A Post at the Sister Blog: Thrive Demonstrates How the Conspiracy World is Changing.

I posted an article today at my other much more long-established (and less well known) blog, the Muertos Blog, entitled The Conspiracy World is Changing: Are You Ready For It? Follow that link to read it in full. I decided to post it there because the subject matter of that article goes well beyond Thrive, thus exceeding the scope of this blog; however, as Thrive and its place in the seedy world of conspiracy theories are an important example of the effect I want to discuss in that article, I thought I would do a quick post here mentioning it and directing interested readers to it.

My main argument in that article is stated thusly:

“The best and most concise way I can put it is this: conspiracy theorists do not want, today in 2012, what they used to want ten, five or even three years ago. The endgame for them—the “finish line,” if you will—is no longer to convince significant numbers of people in the mainstream that Conspiracy Theory X or Y is factually true. Nowadays, conspiracy theories are being used as a vehicle to advance other ideas, usually a set of ideological or even religious principles. The factual veracity of conspiracy material is no longer as important as it once was. Consequently, debunkers of conspiracy theories—who are focused on what is factual, rational and supportable in objective terms—are going to find themselves increasingly outclassed in this new environment.”

I believe Thrive demonstrates this effect in a very profound way. We are now moving toward a world in which the factual veracity of conspiracy theories is being questioned less and less often, as believers in conspiracies are herded with increasing fervor toward predetermined, pre-packaged ideological conclusions. The article over at the Muertos Blog goes into great detail about how we got there (hint: Zeitgeist was the unwitting trailblazer), and most of the Thrive material is at the end. I stress that context is important, which is why I strongly suggest reading the full article, but here is an excerpt of my discussion on Thrive and what this blog has taught me about conspiracy thinking as it exists today:

“I’ve already noticed this trend on the Thrive Debunked blog. Although the majority of people who post comments on the blog are Thrive fans who are angry that anyone would criticize the movie, a surprisingly few number of them seem to be angry because they think the facts are something different than what I demonstrate they are. Indeed, most of them seem to be angry because they say that by criticizingThrive I’m preventing the world from becoming a better place by not acceptingThrive and its messages as true. This is why so many comments take a tack similar to, “you’re missing the point” or “the movie isn’t meant to be debunked.” When the movie is attacked, its fans instinctively leap to the defense of its ideology, whereas leaping to the defense of its facts seems to be a secondary consideration.”

For those who may be interested in a wider view of how Thrive fits into a broader context of conspiracy thinking and New Age belief systems, I hope this article gives you some food for thought. As always, thanks for reading.

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11 responses to “A Post at the Sister Blog: Thrive Demonstrates How the Conspiracy World is Changing.”

  1. Professor Pious says :

    Excellent insights. Well worth reading the complete post on your other blog.

    In the spirit of exploring why “facts don’t mater,” what kinds of underlying factors might contribute to people holding on to false (or flawed) beliefs or ideologies, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary? A recent scientific study by scientists from Emory University and anthropologists from the Institute Jean Nicod in Paris, France yields some clues.

    http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2012/01/price-of-your-soul-how-your-brain.html

    The study identified differences between two types of beliefs in humans, and how the brain processes them differently. Some beliefs and values were open to change or debate. Another type of belief or value, the so-called sacred, such as a religious or ethical belief, was inviolable, essentially not open to debate or change, even when facts countered this belief. Excerpt:

    “The brain imaging data showed a strong correlation between sacred values and activation of the neural systems associated with evaluating rights and wrongs (the left temporoparietal junction) and semantic rule retrieval (the left ventrolateral prefrontal cortex), but not with systems associated with reward.”

    Organized groups such as religion were correlated with a stronger tendency to hold certain “sacred values.”

    New Age teachings encourage, reward, and reinforce certain types of fuzzy thinking, elevating emotional appeal to the realm of objective truth. At least one person has commented on this blog referring to the subjective standard of discerning truth as ideas that “resonate with them,” a common New Age cliche that promotes subjective experience as being more accurate than objective truth. Many of the subjects covered early in the Thrive movie already fall within the New Age realm of the sacred: crop circles, free (zero point) energy, UFOs, ancient astronauts, alternative cures, chemtrails, and HAARP conspiracies. Defense of Thrive’s ideology is consistent with defense of certain sacred values as described in the Emory University study.

    There is an oppressive orthodoxy that permeates New Age thought: ideas, historical interpretations, and teachings promoted as New Age are not open for honest factual debate within New Age circles. Magical thinking rules supreme. The appeal of “hidden knowledge” and “personal spiritual growth” trumps rational thought. One common tactic in debate (or hypnosis) is getting people to agree with you, which helps bypass the subjects critical thinking faculties. Thrive exploits such New Age sacred beliefs to steer viewers towards its conclusion, as you have noted in Part 3: “In order to stop all these awful conspiracies, we recommend you embrace New Age concepts and libertarian economic/political beliefs.”

    The Rick A. Ross Institute has a comprehensive Internet archive of information about cults, destructive cults, controversial groups and movements. It is an excellent resource for discussion and information on New Age beliefs, concepts, and groups:

    http://rickross.com/
    http://search.rickross.com/search

  2. Hollywood Tomfortas says :

    Greetings Esteemed Professor Pious!

    Excellent article you found! If I may repeat two highlights from it.

    The brain imaging data showed a strong correlation between sacred values and activation of the neural systems associated with evaluating rights and wrongs (the left temporo-parietal junction) and semantic rule retrieval (the left ventro-lateral pre-frontal cortex), but not with systems associated with reward.

    The experiment also found activation in the amygdala, a brain region associated with emotional reactions, but only in cases where participants refused to take cash to state the opposite of what they believe. “Those statements represent the most repugnant items to the individual,” Berns says, “and would be expected to provoke the most arousal, which is consistent with the idea that when sacred values are violated, that induces moral outrage.

    Indeed it seems that the left Tempero-Parietal Junction (TPJ) has been quite a hot spot in the brain for neurological research over the past decade. Consider this report from 2004, which is quite germane to your original posting.

    http://www.nature.com/neuro/journal/v7/n5/full/nn1223.html
    http://www.psych.unito.it/csc/pers/chiavarino/pdf/2004a.pdf

    Left temporo-parietal junction is necessary for representing someone else’s belief

    Abstract
    A standard view in the neuroscience literature is that the frontal lobes sustain our ability to process others’ mental states such as beliefs, intentions and desires (this ability is often referred to as having ‘theory of mind’). Here we report evidence from brain-damaged patients showing that, in addition to involvement of the frontal lobes, the left temporo-parietal junction is necessary for reasoning about the beliefs of others.

    To quote Mr. Spock: Fascinating! Isn’t that exactly what we are all doing here on muertos’ blog — reasoning about the beliefs of others? Thus it seems that each one of us, whether THRIVE-Defender or THRIVE-Debunker, all of us are exercising our respective TPJs to assess the rightness and wrongness of the other guy’s beliefs. And of course, since we are doing this all by writing on this blog, then we must throw in our respective left ventro-lateral pre-frontal cortices (VLPFC) because that’s the repository of our semantic rules to argue by.

    But wait, there’s more! Not only do we assess the beliefs of others, inferring delusions, outright lies or joking with our TPJs, but we also make the very distinction between self and other with the TPJ. Now look at the research from 2006 about the TPJ and its involvement in people perceiving their own “Doubles” or “Doppelgaengers” sometimes called “shadow persons.” Indeed such TPJ activation could be involved in what people report as “alien abductions.”

    http://www.cosmosmagazine.com/node/686
    http://news.sciencemag.org/sciencenow/2006/09/20-04.html

    The temporo-parietal junction (TPJ) is known to be involved in creating the concept of ‘self’, and the distinction between ‘self’ and ‘other’. According to the researchers, stimulation of this region interfered with the patient’s ability to integrate information about her own body, leading to her experience of a ‘shadow person’.

    Now muertos, the above research ideas go a long way to explaining why so many of the THRIVE defenders attack you so vehemently — ostensibly for violating their sacred values. But I think there’s more to it. It may not be that they are paranoid — though Tenacious seems to fit that bill — rather it may be that your very existence (as Other) and your debunking THRIVE may be an actual attack on their concept of Self. And that is what provokes their moral outrage at you, even more so than any supposed violation of their own sacred values.

    In some strange way, you may actually be a species of “shadow person” or “doppelgaenger” that their TPJs sense is lurking somewhere close behind them.

  3. Ron says :

    As someone who has fought the chemtrail hoax/conspiracy for years, its unfortunate that Thrive and Mr Gamble have fallen victim to it. There is no science or facts behind chemtrails, its all junk science, first started to help make money. It really is a for profit conspiracy.

    In reading about chemtrail evidence on the thrive website, its the same discredited junk as before, where they insist that aluminum should not be in the ground. Okay, but where does aluminum ore come from? Hmm maybe its those same space aliens they believe in.

    I just started a thread on a debunking site called Metabunk.org about Thrive.
    We have been long debunking other junk science and conspiracies, especially chemtrails.

    • Amber says :

      Thank you for your comments- I will take a look at Metabunk.org now that I’ve heard of it. Bring on the debunking!

  4. Hollywood Tomfortas says :

    muertos,

    Someone put your article up on tribe.net

    http://2012.tribe.net/thread/8b9db82e-49f9-4841-a453-9f428007e087

    I love some of the comments — especially this exchange between a couple flirting about you.

    ================

    GIRL: I am most sincere when I *personally* suggest that it *really* must suck to be you.

    Seriously.

    —————————

    BOY: I always thought the same about you, but this isn’t going to change my opinion *one* iota about the ignorance and malignancy of Muertos’ blabberings in his ridiculous blog.

    ===================

    • muertos says :

      Ha, ha! Quite amusing. There actually are personals sites for conspiracy theorists who can’t get dates. That Auton person should look into joining.

  5. Levenda says :

    The problem with this new phenomenon is that those who do serious investigating and reporting on conspiracy-related issues — I can think of Peter Dale Scott as one prime example — are devalued by the popular association of New Age conspiracy agendas with more sober (but equally as controversial) investigative journalism. The New Age conspiracy types (like David Icke) actually help the mainstream, consensus-reality historians who would like nothing better than to lump in the Peter Dale Scotts, the Dick Russells and the Jim Hougans of the world with the credulous and the hysterical. Rather than helping the world understand what is going on behind the scenes, the New Age version of the conspiracy theorist has made up his or her mind long before the evidence is in. It is a kind of “true believer” effect, and investigative journalism — the real core of conspiracy theorism — is fundamentally opposed to belief versus knowledge. The mainstream can cover themselves in the flag of “facts” — by selecting which facts they like — and by painting all other points of view as the lunatic fringe. David Icke is not part of the solution, he’s part of the problem. He makes conspiracy theorism look looney, which helps maintain the status quo.

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