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Noted Canadian Skeptic Show Examines Thrive—And Tells the Truth.

A podcast called “Life, The Universe and Everything Else,” a program put on by the Winnipeg Skeptics association, has turned its sights on Thrive. I spent the morning listening to the podcast, and I recommend it very highly. You can play it from your computer here. The host of the show is Gem Newman (founder of Winnipeg Skeptics, computer science expert), and the guests include Gary Barbon, Mark Forkheim, Robert Shindler, Richelle McCullough and Greg Christiansen. You can see information on who these people are, and what their backgrounds are, here.

The Winnipeg Skeptics are a group of skeptics and critical thinkers who apply fact, logic and critical thinking to wild claims made on the Internet. Just as this blog has done since the beginning, the Skeptics have exhaustively examined Thrive and their review is, needless to say, highly negative. While they find some things to praise in the film, they are extremely critical of the film’s shoddy research, its trafficking in bizarre and divisive conspiracy theories, its promotion of far right-wing Libertarian propaganda, and its reductive and harmful worldview that obscures real problems of income inequality, political corruption and environmental degradation.

Thrive Debunked is mentioned prominently in the episode and I’m proud to say this site was used as a significant source to fact-check and analyze the film. You’ll see links to various articles here on the blog page discussing the episode.

At one point, Mr. Newman reads verbatim from the statement made by John Robbins repudiating Thrive and criticizing its conspiracy worldview—a statement published on this blog with Mr. Robbins’s permission.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, very little on the podcast will be news to you. But it is noteworthy that whenever anyone approaches Thrive with a desire to check its facts and think through its conclusions, they invariably conclude that it is faulty, false and dangerous. We can therefore add the Winnipeg Skeptics’ review to the lengthening list of similar reviews catalogued on this site, such as JREF’s, Transition Culture’s and the Praxis Institute’s.

Do give the podcast a listen. It’s very well-done.

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Humanity and Sanity: The Full Text of John Robbins’s Repudiation of Thrive and its Conspiracy Theories.

Probably the single most important event in Thrive‘s short history was the announcement, on April 10, 2012, that nine of the people interviewed in the film had signed a letter repudiating it and claiming that Foster Gamble misrepresented the film to them. (A tenth signatory, Adam Trombly, later joined the letter). Those events as well as the Gambles’ response were covered on this blog as they happened. The architect of the repudiation letter was John Robbins, who was nice enough to write me a note a few months ago specifically expressing his displeasure with the conspiracy theories advanced in Thrive. I found Mr. Robbins’s reasons for opposing the movie closely congruent with my own.

Mr. Robbins recently contacted me with a revised and complete version of his letter regarding Thrive, which he titles “Humanity and Sanity.” Although many of the words and especially the sentiment of Mr. Robbins’s statement have been reproduced here before at Thrive Debunked, I feel it’s important to produce the entire text all in one place for you to see. I think this is the best and most coherent repudiation of Thrive that we’re ever likely to see. Therefore, I offer it to you full, unedited and unabridged.

I haven’t put Mr. Robbins’s letter in block quote format because it’s so long and it would be distracting to read. Everything below the line comes from John Robbins, not me. I thank him for making his letter available to me and giving me permission to post it in its entirety here.

___________________________________________________________

Humanity and Sanity: Standing for a Thriving World

(and challenging the Movie Thrive)

 By John Robbins

Thrive is the name of a richly produced and controversial film that asks, and attempts to answer, some of the deepest questions about the nature of the human condition and what is thwarting our chances to prosper.  Elaborately funded, with appealing imagery and beautiful music, it features interviews with many leading progressive voices.  And yet ten of these leaders have taken the highly unusual step of signing a statement formally disassociating ourselves from the film.

Why have Amy Goodman, Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, Edgar Mitchell, Vandana Shiva, John Perkins, Elisabet Sahtouris, Duane Elgin and Adam Trombly, as well as yours truly, gone to the trouble of signing our names to this public statement?

“We are a group of people who were interviewed for and appear in the movie Thrive, and who hereby publicly disassociate ourselves from the film.

Thrive is a very different film from what we were led to expect when we agreed to be interviewed.  We are dismayed that we were not given a chance to know its content until the time of its public release. We are equally dismayed that our participation is being used to give credibility to ideas and agendas that we see as dangerously misguided.

We stand by what each of us said when we were interviewed.  But we have grave disagreements with some of the film’s content and feel the need to make this public statement to avoid the appearance that our presence in the film constitutes any kind of endorsement.”

I have joined the other signers of this statement, even though there are aspects of the film that I find inspiring, and even though the makers of the film, Foster and Kimberly Gamble, are old friends.

In Thrive, the Gambles have attempted to address some of the crucial challenges of our times.  I appreciate their idealism, their commitment, and their passion.  And I agree with them about some things they state in the movie and on their website — such as that the political system is depraved, the Federal Reserve has been used to consolidate economic power, fiat currency tends to produce a corrupt financial system that depends on ever increasing debt, the tax system is unfair, and enormously powerful economic interests often collude with one another to deceive and defraud the public.  I stand with them as they promote the labeling of genetically engineered foods and in their desire to see our nation cease spending enormous sums on war.  I appreciate that they support local and organic agriculture, their passion for credit unions and local banking, and their opposition to governmental invasion of privacy.  They recommend many action steps that I support.

But I do not agree with some of the core conclusions they draw.  Nor do the other signers of the statement of disassociation from Thrive.  Duane Elgin, one of the signers, says: “Thrive is idealistic, naive, narrow, shallow, and focuses attention away from more productive areas of engagement.”

At the very heart of the Thrive message is what it calls the Global Domination Agenda.  Foster Gamble explains:

“A small group of families are actually controlling virtually every sector of human endeavor…  Their agenda… (is) to take over the lives of all people across the entire planet… to collapse the economies throughout the European Union… to devalue the dollar to almost zero… and to create a one-world government, with them in charge.”

The Thrive movie and website also state that this “small group of families” are developing and experimenting with plans to radically reduce the world’s human population to make us “easier to manage.”

Could this be true?

There is no doubt that staggering wealth and power is today concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of humanity.  The combined net worth of the world’s richest thousand or so people — the planet’s billionaires — is almost twice that of the poorest 2.5 billion.  I believe this disparity to be nothing less than an indictment of our civilization.

It is also certain that networks exist among the most powerful that enable a remarkably few people to shape the world’s economy, to determine what is known and what is not, which views are accepted and which are not, and what priorities and policies will prevail.  More than most of us realize, they decide whether we will live in war or peace and how our treasure will be spent.  And they have proven to be eminently successful at enriching themselves, often at the expense of the common good.  Exposing the global power elite is tremendously important work.  And this, Thrive purports to do.

But the Thrive movie and website are filled with dark and unsubstantiated assertions about secret and profoundly malevolent conspiracies that distract us from the real work at hand.  The conspiracy theories at the heart of Thrive are based on an ultimate division between “us” and “them.”  “We” are many and well-meaning but victimized.  “They,” on the other hand, are a tiny, greedy and inconceivably powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who are deliberately destroying the world economy in order to achieve total world domination.

This way of thinking has an allure, for it distracts and absolves us from the troubling truth that the real source of the problem is in all of us, and in the economic systems we have collectively produced.  If the ills of the world are the deliberate intentions of malevolent beings, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our problems because they are being done to us.  Thinking this way may provide the momentary comfort of feeling exonerated, but it is ultimately disempowering, because it undermines our desire to be accountable for the way our own thoughts and actions help to create the environmental degradation and vast social inequity of the world in which we live.  As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”

The Thrive movie has lavish production values, and presents interviews with many leaders in the consciousness movement, all of which lend a beguiling aura of credibility.  Foster Gamble himself comes across as soft, warm, and inquiring.  Those who have only seen the film may not recognize the agenda and belief system that actually underlie Thrive.

For example, Foster Gamble says that the Japanese earthquake that caused the tsunami that wreaked havoc on the nuclear plants inFukushimawas deliberately created by those seeking absolute world domination, in order to punish the Japanese for not acceding to their wishes.  He explains that “they” are able to use an electromagnetic array project inAlaskacalled HAARP to create earthquakes and tsunamis at will, anywhere on earth.  The catastrophic earthquakes that devastated Haiti and Chile in 2010, he says, were intentionally created via HAARP.  According to this view, these earthquakes were not the result of tectonic stresses and geologic processes.  They were intentional acts perpetrated by a ruling elite with unimaginably sinister intent.

I’m tempted to think that Foster Gamble has watched too many James Bond movies.  But the level of diabolical malevolence in the Thrive worldview makes the villains in James Bond movies seem like Mother Teresa in comparison.

There are many things that are terribly wrong in our world, and some of them are dire.  All living creatures are poisoned and compromised by surging levels of human-made toxins that spew into our environment, relatively unchecked.  We are experiencing unprecedented levels of heart disease, cancer, obesity and childhood diabetes.  Our financial institutions and to a large extent our political system have been hijacked by greedy and at times even sociopathic individuals who seem to feel no sense of responsibility to the well being of the whole.  The world’s military industrial complex is spending more money than ever on guns, bombs, and the machinery of unfathomable destructive power, while governments learn little about how to make peace and hundreds of millions of people go hungry.

But holding these tragedies as the deliberate acts of a tiny group of families seeking total world domination via a global police state distracts us from the arduous work of confronting the true challenges before us.

For example, as an environmentalist I heed the monumental evidence that global warming may be one of the most serious threats faced by humanity and many of the other species on this planet.  Those who have merely seen the movie might not know that Foster Gamble and the Thrive website strongly recommend a film (The Great Global Warming Swindle) which states that man-made global warming is a “lie” and “the biggest scam of modern times.”

The Thrive website opens its climate change discussion with this question:

“How does the premise of man-made global warming relate to the banking elite’s effort to transcend national sovereignty, establish global governance and create a global tax to fund their dominance?”

The insinuation is that the idea of human-caused global warming is being fabricated as an excuse to create a global police state and a tax basis for tyranny.  If this is true, just about every scientific expert in the world has been taken in by the hoax.  A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent of scientific experts agree that it is…

“very likely that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases have been responsible for the unequivocal warming of most of the Earth’s global temperature in the second half of the 20th century.”

It has been personally painful for me to witness friends of mine become caught up in seeing just about everything on earth as part of a vast demonic conspiracy.  When I wrote Foster Gamble to voice my disappointment with many of the ideas in the film and website, he wrote back, encouraging me among other things to study the works of David Icke, Eustace Mullins, Stanley Monteith and G. Edward Griffin.  These are among the people he repeatedly refers to in the movie as his “sources.” It is in these people’s worldviews that Thrive has its roots.

I find this deeply disturbing.  Here’s why…

David Icke is a major player in Thrive.  In fact, he is featured more prominently in the movie than anyone other than Foster Gamble.  An extended interview with him, intercut with supporting material, forms much of the middle section of the film.

Though this is not mentioned in Thrive, Icke is well-known for advocating utterly bizarre theories, including that the entire world is run by a secret group of reptilian humanoids who drink human blood and conduct satanic rituals.  Forty-threeU.S. Presidents, he says, have been such reptilian beings, and many of them have been part of global satanic pedophile rings that murder hundreds of thousands of children a year.  I wish I was making this despicable stuff up, but I’m not.  This is what Icke teaches.

What is Thrive’s relationship to these beliefs?  Foster Gamble explains:

“In our film, we do not go into his (Icke’s) research on reptilians, nor his immensely important investigations into global satanic pedophile rings, because it does not serve our film.  That does not mean that revealing what is happening to hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable every year should not be exposed and stopped.”

Icke’s war on common sense goes even further.  He says that the Global Elite’s plan for world domination was laid bare in a document titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  This document is actually a notorious hoax, published inRussia around 1903.  It supposedly presents a plan by the Jewish people to take over the world, and was a primary justification used by Adolph Hitler as he initiated the Holocaust.  This fraudulent document was also used to justify the violent pogroms and massacres of the Jewish people in pre-SovietRussia.

How anyone could take seriously a man who espouses such “information” is beyond me.  Thrive not only takes Icke seriously, but relies more heavily on his “insights” than on any other source, both in the movie and as a source of “data” for its website.

In a recent interview, Icke seemed to be competing for lunatic of the year:  “What I’m explaining now,” he said, “is that the moon is not a heavenly body but a construct.”

One of the signers of the statement of disassociation from Thrive, former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, has grounds to disagree.  As the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14, he spent nine hours working on the moon’s surface.

Another of Thrive’s primary sources, and another of the authors Foster Gamble told me I should read in order to better understand Thrive, is Eustace Mullins.  I honestly find it difficult to convey the level of anti-semitism in Mullins’s books, without it seeming that I am exaggerating.  So I will let Mullins’s own words speak for themselves:

“We must remember that there is no Jewish crime per se, since the existence of the Jewish parasite on the host is a crime against nature, because its existence imperils the health and life of the host…

This religious ceremony of drinking the blood of an innocent gentile child is basic to the Jew’s entire concept of his existence as a parasite, living off the blood of the host…

The Jews do not want anyone to know what Nazism is. Nazism is simply this–a proposal that the German people rid themselves of the parasitic Jews. The gentile host dared to protest against the continued presence of the parasite, and attempted to throw it off.”

The title of one of Eustace Mullins’s books is: Hitler, An Appreciation.  While Foster Gamble evidently believes that Mullins has shed valuable light on banking systems and other aspects of the “Global Domination Agenda,” I have no interest in looking to such individuals for insight into anything.

The Gambles state that they do not necessarily agree with all of the thoughts and beliefs of their sources, but rather that they have incorporated only those ideas they find useful and with which they agree.  I’m sure the Gambles do not condone Mullins’ overt anti-semitism, but I find it disturbing that the thinking of these men has been used as the foundation for some of the key ideas presented in Thrive.  While I do not believe the Gambles are themselves guilty of anti-semitism, I do believe they are naïve and gullible, and that in depending heavily on sources such as Icke and Mullins they have unwittingly allowed anti-semitism to become a subtext in their work.

As journalist Eric Johnson points out, viewers of the movie may not realize that Gamble’s central thesis, that a handful of families, many of them Jewish, control the world and plan to enslave humanity, is nearly identical to the argument that Joseph Goebbels made in his notorious Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew: that a handful of banking families, many of them Jewish, run the world and seek global domination.

Two of the other sources that Foster Gamble recommended to me so that I might better understand the philosophical underpinnings of Thrive are Stanley Monteith and G. Edward Griffin.  Monteith, who happens to be a neighbor of mine, has long been involved with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and professes that the environmental movement is a pretext for the effort to create a global police state.  The author of two books on AIDS, he says “the vast majority of AIDS information available to the American public has only one purpose – and that purpose is to deceive the people of our nation.”  Monteith’s answer?  He calls for schools to “abandon all comprehensive sex education” in favor of “abstinence only sex instruction.”

G. Edward Griffin is showcased in both the Thrive movie and website.  Both he and Monteith have long been members and officers of the John Birch Society, a far-right political organization that first came to public attention when one of its founders, Robert W. Welch, proclaimed that Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the genial war hero and popular President he seemed, but rather “a conscious, dedicated agent of the international communist conspiracy.”  G. Edward Griffin has written an admiring biography of Welch, who co-founded the John Birch Society along with Fred Koch, the father of today’s notorious Koch Brothers.

Both Thrive and the John Birch Society view government, in Welch’s words, “as always and inevitably an enemy of individual freedom.”  And both see a small group of families, including the Rockefellers and Rothschilds, as behind an utterly malevolent conspiracy seeking total global domination.  The Thrive website features this statement from the second president of the John Birch Society, Larry McDonald:

“The drive of the Rockefellers and their allies is to create a one-world government…all under their control… Do I mean conspiracy?  Yes I do.  I am convinced there is such a plot, international in cope, generations old in planning, and incredibly evil in intent.”

There are only a few of the ultra-right wing sources whose ideas and agendas pervade Thrive.  Another is the economist Ludwig von Mises, whose words and beliefs are cited frequently and sympathetically on the Thrive website.  Many Americans first learned of von Mises when Michele Bachman, seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency, said she read his books at the beach.  Von Mises’s brand of laissez-faire capitalism is hard-core.  In his eyes, nearly all government intervention in the economy is strictly verboten, and taxes are a crime against freedom.

Buoyed by lush visual effects and lovely words, the Thrive film has been attractive to many who know how often we are deceived and exploited by the powers that shouldn’t be.  “In times of universal deceit,” wrote George Orwell, “telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”

But what is the revolution Thrive would bring?  Both the Thrive movie and website call for the end of taxation even for the rich.  Thrive’s goal is a world in which public schools and welfare programs, including social security, have been terminated.  Instead of police, we have private security forces.  As Foster Gamble puts it, “Private security works way better than the state.”

That may be true for the rich who can pay for it.  But who, I might ask, would pay to protect low-income communities if all security was privatized?

Eventually, if Foster Gamble had his way and the Thrive vision was fully manifest, there would be no taxes, no government, and everything would be privately owned, including roads.  “It’s clear that when you drive into a shopping center you are on a private road, and almost without exception it is in great shape,” explains the Thrive website, as though a free market unfettered by concern for the 99 percent would somehow magically meet the needs of all.

I am saddened to see Foster Gamble, an heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune, so oblivious to the realities of those who do not share his privileges.  If all roads are privatized, how will the poor get anywhere?

It is hard to overstate how opposed Thrive is to taxes, even on the ultra-wealthy.  To Foster Gamble’s eyes, any form of government that depends on taxation, including democracy, is unconscionable.  He writes on the Thrive website:

“Democracy…which is born of and sustains itself by taking people’s hard-earned money, whether they like it or not, and calling it ‘taxation,’ – is in and of itself a violation [against life].”

No wonder Amy  Goodman, who appears in the film, is one of the signers of the statement repudiating Thrive.  She has long been the host of what may be the most significant progressive news institution of our time.  While Thrive finds democracy abhorrent because it depends on taxation, her outstanding program is called Democracy Now.

How, you might be asking, did those of us who have signed the statement of disassociation from Thrive ever allow ourselves to be filmed for a movie that advances such ideas?  The answer is simple.  We were grievously misled about what the film would be.

I want to underscore that although I think the Gambles are promoting a destructive agenda (which they kept secret from those of who were interviewed for their film), I do not think either Foster or his wife Kimberly are sinister or malicious, which is why it has been a very painful process for me to write this critique.  I have known them to be kind people who mean well, and I have long considered Kimberly in particular to be one of my closest friends.  But I have found it necessary to speak out in this way, because some of the ideas at the heart of Thrive strike me as frightening and misguided, and they most certainly are not ones with which I or the other signers of the disassociation statement can condone.

I have spent decades exposing and seeking to undermine powerful industries whose ways of doing business are diametrically opposed to the public welfare.  In my view, the deregulation of the economy and the demolition of government programs that Thrive proposes, would take us even further in the direction of a winner-take-all economy in which wealth would concentrate even more in the hands of the financial elites.

As one of the signers of the disassociation statement, evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris, writes:

“Without community, we do not exist, and community is about creating relationships of mutual benefit.  It does not just happen with flowers and rainbows, and no taxes.”

Each of us who have signed the statement have dedicated our lives to creating and conveying positive visions of how to create a truly thriving, just and sustainable way of life.  We have been part of vast movements toward generating a human presence on this planet that is spiritually fulfilling, socially just, and environmentally responsible.  We do not want to see our names, reputations, and influence used to fuel unsubstantiated claims or misguided policies.  We want to see them used to strengthen individuals and communities, and to serve the ability each of us possesses to live with respect for ourselves, for one another, and for the truth of our interdependence.

As another of the signers, Paul Hawken, writes:

“The world is riven by people who are convinced they are right, while others are wrong.  Dualism permeates political, economic, cultural and religious conflict.  It is the true source of suffering and the despoliation of the world.  This wound cannot be healed by the us/them divisions that inform Thrive.  Evil most certainly exists, but the core of evil is ignorance, and it cannot be repelled by righteousness or by making others wrong.  It is only through compassion that we can create true transformation.”

We do not deny the evil in the world.  It is here and it is real.  But there is also hope here, and it too is real.

It is hope that believes we can build trust, build community, and build a better world.  Such hope is not the blind belief in something which has little possibility of ever materializing.  It is the hope which remains open to miracles while investing the sweat and perseverance to lend the Universe a hand in creating those miracles.  It is the hope that is borne from knowing that it is far too late, and our situation far too serious, to indulge in the luxuries of pessimism, paranoia, and finger-pointing.

The state of the world is perilous.  But it is not too late to love, not too late to work to realize our dreams, and not too late to believe in ourselves and each other.

In the end, we are all in this together.  Each step you take to lessen the amount of fear in yourself and the world brings us closer to a world reflective of the beauty that exists — sometimes buried and other times apparent — in each of us.  Every act you take that increases the amount of trust and compassion in your relationships helps us move from a world created by privilege to a world created by community.

As the poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed.  I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

Crop Circle Wars! Fake Video Shakes Credibility of One of Thrive’s Main Sources. (UPDATED TWICE!)

This blog, originally published June 20, 2012, was updated June 22 and again July 16. Scroll to the end for the updates.

A bizarre little drama is going on right now in the world of crop circles. A fake video designed to bolster belief in the supposed paranormal origin of crop circles has been making the rounds on the Internet, igniting both indignant recriminations and spirited defenses. This matter may seem extraneous to issues involved in Thrive—until you realize that the fake video controversy directly concerns a website called BLTResearch.com, which is one of the Thrive movie’s go-to sources for the crop circle nonsense that appears so prominently in the first part of the film.

Just a brief recap. In Thrive, Foster Gamble makes the assertion that crop circles are made by extraterrestrials visiting Earth, and that these circles contain mathematical, engineering and possibly spiritual messages from the aliens for the benefit of humanity. Specifically, Mr. Gamble claims the aliens are trying to tell us about this “torus” shape, which Thrive says is the answer to all the world’s problems because it can give us free energy, if only those evil Global Domination Agenda people would quit meddling with it. Crop circles, therefore, are a key part of Thrive’s message.

Crop circles have also proven, much to my surprise, to be the single most controversial subject we’ve ever covered on Thrive Debunked. To date we’ve had more comments and more angry buzzing about the debunking of crop circles article than any other in the history of this blog—more than free energy, more than David Icke, and more than the Global Domination Agenda. Clearly, I struck a nerve; this alone merits revisitation of the issue.

What’s the Controversy?

Here is what happened. A Dutch crop circle enthusiast named Robbert van den Broeke, who also claims to be a psychic who can predict when crop circles form, recently said that he made contact with the spirits of two dead people. One of them was Pat Delgado, a British researcher of crop circles; the other was Dave Chorley, the notorious British prankster who, with his partner Doug Bower, made hundreds of crop circles in English grain fields and then confessed in 1991 to having done so. To “support” this bizarre claim of contact from beyond the grave, Mr. van den Broeke produced a video which he said captured spectral images of Mr. Delgado and Mr. Chorley. The video is here. Prepare to be underwhelmed. All it shows is Mr. van den Broeke sitting in a chair looking like he’s nodding off to sleep. The disembodied, semi-transparent blue heads of Mr. Delgado and Mr. Chorley appear near his head, float around a bit, and disappear. That’s it. There’s more supernatural fireworks in your average episode of Bewitched.

These claims, and clips from the video, were made public on BLTResearch.com by its main contributor, Nancy Talbott. Here is the link to the page where Ms. Talbott explains this “miraculous” visitation from beyond the grave.

What did Pat Delgado and Dave Chorley supposedly say to Robbert van den Broeke while their Photoshopped—er, I mean disembodied spirits were floating around his head? Oh, some New Agey stuff about the spiritual power of crop circles and how important they are, etc., etc. According to Ms. Talbott here’s how this little séance went down:

“Delgado’s image, which appears to be the same one throughout the video clip, moves about slightly during its brief appearance (about a minute long), sometimes brighter and more distinct, sometimes less so. While Pat’s face was present Robbert “heard” him say that he was still “energetically” very involved with the circle phenomenon, not only in the UK but also elsewhere in the world. He also expressed gratitude for all of the circle enthusiasts who continue to search for the truth and who realize the “cosmic” nature of the consciousness which is involved.”

And with regards to Dave Chorley, the key bit is here:

“Chorley’s “consciousness” then communicated his awareness (now that he is “in the afterlife”) of how important it is that people respect the loving force behind the crop circles. Chorley also expressed sincere regret that while he was on earth he had gone to the media and said that crop circles were “just a joke”, and that he and Doug had said they made them all.”

There you have it. Chorley himself (supposedly) tells the true believers that he was wrong, and crop circles really do have a paranormal origin! Wow! Isn’t this amazing! And there’s no proof of any of this except what Robbert van den Broek says these spirits told him! But who needs proof anyway?

Another British crop circle researcher, Colin Andrews—who worked with Pat Delgado before the latter died in 2009—came out with a statement denouncing the fake video. That statement is here. Mr. Andrews’s report contained a statement from Pat Delgado’s family. Understandably they’re quite upset that his image has been used in this way. Their statement reads:

“It is the considered opinions of the family of Pat Delgado and his close friend and researcher Colin Andrews that the alleged messages and photographic images purportedly produced by the special powers of Robbert van den Broeke were created by trickery. This trickery involving images of Pat Delgado, a beloved husband, father, grandad and best friend is a disgrace, which reaches a new low with the unscientific extreme elements of the crop circle research field. No attempts have been made to discuss these images or communications with the Delgado family before posting them on the Internet nor it would seem have any transparent evaluations been made by the various camera manufactures or professional magicians etc. If they have, his family would like the courtesy of seeing them. Pat Delgado’s family were deeply involved with his work and are appalled at the adoption of his voice and putting at risk his high integrity by people who never even met him. Playing with the reputation of Pat is outrageous, despicable and unacceptable.”

Mr. Andrews also stated that a fellow named Roger Wibberley has investigated the video and concluded that the images of Mr. Delgado and Mr. Chorley were lifted from a video interview done with them in 1991, freely available on YouTube. If you go to Colin Andrews’s page you can see comparisons of the van den Broeke séance video with the real 1991 interview. In a nutshell, the Robbert van den Broeke video is a crude fake.

Who Is Robbert van den Broeke?

Robbert van den Broeke lives in Holland and has been involved for some time with various claims involving the paranormal, extraterrestrials and crop circles. In 2005 he went on Dutch TV telling a woman whose husband just died that the husband had lived a past life and died in the 1820s—a claim whose details were easily disproven with a perfunctory Google search on the man van den Broeke claimed the husband had been. Mr. van den Broeke has also dabbled in “spirit photography” before, claiming to have photographed aliens. This information on Mr. van den Broeke is available here.

Mr. van den Broeke’s main claim to fame, however, is his assertion that he can “predict” when crop circles appear. For this alleged “ability” he is thought of as an important person among those who believe that crop circles are not made by human beings. What they fail to realize, however, is that most of the crop circles Mr. van den Broeke claims to have “predicted” appear in his backyard. Convenient, yes? But could (perish the thought!) Robbert van den Broeke actually be making these crop circles himself, in precisely the way that I demonstrated in my original crop circle article that all such circles have been made by human beings? Believers in paranormal origin of crop circles shriek bloody murder at the mere suggestion that human beings are the exclusive creators of crop circles. Therefore, the conclusion of simple logic—that Mr. van den Broeke is most likely creating these crop circles himself, or that he’s at least somehow involved with or has knowledge of the human beings who create them—is absolutely verboten among believers in the paranormal origin of crop circles.

So, here we have a fake psychic who has been exposed for his trickery before, who’s attempted to claim “spiritual photography” before, who now suddenly comes up with a video where another dead person appears and preaches the party line to paranormal crop circle believers. In a rational world this article would end right here, because it’s patently obvious that Mr. van den Broeke’s video is fake. But, in an eerie demonstration of the same sort of Bizarro-world thinking permeates the Thrive universe, we (unfortunately) can’t stop here because the true believers won’t let us.

The Punch Line: True Crop Circle Believers Think the Video is Real! (Or, At Least They Won’t Say It’s Fake).

When I first heard about this story I scoffed and dismissed it as a prank—just a fake video that went viral in the crop circle underground, and not worthy of any serious response. However, I’ve been absolutely astonished that various people who claim to be bigwigs in crop circle “research” are asserting that the video is real—or at the very least, they are unwilling to say that it’s an obvious fake!

Nancy Talbott herself, the driving force behind BLTResearch.com, certainly invites her readers to jump to the conclusion that the video is real. She engages in a lot of mumbo-jumbo about time stamps in the fake video, which she suggests is evidence of perhaps some sort of weird effects on the fabric of time. (She never mentions the possibility that discrepancies with time stamps could be evidence of digital manipulation).

Ms. Talbott has been getting support from another prominent paranormal crop circle believer, Suzanne Taylor. Ms. Taylor is the creator of a film called What on Earth? which is a documentary about crop circles. You can buy it for $19.99 on her website. She has also been a frequent commenter here on Thrive Debunked, where she opposes Thrive in general, but is generally hostile to any material expressing doubt that crop circles have a paranormal origin. Here’s what Ms. Taylor has to say on her blog about the video:

“Colin claims not only that Nancy’s report about the appearance of the late Pat Delgado, an early circle researcher, on Robbert’s digital and video cameras, is “trickery,” but that she and Robbert have offended Pat’s relatives. Colin provides no substantiation for the trickery claim, and I am skeptical about Pat’s relatives contacting Colin and not Nancy. Also, In the videotape posted in the report (link above), you will see how touched Robbert is at recognizing Pat’s face and how much regard he feels for him, and if any Delgado family member saw the BLT report it’s hard to believe they would have felt that Pat had been mistreated.”

Ms. Taylor seems to have missed the part where Colin Andrews did provide substantiation for the claim that the video is fake, in demonstrating that the images of Mr. Delgado and Mr. Chorley who appear in the video are obviously taken from the 1991 BBC interview. But you don’t even need this level of proof. We’re talking about a video that purports to show images of dead people from beyond the grave. The basic threshold of proof to demonstrate that something like that is possible anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances has obviously not been met here, to say nothing about the succeeding question of whether this particular video purporting to show video of dead people is real or fake. As for the offense given to Mr. Delgado’s family, I would ask Ms. Taylor if she really thinks any member of the family would be thrilled at seeing how the image of their dead loved one has been misappropriated, especially for a highly partisan purpose.

Incidentally, a new blog (not by me) has gone up just recently devoted to debunking Suzanne Taylor’s claims about crop circles and those in her movie What On Earth? You can find that blog here. Debunking Ms. Taylor’s film is beyond the scope of this blog. For the record I have not seen her movie, nor do I plan to.

There is a clear division in the world of crop circle research. The main issue appears to be to what extent it is permissible to admit that crop circles are made by humans as opposed to being of paranormal origin. (Note: it’s not a totally binary universe. Virtually all believers in the paranormal origin of crop circles concede that at least some circles are made by humans; however, there are ferocious disagreements among circle researchers as to what percentage are clearly of human origin and which ones are supposedly paranormal). The issue of the Robbert van den Broeke video seems to have inflamed this division.

What Does This Have to Do With Thrive?

Much of Thrive’s supposed research on the subject of crop circles relies upon the BLTResearch.com site. If you go to Thrive’s silly “fact checking” section and expand the various crop circle topics, you’ll see links to BLTResearch.com material. For example, this one:

“Fact: The electromagnetic field over the area where the crop has been laid down to create the image, is often electro-statically charged. Some of these areas are littered with strange magnetic particles.

In the early 1990s a unique discovery was made while studying a crop circle in England. Plants in the formation were coated with fused particles of iron oxides (hematite and magnetite). Since this discovery, soil sampling is regularly undertaken at crop circle sites. Traces of melted magnetic material, adhered to soil grains, have regularly been identified.”

The link in that last sentence leads to BLTResearch. Incidentally, the “magnetic particles” crap was debunked long ago. I explained in my original crop circle article how this is easily done by humans, specifically to fool paranormal believers.

Ironically, Thrive also uses Colin Andrews as a source—in a way that, in fact, impugns rather than supports the paranormal origin of crop circles. The Thrive fact check website states:

“Fact: 5,000 crop circles have appeared in over 30 countries, most of them inEngland.

This is a conservative estimate. Crop Circles, authored by Colin Andrews with Stephen J. Spignesi, is a reference guide on the subject and answers many commonly asked questions in the field. This work states that more than 11,000 crop circles have been reported in over 30 countries and that they occur mostly in England. Colin Andrews is a former engineer with the British Government and is widely accepted as an authority on crop circle phenomenon. Stephen J. Spignesi is a New York Times best-selling author.

Sources:

Both of these sources confirm that England is where most crop circles are made.

Hillary Mayell. “Crop Circles” Artworks or Alien Signs?” National Geographic: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/08/0801_020801_cropcircles.html

Stephen J. Spignesi and Colin Andrews. Crop Circles: Signs of Contact.FranklinLakes: Career Press, 2003. (178).

Stephen J. Spignesi and Colin Andrews. Crop Circles: Signs of Contact.FranklinLakes: Career Press, 2003. (75).”

Again as argued in our previous article, the fact that the vast majority of crop circles appear in England is itself a strike against the paranormal origin theory. Chorleyand Bower lived in Englandand did most of their work there; even today, most of the people who learned from them, or deliberately imitated them, are also from England. A question I posed in my original article which no Thrive fan has answered is: if crop circles are caused by UFOs, and most crop circles appear inEngland, how come most UFO sightings are not also inEngland?

Also, take a look at the National Geographic article cited on the Thrive website. It is hardly supportive of the paranormal origin theory. That article contains an interesting summary of the crop circle phenomena:

“Adamantly opposing the crop-circle-as-art-form position are the “croppies”—researchers of the paranormal and scientists seeking to explain the formations as work that could not possibly be the result of human efforts.

The phenomenon has spawned its own science: cereology. Some believers are merely curious, open to the existence of paranormal activity and willing to consider the possibility that at least some of the circles were created by extraterrestrial forces. At the extreme end are what Lundberg calls the “Hezbollah” of believers.

Exchanges between acknowledged circle makers and cereologists can be vitriolic in the extreme. But in a curious way, the two groups need one another.

The believers propel and sustain interest in the work, beating the drums of extraterrestrial activity on Earth and keeping crop formations in the news. They can also be quite vocal in their denunciations of the admitted artists, charging that they are con men, liars, and agents in government disinformation campaigns.

Lundberg’s group has been vilified as Team Satan; its members have received stacks of hate mail, and over the years there have been attacks on their cars and property.

Skeptics in the media (including this author) are also considered dupes, either too ignorant or narrow-minded to understand an other-worldly phenomenon or active participants in a government conspiracy to keep the masses uninformed.”

That is exactly the charge that has been made against me, and this blog, ad nauseam. I’ve received literally hundreds of comments and a handful of emails claiming I am “closed-minded,” or I’m suppressing some sort of cosmic human truth, or that I’m a disinformation agent paid by the government. The National Geographic article was written in 2002. The “croppies” phenomenon is still alive and well ten years later.

What Does The Fake Video Mean For Thrive and its Fans?

The fact that BLTResearch.com supports the fake Robbert van den Broeke video can only boomerang negatively for Thrive. BLTResearch.com’s credibility by being associated with the fake video is obviously badly damaged. In addition to having to explain away the uncomfortable associations of David Icke’s anti-Semitic “reptilian” conspiracy theories, Thrive advocates who seek to indoctrinate rational people will now have to face hard questions about whether the folks whose opinions on crop circles that they rely on have truly gone around the bend in proffering crude ghost videos as real. Thrive has already declined precipitously in popularity and public visibility since April, when 10 people who were interviewed in the film publicly dissociated themselves from it and its rampant conspiracy-mongering and Libertarian proselytizing. Being tangentially associated with a fracas over a faked ghost video just makes the film look even more kooky and fringe, which can hardly be the image Foster Gamble wants to project.

I also think this episode demonstrates how bizarre and extreme the crop circle underground has become. I mean, step back a moment and look at what’s going on here. Believers in the paranormal origin of crop circles are so desperate to reinforce their message that they’re willing to fake the image of a noted human creator of crop circles—Dave Chorley—on video so they can put words in his mouth explaining away the actions he took in life and begging believers not to credit them. Do they really think this is going to convince a lot of people that they’re right? Evidently they do. And this expectation may not be that farfetched; Suzanne Taylor, whose posts on this blog appear to be  rational (however much I may disagree with them), is getting behind the video, as are others.

I might also add that the video doesn’t show anything of substance anyway. It’s just two disembodied heads floating above some guy sitting in a chair. There’s absolutely no substantiation for Mr. van den Broeke’s claim about what these spirits supposedly said to him. On that, the croppies demand that you take him at his word.

Conclusion: “Stop Throwing Daggers!”

My experience in debunking Thrive has taught me a great deal about crop circles, and more importantly, about the sort of thinking behind belief in the paranormal origin of crop circles. As Thrive itself has declined in popularity, the attention that continues to be given to my debunking of crop circles has demonstrated to me that this is one of the woo beliefs whose adherents are most allergic to rational explanation. Believers in the paranormal origin of crop circles will simply never accept any other possibility, under any circumstances, regardless of how much evidence is marshaled against it. Trying to refute this belief is like trying to use empirical evidence to disprove the divinity of Christ: it’s just not going to make any impression on believers no matter how hard you try. Crop circles are very much a religious belief system.

But Thrive demonstrates how this strong, defensive and self-reinforcing belief system can be manipulated to serve other ends. Taken in isolation, I think belief in the paranormal origins of crop circles is generally pretty harmless. Unfortunately, the belief is easily channeled into belief in truly harmful and dangerous ideas, such as conspiracy theories. In researching this article I was struck by a comment posted on Suzanne Taylor’s blog. There, a commenter—obviously a firm believer in the Robbert van den Broeke video—detailed her correspondence with Colin Andrews, denouncing him for criticizing the video and BLTResearch.com. This except was particularly interesting:

“I wouldn`t have known about your [Colin Andrews’s] posting about the BLT research team at all if it hadn`t been for a person who has heard me talking about crop circles to whom I referred to the work of early reseachers and to the science papers on plant and soil analysis. This person was a sceptic and a debunker, and with a flurry of self-righteousness sent me your posting as proof that the whole phenomenon was a farce, particularly all the paranormal aspects.

No matter who`s throwing the daggers, I say, “Cut it out!”

People such as yourself and Nancy and Robbert have valuable pieces of the puzzle. Anyone who is a researcher of crop circles knows what he or she is up against to stand for their truth and contribution. But they still make their stands despite all the ridicule from the media and the public at large, despite deliberate government subterfuge and harassment.”

This passage demonstrates how an “us vs. them” mentality prevails in the world of crop circles. Those who stand in the way of the awesome truths of crop circles—the “skeptics and debunkers” with their “self-righteous” insistence on such unreasonable things as facts and logic—are aiding and abetting “government subterfuge and harassment” and must be opposed at any cost. This is exactly the same “us vs. them” mentality that Thrive advances, particularly with its harping on extremely harmful Global Domination Agenda conspiracy theories.

This goes far beyond appreciation of the beautiful and fascinating designs created in fields of wheat by enterprising individuals with strings, boards and a working knowledge of geometry. This is an irrational belief system with the capacity to override all tenets of critical thinking and rational discourse. In the grand scheme of things, crop circles, though breathtaking and intriguing, are not very important. At least they shouldn’t be. They certainly shouldn’t be the basis of this sort of obsessive and potentially self-destructive belief system.

If two disembodied heads floating above some random guy in a YouTube video can convince you of extraterrestrial visitation and crop circles, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you.

Update I, 22 June 2012

Not surprisingly, crop circle aficionados Nancy Talbott and Suzanne Taylor are none too happy about this article, and are rallying their supporters to vilify me for daring to question the Robbert van den Broeke video. Both seem to have doubled down and decided to circle the wagons about the authenticity of the video and the trustworthiness of Mr. van den Broeke.

Suzanne Taylor promptly put up an article on her blog claiming that she’s being unfairly “attacked” for her support of the fake video. In this article she published correspondence between herself and Ms. Talbott. Ms. Talbott’s view:

“When you stand up publicly for what you believe is the truth–as you did in this case (and which you chose to do on your own based on what I see as solid reasons for your trust)–this is the kind of baloney you ALWAYS get if the facts themselves are (a) beyond some of your readers’ capabilities to grasp, or (b) the truth scares them, (c) they’re mentally impaired, or finally (d) they’re debunkers. [Egotism and arrogance may involve all of these problems.]”

Evidently in Ms. Talbott’s view, a “debunker” is a singularly low form of life, a base defiler standing in the way of realizing profound human truths that are supposed to result from accepting claims such as these on faith. Her evident contempt for people who demand facts and evidence before believing in bizarre paranormal claims like Robbert van den Broeke’s is an eerie echo of the tone with which numerous Thrive fans have commented on this blog over the past few months when their conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific babble is challenged.

She continues:

“I have written in laborious detail all of the info anyone with either the basic intelligence and/or the degree of courage needed to understand the situation should require. And the only suggestion I can make to any of these people is that they READ the details. If they refuse to do this, or if they choose to dismiss me as stupid or a liar, there’s really nothing more I can do.”

Of course, Ms. Talbott ignores the fact that Colin Andrews and I have read the details. In fact, it’s the written details, even more than the fake video itself, that I object to–the suggestion that Dave Chorley has come back from the grave to repent and tell the world he’s sorry for claiming that he and Doug Brower made all the crop circles. Ms. Talbott seems to believe, erroneously, that it’s just the video itself that we’re objecting to; in fact, if you take the video away, the case gets even more egregious and offensive, considering that the fake Robbert van den Broeke video was offered in support of the statements about Pat Delgado and Dave Chorley.

Ms. Taylor was not satisfied with this response from Nancy Talbott. She writes:

“Well and good, but there is voluminous material on Nancy’s site, and I didn’t see this being an effective response when indeed there is a very effective rebuttal to all the daggers. I finally got Nancy to relent and to give some bullets of information, all of which can be found on her site, that counter the assaults.”

The information that “counters the assaults” is here. Basically it’s a laundry list of empty and unsupported claims that Robbert van den Broeke has previously captured “spirits” on camera and video. Ms. Talbott PUNCTUATES these SUPPOSED PIECES of EVIDENCE with a VERY ANNOYING and POINTLESS USE of the CAPS LOCK KEY. Such as:

7.         In 2007, out in a crop circle field in broad daylight, Robbert took 60+ photos of MY OWN BROTHER who had died just two months earlier, USING MY CAMERA for the very first time that summer, and WITH ME STANDING RIGHT WITH HIM THE WHOLE TIME AND WATCHING EVERYTHING HE DID.

9.         In 2008, using the highly-respected American parapsycholgist DR. WILLIAM ROLL’s BRAND NEW CAMERA, Robbert obtained multiple images of three different men–with Dr. Roll and me standing right there watching. None of us know who any of these men were.

10.       Robbert got his first computer in July of 2006. He did not begin to learn how to use it until the winter of 2006 and still does not know how to do very many things with it. It DOES NOT HAVE PHOTOSHOP OR ANY SIMILAR PROGRAM ON IT AND NEVER HAS HAD.”

These points don’t substantiate Robbert van den Broeke’s video, and in fact what they do is illustrate a pattern of deceptive practices with which the latest Delgado-Chorley video is, unfortunately, consistent. Witness this article debunking Mr. van den Broeke’s past attempts at paranormal photography, specifically, his claims to have captured UFOs and aliens inside his own house, including an “alien” that turned out to be a photo of a Papua New Guinea tribesman that ran in Reader’s Digest. According to this article, BLTResearch.com and Nancy Talbott have also been implicated in these hoaxes.

“The previous photos were these:

crop-NL-

Reported here, and which were also captured by Robbert van den Broeke. It’s quite obvious how they were captured, especially if you remember that Broeke also managed to photograph aliens in his own house:

crophoeven

Try not to laugh, but those are the alien photos captured by Broeke. Of course, explaining the joke takes away its fun, but in any case, Royce Myers of Ufowatchdog also captured aliens.With a plastic spoon.

Broeke has even been caught in his same old technique. For instance, he allegedly captured this other alien in his house, which turned out to be a photo of a Mud-man, a native from New Guinea, published in Reader’s Digest.

mudman-robbert-mudmand

Above, center, is the alien that Broeke photographed. Left is the original photo published in Reader’s Digest, and right is the photo blurred to highlight the exact match. The exposé comes from the Dutch Skeptics.

So, you can see how the alleged medium and friend of aliens, orbs and crop circles simply places cutouts in front of the camera. And you may have recognized that these recent spaceships he photographed near the Dutch crop circles, along with people from the DCCA and Nancy Talbott, from BLT Research, which claims to be “Crop Circle Science”, are just cutouts of photos originally from Billy Meier.

broeke_meier

There is some distortion, as the cutouts may bend, and the photo I showed above is probably not the exact same photo Broeke may have cut out, but I hope it shows what is going on.

In one of the photos the cutout is glowing while the background is dark: the camera flash was triggered, probably automatically since it was dark, and the cutout near the camera reflected back the light. The fact it’s glowing is actually evidence that this “spaceship” was something small and near the camera to reflect the flash. The light from a flash only works within a few meters, beyond that it’s simply too diffused. Lame, lame hoax.”

This is the man whom Ms. Talbott and Ms. Taylor want you to believe is genuine, who supposedly got images of dead people on video, and whom you aren’t allowed to call out as a hoaxster without being accused of viciously “attacking” those who perpetuate these hoaxes.

There is more–much more–about Dutch pseudo-psychic Robbert van den Broeke, but as I feel I’ve already beaten this horse to death, I don’t think there’s much utility in presenting it. Anyone reading this article in a rational frame of mind can tell instantly that his video is a scam and a hoax. We need not belabor the point.

Also, note on Ms. Taylor’s page another tactic used by crop circle believers. The page is festooned with a colorful banner reading “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR.” Got that? Anyone who criticizes crop circles as being belligerent, aggressive and not standing up for “peace.” I can’t imagine a more shallowly manipulative tactic.

I’m particularly amused by some of the commenters on Ms. Taylor’s blog, especially one fellow named Odin Townley, who evidently thinks my outlook would be improved if I had been beaten more often as a child.

“These hit-and-run thugs obviously never got the spankings they deserved as kids.”

Yes, great message! Beat your children to prevent them from growing up to be debunkers! How’s that for “MAKE LOVE NOT WAR,” eh?

Incidentally, Colin Andrews has linked this article to his own page on the Robbert van den Broeke fake. Mr. Andrews is on record as stating that he doesn’t agree with everything on this blog, and indeed has found some things in Thrive that he likes, but his comment on my article is that it is “well researched, fair, balanced and is well written.”

Update II, 16 July 2012.

I couldn’t believe that a controversy over something so obviously fake could become such a huge issue, but Nancy Talbott and Robbert van den Broeke just won’t let this one go. Mr. van den Broeke recently fired back with even more ridiculous lunacy, now claiming that he’s receiving messages from beyond the grave criticizing Colin Andrews who dares to criticize him.

Nancy Talbott parrots these increasingly outlandish claims with (evidently) a straight face. Here she is ripping into Mr. Andrews on her site:

“For some time now Colin Andrews has been publicly expressing increasing negativity and animosity toward various crop circle enthusiasts and, recently, has irresponsibly accused both me and my friend, Dutch medium Robbert van den Broeke (whom he has never met or spoken with) of behaving deceitfully and with malice — taking no apparent responsibility himself for the distress these unproven and idiosyncratic comments may be causing all of us who sincerely care about the crop circle phenomenon and what it may mean.”

Yes, you read that right. Her friend, the obviously fake psychic who is appropriating dead people’s images and turning them into videos to support ludicrous claims of contacting people from beyond the grave, is now the victim, and the evil debunkers like Colin Andrews are the enemy. Why? Because we dare to tell the truth about crop circles–that they are made by human beings, not by extraterrestrials or paranormal forces.

Here’s the next clanger in Robbert van den Broeke’s bizarre rebuttal:

“Here is the exact message given to Robbert which he was “instructed” to make public immediately so that Colin Andrews and the people who care about the circle phenomenon would all hear it.

David and Paul [David Kingston and Paul Vigay, the latest spirits he said he’s contacted] said, first, that they “love the energies” creating the crop circles and that they “do not support the attacks by Colin on Robbert’s and Nancy’s integrity” and, further, that they “stand by both Robbert and Nancy’s work” and know Robbert and I must continue our efforts to help keep “the spiritual truth of the circles alive.”

They went on to say that, in the past, Colin stood “more in the light,” but that he has now allowed himself to be influenced by “negative dimensions and there is darkness all around him.” They stated they were watching Colin and what he is doing and see that he is “not functioning in accordance with his inner truth”, that he is not listening to his intuitions — but is “standing in his ego now because he thinks he will get more attention this way.” “He is not being truthful to his deepest self.”

Does anybody really believe this load of crap? I mean, we’ve dealt with some pretty far-out-there stuff on this blog, considering just how low into the woo gutter Thrive goes, but how can anyone possibly take Robbert van den Broeke seriously?

Colin Andrews posted this on his own website. He too sounds incredulous that anyone could even pretend to believe the claims of Robbert van den Broeke.

“Let’s take a step back and look at the bigger picture. In May Robbert posted images of Pat Delgado and Dave Chorley with messages that were substantially different from their own voice. I admit to having an emotional reaction to seeing my mate used in such a manner which compelled me to join the Delgado family in repudiating the claim. I am sure I could have been less emotional, and yet, extraordinary claims require, if not extraordinary proof, at least some proof of their veracity. Surely it is up to Robbert to prove his claim, not me to prove it isn’t true. I have attempted on several occasions to talk directly with Robbert, as Nancy well knows, and have been rebuffed. It appears one must agree with Nancy Talbott or be labeled as negative.

I admit to a very sick feeling in my stomach when I think of my friend’s families having their loved ones used in such a dispute. Even after death these people are not exempt from the crop circle bickering; only now their voice can be used in any way possible with no shred of evidence to verify it. Yes, it hurts and makes me want the truth and if that is egotistical and negative, so be it.”

The readers of this blog should be reminded that it is Nancy Talbott and her “research” that serve as the main basis for Foster Gamble’s conclusions in Thrive about crop circles. If anyone has any doubt left that BLTResearch.com has been totally and utterly discredited by the Robbert van den Broeke scandal, this bizarre episode should dispel that doubt.

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

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

My main argument in that article is stated thusly:

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

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

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

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

Another Negative Review of Thrive Hits the Nail on the Head

More than two months after its release, Thrive is still struggling to command any significant positive attention in mainstream circles. As I pointed out not long ago, the film has placed itself in a difficult niche: by its reliance on conspiracy theories it becomes toxic to the mainstream, but even many hard-core conspiracy theorists do not trust it because of Foster Gamble’s corporate associations and the ridiculous delusions that its imagery, especially its promotional poster, is “NWO occult symbolism.”

The film’s search for mainstream acceptance was dealt yet another blow a few weeks ago with a scathing review posted on the award-winning UK green/sustainability blog Transition Culture, one of the most widely read environmental blogs in Britain. TC’s founder, Rob Hopkins, lectures and blogs about topics regarding peak oil and the transition from our current unsustainable energy practices to more locally-oriented and eco-friendly solutions. Far from being a sympathetic audience to Thrive, Mr. Hopkins savaged the film, and for many of the same reasons I criticize it on this blog: its factual inaccuracies, its promotion of conspiracy theories, and its pandering to New Age sensibilities largely divorced from positive real-world solutions to the problems it purports to respond to.

“What do you do when you are the heir to the Proctor and Gamble fortune and you have spent years surrounding yourself with new agey thinking and conspiracy theories?  You make a film like ‘Thrive‘, the latest conspiracy theory movie that is popping up all over the place.  I’ve lost count of the number of people who have asked me “have you seen ‘Thrive’?”  Well I have now, and, to be frank, it’s dangerous tosh which deserves little other than our derision.  It is also a very useful opportunity to look at a worldview which, according to Georgia Kelly writing at Huffington Post, masks “a reactionary, libertarian political agenda that stands in jarring contrast with the soothing tone of the presentation”.

Mr. Hopkins is especially critical of Thrive maker Foster Gamble’s questionable approach to evidence and reasoning. He writes:

“Visually the film is like some kind of Star Trek fan movie crossed with a National Geographic wildlife film, and is largely built around Gamble’s own years of ‘research’ into the question of what it is that “stops life on earth from thriving”.  A reasonable question to ask, but his approach can hardly be called ‘research’ due to the low standards he accepts as ‘evidence’ and his all-round lack of critical analysis.  His research, such as it is, is cherry-picked to deepen and support his established worldview, rather than the worldview being built from a careful analysis of the evidence.  As we’ll see, this is a dangerous foundation.”

Taking the film’s major arguments in turn, Mr. Hopkins reaches largely the same conclusions that we have here at Thrive Debunked. Regarding free energy machines, Mr. Hopkins raises precisely the same point that our contributors have repeatedly raised, most notably in an article involving Adam Trombly:

“[A]ll we are offered as evidence is some grainy film of machines that could be anything doing anything, and some smart computer graphics of spinning torus shapes. If this amazing breakthrough that would rewrite science and win Nobel Prizes for anyone involved were actually a reality, and if you were going to spend huge amounts to make a film to argue for their existence which you would then put out into the public arena, surely you would get a working model of such a device into the studio with some impartial scientists to verify it in operation?  If they actually exist, and actually work, then this wouldn’t be a big challenge surely?”

A lot of Thrive supporters have come to this blog to argue that “free energy” is real. I almost always have the same point: show me the evidence! And Adam Trombly’s website, or a YouTube video supposedly depicting “free energy” machines, does not constitute evidence. By evidence I mean, show the machine to somebody reputable who can replicate it and verify that it actually works. This is precisely the point that Transition Culture is making.

Mr. Hopkins then takes Thrive to task for training a fire hose of conspiracy nonsense directly at the audience:

“Then we are bombarded with the full range of conspiracy thinking.  9/11 was an inside job, there is a conspiracy to suppress natural medicines, “Big Brother’s not coming, it’s already here”, we are one step away from a “military dictatorship”, a climate treaty in Copenhagen would have been “a tax base for tyranny”, there are ‘chemtrails’ in the sky to deliberately poison us, there is a deliberate attempt to reduce the world’s population underway, there is only a cancer epidemic because all the cures have been suppressed, etc, etc…

Gamble wheels out the classic conspiracy theorists’ gambit, “could I be wrong?  Perhaps.  But what if I’m not?”  No, you are wrong.  And even if you were right, you have presented us with so little evidence to back up you claims that you would have no way of knowing whether you were right or not.”

This again strongly supports the point we’ve been making here. The main function of Thrive, as I recently detailed toward the end of this entry, seems to be to account for the reason why New Age concepts such as “free energy” have not transformed the world into a magical utopia. The reason? Evil conspirators are preventing it from happening. Conspiracy theories are not the whole game for Thrive, but they’re a major part of it.

Mr. Hopkins’s ultimate indictment of Thrive has also been echoed on this blog: that the movie diverts attention from real issues, such as anthropogenic climate change, and instead urges its audience to hate imaginary bogeymen and focus its actions on bringing them down. He says:

“‘Thrive’ is dangerous because it invites us to put our faith for the future in a fantasy.  A fantasy that free energy is possible, a fantasy that the only thing that is preventing us from creating a benign and enlightened society is a handful of powerful families….

It’s not about ‘free energy’, it’s about learning to appreciate what a precious thing energy is and learning to live well with less of it.  It’s not about ‘no involuntary taxation’, it’s about taxes that disincentivise the things that are narrowing our future options, and incentivising the things we need to get in place urgently.  It’s not about ‘no government’, it’s about truly democratic government using its considerable powers to build resilience, decarbonise society, shift the collective focus.  The few countries in the world that are actually seriously engaging with the climate issue are those with stronger government, not weaker government.”

I agree completely with these statements. I believe anthropogenic climate change is the most serious issue facing the world today. The makers of Thrive don’t even believe that anthropogenic climate change is happening! How can they even pretend to address this problem when they refuse to accept that it exists? “Free energy” is not the answer, because “free energy” does not exist. Better energy is the answer, and we know that exists because many people, companies and government agencies in numerous countries are out there developing it right now. We will not kick the fossil fuel habit overnight, but we need to begin a transition to cleaner, more renewable energy. This technology will not drop out of the sky, handed to us on a silver platter from bug-eyed aliens. It will be human beings—research labs, some corporate, some private, universities and think tanks, as well as NGOs—that create these solutions. Given the serious lack of faith that Foster Gamble and the other makers of the film seem to have in the ability of human beings to accomplish great things, I remain skeptical that Thrive offers any real solutions. It is, in short, part of the problem, not part of the solution.

I recommend reading the full review.

JREF Reviews Thrive!

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

The article begins:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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