This article presents more on the “Global Domination Agenda” at the heart of Thrive and why the assertions in the film related to this conspiracy theory are ridiculous.
Global Domination Agenda and the New World (lack of) Order
Roughly at 1:05:00 we have Mr. Gamble giving a speech claiming the secret agenda of the banking elite is nothing but “total global domination.” Gamble states for the Global Domination Agenda to work the powerful elites would need to have total control of key sectors of society. Such as the money (Central banks and such), natural resources, energy (save “free energy”), health (save natural alternative medicine) and the media. He also alleges that the US government is hell bent on controlling the internet (more on that later, but I have to add thanks to the democratic process it has failed to do so). Gamble also adds how the PATRIOT Act (won’t argue much with this but the PATRIOT Act was hardly effective), surveillance and RFID chips (useless for anything but control of inventory and pets).
He alleges that the Big Brother police state isn’t coming, it has already arrived. In a bait and switch argument he states the members of several wealthy families, such as the Rockefellers, Rothschild and so forth, are part of a secret group. Supposedly, while most of the members of these families are not aware of this, the headmasters are pulling the strings without their knowledge.
Gamble then proceeds to drop some names of royal family members and high influence people to make a point, implying they are the headmasters behind the global domination agenda. People like the David Rockefeller and Queen Beatrix of Netherlands. Needless to say this falls more under speculation and guessing than verifiable fact.
One of the pieces of “evidence” he brings to make his point credible is the symbolism of the Eye of Providence (A.K.A the “all seeing eye of God) used on the U.S. $1 bill, in Masonry images and by other justice and intelligence agencies worldwide.
The problem with this kind of argument is the blatant use of unfounded implications. The Eye of Providence is a quite old symbol which is mostly used to represent religious zeal, like a shepherd watching over his flock. The Eye of Providence is used in the same manner by groups heavily influenced by the Christian church (especially regarding the Holy Trinity).
Mr. Gamle also shows several companies using eyes on their logos–conveniently forgetting that most of the examples he listed are from audio-visual companies like CBS and AOL.
Gamble claims one of the uses of the this information is to promote anti-Semitism by labeling the Global Domination Agenda as “a Jewish agenda.” Perhaps the irony was lost to Gamble, but having the overtly anti-Semitic David Icke as a key figure in Thrive and then drop this gem on the viewer was a little too much for me to bear. Given how much anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories tend to overlap, this is ironic.
Later both Gamble and Edward Griffin speak about how after the secret elite consolidated their wealth they aimed for the next big thing: power. The power to rule people and their freedom as they see fit under the premise of “we’re more intelligent than you and we know how you should live better than you.”
After that there are several clips from politicians like George Bush, Gordon Brown and Henry Kissinger using the phrase “New World Order”. This is another case of quote mining. Muertos already talked about this in this blog.
One of the reasons why this footage has been carefully edited is to change its meaning. Showing the clips in full would only undermine Gamble’s statements because it would show that the New World Order phrase refers not to the Global Domination Agenda but about economic plans and free market trade (Henry Kissinger) and the state of the power balance post Gulf War (George Bush). The “New World Order” is not about creating one single governmental entity to rule the world as Gamble implies in Thrive.
Next the movie gives us this quote from Pope Benedict: “There is urgent need for a true world political authority.” In a rare case of quote accuracy in Thrive it turns out the Pope’s quote is legit, but it doesn’t mean what Gamble wants you think it means. The Pope’s quote is completely against the Global Domination Agenda and the elites, and it condemns the accumulation of wealth and criticizes the ways globalization can be badly directed. In fact the Pope says this can “lead to an increase in poverty and inequality, and could even trigger a global crisis”
Here is the full quote:
“There is a strongly felt need… for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth… there is urgent need of a true world political authority.”
The rest of the quote and the context is in this link. The pope wasn’t defending the creating of a super state, but the re-management of the UN and other groups like the FMI to help the redistribution of wealth and lessen poverty. This is a much more benevolent goal than anything Thrive suggests, and it is the opposite of the what the elite would want.
After abusing the Pope’s quote, Mr. Gamble alleges the world is moving towards a more militarized and authoritarian rule. He conveniently uses footage from North Korea and Pakistan trying to make you think about the worst places to live on Earth.
In reality the world has been advancing by leaps and bounds against militarization. The European nations–with a special mention of Germany–have shrunk their military capabilities. The Arab Spring has led to the downfall of dictatorships in North Africa and Middle East. Even countries like Myanmar (Burma) have taken measures to depose their military rulers in favor of reforms to open the way for a civil government (I’d also like to add this may not work as it is under process in a unstable region).
There is a clear picture of how people worldwide do not want to have a military or a militarized government.
Conspiracy theorists are (mentally?) challenged
Kimberly Gamble later makes an “observation” about how bringing up conspiracy theory topics is a “socially challenging” and whoever does is prone of being ridiculed.
This wouldn’t be the case if conspiracy theorists didn’t show/make use of:
- Misquoting, just as Thrive does (Henry Kissinger, George H.W. Bush).
- Quote mining, just as Thrive does (see the quote from Pope Benedict).
- Circular logic, unfounded accusations, mass guessing, selective editing, and trivializing.
- Failure to understand the laws of nature (physics, math, biology and chemistry). Thrive does this too by relying on people like Nassim Haramein whose reputation is built on wildly inaccurate conceptions of physics.
- Failure to provide conclusive and observable evidence.
- Dismissing rebuttals and criticism as “trolls” or “paid disinformation agents.”
Gamble reflects to the current state of the world where there is a major disparity between rich and poor, there is an use of power to keep the plebes in control and debt as a form of slavery.
Now there is something interesting in Thrive, actually a characteristic shared by most if not all conspiracy theory movies and “documentaries”: it is completely American centric, it was aimed towards the American population and nowhere else.
Mr. Gamble cites the US’s history of armed revolt and free speech as a hurdle to the Global Domination Agenda, completely ignoring the rest of the world, including totalitarian countries and/or bankrupt countries where the Global Domination Elite (if they existed) could implement their plans easily and without much trouble.
Maybe I’m overreacting as I write this–I am not an American–but for Gamble and crew it seems that USA is (most of) the world and if you subdue the USA you’ll be able to do with the rest of the world. This completely disregards all the countries and populations that have an anti-western and/or anti-American sentiment. The world is a place where no one agrees with anyone. Thrive focuses on groups that have power and influence in USA and Europe but not anywhere else. In the USA last case of real armed revolt was during the Civil War 150 years ago. In the Middle East and South Asia cases of armed revolt are occurring this very year, South America is virtually starting its second generation of people who have not witnessed the authoritarian dictatorships we faced in the 20th century, with most of the able bodied population having vivid memories of what it was like and they don’t want it to come back (I myself was born at the start of the democratic governments that succeeded the dictatorships in my country).
Even if the Global Domination Elite had seized control of the continental USA they wouldn’t be any better in much of the world considering that some countries have made resisting western powers a tradition, and they have been doing that for generations.
Pushing for a global currency and the global tax
There are a few problem with this. First at 1:25:00 Gamble states the US dollar is being devalued, more correctly was being devalued, as it is regaining strength in face of other currencies like the Brazilian Real, the Chilean Peso, the Russian Ruble and even being almost toe to toe in value with the Euro.
Second the I.M.F one currency wasn’t meant to be used as Gamble implied to be. First, it isn’t meant to be used as a daily currency for citizens but as a reserve for countries to avoid the fluctuating exchange rates. Currently the US dollar is used as the reserve currency for governments worldwide. An I.M.F. currency would lessen the dependency of USA as a provider of currency and it would shield other countries in case of any crisis or economic problems in USA.
It is noteworthy that the major promoters of the global currency idea were China and Russia (two countries that aren’t keen of depending on USA), while the idea of an I.M.F. currency was completely rejected by USA in front of a stable and strong US dollar.
The movie talks about a single day-to-day global currency only in the realm of “what ifs”, as it would be extremely challenging to impose one, not to mention practical and ideological problems this would bring.
For example, to adopt a single currency the other countries would basically have to adopt the debts of every other country using the same currency, regulate how it is being spent and distributed in a world wide scale and face the resistance of people who are against it in said countries.
And there is no global digital currency being implemented nor has any country or major group pressured for its creation (unless you count PayPal as one).
Of course I assume Gamble was referring the latest G8 and G20 Summit in 2009.
Global tax on carbon emissions
Gamble cites the possibility of a global tax on carbon emissions as one step towards a single global government and tyranny. (For Gamble any kind of tax is bad, mmm’kay? He hates any tax, anywhere, by anyone, any time, for any reason).
The chances are, if you’re living in the European Union or in California, you’re already paying the tax.
Gamble obviously has a few misconceptions about it. First it wasn’t imposed on any country, it was a suggested implementation for countries and state/provinces to adopt.
For example, a few states in US adopted the tax (like California), while several other countries decided to implement it. In most cases this implementation was voted in by the country’s population representatives in their respective legislatures.
Second, the money doesn’t go to a global central bank such as the I.M.F. It goes to the country’s own reserves. In other words the money collected with this tax stays in the country.
Third, there is no global police enforcing its implementation nor has the G8/G20 or U.N. ever proposed one to enforce this policy. Neither U.N., NATO nor any other entity k has either the legal power to impose the policy and the support to do so.
So what is this “carbon tax” you hear Gamble complaining about?
The carbon tax is a value imposed on a fixed quantity of emitted carbon dioxide resulted from industrial activity/power generation. The same way you pay for the litter/gallon of water or the KW/h of power your house uses, industries would pay for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during their activity. For example 12.50 U$D per ton of CO2.
The main idea behind the carbon tax is to hit industries on where they feel the most, their pockets. By making inefficient and dirty energy generation methods more expensive, it gives more motivations for said companies to either adopt more efficient and clean methods or to invest more in clean energy (like free energy? har har). Of course the initial price will be reflected upon the customers, but this would also pressure the same companies as they would risk losing customers to companies that did make the investments and provide cheaper and cleaner energy. This also makes alternative energies like wind, solar and nuclear more attractive, by lessening the cost gap between those and fossil fuels.
There is also the idea of a cap and trade system, where governments set a limit of how much industries can pollute. Those who keep their emissions under said limit can sell their difference to industries who can’t.
False Flags, Lasers from the outer space and FEMA death camps.
Following this, Gamble and David Icke talk about crisis or disasters that would be created or used to implement measures that follow the GDA by manipulating the media and the facts to suit their needs. In other words, a larger scale “false flag” operation, which my colleague Muertos has already debunked.
Its also worth mentioning that there are several cases where the media goes exactly against the government’s interest, for example while Fox News was in support of the Iraq War, CNN wasn’t.
Once again Thrive is quote mining and using selective editing to get its point across.
Gamble later claims the US government has the legal power to arrest and assassinate US citizens at will, but without providing any examples or occurrences of this happening.
Then Gamble mentions Radio Frequency Identification chips (RFID) as a tool to keep constant check on every citizen.
For some reason he implies those can be used to track anyone anywhere on the globe with pinpoint accuracy. Well, this is not the case. RFID chips aren’t GPS (Global Positioning System) transponders. There’s a difference. Even the relatively large active RFID tags (which carry their own power source) have a limited range which can go up to a little more than a 100 feet (approximately 33 meters) with the smaller, passive RFIDs having their range limited at a few feet. They are also useless if there isn’t any active scanner looking for them, are they are prone to suffer interference from other chips and can be easily tampered with.
The only things RFID chips are useful for is to make it (arguably) harder to falsify and easier to verify documents (this is a really good thing), keep stock control in warehouses and to keep important information at hand for security concerns. While animal chipping is common to keep track of pets, human chipping isn’t. There isn’t any government or companies forcing its citizens/customers/employees to use sub-dermal RFID. It is offered as an option by some companies and yet there aren’t many people actually using it.
Not to mention those chips can be relatively easily destroyed, have their information altered or decrypted (thanks to the low processing power and limited information storage).
Gamble states that these chips would be used to track citizens and use orbital lasers to assassinate dissenters from orbit. This is so ridiculous as to be almost funny.
He claims the name of the project is “Full Spectrum Dominance.” While there is a program called Full Spectrum Dominance, it is a military doctrine which calls for winning battles by using land, air, sea, space and cyberspace to control all elements of the battle. It has nothing to do with RFID chips or controlling dissenters against the government. Absolutely nothing.
This is by far one of the most unfounded and absurd statements Gamble has made in Thrive. What makes it even more absurd is how Gamble seems to be the only one to know about this, since a project of this size would fall on the radars of many other countries opposing the US and be certainly leaked at one point or another by people inside. If this plan exists, why hasn’t Iran said anything about it?
And even how Gamble claims it will be used is absurd. A laser satellite is even less subtle than a predator drone flying above its target or a sniper waiting to take his shot, not to mention extremely expensive, prone to error and easier to fool.
Besides, if the US had this kind of technology it would certainly be put to better uses such as a defensive ballistic missile shield or a tactical and strategic weapon to be used on enemy assets, not on angry YouTube commenters or armchair tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists.
Besides, any amateur astronomer would be able to verify the presence of these satellites with a powerful scope and a computer.
If there is an award for the single stupidest claim in Thrive, this should win it.
The FEMA camps
I’d give a good chunk of time to debunk the F.E.M.A. camps if that hasn’t already been done to death everywhere else. But this falls under the same problems of most conspiracy theories: there is hardly any evidence supporting its existence, most of the “evidence” is either edited to look like it’s suspicious and strange when in fact it isn’t.
The F.E.M.A. camps started to become popular again thanks to ultra right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. It’s also very popular with far right groups who hate the government.
Here are some links debunking the conspiracy theory of F.E.M.A. camps.
http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,513024,00.html (Even Fox News doesn’t believe it!)
“The social experiment in China under the chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history” – David Rockefeller
Unlike some other quotes in Thrive which are just made up, this gem was actually said by David Rockefeller in an article in the New York Times.
But after reading the article I drew the conclusion that Rockefeller was talking about the differences of philosophy between the West and China about the reforms China undertook during the 50’s through early 70’s and how it would fare against the Western economy after opening up its borders to foreign products and investments. It has nothing to do with conspiracies.
Here is the link with the article, in case you want to draw your own conclusions.
As usual, Thrive is wrong. What else is new?
I received an interesting email recently from a reader of Thrive Debunked who often forwards me leads and information. The subject was a conversation about me and this blog that recently went on between someone who has frequently commented on this blog (sometimes in support, but often in opposition) and another person who is evidently a filmmaker of some stature. The filmmaker, whose name I do not know, claimed to have done an analysis of me by reading Thrive Debunked. Just for fun I thought I’d present it here, as I find it both very amusing and very sad, and unfortunately typical of the conspiracy mindset behind Thrive. I’ll also offer some comments on the analysis by SlayerX3, the other frequent contributor to this blog.
I should state before we begin that who this person is doesn’t matter to me. I could not be less interested in their identity. It’s the content of the analysis that is interesting here.
The “Disinformation” Trope—Again.
“Muertos is a very interesting character. I’ve gone through a good bit of that site. I just want you to know that, in my considered opinion, this is all what it looks like: purposeful and intentional disinformation. This is NOT the efforts of a few intelligent skeptics who are determined that the public know the “truth”. This is a strategically mounted, carefully conceived and administered campaign to shift public opinion away from having a sincere interest in these topics.
Who would want to do such a thing is not a conversation for email, as far as I am concerned. Too complex, murky, and too detailed to write about. I just wanted you to know that disinformation has been a topic of interest of mine for a long, long time. There are reasons my films generally withstand certain kinds of scrutiny, in that I’ve always had a bit of a natural style and methodology that results in well-knit story structure and coherence.
But what’s going on now with Robbert (and with Foster and Thrive), is a step or two beyond the usual “civil vigilantism for the truth”. There’s something happening with guys like “Muertos” (who I suspect is probably more of a team than an individual) that calls for being very, very careful. One thing to notice about this “guy” is that he is very, very well informed about what it is he goes after- and I mean down to the history, the players, the real detailed nuances — and yet all he has to offer is dissention, ridicule and disbelief.”
This person evidently believes, as many readers of this blog do, that I’m a “paid disinformation agent.” This is a classic fallacy of conspiracy theorist thinking. Conspiracy theorists live in a shuttered universe, intentionally separated from any sources of information that would challenge their belief system. In this closed universe, no one could or would disagree with their conspiracy conclusions honestly, rationally or on their own. The only way they would ever disagree with conspiracy theories is if they’re being paid and/or criticizing conspiracy theories as part of some ideological, political or economic campaign. That’s what the term “disinformation” means in this context.
Repeating once again that I’m a totally ordinary private citizen, that I am one person working alone, and that I’m not being paid or directed by any government, agency, cartel, business interest, activist group, or any person at all to write Thrive Debunked is as pointless now as it ever was. Fans of Thrive who choose to accept this film’s misguided premises as their primary belief system will never accept that I’m not “working for someone.” I find it amusing that the accusation continues to be made, and repeated among my critics as if it is settled truth. It’s simply ridiculous.
Thrive fans aren’t the first conspiracy believers to accuse me of being a “paid disinformation agent,” nor the first to accuse me of being more than one person or having some sort of staff. In August 2011, a few months before Thrive came out, Peter Joseph Merola, the leader of the Zeitgeist Movement and creator of the conspiracy film series Zeitgeist (itself a major progenitor of Thrive), made the same accusations against me on his forum. I wrote an article about that incident on my other blog. Most amusing to me is the idea that I have a “staff.” I take it as a backhanded compliment. If people look at my blog and think it’s impossible that one guy can do all of this in his spare time, I suppose I must be pretty good at blogging!
I also take as a compliment the analyzer’s warning that I’m “very, very well informed about what it is he goes after- and I mean down to the history, the players, the real detailed nuances.” Yes, I am. A lot of research goes into the articles here. For various articles on Thrive Debunked, I have read numerous books, reviewed Congressional hearing testimony, conducted my own independent interviews, consulted newspaper archives, and emailed scientific experts to make sure my facts are right. This is, in fact, the difference between what I do and what Thrive does. I’d like to think this is a mark of quality. Thrive Debunked is listed on Rationalwiki.org’s page about the Thrive movie. It is also now a go-to source on the Debunkatron, a clearinghouse of conspiracy theory and woo belief debunkings. You don’t get listed on these sites by offering shoddy, poorly-researched material and just shouting opinions, which is what many angry Thrive fans accuse me of doing.
As for offering only “dissention, ridicule and disbelief,” this is, of course, false. I offer facts, evidence, and logical reasoning. Just to name a few at random, I offered the fact, backed by eyewitness testimony and historical data, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was not a “false flag” operation. That fact had the effect of directly refuting Foster Gamble’s claim in Thrive about the Gulf of Tonkin affair. I offered the fact, backed by scientific evidence, that St. Sofia in Istanbul was constructed in the 530s (A.D.) using a process of earthquake-proof cement that was unknown to modern engineers until 2002—thus demonstrating that questions of ancient engineering do not indicate, as Thrive would have you believe, that certain structures must have been created by aliens. Most controversially on this blog, I offered the fact that crop circles of flawless geometric precision can be and are made by human beings in a short period of time with a few simple tools—a fact you can verify with your own eyes by watching it being done in the YouTube video embedded on that page.
Thrive fans do not like facts such as these, because they impugn the film’s conclusions. I have no control over what the facts are. As I’m fond of saying to conspiracy theorists, don’t blame the facts if they lead to a conclusion you don’t like.
So, What’s My Motivation?
The analysis goes on:
“Plus, (from what I can tell) he’s also not someone like Peter Sorenson, or Colin himself, having been a former true believer who for some reason became disillusioned. No, this guy “Muertos” appears to be a total independent, and a newbie at that. So, what’s his motivation? Why put so much effort into researching and debunking people and topics that you fundamentally don’t have any true regard for? There’s a disconnect here that deserves some attention, I think.
And the way he operates is 100% political — you can see that in the construction of the language he utilizes. There is certainly no real room in his approach for any sort of “open discussion” on the “possibilities” of what is real. So my question is: “what’s really going on here?”
“Colin” is Colin Andrews, a crop circle researcher who recently exposed the fraudulent video being supported by Nancy Talbott of BLTResearch.com, which is Thrive’s main source for the false claims made about crop circles at the beginning of the film. I’m not sure I understand the distinction the analyzer is making between “true believers” and “independents.” It is true, however, that the vast majority of high-commitment conspiracy theorist debunkers are former conspiracy theorists themselves. In fact, I am one of them. I used to believe very fervently that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a government/CIA/Mafia conspiracy, and I also used to believe that TWA Flight 800, which exploded overLong Island in July 1996, was secretly shot down by the U.S. Navy. It was my recovery from this sort of conspiracy thinking that motivated me to try to prevent others from falling into it.
I am also not a “newbie.” I’ve been debunking conspiracy theories for over seven years. Although Thrive only came out a few months ago, I have a great deal of experience in researching and refuting conspiracy theories, from “9/11 Truth” to JFK, to cults, MLM scams and other forms of what I call organized deception.
I strongly dislike conspiracy theories. They are harmful to society, corrosive to democracy, and inimical to rational and critical thinking. This is my motivation for speaking out against them. Nothing more, nothing less. (If you need a fuller explanation for this, see this article). Anyone who knows me knows that I do nothing by halves. If I committed myself to refuting the movie Thrive, it makes no sense that I would not try to do it as competently, completely, and persuasively as I possibly can. Otherwise I just wouldn’t do it. I find it bizarre that critics use the amount of effort I put into this blog to try to “prove” that I must be a “paid disinformation agent,” because no “real” person would put so much effort into refuting something they don’t like. That argument is ridiculous and ignores the powerful motivations that ordinary people find to speak out against things that they think are harmful.
My model in matters of debunking is a fellow named Mark Roberts. In 2005, Mr. Roberts committed to refuting and debunking the asinine conspiracy theorist film Loose Change, which claimed that “9/11 was an inside job.” Mark Roberts, who was known as Gravy on the JREF Forum, put together a website that is absolutely magnificent in its accuracy, its breadth of coverage, and its total refutation of the lies and errors contained in Loose Change. Who is Mark Roberts? He’s not a “paid disinformation agent.” He runs a tour service in New York City. He’s a totally normal guy. He achieved with Loose Change far more than I have with Thrive. But if you need proof that ordinary people really do get motivated enough to push back against conspiracy movies that are hurting people, all you need do is look at Mark Roberts’s website.
As for whether I am “open” to “possibilities,” I am open to anything—so long as the evidence demonstrates it is true. With regard to free energy, for example, I’ve stated many times that, although I believe free energy is impossible and a sham, if someone were to produce a free energy machine and demonstrate that it does what is claimed of it—in a public forum, and in a way where reputable scientists can verify and duplicate the machine’s operation—I will take down everything I’ve ever said about free energy. But Thrive fans can’t present that evidence. Nor can they present evidence for any of the other weird claims they make. Until and unless that evidence appears, it is entirely rational and justifiable for me to denounce these claims as false.
I would like to ask the person who wrote this analysis—what’s so unreasonable about asking for evidence?
“Disinfo” Again. There’s Something Going On!
“Something is definitely going on in my opinion, and there are few of us who are even aware of it, let alone oriented towards finding a way to deal with it. It’s a very dicey situation, and long-term, I feel. Someone is trying to “manage history” here, and we are in the crosshairs, so to speak. Your manner of reply, which is very similar to what Foster has attempted, has a lot of limitations in terms of really countering these initial disinformation salvos. Too much detail (for one thing), and not enough “sizzle”, and NO clout.
Disinfo is a very interesting game (and one I am not adept in — I just have an long-standing interest in it). It plays, of course, upon the lowest common denominator, upon common fears, and upon reinforcing existing and limited worldviews. Easy to do if you know the techniques, I would think. Effectively countering it is a separate and unique process, I believe — and one I have tremendous interest in.”
Ooh, look at that! I’m trying to “manage history!” That term is silly. All I’m trying to do is present the facts, and educate people about the factual and logical deficiencies of the claims in Thrive. Is this “managing history?” What does that even mean?
As for this person’s interest in “disinformation,” I’d be glad to enlighten him/her. Whoever wrote this analysis is welcome to ask me any question they want about how much I’m being paid to write this blog ($0.00), who’s paying me (no one), what agenda I’m serving (none), how I do my research, or how I come up with subjects to cover. Seriously. I’ll totally honor this person’s anonymity if they like. My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. If they are so interested in “disinformation,” I offer myself as a resource to explore that interest.
The upshot of these last two paragraphs is another backhanded compliment. The person who wrote this is throwing up his or her hands and conceding that they know of no way to counter the hideous “disinformation” I’m spewing with my evil blog. That is not surprising; the facts speak for themselves. Conspiracy theorists, when confronted with facts they can’t deny, usually run away from them. That’s what’s happening in this case, except it’s not “disinformation” at all—it’s fact.
So yes, there is “something going on”: someone out there is viewing this blog through a very paranoid mindset, and seeing a number of things that simply aren’t there. Even to make the allegation that I’m some sort of “disinformation agent” betrays a level of paranoia that I frankly find very difficult to fathom. Another thing I have often told conspiracy theorists is that I don’t quite understand how their paranoid fantasy world works, but however it does, I’m glad I don’t live there.
SlayerX3’s Response to the Analysis
[SlayerX3 is a contributor and author of several articles on this blog including the three full-length debunkings, and the fine “Follow The Money” Debunked article. I do not pay him, I don’t direct what he writes, and he’s not working for anyone. Like me, he does this in his spare time and out of his own motivations.]
It is indeed a clear headed analysis but it also stumbles on the same problem when skeptics debunk or criticize events or theories: we eventually end up being either called “naysayers,” or worse, “disinformation agents.”
Topics like these are complicated to deal not with their subjects—since these are relatively easy to prove and show why they are wrong—but with the people who believe in them. Challenging an idea is easy. People can change or even shape ideas to correct fallacies and mistakes, but beliefs aren’t that easy [to change]. Since they have become rooted in people’s minds, challenging them will be always met with degrees of hostility or denial, along with other justifications by the believers to reinforce their beliefs but without addressing the questions that challenge those beliefs (such as the classic reasoning of, “If they are attacking me that means I’m right,” or “You are being paid to disagree with me”).
It is true some of those areas are far from being something we’d care about if there weren’t people trying to pass it as if those “happenings” were 100% true. I do not care if people believe in UFOs or Jewish shape-shifting reptilians, but I do care if people start spreading their version of a “truth” that doesn’t have any connection with reality, or a twisted interpretation of real-life facts to convey their own beliefs and convince other people to share them in a quasi cult-like manner. (It is worth it to cite groups like Desteni as an example of what can go extremely wrong with those beliefs).
Personally, I think the greatest motivation debunkers have is to force engagement with facts, in my case correcting the erroneous interpretation of physics and the pseudo-science in Thrive. Debunkers in general don’t have an agenda behind them besides showing where the mistakes and misinterpretations are.
[The analysis] mentions that we try to “manage history,” but this argument could be thrown back at them the same way they are throwing it at us. Movies like Loose Change and Zeitgeist attempted doing so for their own agenda, like the cuts in the 9/11 footage to insinuate the attacks were done by cruise missiles instead of planes (the Pentagon case in Loose Change) or to re-write history with false facts and misinterpretation of religions (the “Christ conspiracy” falsehood in Zeitgeist). The “disinformation” accusations are not something we take so lightly. When we debunk we’re not just saying “no, it didn’t happen like this PERIOD”—we focus on a more objective approach by doing research about the subject, showing from where and how we took the data werre using and taking a look at both sides before we reach any conclusions. And, more importantly, we never cease asking questions.
The difference is when we [debunkers] ask questions and look for answers, once we find one that is consistent with facts and reality we drawn our conclusions. Something I’ve noticed about conspiracy theorists is that no matter how much we prove their beliefs wrong and answer their questions, they keep asking questions until someone gives the answers they want to hear. (It doesn’t matter if this someone is telling the truth or not).
Perhaps the questioning is what really scares people in conspiracy theory circles, not the followers but the people responsible for spreading and making the [conspiracy] content. [The analysis] said we have a political agenda, which may or may not be true, I don’t in my case. But so do the creators of those movies, whether be it for money (Like Zeitgeist’s Peter Joseph Merola), to push a political agenda (Thrive’s Gamble) or simply for fame (I think David Icke fits). Debunkers, both professional and amateur, are seen as a threat by those people, a stone wall between their beliefs and the people they feel they need to reach to accomplish these goals.
The phrase “Disinfo is a very interesting game (and one I am not adept in — I just have an long-standing interest in it). It plays, of course, upon the lowest common denominator, upon common fears, and upon reinforcing existing and limited worldviews” left me in awe a bit, since this is exactly what conspiracy theorists prey on. 9/11 conspiracy theories preyed on the broken sense of security among Americans; Zeitgeist and Thrive prey on the inequality and poverty problems around the world, blaming them on conspiracy groups and elites. The Protocol of the Elders of Zion (which David Icke refuses to say is fake) preys on hatred against the Jewish population. And it is clear these thoughts can be dangerous. They can either shift the attention to the wrong place or instigate hatred against a particular group of people.
There is an observation that should be reinforced about debunkers, the same one I stated in the beginning of this text: debunkers are called “disinformation agents” because we ask questions that will bring inconsistencies, fallacies and mistakes to the surface, and not only ask these questions but find views and facts to verify if the statements made by conspiracy theorists are factual or not. Since conspiracy theories tend not to be factual we’ve yet to find facts and evidence supporting conspiracy theories.
Remember the founding base of debunkers is skepticism. We won’t believe something outright without definitive proof.
Although the main objective of Thrive is informational—to disseminate conspiracy theories and promote right-wing libertarian political ideology—it cannot be ignored that Thrive’s makers and a lot of its supporters say they want to take action. On this very blog Foster Gamble, creator of Thrive, has dismissed the utility of discussing the factual errors and distortions in his film, in favor of “creating solutions.” Unfortunately, the “solutions” that Thrive fans say they want are aimed overwhelmingly at exposing and combating the various conspiracy theories that the film asserts exist. This is the central tragedy of conspiracy thinking—that it diverts people’s energies and attentions away from solving real problems in the real world, and instead motivates them to solve fake problems endemic to the fantasy world in which conspiracy theorists dwell.
This article will discuss the phenomena of what I call “conspiracy activism.” Thrive is not the first conspiracy movie to spark an activist response. Mr. Gamble’s film exists in the context of a conspiracist underground that has, in recent years, been rapidly transformed by the Internet, and is continuing to evolve quickly. I wrote about this in an article over at my other blog, which I also publicized on this one. You can consider this article to be sort of a companion piece to that one.
What Is The “Thrive Movement” And What Is It Actually Doing?
Before we get to the topic of conspiracy activism in general, let’s look at what “solutions” the Thrive people are promoting. There is no “Thrive Movement” to speak of in any real sense. Foster Gamble is not, so far as I can tell, attempting to exert any sort of real control over the activities or direction of the film’s fans, and I’ve seen no evidence that the fans of the movie are trying to organize themselves.
Clicking the “Solutions” tab on the Thrive website unleashes a dizzying avalanche of propaganda. The vast majority of it is right-wing libertarian propaganda, such as the “Liberty” page which assaults the reader with political diatribes studded with quotes from libertarian deities like Stefan Molyneux, Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. Although Thrive’s political agenda is a serious issue, we and others have dealt with it before. The key message is “vote for libertarians,” and thus we’ll leave the film’s political advocacy at that.
More interesting are the “Critical Mass Actions” tabs. Here the Thrive people have listed twelve specific campaigns they’re promoting, with icons where you (as an Internet user) can “sign up” or else embed the icon itself on another site. If you click the icons so sign up, it produces a box where you fill in your email info and hit submit. Almost all of the links included in the “Critical Mass Actions” sections are to websites or online petitions. Of these twelve campaigns, two are anti-Federal Reserve; three are related to protesting GMO food; two relate to “free energy” devices; two are protests of “chemtrails,” a conspiracy theory promoted by the film; one is anti-nuclear power; one is “protect Internet freedom”; and one protests resource extraction on Native American lands.
The Federal Reserve is what Thrive identifies as the linchpin of a worldwide conspiracy theory to enslave the globe through the use of deceptive currency practices. We debunked the film’s money conspiracy theories here. “Free energy” does not exist, as we have also demonstrated. “Chemtrails” have not been debunked on this site, but they’ve been amply debunked elsewhere; it’s abundantly clear that “chemtrails” are a total fantasy. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to oppose GMO foods, but Thrive couches its criticism of such foods in expressly conspiratorial terms; they think it’s some weird kind of plot aimed at killing people with poisons in the food.
These issues account for nine of the twelve “Critical Mass Actions.” Of the twelve, only three—anti-nuclear power, protecting Internet freedom, and protesting resource extraction on Native American lands—are not somehow addressing the conspiracy theories the film promotes.
Ironically, it is one of these three non-conspiratorial solutions—the Internet freedom icon—that had the most people (5,547 on the day I checked) signed up.
When it comes to what these “Critical Mass Actions” actually are, the website is extremely vague. Here’s what it says when you click on a question about “how do you know when an action reaches critical mass?”
“As actions gain momentum and the most popular ones become apparent we will set a target number for “critical mass.” We will keep in touch via email to make sure you know when we’re approaching critical mass. What determines an effective “critical mass” will vary according to the nature of the action to be taken. The critical mass number will be announced as far in advance as possible and will be determined by what would create significant impact and assure optimal security for participants.”
That’s it. You’ll get an email once they decide how many people they need. In the meantime, it’s a lot of Internet petitions and “getting the word out.” That’s what the Thrive Movement is doing—that, and organizing local screenings of the film itself. The act of promoting Thrive is itself treated as a form of activism to which fans should aspire.
Is This Real Activism?
No. The “solutions” offered on Thrive’s website are ineffective in changing anything in the real world for two reasons: first, the vast majority of them are aimed at ameliorating conspiracy theories that don’t exist; and second, even for the non-conspiratorial goals, there is no actual real-world activity being proposed. Thrive’s brand of activism is a complete chimera.
Take chemtrails, for example. We know for a fact that chemtrails do not exist. The elaborate narrative that conspiracy theorists construct—that a “Global Domination Elite” is spraying chemicals into the sky to sicken and kill people deliberately—is simply fantasy. Yet, Mr. Gamble wants to “Expose Chemtrails With a Mass Protest at NOAA Offices.” Even assuming that legions of Thrive fans get organized and storm NOAA’s headquarters, what effect is this going to have? NOAA can’t do anything because there’s nothing to do anything about. Chemtrails do not exist. This is a “solution” that, even if it’s pulled off, will accomplish exactly zero, except wasting the time of the people involved.
As to the second criticism, it’s difficult to see how these “Critical Mass Actions” will have any effect regardless of the goals they’re aimed at. Take for example the critical mass action about stopping the environmental poisoning of Native American communities—which is a goal I think most people would agree with, and is one of the few that isn’t specifically directed at a conspiracy theory. Here’s what Foster Gamble wants you to click to sign up for:
“In the US, indigenous lands are being exploited and targeted by big business for resource extraction, nuclear dumping, and more. There are proposals for coal, oil, gold and copper mines, coal bed methane, natural gas “fracking,” and nuclear storage that threaten these communities and the environment. This is a chance to stand up for Native American rights and show that we are committed not just to apologizing for past wrongs, but ending the violations that continue to this day.”
Okay…but how? What does this actually mean?
What are the Thrive fans going to do? There’s no protest march planned. There’s no letter-writing campaign. There’s no attempt to introduce legislation or lobby lawmakers. There’s no fundraiser. There’s no outreach to any of the Native American communities impacted by resource extraction. There’s not even a link to an online petition, as there is for the “End the Fed” suggestion. There is exactly…nothing.
You click on, sign up and get an email. That’s it.
In the meantime—or, should I say, in the real world—if you care about resource extraction harming Native American communities, there are real people doing real things to try to stop this. In less than five minutes of searching online I came across this site for the Wolf River Protection Fund which is seeking to buy key lands to protect the watersheds and wetlands related to Native American communities in Wisconsin. One of the tribes associated with this fund recently celebrated a huge victory by buying out—yes, actually buying out—a mining company that was planning to mine near their lands. That’s activism. Not just clicking on a website—but actually sending your dollars to an organization that is taking action to make a real-world impact. And yes, the Wolf River Protection Fund does take donations.
Thrive isn’t doing anything even close to this.
So If They’re Not Making a Difference In the Real World, What Are They Doing?
They’re promoting conspiracy theories and related ideology—in Thrive’s case, right-wing libertarian ideology. The promotion of the ideology is the ultimate point of the activism.
This is understandable, if you analyze the thought processes of Thrive’s makers and fans from the standpoint of their conspiracy beliefs. They believe that all or most of the world’s problems stem from actions taken in secret by groups of shadowy conspirators. How best to combat these actions? Expose the secrets and shine a light on the conspirators. Then, it is presumed, the nefarious activity will end, and things will get better.
Seen from this standpoint, the act of exposure is the most important action. Therefore, most of a conspiracy theorist’s preferred “solutions” for solving problems start and end from a “get the word out” type paradigm. Indeed, most of the nine conspiracy-oriented Critical Mass Action suggestions on the Thrive website are aimed at information exposure or gaining visibility for something. This is classic conspiracy activism.
Why Do Conspiracy Theorists Engage in Conspiracy Activism?
It used to be that conspiracy theorists weren’t activists. There were certainly groups of them, and there have been conspiracy-related newsletters—especially related to the JFK assassination—circulating for decades. But traditionally they didn’t try to reach out to the mainstream or get others to join them.
That changed with 9/11. The purveyors of conspiracy theories related to the 9/11 attacks—especially Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin—changed the stakes in the mid-2000s by waging concerted, energized campaigns to try to increase the exposure of their conspiracy theories and encourage people to believe in them. Ultimately their success was only temporary; as I pointed out in an earlier blog here, contrary to something Foster Gamble says in Thrive, fewer people believe that “9/11 was an inside job” today than have so believed at any time since 9/11 itself. However, the conspiracy activism of 9/11 Truthers upped the ante and set a new paradigm, vastly aided by the rise of the Internet: if you believe in conspiracy theories, now you’re expected to go out there in public and try to get others to believe in them as well.
As the conspiracy world has changed, and (as I argued in February) conspiracy theorists have gone from defining “victory” as increasing the numbers who believe their theories to selling prepackaged ideologies, the activism component remains. Now what conspiracy theorists are selling are the ideologies, not the theories, but they’re still self-motivated to try to proselytize in exactly the same was Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin did with their nonsense 9/11 theories. I argued in the February blog that it was Zeitgeist: The Movie and its conspiracy-activist offshoot, the Zeitgeist Movement, that cemented this development into the basic blueprint of future conspiracy endeavors.
As there are many instructive lessons for evaluating Thrive inherent in the Zeitgeist story, let’s turn to that next.
Why Conspiracy Activism is Pointless: The Example of the Zeitgeist Movement.
One of the first statements I ever made about Thrive was that it appeared to be “Zeitgeist 2.0.” Clearly the movie imitates a lot of features of Peter Joseph’s notoriously fact-free 2007 Internet conspiracy film Zeitgeist, and even the suggestion of a “Thrive Movement,” aping the Zeitgeist Movement, indicates a kindred spirit.
The Zeitgeist Movement, founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph, attempted to capitalize on the interest generated among conspiracy theorists from the first Zeitgeist film to sell a neo-Utopian ideology called the Venus Project, which resembles late-stage Marxism except with computers and technology in the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The problem with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, however, was that support for the non-conspiratorial (but deeply flawed) “Resource Based Economy” paradigm was built entirely on the backs of conspiracist beliefs and the popularity of Zeitgeist: The Movie. Most fans joined the Zeitgeist Movement because they were attracted by the conspiracy explanations; to the extent the movement’s leaders could motivate them to care about the Venus Project and a Resource Based Economy for its own sake, it was mainly presented as a “cure” for all those horrible conspiracies. As a result, “get the word out” type activist projects meant to promote the Venus Project and Resource Based Economy became increasingly conflated with promoting the Zeitgeist movies and its conspiracy worldview.
The Zeitgeist Movement imploded in April 2011 when the Venus Project side of the organization divorced itself from the group as a result of a dispute over donations. Since then the Zeitgeist Movement has dwindled to an insignificant core of high-commitment fans who do little more than post occasional comments on blogs or YouTube videos. (Zeitgeist Movement supporters constantly show up on the Thrive website comments, still valiantly trying to sell their Resource Based Economy shtick. Few Thrive fans are buying). The Zeitgeist Movement’s attempts at conspiracy activism could never effectively outpace the reach of the films themselves. Unlike the Thrive Movement, the Zeitgeist Movement did have a central, engaged, hands-on leader who directed the group; in fact that was one of its downfalls, because Peter Joseph’s inept leadership of the group transformed it into something very much like a cult surrounding him personally and his films.
The failure of the Zeitgeist Movement can teach Thrive fans an important lesson: that conspiracy activism is inherently self-limiting. Five years after its release, Zeitgeist: The Movie is now old news. Most conspiracy theorists have seen it. The sequels which completed the Resource Based Economy narrative could barely achieve a tiny fraction of the impact that the first film had, because the second and third Zeitgeist films dealt much less with conspiracy theories. Essentially, when Zeitgeist stopped talking about conspiracy theories, the Internet stopped listening. With the market of potential converts already saturated, the Zeitgeist Movement sputtered into oblivion. Once you “get the word out” about your pet conspiracy theories or the ideology you’re promoting by using conspiracy theories, where do you go from there? Zeitgeist couldn’t answer this question. It’s unlikely Thrive will be able to either.
Does Clicking Links, Watching Videos and Signing Online Petitions Really Help?
There’s another more fundamental reason why Thrive’s conspiracy activism will have no real-world impact other than to “get the word out” about what they think the world is like. Most of the consumers of this material, especially those who are heavy Internet users, aren’t really willing to do more than click links, watch videos and sign online petitions. Very, very few of them will actually be motivated to go out of their homes and do something in the real (non-cyber) world. This is just a fact of life. If you put a website up about any cause, however well-intentioned, the more you actually have to do to take action on it, the fewer people you’ll have who will make the effort. People click “like” buttons and share links because it’s easy and they can do it in the flash of an eye. Only the truly devoted will be motivated to get in their cars and go to a preplanned event; fewer still will do that if it will cost them money. This is a self-limiting factor of Internet activism.
The problem is even worse when the main audience you’re preaching to consists of conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are notoriously lazy. Few of them, for example, can even be motivated enough by their beliefs even to pick up a book and read it. To them, videos on the Internet are just as good as books, and they require much less effort to comprehend. Most conspiracy theorists have virtually no awareness of the depth of knowledge the world contains beyond the Internet or how to access that knowledge. Many of them live their lives in an online bubble; if it’s not happening on the web, it’s not worth knowing about. If this is the crowd you’re trying to draw activists from, the chances of finding supporters who are high-commitment enough to meet in person, put together a viable plan of action on something and see it through to the end are much reduced.
That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. In the heyday of 9/11 Truth theories, for example, hundreds of Truthers would gather at Ground Zero in New York City and harass people by shouting conspiracy garbage at them through bullhorns. But what did they do beyond that? Note that even this real-world activity is just another species of “getting the word out,” albeit in an extremely destructive, annoying and disagreeable way that turned off and angered far more people than it attracted. Even the 9/11 Truth organizations, like the ridiculous “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth”—clearly an organization created by the most high-commitment supporters of the conspiracy theory—continue to focus their efforts on “getting the word out” as opposed to actually doing anything. In the very, very few instances where they do try something other than “getting the word out”—like filing a lawsuit, as one group of 9/11 Truthers attempted—they always meet with spectacular failure.
Activism in the real world is hard. It takes money, time, effort and competent people to guide the activity toward any real goal. Conspiracy theorists are mostly kids. They don’t have a lot of money. What time they have they usually spent on the Internet. Exerting real-world effort happens in a few rare cases, but not very often. Competent people who can actually think something through and put something together are about as rare in this subculture as blue diamonds.
As a result, conspiracy theorists rationalize. They lower the bar and define what they are willing to do as “activism.” Thus, the sort of low-intensity effort that they can get many people to do—clicking “like” buttons, sharing links, watching videos and signing online petitions—becomes, in their minds, a substitute for real-world activism. In an endeavor where “getting the word out” has already been defined as the major goal, getting 10,000 people to click a “like” button becomes the equivalent of a smashing victory for right and justice.
Conclusion: Do You Really Want to Help?
This article has demonstrated why conspiracy activism is pointless and counterproductive. I can hear the shouts from angry Thrive fans now: “Why don’t you stop blogging and do something that actually helps?” (This assumes that I do nothing but write blogs all day—obviously an incorrect assumption).
What can you do to make the world a better place instead of watching Internet conspiracy videos or wasting time on the Thrive website (or this one)?
Here’s something you can do: give blood. This is one of the easiest things you can do, and one which has a huge real-world impact—you can literally save someone’s life. Here’s a website where you can type in your zip code and find out where to go in your area to give blood.
Here’s something you can do: become a tutor for adult literacy. You can find organizations that do this all over the country. Here’s just one example, from Florida.
Here’s something you can do: get a group of people together and assemble care packages of medical supplies for AIDS sufferers in Africa. This has been a hugely successful program. It also has real-world impacts. Here’s how to get involved.
Here’s something you can do: donate money to the American Indian College Fund. This fund helps people from America’s least-college-educated demographic get access to higher education. This helps real people in the real world. Here’s how to donate:
There you go. Stop watching Internet conspiracy movies and go do some good in the world. You have no excuse now.
One of the central passages of Thrive is a section often referred to as “Follow the Money,” which Thrive fans treat as some sort of slogan. This section contains Foster Gamble and others’ views on fractional reserve banking, the Federal Reserve, the economic crisis, and conspiracy theories related to these. This article debunks those ideas.
Fraction Reserve Banking
Before the Wikipedia bashing begins, I’m using Wikipedia for two reasons: (1) Simplicity, and (2) it works well for summaries of information, even though I will provide further sources and more detailed information links than Wikipedia can provide.
PS: This part of the movie is incredibly complicated for anyone involved here to deal with, as given that most people don’t understand how economy and politics work by themselves, much less together, unless you’re well-versed in mathematics, economics or political science. Comments that simply complain about how wrong or rigged the actual political and economic systems are will be seen basically as an opinion and not fact.
It also doesn’t help that for the makers of Thrive the current economic system is a scam/conspiracy created by a powerful Financial Elite to perpetuate their own power. Arguing the existence of this conspiracy (Thrive mostly uses misinterpretations and opinions that they exist instead of verifiable facts) feels like beating a dead horse, thanks to our good old friend Confirmation Bias.
When they begin talking about Fractional Reserve Banking, Foster Gamble and and David Icke get a few things right at the beginning. They are right about how saving deposits are used by banks for loans and financing, but the film cuts short the explanation of why this happens and the economic reasons to use fractional reserve banking. Instead of explaining the real reasons behind this, the movie simply dismisses it by saying “it creates money out of nowhere.”
What is Fractional Reserve Banking?
Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB) is a form of banking where the deposits made on the bank are separated in two parts. The first is the amount the bank is allowed to loan and the second is the part the banks is obligated to keep as a reserve. This amount is dictated by the central bank of the country where the bank is operating.
Does it really “create money out of nowhere?”
The answer will depend of which kind of money you’re talking about. If you’re referring to printed money, it can’t “create money out of nowhere,” as the values being loaned and being circulated haven’t been made or printed yet.
If you’re talking about value: yes it can create more value since there is more money circulating than there is physical printed money.
This is much better explained by the links I’ll provide.
Why do banks work with FRB and how come they don’t “run out of money”?
Because it is fluid, FRB allows banks to generate profit and still provide access to people or business to acquire money for whatever reasons they need it–for example, to buy a house or start a business. FRB guarantees there will be money circulating for investments, consumer goods and to accommodate a growing and active economy.
[Muertos comment: this is not a new invention. If we did not have FRB in some form, our economy would be stuck in the early 19th century. The whole concept of modern banking, historically, developed as a means to permit sufficient capital to be accumulated to fund large-scale projects, both public and private. Without something like FRB, we would not have public works projects like dams, sewer systems or transportation, and we would not have privately-funded industries such as computers and information technology, because it simply wouldn’t be possible to get enough capital together to even begin to pay for these things. This is the historical reality that critics of FRB refuse to understand.]
The influx of savings deposits and payments on loans that they make usually are enough for most banks to be secure they will have the money needed to honor the withdrawals, as there are more people making payments and saving deposits than there are people making withdrawals of their own savings and assets.
What if there are more people making more withdrawals than the bank has money on reserve?
Remember the credit crisis that started in 2008 and is still kicking? One of the reasons why it went from bad to worse and from worse to a total disaster was because of this–people making more withdrawals than banks had in reserve. In times of economic crisis, if there is a doubt that the banks will be able to honor the deposits made on them, this leads to people and investors to withdraw all their assets within the bank in a really short amount of time, before other depositors can withdraw their share. This creates a cascade effect that can possibly (almost certainly) cause a bank run. This forces the bank to call in its short term loans, draw upon credit lines with other banks or ask for last resort rescue loans from the central bank.
Okay, but how this is bad for people?
In time of a stable economy this not bad for financially responsible people, those who take out loans that are smaller than their average yearly income and can make sure that the accumulated interest won’t surpass all their earnings during the intended financing period. Take for example financing the purchase of a house with a 10 year mortgage plan. It is, however, extremely dangerous for people who to borrow who are in unstable financial situations (like no job security, health problems, addictions) or do not measure how much interest they’re incurring compared to how much they earn, or people who simply don’t care about the long term consequences of their lack of foresight (I can’t miss the chance to throw this jab at the American reader).
In times of instability, however, irresponsible borrowing (and lending) can hit hard even the responsible people hard. This is what happened in 2008.
Gamble continues with a story telling how the fractional reserve banking system was born.
Setting aside Mr. Gamble’s implications of how it is used to create money on the backs of people (which is an arguable question), if you want to know how central banks and fractional reserve banking came to be, look for the history of the Bank of Amsterdam.
Here are some links that further explain what FRB is and how it came about:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH2-37rTA8U (Khan Academy on FRB, quite educational I must add, as long as you avoid the comments section).
http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/wpawuwpma/0203005.htm (look for the download link)
Later Gamble states how FRB is used to create a population that is tied to their debts to the bank.
Then Thrive provides us with this quote: “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning” – Henry Ford, 1922
The quote appears to be completely fake. Although it is commonly cited on conspiracy theorist, 9/11 Truth and “End the Fed” websites, there is no source and no context linking it to Henry Ford. Not even the dates that Ford supposedly said it are consistent.
[Muertos comment: conspiracy theorists love to use fake quotes, and this is not the only fake quote in Thrive–there’s a quote by Henry Kissinger that is equally false. The problem with these quotes is that, once it gets out there and conspiracy theorists decide they like it, a quote gets repeated all over the place on all sorts of conspiracy theorist websites–thus creating the erroneous impression that, because the quote appears so often, it must be true and accurate. If you don’t believe that this happens all the time, just think back on all the things comedian George Carlin is supposed to have said–only a small fraction of them are actually real Carlin quotes, and as he is dead, he can’t dispute that he didn’t say them.
When conspiracy theorists are challenged on fake quotes, many of them will say something like, “Well, you can’t prove that he didn’t say it!” That, of course, is asinine. You can’t just make up any crap you like, put it in someone’s mouth and then challenge people to prove they didn’t say it. But, sadly, this is how conspiracy theorists think. Quotes about banking are particularly attractive to conspiracy theorists because they love the idea of respected figures from history having supposedly “warned” us about the dangers that they (conspiracy theorists) insist are right around the corner.]
After the fake Henry Ford quote, Gamble resumes his rant on how we have become debt slaves of a financial elite who has rigged the system to their benefit.
Take this as you will, but you’ll become a debt slave if you decide to acquire (too much) debt in the first place. For many this seems unavoidable.
[Muertos comment: the term “debt slave” bothers me because it’s misleading. Suppose you have a good job and a family. You take out a 30-year mortgage at a reasonable interest rate in order to buy a bigger house to raise your kids in. You can easily make the payments and your house increases in equity in the meantime. Are you still a “debt slave” for the next 30 years? If you decide to sell the house you pay off the mortgage, and can take the equity and invest in a bigger house elsewhere. How is this “slavery”? And what’s the alternative–live in a smaller, crappier place and try to raise your kids there, where you don’t have room for them? Why is taking advantage of the opportunities that debt creates necessarily a bad thing? Thrive doesn’t see distinctions along these lines. In its ideology, all debt is bad.]
Catherine Austin Fitts
“Catherine Austin Fitts was Assistant Secretary for Housing in 1989-90 under the first George Bush. She is also a Wall Street banker. She currently works for an investment advisory firm called Solari, Inc.”
Ms. Fitts, along with Mr. Gamble, keeps reaffirming how FRB is used to print more money and enslave more people through debt. Later she makes a comparison with ordinary people counterfeiting money being a crime, while the [central] banks printing money being called “increasing the money supply” as if there’s no distinction here. There is a distinction. I don’t know, maybe it’s related to the fact that central banks are trusted institutions, and they are an effective way to control interest rates and the amount of money being circulated so as to make sure hyperinflation or hyper-deflation do not take place. Yes, said measures can fail, but it’s certainly not the same as “printing money” just for the hell of it.
Gamble then cites the gathering of the “secret” Morgans and Rockefellers on Jekyll Island, where (he says) the draft of the Federal Reserve was created.
First he fails to mention that a central banking system was already in place in Europe–especially in Germany–long before the bankers and politicians in US were considering using a central banking system. Second, politicians in US were already studying alternatives to the US Treasury bonds and lack of liquidity and access to credit, mostly in response to the Panic of 1907.
After this Gamble beings talking about the creation of the Fed and the Internal Revenue Service in the same year, “forcing us to pay for the politicians’ debt”, and introduces the viewer to G. Edward Griffin and his book.
G. Edward Griffin
Writer of “The Creature from Jekyll Island” which is about the creation the Fed, Griffin is a critic of the current banking system and advocates private currency as being “real money.” Needless to say, his ideas are quite popular amongst libertarian circles.
(If you want to know how bad this idea of “real money” is, just imagine going to the state next to yours just to find out that the private currency of your local bank, backed by a commodity like silver or gold, is worthless because the other state operates at different standards or doesn’t accept your currency. Or, worse yet, imagine if the bank goes bankrupt, all your assets in said bank are gone, and there is no central bank or institution to guarantee the bank will have the resources to honor its deposits).
[Muertos comment: we had precisely this problem in the Great Depression, which resulted in an entity called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation–an agency that makes sure that you, as a bank depositor, will be able to retrieve your money from that bank (up to $250,000, I think) even if the bank fails. Where would the money come from if the FDIC had to make you whole after your bank fails? It would come from a fund administered by the federal government. Doesn’t sound so bad when you think about it like that, does it?]
Griffin goes on about how the central banks are cartels that work with governments and have the legal power to create money out of nothing when the government needs it.
I think the “out of nothing” part of the money is not entirely nothing. There seems to be a massive misconception that when a central bank prints more currency, it’s simply creating more money out of nothing. First, it doesn’t happen this way. Even though the money is not backed by a scarce commodity (like gold), the value attributed to it is related to how trusted and reliable the country’s central bank is. Printing more money without the generation of wealth decreases the value of the money. This is why you can trade one US Dollar for 10,000 Zimbabwe Dollars, and the same reason why the Zimbabwe 1000 Dollar bill is worth less than the paper it’s printed on. Printing more money without generation of wealth will lead to inflation and the loss of value for the currency.
[Muertos comment: this has been proven time and time again historically, such as in the U.S. when “greenbacks” were printed to help finance the Civil War. It didn’t work then either.]
The central banks are not only able to create more money. They are also capable of removing money from circulation when needed. For example, during Christmas the US Federal Reserve prints more money to assure all the withdraws will be possible, and then they remove the extra bills from circulation afterwards.
When this happens, the fiat currency doesn’t lose its value because it is just a representation of the wealth that already does exist, even though most of this wealth is in form of data like the amount you have in your bank or how much all your declared belongs are worth. It doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It’s a representation. It’s not wealth itself.
Let’s put this way. The amount of wealth in dollars is X and the amount of printed paper money is Y. Because most of the wealth being traded, stored or transferred is in the form of savings, credits, stocks, checks and representations other than printed fiat currency, X will be always higher than Y, but when people are making withdrawals, collecting their payments or selling things, more money will begin to circulate from hand to hand. Since there is more money in data form than there is in the form of printed money, the Central Banks print the money and send bills to the local banks to make sure they are capable of handling all the money being moved and spent. This will make Y approach the amount of X, but if the amount of Y being printed and in circulation is getting closer to the amount of X, there is a chance that Y will surpass X. This will lead to the devaluation of the currency on which X and Y operate, leading to inflation.
To put it in even more simple terms: when you print currency to represent wealth, you’re not creating money out of nowhere. When you print more currency than you have wealth, you’re lowering the value of the money. The amount of wealth is still the same but the value of the currency changes.
Bill Still on the Federal Reserve
Bill Still is another Libertarian film producer, highly critical of the monetary system in US. He is also seeking the nomination from the Libertarian Party for the 2012 elections.
During his short appearance in Thrive, Mr. Still claims that the Fed is a privately-owned bank made to look like a government bank. To get his point across he says the Federal Reserve, instead of being on the blue government pages in the Washington DC area phone books, is on the white pages. He thinks this is evidence!
Since I don’t live in the US and I didn’t look at a phone book from the DC area during my short but pleasant stay in US, I have to say that was a really bad choice for evidence.
[Muertos comment: there are a lot of stupid assertions in Thrive, but this one has got to be in the top five most ridiculous things in the entire movie. I can’t believe Mr. Gamble let this one through–it’s simply insulting to the intelligence.]
Alan Greenspan on the government’s relations with the Federal Reserve
At 1:00:02 of the movie there is a short video clip in which Alan Greenspan claims that the Federal Reserve doesn’t take direct orders from the president or the Congress. This is used to show the Fed as a rogue agency that answers to no one.
This is totally wrong. Mr. Greenspan’s quote is taken out of context.
For starters, all members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, are handpicked by the president and approved by Senate vote. They are required by law to have a “fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests and geographical divisions of the country.” This means they have to be scholars in economics, politics and above all they must represent the economic interests of the nation, not the interests of the Congress and not of the president. They are accountable for their actions which can lead to members of the board not being nominated again as well the formal and informal relationships of the board members with the president and the Congress.
There is a really good reason why the central banks usually don’t answer directly the executive chief in office and the Congress: if they did, politicians could use these banks for political gain and directly affect the economy. We need an independent Federal Reserve.
A brief study of history, especially looking at some South American countries and African countries, will show that when the politicians can control the decisions of the central banks and therefore dictate the course of the economy, the results are not pretty. More often than not this is completely disastrous for the country.
Even though the title of the linked video and the comment section of the youtube page follow the same line of thought of the people featured in Thrive, I’d like the viewer to see the part beginning at 8:00 where Greenspan remembers that the actions taken by the Fed would hurt G.H.W. Bush’s reelection. Just think about that for a few minutes. What if Bush was able to change the decisions of the Fed for his own political gain? What would that do to the economy of the United States? This could potentially harm the economy more than it was already harmed in 1992 (which at that time was in a deep recession). This is why the Congress and the president don’t have much say in the decisions of the Fed, but the Fed is still accountable for its decisions. The people on the Federal Reserve Board were chosen by the president and approved by the Senate in the first place, making them accountable for their actions inside the Federal Reserve.
Here are some documents containing detailed explanations of the relations of the Federal Reserve with other branches of the US Government. As you will see, it’s far from an unaccountable rogue entity.
After this, Mr. Gamble and Ms. Fitts give us analogies on how the bankers use their data on the economy to benefit themselves at expense of others. I won’t argue much with that because it is happening, but not for the reasons Gamble & friends would you like to believe.
Since it is Mr. Gamble talking about the FBI raiding her (Ms. Fitts’s) company not her saying it, and nowhere in her company’s website or her bio mentions the said raid, I’m skeptical that it even happened. I also tried to look for news articles mentioning this raid hoping to see something like the paper shot Gamble gave us on the screen, but the only places I saw any mention of it were 9/11 Truth websites and a few truthers’ blogs without any external links or sources to this event beyond what their word for it.
[Muertos comment: always be skeptical of anything that appears on 9/11 Truth websites and nowhere else. 9/11 Truthers are notoriously incapable of getting almost anything right.]
Unless Ms. Fitts herself can come forward and explain in her own words what happened, or if someone can provide me a reliable link or newsfeed with info validating Mr. Gamble’s characterization of what happened, I’ll keep my sense of disbelief about the big government suppressing her findings, specially someone with credentials and political reach like her. (Blogs or forums do not count as reliable source; I’m talking about newspaper articles or public data).
[Muertos comment: given the fact that ten people who appear in Thrive have signed a letter repudiating the film and saying the movie was misrepresented to them, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if what Ms. Fitts would say about what happened would differ significantly from the way Mr. Gamble puts it in the film.]
The Dollar and the Sub-prime crisis:
Gamble begins this part with a moot point about the devaluation of the dollar, showing it from 1913 to 2010.
Remember when I discussed the matter of currency in circulation vs. the real value of wealth? Well, this is what happened: when the Federal Reserve came into being, having a regular universally recognized currency made trade easier both on the internal market as well the international market. It made the US economy more open to these markets, generating more trade, and as result more currency started to circulate. To compensate for the new amount of money circulating and more people earning more money, prices rose, because people where consuming more. This effect is called “demand-pull inflation.” This is regarded as the good kind of inflation because it shows that the country is THRIVING.
This doesn’t make people poor. If the prices are rising, so are peoples’ wages. Even if products have higher prices they still hold the same value. (The kind of inflation that rises both price and value is called “cost-push inflation,” and this happens due to the increase of production cost or scarcity. This is the bad kind of inflation).
But why doesn’t the currency return to its original value after a while? This happens because of an economic effect called “built-in inflation,” where past experiences dictate how the wages and prices will rise. Workers expect inflation to pinch in the future, so they start asking for higher wages to compensate. As a result, companies start raising the price of their products so they don’t lose their profit margins. Because this builds over time it becomes something like a change of currency or a hard economic crisis, where money is being hoarded and trading comes to a halt.
Even if you look to Mr. Gamble’s graph you’ll notice the periods when the dollar’s value rose were in the interwar period and during WWII, when US was still suffering from the 1929 stock crash that brought the US economy to its knees, and during WWII where all the US economy was focused on the war effort instead of producing consumer goods and trading. After those periods were over, trading resumed and, as expected, the value of the dollar declined as more currency began circulating again.
Same case as the “economic parasite” claim: the gap in wealth is a big problem, but Thrive has the wrong take on what is the cause.
No, I don’t have a magic bullet solution for wealth disparity. No one does. I do, however, support several policies involving fiscal responsibility, fair taxation, better public health and education plans, transparency from both government and corporate business and not reelecting the same politicians with histories of corruption and incompetence.
Bankers and crisis
Gamble tries to correlate the stock crash of 1929 and the Great Depression to the creation of the Fed. Logically correlation does not equal causation. If you take a look at what happened, the stock crash of 1929 was caused by reckless investments on high risk and speculative shares. With the investments boom more people where buying shares and raising market prices. This would only become viable if the stock market kept rising at a quick rate. If the rise wasn’t fast enough, halted or went into a downturn, those shares would lose their value. This was combined with the massive loans stock brokers were making to investors (called “margin”). The investor only had to pay 50% of the share value and the broker would complete the rest with his own money. Thousands of people taking loans to purchase more shares didn’t help as it was creating a massive economic bubble. As expected, once the stock market faced a downturn, mass panic selling followed, forcing the share’s values down creating a cycle where investors had to sell their shares to pay their brokers and avoid losing too much money with shares that by this time had lost all their value.
[Muertos comment: the causes of the Great Depression are still highly controversial today. There is no one clear answer, but what you’ve identified is clearly part of the problem–any basic book on the crash will make this case. It’s also not limited to 1929. I was working in the financial sector during the “dot com bust” of 2000-2001, and much the same thing happened–shares were grossly overvalued, and there was too much credit attached to financial speculation. When dot coms started to post less than impressive profit numbers, the whole thing collapsed. Something similar happened in 2008, except instead of stocks it was financial products tied to real estate.]
It is also worth remembering that the both people buying and selling the shares are normal people, prone to make mistakes, get nervous or act on impulse. This means one bad rumor in a highly volatile place such as the stock market can cause many stocks’ value to plummet. Do this on a large scale and you can get yourself a nice big crisis on your hands.
http://stocks.fundamentalfinance.com/stock-market-crash-of-1929.php (this is a TL;DR version of the previous link)
I also would like to have access to this “research” Mr. Gamble claims did on the “major banks” moving their money away from the stock market before the crash, because I’m not able to find any reliable link or article showing that this in fact happened.
The 2008’s credit bubble crisis
This is the only thing preventing me to copy paste the debunking of Zeitgeist here and calling it a day.
But where do I start? First Foster Gamble and David Icke and their “research” (really, I’d like to see the data Gamble uses to make his statements) want to lead the viewer to believe the 2008 economic crash was a ploy engineered by the major banks to consolidate their power by breaking smaller business and seizing their assets.
But there are a few problems with this. For one those assets (mostly houses) have become worthless, and the bail outs are not even close to the amount lost by the banks during the crisis. Plus, why create an economic crisis in the first place? The last thing you want, if you’re a banker or an industrialist, is an economic crisis where people stop spending and the economy stagnates.
So what happened in the 2008’s subprime crisis?
It was caused by a combination of lack of foresight, greed, high interest rates, high risk investments and a complete lack of regulations for the financial sector (I can hear from here all the libertarians shrieking in horror after reading this).
Putting it in layman’s terms, before the 2008 crisis the housing sector in United States was one of the most attractive investments for a few reasons. First, the continuous rise of housing prices and the demand for new houses, and second the too low interest rates from the Federal Reserve that were not attractive to the investors anymore (they were around 1% during 2008).
Okay, what was the banks’ deal then?
They were buying the mortgages from lenders and then reselling them to investors looking for investments with better rates. The banks would proceed to lend more money, mostly from other major banks and from central banks, to acquire more mortgages. Then the banks would generate massive profits from all the homeowners paying their mortgages.
So far so good. But for them there was a problem: since this was one relatively safe and high profit deal, the banks wanted more people paying more mortgages on the rising housing prices.
When a financing company sold the mortgages for the banks, if the homeowner went into default the bank would get the house. This was attractive for the bank because the housing prices were rising at the time. This meant that when the mortgage broker sells the house at a new higher price, the lenders and the banks would make a better profit with the new mortgage payers.
Okay, but where do the problems begin?
The number of AAA home buyers (meaning, reliable and financially responsible people) buying houses was too low to sustain the kind of profits they wanted to make selling and flipping mortgages. So, not wanting to miss the opportunity of selling the houses at higher prices and collecting the higher mortgages, the banks and lenders started selling the houses to subprime families (non reliable people) that they knew would go into default in a matter of time so they could resell the house again and again. Major profits were made this way. The lender would sell the mortgage for the banks and then the bank would sell it to an investor willing to take the risk.
With this happening soon the number of houses going into default was increasing. The number of houses being placed on the market for sale was also rising, but the number of people looking for a house was not. Actually most of the people who could afford a house already had one and with the subprime families simply not paying, this was starting to drive the housing prices down. To make things worse, the people who could afford their high mortgages simply started abandoning their houses because now they were worth a fraction of what they used to be worth, and yet their mortgage was the same.
This left the banks with a lot of houses, but with no one paying for them. The banks borrowed massive amounts of money to buy those mortgages, and the lenders had a lot of houses with people who were going into default, and the investors had a lot of high risk deals that have become worthless. The investors were not able to sell the risk to anyone because by this time everyone noticed that things were not going as planned and stopped buying or selling, essentially freezing the banking and the financing market, bankrupting the banks, the investors and the lenders.
And the banks owned a lot of money they couldn’t pay back, usually to other large banks either in US or Europe, thus dragging those banks down into the crisis with them.
This is the simple explanation, but there are other factors that contributed to the crisis. For example, easy credit (it stimulated not only banks to borrow huge sums of money but also common folk), predatory lending (lending deals so long and prone to change that people were deceived into deals that aren’t what they are advertised) and underwriting (banks with mortgages that didn’t meet proper standards and selling them to other banks and investors) and deregulation of the banking industry (this made easier for banks and financing companies to pull their stunts without the government being able to interfere).
This showed that the banking system had serious problems both ethically and financially, but the reality is much less Machiavellian (and boring) than Gamble would you like to believe.
Back to the movie. We have Mr. Gamble explaining the crisis using a fish hook analogy to show how the financial elites consolidate their power. I’d bother to explain who this logic is wrong if I didn’t do it already above.
Again the banks won’t make major profit from a lot of houses with devaluated prices and with their credibility shot.
Gentlemen! Behold the links!
http://crisisofcredit.com/ (a friendly video explanation about how the crisis came to be)
“Give me control over a nation’s money and I care not who makes her laws.”–Baron Mayer Amschel Rothschild
I can’t find this quote in any history source or website. The only result that purported to show where it came from besides attributing it to Amschel Rothschild is from The Creature of Jekyll Island.
And it featured in America: Freedom to Fascism.
Too bad Mayer Amschel Rothschild died in 1812, virtually a hundred years before the quote started making its first appearances during the early 20th century.
Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)
There isn’t much to talk about the BIS and the IMF. The BIS acts like a hub for central banks to organize themselves, regularize the sector and push for transparency on the business. The IMF is a bank responsible for money lending programs enjoyed by its contributors. It is infamous for cases of sheer incompetence due to lack of touch with the reality of the countries they were lending money to or how the assistance programs are perceived by the local population. Depending on who you ask or which country you’re talking about, the IMF can be either seen as a major tool for the development of a country or just a means for the developed and industrialized nations to explore the undeveloped ones.
Like the Federal Reserve and other “major banks,” Gamble also claims they are controlled by the financial elite.
As with much else in Thrive, the “Follow the Money” section is long on rhetoric and short on identifiable facts. There are oversimplifications, important concepts left out, quotes whose truth can’t be identified, and a lot of distortions. This section isn’t done very much better than any other section in Thrive.
As difficult as this subject is, hopefully this analysis gives you something to work with as you evaluate the claims made by the movie.
One of the people whose views the Thrive movie showcases is a man named Nassim Haramein. A caption on the screen identifies Mr. Haramein as “Cosmologist, Inventor.” Beginning at 12:23 in the film, excerpts of interviews with Haramein begin and continue for almost the next ten minutes. Mr. Haramein opines on questions of astronomy and ancient history. Even before Thrive, Mr. Haramein was well-known in New Age circles. This article will evaluate what Mr. Haramein claims in Thrive, and also try to answer the question, who is he?
What Does Nassim Haramein Claim in Thrive?
In his first appearance in Thrive at 12:23, Nassim Haramein appears in the context of the discussion about the “torus” design which Thrive creator Foster Gamble believes is the key to free energy. Mr. Haramein refers to “big arms of galaxies spinning around” and a claim is made at 12:34 that the galactic halo is shaped like a torus. A little later, at 16:12, Mr. Haramein appears again, talking about the Osirian Temple in Abydos, Egypt. This discussion occurs in the context of the “Flower of Life” design that Foster Gamble asserts is of extraterrestrial origin. At 16:32 of the film, Mr. Haramein states that the Flower of Life at the Osirian Temple is “burned into the atomic structure of the rock in some extraordinary way.” No backup is given for this claim at all. In fact, this claim is false. It is the only factual claim that I know of, to date, which the Thrive creators have retracted.
Mr. Haramein continues to appear sporadically over the next few minutes. He appears again at 18:20 talking about the Forbidden City in China, “where the sun gods reside.” Later still, at 20:10, Mr. Haramein again refers to “sun gods” from Egyptian, Incan and Mayan culture who supposedly came to earth and taught ancient peoples engineering, writing and science. This is clearly an assertion that “ancient astronauts” are supposedly responsible for great feats by ancient civilizations, who were mistaken by these civilizations for “sun gods.”
At 21:25, Foster Gamble states that “Nassim has impressive evidence to back up his theories.” He does not state what this “impressive evidence” actually is.
Is Nassim Haramein Right About the Things He Says in Thrive?
Not very much of the time. A lot of what Mr. Nassim states in Thrive is simply false. On this blog we have already debunked much of the material he presents. For example, we’ve already noted that his claim about the “Flower of Life” in the Osirian Temple is incorrect. It is not “burned into the atomic structure of the rock.” In this article, which debunks the idea of “ancient astronauts,” I explain at length how and why Mr. Haramein’s assertions about ancient civilizations and ancient history are wrong. For instance, the Egyptian and Mayan “sun gods” had nothing to do with science or engineering. A case can be made that the Incan “sun god” did supposedly teach some knowledge to the Incas, but the context in which Mr. Haramein employs this idea—supposedly to illustrate that “ancient astronauts” exist—is totally incorrect. There is not a single piece of evidence anywhere in the world indicating that aliens visited ancient civilizations thousands or hundreds of years ago. The only basis for the “ancient astronaut” claims is the supposition that particular structures, such as pyramids, were beyond the capability of ancient peoples to construct, and therefore they must have been built by aliens. As I explained in the article debunking ancient astronauts, that supposition is totally unsupportable. Furthermore, he’s also wrong about the Forbidden City being “where the sun gods reside.” The Forbidden City, built in Beijing in the early 1400s, was where the terrestrial emperor resided, not the “sun gods.”
Who is Nassim Haramein?
The subject that concerns the bulk of Mr. Haramein’s testimony in Thrive is ancient astronauts. He is clearly identified with that theory. In fact, while this article was being written, in late February 2012 yet another YouTube video popped up of Mr. Haramein claiming that certain archaeological artifacts “prove” ancient astronauts existed. These claims are no different than the basic gist of his claims in Thrive. All proceed from an assumption that “ancient peoples couldn’t possibly have created this!” because whatever is being examined is judged from the standpoint of modern technological and scientific understanding.
However closely he’s associated with ancient astronauts in Thrive, this theory is not Mr. Haramein’s main claim to fame. Who is he, then and what his he known for?
According to the bio that appears on his own site—for the Resonance Project—Nassim Haramein was born in Switzerland in 1962 and began developing, at the age of nine, a “hyperdimensional theory of matter and energy.” His bio goes on to state:
“Haramein has spent most of his life researching the fundamental geometry of hyperspace, studying a variety of fields from theoretical physics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, biology and chemistry to anthropology and ancient civilizations. Combining this knowledge with a keen observation of the behavior of nature, he discovered a specific geometric array that he found to be fundamental to creation and from which the foundation for his Unified Field Theory emerged.”
Mr. Haramein often gives lectures at conferences, and you can see many of his talks on YouTube. The topic he lectures on most often is something called the “Schwarzschild Proton,” which we’ll get to in a minute. I find it interesting that neither the Thrive movie nor Haramein’s own website list any degrees or credentials. That is noteworthy, because people who do have degrees or credentials and who are interviewed in Thrive are usually presented with a title card on-screen that lists what their credentials are—example, “Dr. Jack Kasher, Ph.D.—Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Nebraska” (31:01). I have also not been able to locate a C.V. (curriculum vitae), sort of an academic résumé, for Mr. Haramein. If anyone is aware that he has advanced degrees in physics or other relevant fields, please pass on the information to me and I will gladly add that to this blog.
What Is the “Schwarzchild Proton” Claim?
This blog has already debunked what Mr. Haramein claims in Thrive, both in this article and the previous articles. Let’s move on to some of the other claims he makes other than the ones in the film. Although the focus of this blog is on the film, Mr. Haramein’s other claims are relevant to judging his overall credibility as a source on matters of science and ancient history.
The “Schwarzschild Proton” theory states that a proton is really a miniature black hole. I am not trained in physics, but what I do know of it, this assertion is completely outside the realm of science as we understand it. Needless to say, the scientific community is not impressed by the “Schwarzschild Proton.” In fact, it’s very difficult to get a scientist to spend their time debunking it. Nevertheless, there are scientific opinions about Mr. Haramein’s theories. Here’s one, a fairly high profile blog called “Up,” which ran several articles about Mr. Haramein and his various theories. The creator of this blog, Bob (also known as Bob-a-Thon), had this to say about Mr. Haramein and his paper:
“(a) His overall argument is circular, which means it shows nothing. A hypothesis is presented that a proton might be considered as if it were a black hole, and his first conclusion, after a few pages of equations, is that the forces between them would be very strong, like the forces in a nucleus. But this goes without saying! If you pretend that something is as heavy as a thing can be, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that the forces would be as strong as a force can be. There’s no significance in this whatsoever.
(b) His theory implies that the nucleus of a single atom of hydrogen has a mass of nearly a billion tons. This does seem a bit silly – but theoretical physicists do hypothesise apparently silly things sometimes, so that’s not a deal-breaker. For obvious reasons, though, you need a very convincing reason to do something like that, including an explanation as to why we never measure this huge mass when we weigh hydrogen (or anything else), and none is given.
c) The paper, while using some scientific terms, is presented at a very basic level. This could be considered a plus – all scientists would agree that there’s nothing better than a simple theory, if it works. But Nassim is merely playing with equations from student textbooks (these are the only references cited in the paper), things that have been explored thoroughly for decades, and he’s using them in a pretty simplistic way. It’s unlikely that he’ll find anything that hasn’t been found before by doing this. What he has found is some values for things that look suspiciously like what he knew when he started. This is often what happens when you go around in a circle.
It’s a bit of a joke to claim that anything profound can come from this kind of thing. But again, it looks cool, and it’s clearly enough to impress a lot of his followers.”
Bob went on to post a lengthy scientific debunking of the Schwarzschild Proton theory. You can find it here. I won’t reproduce it here because it’s full of a lot of very specific scientific jargon and equations that I don’t think I need to show here so long as it’s available at the link. Suffice it to say that Bob’s blog makes a strong argument that Mr. Haramein’s theory does not have any validity when judged against actual provable science.
Bob’s conclusion, at the end of that article, was the following:
“Haramein claims to be doing serious science. He claims to have unified the forces of nature, and to have created a unified field theory. He claims to be able to point out where all ‘the other physicists’ are going wrong. He claims, moreover, that his paper, The Schwarzschild Proton, has won serious academic acclaim. All of these are patently false.
The only sensible conclusion from looking at this example of his work is that he is utterly incompetent as a physicist – even with the help of his hired academics, whose “advice and careful reading of the manuscript” didn’t reveal any of the myriad of nonsensical implications that a little exploration should have found.
He knows that taking on the air of authority of a research physicist will give weight to his outlandish ideas, many of which are in the language of physics. And he knows that this will bring him followers and cash. Indeed it does.”
It appears likely from this analysis that Mr. Haramein’s claims are not supportable by science. I say it appears likely because I’m not a trained scientist. While I suspect that Bob is a trained and credentialed scientist, we do not know this for certain. Therefore, I’ll state that if someone with at least a Ph.D. in physics is willing to come forward and state (1) that Bob’s debunking of Mr. Haramein’s Schwarzschild Proton theory is fundamentally flawed, and (2) that Mr. Haramein’s theory is correct or at least reasonably arguable in good faith, I will retract this article and issue a high-profile correction.
Good luck. I’ve been searching for a physicist who will comment on Mr. Haramein’s theories on the record since Thrive came out. No one will touch it. It’s that bad.
Here’s what other scientists are willing to say, however. On the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast of January 12, 2011, linked here, Dr. Phil Plait had this to say about a video he saw of Mr. Haramein expounding various astronomical theories (the relevant part starts about 50 minutes in):
“It’s hard to actually describe or understand a place to start or find any sort of grip on the amount of weirdness that this video has in it. I mean, he just says stuff and it doesn’t matter what he’s saying, he just says it. He’s talking about watching Shoemaker Levy 9, the comet, hitting Jupiter back in ’94, and he says, “the community said that comet might not be visible from the earth.” No, actually most astronomers thought it would, and there were a few who said it might not, but we weren’t sure, but that’s how science works…His whole thing, watching this, he’s talking about the tetrahedron dictating the energy about to happen inside Jupiter, and I’m thinking tetrahedrons, certain specific latitudes, he’s talking about Hoagland! And five seconds later “this is the theory of consultant to NASA, Richard C. Hoagland!”…This is so bad it’s not even wrong…You can watch this guy giving talks about pyramids and Egyptians and he just says stuff…it’s made-up silliness.”
Richard C. Hoagland is an infamous pseudoscience purveyor and conspiracy theorist. He’s most famous for expounding the ridiculous Face on Mars theory from the ‘80s. Any mention of Hoagland as a credible source should set off alarm bells.
Need more to convince you that Mr. Haramein’s theories are not good science? Check some physicists kibbutzing about him over at Reddit. Here are some of the comments:
“For some reason I was browsing /r/psychonaut and I saw a video posted of this guy, Nassim Haramein, lecturing about “sacred geometry and unified field theory”. After about 5 seconds you see he’s just making it up as he goes along, misunderstanding even the most basic principles of physics and math(s). He basically just tells people into that whole “new age” thing exactly what they want to hear. This pseudoscientist is either deliberately misleading the public, extremely deluded or mentally ill in some way.”
“We can, but on the other hand we could do physics instead. Nevertheless, I took the liberty of correcting one of your hecklers.”
“You’re probably right… I’m not sure why it bugs me so much. I guess I just think it’s sad that the people who are enjoying his talks are showing an interest in physics and not being told anything that resembles real physics.”
What Does Mr. Haramein Say In Response?
Bob’s “Up” blog engendered a response from Mr. Haramein himself. Here it is. Please go to the link for the full text, as it’s very lengthy. Here are a few excerpts:
“I typically avoid wasting my time participating in these so-called debunking sessions. However, as I can see that the gentleman has invested substantial efforts in this particular example, and because it is such a prime and typical expression of the reactionary tendencies defending against all odds the status quo and proclaiming it as “the truth”, I feel obligated to reply.
I actually don’t believe in mediocre minds, as I consider that everyone is born brilliant but that certain life experiences and difficulties can reduce one’s capacity to access deeper levels of awareness that are necessary for creative and fundamental reflection. Here the inhibitors are constraints resulting from a style of education in which what is taught is proclaimed as the truth and the only truth, and where students are discouraged and severely reprimanded if they tend to wander in the awful world of untruth as predetermined by the Obvious Truth Holder…
[H]istory speaks for itself as any new significant changes that were brought to the scientific community were typically largely resisted, ridiculed and then eventually accepted. As Schopenhauer said, ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’”
Much of the rest of the response is very technical, and those issues, while quite relevant, are beyond the scope of this blog. Nevertheless, Bob responded to the response. Needless to say he wasn’t too impressed:
“So, what to make of all this. To summarise, his rhetoric is great! The bits of physics he’s thrown in look really impressive! If the aim is to wow the fans and seal their contempt for me, he’s done an excellent job.
But has he actually addressed the criticisms that I’ve raised? Surely, somewhere in all that work, he must have? Help me out here if you think I’m missing something, but I really don’t think he has. I’ll illustrate some of the ways he’s misused physics in his defence later on.
If you disagree – if you can find any single point in there that convinces you that any of my criticisms of his physics aren’t completely valid – then I’d really love to hear from you. It would be great if we could keep it to the physics. I know it won’t happen, but it would be great if it did.
Meanwhile, as you can see for yourself, he has had fun doing what he does best – inventing things to entertain his fans, and telling them what they want to hear. He presents this new, conveniently fictionalised version of me to his followers as “an important study for anyone who is interested in my work.”…
The back-and-forth between Bob and Mr. Haramein is actually quite interesting. Because I can only present the smallest snippets of it here, I strongly recommend that anyone interested in evaluating Mr. Haramein’s grasp of physics (or ancient history, for that matter) look at the entire exchange. Looking at this material certainly led me to a a conclusion regarding the level of credibility to which Mr. Haramein is entitled.
A Related Issue: Academia, Credentials, and the Value of Experts.
A key theme that you should see emerging from this analysis is that Mr. Haramein does not and cannot back up any of the major assertions he makes with any evidence or argumentation that passes muster among professionals in the fields he opines on—physics and ancient history. If you read Mr. Haramein’s responses to Bob’s critique, you’ll see a lot of references to Einstein and how Einstein was not (supposedly) a “mainstream” physicist, coupled with philosophical statements about how closed-minded and corrupt the institutions of mainstream learning are. Indeed, from what I’ve observed in my research for this article, this is the primary line of defense when Mr. Haramein is attacked: claim that Einstein (or someone else who is well-respected but has an unorthodox background) had radical ideas too, and suggest that because he was vindicated, Mr. Haramein’s unorthodox ideas are worthy of the same level of credulity and acceptance that we today give the theories of Einstein and Copernicus.
I’ve encountered this line of argumentation many, many times before. In fact, it’s a trope used almost universally by believers in fringe phenomena such as pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and conspiracy theories. I wrote an article about this about 18 months ago on my other blog, specifically in the context of conspiracy theorists, and explaining why their views on academics and experts are wrong. The same principle goes here. People who accept fringe beliefs exhibit a curious form of bipolar behavior when it comes to experts. On the one hand, they really wish that some credentialed experts would agree with them so it would lend credence to their pet theories. Simultaneously, because they can’t get any credentialed experts to agree with them, they’re forced to explain why this is by claiming that credentialed experts are worthless and that the institutions they come from are closed to any new ideas or new knowledge.
The problem with this argument, however, is that it presumes the legitimacy of credentialed experts and institutional knowledge—academia and peer-review, if you will—is essentially arbitrary and has little to do with the substantive content of their fields. Followers of pseudoscience, pseudohistory and conspiracy theories think that academia and institutional knowledge is a sort of old boy’s club, where a cap and gown and a secret handshake get you “in the club,” and only knowledge that originates from within “the club” is taken seriously. The reality is very different.
You do not have to be a credentialed expert with a Ph.D. in physics to come up with a revolutionary new idea that totally redefines scientific truth. You could be a plumber and still come up with a revolutionary new idea that totally redefines scientific truth. However, whether you are a Ph.D. physicist or a plumber, the validity of your idea must be still be provable using the scientific method.
You do not have to possess a Ph.D. in archeology to come up with a bold new theory that explains the workings of ancient civilizations. You could work at Subway and still come up with a revolutionary theory that redefines ancient history as we know it. However, whether you are a Ph.D. archaeologist or a Subway sandwich maker, the validity of your idea must still be provable with evidence and the methods of archaeological research and historical analysis.
This is what Mr. Haramein doesn’t seem to understand. The reason his theories don’t have any credibility is not because he is not a credentialed expert doing research at a traditional institution. The reason his theories don’t have any credibility is because they’re not verifiable or supportable according to the methods of physics, astronomy and ancient history. It’s the methods that matter. Scientific inquiry and historical analysis have been built up over centuries, even millennia. Democritus was doing science in Thrace in the 4th century B.C., and Thucydides was researching history at about the same time. Guess what? The methods that Democritus used all those centuries ago are still sound by today’s scientific standards (though of course technology is much different), and the methods that Thucydides used to describe the Peloponnesian War are still recognized as hallmarks of historical scholarship today. This is not to say that science or history haven’t advanced since the time of the ancient Greeks; clearly they have. But our process of asking questions and seeking answers, of judging hypothesis based on verifiable facts, and of testing the evidence for its reliability are remarkably similar to the processes that experts have been using for centuries to get at the truth of various problems.
Want to know something else? The “scientific heretics” that fringe believers like to trot out on cue—Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein, etc.—could prove their unorthodox theories by using those same processes. Galileo was persecuted by religious authorities, but he could still prove that Jupiter had moons; Copernicus’s books were banned by political authorities, but his mathematics still proved that a heliocentric solar system was the truth. Einstein wasn’t even much of a heretic at all. After all, he won a Nobel Prize. They don’t give Nobel Prizes to people who don’t use the scientific method or whose discoveries can’t be verified by it.
Through his rhetoric about institutional knowledge and credentialism, Mr. Haramein and his supporters seem to want you to jump to the conclusion that he’s a bold innovator and a brave defender of scientific truth in the face of unreasonable conformity. But the real bold innovators and brave defenders of scientific truth, like Galileo and Copernicus, could prove their theories using scientific methods and reasoning, and thats why their ideas are accepted today as truth. By contrast, Mr. Haramein seems to want to skip the part where his theories are actually proven using the methods and reasoning that experts have been using for centuries to determine what’s true and what’s not. Unfortunately, science and history don’t work that way.
During his brief appearance in Thrive, Nassim Haramein makes a number of statements and invites a number of inferences. He makes statements about the “Flower of Life” design which are incorrect. He makes statements about ancient gods and the history of ancient peoples which are incorrect. He invites the conclusion that aliens came to Earth long ago to help civilizations build various things, a conclusion which is unsupportable.
Outside the movie Thrive, Mr. Haramein is known for making similar wild claims, which are similarly incorrect. His “Schwarzschild Proton” theory is absolutely unsupported given physical science as we know it today. Real scientists consistently deride his methodology as flawed and his arguments as totally unpersuasive. His response to these criticisms, which is to dismiss the value of expert opinion or institutional knowledge, is similarly unpersuasive.
The rational viewer of Thrive, when confronted with these facts, should not only be extremely skeptical of the assertions Mr. Haramein makes in the film, but should also wonder why the makers of the film did not conduct better research, and consult more reliable sources, about the matters Mr. Haramein discusses.