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.
“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.
“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.
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.
Tags: conspiracy theories, critical thinking, David Icke, Eustace Mullins, evidence, facts, Foster Gamble, Free Energy, free energy suppression, G. Edward Griffin, Global Domination Agenda, global warming, global warming denial, Illuminati, libertarianism, logic, open letter, reasoning, reception, Reptilians, Rockefellers, Rothschilds, solutions, Thrive, Thrive Debunked, Thrive movie
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