Thrive: A Flop?
Lately I have been browsing around the net trying to ascertain the sort of impact that the Thrive movie is having. While admittedly there is no reliable quantitative way to measure such a thing, from my own experience observing conspiracy theories and conspiracy movements, I’m suspecting that Thrive is not having the impact its makers hoped for–and in fact it may be an out-and-out flop.
It has been more than a month since the release of the film on the Internet. In that brief space of time, “buzz” about the film seems to have declined rather than increased. Stats on how many times it has been paid for and downloaded aren’t very reliable, considering the film was ripped to various torrent sites literally the day it was released (November 11), and it has been popping up on YouTube (and being taken down again) several times in succession. Do a search for the hashtag #ThriveMovement on Twitter and you’ll bring up only 26 hits since December 9–most of which are the same people over and over again, some of whom are critics (including me). The hashtag #Thrive has more hits, but many of them are not related to the movie at all. Indeed, most of the hits on Google regarding the movie lead to conspiracy theorist web forums where someone brings up the movie, it is briefly discussed, and then the participants move on to another topic.
I suspect the model the Thrive makers intended to emulate is the Zeitgeist experience. Zeitgeist: The Movie, a poorly-made Internet documentary released in 2007 which also promoted conspiracy theories, went viral and even sponsored an online cult of followers, the “Zeitgeist Movement,” which is now largely defunct. The buzz on Zeitgeist built slowly and peaked around 2008, but even then the whole “Zeitgeist Movement” had to be kept alive by the release of two (soon to be three) sequels, with each one decreasing markedly in popularity from the previous one. Nevertheless, Zeitgeist had a life-span of about four years. It seems Thrive may be looking at a life-span considerably shorter–months, or perhaps even weeks.
Here are some reasons why I think Thrive may be struggling to achieve or maintain its relevance.
1. Many conspiracy theorists don’t trust Thrive…because they think it’s a conspiracy!
Most of the criticism directed at the Thrive movie is not from people who debunk and disbelieve conspiracy theories, but from the exact opposite. The vast majority of anti-Thrive commentary on the net comes from conspiracy theorists who believe the movie is deliberate “disinformation” made by conspirators!
Take for example this webpage, which warns people not to get “sucked in” to the film. The site rails at the movie thusly:
“The Thrive movie has big advertising. Big names. Big message. Big budget…and it has big “disinformation” mixed with truth. Watch the trailer…and get sucked right in to yet another hijacking of the activist movement by the ruling crime families. This is a hijacking!”
A discussion on a conspiracy-friendly web forum contains similar sentiments, such as this:
“In my opinion the movie was made to suck people’s energy out of them and make them feel hopeless! It is so overwhelming in what they say….I personally believe this film was made by the same elite that he (Gamble) talks about in the movie and how they control every aspect of the world.”
The number one reason paranoid conspiracy theorists distrust Thrive is because its director, Foster Gamble, is a member of the Gamble family (of the corporation Procter & Gamble). To conspiracy theorists, this is proof positive that Gamble is part of the “global elite” that secretly runs the world. This blog has already debunked the ridiculous “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory as presented in Thrive, but, as that article notes, because it is extraordinarily difficult to convince believers in this nutty conspiracy theory that it is not happening, Gamble’s last name plays right into their paranoid delusions and he magically becomes part of the conspiracy.
This type of thing is an occupational hazard of being in the conspiracy theory business. Conspiracy theorists see enemies everywhere and believe that powerful forces are expending a lot of effort to spread “disinformation” to discredit them–for example, many believers in the ridiculous “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theory believe that Dr. Judy Wood, who thinks the World Trade Center towers were demolished with super magical beam weapons from outer space, is an agent provocateur who was planted in the “Truth movement” to make it look ridiculous. What they miss is that, in the eyes of the vast majority of the public, conspiracy theorists could not look more ridiculous than they already are.
Gamble either didn’t appreciate this, or gambled (no pun intended) that his name, wealth and connections to a large corporation wouldn’t sour his pro-conspiracy-theory message. Nevertheless, Thrive seems to have a serious credibility problem within the core demographic at which it is aimed, that being paranoid conspiracy theorists.
2. The Thrive movie doesn’t really have a “happy ending.”
Another potential reason Thrive isn’t catching on is because it’s too bleak, and is not clear enough about proposing solutions, which its audience evidently wants to hear about. This is a criticism I’ve seen several places on the net–you can see a hint of it in the second forum post reproduced above. Here is another similar sentiment:
“It pretends to be an examination of the power elite but it conflates this power-elite analysis with an “alien code.” This does two things. For many people it makes the movie a kind of “crackpot” endeavor (and we note they’ve gone out of their way to include many prominent free-market thinkers in their narrative). Second, it doesn’t apparently produce any real solutions, inspiring helplessness and fear rather than inspiration or education.”
It may seem strange that an audience of conspiracy theorists, who love predictions of economic or societal collapse, craves a “happy ending,” but it makes sense if you understand the basic psychology of conspiracy beliefs. Many conspiracy theorists are attracted to these theories because they like the idea of having “secret knowledge” that is generally denied or ignored by the world at large. This gives them a feeling of empowerment, that they’re in a secret club that knows the “truth” and is fighting the good fight to get other people to notice it. However, this dynamic doesn’t work without the implicit assumption that this secret knowledge can do some good. Conspiracy theorists like to think of themselves as Neo, the hero of the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix, who takes the “red pill,” recognizes that the world is fake and then becomes a sort of messiah to bring it down. Those who are bothered by Thrive’s failure to propose “solutions” seem to be disappointed because Gamble has given them the “red pill,” but hasn’t told them what to do with it.
One of the most common conspiracy theorist memes is that people are “waking up.” If you surf conspiracist web sites or read their forum posts you’ll see a lot of metaphors related to sleep, waking up, opening eyes, etc., and material that posits conspiracy theories, especially “Global Domination Agenda” theories and similar tropes, will often be praised as helping “wake people up.” Thrive itself plays on this meme in its promotional poster, showing a woman removing a blindfold. But it seems, interestingly enough, that “waking people up” alone isn’t enough anymore. Conspiracy theorists want to be “inspired” or “educated” as to what they can do about all these horrible conspiracies. Thrive is very short on action points and that seems to bother people. While it is part of a conspiracy theory narrative, it seems to lack the elements necessary to compel commitment among its followers–meaning, validation of the implicit idea that the “special knowledge” the movie imparts will be of some earthly use.
If Gamble does make a Thrive 2, expect that to be the plot.
3. The conspiracy theory world moves much faster than it used to.
It is possible that, even in the short space of a month since its release, Thrive may have already peaked. Only time will tell, but if this is true, it lends credence to a theory by former JREF debunker Ryan Mackey, who stated recently that the world of conspiracy theories moves a lot faster than it used to thanks to social networking and instant information sources like Twitter. If this is true, it may be a lesson that many purveyors of conspiracy theories have yet to learn.
In November, Mackey published (on the web) a very interesting essay called The Great Internet Conspiracy: The Role of Technology and Social Media in the 9/11 Truth Movement. The essay is very long but a fascinating read. In diagnosing the rise and fall of the 9/11 “Truth” movement from its beginnings in 2005 to its burnout in 2008-09, Mackey analyzes two conspiracy theories that became popular after 9/11 Truth, those being the “Birther” thing (the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya and his Hawaii birth certificate is a fake), and the Osama bin Laden “deathers” (the conspiracy theory that Osama bin Laden was not killed by US forces on May 1, 2011, or that his death was somehow different than explained, and covered up for whatever bizarre reason). He makes the point that these conspiracy theories peaked much, much faster than 9/11 Truth did, which took years:
“The Birther conspiracy theory…made the jump into the mainstream very quickly. Unlike the Truth Movement, it seems to have begun its runaway growth phase in only a matter of months, steeply increasing in popularity from mid-2009 through April 2011. It peaked with something like 30% of Americans believing the conspiracy theory (there is a lot of scatter in the polls), but then rapidly slipped to a stable support level of about 10%….We see a similar pattern in the Deather conspiracy theory, except here the timeline is compressed even further. This conspiracy theory exploded into the mainstream at the same speed as the news story it challenged, reaching the media almost instantly…
In this case, the conspiracy theory still exhibited distinct phases of initial growth among conspiracy theorists, rapid growth as it assaulted the mainstream, and then a decline back to its conspiracist base, but here it all happened in a matter of hours. It is no coincidence that Twitter played such a significant role this time. As our relationship to the Internet continues to evolve, we now receive news and new information faster than ever, albeit without any sort of context at all. Much of this conversation now takes place on personal devices instead of workstations, which both enables and constrains this new, terse, burst-mode form of communication. As a result, the public experienced the conspiracy theory almost at the moment of its origin, discarded it as nonsense, and moved on.”
Could this be what happened with Thrive? There was a big roll-out and a lot of attention on 11/11, the day of the film’s release. There was Internet traffic, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, and the movie went up on YouTube. Then, as the movie saturated into the conspiracy theorist underground, people saw it, talked about it, and moved on. Now, while Thrive is still out there, it definitely does not have a sense of urgency around it as it did on 11/11. People still do watch it and talk about it, but its momentum doesn’t seem to be building.
Indeed, statistics from this blog could support this theory. I started this blog within days after Thrive’s release because I knew that in order to have any impact, fact-checking and debunking the film would have to be essentially simultaneous with the film’s discovery–meaning, people who Google “Thrive movie” for the first time, and are introduced to it, must also be introduced to its debunking material at the same time. At this I think this blog has been pretty successful. The high water mark of page views on this blog occurred on November 26, Thanksgiving weekend. Since then, views have been declining–just, as I suspect, like views of the Thrive movie itself.
If Foster Gamble hoped that Thrive would replicate the “success” of Zeitgeist, he may well not have taken the increased speed of the conspiracy underground into account. Zeitgeist was released in 2007, toward the end of the 9/11 Truth movement. But even four years ago the Internet moved much slower than it does now. People could continually discover the Zeitgeist movies on YouTube and other video sources at their own pace and then buy into its conspiracy ideology, which by the advent of the Zeitgeist Movement, was ready and waiting to receive them. This doesn’t seem to be happening with Thrive. At least, I don’t see indications that it’s going to have a slow simmer that will eventually build into some sort of mass discovery of the movie or its messages. While we can’t know for sure until more time passes, it could very well be that Thrive peaked on Thanksgiving weekend, and may never attain that level of interest again.
Of course, this prediction could be wrong. Thrive may gain a high-profile supporter or suddenly and inexplicably achieve some type of viral saturation–maybe as part and parcel of the ridiculous but inevitable “2012 doomsday” hysteria that is certainly right around the corner. And it’s always possible that Gamble may make a follow-up movie or take some other action to try to capitalize on the film. But if it does gain a sudden notoriety, I would be very surprised if that translates into sustained and durable popularity. I just don’t think Thrive has it in itself.
Is Thrive really “waking people up”?
As stated earlier in this essay, conspiracy theorists love to believe that they are “waking people up” and “opening people’s eyes.” Indeed the conviction that conspiracy theory X or Y is gaining more and more acceptance with the general public is a virtually universal belief among conspiracy theorists, even in the total absence of evidence that it is true. For example, far fewer people today believe that “9/11 was an inside job” than did in 2005-06, yet Truthers are still out there claiming that “critical mass” of belief in their conspiracy theory is right around the corner, or, even more astonishingly, that a majority of the public already believes that 9/11 was a government conspiracy and that their work in convincing people is largely done. No amount of evidence that the Truth movement is dead could convince these believers.
Similarly, I would be very surprised to encounter an enthusiastic supporter of Thrive who does not believe that the movie is a rip-roaring success that is going to gain millions of converts. This despite the fact that the mainstream media has completely ignored the film, views of the film are apparently declining after only a month, and the film is encountering significant obstacles to widespread acceptance by large segments of the conspiracy underground. The fiction of Thrive gradually snowballing, gaining converts and credibility until it bursts into the mainstream with legions of high-commitment supporters, is probably one that we are going to encounter for quite some time to come. However, I have seen no evidence that this is even close to true, and considerable anecdotal evidence that the opposite is true.
Thrive is not “waking people up.” Indeed, it appears to be putting them to sleep.
Tags: 2012, 2012 doomsday, 9/11, 9/11 Truth, beam weapons, birth certificate, Birthers, buzz, conspiracy memes, conspiracy movies, conspiracy theories, conspiracy thinking, deathers, directed energy weapons, flop, Foster Gamble, Free Energy, free energy suppression, global domination, Global Domination Agenda, global elite, Illuminati, Judy Wood, marketing, Neo, opening eyes, Osama bin Laden, promotion, psychology, reasoning, reception, red pill, Ryan Mackey, space beams, special knowledge, The Matrix, Thrive, Thrive Debunked, Thrive movie, Truth movement, Truthers, Twitter, waking people up, waking up, Zeitgeist
- One Year Later: Thriving No More.
- One World Governments–Debunked!
- World Domination Conspiracies–Debunked!
- We’re On Hiatus!
- Thrive as Holy Scripture: The Emerging Religion of “Conspirituality.”
- Noted Canadian Skeptic Show Examines Thrive—And Tells the Truth.
- The Lonely Battle Against “Disinformation Agents”: A Conspiracy Theorist Analyzes Me.
- Humanity and Sanity: The Full Text of John Robbins’s Repudiation of Thrive and its Conspiracy Theories.
- Crop Circle Wars! Fake Video Shakes Credibility of One of Thrive’s Main Sources. (UPDATED TWICE!)
- Paranoid Utopia: The Nightmare World That Thrive Would Give Us.
- Thrive, Zeitgeist and the Illusion of Conspiracy Activism.
- Foster Gamble Responds: Thrive and its Solutions are (Evidently) Only For Conspiracy Theorists.
- My Open Letter to Foster Gamble: Turn Your Back on Conspiracy—Don’t Let Thrive Define You. (UPDATED!)
- “Follow the Money”–Debunked!
- Gambles Fire Back, Accusing Thrive Critics of “Disinformation Campaign”
- Why We Fight: Progressive Leader Who Repudiated Thrive Explains Why Its Conspiracy Theories Are Harmful.
- Free Energy Fracas: Adam Trombly Attacks Me (And Thrive)—But Is There a Silver Lining?
- Throwing Thrive Under the Bus: Progressives Interviewed in the Film Distance Themselves From Its “Dangerously Misguided” Ideas. (UPDATED!)
- Thrive Is Free: New Fans, New Approach, and a Fresh Welcome to This Blog.
- POLL: Is the Creator of This Blog a “Paid Disinformation Agent”?
- Exclusive: Allegations About Adam Trombly Present Potential Credibility Crisis for Thrive. (UPDATED!)
- Who Is Nassim Haramein?
- Who Is David Icke?
- A Post at the Sister Blog: Thrive Demonstrates How the Conspiracy World is Changing.
- Progressive Think Tank Slams Thrive’s Political Agenda
|vinnie on One Year Later: Thriving No…|
|Joel T. on Ancient Astronauts–Debun…|
|tetragrammaton on Ancient Astronauts–Debun…|
|conspiracykiller on Who Is David Icke?|
|Dave on Who Is David Icke?|
|conspiracykiller on Who Is Adam Trombly? (UPD…|
|Sound & Smoke on Who Is Adam Trombly? (UPD…|
|conspiracykiller on Ancient Astronauts–Debun…|
|M on Ancient Astronauts–Debun…|
|conspiracykiller on Who Is David Icke?|