quite educational I must add, as long as you avoid the comments section).

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Modern_Money_Mechanics.pdf

http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/wpawuwpma/0203005.htm (look for the download link)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_fractional_reserve_banking

Later Gamble states how FRB is used to create a population that is tied to their debts to the bank.

Then Thrive provides us with this quote: “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning” – Henry Ford, 1922

The quote appears to be completely fake. Although it is commonly cited on conspiracy theorist, 9/11 Truth and “End the Fed” websites, there is no source and no context linking it to Henry Ford. Not even the dates that Ford supposedly said it are consistent.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Henry_Ford

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Conspiracy#Attributed

[Muertos comment: conspiracy theorists love to use fake quotes, and this is not the only fake quote in Thrive--there's a quote by Henry Kissinger that is equally false. The problem with these quotes is that, once it gets out there and conspiracy theorists decide they like it, a quote gets repeated all over the place on all sorts of conspiracy theorist websites--thus creating the erroneous impression that, because the quote appears so often, it must be true and accurate. If you don't believe that this happens all the time, just think back on all the things comedian George Carlin is supposed to have said--only a small fraction of them are actually real Carlin quotes, and as he is dead, he can't dispute that he didn't say them.

When conspiracy theorists are challenged on fake quotes, many of them will say something like, "Well, you can't prove that he didn't say it!" That, of course, is asinine. You can't just make up any crap you like, put it in someone's mouth and then challenge people to prove they didn't say it. But, sadly, this is how conspiracy theorists think. Quotes about banking are particularly attractive to conspiracy theorists because they love the idea of respected figures from history having supposedly "warned" us about the dangers that they (conspiracy theorists) insist are right around the corner.]

After the fake Henry Ford quote, Gamble resumes his rant on how we have become debt slaves of a financial elite who has rigged the system to their benefit.

Take this as you will, but you’ll become a debt slave if you decide to acquire (too much) debt in the first place. For many this seems unavoidable.

[Muertos comment: the term "debt slave" bothers me because it's misleading. Suppose you have a good job and a family. You take out a 30-year mortgage at a reasonable interest rate in order to buy a bigger house to raise your kids in. You can easily make the payments and your house increases in equity in the meantime. Are you still a "debt slave" for the next 30 years? If you decide to sell the house you pay off the mortgage, and can take the equity and invest in a bigger house elsewhere. How is this "slavery"? And what's the alternative--live in a smaller, crappier place and try to raise your kids there, where you don't have room for them? Why is taking advantage of the opportunities that debt creates necessarily a bad thing? Thrive doesn't see distinctions along these lines. In its ideology, all debt is bad.]

Catherine Austin Fitts

From Muertos’s article debunking the trailer:

Catherine Austin Fitts was Assistant Secretary for Housing in 1989-90 under the first George Bush. She is also a Wall Street banker. She currently works for an investment advisory firm called Solari, Inc.”

Ms. Fitts, along with Mr. Gamble, keeps reaffirming how FRB is used to print more money and enslave more people through debt. Later she makes a comparison with ordinary people counterfeiting money being a crime, while the [central] banks printing money being called “increasing the money supply” as if there’s no distinction here. There is a distinction. I don’t know, maybe it’s related to the fact that central banks are trusted institutions, and they are an effective way to control interest rates and the amount of money being circulated so as to make sure hyperinflation or hyper-deflation do not take place. Yes, said measures can fail, but it’s certainly not the same as “printing money” just for the hell of it.

Gamble then cites the gathering of the “secret” Morgans and Rockefellers on Jekyll Island, where (he says) the draft of the Federal Reserve was created.

First he fails to mention that a central banking system was already in place in Europe–especially in Germany–long before the bankers and politicians in US were considering using a central banking system. Second, politicians in US were already studying alternatives to the US Treasury bonds and lack of liquidity and access to credit, mostly in response to the Panic of 1907.

After this Gamble beings talking about the creation of the Fed and the Internal Revenue Service in the same year, “forcing us to pay for the politicians’ debt”, and introduces the viewer to G. Edward Griffin and his book.

G. Edward Griffin

Writer of “The Creature from Jekyll Island” which is about the creation the Fed, Griffin is a critic of the current banking system and advocates private currency as being “real money.” Needless to say, his ideas are quite popular amongst libertarian circles.

(If you want to know how bad this idea of “real money” is, just imagine going to the state next to yours just to find out that the private currency of your local bank, backed by a commodity like silver or gold, is worthless because the other state operates at different standards or doesn’t accept your currency. Or, worse yet, imagine if the bank goes bankrupt, all your assets in said bank are gone, and there is no central bank or institution to guarantee the bank will have the resources to honor its deposits).

[Muertos comment: we had precisely this problem in the Great Depression, which resulted in an entity called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation--an agency that makes sure that you, as a bank depositor, will be able to retrieve your money from that bank (up to $250,000, I think) even if the bank fails. Where would the money come from if the FDIC had to make you whole after your bank fails? It would come from a fund administered by the federal government. Doesn't sound so bad when you think about it like that, does it?]

Griffin goes on about how the central banks are cartels that work with governments and have the legal power to create money out of nothing when the government needs it.

I think the “out of nothing” part of the money is not entirely nothing. There seems to be a massive misconception that when a central bank prints more currency, it’s simply creating more money out of nothing. First, it doesn’t happen this way. Even though the money is not backed by a scarce commodity (like gold), the value attributed to it is related to how trusted and reliable the country’s central bank is. Printing more money without the generation of wealth decreases the value of the money. This is why you can trade one US Dollar for 10,000 Zimbabwe Dollars, and the same reason why the Zimbabwe 1000 Dollar bill is worth less than the paper it’s printed on. Printing more money without generation of wealth will lead to inflation and the loss of value for the currency.

[Muertos comment: this has been proven time and time again historically, such as in the U.S. when "greenbacks" were printed to help finance the Civil War. It didn't work then either.]

The central banks are not only able to create more money. They are also capable of removing money from circulation when needed. For example, during Christmas the US Federal Reserve prints more money to assure all the withdraws will be possible, and then they remove the extra bills from circulation afterwards.

When this happens, the fiat currency doesn’t lose its value because it is just a representation of the wealth that already does exist, even though most of this wealth is in form of data like the amount you have in your bank or how much all your declared belongs are worth. It doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It’s a representation. It’s not wealth itself.

Let’s put this way. The amount of wealth in dollars is X and the amount of printed paper money is Y. Because most of the wealth being traded, stored or transferred is in the form of savings, credits, stocks, checks and representations other than printed fiat currency, X will be always higher than Y, but when people are making withdrawals, collecting their payments or selling things, more money will begin to circulate from hand to hand. Since there is more money in data form than there is in the form of printed money, the Central Banks print the money and send bills to the local banks to make sure they are capable of handling all the money being moved and spent. This will make Y approach the amount of X, but if the amount of Y being printed and in circulation is  getting closer to the amount of X, there is a chance that Y will surpass X. This will lead to the devaluation of the currency on which X and Y operate, leading to inflation.

To put it in even more simple terms: when you print currency to represent wealth, you’re not creating money out of nowhere. When you print more currency than you have wealth, you’re lowering the value of the money. The amount of wealth is still the same but the value of the currency changes.

Bill Still on the Federal Reserve

Bill Still is another Libertarian film producer, highly critical of the monetary system in US.  He is also seeking the nomination from the Libertarian Party for the 2012 elections.

During his short appearance in Thrive, Mr. Still claims that the Fed is a privately-owned bank made to look like a government bank. To get his point across he says the Federal Reserve, instead of being on the blue government pages in the Washington DC area phone books, is on the white pages. He thinks this is evidence!

Since I don’t live in the US and I didn’t look at a phone book from the DC area during my short but pleasant stay in US, I have to say that was a really bad choice for evidence.

[Muertos comment: there are a lot of stupid assertions in Thrive, but this one has got to be in the top five most ridiculous things in the entire movie. I can't believe Mr. Gamble let this one through--it's simply insulting to the intelligence.]

Alan Greenspan on the government’s relations with the Federal Reserve

At 1:00:02 of the movie there is a short video clip in which Alan Greenspan claims that the Federal Reserve doesn’t take direct orders from the president or the Congress. This is used to show the Fed as a rogue agency that answers to no one.

This is totally wrong. Mr. Greenspan’s quote is taken out of context.

For starters, all members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, are handpicked by the president and approved by Senate vote. They are required by law to have a “fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests and geographical divisions of the country.” This means they have to be scholars in economics, politics and above all they must represent the economic interests of the nation, not the interests of the Congress and not of the president. They are accountable for their actions which can lead to members of the board not being nominated again as well the formal and informal relationships of the board members with the president and the Congress.

There is a really good reason why the central banks usually don’t answer directly the executive chief in office and the Congress: if they did, politicians could use these banks for political gain and directly affect the economy. We need an independent Federal Reserve.

A brief study of history, especially looking at some South American countries and African countries, will show that when the politicians can control the decisions of the central banks and therefore dictate the course of the economy, the results are not pretty. More often than not this is completely disastrous for the country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QkmLnNEvdU

Even though the title of the linked video and the comment section of the youtube page follow the same line of thought of the people featured in Thrive, I’d like the viewer to see the part beginning at 8:00 where Greenspan remembers that the actions taken by the Fed would hurt G.H.W. Bush’s reelection. Just think about that for a few minutes. What if Bush was able to change the decisions of the Fed for his own political gain? What would that do to the economy of the United States? This could potentially harm the economy more than it was already harmed in 1992 (which at that time was in a deep recession). This is why the Congress and the president don’t have much say in the decisions of the Fed, but the Fed is still accountable for its decisions. The people on the Federal Reserve Board were chosen by the president and approved by the Senate in the first place, making them accountable for their actions inside the Federal Reserve.

Here are some documents containing detailed explanations of the relations of the Federal Reserve with other branches of the US Government. As you will see, it’s far from an unaccountable rogue entity.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-federal-reserve.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/od/governmentagencies/p/fed.htm

http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2000/20001024.htm

http://www.publiceye.org/conspire/flaherty/flaherty3.html

“Economic parasite”

After this, Mr. Gamble and Ms. Fitts give us analogies on how the bankers use their data on the economy to benefit themselves at expense of others. I won’t argue much with that because it is happening, but not for the reasons  Gamble & friends would you like to believe.

FBI Raid

Since it is Mr. Gamble talking about the FBI raiding her (Ms. Fitts’s) company not her saying it, and nowhere in her company’s website or her bio mentions the said raid, I’m skeptical that it even happened. I also tried to look for news articles mentioning this raid hoping to see something like the paper shot Gamble gave us on the screen, but the only places I saw any mention of it were 9/11 Truth websites and a few truthers’ blogs without any external links or sources to this event beyond what their word for it.

[Muertos comment: always be skeptical of anything that appears on 9/11 Truth websites and nowhere else. 9/11 Truthers are notoriously incapable of getting almost anything right.]

Unless Ms. Fitts herself can come forward and explain in her own words what happened, or if someone can provide me a reliable link or newsfeed with info validating Mr. Gamble’s characterization of what happened, I’ll keep my sense of disbelief about the big government suppressing her findings, specially someone with credentials and political reach like her. (Blogs or forums do not count as reliable source; I’m talking about newspaper articles or public data).

[Muertos comment: given the fact that ten people who appear in Thrive have signed a letter repudiating the film and saying the movie was misrepresented to them, I wouldn't be at all surprised if what Ms. Fitts would say about what happened would differ significantly from the way Mr. Gamble puts it in the film.]

The Dollar and the Sub-prime crisis:

Gamble begins this part with a moot point about the devaluation of the dollar, showing it from 1913 to 2010.

Remember when I discussed the matter of currency in circulation vs. the real value of wealth? Well, this is what happened: when the Federal Reserve came into being, having a regular universally recognized currency made trade easier both on the internal market as well the international market. It made the US economy more open to these markets, generating more trade, and as result more currency started to circulate. To compensate for the new amount of money circulating and more people earning more money, prices rose, because people where consuming more. This effect is called “demand-pull inflation.” This is regarded as the good kind of inflation because it shows that the country is THRIVING.

This doesn’t make people poor. If the prices are rising, so are peoples’ wages. Even if products have higher prices they still hold the same value. (The kind of inflation that rises both price and value is called “cost-push inflation,” and this happens due to the increase of production cost or scarcity. This is the bad kind of inflation).

But why doesn’t the currency return to its original value after a while? This happens because of an economic effect called “built-in inflation,” where past experiences dictate how the wages and prices will rise. Workers expect inflation to pinch in the future, so they start asking for higher wages to compensate. As a result, companies start raising the price of their products so they don’t lose their profit margins. Because this builds over time it becomes something like a change of currency or a hard economic crisis, where money is being hoarded and trading comes to a halt.

Even if you look to Mr. Gamble’s graph you’ll notice the periods when the dollar’s value rose were in the interwar period and during WWII, when US was still suffering from the 1929 stock crash that brought the US economy to its knees, and during WWII where all the US economy was focused on the war effort instead of producing consumer goods and trading. After those periods were over, trading resumed and, as expected, the value of the dollar declined as more currency began circulating again.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-causes-inflation.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Built-in_inflation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost-push_inflation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand-pull_inflation

Wealth Gap

Same case as the “economic parasite” claim: the gap in wealth is a big problem, but Thrive has the wrong take on what is the cause.

No, I don’t have a magic bullet solution for wealth disparity. No one does. I do, however, support several policies involving fiscal responsibility, fair taxation, better public health and education plans, transparency from both government and corporate business and not reelecting the same politicians with histories of corruption and incompetence.

Bankers and crisis

Gamble tries to correlate the stock crash of 1929 and the Great Depression to the creation of the Fed. Logically correlation does not equal causation. If you take a look at what happened, the stock crash of 1929 was caused by reckless investments on high risk and speculative shares. With the investments boom more people where buying shares and raising market prices. This would only become viable if the stock market kept rising at a quick rate. If the rise wasn’t fast enough, halted or went into a downturn, those shares would lose their value. This was combined with the massive loans stock brokers were making to investors (called “margin”). The investor only had to pay 50% of the share value and the broker would complete the rest with his own money. Thousands of people taking loans to purchase more shares didn’t help as it was creating a massive economic bubble. As expected, once the stock market faced a downturn, mass panic selling followed, forcing the share’s values down creating a cycle where investors had to sell their shares to pay their brokers and avoid losing too much money with shares that by this time had lost all their value.

[Muertos comment: the causes of the Great Depression are still highly controversial today. There is no one clear answer, but what you've identified is clearly part of the problem--any basic book on the crash will make this case. It's also not limited to 1929. I was working in the financial sector during the "dot com bust" of 2000-2001, and much the same thing happened--shares were grossly overvalued, and there was too much credit attached to financial speculation. When dot coms started to post less than impressive profit numbers, the whole thing collapsed. Something similar happened in 2008, except instead of stocks it was financial products tied to real estate.]

It is also worth remembering that the both people buying and selling the shares are normal people, prone to make mistakes, get nervous or act on impulse. This means one bad rumor in a highly volatile place such as the stock market can cause many stocks’ value to plummet. Do this on a large scale and you can get yourself a nice big crisis on your hands.

http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/Bierman.Crash

http://stocks.fundamentalfinance.com/stock-market-crash-of-1929.php (this is a TL;DR version of the previous link)

I also would like to have access to this “research” Mr. Gamble claims did on the “major banks” moving their money away from the stock market before the crash, because I’m not able to find any reliable link or article showing that this in fact happened.

The 2008’s credit bubble crisis

This is the only thing preventing me to copy paste the debunking of Zeitgeist here and calling it a day.

But where do I start? First Foster Gamble and David Icke and their “research” (really, I’d like to see the data Gamble uses to make his statements) want to lead the viewer to believe the 2008 economic crash was a ploy engineered by the major banks to consolidate their power by breaking smaller business and seizing their assets.

But there are a few problems with this. For one those assets (mostly houses) have become worthless, and the bail outs are not even close to the amount lost by the banks during the crisis. Plus, why create an economic crisis in the first place? The last thing you want, if you’re a banker or an industrialist, is an economic crisis where people stop spending and the economy stagnates.

So what happened in the 2008’s subprime crisis?

It was caused by a combination of lack of foresight, greed, high interest rates, high risk investments and a complete lack of regulations for the financial sector (I can hear from here all the libertarians shrieking in horror after reading this).

Putting it in layman’s terms, before the 2008 crisis the housing sector in United States was one of the most attractive investments for a few reasons. First, the continuous rise of housing prices and the demand for new houses, and second the too low interest rates from the Federal Reserve that were not attractive to the investors anymore (they were around 1% during 2008).

Okay, what was the banks’ deal then?

They were buying the mortgages from lenders and then reselling them to investors looking for investments with better rates. The banks would proceed to lend more money, mostly from other major banks and from central banks, to acquire more mortgages. Then the banks would generate massive profits from all the homeowners paying their mortgages.

So far so good. But for them there was a problem: since this was one relatively safe and high profit deal, the banks wanted more people paying more mortgages on the rising housing prices.

When a financing company sold the mortgages for the banks, if the homeowner went into default the bank would get the house. This was attractive for the bank because the housing prices were rising at the time. This meant that when the mortgage broker sells the house at a new higher price, the lenders and the banks would make a better profit with the new mortgage payers.

Okay, but where do the problems begin?

The number of AAA home buyers (meaning, reliable and financially responsible people) buying houses was too low to sustain the kind of profits they wanted to make selling and flipping mortgages. So, not wanting to miss the opportunity of selling the houses at higher prices and collecting the higher mortgages, the banks and lenders started selling the houses to subprime families (non reliable people) that they knew would go into default in a matter of time so they could resell the house again and again. Major profits were made this way. The lender would sell the mortgage for the banks and then the bank would sell it to an investor willing to take the risk.

With this happening soon the number of houses going into default was increasing. The number of houses being placed on the market for sale was also rising, but the number of people looking for a house was not. Actually most of the people who could afford a house already had one and with the subprime families simply not paying, this was starting to drive the housing prices down. To make things worse, the people who could afford their high mortgages simply started abandoning their houses because now they were worth a fraction of what they used to be worth, and yet their mortgage was the same.

This left the banks with a lot of houses, but with no one paying for them. The banks borrowed massive amounts of money to buy those mortgages, and the lenders had a lot of houses with people who were going into default, and the investors had a lot of high risk deals that have become worthless. The investors were not able to sell the risk to anyone because by this time everyone noticed that things were not going as planned and stopped buying or selling, essentially freezing the banking and the financing market, bankrupting the banks, the investors and the lenders.

And the banks owned a lot of money they couldn’t pay back, usually to other large banks either in US or Europe, thus dragging those banks down into the crisis with them.

This is the simple explanation, but there are other factors that contributed to the crisis. For example, easy credit (it stimulated not only banks to borrow huge sums of money but also common folk), predatory lending (lending deals so long and prone to change that people were deceived into deals that aren’t what they are advertised) and underwriting (banks with mortgages that didn’t meet proper standards and selling them to other banks and investors) and deregulation of the banking industry (this made easier for banks and financing companies to pull their stunts without the government being able to interfere).

This showed that the banking system had serious problems both ethically and financially, but the reality is much less Machiavellian (and boring) than Gamble would you like to believe.

Back to the movie. We have Mr. Gamble explaining the crisis using a fish hook analogy to show how the financial elites consolidate their power. I’d bother to explain who this logic is wrong if I didn’t do it already above.

Again the banks won’t make major profit from a lot of houses with devaluated prices and with their credibility shot.

Gentlemen! Behold the links!

http://crisisofcredit.com/ (a friendly video explanation about how the crisis came to be)

http://www.mortgageguideuk.co.uk/blog/debt/credit-crunch-explained/

http://useconomy.about.com/od/criticalssues/f/What-Is-the-Global-Financial-Crisis-of-2008.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/od/themarkets/f/hedge_funds.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/b/2008/09/23/why-the-bailout-is-necessary.htm

http://www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/emergency-lending-financial-crisis-20111206.pdf

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/apr/21/imf-huge-global-bank-losses

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/business/global/22fund.html?_r=1

http://beginnersinvest.about.com/od/banking/a/aa062405.htm

“Give me control over a nation’s money and I care not who makes her laws.”–Baron Mayer Amschel Rothschild

I can’t find this quote in any history source or website. The only result that purported to show where it came from besides attributing it to Amschel Rothschild is from The Creature of Jekyll Island.

And it featured in America: Freedom to Fascism.

Too bad Mayer Amschel Rothschild died in 1812, virtually a hundred years before the quote started making its first appearances during the early 20th century.

http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote/mayer_amschel_rothschild_quote_8bed

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America:_Freedom_to_Fascism#Quotation_of_Mayer_Amschel_Rothschild

[Google Books link discussing the quote]

Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

There isn’t much to talk about the BIS and the IMF. The BIS acts like a hub for central banks to organize themselves, regularize the sector and push for transparency on the business. The IMF is a bank responsible for money lending programs enjoyed by its contributors. It is infamous for cases of sheer incompetence due to lack of touch with the reality of the countries they were lending money to or how the assistance programs are perceived by the local population.  Depending on who you ask or which country you’re talking about, the IMF can be either seen as a major tool for the development of a country or just a means for the developed and industrialized nations to explore the undeveloped ones.

Like the Federal Reserve and other “major banks,” Gamble also claims they are controlled by the financial elite.

http://www.bis.org/

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bis.asp#axzz1sXrQrlhd

https://www.imf.org/external/index.htm

http://ifiwatchnet.org/

Conclusion

As with much else in Thrive, the “Follow the Money” section is long on rhetoric and short on identifiable facts. There are oversimplifications, important concepts left out, quotes whose truth can’t be identified, and a lot of distortions. This section isn’t done very much better than any other section in Thrive.

As difficult as this subject is, hopefully this analysis gives you something to work with as you evaluate the claims made by the movie.

Gambles Fire Back, Accusing Thrive Critics of “Disinformation Campaign”

Foster and Kimberly Gamble, the husband and wife team behind the conspiracy theory movie Thrive, have issued a statement firing back at the ten signatories of last week’s letter, people who appeared in the film but who have now disassociated themselves from it. The signatories include progressive leader John Robbins, who knows Foster Gamble personally, and who also gave me a statement regarding his views on the conspiracy aspects of the film, and Adam Trombly, the inventor whom the film claims created a “free energy” device. The full text of the statement was posted on this blog as a comment by one of Thrive’s official spokespersons. It’s also available on the “Thrive Movement” website.

The disappointing and fatuous statement by Mr. and Mrs. Gamble attempts both to minimize the controversy and to belittle the signers of the letter and critics of the film. Most notably, Mr. and Mrs. Gamble accuse John Robbins, the driving force behind the disassociation letter, of engaging in a “disinformation campaign” to discredit the film. The statement also makes clear that acceptance of the conspiracy theories advanced by Thrive as literal fact is a prerequisite for being taken seriously in the discussion of “solutions” that the makers of the film say they wish to engage in.

Because there are also parts of the statement that may be addressed to me and to this blog, I thought I would present my comments regarding it here. If you’d rather see the statement in its full form, without my comments interjected, either click the link to the comment above, or go here to the statement on Thrive’s website.

“Disinformation Campaign”?

“As those who have seen THRIVE know, we are committed to a bold inquiry into what is really in the way of our thriving – and to offering much more than just a tweak to our fundamentally flawed and failing system.

One of our core approaches in making THRIVE was to hear from people with differing points of view and to go for vital information regardless of the political affiliations of the source. That way we could do our own informed and critical thinking and glean the principles and facts from which true, just and lasting solutions can be created.”

I remain skeptical that anyone connected with Thrive engaged in any sort of sustained effort at critical thinking. Indeed, as this blog has shown, the makers have engaged in very little critical thinking. In order to reach the conclusion that aliens built various large works of ancient engineering, for instance, you must first accept a totally counter-intuitive assumption about the capabilities of ancient civilizations as compared to our modern world. Similarly, you have to turn off large portions of your brain to even conceive possible the bizarre “Global Domination Agenda” which a centerpiece of Thrive’s message.

“We encourage a transparent, respectful, informed and constructive dialog that can address the specifics of any differences some of the pioneers in THRIVE might have with us. Although the letter of dissociation raised no specific issues, we understand from John Robbins’ articles and the correspondence that he wrote soliciting others to participate in his disinformation campaign that the objections range from ET presence, to naming the reality of the Global Domination Agenda, to validating Zero Point Energy, to adhering to the Principle of Non-violation. Wow, not much of a movie left after eliminating those taboo inquiries!”

Setting aside the “disinformation campaign” accusation for the moment, I observe that Mr. Gamble is employing a common tactic among conspiracy theorists—labeling critics of conspiracy theories as people who are reluctant to discuss “taboo” subjects. This is a pretty transparent diversion. I don’t reject the Global Domination Agenda conspiracy theory because it’s “taboo” to accept it. I reject it because it is totally unsupported by evidence and also because it’s contrary to logic. I don’t denounce the idea of ancient astronauts because it’s “taboo” to admit that aliens built the pyramids. I reject it because aliens did not build the pyramids, and there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that they did. This has nothing to do with anything “taboo.”

The “disinformation campaign” comment is astonishing. Does Mr. Gamble really believe that John Robbins, who (Mr. Robbins told me) he has known for many years, is deliberately spreading false information about Thrive and soliciting others to join him? Really? I can’t even imagine, if this is what Mr. Gamble really thinks, why he supposes Mr. Robbins would do this. I’ve been accused many times of being a “paid disinformation agent” out to trash Thrive, and I’ve even joked about it. But it’s easy for Thrive supporters to make that accusation about me. Here’s Foster Gamble accusing his personal friend of that. How deep do you have to be in the thrall of conspiracist ideology to believe that your friends are spies out to destroy you?

“Decades Doing Our Homework”?

“We encourage everyone reading this to watch THRIVE and determine for yourselves if you agree that there is enough evidence to warrant additional dialog – about a covert agenda, about revolutionary new technologies and about bold strategies for achieving true liberty and justice for all.

We spent decades doing our homework on these issues and stand with complete integrity and clarity behind the facts represented in THRIVE.”

If Mr. Gamble and his team spent decades researching Thrive, they certainly missed a great deal of relevant information. It doesn’t take decades to find plenty of evidence, for instance, that crop circles are man-made. It also doesn’t take decades to research a historical event such as the Gulf of Tonkin affair, research which would have clearly indicated that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was not a “false flag” operation, as Mr. Gamble asserts in Thrive. I run this blog in my spare time. If I found all this information refuting the assertions in Thrive in my spare time in a mere five months, how come Thrive’s researchers, whoever they are, fell down on the job so badly?

The key part of this section of the statement is Mr. Gamble’s doubling down and going for broke. He says he stands behind Thrive’s facts. That’s extremely unfortunate, because countless matters he asserts as facts are untrue, misleading or taken out of context. Yet it seems Mr. Gamble is unwilling to admit that Thrive has any significant problems.

“Dangerous”?

“We welcome meaningful dialog and otherwise consider it dangerous to undermine the millions of us who are standing up to expose the covert global scheme amongst the elite and their secret societies and intelligence agencies to destroy the economies of countless nations, take over their resources, and kill whatever leaders or people don’t play along.”

This is also classic conspiracy theorist paranoia. Anyone who opposes conspiracy theories is not only wrong in their eyes, but “dangerous.”

This part of the statement appeals to one of the central conceits of conspiracy theorists—that they’re privy to some sort of special knowledge that the rest of the world refuses to accept, and that knowledge will supposedly “save the world.” In this case Mr. Gamble is painting Thrive fans as an army of noble millions fighting the good fight against evildoers who destroy economies and kill people. Conspiracy theorists tend to love movies like The Matrix and V For Vendetta because they underscore this basic and very simplistic narrative. The real world is far more complicated than this, unfortunately.

Oh, did I mention that the “covert global scheme amongst the elite and their secret societies” does not, in fact, exist? I did? Oh, sorry. Just don’t want that to get lost in the shuffle.

“Hit and Run Communications”!

“Further hit and run communications are of little interest to us, especially as it distracts from time better spent with motivated solutions groups forming all over the world who are awakening to the agenda and taking actions based on integrity and freedom rather than staying confined by outworn and deceptive political polarities.”

Mr. Gamble is here saying that he has more important things to worry about than, say, the credibility of his entire movie. Well, no matter. The purpose of this blog is not to motivate any action by Mr. Gamble; nor is it, as some have suggested, to “troll” Thrive fans. The purpose of this blog is to expose the general public to the reality of the serious factual and logical problems with the movie Thrive. That purpose will continue to be served whether Mr. Gamble is paying any attention or not.

“We encourage those who have publicly dissociated to offer their best information and solutions rather than spending time trying to undermine ours.

Each of the pioneers in THRIVE were invited because their expertise in a particular area had been helpful in our gaining an understanding of the bigger picture that includes, but vastly transcends, their sector of expertise -or anyone’s political affiliation. We clearly state this in the movie:

“The people in THRIVE do not necessarily agree with the themes, statements, claims or conclusions presented in the film or website, nor does their inclusion imply our full agreement with all of their views. The people interviewed have each contributed in some deep way to our understanding and we are grateful to them all.””

Again, the statement seems preoccupied with political affiliation. Yes, I do oppose the libertarian aspects of Thrive, as John Robbins has stated that he does; however, speaking only for myself, this is not my primary disagreement with the film or even in the top five. Though I find Thrive’s politics fulsome, if it was just a piece of libertarian political propaganda I probably wouldn’t care that much about it. It’s the conspiracy angle that concerns me. Although conspiracy thinking is becoming increasingly interwoven with libertarian political thought, at least until the last few years conspiracy beliefs cut across the political spectrum. I think this has much less to do with political affiliation than Mr. Gamble suggests here.

Thrive’s Millions are Coming! Or Are They?

“We are encouraged by the millions of viewers, thousands of self-created screenings, the hundreds of THRIVE Solutions groups forming to get on with what’s needed now – informed and leveraged action. People from all over the world- Greece, Poland, India, Portugal and more have voluntarily translated THRIVE into their languages to get the important information to their cultures. THRIVE is now translated into 18 different languages and we hear from people all over the world about the value THRIVE is offering in their cultural transformations.”

People from all over the world are viewing my blog, too. Aside from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, today alone I had page views from Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Brazil. Given the hits that show up from Google Translate it is also clear that Thrive Debunked has been translated into other languages also. This demonstrates to me that this blog is a clear success: many people are discovering the debunking at the same time as they discover the Thrive film for the first time. Therefore, they’re able to evaluate its claims side-by-side with the facts and logical arguments that refute it.

“We also are moved by the healings being reported in families, workplaces and communities as millions are getting the bridge between worldviews and beyond unnecessary and dangerous divide-and-conquer illusions. The new conversation, about what is really going on and solutions with human rights as primary, is, fortunately, unstoppable.

As stated in the book “1984”, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” There is a well-informed, nonviolent revolution brewing and we welcome constructive contributions from everyone ready to participate.

Foster and Kimberly Gamble”

Time will tell, but as hopeful a chord as this part of the statement sounds, I’m skeptical. Changing the world takes a lot more than just showing a movie to like-minded people who agree with it. The “Thrive Movement,” if such a thing can even be said to exist, isn’t doing much other than organizing screenings and discussion groups of fans who get together to talk about the movie. The problem is that this type of thing has been done before—with exactly zero effect. Here Thrive is emulating another group that organized itself as a fan club for a conspiracy movie, that being the infamous Zeitgeist Movement. Although the Zeitgeist cult is largely dead, there are still dwindling groups of supporters who meet occasionally to spin grandiose dreams of their “Resource Based Economy.” They have accomplished exactly nothing in the real world, except the promotion of conspiracy theories. Zeitgeist is different than the Thrive Movement in that it was, at least at one point in time, a real movement, with an identifiable leader, strict ideological guidelines and orthodoxy, and an organizational hierarchy. Even if a group can be said to be coalescing around Thrive—again, I’m skeptical this is even happening in any meaningful sense—it has none of these characteristics. If Zeitgeist can’t do it with a strong leader and supposedly an identifiable policy direction, I doubt very much that the fans of Thrive will be able to succeed where the Zeitgeisters failed.

That brings us to the next point:

What “Solutions,” Anyway?

The problem with Thrive’s “solutions” is that they are illusory, and in more ways than one. For one thing they aren’t clearly defined. The various “solutions” flogged on the Thrive website are all extremely vague and general. (I actually agree with many of them, but they’re still vague). Bank locally. Support independent media. Take part in “critical mass actions.” These sound terrific, but what do they really mean? What specific action are the Thrivers supposed to take to achieve these goals? That’s never defined, and Foster Gamble isn’t making any concerted effort to define them. And, as the experience with the Occupy Movement last fall demonstrates, getting a group of like-minded folks together and hoping that they work out for themselves what sort of specific goals they should pursue doesn’t tend to work very well. Successful grass-roots activist movements have never functioned on this model, and they never will. You’ve got to have someone in charge. Foster Gamble doesn’t seem to want to be in charge, which is fine. But expecting that a headless, leaderless group with no defined goals will accomplish anything in the real world is more than a little naïve.

Secondly, the point of Thrive is not really to push these “solutions” anyway. The point of Thrive is to make an ideological statement. The movie was created to animate belief, not action. It was created to advocate belief in New Age religious beliefs and conspiracy theories. I believe that the lip service given to the “solutions” is an add-on to mollify audience expectations. Thrive represents incremental progress on a very long road to legitimize and advance a certain belief system. If Thrive does end up “changing the world,” it will only be so because it leads to something else down the road. I discussed ideas along these lines in an article I wrote for my other blog about how the conspiracy world has changed.

But, let’s just assume for the sake of argument that I’m wrong about all that. The very troubling thing about Thrive is that the “solutions” its adherents say they advocate aren’t solutions to problems that we have. For example, as the Gambles’ statement indicates, Thrive fans fervently believe that crushing this “Global Domination Agenda” is a matter of paramount importance. But the “Global Domination Agenda” does not exist. They want to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. In the meantime, take a real problem that does exist—anthropogenic global warming, for instance, which I happen to believe is the single most crucial problem facing the world today—and most of them deny that it’s even a problem! Foster Gamble has made statements to the effect that he believes global warming is some sort of hoax. This, despite the absolutely overwhelming and conclusive scientific evidence that it’s happening, and that man has caused it.

So there you have it. Even if you can get past the vagueness of Thrive’s proposed solutions, it turns out they’re fired up to solve problems that don’t exist, and they deny the existence of the number one world problem that really does exist. Add to this the fact that the Gambles’ statement indicates that they’re not even really interested in talking to anyone who doesn’t, as a factual matter, accept the truth of the conspiracy theories pushed in Thrive, and you begin to see why this doesn’t work as a realistic means to move forward to solve world problems.

Conclusion: Why Am I Writing This Blog Instead of Making the World a Better Place?

This question is asked me often by Thrive fans, and you hear an echo of it in the Gambles’ statement: that somehow taking the time and effort to criticize Thrive is a waste of time, because instead you could be “making the world a better place.” This view is quite disingenuous.

For starters, I am making the world a better place by criticizing Thrive. Since the very beginning I’ve believed that this film, with its numerous deceptions, errors and incorrect statements, is on balance a bad thing. Belief in factually baseless conspiracy theories is a bad thing. This article I wrote last week explains why. My program for a better world is a world in which people think critically and rationally, and act on the basis of evidence and logic. In that world, conspiracy theories would not survive for long.

Secondly, none of the readers of this blog know what I am doing, and what I have done for a good many years now, to “make the world a better place.” The readers of this blog don’t know this because I haven’t told them, and I haven’t told them because this blog is not about me. So the readers of this blog don’t know that I have contributed large amounts of money to numerous charities and nonprofits. They don’t know the work I’ve done, and continue to do, to expand opportunities of higher education for kids from poor families—a cause I feel is especially important—or for children with cancer. They don’t know the work I did, personally, with my own two hands, to try to reduce wastewater emissions in the city where I used to live—a program that cumulatively cut toxic urban runoff by a total of 50% in three years. A few years ago I was the chief executive officer of a local activist organization that was estimated by the American Red Cross, during the year I was in office, to have been responsible for saving 21,000 lives. They don’t know the work I’ve been doing to increase historical understanding of global climate change. They don’t know about the kid in the Philippines, previously almost blind, who can today see because of something I did.

I hesitated to write the above paragraph because, as I said, this blog is not about me, and because I don’t wish to be seen as entering some sort of pissing match about “who’s done more.” I know that Foster Gamble has pursued many legitimate projects for positive change, such as his work on trying to limit pesticides, and I think that’s great. Nonetheless, I mention my own activities here for no other purpose than to demonstrate that I require no lectures from Foster and Kimberly Gamble, nor from any other Thrive fan, about what I should be doing to help “make the world a better place.”

I appreciate the Gambles’ desire to help. But, in my humble opinion, they’re not helping. Thrive is not part of the solution, it’s part of the problem. This was the reason the ten signed the disassociation letter. I commend them for having done so.

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