Tag Archive | Reptilians

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.”

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.

Throwing Thrive Under the Bus: Progressives Interviewed in the Film Distance Themselves From Its “Dangerously Misguided” Ideas. (UPDATED!)

This blog, originally published April 12, 2012, was updated April 13, 2012. Scroll to the end for the update.

It seems that the honeymoon the public has had with Thrive as a result of the film’s release free on the web has already come to a crashing halt. Yesterday, nine of the people interviewed in Thrive—John Robbins, Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, Elisabet Sahtouris, Duane Elgin, Vandana Shiva, Edgar Mitchell, Amy Goodman and John Perkins—issued a public statement denouncing the film and stressing their profound disagreement with it. They also claim that Foster Gamble and the makers of the film misrepresented it when securing their participation. This is potentially an extremely serious development for Foster Gamble and Clear Compass Media, whose film is already under heavy attack from anti-conspiracy skeptics, progressive political thinkers, and environmentalists.

Who Said What?

An article in the Santa Cruz News (online) by reporter Eric Johnson quotes portions of the statement as well as remarks by John Robbins. Mr. Robbins is an environmentalist, an advocate for sustainability and a health/fitness author best known for his book Diet for a New America, which was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He lives in the Santa Cruz, California area and knows Thrive makers Foster and Kimberly Gamble personally. According to the article, Mr. Robbins was invited to an advance screening of Thrive at Mr. Gamble’s house. Here’s how he describes what he saw there:

“Robbins, who makes a brief appearance in the film, says he was “overwhelmed” by what he saw.

“There were parts I liked, but there were other parts that I just detested,” he recalls. “I didn’t want to be rude—we were there with our families—so I just didn’t say anything.”

According to the Santa Cruz Weekly News article, Mr. Robbins told the reporter that Foster Gamble didn’t tell them about the real contents of the film beforehand. They didn’t know what was in it until it came out publicly. Additionally, Paul Hawken and Elizabeth Sahtouris told the news outlet that Mr. Gamble had actively misrepresented the film.

Just this evening, John Robbins posted a comment on my blog which included the full text of the statement signed by himself and the six other interviewees who have denounced Thrive. Here is the text of the statement as it was presented to me:

“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.

Signatories (in alphabetical order)

Deepak Chopra

Duane Elgin

Amy Goodman

Paul Hawken

Edgar Mitchell

John Perkins

John Robbins

Elisabet Sahtouris

Vandana Shiva”

I am not surprised by this move. Since at least December I’ve been hearing rumors that numerous interviewees in Thrive were upset at how the movie came out and appalled that their words and images appear in it. This clearly indicated that there were problems with how the makers of the film presented the project when they went to secure these commentators’ interviews. However, at the time I had no hard knowledge that these rumors were true, so I didn’t feel comfortable publicizing them. I expected that eventually one or more of the interviewees would go public. Now they have.

Why now? It’s clearly because of the recent free release of the film, which seems to have boosted its popularity. The Santa Cruz Weekly article states that the nine who disavowed the movie had hoped Thrive would simply go away. It didn’t, and has become “something of a Web cult phenomenon.” Because of the popularity of the movie, they decided to go public at this time.

Why Am I Not Surprised?

There is a clear division among the people interviewed in Thrive. Some of them are people who have severe problems commanding credibility in the mainstream—David Icke, Adam Trombly and Nassim Haramein all fall into that category. However, there are also others interviewed in the film who do not appear to be conspiracy theorists, pseudoscientists or otherwise makers of wild and unproven claims. That doesn’t mean I agree with them on everything they have to say; however, I suspected from the very get-go that these people weren’t being told the full story of what Thrive was about before they agreed to appear in the film.

I will direct the readers to a passage in my very first article about Thrive, which was a debunking of the trailer, even before I’d seen the full film. Here’s what I had to say about Elisabet Sahtouris, Paul Hawken, and Amy Goodman:

“Dr. Sahtouris is the first person in this movie [at the time I meant the trailer] who actually has a real, verifiable Ph.D…. She lectures on evolution of humanity and how to create a better future. Given that she, like Catherine Fitts, sounds completely sane, I suspect that her inclusion in this movie is somewhat unwitting. Another clue that tells me this is that she appears to believe in global warming. While global warming isn’t mentioned in the Thrive trailer, I would lay odds that most of Thrive’s target audience believes that global warming is a hoax. Most conspiracy theorists do. I do not think Dr. Sahtouris is a conspiracy theorist….

Paul Hawken is a California businessman and environmentalist. He advocates for socially and environmentally responsible business practices (and I certainly agree with that). He hosted a 17-part series on PBS about running socially responsible businesses. Again, another sane person who makes me wonder if he was told he was going to be in the same movie as David Icke and Adam Trombly…

Democracy Now! is a radio program on the Pacifica radio network, dedicated to progressive causes. I’ve never listened to the show, but browsing their material there seems to be a lot of stuff I agree with. Amy Goodman was arrested along with two other reporters at the 2008 Republican National Convention despite having committed no crime. The charges were eventually dropped.

As with several other respectable names here (Fitts, Hawken, Sahtouris, williams) I wonder what she is doing in a conspiracy theory movie.”

In fact, it is noteworthy that Mr. Robbins is most upset about the very same aspect of Thrive that most upsets me—its inclusion of David Icke. According to the Santa Cruz article, he was especially concerned with the inclusion in the film of Mr. Icke as well as G. Edward Griffin, both of whom are detailed on the Thrive website. The Santa Cruz Weekly article reports that Griffin is associated with the ultra-right-wing John Birch Society. As for David Icke, whose claim to fame is obviously (as I pointed out in my own piece on him) the conspiracy theory that the world is controlled by a race of shape-shifting reptilian aliens from the constellation Draco, the Weekly article raises exactly the same concerns about the anti-Semitic aspects of Mr. Icke’s theories as I’ve noted on this blog.

Furthermore, Mr. Robbins told the Santa Cruz Weekly that Foster Gamble has taken a lot of inspiration from the work of Eustace Mullins. Mullins is, in Mr. Robbins’s words, “the most anti-Semitic public figure in U.S. history.” The article mentions that Eustace Mullins is the author of a book called Adolf Hitler: An Appreciation. The mere title of that book should tell you what it’s about–and in this case the cover of the book is quite a good advertisement for what you’ll find inside. In that book Mullins rails against “Jewish international bankers” and alleges a plot by them for world domination. Near the end of the article, Mr. Robbins is quoted as saying, “Foster is extremely naïve about the political consequences of his film.”

I’ve stated on more than one occasion that I think the main problem with Foster Gamble is that he is naïve. I don’t think he’s a racist and I don’t think he’s a bad person. I’ve even begun to question whether I think his commitment to conspiracy theorist ideology runs very deep. But what I hear Mr. Robbins saying here is exactly what I’ve been thinking for the past five months.

What Does This Mean For Thrive? 

In my view, the statement issued yesterday, and the public dissociation of nine prominent people interviewed in the film from the finished product, is devastating. If Foster Gamble and the makers of Thrive had to misrepresent the film in order to sell it to the people they wanted to appear in it, as the nine undersigned allege, what does that say about the validity of the film and its message as a whole?

Thrive’s credibility has already suffered so many blows that very little of it remains. The inclusion of David Icke as a reliable source was just the tip of the iceberg. This very blog exposed further questions of credibility, when I published statements by inventor David Farnsworth who claims that the “free energy” device shown in Thrive and attributed to Adam Trombly was not in fact invented by Trombly, and does not do what the film says it does. The implication of that crisis is that, if Mr. Farnsworth’s claims are true, Foster Gamble seems not to have done a very good job in checking his sources and vetting the people who appear in Thrive. Yesterday’s allegation complicates further the question of how this film was made and what was said to the people who participated in it.

I’m curious if Foster Gamble will respond to the statement and if so, what he has to say about how the film was made and what was told to Mr. Robbins and the others who signed the statement.

There will probably be further developments regarding this story in the future. I’ll update this article as events warrant.

Update: 13 April 2012

John Robbins posted a comment on this article today in which he states that Adam Trombly has also signed the repudiation of the film.

I’m trying to learn more about this, especially Mr. Trombly’s reasons for doing so. If he has indeed walked away from Thrive, this represents the most significant defection yet–and an even more serious blow to the Thrive organization.

In a note posted on the movie’s official Facebook account, an unnamed spokesman said that Foster and Kimberly Gamble are traveling and will respond more fully later, but they didn’t knowingly misrepresent the film. The response quotes the disclaimer on the film that says they (the filmmakers) don’t agree with everything the people in the movie say. Presumably that works both ways.

I look forward to hearing what more the Thrive people have to say. But if even someone as closely identified with the film as Adam Trombly has been (up until this point) is scrambling for a life preserver, I’d venture a guess that Thrive is starting to resemble a sinking ship.

.

Thrive Is Free: New Fans, New Approach, and a Fresh Welcome to This Blog.

The big news in Thrive-land this week is that the movie is now free. Originally released on the Internet on November 11 of last year—a date that supposedly has some kind of cosmological significance in New Age circles—the film was initially available only as a download for $5, although it was ripped to various torrent sites and even YouTube within hours after its release. Now it seems that Foster Gamble and Clear Compass Media don’t care if you pay for the movie anymore. You can now download the film from the Thrive website for free. We can speculate as to the motives for taking this new approach to the movie, but up until now there certainly have been those—even people highly complimentary of the film—who criticized the fact that you had to pay to see it. This move is likely to silence those critics.

Yesterday, coinciding with the release of Thrive free, I noted a sudden and dramatic upswell in page views here on the Thrive Debunked blog, which is now more popular than it ever was. Each of the last two days has been a record-breaker for page views. As people discover the film, in many cases they discover the debunking at the same time. One of the most common ways people come to this blog is by clicking from various forums, some conspiracy-related, others not, where a link has been posted. In almost all cases the paradigm is the same. A user on a forum will make a topic to the effect of, “Hey, have you seen this movie Thrive?” Usually the user posting the topic will be complimentary toward the film. Within a few replies someone will take a different view of the movie, and they’ll very often provide a link to this blog. I’ve seen forums from Germany, Romania, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Australia and Israel where this blog has been mentioned and discussed. This tells me that Thrive Debunked is doing exactly what I hoped it would do: it’s serving as a powerful counterpoint to make people think about the issues before blindly accepting the spurious claims in Thrive as gospel truth.

Because we now suddenly have many more readers thanks to the free release of the film, I thought I would provide a fresh welcome to those who are discovering Thrive Debunked for the first time. This blog has now been around for about five months. There’s a lot of material here and a lot of discussion especially in the comments. Here, therefore, is a quick guide to what parts of the film have been debunked, what remains to be done, and where you might be able to find answers to some of the most common questions about the movie and its claims.

Comprehensive Debunkings

Full Debunking of Thrive, Part I. This article, by our contributor SlayerX3, is the first of three to try to go through Thrive very quickly, tackling many of its claims in sequence. Not every claim in the first third of the film is dealt with here, but you’ll find comments on the film’s intro, the “torus” shape with which Foster Gamble is so entranced, the “Flower of Life” claims (which are dealt with in much greater detail in other articles), the supposed 64 energy units, Steven Greer and his UFO claims, more UFO material from Edgar Dean Mitchell, Clifford Stone, Harry Allen Jordan, Dwynne Anderson and John Callahan; and finishing up with crop circles. All of these subjects are roundly debunked.

Full Debunking of Thrive, Part II. SlayerX3’s second outing, this one at the middle section of the film. Here you’ll find debunkings of the UFO and energy claims of James Gilliland and Daniel Sheehan; the movie’s nonsensical distortions of the work of Nikola Tesla; free energy suppression; Adam Trombly (himself the subject of two additional articles), John Bedini and John Hutchinson, who all claim to have invented “free energy” machines; and Eugene Mallove, who was not killed (as the movie claims) because of his work on cold fusion.

Full Debunking of Thrive, Part III. The third in the full debunking series by SlayerX3 debunks the following: oil and energy empires; Foster Gamble’s misstatements about the Green Revolution; loss of biodiversity and environmental harm; Vandana Shiva; free trade agreements and globalism; a fake quote from Henry Kissinger; NEA and the Rockefellers; John Taylor Gatto; Deepak Chopra; alt-med quackery from R. Royal Raymond Fife, Rene Cassie, and Max Gerson; and the controversial Hoxsey Therapy.

Debunkings of Specific Topics and People

Crop Circles—Debunked! This article demonstrates how and why we can be sure that crop circles are not created by extraterrestrials, are not mysterious or unexplainable, and certainly are not messages from aliens telling us how to turn spinning electric donuts into “free energy” machines. In terms of page views, this is one of the most popular articles on the blog and seems especially offensive to fans of Thrive. It was the response to this article that began to convince me that the target audience of Thrive is the New Age religious crowd. For some reason I do not understand, the notion that crop circles are not extraterrestrial in origin is deeply offensive to many people in the New Age milieu. This article has surpassed the David Icke exposé as the single most controversial piece we’ve ever done on this blog.

Thrive Makers Back Down on “Flower of Life” Claim: This article details an extremely rare event—a factual correction by the Thrive makers. In this case they admitted that the claim, made in the movie by Nassim Haramein, that the “Flower of Life” design at the Osirian Temple in Abydos, Egypt is somehow “burned into the rock at the atomic level,” is in fact false. Nevertheless, despite this retraction, many Thrive fans continue to believe that the “Flower of Life” was put there by aliens and not by crafty Egyptian artisans.

Who Is Nassim Haramein? This article is a profile of Nassim Haramein, the person who makes the “Flower of Life” claim and most of the “ancient astronauts” claims in the film. As this article shows, Mr. Haramein has a history of making pseudoscientific and pseudohistorical claims that are met with extreme skepticism by members of the legitimate scientific community. An example of such a claim is his inventive “Schwarzschild Proton” theory, which postulates that every atom is a mini-black hole, despite the fact that this theory flies in the face of established physics. Yet, according to many Thrive fans in the comments, Mr. Haramein is a scientific visionary right up there with Galileo, Copernicus and Einstein. I’m not ready to book my plane tickets to Oslo for Mr. Haramein’s Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony quite yet.

Ancient Astronauts—Debunked! This article takes apart the ridiculous notion that Egyptians, Mayans and Incas were too stupid, backwards and ignorant to have created great works of ancient engineering, which Thrive claims must have been built by aliens instead. As you’ll see in the article, this idea rests awkwardly on a single untenable assumption that manages to offend historical fact, scientific reality and cultural sensitivity all at the same time. If there’s an old paperback copy of Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods on your bookshelf, you need to read this article.

Who Is Adam Trombly? This article must be read in conjunction with Exclusive: Allegations About Adam Trombly Present Potential Credibility Crisis for Thrive. The first article, the earliest person profile on the blog, began our descent into the Adam Trombly saga. Adam Trombly claims to have invented a “free energy” machine that will solve all the world’s energy problems. As you’ll see in the second article, another inventor, David Farnsworth, came forward in March 2012 and claimed that the machine shown in the movie and identified as Trombly’s was actually invented by him (Farnsworth), and that it can’t do what Thrive claims it can do. I don’t know what the absolute truth is here. Despite a lengthy back-and-forth between Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Trombly, as well as additional comments from Mr. Trombly’s daughter and Foster Gamble himself, the two questions I have about the machine—(1) did Adam Trombly really build it? and (2) can it do what Thrive says it can do?—remain unanswered.

Global Domination Agenda—Debunked! This is my personal favorite of all the articles on this blog. In it I debunk the idea that the Illuminati or New World Order, which Foster Gamble calls the “Global Domination Agenda,” actually exists and is trying to control the world. In fact it does not exist, but the article attempts to explain why believers in this bizarre conspiracy theory are not only utterly convinced that it does exist, but why everything they see and hear seems to confirm their belief. Hint: it’s a self-reinforcing delusion that is specifically designed to be impervious to anything in the way of reason or evidence. My one regret about this article is that its length probably scares away most casual readers, but you can’t really describe the issues involved in Illuminati/New World Order conspiracy theories without using a lot of words.

False Flag Attacks—Debunked! This article attacks a small section of the film where Foster Gamble is guilty of serious historical distortions, especially regarding the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident that was a prominent milestone on the U.S. road to involvement in the Vietnam War. In the article I explain why Gulf of Tonkin was not a “false flag” attack, how and why conspiracy theorists get the whole idea of “false flag” attacks totally wrong, and why, contrary to what the film asserts, belief in the bizarre and ridiculous “9/11 was an inside job” theory is in fact declining rather than increasing. Hint: it’s declining because the idea that “9/11 was an inside job” is a bunch of crap, and the vast majority of the American public knows it’s a bunch of crap. Nevertheless, the true believers have chosen to go down with the sinking ship on this one; devotees of conspiracy theories are ferociously resistant to the reality that fewer people believe 9/11 conspiracy theories now than at any time since the disaster itself.

Who Is David Icke? Formerly the most controversial piece on this site–until surpassed by the crop circles article–this article profiles British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who, if Thrive had a conventional cast list, would probably get top billing as the star of the film. Mr. Icke believes that the world is secretly run by an evil race of reptilian shape-shifting aliens. “But wait!” you protest, “he doesn’t say that in Thrive!” This article explains why, and it also explains why Mr. Icke’s reptilian shape-shifting alien theories are especially dangerous and offensive.

Thrive’s Philosophy, Purpose and Broader Context

Should We Give Thrive a Pass on its Facts, And Instead Praise its “Message?” This article answers many of the objections Thrive fans have to why I don’t just go quietly into the sunset. Although the point of the movie seems to be to establish conspiracy theories as a theodicy for New Age belief systems (see the article for an explanation of what that means), it does still purport to be a documentary, and as such it has a duty to present the facts responsibly.

Progressive Think Tank Slams Thrive’s Political Agenda. This article could also go into the feedback/response section, but I put it here because it’s a good exposure of the neo-libertarian, pro-Ron Paul political subtext of the film, which many viewers who don’t follow politics may miss entirely. Much of this article is my critique of a progressive reviewer’s take on the film, and my thoughts on how conspiracy theories, such as those advanced by Thrive, are increasingly becoming intertwined with libertarian political ideology. The progressive reviewer herself chimed in in the comments section, as well as an especially shrill Ron Paul supporter.

A Post at the Sister Blog: Thrive Demonstrates How the Conspiracy World is Changing. This is a portal to an article I posted on my other blog, which is not specifically limited to Thrive, dealing with how the world of conspiracy theories is changing in the wake of the ignominious death of the “9/11 Truth Movement.” The article mentions Thrive as an example of how conspiracy theories are increasingly being deployed either as recruiting tools for particular groups or as marketing angles for ideological, political and even religious belief systems.

Reception and Reaction to the Film

JREF Reviews Thrive! This article, fairly short, showcases a review the film received from a writer for the James Randi Educational Foundation, a group devoted to skepticism and busting woo beliefs. Needless to say, the Randi folks didn’t exactly have Thrive on their best-films-of-2011 list.

Another Negative Review of Thrive Hits the Nail on the Head. This article presents the thoughts of a noted UK environmentalist blogger and activist on Thrive. Predictably, he savaged it, and many of the arguments he made against the film echo criticisms that had already been made on this blog. Be sure to see the comments on this one, where the UK blogger himself chimes in, and gets some heavy flak from outraged Thrive fans.

Thrive—A Flop? This article is somewhat outdated. Thrive seems to have become much more popular recently, but in December there were some indications that it had peaked. Nevertheless, there is still some topical material here, such as the controversy among conspiracy theorists as to whether the film is “disinformation” and especially whether its promotional poster contains “Illuminati symbolism.” It astonishes me that anyone could be so loony as to think that, but conspiracy theorists never cease to amaze me with what they’ll be willing to swallow.

Just for Fun

Poll: Is the Creator of This Blog a “Paid Disinformation Agent?” This article is a specific response to those readers (you know who you are) who insist that no one in their right mind could ever criticize the shining truth of Thrive, and therefore anyone who does so must be an agent provocateur paid by _________ (fill in the blank—the government, the Rockefellers, the oil industry, or whoever you most love to hate). In the poll at the end of the article you get the chance to vote on whether I am really a “paid disinformation agent,” but be careful—I might be logging your IP and telling the Illuminati death squads exactly where to find you!

Debunkings We Have Not Done Yet

This site is not yet complete. There are several topics I’d still like to tackle at some point, but, as I do have a job, a life, loved ones etc., I can’t spend all my time working on this blog (contrary to what some people think). While I can’t guarantee I’ll get to all of these topics, here are some topics I’d like to cover in the future.

  • Claims regarding fractional banking and the Federal Reserve. There is a lot of demand for a debunking of Thrive’s views on this topic, but as anything to do with banking bores me silly, it’s not a topic I relish taking on. However, SlayerX3 is reportedly working on an article along these lines. I think it will be a crucial addition to the site.
  • UFOs. Thrive traffics in so much UFO folklore and apocrypha that it seems incomplete for a site devoted to debunking it to not have an article specifically devoted to UFO claims.
  • Global warming denial. Thrive doesn’t hit it that hard, but I observe from other sources (interviews, etc.) that there are some indications that Foster Gamble is a global warming denier. I don’t know that for sure, but I do know that many conspiracy theorists deny the proven scientific reality of anthropogenic climate change, so it’s relevant enough to be included here. This is a topic I know much about and have written about before on other blogs. As it’s not a huge part of Thrive, it’s a lower priority, but I do hope to get to it.
  • Other claims regarding free energy. This is a very rich topic and I’ve learned a great deal about it in the past five months. Lately with the Trombly-Farnsworth debate we’ve focused a lot on energy claims, so the time is not right to do another article on it quite yet. However, it may be coming in the future.

Conclusion

Contrary to what it may seem like at first glance, I don’t dislike Thrive fans. I want to reach them and get them to expand their thinking. My whole point here is to educate people and get them to ask for evidence before accepting someone’s word for anything. In that spirit, I welcome all the new Thrive viewers who will be attracted to the movie now that it’s free. Read the articles, join the discussion, and understand what this movie is about, why it exists and what it’s telling the world. I already feel that this blog has been phenomenally successful, and I look forward to the discussions to come.

Who Is David Icke?

Arguably the most famous—and certainly the most infamous—person who appears on-screen in Thrive is David Icke. As probably the most well-known conspiracy theorist in the world, Mr. Icke is quite naturally a lightning rod of controversy and a divisive figure who evokes strong emotions both pro and con. This article will attempt to answer the question, “Who is David Icke?”, and also make some attempt at evaluating why he appears in Thrive, what he says while on screen, and why his inclusion in the film is one of the key issues to understanding the message Thrive is trying to get across to its audience.

What Does David Icke Say in Thrive?

An extended interview with David Icke, intercut with various material, forms much of the middle section of Thrive. Although the interview with Mr. Icke proper begins at 53:48 of the film, his face first flashes on the screen at 6:55, in the credits sequence. I believe the appearance of Mr. Icke’s image early in the film is very important, as I’ll get to later.

Mr. Icke’s interview is used in Thrive mainly to explain Foster Gamble’s opinion of banking and also to bolster his claims that a “Global Domination Agenda” is trying to control the world. When Mr. Icke first appears (excluding the credits sequence), a title card identifies him as “David Icke—Researcher, Author, The Biggest Secret.” He asserts, beginning about 54:00, that people “ask few questions” about the inner workings of banking. He goes on to state that, when you take out a loan, you begin paying interest on money that (supposedly) does not exist. This is a lead-in to Mr. Gamble’s critique of fractional reserve lending.

At about 1:05:00 of the film, Mr. Icke appears again, explaining how he thinks bankers “rig” business cycles and deliberately cause depressions. At 1:18:03 he stops talking about banking and says something to the effect of, “The greatest prison people live in is the fear of what others will think. One result of the ridicule I went through is that I stepped out of the fear of what other people thought.”

Mr. Icke then talks about how social norms dictate thinking and how peer pressure stigmatizes those who don’t think “normally.” At 1:19:10 he explicitly mentions the “Illuminati,” which is his term for what Mr. Gamble calls the “Global Domination Elite.” For the next several minutes he talks about this GDE and their supposed agenda. He refers to a “problem-reaction-solution” paradigm, suggesting that the GDE causes problems in the world deliberately so they can solve them. At 1:28:30 Mr. Icke specifically mentions the September 11 attacks as an example of this, clearly indicating that he thinks 9/11 was rigged.

David Icke: A Biographical Profile

David Icke was born in Leicester, UK in 1952, the son of a British World War II hero. He did not do well in school, but was talent-scouted by a football (we call it soccer in the U.S.) team, Coventry City. He also played for Hereford United. Early onset of arthritis ruled out a football career, and Mr. Icke retired from the sport in 1973. During the 1970s and 1980s he was a print and television journalist. He also began to dabble in politics, and after 1988 became one of the spokesmen for the UK Green Party.

About 1990, Mr. Icke began to get heavily into New Age ideas, evidently while searching for alternative cures to the pain of his arthritis. In early 1991 he claims to have had a spiritual experience at a pre-Columbian burial site in Peru. Not long after he returned to the UK, he resigned from the Green Party. At this point in his life he began wearing only clothes that were turquoise colored, believing it channeled positive energy. He also began making bizarre doomsday predictions, such as a prognostication that Great Britain would crumble into the sea as a result of earthquakes. (There is no significant seismic activity in Britain). Mr. Icke later recanted these predictions, admitting they were “nonsense.”

What really projected Mr. Icke into the public eye was an April 1991 interview with BBC personality Terry Wogan. You can see a video of the interview here. In the interview, Mr. Icke continued to make strange apocalyptic predictions. He also claimed, or at least implied, that he was the Son of God—later Mr. Icke said this was misinterpreted. The studio audience present at the interview laughed. The BBC brass cringed; many thought the show went too far. Fifteen years later, Mr. Wogan admitted that he was too hard on Mr. Icke during this interview. Certainly the interview had a devastating effect—Mr. Icke said he was afraid to walk down the street for fear of public derision, and he dropped out of sight for several years.

In 1999, Mr. Icke came out with his most famous book, The Biggest Secret, the book with which he is identified on-screen in Thrive.  This book established the central tenet of Mr. Icke’s philosophy: that the world is run by a race of reptilian aliens that can change their shape and appear to be human, and that the world’s political, economic and social systems are a colossal conspiracy by these evil aliens to enslave mankind. These aliens are supposedly from the constellation Draco, but also from another dimension. Over his various series of books and lectures, Mr. Icke has expounded on this theory, weaving a complicated science-fiction history of the world wherein these aliens have been breeding humans since ancient times. People whom Mr. Icke thinks are secretly reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco include Bill Clinton, the late Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, President George W. Bush (of course), and, for whatever reason, Hollywood actor and former country star Kris Kristofferson.

Mr. Icke has not changed this basic narrative in 13 years. Indeed, he’s still out there today, giving lectures all over the world and getting paid handsomely for it. According to one estimate, he may make as much as £300,000 (about $475,000) for one appearance in the UK.

Is There Any Evidence to Support David Icke’s Theories?

No.

There is not a single shred of evidence anywhere in the world to suggest that (1) shape-shifting reptilian aliens from the constellation Draco actually exist; (2) various world leaders, celebrities and country-western stars are actually reptilian shape-shifting aliens from the constellation Draco; or (3) that there is a such thing as an “Illuminati,” a “New World Order” or a “Global Domination Agenda.” On this blog, I have already debunked the Global Domination Agenda and demonstrated why we can be certain that it does not exist. All of the so-called “evidence” produced by Mr. Icke and/or his supporters falls along exactly the same lines as the discussion in that article about why evidence proffered by Illuminati/NWO/GDA believers does not, in fact, prove the existence of this group or their supposed agenda. Mr. Icke’s theories are total fantasy.

A favorite activity of believers in Mr. Icke’s fantastic delusional scenarios is to scrutinize videos on YouTube of world leaders suspected of being reptilians for “evidence” of them changing from their human into their reptilian form. Sometimes believers will seize upon a glitch or anomaly in the video, often lasting only split seconds, and trumpet it as “proof” that the person is “changing into a reptile in front of our eyes!” Often the culprit will be a bulging vein in the person’s neck, a common retinal flash (red-eye), or a pixellation error in the streaming video which the believer insists makes the person look like they have “lizard eyes.” For some reason, former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush are favorite targets for this ludicrous accusation. Here is an example of a video which reptilian believers cite as total vindication of Mr. Icke’s claims.

As you can see, it’s a pretty boring interview by the former presidents, and despite the frenzied claims of the subtitles, neither of them change into reptiles, nor anything even remotely close.

I challenge any believer of Mr. Icke’s theories to explain how and why this video proves (I) that reptilian shape-shifting aliens exist; (II) that these aliens come from Draco; (III) that these aliens rule the world, or (IV) that President Clinton and President Bush are said reptilian aliens.

To those supporters of Mr. Icke who will invariably say, “But you haven’t proved that what he says isn’t true,” I will reply, I don’t have to. It’s Mr. Icke’s burden to prove that what he says is true. The burden of proof never shifts to skeptics to disprove conspiracy theories. I am not suggesting that we reject David Icke’s theories about reptilian shape-shifting aliens because they sound crazy. I’m suggesting that we reject them because there is no evidence to support them, and because, as if this is not enough reason to reject them, they have another very serious and troubling problem.

What Do David Icke’s Theories Really Mean?

The problem with Mr. Icke’s false assertions is that they are essentially science-fiction redresses of the old “Jewish world conspiracy” theories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco standing in for Jews. Mr. Icke even believes in the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery that was proven false almost a century ago. Of course, in Mr. Icke’s mythology, it was not the Jews who wrote about their plans of world domination in the Protocols, but aliens.

Michael Barkun, an academic researcher who studies comparative religion, wrote a book called A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Dr. Barkun is the leading scholarly expert on conspiracy theorists in the United States today. On page 104, in a chapter where Dr. Barkun describes the conspiracist ideology of Mr. Icke, he says:

“This set of nested conspiracies [described by David Icke] achieves its goals through control of the ‘world financial system’ and its mastery of ‘mind control’ techniques. Its goal is a ‘plan that, according to Icke, had been laid out in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Although Icke is careful to suggest…that the Illuminati rather than the Jews wrote The Protocols, this is the first of a number of instances in which Icke moves into the dangerous terrain of anti-Semitism.”

The reason that aliens became stand-ins for Jews has to do with the evolution of conspiracy theory during the 1980s and 1990s, when right-wing militia conspiracy milieu (think Timothy McVeigh) became intertwined with the UFO/alien subculture. Dr. Barkun states, on page 144:

“This type of speculation projects terrestrial racial categories onto creatures from outer space….Such racial classificatory schemata are common among those who argue for multiple types of alien visitors. Even among writers who most unambiguously reject anti-Semitism, the alien racial types disquietingly appear to reproduce old stereotypes. The evil Grays are dwarfish with grotesque features—not unlike stereotypes of the short, swarthy, hook-nosed Jew of European anti-Semitic folklore. They are contrasted to the tall, virtuous Nordics or Aryans. Although there is little to suggest that those who employ such terms do so to make direct parallels to earthbound categories, the images seem clearly to be refracted versions of older racial anti-Semitism.”

This is useful background, but it isn’t really about Mr. Icke per se. However, Dr. Barkun does get there, after discussing how conspiracists like David Icke are inconsistent about proclaiming to not be anti-Semitic while advancing clearly anti-Semitic theories:

“David Icke also seeks to have it both ways, simultaneously claiming to be offended at the thought that anyone might find him anti-Semitic and hinting at the dark activities of Jewish elites. He protests that the charge of anti-Semitism is merely a ruse to silence truth seekers, a tactic of the shadowy ‘Global Elite,’ who ‘denounce anyone who gets closer to the truth as an anti-Semite.’ According to Icke, the Anti-Defamation League is the conspiracy’s tool for silencing ‘researchers who are getting too close to the truth about the global conspiracy.’…

The more strongly Icke is condemned for anti-Semitism, the stranger are his protestations of innocence. He attacks alleged exploiters of the Jewish people, including B’nai B’rith, which he identifies as the Rothschilds’ ‘intelligence arm,’ used to ‘defame and destroy legitimate researchers with the label anti-Semitic.’ It was supposedly the Rothschilds who brought Hitler to power, created Zionism, and ‘control the State of Israel.’…Icke and other UFO anti-Semites obsess about ‘Jewish bankers.’ They are alleged to be the international wire-pullers behind countless episodes of national collapse and international turmoil. The old names, such as Rothschild and the firm of Kuhn, Loeb, continually recur. Given this penchant for recycling old themes, it is scarcely surprising that that hoary forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, exerts an abiding fascination.”

Wait, What Does This Have to Do With Thrive?

The anti-Semitic echoes of David Icke’s theories present a very difficult problem. Thrive‘s treatment of Mr. Icke illustrates the extremely delicate dance that one must do when confronted with this material. If you believe at least some of what David Icke is saying, how do you separate what you like and agree with from the ugly anti-Semitic stuff, and how do you prevent the negative press surrounding Mr. Icke from totally overshadowing everything else? Furthermore, how do you do this when Mr. Icke’s theories specifically posit that it’s a grand over-arching superconspiracy, meaning that he sees no separation or compartmentalization of one part of the superconspiracy from another? Thrive never solves this conundrum, which is why Mr. Icke’s appearance in the film seems so forced and awkward.

It is very evident, from the sections of Dr. Barkun’s book that I’ve excerpted above, that Thrive is at the very least sympathetic to key elements of the grand conspiracy views of Mr. Icke, even if it doesn’t come out and specifically endorse reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco, and even if the film denounces anti-Semitism (which it does). Indeed, aside from the aliens themselves, Thrive traffics in a lot of other things that feed into David Icke’s theory. Foster Gamble rages at the Rothschilds and Rockefellers several times in the movie. Immediately after addressing anti-Semitism, the film brushes the issue off with an accusation that the “central bankers funded both sides of World War II,” quite a transparent evasion. And, of course, much of the core ideology that Thrive wants its viewers to adopt relates to the notion of “evil bankers” supposedly in control of the world. And, of course, one of the major messages of the film is the idea of a “Global Domination Agenda.” All of these ideas lie at the very heart of Mr. Icke’s ideology. What David Icke adds, that Thrive isn’t willing to sign on to, is what he thinks stitches them all together: those pesky reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco.

Just to be absolutely clear: I am not suggesting that Foster Gamble is anti-Semitic. I don’t believe he is. He makes clear, at 1:13:56 of the film, that he’s not calling this a “Jewish Agenda,” and I don’t think he’s implying that it is. I think, in fact, that Mr. Gamble is probably genuinely ignorant of how closely Mr. Icke’s ideology mimics the toxic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But this point itself demonstrates how insidious David Icke’s theories really are. By candy-coating anti-Semitism in a science-fiction shell, most people who swallow it don’t realize they’ve just ingested a dose of bigotry. This deception is all the more tragic precisely because I think Mr. Gamble is a nice man who believes in equality, dislikes racial prejudice and who genuinely wants the world to be a better place. But, as I explained in a previous blog, his good intentions shouldn’t isolate him from criticism for advancing the negative effects that this sort of ideology has on public discourse and the world at large.

What Is David Icke Doing in Thrive, Anyway? Why Did the Filmmakers Choose Him?

Even some Thrive defenders who have commented on this blog have been brave enough to concede that, saddled as he is with baggage that is utterly poisonous, public relations-wise, inviting Mr. Icke to elucidate key messages of Thrive was probably not the smartest move. The mere appearance of David Icke in any public forum causes people to bolt for the lifeboats—such as a notorious speaking tour in Canada where various Jewish groups lobbied, successfully in some cases, to have his speeches canceled. Why, then, would the makers of Thrive choose to court controversy by inviting him into the movie? Couldn’t they have gotten someone less controversial to expound the opinions Mr. Icke talks about in his appearances in the film?

The answer, I believe, is that the makers of Thrive specifically wanted to market their movie to Mr. Icke’s fans. Let’s face it, in the conspiracy theorist underground, David Icke is a rock star. He’s known all over the world. In the United States, the only conspiracy theorist with more immediate name recognition is Alex Jones. If you get David Icke to channel your message for you, his followers will automatically accept it, because they think he’s an oracle and uniquely gifted to explain what’s going on in the world, and you also make $5 a pop from them for downloading the movie starring their hero. Furthermore, David Icke is well-known in New Age circles. If you’re making a movie about conspiracy theories which you want to sell to a New Age audience, you want access to David Icke’s fans, don’t you?

This argument is strengthened if you look at what Mr. Icke says—and doesn’t say—in Thrive. He talks about banking, about social controls, and about the “problem-reaction-solution” paradigm. Virtually any believer in the Global Domination Agenda, or anyone who shares Mr. Gamble’s views on banking, could have talked about these exact same ideas, in almost exactly the same words. If the three topics Mr. Icke talks about in the movie could have been easily covered with a less controversial and less polarizing figure, wouldn’t Foster Gamble and the makers of the film have chosen to go with someone else who didn’t have the millstone of reptilian shape-shifting aliens and accusations of anti-Semitism hanging around their necks? Wouldn’t that have been the rational choice, from a public relations standpoint?

The fact that they did not make that choice means that must be something particular to Mr. Icke that the filmmakers wanted to take advantage of. It’s probably his popularity and the audience he brings to the table, but we can’t be sure. Nevertheless, the makers of Thrive must have felt either that the controversy surrounding Mr. Icke could only help them publicize the movie, or else they felt (or perhaps felt in addition) that the baggage associated with David Icke would be outweighed in the long run by the advantages they thought they would gain by connecting with his audience of New Agers and conspiracy theorists.

I wrote in an article over at the sister blog that Thrive has three main sections which are closely intertwined with each other. The first seeks to “earn its chops” among the intended New Age audience by pushing as many traditional hot buttons for New Agers as possible: ancient astronauts, alt-med cures, zero-point energy, UFOs, crop circles, etc. The second part downloads the conspiracy theory narratives. The third part proposes a solution for these awful conspiracies, somewhat tautologically: New Age beliefs and libertarian political ideas.

David Icke’s appearance in the movie impacts both the first and second parts. He is unique as a figure who (I) has cachet in New Age circles, (II) has cachet among conspiracy theorists, and (III) commands the attention of a large-scale audience that Mr. Gamble probably couldn’t reach on his own. The appearance of David Icke’s head on the screen in the credit sequence is a key signal being telegraphed to the audience: “Hey, look, we’ve got one of your oracles, David Icke, in this movie. We know you’ll want to pay attention to what he says!” By putting David Icke in the film, the makers have bought an admission ticket to access the worldviews of two of their target audiences: New Agers and believers in conspiracy theories, two populations which, as I’ve argued before, are exhibiting increasing overlap and crossover.

From this standpoint, then, David Icke is not only a key participant in the film, but possibly the most important participant. Nassim Haramein has a fan base of his own, but the movie could get along fine without him, more or less; Adam Trombly, Stephen Greer and others interviewed are generally not well known outside of the specific niches that their issues occupy, and few people had heard of Foster Gamble before Thrive. It’s clear that David Icke is the key personality. Regardless of what he says on-screen, without him Thrive has a much more limited reach.

If Icke is So Key, Why Doesn’t He Talk About Reptilian Shape-Shifting Aliens? After All, Isn’t That What He’s Known For?

I think there are two possible answers to this question. The first is, perhaps Mr. Gamble didn’t feel comfortable going there because he doesn’t literally believe it. Even many conspiracy theorists have a hard time swallowing David Icke’s bizarre theories. Icke himself has said, quoted on page 106 of Dr. Bokun’s book: “Some of the most fierce abuse that I’ve had since [The Biggest Secret] came out has not been from the public, actually, it’s been from some other conspiracy researchers who can’t get their head around anything beyond the physical.” (A rather telling statement—is Mr. Icke admitting here that his reptilian shape-shifting aliens aren’t actually real?)

The second reason may be that the makers of Thrive wanted to try to preserve, as much as practical without diluting their message, the possibility that the movie might have some crossover appeal to non-New Age, non-conspiracy audiences. If Mr. Icke gets up there and starts blathering about lizard men from the constellation Draco, you’re going to turn off a lot of people pretty much instantly. Perhaps, in exercising some restraint on the views Mr. Icke presented on-screen, Thrive evinces some minimal standards on how far into the realm of conspiracy esoterica is too far to venture without totally losing the audience in the process.

Conclusion

David Icke is a person, popular in New Age and conspiracy theorist circles, who espouses an elaborate belief system so bizarre, so implausible, and so far-removed from reality that it is incapable of being accepted in any rational frame of mind. The fact that this worldview lacks a single shred of evidence to support it should underscore precisely how far-removed from reality it is. The fact that it so eerily resembles crude anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from yesteryear, with a modern sci-fi twist imported from UFO mythology, should make the theories of Mr. Icke even more radioactive. But, despite all these strikes against it, there are people out there who not only believe that reptilian shape-shifting aliens are trying to control the world simply because Mr. Icke has told them this is the case, but these people are willing to pay to see him espouse these theories in sufficient numbers to provide him with a comfortable living going around the world lecturing about how awful reptilian shape-shifting aliens are. It is these people to whom I believe the makers of Thrive were trying to sell their film, and Mr. Icke’s presence in the movie represents the opening of that commercial and ideological gate.

David Icke is not a credible source. His inclusion in Thrive is another of many reasons why this movie and its messages should be treated with extreme caution and subjected to the most rigorous factual scrutiny—a level of scrutiny which, as I think this blog has demonstrated on numerous occasions, it cannot hope to meet.

Progressive Think Tank Slams Thrive’s Political Agenda

This blog has not dealt much with Thrive’s political ideology. That has been by design. The main focus of this blog is to evaluate Thrive from a factual standpoint: are its assertions and underlying assumptions accurate as a matter of objective fact? Discussions of politics are mostly beyond the scope of this inquiry. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that Thrive has a strong political undercurrent, and the orientation of that undercurrent is strongly libertarian. Foster Gamble, creator of Thrive, has endorsed Ron Paul for President in 2012. Furthermore, some of the “solutions” proposed by Gamble in Thrive, and on the associated website, are similar to libertarian planks.

This week, the Praxis Peace Institute, a progressive think tank founded by musician and longtime political activist Georgia Kelly, issued a 56-page pamphlet entitled Deconstructing Libertarianism: A Critique Prompted by the Film Thrive. Because several readers of this blog have directed me to the pamphlet, I thought I would do a brief article on it. It’s impossible to avoid touching the political implications of the film in an article like this, but I do want to stress that, regardless of my personal political beliefs, my primary arguments with the film are factual, not political.

Praxis Institute’s Critique of Thrive: The Basics

You can see the Praxis pamphlet here (note, clicking that link will begin a download of the pamphlet itself in .PDF format). As suggested by the title, the main purpose of the pamphlet is to address libertarian philosophy and explain why, from the point of view of a political progressive, it doesn’t work. Georgia Kelly is the editor of the pamphlet. She came into conflict with Foster Gamble and Thrive back in December when she posted a sharply critical review of the film on Huffington Post. In the pamphlet, she and other writers from the Praxis Peace Institute deliver a double-barreled blast against the film and its political agenda, analyzing many of the assumptions and philosophies behind libertarian thought.

Ms. Kelly states in the introduction why Thrive prompted her to issue this pamphlet:

“Through discussions of the content in the film and the written material on the Thrive website, we realized that many people viewing the film would not readily perceive the libertarian political agenda behind the film. Because many people are confused about libertarianism and its impact on the current political landscape, we felt it important to plumb this political philosophy, particularly during an election year. The articles written in this booklet cover a range of topics that deconstruct libertarianism and place it in the context of our current political environment.”

A bit later, in an article within the pamphlet entitled “Deconstructing the Political Agenda Behind Thrive,” Ms. Kelly writes:

“The website’s “Liberty” page (in the “Solutions” section) is a real shocker. Peppered with quotes from Ayn Rand, Ron Paul and Stefan Molyneux, the page even includes an attack on democracy. Gamble lumps democracy in with bigotry, imperialism, socialism, and fascism, and claims all of these — including democracy! — violate the “intrinsic freedom of others.”

The pamphlet proceeds through several articles written by various authors critiquing the ideological assumptions behind Thrive in much the same terms that Ms. Kelly uses. For example, in an article by Ben Boyce entitled “Challenging the Hidden Political Underbelly of Thrive,” this criticism is given:

“Make no mistake, the actual policy solutions in the documentary constituted the norm in the first Gilded Age of ‘laissez faire’ capitalism, that is, the McKinley Era at the end of the 19th century, for which the libertarian/conservative movements seem to still pine. That was a time when there were minimal taxes on corporations, no worker’s rights, no pesky EPA environmental regulations, no minimum wage, no social safety net to prevent families from tumbling precipitously from marginal employment and insecure housing to abject penury and homelessness. Everywhere in the world where the libertarian ideology has been put in practice, this condition of mass immiseration and concentration of wealth in the hands of the 1% has been a consistent historical fact. This ideology has been tried and failed.”

Another contributor, Gus diZerega, argues:

“[M]y problem with Thrive is the movie’s failure to adequately understand the principles it itself advocates in order for us to create a more humane and sustainable society. It presents one dimension of a problem that is multi-dimensional. The core insight lacking in libertarian thinking is the failure to grasp the centrality of relationships as constitutive of individuals, and to recognize that relationships are the key to understanding property rights and just politics.”

My Take on the Praxis Critique

Having read the Praxis critique, I think it’s self-evident that it is primarily a political document. Its purpose is to criticize the underpinnings of libertarian political thought that surface in Thrive and its milieu as opposed to really critiquing the movie point-by-point. Indeed, while I think the Praxis pamphlet is a very useful tool in evaluating the political agenda of the film, I’m somewhat disappointed by Praxis’s lack of engagement with factual matters asserted in the movie. There is very little discussion of conspiracy theories at all or their relationship to libertarian thought. I think this is a missed opportunity, and could have opened an interesting discussion on the role that conspiratorial thinking plays in political movements both historically and in contemporary society.

Case in point: the Federal Reserve. Mr. Gamble leaves no doubt that he absolutely detests the Federal Reserve, as most libertarians do; he blasts it as a tool of the “Global Domination Elite” to control the money system and hence the world. As a matter of economic policy, what the Federal Reserve does and should do is certainly a legitimate political issue, but aside from that, it is an absolute magnet for conspiracy theories. (Don’t ask me to opine at length on the Federal Reserve. I hate talking about it because it’s intensely boring. For a very good debunking of most of the popular FR conspiracy theories, go here). Mr. Gamble’s hatred of the Federal Reserve may be ideologically oriented, proceeding from libertarian thought, but I suspect at least part of his animosity may also stem from his obvious belief in Federal Reserve-related conspiracy theories. Here we have a prime example of a libertarian political goal—“End the Fed!,” as politicians like Ron Paul like to sloganize—that is being advanced through the spread of paranoid conspiracy theories. I would have liked Praxis to address how, from a progressive political standpoint, this could best be handled. How do you separate legitimate and rational political motivations from illegitimate and irrational belief in conspiracy theories? The pamphlet doesn’t go there. Indeed there are only a few perfunctory mentions of the Federal Reserve at all.

The conflation of conspiracy theories with politics is a dangerous trend and one of the main reasons why I push back against conspiratorial thinking. It is well known, for example, how an undercurrent of anti-Semitic conspiracy thinking in Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided a fertile breeding ground for the rise of Nazism in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s. Those theories are still with us—in fact David Icke, one of the chief talking heads in Thrive, pushes a thinly-veiled science fiction redress of these anti-Semitic conspiracy theories with his ludicrous “shape-shifting reptilian alien overlords” theories that, while they do not refer specifically to Jews, are eerily similar in tone and function to those traditional anti-Jewish theories. Conspiracy theories corrode the ability of people to think rationally about real political solutions. The rise of fringe candidates, like Ron Paul, spouting bizarre philosophies and openly employing racist and conspiratorial language to motivate supporters, is a disturbing effect of this tendency. I would like to know what the Praxis Institute thinks we ought to do about this trend.

Personally, I oppose libertarianism as a political philosophy. I don’t like its emphasis on so-called “free market” principles, its hostility toward taxation and responsible government, and its demonization of any form of collective societal action toward social justice. However, my political beliefs are small issue to Thrive, and are not the primary motivation, or even a significant motivation, for me to push back against the film on this blog. Even if Thrive’s politics were squarely in agreement with my own I would object to its use of conspiracy theories and conspiratorial thinking to advance its aims. Georgia Kelly and the Praxis Peace Institute seem to care much more about Foster Gamble’s politics than I do. That’s not a criticism at all; different viewers of the film will have different approaches in reacting to it. Nevertheless, in their critique of Thrive from a political standpoint, I would have liked to have seen more emphasis placed on the ethical dimensions of using demonstrably false conspiracy theories to advance whatever agendas—be they political, social or religious—lay at the heart of this deceptive film.

Foster Gamble’s Response to Ms. Kelly’s Original Huffington Post Article

What does Foster Gamble have to say to Georgia Kelly? To my knowledge he has not (so far) come out with a response to the Praxis pamphlet itself, but he did respond to her original Huffington Post article, an expanded version of which forms the basis of the first chapter of the pamphlet. Here’s how Mr. Gamble responds:

“Georgia Kelly, founder of the Praxis Peace Institute in Marin County, has posted a fearful review of THRIVE on the Huffington Post. Ms. Kelly has been active in Liberal Democrat politics, and she mistakenly assumes that I am a covert Right-winger, and then goes about attacking that position and me. Her supposition is not true, so she seems to end up missing both the value of THRIVE and critical insights that can inform breakthrough solutions strategies to help humanity escape our lethal situation and flourish…

Ms. Kelly has mislabeled me as “right wing” and started lobbing word grenades over a self-created ideological fence. What I want to explore is “What is just” and “What works?” So I challenge Ms. Kelly and any who are interested in this conversation to answer the most fundamental moral question I know of:

Just exactly when, for you, is it OK for one human being to take your property — be it your body, your wages, or your privacy — against your will and under the threat of violence?

That is what mandatory taxation is…”

This is only a tiny portion of Mr. Gamble’s response, and I encourage you to read the rest for yourself. It’s lengthy, and deals mostly with ideas of political philosophy, which seems to be the primary battlefield on which Ms. Kelly wishes to engage Thrive. I do not find, anywhere in Mr. Gamble’s blog, anything that addresses the factual problems with the film. As Ms. Kelly on Huffington and Praxis Peace Institute in their pamphlet did not focus on factual issues, I see the debate between them and Mr. Gamble on ideological matters to be essentially a political argument, and thus only tangentially relevant to the issues raised on this blog.

Conclusion

Speaking only for myself, I would rather engage Thrive in the arena of what is provable fact as opposed to what is desirable public policy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have my own opinions on political philosophy or public policy, nor does it mean that I whole-heartedly endorse (or condemn) either the political agenda of Thrive or of the Praxis Peace Institute. My political opinions are not very relevant to the matters I created this blog in order to explore. In short, I’ve read the Praxis Peace Institute pamphlet. I agree with some of it, I disagree with other parts of it, but, while it’s certainly an interesting take on the Thrive phenomenon, if your main interest in the film is (as mine is) whether it is a credible source of factual information about what’s happening in the world around us, the political argument is largely irrelevant to that concern. Let’s certainly be aware of Thrive’s political agenda, but I for one don’t intend to make political disagreements with the film or its makers a significant point of contention. I’m willing to let others, like Georgia Kelly and her friends at Praxis Peace Institute, do that, and I wish them all the best in doing so. The movie has enough problems simply stating what it thinks is factual truth before it even gets to the realm of politics and policy.

Should We Give Thrive a Pass on Facts, And Instead Praise its “Message?”

As stated here, the purpose of this blog is to bring to light the many errors, distortions, and inaccuracies contained in the conspiracy theory documentary Thrive. My objections to Thrive are primarily fact-based. It presents many claims as fact which are simply untrue: for example, that crop circles are of extraterrestrial origin, that Adam Trombly has invented a working “free energy” device, and that an insular group of conspirators control the world. These things are not true, and many other claims the movie makes aren’t true either.

A common thread in many of the comments I’ve received on this blog, however, has been to take me to task for focusing on the factual veracity of claims made in Thrive. According to certain commenters, the factual accuracy of the film and its claims aren’t the point, and instead of debunking them, I should be praising what some people view as the movie’s “positive message.” This article will evaluate that assertion critically, or at least as critically as an essentially faith-based proposition can be evaluated.

Should we give Thrive a pass on its purported facts, or some of its purported facts, in favor of praising either its overall “message” or the good intentions of its creators, such as Foster Gamble? I would clearly answer no to this question, but it’s equally clear that many fans of the film would unhesitatingly answer yes. This difference in approach illustrates some interesting things about the movie itself and the audience at which it is aimed.

Do Facts Matter?

On the face of it this question seems silly. Of course they do. Facts always matter. Without ascertaining what’s fact and what’s not, the world is unnavigable. However, it appears that, when one delves into the strange New Age netherworld of the sorts of subjects covered in Thrive—UFOs, magical energy devices, ancient astronauts, and conspiracy theories—facts become a whole lot less important, at least to the people who believe in these things.

Let’s take, for example, Adam Trombly’s “free energy” machine. An early article on this blog presented the facts that, not only is there no evidence that Trombly’s machine works, but the principle by which it supposedly operates violates the laws of physics. In the comments on that and other pages, however, some defenders of Thrive don’t seem to be very troubled by this. Believers in “free energy” devices, when confronted with facts demonstrating that a particular machine has not been proven to work, will often start arguing about possibilities and potentials of unlimited energy devices, sometimes citing examples of other particular machines—whose operations have not been proven either. You can see examples of this sort of argumentation in the comments to that page. To them, therefore, what seems to be important is that a person believes in the possibility of “free energy.” When you come at it from that tack, whether Trombly’s specific machine does or does not work suddenly recedes in importance. The factual question of whether it does or doesn’t work is no longer the key issue you’re arguing about.

But what does this say about Thrive? It seems safe to conclude that Foster Gamble believes strongly in “free energy” devices, and promoting that belief to the public seems to be one of the key objectives of Thrive. One would assume, therefore, that Adam Trombly and his device are, if not the best and most compelling example of “free energy” devices that Gamble could find, at least a representative example. Even if Gamble, in preparation for making the movie, interviewed 50 inventors of so-called “free energy” devices and only Trombly was willing to sign up to appear on camera, it wouldn’t make sense that Gamble would put him in the movie if his specific device wasn’t capable of illustrating the point Gamble wants to make about “free energy.” Seen in that light, isn’t the failure of Trombly’s case to persuade us that “free energy” devices are real extremely damaging to Gamble’s argument in general?

Don’t misunderstand what I’m arguing here. One failed example is not an excuse to trash an entire idea. If you can show me a working example of a “free energy” device whose operation is clearly and publicly verified by reputable scientific sources—a “free energy” device whose operation and functioning are unmistakable, explainable by science and capable of being reproduced—I will concede that “free energy” exists, and the fact that Trombly failed to build such a device is irrelevant. But what I am saying is that if Trombly is the best example of this phenomenon that Thrive can offer us, and that example fails to make its case, doesn’t that diminish the ability of the movie Thrive to persuade us that its arguments are credible?

Again, just to be clear: the point I’m making is that, by using Adam Trombly as a (presumably) representative example of “free energy,” Thrive turns out to be not very persuasive that “free energy” exists. This may be just because Trombly is a bad example, in which case the makers of Thrive chose him poorly; or it may be because there’s nothing to “free energy” to begin with, in which case the makers of Thrive are asserting something they either know is false or ought to know if they had done proper research into the matter. Either way it seems inescapable that Thrive’s competence and credibility as a source diminishes as soon as you realize that the claims the movie makes about Trombly and his machine don’t pan out.

To at least some defenders of the movie, however, this analysis doesn’t follow at all. To them it doesn’t really matter whether Trombly is a good example or a bad one—they wish to believe that “free energy” exists, and the fact that the specific inventor showcased in Thrive has not created a working “free energy” machine is not permitted to impeach this conclusion. This is purely faith-based, result-driven reasoning.

I’m using the Trombly case as an example here, but it is by no means the only example. It would be one thing if it was the only unpersuasive example. But it isn’t. If you pile the numerous errors, distortions and unwarranted conclusions in Thrive atop one another, it quickly becomes clear that the movie as a whole has an extremely serious problem with basic factual credibility on multiple levels.

Should We Cherry-Pick the Claims in Thrive, Believe Some and Leave Others Alone?

Another thread that comes through in some of the pro-Thrive comments suggests that viewers are approaching it as a sort of cafeteria smorgasbord where you’re expected to take one or more claims it makes at face value while dismissing, or ignoring, others. The movie offers so many conspiracy theories and New Age perspectives, changing gears so rapidly, that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. The problem is compounded when one looks at the Thrive Movement website, especially its section on the “Global Domination Agenda,” and sees links to a bunch of other conspiracy theories that the movie didn’t have time to cover, as well as mentions of conspiracy theorists, like Alex Jones, who themselves espouse particular conspiracy theories not specifically mentioned in the film. It’s difficult to accept that anybody could believe the literal truth of all of the conspiracy theories mentioned in Thrive or referenced, directly or indirectly, on the website, but, as I have long experience dealing with conspiracy theorists, I know that it is (unfortunately) possible, perhaps even likely.

A good example of the “cherry-picking” approach concerns David Icke. As most people familiar with the conspiracy underground know, Icke, perhaps the most well-known conspiracy theorist in the world, is instantly identified with his bizarre theories that the world is secretly run by evil reptilian shape-shifting aliens. These theories are science-fiction redresses of the old anti-Semitic “Jewish world conspiracy” theories that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with aliens standing in for Jews. Icke appears in Thrive—in fact, although he isn’t interviewed until later in the movie, his face flashes on screen within the first seven minutes of the film—but does not talk about reptilian aliens on-screen. One of my strongest objections to Thrive is that Icke is involved in it and quoted as a reliable source about anything, even though he doesn’t push his reptilian alien crap in this specific film. Pro-Thrive readers of this blog have taken me to task for this. According to them, I’m supposed to overlook the fact that Icke believes in reptilian shape-shifting aliens and instead focus on positive things he says in Thrive. (Like what? The false claims of a “Global Domination Agenda”?)

I remain unconvinced that Foster Gamble put Icke on-screen just because he had something supposedly worthwhile to say that is unconnected to his reptilian alien delusions, as some Thrive fans have asserted. For one thing, Icke’s entire worldview stems from this delusion. If you read his writings it’s difficult to find anything he talks about that isn’t connected in some way to his elaborate sci-fi conspiracy mythology. For another thing, David Icke’s associations are so toxic that there’s no chance anyone who is not already predisposed to accept, or at least consider, Icke’s ideology could overlook them. The fact that David Icke appears in this movie at all is a not-very-subtle bid to market Thrive and its conclusions to Icke’s core audience, whom Gamble is obviously interested in reaching. Thus, don’t tell me that the fact that Icke believes in evil reptilians from outer space is somehow irrelevant to what he’s doing in this movie. Whether Foster Gamble himself believes in evil reptilians from outer space is not the point—he probably doesn’t (I certainly hope he doesn’t!)—but if you want to reach conspiracy theorists who dwell at that advanced level of fantasy, you can do no better than to utilize David Icke as a mouthpiece.

Again, as with the Trombly issue, if Icke was the only unreliable or questionable source in the movie, it might be easier to look past his presence and simply chalk up Gamble’s invitation for Icke to appear as a fluke in the “bad call, Ripley!” category. But in Thrive you don’t just get David Icke. You get Nassim Haramein, touted as a reliable source on ancient history but who plays fast and loose with the facts; you get Steven Greer, whose claim to fame is pushing the-gubbermint-is-covering-up-UFOs conspiracy theories; you get Edgar Mitchell, a former astronaut known for making outlandish conspiracy-oriented claims that NASA has officially denied; you get Deepak Chopra, well-known in New Age and alt-med circles; the list goes on and on. Inviting people to your movie to espouse controversial opinions is fine, and I have no problem with that. But these people are asserting as matters of fact many things which are demonstrably false. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. But nobody has a right to their own facts.

Good Intentions?

Okay. So Foster Gamble is wrong about crop circles, free energy, the Global Domination Agenda, the Rockefellers, alt-med cures, Nicola Tesla, UFO suppression, alien astronauts, and countless other things. One can certainly argue that he made a couple of poor decisions, credibility-wise, by giving the floor to Adam Trombly, whose claims cannot be verified, and David Icke, whose claims are something out of bad science fiction. Should Mr. Gamble’s good intentions in making Thrive insulate him from criticism on these points?

I’m sure Foster Gamble is a nice guy. On-screen he comes across as extremely personable. Before he made this movie he was widely associated with a campaign to ban (or reduce) industrial pesticide spraying—which I regard as a good cause and effort well spent. I’m quite sure he honestly wants to see the world improve and to see people lead better lives. I’m also quite sure he works very hard and puts a lot of effort into activities that he believes advances these goals.

Here’s the thing: so do I. However, I do not hear defenders of the Thrive movie arguing that my good intentions should insulate me from criticism for doing what I do on this blog.

Indeed, who doesn’t have good intentions? Who honestly doesn’t think the world can and should be improved, that people should live longer and more fulfilling lives, and that social justice should prevail? It’s not as if it’s so unusual to find a person as well-intentioned as Foster Gamble that a person with such intentions suddenly becomes immune from criticism on the basis of factual inaccuracies or logic errors, especially in a media piece that is, as Thrive purports to be, a documentary supposedly telling the truth about “how things really are.”

Personally, I devote a great deal of money and time to volunteer and charity activities. I believe strongly, for instance, in providing better access to education, especially higher education. I’m out there working on my ideas to “save the world” just as hard as Foster Gamble is working on his. What sort of special privileges or immunities do I believe this entitles me to? Absolutely none at all.

Here’s something else to keep in mind: peoples’ ideas for improving the world can, and usually do, conflict with one another. I believe that conspiracy theories impair peoples’ ability to think rationally and thus participate meaningfully in public discourse. Therefore, refuting conspiracy theories and promoting the facts is something I feel is a strong social good. I would venture to say Foster Gamble would disagree. He seems to believe that promoting conspiracy theories is a social good, or otherwise he wouldn’t have made Thrive in the first place. I do not question Gamble’s good intentions. But it’s a simple fact that Gamble’s activities in promoting conspiracy theories directly conflict with my own efforts to refute them. He has money to burn and an audience of millions, so he’ll probably make a lot more headway on his goal that I will on mine, but that doesn’t change that I think Foster Gamble is wrong. Am I not allowed to assert that view because I also believe that, however wrong he is, he at least is acting out of good intentions and pure motives?

What Is the “Point” of Thrive, Anyway?

Here we get to the real issue: why was Thrive created, what is its ultimate “message,” and who is it aimed at?

When I first began this blog I was reluctant to speculate too much as to Foster Gamble and the other makers’ motives in creating the movie, because those motives are extremely unclear. After studying the film and reaction to it for the past two and a half months, however, I believe we can make a reasonable hypothesis as to why this film was created and what it’s ultimately trying to say.

I’ve recently had a fascinating conversation over email with an academic, who happens to be an expert on conspiracy theories and New Age mythology. This person, whose credentials are impressive, is not a “debunker” as I am—he studies the phenomenon of conspiracy theories and why people believe them, whereas my study of them (and I do not study them in an academic realm) focuses on ascertaining their factual veracity. After my conversation with this person regarding Thrive, which helped me to see the larger context in which the movie operates, I think I understand the point of the film much better than I did in November. This topic is worth expanding upon and will probably be the subject of a self-contained article.

The upshot of my conversation with the expert was that Thrive was created as a means to explain, at least partially, the failure of New Age concepts—which have been around and popular since at least the ‘70s—to result in the transformative change that many New Age believers insisted would flow from the implementation of their ideas. Here is what he had to say on the subject (he asked that his identifying information not be disclosed on this blog, but he gave me permission to post his words): 

“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.” 

Once you start to consider Thrive from this angle, everything falls into place. It suddenly makes sense why Thrive carefully strokes the various tropes of New Age belief systems: UFOs, ancient astronauts, alt-med miracle cures, benevolent aliens and magical free energy machines. It also makes sense why, once the movie has proclaimed its sympathy with these themes, it turns on a fire hose of conspiracy craziness, theory after theory thrown willy-nilly at the audience in an attempt to make one or more of them stick. The movie’s point, therefore, is this: “The reason that our New Age beliefs haven’t transformed the world is because the evil conspirators are thwarting us.”

This also explains why Thrive’s supporters aren’t generally swayed by factual arguments or applications of logic and critical thinking. The point is not to establish literal, verifiable truth (though the film seems, on the surface, to want to do this as well). The point is to validate an essentially spiritual belief system. At its core, then, seen from this angle, Thrive is basically a religious text. A Thrive supporter is no more likely to abandon his support for the film, when presented evidence that crop circles are terrestrial in origin or the Global Domination Agenda does not exist, than a Mormon is to leave the Church of Latter-Day Saints when told that there is no archaeological evidence that the Nephites and Lamanites actually existed.

That Thrive supporters take the movie this way—whether they are consciously aware of it or not—is borne out by comments like this one, which seems to equate criticism of the movie with some sort of assault on the primacy of the human spirit:

“Thrive is not out to get anyone other than the people that Gamble feels are responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today. I believe that all Thrive is trying to do is show people the power they have, which to me is amazing because all I see everywhere are reminders of how I need to better myself or change who I am because its not good enough. I don’t feel the need to back up any claims with links or anything of that nature because you can’t cite the claim I have which is this; Every human being has the capability of being amazing no matter what but there are people who try very hard to keep us unaware of this….I just love the movie Thrive because it gives me hope. All I want is for as many people to be inspired by this movie the way I was because it is too hard for me to see and hear about so many people living with so little while we enjoy the benefits of their destruction.”

So Thrive, then, is probably intended to be accepted on spiritual and philosophical terms—not factual ones.

That means that unless I’m ready to give battle on the supposed spiritual basis of Thrive, I need to delete this blog immediately, right? Not quite.

There’s Just One Problem…Thrive Purports to be a Documentary. 

Unfortunately Thrive doesn’t wear its intentions on its sleeve. On the face of it, it appears to be a documentary—a movie intended to state what the facts actually are. The fact that I had to talk to an academic expert on conspiracy theories and New Age beliefs to realize that it is not really a documentary demonstrates this. It also leaves the movie and its makes with the same fundamental problem that drew me to begin debunking it in the first place: the things that it says are facts are not, in fact, true. 

Appreciating the New Age context in which many supporters of Thrive perceive the movie is one thing. However, it doesn’t change that the movie is still out there claiming to be a documentary and telling people that the Rockefellers control their food supply and that evil oil companies are suppressing extraterrestrial technology. So long as statements of fantasy such as these are continued to be passed off as objective fact, attacking Thrive on the basis of its factual accuracy is, in my view, entirely fair game. To argue otherwise is to argue, effectively, either that (i) facts don’t matter; (ii) Foster Gamble’s good intentions in making the film should immunize him from criticism about its assertions; or (iii) that the purported “goodness” of the movie’s overall message outweighs the transgressions it makes against the truth. This article, I feel, has already effectively refuted (i) and (ii). Point (iii) makes me uneasy because it’s essentially an “ends justify the means” argument, which is always dangerous. 

Regardless of whether Foster Gamble would himself agree that the purported factual assertions in the movie should be taken with a “grain of salt”—and it would be very problematic if he did state that unequivocally—there’s no question that some people out there do believe everything Thrive says. I can state that, between comments received on this blog and replies directed to me on Twitter, I have, since beginning this blog, seen an example of an assertion of the direct factual accuracy of every major claim made in the film. Granted, this is spread among many different commenters, but if each individual claim in the movie is believed to be literal fact by at least one person, that still adds up to a lot of people believing in a lot of untrue claims. This is the problem with movies that play fast and loose with the facts masquerading as documentaries. It’s deceptive. If you’re trying to tell people the way things really are, here on Earth in our real world, by doing so you owe at least a moral duty to tell these things accurately, and that means doing diligent research to make sure the claims you want to make are really true. Given the ease with which I and the other contributors to this blog have debunked many of its claims, I’m left with serious doubts that Mr. Gamble and the others responsible for Thrive have done the research they should have done before passing off these claims as true. 

Should we give Thrive a pass on its facts and instead praise its motives or its message? So long as its makers offer it as a factual documentary, no, we shouldn’t. It’s just that simple.

JREF Reviews Thrive!

Kyle Hill, who is associated with the James Randi Educational Foundation, recently posted an article reviewing the Thrive movie. The full article, which I eagerly recommend, is here.

The article begins:

I recently started doing my skeptical due diligence with a link on Facebook that was connected to the newest conspiracy theory movie, “Thrive”, released just last week on 11/11/11 (you can watch the trailer here). If you are unfamiliar with it, this movie is basically Zeitgeist 2.0. It talks about ancient codes “burned into atomic structures”, huge energy company conspiracies and free energy technology, as well as the standard Federal Reserve, Rockefeller, and economic policy rants. Supporting these claims are people like David Icke, world-renowned conspiracy theorist who believes that a secret reptilian race controls the world, and our old friend Mr. Chopra. The movie also proffers that the Illuminati (useless conspiracy placeholder) are covering up free energy technology (which contradict the laws of physics) which was given to us by aliens who make coded crop circles, and have crashed on Earth numerous times, which the government covers up. When you align all of the claims that this movie purports to be true, it is hard not to think it is some kind of joke.

I won’t go into the specifics here, suffice it to say that there is a lot of Chopra, crop circles, aliens, Illuminati, world-bank, new world order, federal reserve, reptilian overlord kind of gibberish in it. I’m just sad to see actual scientists hoodwinked into giving statements that they did not know would be taken out of context for this so-called “research.”

If you don’t know, the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is an organization established by former world-class magician James Randi, who has devoted a significant portion of his life to promoting skepticism and critical thinking. Randi is probably best known for exposing the tricks of phony psychics, most notably an Israeli man called Uri Geller who claimed he could bend spoons with his mind. For many years Randi had an open challenge that anyone who could replicate psychic powers under controlled scientific conditions would win $1 million from JREF. No one won.

Today, JREF is known as a gathering place for others who believe in Randi’s ideas of skepticism and critical thinking. The JREF web forums are probably the most significant gathering of debunkers on the Internet in the English-speaking world. Conspiracy theorists hate JREF because the skeptics there frequently demolish the very theories to which conspiracy believers are most committed.

JREF’s article on Thrive echoes many of the sentiments stated on this blog. I again recommend reading the full article. Toward the end, however, Mr. Hill offers this warning for debunkers of Thrive, which is probably good to take to heart:

What can skeptics do to counter-act such arguments? In my experience, these are typically intelligent people who have put their efforts into theories that only could be true, without relying on evidence or skepticism to sort through them. Getting a conspiracy theorist to converse on rational terms is then the objective, supplanting the seed of skeptical doubt the ultimate goal. However, if you run up against the kind of opposition that I have, perhaps you should jettison and try to promote critical thinking to people not so entrenched. Charging headlong into the lion’s den is admirable, but dangerously unproductive.

I think this is sage advice. I’m posting material on this blog to rebut the errors and misconceptions in the film, but I am stopping short of charging full-bore into conspiracist forums to force this information upon Thrive believers. It’s been my experience that conspiracy theorists reform only if they want to, and their journey out of the darkness of conspiracy thinking can only be self-motivated. Thus, while I’m happy to post my information here, I’m not on a “crusade” to convert believers in the film.

As an aside I will also remark that, while there’s no way to tell quantitatively, it appears that Thrive is not making a particularly profound impact, even in the conspiracy underground. Certainly conspiracy theorists like it, but now two weeks after its release I don’t see much evidence of it “going viral” in the same way that, say, Zeitgeist or Loose Change did. I think this is very good news, if it can be borne out by some sort of quantitative analysis.

Global Domination Agenda–Debunked!

Contents

  • What is the “Global Domination Agenda”?
  • The Central Assumption Behind The Theory.
  • A diagram: the “Global Domination Agenda” and its logical links.
  • Example One: “The GDE deliberately created the global economic crisis!”
  • Example Two: “George H.W. Bush said he was instituting the New World Order!”
  • Example Three: “But the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission are real! You can’t claim they don’t exist!”
  • Mistaking Political/Economic Power or Social Status for “Evidence” of GDE.
  • A Logic Game: The Neighborhood Watch.
  • Questions Believers in “Global Domination Agenda” Should Ask Themselves.
  • So if there’s no GDE and the “Global Domination Agenda” doesn’t exist, who does rule the world?
  • You call this a “debunking”? You haven’t disproved the Global Domination Agenda at all!
  • Conclusion

One of the central messages of the Thrive movie—indeed, arguably the central message—is the assertion that the world is controlled by a conspiratorial group of persons, entities and business interests who are pursuing goals inimical to the best interests of humanity. On the Thrive website, this conspiracy theory is referred to as the “Global Domination Agenda,” though there are many permutations of this conspiracy theory which go by many different names. This article will debunk the notion that the world is controlled by a unified group pursuing a “Global Domination Agenda,” at least as that concept is elucidated in the Thrive movie.

Debunking “Global Domination Agenda” is at once simple and very complicated. The simple answer is, there is not a shred of evidence to support the existence of this conspiracy theory. However, explaining how and why this is so, and why it is illogical to believe in the existence of a “Global Domination Agenda,” is more complicated. It also involves the exact sort of reasoning and argumentation that is least likely to satisfy believers in this conspiracy theory.

This is a lengthy article. Before we begin, I’d like to ask all persons who intend to post comments on this article to read the entire thing before making comments. Please don’t raise an objection in the comments that’s already covered by the main bulk of the article.

What is the “Global Domination Agenda”? 

For purposes of this article I will refer to the conspiracy theory at issue as the “Global Domination Agenda,” because that’s the term used by the makers of the Thrive movie. I conceive of this conspiracy theory as being essentially synonymous with the idea of the “Illuminati” or the “New World Order,” both much more popular terms than “Global Domination Agenda.” Exactly what this conspiracy theory means, and what its details are, differ widely depending on who believes it. It’s impossible to come up with a description of this conspiracy theory that takes into account all permutations of it; however, the most commonly agreed-upon features of the theory generally hold: 

  1. That a group of persons, entities and business interests exert total, or at least significant, control over international relations, economics, media and technology on a global scale;
  2. That this group has some sort of internal unity—i.e., that its actors are working in concert toward a common goal or goals; and
  3. That either the direct goal of this group, or the effect of their goals, is to consolidate dictatorial power over all, most, or a significant portion of the world’s people.

Believers in a “Global Domination Agenda” are probably the most intractable and unyielding of all conspiracy theorists. Many debunkers simply throw up their hands when confronted with a believer in this theory, because it’s virtually impossible to convince them that this conspiracy theory is illogical and completely unsupported by evidence. Nevertheless, a full debunking of the Thrive film wouldn’t be complete without at least an attempt at addressing this conspiracy theory. Therefore, we will try to analyze why people believe in this conspiracy theory and what can be done to demonstrate that the “Global Domination Agenda” does not exist. 

The Central Assumption Behind The Theory. 

At its core, the “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory is an assumption. Conspiracy believers simply assume that points 1, 2, and 3 are true. Once they make this assumption, virtually anything they see they will interpret as “evidence” supporting the truth of points 1, 2 and 3. Basically, they think it’s true because it’s true. The circular and self-reinforcing nature of the assumption admits no outside stimulus that can either support or refute the points of the assumption. 

How do we know that a group of persons, entities and business interests exert total, or at least significant, control over international relations, economics, media and technology on a global scale? Because they do, and if you don’t agree, you’re a blind brainwashed sheeple. How do we know that this group has some sort of internal unity—i.e., that its actors are working in concert toward a common goal or goals? Because they are, and if you don’t agree, you haven’t done your research. How do we know that that either the direct goal of this group, or the effect of their goals, is to consolidate dictatorial power over all, most, or a significant portion of the world’s people? Because it is. Wake up! 

This is a difficult point to grasp. At the risk of making this more complicated than it is, I’ll attempt to demonstrate it graphically. 

A diagram: the “Global Domination Agenda” and its logical links. 

Let us map out how this system would work if the “Global Domination Agenda” was true. A graph of it would look like a pyramid. There would have to be some sort of unified command, a group of ultimate decision-makers, at the very top. Let’s call this the “Global Domination Elite” or GDE for short (a term I just made up, but call it what you want—Illuminati, NWO, reptilians, whatever). There would have to be connections of some type between the GDE and the persons, entities, governments etc. that they use to do their bidding. Let’s call that layer the “Action Elements.” There would have to be connections of some type between the Action Elements and the individual acts or conditions that they create—the “Results” layer.

 

[Click to see a larger version.]

In order to prove that the “Global Domination Agenda” is true, you need to prove (I) that each layer of this pyramid exists; and (II) the connections between each layer. Without both I or II, the very idea of a “Global Domination Agenda” collapses. 

Believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” simply assume that I and II are either already proven, are self-evident, or can be proven by evidence that in fact does not point to either I or II. 

I don’t expect this statement to make much sense without concrete examples. So, we’ll get to some. 

Example One: “The GDE deliberately created the global economic crisis!” 

This type of claim is very common among “Global Domination Agenda” believers. In fact it is presumed in Thrive that the GDE deliberately tanked the world’s economy as part of whatever their plan is supposed to be. If you ask a “Global Domination Agenda” believer to prove this, he or she will usually offer two types of “evidence”: 

1. Links to news articles about wrongdoing by mortgage bankers, irresponsible economic decisions by governments or corporations, or trends about worsening economic conditions like foreclosure or unemployment.

2. Statements of opinion, often made by other conspiracy theorists, that the GDE or persons working for them created the economic crisis. 

But note what’s really happening. News articles about bad economic decisions, corporate malfeasance etc. only prove the existence of the results—not the cause, not the connections between the various layers of the pyramid. That sort of evidence goes to prove only these parts of the diagram…

 

[click to see larger] …not these.

 Think about it. A CNN.com news article that Acme Megabank made a series of disastrous loans between 2000 and 2008, when they should have known better, does not prove the connection between Acme Megabank and the GDE. All it proves is that Acme Megabank made a series of disastrous loans when they should have known better. An article about how youth unemployment is at 30% and getting worse does not prove the connection between the employers who are refusing to offer jobs to young people and the GDE. All it proves is that there’s a youth unemployment problem. But we know that already.

Proving one set of connections and then the other doesn’t work either. Thus, proving that the former CEO of Acme Megabank is now Assistant Secretary of the Treasury does not make the connection, because you still haven’t proven that Acme Megabank acted on the GDE’s orders to make those disastrous loans. You have to prove connection from the bottom up—from the result all the way up to the GDE. 

Furthermore, statements of opinion, or unsourced assertions, by other conspiracy theorists—“Guess what? The directors of Acme Megabank made those disastrous loans on purpose to further the Global Domination Agenda!”—similarly proves nothing. It does not prove the existence of the GDE, nor the connections between the GDE and the Action Elements. All it proves is that somebody thinks there are connections. But that is not proof that the connections exist.

Indeed, these pieces of “evidence” are totally meaningless unless you already accept the assumption that the “Global Domination Agenda” exists. Then, and only then, do they become relevant. This is an other illustration of the point that the “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory operates on totally circular logic. 

Example Two: “George H.W. Bush said he was instituting the New World Order!” 

Believers in the “Global Domination Agenda,” when they are not providing “evidence” along the lines discussed above, will sometimes point to “incriminating” statements by persons they believe to be part of the GDE, supposedly indicating an “admission” of their true agenda. One of the favorites in this category is a speech made on March 6, 1991 by President George H.W. Bush in which he used the words “New World Order.” Supposedly this indicates an “admission” that the New World Order, as conceived by conspiracy theorists, exists, and that Bush was one of the people trying to implement it.

But does it, though? I doubt most conspiracy theorists have actually read Bush’s speech, in which he outlined his vision of a world following the Persian Gulf War. Here is the full text (http://millercenter.org/president/speeches/detail/3430). He does in fact use the words “new world order.” But, if you read the full speech—I won’t excerpt it here because I encourage you to read it for yourself—it’s very clear he’s not talking about global domination. He’s talking about a vision for foreign policy which, ironically, ultimately did not come to pass. How, then, does this prove the existence of a “Global Domination Agenda”?

Time and time again, believers in a “Global Domination Agenda” will serve up these sorts of tidbits, which do not stand for the propositions they claim they stand for. (At least Bush’s “New World Order” speech is real, even though it doesn’t say what they think he said. Often, quotes by high-ranking figures used by conspiracy theorists are simply false. For example, the Thrive movie claims that Henry Kissinger makes an ominous-sounding statement. I cannot find any reputable source—meaning, not another conspiracy theorist website—that even indicates Kissinger ever said this.) 

Example Three: “But the Bilderberg Group and the Trilateral Commission are real! You can’t claim they don’t exist!” 

Yes, the Trilateral Commission and the Bilderberg Group exist. But their simple existence does not prove the existence of the GDE or the “Global Domination Agenda.” Very often believers in conspiracy theorists will cite the mere existence of these groups as supposed evidence of their claims. This ignores that, again, an assumption is being made: that these groups really do have the power and the characteristics that believers in a “Global Domination Agenda” claim that they do. 

The Bilderberg Group is a rotating conference of politicians, business leaders and intellectuals who meet informally to discuss affairs of the world. The membership changes frequently, but usually includes high-ranking government officials, CEOs, etc. The Bilderberg Group has no official power. It controls no army, it can neither make nor enforce laws, and has no formal status under any government in the world. It’s a think tank. Its members talk about things they think their countries should be doing, but little else. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bilderberg_Group 

The Trilateral Commission is a group of businesspersons who get together to discuss business relations between America, Europe and Japan. Like Bilderberg, it is populated by wealthy people who have a lot of influence. Also like Bilderberg, it has no official power, controls no army, can neither make nor enforce law, and has no formal status under any government in the world. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trilateral_Commission 

Most believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory believe these groups are either the GDE or members of it. They routinely cite the mere existence of these groups as affirmative evidence n favor of the “Global Domination Agenda.” 

What’s missing here is any evidence that these groups have the influence or power that the believers in a Global Domination Agenda say they have. Not a single shred of evidence has ever been produced that these groups have any power at all! The fact that they are made up by influential people, and that they discuss world problems, are the sole basis for conspiracy theorists’ claims that they control the world. In fact, while individual members of these groups may have significant power in their own governments or organizations, there is a complete lack of evidence that matters discussed or recommendations made by these groups have ever translated directly into policy. And yes, we do know what they discuss. Search WikiLeaks for “Bilderberg Minutes.” You can download hundreds of pages of extremely boring policy discussions. Not one of them proves conspiracy theorists’ claims. 

Where is the proof of control? Where is the proof of influence and power? 

Indeed, as with most “evidence” proffered by believers in the “Global Domination Agenda,” what they say and what they can actually prove are very far apart. However, these people will often frame the argument in terms of, you cannot disprove a “Global Domination Agenda” unless you deny that the Bilderberg Group or the Trilateral Commission exists. Whether they exist is not the issue. The issue is whether they have the power that conspiracy theorists say they have. They don’t. 

Mistaking Political/Economic Power or Social Status for “Evidence” of GDE. 

Another mistake, made almost universally by believers in a “Global Domination Agenda,” is to argue that the fact that a person, corporation, or group has political power, economic power or social standing is evidence that they are in fact a member of the GDE. This is, yet again, misapplication of evidence. 

Let’s take George H.W. Bush again. I could not imagine a single believer in the “Global Domination Agenda” not believing that George H.W. Bush is a member of the GDE. 

There is no doubt that George H.W. Bush is, or at least was, a very powerful and influential person. Even before he was elected the 41st President of the United States in 1988, he was from a very rich and prominent family, had many connections among business and political leaders, and was ambitious for political power at an early age. When he was in the White House, he commanded the armed forces of the U.S. and exerted significant influence on the economy. 

But ask yourself this: why is George H.W. Bush a powerful and influential person? Is it because he is a member of the GDE? Or is it because he is from a very rich and powerful family, has many connections among business and political leaders, and held significant positions of political and economic power? 

This distinction will be lost on many believers in the “Global Domination Agenda,” but it might become a bit clearer if you ask yourself this question: 

Is it possible for any person, anywhere in the world, to rise to a position of significant political/economic power or social status, without being a member of the GDE? 

If you answered “no” to this question, you have just engaged in circular reasoning. George H.W. Bush is powerful/influential because he is a member of the GDE; because George H.W. Bush is a member of the GDE, he is therefore powerful/influential. 

See the circular reasoning there? 

If you answered “yes” to the question, then ask yourself: how can you distinguish between someone who has political/economic power or social status because he/she is a member of the GDE, or someone who has that power/status for some other reason? Chances are you won’t be able to answer that question at all. 

We do not live in a society without class or social stratification. There are powerful and influential people. Rich people and business interests do have influence on government and economic policy. But be careful that you don’t mistake evidence that these things are true for “evidence” that a “Global Domination Agenda” exists. It’s very easy to do that, especially when you’re accusing people of being members of the GDE based solely on membership in a group or family or because they hold a particular office. If you’re doing that, you’re again illustrating that all “Global Domination Agenda” theories proceed from an assumption that is never questioned. 

A Logic Game: The Neighborhood Watch.

Let’s play a little game of logic and reasoning that I hope will help illustrate both how the “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory works, and why believers in it are so incredulous that it can’t be real. 

Imagine a gated community in the suburbs. Five couples live there: Alan & Bess, Charlie & Dora, Ed & Flo, Gerald & Harriet, Irving & Joyce, and Kevin & Linda. The community is a planned development with covenants and a homeowner’s association. Alan & Bess are the richest people in the community and own the biggest house. Bess is president of the homeowner’s association. 

Kevin is a conspiracy theorist. He believes in the existence of a secret group called the “Neighborhood Watch” which he thinks controls everything that happens in the community. He believes that the Neighborhood Watch intends to rule the community with an iron fist and destroy all freedom in the neighborhood. In fact, the Neighborhood Watch does not exist. 

At a homeowner’s association meeting, Bess proposes a new rule that everyone in the community must mow their lawn once a week. The group votes. Kevin & Linda are opposed, but everyone else votes yes and the rule goes into effect. Kevin believes that this vote demonstrates that the Neighborhood Watch controls the homeowner’s association, and that Bess, and probably Alan, are members of it. 

A week later, Irving & Joyce’s young son is playing in the street when he’s hit by a car and injured. At the next homeowner’s association meeting, Bess proposes a new rule that no one’s kids are allowed to play beyond the confines of their own yards. The rule passes, again with Kevin & Linda opposed. Kevin begins to tell everyone that the Neighborhood Watch deliberately lured Irving & Joyce’s son into the street so he would be hit by a car, thus giving the homeowner’s association an excuse to pass a restrictive rule. Because everyone else but Kevin & Linda voted for the rule, Kevin begins to believe that all the other couples are also members of the Neighborhood Watch. 

A week after that, Gerald is accused of sexually harassing his secretary and is fired from his job. He and Harriet can no longer afford their mortgage, so they have to move out. They sell their house to Alan & Bess who buy it for a song. Kevin begins to tell people that the Neighborhood Watch framed Gerald for sexual harassment, so he would lose his job and have to sell out of the neighborhood. 

A week after that, it rains heavily. All the houses in the neighborhood have faulty siding and after the rain all the siding must be replaced. As it turns out, Ed works for Acme Siding Co. and he gets a good deal for his neighbors, most of whom buy their new siding from Acme. Ed gets a fat bonus check as a result of this. 

Kevin believes that this proves that Ed is a member of the Neighborhood Watch. He now starts telling people that the Neighborhood Watch can control the weather, that they made it rain so the siding would be ruined, thus providing Ed and Acme the opportunity to make a killing by selling new siding to the neighbors. 

Alan & Bess have a dinner party where they invite Ed & Flo and Charlie & Dora. None of the other couples are invited. Kevin starts telling people that the dinner party must be the secret meeting place of the Neighborhood Watch and it is there that they must be deciding on their nefarious plans to control the community. 

Kevin says he can prove that the Neighborhood Watch secretly rules the community. What is his “proof”? The fact that Bess is influential and on the homeowner’s association; the fact that Alan & Bess are rich; the fact that Irving & Joyce’s young son got hit by a car; the fact that Gerald lost his job; the fact that Ed works for Acme Siding; and the fact that Alan & Bess had a dinner party. 

All of these facts are undeniable. What’s missing is the connection between them. Kevin has not proved—and cannot prove—that the Neighborhood Watch exists. All he can do is prove these various facts to be true, and then tell you to “connect the dots.” But the alleged “connection” between these events makes sense only if you accept Kevin’s basic assumption—which is that the Neighborhood Watch exists. If you question whether or not it exists, the facts that Kevin states suddenly don’t seem as connected as he insists that they are. 

This is exactly the reasoning engaged in by believers in the “Global Domination Agenda.”

If this Neighborhood Watch example seems pretty silly to you, it should. It’s a prime example of bad reasoning and faulty logic. But it also explains why Kevin will choose to view everything that happens in the neighborhood—every rule, every meeting, every accident, every association between everyone else—as “evidence” supporting the existence of the Neighborhood Watch. This is why believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” are shocked when you claim there is no evidence for their claims. “Look around!” they shriek, without realizing that what they think is evidence does not support what they think it supports. 

Questions Believers in “Global Domination Agenda” Should Ask Themselves. 

Here are four questions that people who believe in the “Global Domination Agenda” should ask themselves. The answers—or lack thereof—may be revealing. 

  1. Think of a specific person that you believe is a member of the GDE, i.e., a perpetrator of the “Global Domination Agenda.” What is your basis for believing that person is part of the GDE? 
  2. If the “Global Domination Agenda” exists, why is it taking so long for the GDE’s plans to be implemented?
  3. If the “Global Domination Agenda” exists, why are the GDE so incompetent?
  4.  Assuming the GDE want to take over the world, what do you think they’re going to do with it once they have it?

Let’s take the questions one by one. 

1. Think of a specific person that you believe is a member of the GDE, i.e., a perpetrator of the “Global Domination Agenda.” What is your basis for believing that person is part of the GDE? 

We touched on this with the George H.W. Bush example above. How do you know a member of the GDE when you see one? In almost all cases, the criteria for accusing someone of being a member of the GDE is based on (i) the person’s name; (ii) their job, position, wealth, or social status; or (iii) their opposition to conspiracy theories like the “Global Domination Agenda.”

Indeed, these are the only criteria that conspiracy theorists ever employ to categorize people as members of the GDE. The Thrive movie does this too, when Foster Gamble rages at the Rockefellers. The Rockefellers are rich and influential; therefore, they must, by definition, be part of the GDE. Conspiracy theorists also like to pick on people with the last names Rothschild, Du Pont, Kennedy, Bush, Vanderbilt, etc., etc. The same lack of reasoning is present with respect to a person’s job, position or social status. I’ve had more than one conspiracy theorist tell me that, because the GDE would never “allow” someone untrustworthy to become President of the United States, anyone who gets elected president is automatically a member of the GDE. If that’s not circular reasoning I don’t know what is.

Occasionally ordinary people like me are accused of being a member of the GDE, solely on the basis of my outspoken opposition to conspiracy theories. If someone doesn’t like conspiracy theories, they must be part of a conspiracy! In this vein I have been accused of being a member of the Illuminati, a CIA agent, and a Freemason. I even had one conspiracy theorist say that he felt certain I personally had a role in the September 11 attacks. Ludicrous accusations such as these are beneath comment.

The point is, there’s no rational basis for concluding that someone is a member of the GDE. Inclusion in the conspiracy depends solely on whether the person who believes in the conspiracy theory wants or needs to assume that person must be involved. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. It’s simply absurd.

2. If the “Global Domination Agenda” exists, why is it taking so long for the GDE’s plans to be implemented? 

Believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” have a hard time with this one. They talk about the awful things the GDE has done in the past, but the stress is always on the much worse things that are going to happen in the future. Various individual conspiracy theories that fit under the rubric of the “Global Domination Agenda” such as the North American Union, RFID microchipping, etc. all emphasize a future dimension. Yet the terrible future consequences never happen. They’re always going to happen, but they haven’t happened yet.

Example: FEMA camps. Supposedly the federal government is building large detention camps, run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, where people will be sent. Oh, isn’t that awful!

How come it hasn’t happened yet? 

Indeed, Alex Jones—who is listed on the Thrive website as a resource for fighting the “Global Domination Agenda”–has been predicting horrible things for more than 10 years, including FEMA camps. They never happen. What’s taking the GDE so long? If they’ve been building those camps for 10+ years now, when are they actually going to open? 

Even past events fit this pattern. Many believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” will tell you that 9/11 was staged in order to provide an excuse for “taking away our liberties.” How did “they” (the GDE, surely) take away our liberties? By passing the PATRIOT Act, and by instituting invasive TSA searches at airports. Look! They’re taking away our liberties! 

So let me get this straight. The PATRIOT Act was passed 10 years ago, with all these expansive powers that have very seldom, if ever, been used in the past ten years. Some of its provisions have been used against suspected terrorists—but if the GDE really intended the PATRIOT Act as a major tool of oppression, why haven’t courts and enforcement officials been making more and ever-increasing use of it? I mean, why put this law into place but not use it? What is the GDE waiting for? 

Similarly, TSA searches. These were instituted in early 2011. The believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” want you to believe that the GDE, having done 9/11, waited an entire decade to institute a new type of search at security checkpoints. Assuming there’s a considerable distance remaining from invasive pat-downs at the airport to total dictatorial control over all the world’s people, it would seem that the GDE are moving very, very slowly. 

If the GDE is moving this slowly to implement their agenda, where’s the incentive for people to join the conspiracy? They’ll all be dead by the time we reach the “total world domination” stage, if we ever do. What, then, do they have to gain? Why should they commit crimes now to benefit some future generation of iron-fisted rulers who haven’t even been born yet?

This analysis gets sillier if you take into consideration that most believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” believe that the GDE has been around, and has been working on their nefarious plans, for a very long time already. The Thrive movie doesn’t talk about the “Illuminati,” but believers in that form of GDE think that a secret society founded in 1776 is the real power ruling the world. So, in addition to the dozens, scores, or perhaps hundreds of years that have yet to elapse before the GDE’s plans come to fruition, it turns out they’ve already been working on them for over 230 years!

Does this make any sense at all?

3. If the “Global Domination Agenda” exists, why are the GDE so incompetent?

This sounds like a joke, but it’s not. If this GDE is out there and really trying to enslave the world, why are they doing such a terrible job of it? Indeed, it would seem, with as many holes in their plans, that they’re totally incompetent.

After all, “Global Domination Agenda” believers are asking you to accept that a group of all-powerful conspirators is tightening their grip over the entire world, but yet

  • …Foster Gamble is allowed to blow the whistle on their agenda with his Thrive movie and website.
  • …Alex Jones is allowed to screech, grunt and wail about their agenda every single week on his radio show.
  • …Charlie Sheen and Rosie O’Donnell are allowed to make fools of themselves peddling “9/11 Inside Job” crap on their TV shows and in interviews.
  • …Bernie Madoff, undoubtedly a member of the GDE, is allowed to be caught red-handed in his Ponzi scheme.
  • …Richard Nixon, undoubtedly a member of the GDE, is caught on tape, in his own words, committing a crime that leads to him resigning his office.
  • …Nobody helps George W. Bush, undoubtedly a member of the GDE, make a slam-dunk case for his war in Iraq by planting WMD’s on Iraqi soil, instead letting the world see that there were no WMDs in the first place.
  • …Minutes of the Bilderberg Group meetings have been posted on WikiLeaks.
  • …Tens of thousands of conspiracy theorists are allowed to junk up YouTube with their videos claiming that the “Global Domination Agenda” is real.

Believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” who try to tackle this question will invariably say something like, “This is how the GDE wants it,” or “They have to give you [debunkers] something to use to claim they aren’t real.” Anyone familiar with psychology would recognize these responses as self-reinforcing delusions.

4. Assuming the GDE want to take over the world, what do you think they’re going to do with it once they have it? 

Believers in the “Global Domination Agenda” usually breeze right by this type of question. What’s the ultimate point of the GDE trying to rule the world? Power, of course! Why, then, do they want to rule the world? For the sake of ruling the world. 

History teaches us, however, that people who desire a great deal of power seldom desire it for its own sake. That’s a common trope in fiction, but don’t even James Bond supervillains have a plan of some kind that they hope to implement? Don’t they usually have an ideology they want to advance, or a set of goals that they feel can best be vindicated by achieving a position of dominance?

Few people would dispute that Napoléon Bonaparte was a very ambitious man, even power-hungry. A man who crowned himself Emperor of France could not be anything other. However, even Napoléon wanted something. He believed in the ascendancy of the French state and thought its interests would best be served by being the most military and politically powerful state in Europe. Napoléon took power in France in part to achieve these goals. He didn’t just sit there wringing his hands and cackling, “Wheeee, I’m going to rule the lives of millions of Frenchmen and lay waste to the continent of Europe!”

What, then, do the GDE want? Believers in this theory don’t have much of an answer beyond, “they want to rule the world.” They seem to assume that power is its own reward. But that doesn’t make much sense, does it? Yet conspiracy theorists cannot point to any specific set of goals that the attainment of “total world domination” would help the GDE achieve. What are they going to do with the world once they have it? Build themselves big mansions? Waterski behind yachts? Erect statues to themselves? (Can’t many of the people suspected of being members of the GDE already do that?)

Some conspiracy theorists attempt to avoid this question by declaring that the GDE are “psychopaths” or otherwise insane. This makes no sense either. In fact it’s a convenient out, by saying, “well, we don’t have to explain what these people want, because they’re just nuts and want power for its own sake.” This argument is not convincing.

So if there’s no GDE and the “Global Domination Agenda” doesn’t exist, who does rule the world?

This question again proceeds from the same assumption as the “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory does—the assumption that someone rules the world, and that those people have some type of unity. Asking the question is pointless because it presumes that all you have to do is point a finger at some group and say, “They run the world!”

A lot of people run the world—more accurately, a lot of people run little pieces of it, or, more accurately still, they run little pieces of the little pieces of the little pieces of the world. Those people do what they do out of an extremely broad array of motivations. Much of what they do conflicts with each other, because people, countries and industries have competing and contradictory goals. Barack Obama is undoubtedly one of the most powerful men in the world. However, there are things he can’t do. He can order a nuclear strike on China, but he can’t get his budgets passed. He can influence Bernake to adjust interest rates, but he can’t snap his fingers and create millions of jobs. He can order a SEAL team to assassinate Osama bin Laden, but he can’t stop Mitt Romney from talking trash about him on the campaign stump.

There certainly are a lot of things wrong with the world. Clearly, people are starving in developing countries. Man-made global warming is threatening our environment. Personally, I believe that our economic system is not functioning properly, and social inequality is a serious problem. But to assume that these things are all part of a conscious design by a single person or small group of people is to ignore everything we know about history and about human nature. Thrive seems to suggest that the world is somehow deliberately built to be cruel and unfair, and it is the fault of the GDE, those evil people, who made it so. That belief is absolutely asinine, and should offend anyone who believes in rational thinking.

You call this a “debunking”? You haven’t disproved the Global Domination Agenda at all!

It is true, I have not disproven the existence of the “Global Domination Agenda.” But I am not required to do that.

You are required, if you believe in the “Global Domination Agenda,” to prove that it existsnot the other way around. Until you can prove that it does exist, it is not rational to believe in it. That is why this article is an effective debunking, because in it I’ve stated why the “Global Domination Agenda” is not worthy of belief.

The facts as we know them indicate that Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb. The conclusion that Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb is entirely consistent with what we know about the world around us. If we come upon a monument in New York City with an inscription reading “Here Lies Ulysses Grant,” it would be entirely rational to conclude, just by what we know about how funerals, cemeteries and graveyards work in the real world, that most likely Ulysses Grant is buried beneath that stone.

If you claim that Lincoln is buried in Grant’s Tomb, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that this is true. You don’t get to believe that Lincoln is buried in Grant’s Tomb simply because you want to, and because, short of getting a bulldozer and a crowbar and cracking open the tomb and the coffin of the person buried inside, I can’t disprove that Lincoln is buried there. I can show you evidence, eyewitness accounts of Grant’s funeral, perhaps a document from his undertaker and the man who built the tomb stating that, yes, in fact Ulysses Grant is buried there. If you continue to insist that Lincoln is buried there, don’t be surprised, if you produce no further proof, that everyone else continues to accept what has been indicated as true—that Grant is buried in Grant’s Tomb.

I do not expect conspiracy theorists to be persuaded by this logic. I do, however, expect that maybe one or two rational people out there will begin to ask questions about whether the existence of the “Global Domination Agenda” is really as self-evident as it seems.

Conclusion

The Thrive movie’s claims of a “Global Domination Agenda” are based solely on an assumption that is self-reinforcing. Believers in this conspiracy theory will typically never, under any circumstances, even question the validity of the assumption. Once convinced of its veracity, strangely nearly everything they see in the world seems to look like “evidence” supporting the assumption, when in fact it is not.

I am not required to disprove the existence of the “Global Domination Agenda.” It is up to the believers to prove it exists.

There is no evidence that the “Global Domination Agenda” exists. Therefore, the “Global Domination Agenda” does not exist.

The Next Conspiracy Movie: The Trailer for Thrive, Debunked.

thrive header 3

 

This blog was originally published here.

Dealing with conspiracy theories is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time you hammer one down, another one pops up in its place.

Just as we are witnessing the terminal decline of one so-called activist organization based on movies about conspiracy theories, another one appears to be rising. Yesterday, November 11, was the worldwide “premiere” of an Internet-based movie called Thrive. Yesterday morning I didn’t even know about it. But a lot of people have sent me links and messages about it, and given its splashy roll-out and the aggressive promotion that’s been put into the film, I can tell right away that I’m probably going to be spending a lot of time over the next few months dealing with Thrive and its fans.

Thrive is basically Zeitgeist 2.0. It’s a slick Internet film that pushes conspiracy theories and advocates for a utopian future that is—and I am not making this up—based on free energy technology given to us by extraterrestrials. The makers of Thrive have taken another page from the Zeitgeist playbook, by seeking to turn the hoped-for popularity of the Thrive movie into a “movement” (see their website). The film and the embryonic group around it seem to be the brainchild of one Foster Gamble, who believes in UFOs, ancient astronauts, free energy and the Illuminati (though he does not use that exact term). What does he want? Well, right now, he wants you to buy the movie for $5 online. I’m sure he’ll want something else after that, but let’s start with that.

The moment I started watching the trailer for Thrive I knew we were dealing with some serious crackpottery. Conspiracy theory media has come a long way in the last ten years. Zeitgeist blazed the trail, followed by Desteni’s low-tech but effective (and now defunct) strategy of proselytizing via YouTube; then came Garret LoPorto’s “Wayseer” thing (which I haven’t yet debunked), and now, Thrive. These are slick  movies designed to appeal to frustrated young people—and also designed to induce them to believe in conspiracy theories. One of the people prominently featured in Thrive is arch-conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes that shape-shifting reptilians secretly control the world. The Thrive Movement website contains a section called the “Global Domination Agenda” which vomits forth all sorts of conspiracy theories including Trilateral Commission, HAARP, FEMA camps, 9/11 and the Georgia Guidestones. If Thrive attains the popularity its makers obviously hope for, it is going to be a serious and troubling gateway drug for conspiracy theorists, the same way the Zeitgeist films were.

This said, you don’t even need to hear me explain why Thrive must be debunked. It must be. Stupidity and distortion on this order cannot be allowed to sit out there unchallenged. Therefore, this afternoon I put together what I believe may be the first debunking material on the Internet specifically targeted at the Thrive movie.

I have not seen the entire movie. (I don’t want to give conspiracy theorists any of my money, and in any event I’m quite sure it will show up free on the net very soon). This article debunks the trailer of the film, which runs 3 minutes, 39 seconds. As you can see, there’s plenty to debunk. Because the trailer is freely available on YouTube, I’m going to go ahead and embed it in this video just for the ease of accessing it. I realize I’m running the risk of increasing the visibility of what could turn out to be a very damaging film, but I think it’s worth it to show what it is I’m debunking.

As you can see, there’s plenty to debunk. Now, without further ado, I give you…Thrive!

The sources I’m relying on appear at the end of each section.

0:09 — Foster Gamble

Foster Gamble is a documentary filmmaker and formerly CEO of MindCenter Corporation. He has been active in issues involving pesticide spraying and an organization called “Stop the Spray.” A graduate of Princeton University—in what field I do not yet know—he is related to the Gamble family (of the corporation Procter & Gamble).

http://www.eon3.net/food/interviews/a_skirmish_won.html

http://www.rvml.org/calendar/wc07202004.htm

http://thrivemovement.com/faqs (section “How is Foster related to Procter & Gamble?”)

0:30 – V = 2π2Rr 2 Torus

A torus is a geometric figure. It’s defined as a surface of revolution generated by revolving a circle in three dimensional space about an axis coplanar with the circle. In most contexts it is assumed that the axis does not touch the circle—in this case the surface has a ring shape and is called a ring torus or simply torus if the ring shape is implicit.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torus

This shape appears several times in the video. Presumably something about this shape is related to the idea of free energy derived from alien technology.

0:36 – Floor mosaic in Ephesus, Turkey

This is a common pattern in floor mosaics throughout the Roman and Byzantine era. Ephesus was an important city in the Byzantine Empire in the early Christian era. Without seeing the full film, it is not clear what significance is being put on this design.

0:44 – Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 Astronaut

Edgar Mitchell was a NASA scientist who walked on the moon in February 1971. During the mission he claims to have had a spiritual experience that he described in terms of “Savikalpa Samadhi,” a type of Eastern mystical experience. He believes in ESP and founded a think tank to investigate psychic phenomena. He has been a long time believer in the Roswell conspiracy that claims a UFO crashed in New Mexico in 1947 and alien bodies were recovered from it. NASA has gone on record denying that his claims are true.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edgar_Mitchell

http://www.ascentmagazine.com/articles.aspx?articleID=195&issueID=30

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CwE0vDuTm48

0:49 – John Callahan, Senior FAA Official

John Callahan is a former FAA employee who has gone on record as claiming that the FAA has covered up incidents involving UFOs. He is most closely associated with an incident where a UFO was seen from a Japan Air Lines flight in November 1986, which he helped investigate. Callahan claims there was a cover-up of this incident but the corroboration of his story is sketchy at best.

http://www.cosmostv.org/2011/08/alaska-ufo-mystery-endures-25-years.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Air_Lines_flight_1628_incident

0:55 – Osiris Temple, Abydos, Egypt

Another appearance of the “mysterious” pattern. Coupled with the Byzantine mosaic, this is intended to surprise us that the same shape is employed in two ancient cultures. How surprising is it really, though? The shape is a series of interlocking circles. How special is that? Would it take a genius to come up with that shape? Is it implausible to believe that two people, thousands of years apart, might have the same idea for a pattern of ceremonial artwork?

1:00 – “It’s burned into the atomic structure in some extraordinary way!”

I don’t know the story behind this claim, but this is extremely unlikely. Have atomic analyses been done on the artwork in temples from Abydos, Egypt? My (admittedly perfunctory) searching didn’t turn up anything. My suspicion is that this claim is simply false.

Nassim Haramein, Cosmologist, Inventor

Nassim Haramein is a New Age writer who has dabbled in topics involving “unified field theory,” which also pops up associated with Gamble’s name. He gives lectures on metaphysics and something called “the Schwarzchild Proton” that has absolutely no acceptance among mainstream physicists. Haramein evidently claims to be a “physicist,” but I cannot find a specific record of a Ph.D. in physics. He does not list a Ph.D. on his own website. He does not appear to be a real academic. I also found material associating him with various “Ancient Astronaut” theories.

http://psychedelicadventure.blogspot.com/2011/01/nassim-haramein-resonance-project.html

http://theresonanceproject.org/about/personnel

http://ezinearticles.com/?Its-A-Pyramid-Scheme&id=5904037

http://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=332671

1:09 – Crop Circles

Crop circles are not extraterrestrial, they are not amazing, they are not mystical, and they are not hard to make. They are a fraud, and were debunked a very long time ago.

http://www.circlemakers.org/

http://www.skepdic.com/cropcirc.html

1:11 – “Free, safe energy!”

Gamble gushes about “free, safe energy” supposedly from aliens. Free energy is one of the most common delusions out there, and there are many debunkings of it. It doesn’t exist because it violates fundamental scientific principles.

http://wiki.4hv.org/index.php/Free_Energy_Debunking

http://www.yrad.com/cs/index2008.htm#may038

1:18 – Adam Trombly, Physicist, Inventor

Adam Trombly is a pseudoscientist who is closely associated with “free energy” devices, most notably something called a “Closed Path Homopolar Generator,” which is—you guessed it—yet another free energy/perpetual motion device. He is also a conspiracy theorist who claims his invention was suppressed (of course). Trombly is billed as a “physicist” but I cannot find any indication that he has a Ph.D. in physics.

http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=8510.0

http://www.economicexpert.com/5a/History:of:perpetual:motion:machines.htm

Note how the “technology” is shown in this part of the video. It’s obviously a computer generated image superimposed on the table in front of the panelists. But note, in the studio, lights have been shone on the faces of the men to make it look like the thing on the table is emitting light. This is a very curious deception.

1:27 – Nikola Tesla

Conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists love Nikola Tesla, because he was working on a lot of weird stuff that could theoretically lead to lots of nifty science fiction machines. Consequently, if you want a machine that does X to exist, all you have to do is say that Tesla invented it and that the invention was suppressed, or that it’s an extension of something Tesla invented. After all, he died in 1943 and won’t be able to dispute you. Tesla’s theories, which I presume here are asserted as the scientific “basis” of Gamble and Trombly’s free energy devices, have even been used to explain the nonexistent “beam weapons” that some more extreme 9/11 Truthers like Judy Wood and Abraham Hafez Rodriguez claim destroyed the World Trade Center towers.

If Tesla appears in a “documentary” about free energy, be skeptical…be very, very skeptical.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikola_Tesla

1:29 – Steven Greer, M.D. – Director, the Disclosure Project

Steven Greer is a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed UFO abductee who claims he has had contact with aliens. He has offered no proof of these claims. The “Disclosure Project” is his own idea, an organization he started mainly to accuse the government of covering up UFOs. Not surprisingly, Greer has appeared many times on the Art Bell radio program. Art Bell and Whitley Strieber are buddy-buddy.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disclosure_Project

1:38 – “The single largest industry in the world—energy!”

The energy industry is not the single largest industry in the world. According to the World Bank, it’s tourism. Sorry, guys.

http://www.apec-tourism.org/tourism-is-the-largest-industry-in-the-world-2

1:44 – “The suppression of UFO phenomena…”

No evidence to support this claim. I suspect that the full-length movie will contain the word “Roswell.” Just to get a head start, I’ll go ahead and post some links to debunk that.

http://www.yrad.com/cs/index2009.htm#may189

http://www.skepdic.com/roswell.html

1:51 – “An elite group of people…”

Oh, you mean the Illuminati? Not that shit again. How many times do we have to debunk this ridiculous conspiracy theory before people will understand that the Illuminati do not exist?

http://www.skepdic.com/illuminati.html

http://www.yrad.com/cs/index2007.htm#oct227

2:02 – Deepak Chopra

I’m not surprised Mr. C. (I won’t call him “Dr. C” because I’m not sure his Indian doctorate is valid in the US) is popping up in a movie like this. You know him. Alt quackery, health woo, all that sort of thing. In case you need to educate yourself as to why Chopra is not a very good source of scientific and medical information, I’ll post a link to debunk him.

http://www.skepdic.com/chopra.html

2:09 – “Connect the dots!”

Conspiracy theorists love to “connect the dots.” It’s the only thing they can do, because there’s no direct evidence of their claims. This is a false methodology used by conspiracy theorists to bamboozle people into thinking “this can’t be a coincidence!” It’s also what passes for reasoning behind the Illuminati and puppet master type conspiracy theories, which Thrive seems to traffic in quite heavily.

2:10 – Bill Still, Author, The Money Masters 

Still has written books bashing the U.S. money system and grinding his ax against the Federal Reserve, which most conspiracy theorists hate. He gives a patina of legitimacy to the usual hysterical anti-Fed arguments you hear circulating in conspiracy theorist, Libertarian and Ron Paulfanboy circles. Oh, did I mention that Still is running for president in the Libertarian Party? Does that surprise you?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Still

http://www.independentpoliticalreport.com/2011/10/bill-still-announces-run-for-libertarian-party-presidential-nomination/

2:13 – Federal Reserve conspiracies

What pan-conspiracy film would be complete without alleging that the Federal Reserve is a private corporation bent on controlling all money in the US? The usual crap from anti-Fed people, made recently popular by Ron Paul and his gang of right-wing fringe followers. The Federal Reserve is not a private corporation, it is subject to law, and it is audited. But facts won’t get in the way of conspiracy theorists’ damning of it, so why should this be different?

http://www.famguardian.org/Subjects/MoneyBanking/FederalReserve/FRconspire/FRconspire.htm

2:18 – Alan Greenspan, no one can overrule the Federal Reserve

Doing a search for the text of this quote brought up an explosion of anti-Federal Reserve crazy. It’s going to take days to weed through it all and I’m not sure I want to do it, so I may be lazy and let some debunker come to my rescue with the full text of Greenspan’s comments. I’m 99% sure that this quote is taken egregiously out of context, because that’s what conspiracy theorists do, and if they attach as much importance to something as they seem to have for this quote, the chances of it not being taken out of context are almost zero.

2:16 – Catherine Austin Fitts, former Assistant Secretary of US Department of H.U.D.

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. I suspect she’s being taken out of context too, because browsing her résumé it seems she’s way too sane to voluntarily participate in a nutty conspiracy theorist documentary.

http://solari.com/about-us/resume/

2:30 – David Icke

David Icke is probably the most influential conspiracy theorist in the world, even more so than Alex Jones. He is also insane. He believes that the world is secretly controlled by Jews reptilian shape-shifting aliens, and that the Jews aliens have secret bloodlines, rituals and symbology that they advertise so the whole world can see. Just browsing some of Icke’s stuff leads to two inescapable conclusions: first, that his elevator is not going to the top floor, and second, that he really, really, really hates Jews reptilian shape-shifting aliens.

Any supposed “documentary” that quotes Icke or uses him seriously as a source is automatically disqualified as reliable in any way, for any reason. Icke is absolutely radioactive. His hate-filled conspiracy moonbattery is the ideological basis (if you can call it that) for the Desteni cult.

2:36 – Rockefellers

This belongs in the “Illuminati” category. Here we’re shown pictures of influential people with the name Rockefeller. From this you’re supposed to infer that Rockefellers control the world. My guess is that in the full-length movie the Rothschilds are probably added to the bunch, and I’m confident enough that the words “Bilderberg Group” will appear in the full-length movie that I’m going to go ahead and add a debunking link for it.

http://skeptoid.com/episodes/4225

2:52 – Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D., Evolutionary Biologist

Dr. Sahtouris is the first person in this movie who actually has a real, verifiable Ph.D. Too bad I can’t quite figure out what it’s in. (I assume biology). Anyway, she lectures on evolution of humanity and how to create a better future. Given that she, like Catherine Fitts, sounds completely sane, I suspect that her inclusion in this movie is somewhat unwitting. Another clue that tells me this is that she appears to believe in global warming. While global warming isn’t mentioned in the Thrive trailer, I would lay odds that most of Thrive’s target audience believes that global warming is a hoax. Most conspiracy theorists do. I do not think Dr. Sahtouris is a conspiracy theorist. Indeed she looks like a very nice person, which makes me wonder what she’s doing in this movie.

http://www.sahtouris.com/pdfs/A2011Flyer.pdf

3:01 – Paul Hawken, Founder, Natural Capital Institute

Paul Hawken is a California businessman and environmentalist. He advocates for socially and environmentally responsible business practices (and I certainly agree with that). He hosted a 17-part series on PBS about running socially responsible businesses. Again, another sane person who makes me wonder if he was told he was going to be in the same movie as David Icke and Adam Trombly.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paul_Hawken

3:04 – Kimberly Carter Gamble, CEO, Clear Compass Media

Kimberly Carter Gamble is the wife of Foster Gamble. On the Thrive Movement webpage, she quotes David Icke, not an auspicious start: “Having the courage to risk stepping out of what David Icke calls the “hassle-free zone” is the quality I am most proud to have mustered in this life, and it felt great to infuse the clarity and compassion that come from that process into the story – and production – of THRIVE.” But does she believe in reptoids?

http://thrivemovement.com/about_us

3:10 – Martin Luther King

Some shameless self-promotion here by inviting the comparison between Thrive and Dr. Martin Luther King. I hate it when conspiracy theorists do this. When Peter Joseph Merola of the Zeitgeist Movement compared himself to Martin Luther King, it drove me berserk. I have a dream that people would stop comparing themselves to Martin Luther King.

3:12 – angel Kyodo williams

To my surprise, the title card identifying angel Kyodo williams, despite its odd capitalization, is correct—she really does write her name that way. Ms. williams is a Zen Buddhist and wrote a book trying to make Zen accessible to African-Americans.

I am, again, virtually certain that Ms. williams does not fully understand the views and background of the people behind Thrive. I seriously doubt that a person who is obviously a dedicated activist for African-American issues would consent to be in the same movie with David Icke (who as you remember really hates Jews reptilian shape-shifting aliens) if she knew about the baggage he carries. This makes me skeptical of the disclosures that were done during the making of this film.

http://angelkyodowilliams.com/bio/

3:15 – Amy Goodman, Host, Democracy Now! 

Democracy Now! is a radio program on the Pacifica radio network, dedicated to progressive causes. I’ve never listened to the show, but browsing their material there seems to be a lot of stuff I agree with. Amy Goodman was arrested along with two other reporters at the 2008 Republican National Convention despite having committed no crime. The charges were eventually dropped.

As with several other respectable names here (Fitts, Hawken, Sahtouris, williams) I wonder what she is doing in a conspiracy theory movie.

http://www.democracynow.org/

Conclusion

Assuming the full-length Thrive movie follows the general pattern of the trailer, I think we can see a basic road map emerging as to how the full-length film and the movement it hopes to spawn can be debunked. I’m starting early, on only the second day that Thrive has been out, in the hopes that the movie will attract some attention from debunkers who can tag it with the facts and expose the errors and misstatements contained in it, which, as you can see from the trailer alone, are considerable. I’d like to say I’m looking forward to seeing the final film, but the truth is, I’m not. I have a feeling it will make me very angry. In any event, it seemed that some people out there thought it appropriate that I take a look at it, so here it is. I’ll be keeping tabs on this movie and this organization and may post updates later on.

Thanks for reading.

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