This blog was originally published here.
Dealing with conspiracy theories is like playing whack-a-mole. Every time you hammer one down, another one pops up in its place.
Just as we are witnessing the terminal decline of one so-called activist organization based on movies about conspiracy theories, another one appears to be rising. Yesterday, November 11, was the worldwide “premiere” of an Internet-based movie called Thrive. Yesterday morning I didn’t even know about it. But a lot of people have sent me links and messages about it, and given its splashy roll-out and the aggressive promotion that’s been put into the film, I can tell right away that I’m probably going to be spending a lot of time over the next few months dealing with Thrive and its fans.
Thrive is basically Zeitgeist 2.0. It’s a slick Internet film that pushes conspiracy theories and advocates for a utopian future that is—and I am not making this up—based on free energy technology given to us by extraterrestrials. The makers of Thrive have taken another page from the Zeitgeist playbook, by seeking to turn the hoped-for popularity of the Thrive movie into a “movement” (see their website). The film and the embryonic group around it seem to be the brainchild of one Foster Gamble, who believes in UFOs, ancient astronauts, free energy and the Illuminati (though he does not use that exact term). What does he want? Well, right now, he wants you to buy the movie for $5 online. I’m sure he’ll want something else after that, but let’s start with that.
The moment I started watching the trailer for Thrive I knew we were dealing with some serious crackpottery. Conspiracy theory media has come a long way in the last ten years. Zeitgeist blazed the trail, followed by Desteni’s low-tech but effective (and now defunct) strategy of proselytizing via YouTube; then came Garret LoPorto’s “Wayseer” thing (which I haven’t yet debunked), and now, Thrive. These are slick movies designed to appeal to frustrated young people—and also designed to induce them to believe in conspiracy theories. One of the people prominently featured in Thrive is arch-conspiracy theorist David Icke, who believes that shape-shifting reptilians secretly control the world. The Thrive Movement website contains a section called the “Global Domination Agenda” which vomits forth all sorts of conspiracy theories including Trilateral Commission, HAARP, FEMA camps, 9/11 and the Georgia Guidestones. If Thrive attains the popularity its makers obviously hope for, it is going to be a serious and troubling gateway drug for conspiracy theorists, the same way the Zeitgeist films were.
This said, you don’t even need to hear me explain why Thrive must be debunked. It must be. Stupidity and distortion on this order cannot be allowed to sit out there unchallenged. Therefore, this afternoon I put together what I believe may be the first debunking material on the Internet specifically targeted at the Thrive movie.
I have not seen the entire movie. (I don’t want to give conspiracy theorists any of my money, and in any event I’m quite sure it will show up free on the net very soon). This article debunks the trailer of the film, which runs 3 minutes, 39 seconds. As you can see, there’s plenty to debunk. Because the trailer is freely available on YouTube, I’m going to go ahead and embed it in this video just for the ease of accessing it. I realize I’m running the risk of increasing the visibility of what could turn out to be a very damaging film, but I think it’s worth it to show what it is I’m debunking.
As you can see, there’s plenty to debunk. Now, without further ado, I give you…Thrive!
The sources I’m relying on appear at the end of each section.
0:09 — Foster Gamble
Foster Gamble is a documentary filmmaker and formerly CEO of MindCenter Corporation. He has been active in issues involving pesticide spraying and an organization called “Stop the Spray.” A graduate of Princeton University—in what field I do not yet know—he is related to the Gamble family (of the corporation Procter & Gamble).
http://thrivemovement.com/faqs (section “How is Foster related to Procter & Gamble?”)
0:30 – V = 2π2Rr 2 Torus
A torus is a geometric figure. It’s defined as a surface of revolution generated by revolving a circle in three dimensional space about an axis coplanar with the circle. In most contexts it is assumed that the axis does not touch the circle—in this case the surface has a ring shape and is called a ring torus or simply torus if the ring shape is implicit.
This shape appears several times in the video. Presumably something about this shape is related to the idea of free energy derived from alien technology.
0:36 – Floor mosaic in Ephesus, Turkey
This is a common pattern in floor mosaics throughout the Roman and Byzantine era. Ephesus was an important city in the Byzantine Empire in the early Christian era. Without seeing the full film, it is not clear what significance is being put on this design.
0:44 – Edgar Mitchell, Apollo 14 Astronaut
Edgar Mitchell was a NASA scientist who walked on the moon in February 1971. During the mission he claims to have had a spiritual experience that he described in terms of “Savikalpa Samadhi,” a type of Eastern mystical experience. He believes in ESP and founded a think tank to investigate psychic phenomena. He has been a long time believer in the Roswell conspiracy that claims a UFO crashed in New Mexico in 1947 and alien bodies were recovered from it. NASA has gone on record denying that his claims are true.
0:49 – John Callahan, Senior FAA Official
John Callahan is a former FAA employee who has gone on record as claiming that the FAA has covered up incidents involving UFOs. He is most closely associated with an incident where a UFO was seen from a Japan Air Lines flight in November 1986, which he helped investigate. Callahan claims there was a cover-up of this incident but the corroboration of his story is sketchy at best.
0:55 – Osiris Temple, Abydos, Egypt
Another appearance of the “mysterious” pattern. Coupled with the Byzantine mosaic, this is intended to surprise us that the same shape is employed in two ancient cultures. How surprising is it really, though? The shape is a series of interlocking circles. How special is that? Would it take a genius to come up with that shape? Is it implausible to believe that two people, thousands of years apart, might have the same idea for a pattern of ceremonial artwork?
1:00 – “It’s burned into the atomic structure in some extraordinary way!”
I don’t know the story behind this claim, but this is extremely unlikely. Have atomic analyses been done on the artwork in temples from Abydos, Egypt? My (admittedly perfunctory) searching didn’t turn up anything. My suspicion is that this claim is simply false.
Nassim Haramein, Cosmologist, Inventor
Nassim Haramein is a New Age writer who has dabbled in topics involving “unified field theory,” which also pops up associated with Gamble’s name. He gives lectures on metaphysics and something called “the Schwarzchild Proton” that has absolutely no acceptance among mainstream physicists. Haramein evidently claims to be a “physicist,” but I cannot find a specific record of a Ph.D. in physics. He does not list a Ph.D. on his own website. He does not appear to be a real academic. I also found material associating him with various “Ancient Astronaut” theories.
1:09 – Crop Circles
Crop circles are not extraterrestrial, they are not amazing, they are not mystical, and they are not hard to make. They are a fraud, and were debunked a very long time ago.
1:11 – “Free, safe energy!”
Gamble gushes about “free, safe energy” supposedly from aliens. Free energy is one of the most common delusions out there, and there are many debunkings of it. It doesn’t exist because it violates fundamental scientific principles.
1:18 – Adam Trombly, Physicist, Inventor
Adam Trombly is a pseudoscientist who is closely associated with “free energy” devices, most notably something called a “Closed Path Homopolar Generator,” which is—you guessed it—yet another free energy/perpetual motion device. He is also a conspiracy theorist who claims his invention was suppressed (of course). Trombly is billed as a “physicist” but I cannot find any indication that he has a Ph.D. in physics.
Note how the “technology” is shown in this part of the video. It’s obviously a computer generated image superimposed on the table in front of the panelists. But note, in the studio, lights have been shone on the faces of the men to make it look like the thing on the table is emitting light. This is a very curious deception.
1:27 – Nikola Tesla
Conspiracy theorists and pseudoscientists love Nikola Tesla, because he was working on a lot of weird stuff that could theoretically lead to lots of nifty science fiction machines. Consequently, if you want a machine that does X to exist, all you have to do is say that Tesla invented it and that the invention was suppressed, or that it’s an extension of something Tesla invented. After all, he died in 1943 and won’t be able to dispute you. Tesla’s theories, which I presume here are asserted as the scientific “basis” of Gamble and Trombly’s free energy devices, have even been used to explain the nonexistent “beam weapons” that some more extreme 9/11 Truthers like Judy Wood and Abraham Hafez Rodriguez claim destroyed the World Trade Center towers.
If Tesla appears in a “documentary” about free energy, be skeptical…be very, very skeptical.
1:29 – Steven Greer, M.D. – Director, the Disclosure Project
Steven Greer is a conspiracy theorist and self-proclaimed UFO abductee who claims he has had contact with aliens. He has offered no proof of these claims. The “Disclosure Project” is his own idea, an organization he started mainly to accuse the government of covering up UFOs. Not surprisingly, Greer has appeared many times on the Art Bell radio program. Art Bell and Whitley Strieber are buddy-buddy.
1:38 – “The single largest industry in the world—energy!”
The energy industry is not the single largest industry in the world. According to the World Bank, it’s tourism. Sorry, guys.
1:44 – “The suppression of UFO phenomena…”
No evidence to support this claim. I suspect that the full-length movie will contain the word “Roswell.” Just to get a head start, I’ll go ahead and post some links to debunk that.
1:51 – “An elite group of people…”
Oh, you mean the Illuminati? Not that shit again. How many times do we have to debunk this ridiculous conspiracy theory before people will understand that the Illuminati do not exist?
2:02 – Deepak Chopra
I’m not surprised Mr. C. (I won’t call him “Dr. C” because I’m not sure his Indian doctorate is valid in the US) is popping up in a movie like this. You know him. Alt quackery, health woo, all that sort of thing. In case you need to educate yourself as to why Chopra is not a very good source of scientific and medical information, I’ll post a link to debunk him.
2:09 – “Connect the dots!”
Conspiracy theorists love to “connect the dots.” It’s the only thing they can do, because there’s no direct evidence of their claims. This is a false methodology used by conspiracy theorists to bamboozle people into thinking “this can’t be a coincidence!” It’s also what passes for reasoning behind the Illuminati and puppet master type conspiracy theories, which Thrive seems to traffic in quite heavily.
2:10 – Bill Still, Author, The Money Masters
Still has written books bashing the U.S. money system and grinding his ax against the Federal Reserve, which most conspiracy theorists hate. He gives a patina of legitimacy to the usual hysterical anti-Fed arguments you hear circulating in conspiracy theorist, Libertarian and Ron Paulfanboy circles. Oh, did I mention that Still is running for president in the Libertarian Party? Does that surprise you?
2:13 – Federal Reserve conspiracies
What pan-conspiracy film would be complete without alleging that the Federal Reserve is a private corporation bent on controlling all money in the US? The usual crap from anti-Fed people, made recently popular by Ron Paul and his gang of right-wing fringe followers. The Federal Reserve is not a private corporation, it is subject to law, and it is audited. But facts won’t get in the way of conspiracy theorists’ damning of it, so why should this be different?
2:18 – Alan Greenspan, no one can overrule the Federal Reserve
Doing a search for the text of this quote brought up an explosion of anti-Federal Reserve crazy. It’s going to take days to weed through it all and I’m not sure I want to do it, so I may be lazy and let some debunker come to my rescue with the full text of Greenspan’s comments. I’m 99% sure that this quote is taken egregiously out of context, because that’s what conspiracy theorists do, and if they attach as much importance to something as they seem to have for this quote, the chances of it not being taken out of context are almost zero.
2:16 – Catherine Austin Fitts, former Assistant Secretary of US Department of H.U.D.
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. I suspect she’s being taken out of context too, because browsing her résumé it seems she’s way too sane to voluntarily participate in a nutty conspiracy theorist documentary.
2:30 – David Icke
David Icke is probably the most influential conspiracy theorist in the world, even more so than Alex Jones. He is also insane. He believes that the world is secretly controlled by Jews reptilian shape-shifting aliens, and that the Jews aliens have secret bloodlines, rituals and symbology that they advertise so the whole world can see. Just browsing some of Icke’s stuff leads to two inescapable conclusions: first, that his elevator is not going to the top floor, and second, that he really, really, really hates Jews reptilian shape-shifting aliens.
Any supposed “documentary” that quotes Icke or uses him seriously as a source is automatically disqualified as reliable in any way, for any reason. Icke is absolutely radioactive. His hate-filled conspiracy moonbattery is the ideological basis (if you can call it that) for the Desteni cult.
2:36 – Rockefellers
This belongs in the “Illuminati” category. Here we’re shown pictures of influential people with the name Rockefeller. From this you’re supposed to infer that Rockefellers control the world. My guess is that in the full-length movie the Rothschilds are probably added to the bunch, and I’m confident enough that the words “Bilderberg Group” will appear in the full-length movie that I’m going to go ahead and add a debunking link for it.
2:52 – Elisabet Sahtouris, Ph.D., Evolutionary Biologist
Dr. Sahtouris is the first person in this movie who actually has a real, verifiable Ph.D. Too bad I can’t quite figure out what it’s in. (I assume biology). Anyway, she lectures on evolution of humanity and how to create a better future. Given that she, like Catherine Fitts, sounds completely sane, I suspect that her inclusion in this movie is somewhat unwitting. Another clue that tells me this is that she appears to believe in global warming. While global warming isn’t mentioned in the Thrive trailer, I would lay odds that most of Thrive’s target audience believes that global warming is a hoax. Most conspiracy theorists do. I do not think Dr. Sahtouris is a conspiracy theorist. Indeed she looks like a very nice person, which makes me wonder what she’s doing in this movie.
3:01 – Paul Hawken, Founder, Natural Capital Institute
Paul Hawken is a California businessman and environmentalist. He advocates for socially and environmentally responsible business practices (and I certainly agree with that). He hosted a 17-part series on PBS about running socially responsible businesses. Again, another sane person who makes me wonder if he was told he was going to be in the same movie as David Icke and Adam Trombly.
3:04 – Kimberly Carter Gamble, CEO, Clear Compass Media
Kimberly Carter Gamble is the wife of Foster Gamble. On the Thrive Movement webpage, she quotes David Icke, not an auspicious start: “Having the courage to risk stepping out of what David Icke calls the “hassle-free zone” is the quality I am most proud to have mustered in this life, and it felt great to infuse the clarity and compassion that come from that process into the story – and production – of THRIVE.” But does she believe in reptoids?
3:10 – Martin Luther King
Some shameless self-promotion here by inviting the comparison between Thrive and Dr. Martin Luther King. I hate it when conspiracy theorists do this. When Peter Joseph Merola of the Zeitgeist Movement compared himself to Martin Luther King, it drove me berserk. I have a dream that people would stop comparing themselves to Martin Luther King.
3:12 – angel Kyodo williams
To my surprise, the title card identifying angel Kyodo williams, despite its odd capitalization, is correct—she really does write her name that way. Ms. williams is a Zen Buddhist and wrote a book trying to make Zen accessible to African-Americans.
I am, again, virtually certain that Ms. williams does not fully understand the views and background of the people behind Thrive. I seriously doubt that a person who is obviously a dedicated activist for African-American issues would consent to be in the same movie with David Icke (who as you remember really hates Jews reptilian shape-shifting aliens) if she knew about the baggage he carries. This makes me skeptical of the disclosures that were done during the making of this film.
3:15 – Amy Goodman, Host, Democracy Now!
Democracy Now! is a radio program on the Pacifica radio network, dedicated to progressive causes. I’ve never listened to the show, but browsing their material there seems to be a lot of stuff I agree with. Amy Goodman was arrested along with two other reporters at the 2008 Republican National Convention despite having committed no crime. The charges were eventually dropped.
As with several other respectable names here (Fitts, Hawken, Sahtouris, williams) I wonder what she is doing in a conspiracy theory movie.
Assuming the full-length Thrive movie follows the general pattern of the trailer, I think we can see a basic road map emerging as to how the full-length film and the movement it hopes to spawn can be debunked. I’m starting early, on only the second day that Thrive has been out, in the hopes that the movie will attract some attention from debunkers who can tag it with the facts and expose the errors and misstatements contained in it, which, as you can see from the trailer alone, are considerable. I’d like to say I’m looking forward to seeing the final film, but the truth is, I’m not. I have a feeling it will make me very angry. In any event, it seemed that some people out there thought it appropriate that I take a look at it, so here it is. I’ll be keeping tabs on this movie and this organization and may post updates later on.
Thanks for reading.