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.”
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.
Lately I have been browsing around the net trying to ascertain the sort of impact that the Thrive movie is having. While admittedly there is no reliable quantitative way to measure such a thing, from my own experience observing conspiracy theories and conspiracy movements, I’m suspecting that Thrive is not having the impact its makers hoped for–and in fact it may be an out-and-out flop.
It has been more than a month since the release of the film on the Internet. In that brief space of time, “buzz” about the film seems to have declined rather than increased. Stats on how many times it has been paid for and downloaded aren’t very reliable, considering the film was ripped to various torrent sites literally the day it was released (November 11), and it has been popping up on YouTube (and being taken down again) several times in succession. Do a search for the hashtag #ThriveMovement on Twitter and you’ll bring up only 26 hits since December 9–most of which are the same people over and over again, some of whom are critics (including me). The hashtag #Thrive has more hits, but many of them are not related to the movie at all. Indeed, most of the hits on Google regarding the movie lead to conspiracy theorist web forums where someone brings up the movie, it is briefly discussed, and then the participants move on to another topic.
I suspect the model the Thrive makers intended to emulate is the Zeitgeist experience. Zeitgeist: The Movie, a poorly-made Internet documentary released in 2007 which also promoted conspiracy theories, went viral and even sponsored an online cult of followers, the “Zeitgeist Movement,” which is now largely defunct. The buzz on Zeitgeist built slowly and peaked around 2008, but even then the whole “Zeitgeist Movement” had to be kept alive by the release of two (soon to be three) sequels, with each one decreasing markedly in popularity from the previous one. Nevertheless, Zeitgeist had a life-span of about four years. It seems Thrive may be looking at a life-span considerably shorter–months, or perhaps even weeks.
Here are some reasons why I think Thrive may be struggling to achieve or maintain its relevance.
1. Many conspiracy theorists don’t trust Thrive…because they think it’s a conspiracy!
Most of the criticism directed at the Thrive movie is not from people who debunk and disbelieve conspiracy theories, but from the exact opposite. The vast majority of anti-Thrive commentary on the net comes from conspiracy theorists who believe the movie is deliberate “disinformation” made by conspirators!
Take for example this webpage, which warns people not to get “sucked in” to the film. The site rails at the movie thusly:
“The Thrive movie has big advertising. Big names. Big message. Big budget…and it has big “disinformation” mixed with truth. Watch the trailer…and get sucked right in to yet another hijacking of the activist movement by the ruling crime families. This is a hijacking!”
A discussion on a conspiracy-friendly web forum contains similar sentiments, such as this:
“In my opinion the movie was made to suck people’s energy out of them and make them feel hopeless! It is so overwhelming in what they say….I personally believe this film was made by the same elite that he (Gamble) talks about in the movie and how they control every aspect of the world.”
The number one reason paranoid conspiracy theorists distrust Thrive is because its director, Foster Gamble, is a member of the Gamble family (of the corporation Procter & Gamble). To conspiracy theorists, this is proof positive that Gamble is part of the “global elite” that secretly runs the world. This blog has already debunked the ridiculous “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory as presented in Thrive, but, as that article notes, because it is extraordinarily difficult to convince believers in this nutty conspiracy theory that it is not happening, Gamble’s last name plays right into their paranoid delusions and he magically becomes part of the conspiracy.
This type of thing is an occupational hazard of being in the conspiracy theory business. Conspiracy theorists see enemies everywhere and believe that powerful forces are expending a lot of effort to spread “disinformation” to discredit them–for example, many believers in the ridiculous “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theory believe that Dr. Judy Wood, who thinks the World Trade Center towers were demolished with super magical beam weapons from outer space, is an agent provocateur who was planted in the “Truth movement” to make it look ridiculous. What they miss is that, in the eyes of the vast majority of the public, conspiracy theorists could not look more ridiculous than they already are.
Gamble either didn’t appreciate this, or gambled (no pun intended) that his name, wealth and connections to a large corporation wouldn’t sour his pro-conspiracy-theory message. Nevertheless, Thrive seems to have a serious credibility problem within the core demographic at which it is aimed, that being paranoid conspiracy theorists.
2. The Thrive movie doesn’t really have a “happy ending.”
Another potential reason Thrive isn’t catching on is because it’s too bleak, and is not clear enough about proposing solutions, which its audience evidently wants to hear about. This is a criticism I’ve seen several places on the net–you can see a hint of it in the second forum post reproduced above. Here is another similar sentiment:
“It pretends to be an examination of the power elite but it conflates this power-elite analysis with an “alien code.” This does two things. For many people it makes the movie a kind of “crackpot” endeavor (and we note they’ve gone out of their way to include many prominent free-market thinkers in their narrative). Second, it doesn’t apparently produce any real solutions, inspiring helplessness and fear rather than inspiration or education.”
It may seem strange that an audience of conspiracy theorists, who love predictions of economic or societal collapse, craves a “happy ending,” but it makes sense if you understand the basic psychology of conspiracy beliefs. Many conspiracy theorists are attracted to these theories because they like the idea of having “secret knowledge” that is generally denied or ignored by the world at large. This gives them a feeling of empowerment, that they’re in a secret club that knows the “truth” and is fighting the good fight to get other people to notice it. However, this dynamic doesn’t work without the implicit assumption that this secret knowledge can do some good. Conspiracy theorists like to think of themselves as Neo, the hero of the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix, who takes the “red pill,” recognizes that the world is fake and then becomes a sort of messiah to bring it down. Those who are bothered by Thrive’s failure to propose “solutions” seem to be disappointed because Gamble has given them the “red pill,” but hasn’t told them what to do with it.
One of the most common conspiracy theorist memes is that people are “waking up.” If you surf conspiracist web sites or read their forum posts you’ll see a lot of metaphors related to sleep, waking up, opening eyes, etc., and material that posits conspiracy theories, especially “Global Domination Agenda” theories and similar tropes, will often be praised as helping “wake people up.” Thrive itself plays on this meme in its promotional poster, showing a woman removing a blindfold. But it seems, interestingly enough, that “waking people up” alone isn’t enough anymore. Conspiracy theorists want to be “inspired” or “educated” as to what they can do about all these horrible conspiracies. Thrive is very short on action points and that seems to bother people. While it is part of a conspiracy theory narrative, it seems to lack the elements necessary to compel commitment among its followers–meaning, validation of the implicit idea that the “special knowledge” the movie imparts will be of some earthly use.
If Gamble does make a Thrive 2, expect that to be the plot.
3. The conspiracy theory world moves much faster than it used to.
It is possible that, even in the short space of a month since its release, Thrive may have already peaked. Only time will tell, but if this is true, it lends credence to a theory by former JREF debunker Ryan Mackey, who stated recently that the world of conspiracy theories moves a lot faster than it used to thanks to social networking and instant information sources like Twitter. If this is true, it may be a lesson that many purveyors of conspiracy theories have yet to learn.
In November, Mackey published (on the web) a very interesting essay called The Great Internet Conspiracy: The Role of Technology and Social Media in the 9/11 Truth Movement. The essay is very long but a fascinating read. In diagnosing the rise and fall of the 9/11 “Truth” movement from its beginnings in 2005 to its burnout in 2008-09, Mackey analyzes two conspiracy theories that became popular after 9/11 Truth, those being the “Birther” thing (the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya and his Hawaii birth certificate is a fake), and the Osama bin Laden “deathers” (the conspiracy theory that Osama bin Laden was not killed by US forces on May 1, 2011, or that his death was somehow different than explained, and covered up for whatever bizarre reason). He makes the point that these conspiracy theories peaked much, much faster than 9/11 Truth did, which took years:
“The Birther conspiracy theory…made the jump into the mainstream very quickly. Unlike the Truth Movement, it seems to have begun its runaway growth phase in only a matter of months, steeply increasing in popularity from mid-2009 through April 2011. It peaked with something like 30% of Americans believing the conspiracy theory (there is a lot of scatter in the polls), but then rapidly slipped to a stable support level of about 10%….We see a similar pattern in the Deather conspiracy theory, except here the timeline is compressed even further. This conspiracy theory exploded into the mainstream at the same speed as the news story it challenged, reaching the media almost instantly…
In this case, the conspiracy theory still exhibited distinct phases of initial growth among conspiracy theorists, rapid growth as it assaulted the mainstream, and then a decline back to its conspiracist base, but here it all happened in a matter of hours. It is no coincidence that Twitter played such a significant role this time. As our relationship to the Internet continues to evolve, we now receive news and new information faster than ever, albeit without any sort of context at all. Much of this conversation now takes place on personal devices instead of workstations, which both enables and constrains this new, terse, burst-mode form of communication. As a result, the public experienced the conspiracy theory almost at the moment of its origin, discarded it as nonsense, and moved on.”
Could this be what happened with Thrive? There was a big roll-out and a lot of attention on 11/11, the day of the film’s release. There was Internet traffic, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, and the movie went up on YouTube. Then, as the movie saturated into the conspiracy theorist underground, people saw it, talked about it, and moved on. Now, while Thrive is still out there, it definitely does not have a sense of urgency around it as it did on 11/11. People still do watch it and talk about it, but its momentum doesn’t seem to be building.
Indeed, statistics from this blog could support this theory. I started this blog within days after Thrive’s release because I knew that in order to have any impact, fact-checking and debunking the film would have to be essentially simultaneous with the film’s discovery–meaning, people who Google “Thrive movie” for the first time, and are introduced to it, must also be introduced to its debunking material at the same time. At this I think this blog has been pretty successful. The high water mark of page views on this blog occurred on November 26, Thanksgiving weekend. Since then, views have been declining–just, as I suspect, like views of the Thrive movie itself.
If Foster Gamble hoped that Thrive would replicate the “success” of Zeitgeist, he may well not have taken the increased speed of the conspiracy underground into account. Zeitgeist was released in 2007, toward the end of the 9/11 Truth movement. But even four years ago the Internet moved much slower than it does now. People could continually discover the Zeitgeist movies on YouTube and other video sources at their own pace and then buy into its conspiracy ideology, which by the advent of the Zeitgeist Movement, was ready and waiting to receive them. This doesn’t seem to be happening with Thrive. At least, I don’t see indications that it’s going to have a slow simmer that will eventually build into some sort of mass discovery of the movie or its messages. While we can’t know for sure until more time passes, it could very well be that Thrive peaked on Thanksgiving weekend, and may never attain that level of interest again.
Of course, this prediction could be wrong. Thrive may gain a high-profile supporter or suddenly and inexplicably achieve some type of viral saturation–maybe as part and parcel of the ridiculous but inevitable “2012 doomsday” hysteria that is certainly right around the corner. And it’s always possible that Gamble may make a follow-up movie or take some other action to try to capitalize on the film. But if it does gain a sudden notoriety, I would be very surprised if that translates into sustained and durable popularity. I just don’t think Thrive has it in itself.
Is Thrive really “waking people up”?
As stated earlier in this essay, conspiracy theorists love to believe that they are “waking people up” and “opening people’s eyes.” Indeed the conviction that conspiracy theory X or Y is gaining more and more acceptance with the general public is a virtually universal belief among conspiracy theorists, even in the total absence of evidence that it is true. For example, far fewer people today believe that “9/11 was an inside job” than did in 2005-06, yet Truthers are still out there claiming that “critical mass” of belief in their conspiracy theory is right around the corner, or, even more astonishingly, that a majority of the public already believes that 9/11 was a government conspiracy and that their work in convincing people is largely done. No amount of evidence that the Truth movement is dead could convince these believers.
Similarly, I would be very surprised to encounter an enthusiastic supporter of Thrive who does not believe that the movie is a rip-roaring success that is going to gain millions of converts. This despite the fact that the mainstream media has completely ignored the film, views of the film are apparently declining after only a month, and the film is encountering significant obstacles to widespread acceptance by large segments of the conspiracy underground. The fiction of Thrive gradually snowballing, gaining converts and credibility until it bursts into the mainstream with legions of high-commitment supporters, is probably one that we are going to encounter for quite some time to come. However, I have seen no evidence that this is even close to true, and considerable anecdotal evidence that the opposite is true.
Thrive is not “waking people up.” Indeed, it appears to be putting them to sleep.
- One Year Later: Thriving No More.
- One World Governments–Debunked!
- World Domination Conspiracies–Debunked!
- We’re On Hiatus!
- Thrive as Holy Scripture: The Emerging Religion of “Conspirituality.”
- Noted Canadian Skeptic Show Examines Thrive—And Tells the Truth.
- The Lonely Battle Against “Disinformation Agents”: A Conspiracy Theorist Analyzes Me.
- Humanity and Sanity: The Full Text of John Robbins’s Repudiation of Thrive and its Conspiracy Theories.
- Crop Circle Wars! Fake Video Shakes Credibility of One of Thrive’s Main Sources. (UPDATED TWICE!)
- Paranoid Utopia: The Nightmare World That Thrive Would Give Us.
- Thrive, Zeitgeist and the Illusion of Conspiracy Activism.
- Foster Gamble Responds: Thrive and its Solutions are (Evidently) Only For Conspiracy Theorists.
- My Open Letter to Foster Gamble: Turn Your Back on Conspiracy—Don’t Let Thrive Define You. (UPDATED!)
- “Follow the Money”–Debunked!
- Gambles Fire Back, Accusing Thrive Critics of “Disinformation Campaign”
- Why We Fight: Progressive Leader Who Repudiated Thrive Explains Why Its Conspiracy Theories Are Harmful.
- Free Energy Fracas: Adam Trombly Attacks Me (And Thrive)—But Is There a Silver Lining?
- Throwing Thrive Under the Bus: Progressives Interviewed in the Film Distance Themselves From Its “Dangerously Misguided” Ideas. (UPDATED!)
- Thrive Is Free: New Fans, New Approach, and a Fresh Welcome to This Blog.
- POLL: Is the Creator of This Blog a “Paid Disinformation Agent”?
- Exclusive: Allegations About Adam Trombly Present Potential Credibility Crisis for Thrive. (UPDATED!)
- Who Is Nassim Haramein?
- Who Is David Icke?
- A Post at the Sister Blog: Thrive Demonstrates How the Conspiracy World is Changing.
- Progressive Think Tank Slams Thrive’s Political Agenda
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