Tag Archive | libertarianism

One Year Later: Thriving No More.

By Muertos

Today, November 11, 2012, is the one-year anniversary of the initial release of the conspiracy theory movie Thrive. The film’s first birthday is, I think, an appropriate time to evaluate the film’s impact on the conspiracy underground and its continuing viability, as well as an assessment of our own efforts on this blog to correct and rebut the film. You might say that this article is a “postmortem” of Thrive, and that characterization wouldn’t be inaccurate. If the movie was intended to create a “new paradigm” or “wake people up,” it seems clear that Thrive has failed to do this on any significant scale. The main argument of this article is that, one year on, Thrive is “thriving” no more.

Thrive’s Declining Popularity: The Empirical Proof.

There is no doubt that Thrive is declining in popularity, and the numbers prove it. According to the website traffic analyzer Alexa.com (you can find stats here) the movie’s main website, thrivemovement.com, has been receiving markedly less traffic over the past several months than it did during either of the months it peaked—in November 2011, when Thrive was released, and April 2012, when Foster Gamble and Clear Compass Media made it available for free as opposed to a $5 fee. Alexa.com shows jagged spikes in the website’s popularity week by week (which is measured in terms of traffic ranking within the Internet as a whole), but each spike is successively smaller, the last one being barely a quarter of the website’s all-time interest spike.

On the day I checked, thrivemovement.com had gone down by 27.38% in “reach” over the past three months alone. That means that the site today is reaching 27.38% fewer people now than it was just three months ago. These stats change day by day, so if you check you will probably see a slightly different number.

The statistics on this blog match this trend almost exactly. Interest in Thrive Debunked has proven, over the past year, to be an extremely keen indicator of interest in the movie itself (I’ll explain why that is later in the article). The daily high for page views in the past year was April 13, 2012. Since then, this blog receives barely a quarter—on a good day—of the number of daily page views than it did on that day. The pattern of traffic on this blog mirrors almost exactly the ebb and flow of traffic for thrivemovement.com, with spikes of ever-decreasing intensity followed by prolonged valleys.

Furthermore, there has been much less comment traffic on this blog in the past few months than there was, say, before July 1. I used to receive as many as ten or more comments a day from various people either pro- or anti-Thrive (mostly pro). Now, days go by without any new comments being posted at all.

Speaking solely in terms of web traffic, Thrive Debunked is like a pilotfish on a whale. Wherever the whale goes, it goes along for the ride. The trajectory is down, down, down across the board. The numbers prove it beyond any doubt.

Why is Thrive Declining?

The answers as to why the movie is declining are less clear, but here I offer a few hypotheses.

1. The movie didn’t contribute anything substantially new—at least nothing that its fans could latch onto as new.

For all of its bluster and bravado about a “new paradigm,” Thrive contributed very little to the conspiracy theory underground that was fundamentally new. All that was new was the packaging, which is a shiny object that can only hope to distract the masses for a limited time. Ancient aliens? Been around since 1968. Crop circles? Old news. Money conspiracies? Lyndon LaRouche was doing that in the 80s. “Global Domination Agenda”? Every Alex Jones radio show since 1998 has been about that. Far right-wing Libertarian political propaganda? Ron Paul was peddling that folderol in 2007; now, after two spectacularly embarrassing failures at running for president, he has (mercifully) been put out to pasture, and his sycophantic fan base is finally fading away.

Substantively, the only truly novel idea contributed by Thrive was the obsession with the “torus” shape. (Of course the idea existed long before, but had never been injected into the conspiracy underground before). This proved to be a non-starter among conspiracy theorists, who revel in gloom, apocalypse and disaster. If it can’t oppress you, take away your freedoms, abduct you, give you an anal probe or blow up the World Trade Center, conspiracy theorists probably won’t be interested in it. So scratch the “torus” idea.

Conceptually and structurally, Thrive did make a significant contribution—that being the continued meld of conspiracy theory ideology and New Age sensibility, a toxic mixture that some academic researchers are beginning to term “conspirituality.” Essentially, Thrive is a document evincing the embryonic creation of a new quasi-religious belief system. But this alone won’t sustain its popularity among conspiracy theorists. If Thrive does go down in history it will be because of its contribution to conspirituality, but this is not an accomplishment that conspiracy theorists can sink their teeth into, because most of them vehemently deny that their belief system even is religious in nature. So, appealing though conspirituality is on a subconscious level, that alone is not going to sustain interest in Thrive.

2. The “Thrive Movement” is largely illusory and is not driving continued interest in the movie.

Another reason why the movie has failed to sustain and increase its reach is that there’s no real organization behind it that’s continuing to push it. We’ve blogged before about how ineffectual, illusory and ephemeral are the “solutions” proposed by the movie—they are mainly talking points aimed at ending the conspiracy theories that the movie insists are out there, but because of course these conspiracy theories do not really exist, the movie’s “solutions” are cures in desperate search of a disease. Beyond that, though, the “Thrive Movement” that you see touted (somewhat disingenuously) on the website does not exist in any real sense. Yes, there are small ad-hoc groups of the movie’s fans that have met on an informal basis in various parts of the country. But a mass movement to motivate action based on the movie’s principles? If such a thing exists, it’s keeping an awfully low profile–which can hardly be what fans of the movie want.

Here is one place where Thrive failed to live up to the predecessor it hoped to imitate, the Zeitgeist Movement, which was similarly a fan club of approbation for the infamous (and roundly debunked) 2007 conspiracy theory movie Zeitgeist: The Movie. As we all know, the Zeitgeist experience was the blueprint for Thrive. Although the Zeitgeist Movement imploded in 2011 and has now shriveled to a tiny burned-out nub of high-commitment supporters who have been largely forgotten by the outside world, between 2008 and 2011 at least there was an organization—centrally directed, and under the leadership of the film’s director and his close associates—out there pushing Zeitgeist: The Movie and its tiresome preachy sequels. Thrive has no such organization behind it. The effort that Foster Gamble has exerted to rally fans of the film around a set of action points has been minimal, and no one else has (so far as I know) stepped up to exert any sort of leadership role in this capacity. Without the benefit of a “street team” out there flogging it, Thrive must sink or swim on its own merit. You can see from the numbers that Thrive is not doing well in swimming against the current.

3. Some conspiracy theorists distrust Thrive, thus limiting its reach even within its own target demographic.

Debunkers and other followers of rational, reality-based belief systems aren’t the only detractors of Thrive. Many conspiracy theorists are deeply distrustful of it, for two main reasons: (1) Foster Gamble’s familial connection to the Proctor & Gamble company, and (2) the film’s promotional poster, depicting a woman taking off a blindfold, which especially paranoid conspiracy nutters think is “Illuminati propaganda.” Thrive has been pilloried in the conspiracy underground for these two characteristics. As a result, the many hard-core, incorrigible, detached-from-reality conspiracy nuts—whom you would expect to be Thrive’s core constituency—reject the film out of hand for these very reasons.

This is a battle that Foster Gamble and Thrive can’t possibly win. It does absolutely no good for Foster Gamble to protest that he has nothing to do with his Proctor & Gamble relatives, because no one will believe him anyway. Conspiracy theorists are notoriously intransigent and will accept anything on faith, however bizarre or improbable, so long as it feeds into their paranoid delusions. Even the suggestion that Foster Gamble is an “Illuminati stooge” is, in the conspiracy underground, tantamount to an immutable sentence of guilty.

The controversy over the poster is even more ludicrous. Any image, anywhere, in any context of a person showing one eye is automatically construed by hard-core conspiracy lunatics as “proof” of “Illuminati symbolism.” No amount of remonstration on the part of Foster Gamble or the Thrive crew could possibly alter this. Therefore, Thrive and its makers are—in the zero-evidence-needed universe of hard-core conspiracy lunatics—guilty right out of the starting gate, and Thrive is viewed as dangerous “disinformation.” This is doubly ironic because many people who accept Thrive as gospel truth accuse rationally-based critics—such as myself and fellow contributor SlayerX3—of being “paid disinformation agents” for even daring to criticize the movie.

Thus, Thrive has a self-limiting factor even within its own target audience. The most paranoid and delusional of conspiracy theorists preach against the film because they think it’s part of a conspiracy, whilst debunkers pile on because it promotes conspiracy theories. In this sense Thrive embodies the worst of both worlds. There is no escape from this vicious circle. If Thrive can’t even unite conspiracy theorists across the wide spectrum of their beliefs, it has absolutely no hope of doing so in the mainstream world where conspiracy thinking is generally not accepted.

4. Thrive cannot make any inroads among mainstream (non-conspiracy, non-New Age) audiences.

This is the most important reason Thrive is declining: it simply can’t attract any mainstream attention, which means its potential fan base is limited to its core constituencies of conspiracy theorists and New Age adherents—at least the ones who don’t distrust it because of Gamble’s familial connection or the image on the poster. The reasons for Thrive’s inability to break through to the mainstream is the subject of the next section.

Preventing Mainstream Acceptance: The Repudiators (and the Debunkers).

Without any doubt the single most important event in the history of Thrive was the signing of a letter, by ten of the people interviewed in the film, repudiating it and stating that they were misled as to the film’s contents. If you’ve read this blog, you know all about the “repudiators” (and if you don’t, start here). This event was “game over” for Thrive. Almost single-handedly, the repudiation—orchestrated most vocally by John Robbins—ended any chance the movie ever had of gaining credibility in mainstream circles.

Now, wherever Thrive is shown or even mentioned, the story of the repudiation follows it. Although the repudiation is not generally a deal-breaker for conspiracy theorists and New Agers who like the movie, it certainly is a deal-breaker for anyone else out there who might otherwise have been attracted to the movie’s message or themes but who wasn’t already a conspiracy theorist or New Age adherent. The explanation Thrive’s makers give for the repudiation—that Robbins and company were part of a “disinformation” campaign against the film—is totally incredible and unlikely to satisfy anyone. It’s tough to interest mainstream media in hard-core conspiracy material anyway, but the repudiation is the kiss of death for Thrive. It simply can’t be explained away, ignored or rationalized. Robbins and company acted out of principle. That’s extremely persuasive.

The Thrive Debunked blog has arguably played a role in preventing Thrive from expanding its fanbase into the mainstream, but probably only a small one. I’ve said many times before that the repudiation, and especially the beautiful essay by John Robbins on why he did it, were far more effective in preventing gullible people from falling for Thrive’s nonsense than anything I or my contributors have done. What I believe we and other debunkers who have spoken against the movie have done is to make it very easy for rational people seeking information on the film to see just how wrong the film and its assertions are. The target audience for this blog has always been people who are curious about the movie, who might have some interest in the subjects it covers, but who are cautious enough to investigate the film before believing what it says. Although that universe of people is quite small compared either to the conspiracy fans who love the film or the vast mainstream who realize from the get-go that it’s not worth their time, this blog has been extremely successful at reaching that target audience. On that front, this blog has been a huge success.

The Cycle of Thrive Discovery—And Rejection.

This blog has become an integral part of the public conversation about Thrive. I know because WordPress tracks the “incoming” traffic to this blog and logs the pages that link to it. The vast majority of “incoming” links follow exactly the same pattern. Here’s how it works:

1. A conspiracy theorist or New Ager discovers the film, watches it online, loves it, and makes a post about it on a web forum or in a chatroom. Almost always this initial post praises the film and recommends it to others, like, “There’s this great movie that shows us how our world really works! Everyone should see it!”

2. A few other conspiracy theorists reply, expressing agreement with the film and thanking the original poster who brought it to their attention. Often, some type of discussion about the film’s specific theories (usually “free energy” or the “Global Domination Agenda”) results.

3. Another poster makes a negative comment on Thrive and says something like, “That movie is crap” or “Don’t be fooled by this nonsense.” This is the poster who will almost always post a link to Thrive Debunked.

4. The original poster returns, defending the movie (usually in a shrill, angry and indignant tone), denouncing this blog and calling me a “paid disinformation agent.” Then the original poster will add a bunch of links to other conspiracy theorist material that supposedly “validates” Thrive.

5. The pro-Thrive and anti-Thrive forum posters argue amongst themselves for a few more posts.

6. The original topic goes fallow and is forgotten as the posters move on to something else.

This pattern repeats day after day, all over the Internet, in country after country. (If you want a recent example of this effect, go here). What is clear from this cycle of discovery and rejection is that Thrive has no staying power. It’s a shiny toy that attracts the temporary attention of conspiracy theorists, and then after it’s been debunked and the requisite “paid disinformation agent” accusations have been vomited up against the doubters of the film, the conspiracy nuts lose interest and move on to the next shiny toy. This demonstrates that, even among conspiracy theorists, Thrive operates at a highly superficial level. It generates very little sustained contemplation, thoughtful discussion or even self-reflection. It’s bubble-gum candy, intellectual junk food. To be sure this is as much the fault of the defective mentality of the conspiracy theorist underground—which vociferously discourages any attempt at intellectual analysis—as it is the failure of Thrive, but it’s telling that there’s so little “there” there behind most public discussions of the film.

But Isn’t The Film Valuable Because It Gets People Talking About Important Issues in Our World?


This argument presupposes that Thrive is ethically neutral–that if it is not true, its untruth is harmless, but if (by wild coincidence) the filmmakers happen to aim a wayward arrow at some real-world issue that needs addressing, Thrive is a net positive because it’s directed at least some energy toward addressing that issue. That’s not the case, because the great deal of damage that its untrue and disingenuous depictions of societal issues cause far outweighs any marginal benefit the film might have by “accidentally” aiming at a valid target.

Let me give you an example. The dependence of industrialized societies on fossil fuels is a crucial issue in our world that must be solved, before anthropogenic climate change renders our environment uninhabitable or hostile. Thrive implicitly does accept the premise that dependence on fossil fuel is bad. However, Thrive’s proposed solution is to rely on “free energy” machines, built from plans given to us by aliens, which will miraculously liberate us from all our energy problems. This is a false solution. Even a fan of the film who is motivated to take action to advance a solution to fossil fuel dependence will have his or her energy diverted in a completely useless direction: advocacy for “free energy” machines that do not exist.

In order to turn this hypothetical Thrive fan into an activist working toward real solutions to energy problems–for example, political lobbying for greater public investment in R&D to develop solar, wind, or geothermal energy–will require reeducating the person to realize that “free energy” is a falsehood and that Thrive has misled them. If they’re already interested in working toward energy independence, it’s likely that whatever stimulus sets them on a more productive path could have interested them in the real solution at the get-go, which means the fact that Thrive turned them on to the issue of fossil fuel reliance is totally irrelevant. In fact, Thrive in this example has been counterproductive, because it wasted the would-be activist’s (and society’s) time by encouraging him to tilt uselessly at the windmills of imaginary “free energy” machines. This is not a net positive.

Even this hypothetical example is extremely speculative because it’s not likely that Thrive will interest people “by accident” in genuine issues and genuine solutions anyway. The issues Thrive cares most passionately about are the conspiracy theories. Consequently, what little “activism” it can hope to ignite will almost invariably be directed at ending these horrible conspiracies. That is not a net good for society. It’s a net negative, because conspiracy thinking is part of the problem and is not a solution to anything.

The Final Truth—The One Thrive Fans Will Never, Ever Admit.

There’s a line in Michael Jackson’s song “Beat It” that goes, “No one wants to be defeated.” Conspiracy theorists are more ferociously resistant to admitting failure and defeat than just about anyone else. In fact, they’re so resistant to the notion that their theories are failing to “wake people up” that they will engage in the most egregious contortions of reality to avoid accepting that the mainstream world either treats them as irrelevant wingnuts or incurable lunatics. Consequently, I predict that Thrive fans who choose to comment on this article will never, ever admit that Thrive is losing, rather than gaining, viewers, and that instead of “waking people up” it’s falling quite quickly into well-deserved obscurity.

Conspiracy theorists love to assert that more and more people are joining their side. They love to say things like, “The worm is turning!” or “We’re gaining critical mass!” Bizarrely, they persist in these delusions even long after the party is over, after it becomes painfully obvious that the mainstream world has passed them by.

Take, for instance, 9/11 Truthers. Right now, the conspiracy theory that maintains “9/11 was an inside job” is less popular now than it has been at any time since the attacks of September 11 happened. I proved this in this article, refuting the absolutely false assertion made by Foster Gamble in Thrive that “a growing number of people” believe in this delusion. In fact, based on poll data, the numbers of people who believe in “9/11 was an inside job” theories is shrinking, not growing. But Truthers will never admit this. To them, the conspiracy theory has to be gaining converts every day. The lack of evidence that Trutherism is becoming more popular is treated as irrelevant, or (more typically) that news of its supposedly growing popularity is suppressed. Truthers will never—never—admit that mainstream society rejected this conspiracy delusion long ago and moved on.

In fact, I’ve had 9/11 Truthers try to tell me that the reason nobody talks about 9/11 conspiracy theories much anymore is because they (the Truthers) have already won—they think the vast majority of the public considers 9/11 a closed issue, having concluded that it was a conspiracy, so there’s no need to debate it anymore! They’re right on one score—there is no need to debate it—but for precisely the opposite reason: mainstream public opinion long ago tossed 9/11 conspiracy theories on the dustbin of history, and trying to gain new adherents to the theory is like trying to sell tickets to the Titanic after the ship has already gone down.

There’s one more powerful piece of evidence indicating that the mainstream world has forgotten about Thrive, and that’s here: the very interesting discussion that took place behind the scenes at Wikipedia over whether Thrive was “notable” enough to warrant an entry in the database. Despite the frenzied efforts of Thrive partisans, the Wikipedia gatekeepers decided that Thrive wasn’t even worth their time. There is no Wikipedia page on Thrive. Nor will there be. It’s not suppression; it’s not propaganda; it’s not the “Global Domination Agenda” paying Wikipedia to snub them. It’s much simpler than that: no one cares.

One Wikipedia editor summed up the argument against Thrive with these very telling statements, which ultimately won the debate:

“This page [the one on Thrive that was eventually deleted] reeks of promotion and has the barest credentials. I must agree with nominator that page created by a known sock puppet of an indef-blocked socker [translation: a known conspiracy theorist troll] should be subject to close scrutiny. [An anti-Thrive Wikipedia user] makes the valid points above this film has no wide interest and zero sources other than blogs…”

This is the truth. No one cares anymore. No one should care. Thrive is dead. John Robbins and the other nine repudiators ended the Thrive phenomenon, if indeed there ever was one. Game over.


This is my final article for Thrive Debunked. After seven years in the arena, I have retired from actively debunking conspiracy theories, and Thrive marks the final chapter in that journey. My contributors and I have, in the past year, successfully refuted every major assertion made in the film. There’s nothing of substance left standing of Thrive. Our work is completed. Thrive has been completely debunked. Even if it wasn’t, John Robbins and the repudiators have rendered further effort in deconstructing the film largely pointless, because it’s clear that the film is not going to have any real resonance in the future beyond the realm of conspiracy theorists and New Agers who already know about it.

But, like a dead oil tanker that continues to leak toxins into the environment decades after the main oil spill has been contained, Thrive will continue to infect a small, steady trickle of viewers with its conspiracy poison, whether its new victims are young people who are just entering the dark and nihilistic world of paranoia, or other potential fans who simply haven’t heard about the movie before. For that reason, this blog will remain up for at least a while. It’s already helped a lot of people, and can continue to do some good, even if it is no longer actively updated.

The conspiracy theorists out there will invariably interpret this as some sort of victory, or perhaps further “proof” that I am a “paid disinformation agent”—maybe my CIA/Project Vigilance masters have stopped paying me, or transferred me to another assignment!—but there’s nothing I can do about that. Conspiracy nutters will make that accusation anyway, regardless of how stupid it is. I am not a “paid disinformation agent,” of course, but the fact that paranoiacs continue to believe that I am gives me no grief at all. I have nothing to prove to conspiracy theorists. This blog wasn’t meant for them anyway; it was meant to reach people who are still capable of rational thought.

What I feel most toward fans of Thrive is not anger or even pity, but sadness. What could have been great hope, promise and energy of a generation of young people who want to change the world has been squandered, bastardized and ultimately wasted by sad obsessions with bizarre conspiracy theories that can do nothing—absolutely nothing—to move our society forward or address the problems within it. This is the tragedy of conspiracy thinking. It is a tragedy upon which I can no longer dwell, and with Thrive now debunked, I no longer have to.

I want to thank the contributors to this blog (SlayerX3 chief among them, though he’s by no means the only one), as well as those behind the scenes who helped me research, fact-check, and keep ahead of developments I wouldn’t have heard about otherwise. I want to thank the readers (you know who you are) who respond tirelessly in the comments, slamming down the endless assaults of idiocy and irrationality spouted by Thrive’s more militant fans. If by some miracle of fate Thrive’s fortunes do turn around—or if Foster Gamble decides to make a Thrive 2, perish the thought—I will be looking to you to carry on my work, and to defend rationality, sanity and reason against the endless waves of woo, bullshit, paranoia and propaganda in which our world is sadly awash. Thanks for a job well done.

Foster Gamble or his fans may not think so, but I, for one, am thriving quite well.

Thanks for reading.

World Domination Conspiracies–Debunked!

By SlayerX3

This article presents more on the “Global Domination Agenda” at the heart of Thrive and why the assertions in the film related to this conspiracy theory are ridiculous.

Global Domination Agenda and the New World (lack of) Order

Roughly at 1:05:00 we have Mr. Gamble giving a speech claiming the secret agenda of the banking elite is nothing but “total global domination.” Gamble states for the Global Domination Agenda to work the powerful elites would need to have total control of key sectors of society. Such as the money (Central banks and such), natural resources, energy (save “free energy”), health (save natural alternative medicine) and the media. He also alleges that the US government is hell bent on controlling the internet (more on that later, but I have to add thanks to the democratic process it has failed to do so). Gamble also adds how the PATRIOT Act (won’t argue much with this but the PATRIOT Act was hardly effective), surveillance and RFID chips (useless for anything but control of inventory and pets).

He alleges that the Big Brother police state isn’t coming, it has already arrived. In a bait and switch argument he states the members of several wealthy families, such as the Rockefellers, Rothschild and so forth, are part of a secret group. Supposedly, while most of the members of these families are not aware of this, the headmasters are pulling the strings without their knowledge.

Gamble then proceeds to drop some names of royal family members and high influence people to make a point, implying they are the headmasters behind the global domination agenda. People like the David Rockefeller and Queen Beatrix of Netherlands. Needless to say this falls more under speculation and guessing than verifiable fact.

One of the pieces of “evidence” he brings to make his point credible is the symbolism of the Eye of Providence (A.K.A the “all seeing eye of God) used on the U.S. $1 bill, in Masonry images and by other justice and intelligence agencies worldwide.

The problem with this kind of argument is the blatant use of unfounded implications. The Eye of Providence is a quite old symbol which is mostly used to represent religious zeal, like a shepherd watching over his flock. The Eye of Providence is used in the same manner by groups heavily influenced by the Christian church (especially regarding the Holy Trinity).

Mr. Gamle also shows several companies using eyes on their logos–conveniently forgetting that most of the examples he listed are from audio-visual companies like CBS and AOL.

Gamble claims one of the uses of the this information is to promote anti-Semitism by labeling the Global Domination Agenda as “a Jewish agenda.” Perhaps the irony was lost to Gamble, but having the overtly anti-Semitic David Icke as a key figure in Thrive and then drop this gem on the viewer was a little too much for me to bear. Given how much anti-Semitism and conspiracy theories tend to overlap, this is ironic.

Later both Gamble and Edward Griffin speak about how after the secret elite consolidated their wealth they aimed for the next big thing: power. The power to rule people and their freedom as they see fit under the premise of “we’re more intelligent than you and we know how you should live better than you.”

After that there are several clips from politicians like George Bush, Gordon Brown and Henry Kissinger using the phrase “New World Order”.  This is another case of quote mining. Muertos already talked about this in this blog.

One of the reasons why this footage has been carefully edited is to change its meaning. Showing the clips in full would only undermine Gamble’s statements because it would show that the New World Order phrase refers not to the Global Domination Agenda but about economic plans and free market trade (Henry Kissinger) and the state of the power balance post Gulf War (George Bush). The “New World Order” is not about creating one single governmental entity to rule the world as Gamble implies in Thrive.

Next the movie gives us this quote from Pope Benedict: “There is urgent need for a true world political authority.” In a rare case of quote accuracy in Thrive it turns out the Pope’s quote is legit, but it doesn’t mean what Gamble wants you think it means. The Pope’s quote is completely against the Global Domination Agenda and the elites, and it condemns the accumulation of  wealth and criticizes the ways globalization can be badly directed. In fact the Pope says this can “lead to an increase in poverty and inequality, and could even trigger a global crisis”

Here is the full quote:

“There is a strongly felt need… for a reform of the United Nations Organization, and likewise of economic institutions and international finance, so that the concept of the family of nations can acquire real teeth… there is urgent need of a true world political authority.”

The rest of the quote and the context is in this link. The pope wasn’t defending the creating of a super state, but the re-management of the UN and other groups like the FMI to help the redistribution of wealth and lessen poverty. This is a much more benevolent goal than anything Thrive suggests, and it is the opposite of the what the elite would want.

After abusing the Pope’s quote, Mr. Gamble alleges the world is moving towards a more militarized and authoritarian rule. He conveniently uses footage from North Korea and Pakistan trying to make you think about the worst places to live on Earth.

In reality the world has been advancing by leaps and bounds against militarization. The European nations–with a special mention of Germany–have shrunk their military capabilities. The Arab Spring has led to the downfall of dictatorships in North Africa and Middle East. Even countries like Myanmar (Burma) have taken measures to depose their military rulers in favor of reforms to open the way for a civil government (I’d also like to add this may not work as it is under process in a unstable region).

There is a clear picture of how people worldwide do not want to have a military or a militarized government.

Conspiracy theorists are (mentally?) challenged

Kimberly Gamble later makes an “observation” about how bringing up conspiracy theory topics is a “socially challenging” and whoever does is prone of being ridiculed.

This wouldn’t be the case if conspiracy theorists didn’t show/make use of:

  • Misquoting, just as Thrive does (Henry Kissinger, George H.W. Bush).
  • Quote mining, just as Thrive does (see the quote from Pope Benedict).
  • Circular logic, unfounded accusations, mass guessing, selective editing, and trivializing.
  • Failure to understand the laws of nature (physics, math, biology and chemistry). Thrive does this too by relying on people like Nassim Haramein whose reputation is built on wildly inaccurate conceptions of physics.
  • Failure to provide conclusive and observable evidence.
  • Dismissing rebuttals and criticism as “trolls” or “paid disinformation agents.”

Gamble reflects to the current state of the world where there is a major disparity between rich and poor, there is an use of power to keep the plebes in control and debt as a form of slavery.

Now there is something interesting in Thrive, actually a characteristic shared by most if not all conspiracy theory movies and “documentaries”: it is completely American centric, it was aimed towards the American population and nowhere else.

Mr. Gamble cites the US’s history of armed revolt and free speech as a hurdle to the Global Domination Agenda, completely ignoring the rest of the world, including totalitarian countries and/or bankrupt countries where the Global Domination Elite (if they existed) could implement their plans easily and without much trouble.

Maybe I’m overreacting as I write this–I am not an American–but for Gamble and crew it seems that USA is (most of) the world and if you subdue the USA you’ll be able to do with the rest of the world. This completely disregards all the countries and populations that have an anti-western and/or anti-American sentiment. The world is a place where no one agrees with anyone. Thrive focuses on groups that have power and influence in USA and Europe but not anywhere else. In the USA last case of real armed revolt was during the Civil War 150 years ago. In the Middle East and South Asia cases of armed revolt are occurring this very year, South America is virtually starting its second generation of people who have not witnessed the authoritarian dictatorships we faced in the 20th century, with most of the able bodied population having vivid memories of what it was like and they don’t want it to come back (I myself was born at the start of the democratic governments that succeeded the dictatorships in my country).

Even if the Global Domination Elite had seized control of the continental USA they wouldn’t be any better in much of the world considering that some countries have made resisting western powers a tradition, and they have been doing that for generations.

Pushing for a global currency  and the global tax

Global currency

There are a few problem with this. First at 1:25:00 Gamble states the US dollar is being devalued, more correctly was being devalued, as it is regaining strength in face of other currencies like the Brazilian Real, the Chilean Peso, the Russian Ruble and even being almost toe to toe in value with the Euro.

Second the I.M.F one currency wasn’t meant to be used as Gamble implied to be. First, it isn’t meant to be used as a daily currency for citizens but as a reserve for countries to avoid the fluctuating exchange rates. Currently the US dollar is used as the reserve currency for governments worldwide. An I.M.F. currency would lessen the dependency of USA as a provider of currency and it would shield other countries in case of any crisis or economic problems in USA.

It is noteworthy that the major promoters of the global currency idea were China and Russia (two countries that aren’t keen of depending on USA), while the idea of an I.M.F. currency was completely rejected by USA in front of a stable and strong US dollar.

The movie talks about a single day-to-day global currency only in the realm of “what ifs”, as it would be extremely challenging to impose one, not to mention practical and ideological problems this would bring.

For example, to adopt a single currency the other countries would basically have to adopt the debts of every other country using the same currency, regulate how it is being spent and distributed in a world wide scale and face the resistance of people who are against it in said countries.

And there is no global digital currency being implemented nor has any country or major group pressured for its creation (unless you count PayPal as one).

Of course I assume Gamble was referring the latest G8 and G20 Summit in 2009.




Global tax on carbon emissions

Gamble cites the possibility of a global tax on carbon emissions as one step towards a single global government and tyranny. (For Gamble any kind of tax is bad, mmm’kay? He hates any tax, anywhere, by anyone, any time, for any reason).

The chances are, if you’re living in the European Union or in California, you’re already paying the tax.

Gamble obviously has a few misconceptions about it. First it wasn’t imposed on any country, it was a suggested implementation for countries and state/provinces to adopt.

For example, a few  states in US adopted the tax (like California), while several other countries decided to implement it. In most cases this implementation was voted in by the country’s population representatives in their respective legislatures.

Second, the money doesn’t go to a global central bank such as the I.M.F. It goes to the country’s own reserves. In other words the money collected with this tax stays in the country.

Third, there is no global police enforcing its implementation nor has the G8/G20 or U.N. ever proposed one to enforce this policy. Neither U.N., NATO nor any other entity k has either the legal power to impose the policy and the support to do so.

So what is this “carbon tax” you hear Gamble complaining about?

The carbon tax is a value imposed on a fixed quantity of emitted carbon dioxide resulted from industrial activity/power generation. The same way you pay for the litter/gallon of water or the KW/h of power your house uses, industries would pay for the amount of carbon dioxide emitted during their activity. For example 12.50 U$D per ton of CO2.

The main idea behind the carbon tax is to hit industries on where they feel the most, their pockets. By making inefficient and dirty energy generation methods more expensive, it gives more motivations for said companies to either adopt more efficient and clean methods or to invest more in clean energy (like free energy? har har). Of course the initial price will be reflected upon the customers, but this would also pressure the same companies as they would risk losing customers to companies that did make the investments and provide cheaper and cleaner energy. This also makes alternative energies like wind, solar and nuclear more attractive, by lessening the cost gap between those and fossil fuels.

There is also the idea of a cap and trade system, where governments set a limit of how much industries can pollute. Those who keep their emissions under said limit can sell their difference to industries who can’t.






False Flags, Lasers from the outer space and FEMA death camps.

Following this, Gamble and David Icke talk about crisis or disasters that would be created or used to implement measures that follow the GDA by manipulating the media and the facts to suit their needs. In other words, a larger scale “false flag” operation, which my colleague Muertos has already debunked.

Its also worth mentioning that there are several cases where the media goes exactly against the government’s interest, for example while Fox News was in support of the Iraq War, CNN wasn’t.

Once again Thrive is quote mining and using selective editing to get its point across.

Gamble later claims the US government has the legal power to arrest and assassinate US citizens at will, but without providing any examples or occurrences of this happening.

Then Gamble mentions Radio Frequency Identification chips (RFID) as a tool to keep constant check on every citizen.

For some reason he implies those can be used to track anyone anywhere on the globe with pinpoint accuracy. Well, this is not the case. RFID chips aren’t GPS (Global Positioning System) transponders. There’s a difference. Even the relatively large active RFID tags (which carry their own power source) have a limited range which can go up to a little more than a 100 feet (approximately 33 meters) with the smaller, passive RFIDs having their range limited at a few feet. They are also useless if there isn’t any active scanner looking for them, are they are prone to suffer interference from other chips and can be easily tampered with.

The only things RFID chips are useful for is to make it (arguably) harder to falsify and easier to verify documents (this is a really good thing), keep stock control in warehouses and to keep important information at hand for security concerns. While animal chipping is common to keep track of pets, human chipping isn’t. There isn’t any government or companies forcing its citizens/customers/employees to use sub-dermal RFID. It is offered as an option by some companies and yet there aren’t many people actually using it.

Not to mention those chips can be relatively easily destroyed, have their information altered or decrypted (thanks to the low processing power and limited information storage).

Gamble states that these chips would be used to track citizens and use orbital lasers to assassinate dissenters from orbit. This is so ridiculous as to be almost funny.

He claims the name of the project is “Full Spectrum Dominance.” While there is a program called Full Spectrum Dominance, it is a military doctrine which calls for winning battles by using land, air, sea, space and cyberspace to control all elements of the battle. It has nothing to do with RFID chips or controlling dissenters against the government. Absolutely nothing.

This is by far one of the most unfounded and absurd statements Gamble has made in Thrive. What makes it even more absurd is how Gamble seems to be the only one to know about this, since a project of this size would fall on the radars of many other countries opposing the US and be certainly leaked at one point or another by people inside. If this plan exists, why hasn’t Iran said anything about it?

And even how Gamble claims it will be used is absurd. A laser satellite is even less subtle than a predator drone flying above its target or a sniper waiting to take his shot, not to mention extremely expensive, prone to error and easier to fool.

Besides, if the US had this kind of technology it would certainly be put to better uses such as a defensive ballistic missile shield or a tactical and strategic weapon to be used on enemy assets, not on angry YouTube commenters or armchair tinfoil hat conspiracy theorists.

Besides, any amateur astronomer would be able to verify the presence of these satellites with a powerful scope and a computer.

If there is an award for the single stupidest claim in Thrive, this should win it.





The FEMA camps

I’d give a good chunk of time to debunk the F.E.M.A. camps if that hasn’t already been done to death everywhere else. But this falls under the same problems of most conspiracy theories: there is hardly any evidence supporting its existence, most of the “evidence” is either edited to look like it’s suspicious and strange when in fact it isn’t.

The F.E.M.A. camps started to become popular again thanks to ultra right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones. It’s also very popular with far right groups who hate the government.

Here are some links debunking the conspiracy theory of F.E.M.A. camps.





http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,513024,00.html (Even Fox News doesn’t believe it!)

Rockefeller quote

“The social experiment in China under the chairman Mao’s leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history” – David Rockefeller

Unlike some other quotes in Thrive which are just made up, this gem was actually said by David Rockefeller in an article in the New York Times.

But after reading the article I drew the conclusion that Rockefeller was talking about the differences of philosophy between the West and China about the reforms China undertook during the 50’s through early 70’s and how it would fare against the Western economy after opening up its borders to foreign products and investments. It has nothing to do with conspiracies.

Here is the link with the article, in case you want to draw your own conclusions.


As usual, Thrive is wrong. What else is new?

Thrive as Holy Scripture: The Emerging Religion of “Conspirituality.”

In a few articles on this site (and also in one on my other blog) I make an argument that the movie Thrive is largely a religious document. It is a statement of faith by Foster Gamble, and a plea to its viewers to adopt the same religious faith, which is a synthesis of New Age concepts, conspiracy theories and far right-wing Libetarian political ideology. Thanks to a recent article in the Journal of Contemporary Religion, not only does this idea have academic support, but the faith that Thrive advances now has a name: “conspirituality.”

In January 2011, two authors—David Voas, a professor at the University of Manchester, and Charlotte Ward, an independent researcher in the field of alternative spirituality—published an article called “The Emergence of Conspirituality” in the peer-reviewed Journal of Contemporary Religion. (The cite is Journal of Contemporary Religion, Vol. 26, No. 1, January 2011, 103-121. The abstract for the article is here but unless you have access to an academic database, you will have to pay to download the full article. If you want to see it for free, I suggest you visit a library that has a subscription to JSTOR or another academic database—it’s well worth your time). Although the article—which I only just recently became aware of—was published eleven months before Thrive’s release, I think it is extremely apposite to the film. In fact, if the article had been published after the film’s release, I have no doubt it would have been discussed as a case study of conspirituality.

The Ward/Voas article was peer-reviewed. That means that knowledgeable researchers in the field of contemporary and comparative religion reviewed drafts of it—their identities not known to the authors—and provided critical comments. Peer review is not infallible, but it is the hallmark of academia and it’s what separates publications like academic journals apart from other publications where material may or may not be independently checked. Most major trade magazines and reputable newspapers employ fact checkers, but academic journals operate on a strict system of review. It’s worth noting that virtually none of the “sources” that Foster Gamble and Thrive rely upon are peer-reviewed—such as the now-infamous BLTResearch.com, which is the film’s go-to source on crop circles.

What is “Conspirituality”?

The authors of the article have coined a new word—“conspirituality”—to describe what they see as a recently-emerging religion that melds New Age sensibilities and conspiracy theories. The best way to explain it is to quote from the article itself:

“We argue that conspirituality is a politico-spiritual philosophy based on two core convictions, the first traditional to conspiracy theory, the second rooted in the New Age:

(1) A secret group covertly controls, or is trying to control, the political and social order (Fenster).

(2) Humanity is undergoing a ‘paradigm shift’ in consciousness, or awareness, so solutions to (1) lie in acting in accordance with an awakened ‘new paradigm’ worldview.

Conspirituality is a web movement with diffuse leadership and constantly shifting areas of interest.”

In order to understand what this means, you need to understand how the authors define both “New Age” and “conspiracy theory.” Here’s what they say on that:

“[New Age] groups embrace the idea of a person as an integrated whole, with mind, body, and spirit subject to a common set of principles. The second ideology is conspiracy theory. Here one finds a denial of contingency, the discovery of patterns in events that might otherwise seem to be random, and the attribution of agency to hidden forces.”

The article goes on to explain that the central feature of New Age thinking is this idea of “new paradigm” or “new consciousness.” Many, many examples of this belief can be found in many places, and especially on the Internet, from which most of the authors’ examples were drawn. A frequent theme in New Age milieu is the idea that there is a massive shift taking place, or about to take place, in human consciousness. A good example of this type of message is what some people are saying about the “2012” prophecies. While some people literally do believe that the supposed “end” of the Mayan long-count calendar in December 2012 will mean the end of the world, in New Age circles it’s much more common for people to predict some sort of massive consciousness shift. Whitley Strieber, a noted New Age author (and conspiracy theorist) who is most famous for his claims of having been abducted by aliens, makes this sort of argument here.

As for conspiracy theory, well, that’s easy. If you read this blog or have seen Thrive, you know exactly what this means: bizarre, unsupportable and factually bankrupt assertions like the Illuminati or the “Global Domination Agenda,” “false flag” attacks, suppression of free energy, etc. The authors make the interesting point that the conspiracy theorist underground is overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male, and usually politically conservative. I’ll return to that point in a little while.

As for how New Age and conspiracy theories go together, I’m going to quote something I published a few months ago. I had an email correspondence with a British academic back in January where he talked about exactly this phenomenon. Here is what he had to say (it’s quoted in this article):

“I suspect that what’s going on is that New Age, now entering its third generation, has developed a theodicy. Now, this is a theological term, but it essentially means an explanation of the existence of evil – why bad things happen to good people. For some of those in the New Age milieu – Foster Gamble, David Icke, Whitley Strieber, Duncan Rhodes and others, all incidentally in middle age and with a long term involvement in the New Age milieu – an explanation is needed as to why, if we’ve entered the Age of Aquarius, is the world less peaceful, equal and progressive than ever? Conspiracy theories offer such a theodicy – the New Age hasn’t happened because evil people prevented it from happening.”

What is an Example of “Conspirituality” In Practice?

One very prominent example cited in the Ward/Voas article is another buzzword that has appeared occasionally on Thrive Debunked: the Zeitgeist Movement. In case you don’t know, the Zeitgeist Movement is an Internet-based organization—many call it a cult, and that term is apposite—which sprang out of the fanbase for the 2007 Internet conspiracy theory film Zeitgeist: The Movie, and which proposes that the world be remade with something called a “Resource Based Economy,” which is basically late-stage Communism with robots and computers standing in for the dictatorship of the proletariat. By melding conspiracy theories (including “9/11 was an inside job” theories, which were the film’s major selling points) with this sort of new consciousness argument, Zeitgeist’s leader, Peter Joseph Merola, minted one of the most paradigm examples of a conspirituality religious organization. Here’s what the authors say about that:

“The second [example of conspirituality] is weighted towards conspiracy theory. It was taken from the Zeitgeist Movement, a web site promoting global activism connected to Zeitgeist the Movie, a 2007 web movie. Zeitgeist alleges, among other things, that organised religion is about social control and that 9/11 was an inside job. The producers claim that the movie has been viewed 100 million times.

[quoted from the Zeitgeist Movement Facebook page:]

The elite power systems are little affected in the long run by traditional protest and political movements. We must move beyond these ‘establishment rebellions’ and work with a tool much more powerful: We will stop supporting the system, while constantly advocating knowledge, peace, unity and compassion. We cannot ‘‘fight the system’’. Hate, anger and the ‘war’ mentality are failed means for change, for they perpetuate the same tools the corrupt, established power systems use to maintain control to begin with. [. . .]

[Ward/Voas comment:] This could be called a ‘spiritual’ awakening.”

What Does This Have To Do With Thrive?

In a word: everything.

Thrive is an even more obvious and clear graft between New Age ideas and conspiracy theory ideology, which according to Ward and Voas is the definition of conspirituality. This is the point I made in my other blog’s article on how the conspiracy theory world has been changing—and in that article I made the point, several times in fact, that Zeitgeist and the Zeitgeist Movement are the progenitors of Thrive, and most likely the example Foster Gamble was trying to follow. But, just to line up a few factors that I think demonstrate that Thrive exemplifies the Ward/Voas concept of conspirituality, let’s look at this:

  • Thrive telegraphs its New Age associations, and tries to sell itself to a New Age audience, early in the film by heavy use of New Age concepts such as crop circles, ancient aliens and UFO contact.
  • One of Thrive’s central messages is that humanity must have some sort of “paradigm shift” if we are to break out of these horrible conspiracies that Foster Gamble says we suffer from.
  • Thrive’s promotional poster features an image of a woman removing a blindfold. The whole theme of “waking up” surrounds promotion of the film. Additionally, many Thrive supporters who have commented on this blog have advised me to “wake up” or employed similar language to urge me to change my thinking regarding the film.
  • Thrive pretends to impart to its audience hidden knowledge or forbidden knowledge that “they” don’t want you to know.
  • Thrive regards factual support of its conclusions as largely unnecessary. By looking at the ridiculous “Fact Check” section of the Thrive website, one sees right away that any factual support for the movie’s assertions is perfunctory, poorly-researched and shoddily done. The message is that it’s faith and belief, rather than facts and evidence, that make the difference between swallowing Thrive’s message and rejecting it.
  • The middle section of the film churns as many conspiracy theories as it possibly can, as fast as it can, and with as few facts cluttering the presentation as possible. It is obvious that this section of the film was built as a sort of “big umbrella” to welcome into the Thrive milieu as many conspiracy theorists as possible by appealing to a very wide range of disparate (and often mutually exclusive) theories.
  • The final section of Thrive purports to offer “solutions” to the problems it identifies. Its solutions either consist of ending the conspiracies, or implementing far right-wing Libertarian political ideology such as abolishing taxes, abolishing education, etc.
  • Thrive and its milieu exist mostly on the Internet. Like the Zeitgeist Movement, to the extent there even is a “Thrive Movement,” it is almost totally web-based. As the article makes clear, the Internet is overwhelmingly the main channel for proselytizing the conspirituality religion.

If the Zeitgeist Movement is a paradigm example of an organization offering a conspirituality religious message, I can see little doubt that Thrive would also qualify. The British researcher I talked to put it in very stark terms. Thrive asks the question, “Why hasn’t this New Age consciousness shift occurred?” and then answers it by pointing a finger at the Rothschilds, Rockefellers and “bankers” and says, “It hasn’t happened because they prevented it.”

An Interesting Angle: Foster & Kimberly Gamble and the Gender Issue.

The Ward/Voas article makes a very interesting point about the gender dynamic within the emerging religion of conspirituality. I hope they won’t mind if I quote them again, because they say it better than I could:

“Notwithstanding these shared principles, there is a wide gulf between the ordinary understandings of conspiracy theory and the [New Age] milieu. The former is male-dominated, often conservative, generally pessimistic, and typically concerned with current affairs. The latter is predominantly female, liberal, self-consciously optimistic, and largely focused on the self and personal relationships. It is therefore far from obvious how a confluence of these two streams could be produced.”

I argue that the husband and wife team of Foster and Kimberly Gamble represents a living example of the union between these previously incompatible belief systems. Foster Gamble, obviously male, seems to be very conservative politically; he believes, for example, that taxation is theft (a classic Libertarian idea) and in Thrive he even denounces the very idea of democracy as a form of tyranny and oppression. [Note: in this discussion I am not conflating political conservatism with support of the mainstream Republican Party in the U.S. I am not alleging that Mr. Gamble is a Republican, just that he espouses at least some politically conservative ideas. They’re not the same thing, though they overlap to some degree]. Clearly Mr. Gamble is concerned with current affairs, and his outlook is relentlessly pessimistic, at least regarding the current state of the world. Kimberly Gamble, by contrast, is shown in Thrive as more of a touchy-feely figure. Her subjects of discussion regard holistic healing, health issues, etc. Also note that in the film Mrs. Gamble generally appears in a much more optimistic-looking setting (a home-like room drenched with light) whereas Foster Gamble usually appears, through bluescreen effects, to be hovering in a dark space.

I believe the husband-and-wife presentation of Thrive was carefully calculated to appeal to both sides of the conspirituality coin. A male figure who speaks well and appears friendly gives the message about evil conspiracies, then recommends the implementation of far right-wing Libertarian political ideology as a potential solution. A female figure, conveying a softer tone, speaks of personal issues and seems well-connected to the New Age milieu. Her message, even more than Mr. Gamble’s, seems to hinge upon belief and faith rather than fact and evidence.

Even beyond the gender dynamic, I believe there is also a generational dynamic. Foster Gamble is in his 50s. He claims in at least one interview to have learned about the principles of conspiracy thinking from his son, who must be in his 20s or 30s. That demographic—white males in their 20s and 30s, or even teens—are the key consumers of conspiracy theory material, which can be witnessed by noting that the overwhelming majority of members of the conspiracy-minded Zeitgeist Movement fall into this category. Foster and Kimberly Gamble may be positioning themselves as sort of a “mother and father” team, administering their philosophy to a global family of New Agers and conspiracy theorists.

The Future?

If Thrive is an exemplar of a conspirituality religious text, what does this mean for the future? How do those of us who still live in the rational world deal with the emergence of conspirituality?

I don’t know the answer to this. I find it interesting that academics are now beginning to study the phenomena that we (those of us who debunk conspiracy theories) have been noting for the past few years, the trend of groups and individuals, like Foster Gamble or Zeitgeist’s Peter Joseph, to use conspiracy theories as a marketing tool to gain adherents to a political, social or religious philosophy. That’s the change I wrote about in my article in February. Does this development make movies like Thrive more or less dangerous, divisive, harmful and irresponsible?

I think it might depend on how conspirituality continues to develop. If it becomes very clear to most people that what Thrive espouses is a religious belief system, people and society at large may come to accept it on those terms, which is fine. Some Christians believe the world was created in six 24-hour days, about 6,000 years ago; many Mormons believe that Joseph Smith actually found golden plates and that a civilization called the Nephites lived in what is now the western U.S. These are accepted as religious beliefs. If adherents of conspirituality believe that 9/11 was an inside job and that aliens create crop circles, I suppose it’s not so bad so long as people realize that these are religious beliefs, which exist in the realm of unfalsifiable phenomenon—faith, essentially—and do not rise to the level of empirical matters that must be proven by actual facts and evidence.

On the other hand, if adherents of conspirituality reject the conclusion that what they’re espousing are religious beliefs, and continue to insist that the things they believe are true as a matter of objective fact—and demand that society act on those matters as if they were fact—I could see this becoming a major societal problem in the decades to come. As a practical matter I don’t them agreeing passively that what they’re peddling is a religion. Believers in the Zeitgeist Movement, to use that as an example again, emphatically reject any suggestion that the organization they follow is a cult or some sort of quasi-religious belief system; they insist it’s based on fact, and they usually insist that the conspiracy theories upon which their movement is based are also facts.

Conversely, the vast majority of Thrive fans who have posted comments critical of this blog seem to believe, for whatever bizarre reason, that the assertions contained in the movie are factual, though I admit that many of them seem more interested in arguing the efficacy of the film’s or the filmmakers’ proposed solutions—the spiritual meat of conspirituality, in a sense—more than the facts. (This is why I get so many comments to the effect of, “Well, what are you doing to save the world?” or “Why don’t you do something more productive with your time?”) As I pointed out in my February article, the arena in which traditional fact-based debunkers have been battling conspiracy theorists over the past few years is rapidly shrinking—largely because conspiracy theorists have come to care less and less about, and swayed less and less by, matters of fact and evidence. It’s the faith and the beliefs that are important to them, not the facts. That’s a world I would rather not live in, but unfortunately I think that’s the world we’re headed for.


The main point of this article is this: I hypothesized some time ago that Thrive is essentially a religious text, proffering beliefs that are probably more correctly classified as tenets of faith rather than matters of fact, and I believe the Journal of Contemporary Religion article lends support to this hypothesis. Furthermore, the Ward/Voas article gives us a name for this emerging religion—conspirituality—and begins to lay an analytical framework for us to understand it.

Boiled down to its core essence, it’s a rather simple equation. New Age beliefs plus conspiracy theories equals conspirituality, a religious belief, and the Internet is conspirituality’s church. I think everyone who sees Thrive should be aware that, when they hear Mr. Gamble’s soothing voice and watch pretty CGI images of glowing purple space donuts, they may well be taking part in a sort of high-tech mass—an initiation rite into a new religious belief system. This system is not an organized church in any traditional sense, but I think the signs are becoming ever more clear that it is a religion, or starting to become one. Where this belief system will take its adherents in the future, no one yet knows.

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.

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.”

Paranoid Utopia: The Nightmare World That Thrive Would Give Us.

The makers and fans of Thrive are fond of stressing that they want a better world. Their ideas for creating a better world involve, first and foremost, ending the conspiracies that they insist are screwing up the planet, and second, implementing far right-wing libertarian political and economic ideology on a broad scale. As I wrote in a blog a few months ago about how the world of conspiracy theories is changing, Thrive represents a progression along the road of using conspiracy theories to sell a particular ideology. Zeitgeist: The Movie pioneered this idea, but Thrive has taken it a step farther. Thrive is aimed at a new generation of conspiracy theorists who aren’t satisfied merely to spread their erroneous versions of what they think the facts are, but to remake the world in an image more to their liking.

The problem, of course, is that the conspiracy theories are false, and their adherents’ ideas for changing the world are based on an incorrect and often downright delusional view of reality. That means that their solutions will have very severe unintended consequences, because their solutions aren’t aimed at solving real problems in the real world, but rather solving fake problems that exist only in their fantasy world. This blog will explore what sort of world we might end up with if these people had their way.

This vision is, by definition, speculative. But then again, so is George Orwell’s 1984, a book that many conspiracy theorists cite as prescient gospel truth, and which many believe is literally coming to pass now (or already has).

This article is not a prediction of what I think will come to pass, just as Orwell’s wasn’t either. This article is a profile of what may come to pass if conspiracy theorists of the sort who support Thrive had free reign to build the world that they say they want.

Setting the Scene: After the Next American Revolution.

Conspiracy theorists sometimes try to warn me about what’s going to happen to me in the future. They like to say things like I’m a “traitor” and a “collaborator,” and that I’ll get some kind of just deserts at some point in the future. This reasoning, which is (like most things conspiracy theorists believe in) not fully thought out, assumes that there will be some sort of “revolution” where presumably the current political order will be undone, the conspiracies that these people believe in will be halted, and those who supported them will be punished.

Thrive does not explicitly speak of such a revolution, but it’s clear that its adherents implicitly look forward to one. Foster Gamble talks about “obsoleting” the Global Domination Agenda. He is unwilling to be more specific than this, but it’s clear that he has in mind some sort of radical inversion of the current status quo. That is one way to describe a revolution.

This is a vision of the United States that exists approximately 50 years after a revolution, spearheaded by political and economic thinkers who believe (like the makers of Thrive do) in the most dominant conspiracy theories of today’s world, has swept away the old political and economic order. Whether that revolution is achieved by peaceful or institutional means, or (probably more likely) by violence, is not relevant. This article also presupposes that the conspiracy thinkers who take power believe in the same sort of far right-wing libertarian ideology that the makers of Thrive advance. This is not too farfetched. Libertarian ideology is becoming increasingly identified with conspiracy theories and conspiratorial belief systems—witness the high levels of support Ron Paul has received from people who believe in conspiracy theories. (Foster Gamble supports Ron Paul for President).

In this article I’ve included a section that demonstrates not only Thrive’s ideology, but also that proposed by followers of the Zeitgeist Movement, who similarly believe in conspiracy theories and have used them to advance an ideological plan for the future. Zeitgeist: The Movie was a key progenitor of Thrive, and many of its followers have shared the same goals, tactics and mindset, so it’s appropriate to treat them together.

Without further ado, let us travel ahead in time to the world conspiracy believers have built.

The Money System: No Fed, No Fiat, No Funding.

Just as in our world today, the key factor in the America that conspiracy theorists have built is money. The problem, however, is that there isn’t any. In a post-conspiracy America, there are no banks or formal financial institutions. In the past 50 years, conspiracy theories regarding banks, finance and currency—infused with libertarian propaganda—became so prevalent that the banks either collapsed, were outlawed, or were driven out of business. Needless to say the U.S. Federal Reserve was the first to go. “Fiat currency” is the ultimate evil, the tool of the Illuminati for world domination, so the very appearance of it is social taboo. Just as libertarians and conspiracy theorists today demand, the U.S. is back on the gold standard: all currency is backed by gold. However, early in the revolution, large corporations quickly purchased all of the gold bullion in the United States from the failing banks. All of this gold is still held in their vaults, heavily guarded. It never enters circulation. Gold and gold-backed currency are still traded by the large corporations, but in purely theoretical transactions that take place on balance sheets and in computer programs.

As a result of this situation, there is no currency in circulation. The U.S. Treasury stopped printing money decades ago. In fact, due to massive de-funding of government, the U.S. Treasury no longer exists. No one has seen a piece of paper currency or coin except in a museum.

But because the amount of gold bullion in the United States is only a tiny fraction of the amount of money needed to keep the economy moving, and because the gold reserves are under effective control of private corporations, America has become a land of barter economies. Corporations who wish to do business with each other trade favors, contractual obligations and customers; this form of barter has been unofficially institutionalized in the form of “credits,” which are not backed by any precious metals. Ironically, credits exactly mimic most of the features of “fiat currency” that has been supposedly outlawed and socially stigmatized. In rural areas, as we will see, the chief form of currency is ammunition. Needless to say, the ideals of a conspiracist economy and the realities do not match up.

The Cities: Corporate Feudalism.

The supplanting of democracy by conspiracist thinking and libertarian ideology had the effect, during the revolution, of dismantling government at all levels. Because there is no effective law and the economy collapsed, the result was large-scale anarchy. Major cities are the only islands of calm in a sea of violence and lawlessness.

These major cities are all run by an interlocking coalition of corporations—the same ones that control all the gold and all the wealth in American society. The major function of these corporations is to sell social services to city residents, and they are all monopolies. The Law Enforcement Corporation sells physical security. The Habitation Corporation sells housing. The Food Corporation sells food. The Justice Corporation sells access to the wholly-privatized court system. There is no economic competition. There is also no regulation. Prices are fixed, but in this environment prices don’t matter, as we’ll see.

The cities are walled enclaves, heavily guarded by military personnel, where residents have at least a chance at a life above the anarchy and poverty of the outside world—but at a huge cost. The price for a house alone in one of the cities is far beyond the amount of gold, credits or barter that any ordinary person could ever possess in a lifetime. Nevertheless, the corporations waive their prices and admit new residents in exchange for lifetime commitments to work for them—commitments secured by immense debt loads. This form of indentured servitude is essentially feudalism: the workers cannot quit, cannot lobby, cannot organize, and can be fired and expelled from the city for any reason or no reason. Social mobility is unknown. It is impossible for a common worker—one who cleans the streets, works in the restaurants, drives the bus, provides childcare, etc.—to rise above his or her station; the debt load that the common person has taken on in exchange for living in the city is insurmountable in a dozen lifetimes. In fact, the corporations have begun to tack the balance of peoples’ unpaid debts on to the debts of their children in exchange for agreeing to let their children continue to live in the city after they reach the age of majority. In this way, the corporations acquire an underclass of hereditary serfs, bound to the land and the lord, just like medieval feudalism. These serf-like customers are often traded between corporations as a form of barter.

The corporations have no incentive to treat the workers well. So many more people want to get into the cities than the number of slots available. Consequently the labor supply is cheap and inexhaustible, so any concessions to workers are an unnecessary drain on efficiency. Workers toil 14 hours a day, seven days a week. If they get sick, they are fired and sent out of the city. The workforce is all-white. African-Americans, Asians, Native Americans and especially Jews are forbidden from even entering one of the cities. Because there is no government left to enforce anti-discrimination laws and the Law Enforcement Corporation has a corporate policy to ignore them, even egregious discrimination goes completely unpunished.

Although they live better than anyone else in the society, the directors and managers of the corporations don’t live without fear. The influence of conspiracist thinking at all levels of society makes a stable existence very precarious. All it takes is one errant accusation that a person is working for the Illuminati, or even sympathizes with the Illuminati, and the person will be ostracized from society, fired from his job and quite possibly expelled from the city itself. Evidence is irrelevant, and legal process is unnecessary; an accusation, even an implausible one, is tantamount to guilt. Savvy businessmen routinely accuse their rivals of being Illuminati agents. Promotion and demotion within corporations is due far less often to merit and hard work than it is personnel shifts as a result of firings and expulsions from the city, most of them reactions to conspiracy allegations. Consequently, the corporations are poorly-run, grotesquely wasteful and rife with incompetence. Because they have a captive base of indentured customers, however, and competence and efficiency have no economic value, the ineptitude of the corporate managers has no effect on profits.

Because the corporate management class clearly understands that their power and influence is based on the conspiracist order, they have a vested interest in perpetuating belief in conspiracy theories. In addition to the “legitimate” corporations ruling the cities, there is also a shadowy Conspiracy Corporation. The service this corporation provides is to stage violent incidents, plant fake evidence and deliberately sow distrust and fear among the cities’ populations. The Conspiracy Corporation’s customers are the other corporations who run the city, and who pay it to create havoc as a means of controlling the customer-serfs through fear. Every few weeks the Conspiracy Corporation instigates a random shooting or other act of violence in a public place, which is heavily publicized and blamed on the Illuminati. This fiction maintains the public’s belief that the Illuminati exists and is actively seeking to undermine society. Ironically, in a society built on reaction to nonexistent conspiracies like the Illuminati or New World Order, something very close to what the Illuminati was imagined to be has come into actual existence—thus turning conspiracy theorist beliefs into a self-perpetuating cycle.

The Countryside: Mad Max With Pogroms.

If life is bad in the cities, it’s even worse in the countryside. Government—feared and vilified by conspiracy theorists as the root of all evil—simply does not exist, although the laws, including the U.S. Constitution, are still technically on the books. Outside the cities, there are no police, no local or state officials, and no organization of any kind. There are no courts. There are no hospitals. There are no schools. Roads crumbled into dust decades ago because no one was around to maintain them. No one provides any private social services. For one thing, the big corporations have nothing to gain by selling their services outside the city; the rural population has no money to pay for them anyway. For another, they don’t need the business; they’ve got more customers than they can serve within the walls of the cities. Outside those walls, people manage to survive—barely—by tilling their own tiny farms at a subsistence level.

The level of violence in the countryside is shocking. During the revolution, the only personal liberty that was even remotely respected was the right to bear arms, and out in the country you can’t survive without heavy firepower. Family farms are defended by minefields, barbed-wire fences and kids toting automatic weapons. In many areas, warlords have managed to take over the more productive farms, resulting in irregular patchworks of fiefdoms that are constantly fighting with each other. In addition to outright barter, ammunition is the chief de facto currency in these areas. Heavy weaponry looted from abandoned U.S. military bases is the chief source of power. Life in this libertarian paradise is, in the famous words of Thomas Hobbes, “nasty, brutish and short.”

Disease takes a terrible toll on all sectors of society, including the rich in the cities, but out in the countryside it’s particularly bad. Vaccines of any kind are distrusted as tools of the Illuminati. As a result, diseases that are easily preventable—polio, measles, rubella, chicken pox, etc.—kill and cripple tens of thousands every year, especially children. Infant mortality is frightful. There are no doctors in these outlying areas. They too were denounced long ago as tools of conspirators; during the revolution many doctors, accused of hiding cancer cures and collaborating with Illuminati-controlled pharmaceutical companies, were massacred or driven out of business. Even medical knowledge itself is dying out since all the medical schools were closed long ago.

The people who fare the worst in this society are Jews. Universally blamed for the imaginary conspiracies that supposedly brought society to the brink of ruin, Jews are refused entry to the cities, and in the countryside they are ruthlessly persecuted and massacred with regularity in horrific pogroms that resemble those of medieval Europe—except with automatic weapons. What few Jews remain have walled themselves up in heavily-armed ghettos with even worse conditions than the countryside whose virulently anti-Semitic (and heavily-armed) population they are hiding from. Nevertheless, as much as they hate Jews, the common people and the more powerful warlords of the countryside cannot organize any collective efforts to exterminate them, as much as they would like to. This inability is the only thing that allows the insular Jewish communities that still exist to carry on, hopeful that someday conditions will change and the world will come to its senses.

Zeitgeist City: A Special Corner of Hell.

One of the walled cities that exists in the anarchic countryside is a medium-sized settlement in swampy Florida. It was established during the revolution as a “Test City” for the RBE or “Resource Based Economy” model, advocated by an almost-forgotten conspiracist organization called the Zeitgeist Movement. Everyone calls this place “Zeitgeist City” for that reason. Inside its heavy steel walls, the convergence of paranoid conspiracist thinking and failed utopian ideology has created a very special kind of hell.

Zeitgeist City is a city of contrasts. In the center of its broad circular plazas there stands a gilded statue of Peter Joseph, creator of the Zeitgeist films, who is regarded in the city as sort of a savior and saint. Beyond the buildings and well-trimmed lawns, however, Zeitgeist City resembles Calcutta on a bad day. Thousands of people are crammed together in pathetic hovels with no running water or electricity. Except for the tasks assigned (without pay, of course) by the city’s ruling elite, there are no jobs; the ideology of an RBE society has outlawed labor as unnecessary. Crime is rampant, but, as the existence of crime conflicts with RBE ideology, it is generally ignored. Most people survive on a black market barter economy, the existence of which is ignored because it is also inconsistent with RBE ideology. Nearly everyone lives a hair’s breadth above starvation level. Although a central feature of the city is large-scale hydroponic vertical “farmscrapers,” these buildings are so energy-intensive and inefficient that they cannot grow very much food, and are not even functioning most of the time.

Everything in Zeitgeist City—every article of clothing, every shoddy consumer good, every plastic tub of tasteless processed food—is catalogued with a bar code. The worst offense in Zeitgeist City is to be caught possessing anything that doesn’t have a bar code. Armies of inventory control techs armed with laser scanners fan out through the city every day, scanning everything. All the codes are fed daily into a central computer system, which then allocates the resources according to a mysterious algorithm. Goods are then redistributed every morning according to the computer’s dictates. Thus, if the computer has decided that a spoon you own is better allocated to the family living next door to you in your squalid apartment, you must give it up to them. This redistribution occurs every day at the distribution centers, where Zeitgeist City dwellers spend most of their time waiting in line either to give up their possessions or receive somebody else’s. The lines, the distribution center and even the computer making the decisions are all under the control of the city’s elite rulers, who call themselves the Allocators. They enforce their dictate through violence. Anyone caught disobeying the dictates of the computer, or possessing property not officially allocated to them, is rounded up by the Allocators’ heavily-armed thugs and sent out of the city as slaves.

In theory the computer allocates resources based on “the scientific method.” Because this concept is meaningless when applied to resource allocation, however, in reality the computer distributes resources purely by random chance. That the resource allocation algorithm in the computer is actually a random number generator was such a closely-guarded secret that knowledge of it has died out. Even the Allocators themselves believe the computer has a methodology; they mistake the random decisions of the computer for “the scientific method,” and they don’t possess enough scientific acumen to notice the difference. Therefore, belief in the infallibility of the distribution computer has become a religious belief in Zeitgeist City. No one dares to question it.

Because Zeitgeist City produces virtually nothing, not even for its own people, it is entirely dependent upon imports of food and needed supplies from nearby Miami, a corporation-controlled walled city. Zeitgeist City compensates Miami by sending it regular shipments of slaves to replenish its labor force. In order to keep this arrangement going the Allocators insist that they possess a short-range missile, tipped with a nuclear warhead, with which they will obliterate Miami if the flow of aid ever stops. In reality there is no warhead and the missile is a non-functioning mock-up stolen from an aerospace museum, kept poised menacingly to the south in a public park surrounded by flowers and hedges. Zeitgeist City’s walls are heavily defended with heavy-caliber machine guns and SAM missiles. The Allocators tell their populace that the city is constantly under siege by Illuminati goons—referred to as Trolls—who are seeking to destroy the city in order to eliminate the proud example of RBE superiority. In reality the city is not under siege and the Trolls do not exist, but the Allocators fire the weapons along their walls a few times a day to promote the illusion that the siege is continuing. As in any other walled city, accusations of Illuminati complicity are routinely used as tools of terror to keep the populace in order, and an unending stream of pro-RBE and conspiracist propaganda flows from the Allocators’ many loudspeakers all over the city, within which every inhabitant is forever in earshot.

The Allocators claim, and not without some foundation, that Zeitgeist City is “the most progressive community in the United States.”

Knowledge—Forbidden Fruit.

The revolution that brought the conspiracy order to power was profoundly anti-intellectual. Experts on anything—especially scientists (who explained how things really worked), economists (who argued against the economic changes), historians (who explained how the past had really occurred) and doctors (who were accused of suppressing cancer cures and tainting vaccines)—were mercilessly persecuted and massacred. In the revolution, all the universities were closed. Many libraries were burned or destroyed, their books distrusted as tools of the Illuminati. The Internet was regarded as a much more pure and reliable source of knowledge, because the Internet contained “the truth” about conspiracies and books did not. As a result, in this conspiracist order, systemized education barely exists, libraries are virtually nonexistent, and most books are locked away and forgotten in vaults owned by the major city corporations—similar to the way books in the Middle Ages were locked up in monasteries.

The corporate managers of the cities, understanding that their power rests upon the perpetuation of conspiracy theories, carefully control what knowledge gets out to the common people. Any book or document that even remotely refutes or even questions conspiracy theories has been destroyed or altered after the fact to support conspiracy explanations. In this world, Osama bin Laden is lauded as a martyr, on whom the Illuminati unfairly blamed 9/11 and then assassinated him for this imaginary crime. Books or websites about Adolf Hitler routinely omit the Holocaust and instead laud his pro-free-market policies. American history books are wildly inaccurate, and present the country’s history as a relentless narrative of exploitation and conspiracies by the Illuminati and the Jews. Even science books contain numerous errors and omissions.

But, not many people read these books anyway; in fact, literacy has declined greatly because education as we now know it has ceased to exist. Most common people get all of their information from the Internet, which is controlled by the Information Corporation. There is very little written text on the Internet. Most material is either in the form of pictograms or videos. Almost all are either pornography, or simple morality plays dramatizing the evil and immorality of the Illuminati and the Jews. Most of these videos are less than a minute long and feature some hideously gory act of violence. Even very young children are desensitized to the most horrible images of human suffering, having been exposed to an unending stream of images of brutal retributions carried out against Illuminati sympathizers. Schools in the cities—at least for the common customer-serfs—consist almost entirely of pods where children surf the Internet for a few hours a day. Elite parents send their children (at exorbitant cost) to schools run by the Education Corporation, and in these schools there is some basic instruction in reading, math and shoddy third-rate science, but interspersed with very heavy doses of conspiracist and libertarian propaganda.

As the knowledge of true history, true science and critical thinking gradually fades, society is rapidly losing any real sense of its past or itself. Almost all events in history are reduced and simplified to a one-note narrative of exploitation by the Illuminati followed by the redemption of the revolution. Ancient history and the origins of man are described as being the result of extraterrestrial visitation. No one in this society knows that humans built the pyramids; even well-educated elites accept and honestly believe that all prehistoric structures of this nature were constructed by aliens. The major religions are all waning in practice. There are very few churches left. No one in this society has read or even heard of Shakespeare, of Tolstoy or of Leonardo Da Vinci. No one has ever been to an art museum or a music concert. In 100 years’ time, the collective store of human knowledge existing on Earth will have been reduced by half or more. It is truly a new Dark Age.

The Environment—A Rising Tide of Disaster.

Because there is no government, no environmental regulation and the city corporations have no incentive to be environmentally responsible, America is a stinking cesspool of environmental degradation. The corporation-run cities generate power through burning coal and oil—all reserves privately owned and controlled, of course. The cities export their garbage to the countryside where it sits in rotting heaps, breeding diseases and cancer clusters among the semi-feral rural population. Rural dwellers routinely build and furnish their own houses from the refuse of the cities, much of it contaminated. Because the corporate-run cities have no need for water treatment facilities—they can simply pump their sewage into the rivers at zero cost—rivers downstream of the major cities are indescribably foul. There are few forests left, the rural residents having deforested their lands for firewood.

The worst problem is global warming. Because the conspiracist order denounced anthropogenic global warming as a scam and a hoax by the Illuminati, even mentioning the existence of this problem is absolutely forbidden. Absolutely nothing has been done to ameliorate global warming—in fact, America’s carbon emissions since the revolution have increased, despite having much less industry, because the corporations that run the cities have changed over to dirtier and more inefficient means of energy production and industrial usage. Rising sea levels have inundated coastlines. In the larger coastal cities like New York, makeshift seawalls have been built to hold back the ocean (built by slave labor of customer-serfs), but in rural coastal areas, the rising sea levels have turned many areas into fetid swamps. These swamps breed mosquitoes, which results in a high incidence of malaria in areas where it had once been thought to be eradicated. Combined with society’s distrust of doctors—thanks to conspiracy theories about suppressed cancer cures and tainted vaccines—the mortality from tropical diseases is much higher than it was before the revolution.

Global warming has also made peoples’ jobs of feeding themselves much harder. Food crops are more difficult and costlier to raise, invasive and parasite species are hardier and more difficult to kill, and erosion of desiccated topsoil has turned Nebraska, Iowa and Kansas into semi-arid wastelands incapable of cultivation. The increased strength of hurricanes due to global warming results in large swaths of the Atlantic coast being decimated at regular intervals—and because there is no government there are no relief agencies. No one pays any attention to these problems. In the cities, even mentioning the words “global warming” will mark you as an Illuminati sympathizer; in the countryside, the scientific knowledge to explain what’s happening no longer exists. In the meantime greenhouse gases continue to foul the atmosphere at an ever-increasing rate. The disaster of global warming is now, fifty years after the revolution, far beyond man’s capacity to reverse it.

When the sun sets on this bleak country, filled with pollution and decay, its rays bleed through layers of carbon dioxide vapor and sulfuric acid. It sets on mosquito-infested marshes that were comfortable beachfront communities 60 years before. The clouds approaching on the horizon are filled with acid rain. Their caustic drops fall on acres of landfills and junkyards, oozing poison into a water table already contaminated with toxic chemicals and human feces. This is the brave new world that conspiracy ideology has built.


No sane person would wish for a world characterized by these specific results: desperate impoverishment, corporate feudalism, widespread violence, resurgent disease, intellectual and cultural stagnation, and environmental devastation. But this could very well be the world that would result from the policies and ideologies advocated by conspiracy theorists. Failure to understand the world and its problems as they really are, and blind adherence to ideologies and systems of thought that are clearly at odds with objective reality, will undoubtedly result in unintended consequences.

Yet, on some level, this is exactly the world Thrive wants to give us. This is a world where no one pays taxes, where there is no government coercion, where the Federal Reserve has been abolished and currency backed by gold, where the “free” market is totally unfettered, and where the populace is vigilant against conspiracies of any kind. This is a world where all people thrive.

Well—maybe not all.

Thrive, Zeitgeist and the Illusion of Conspiracy Activism.

Although the main objective of Thrive is informational—to disseminate conspiracy theories and promote right-wing libertarian political ideology—it cannot be ignored that Thrive’s makers and a lot of its supporters say they want to take action. On this very blog Foster Gamble, creator of Thrive, has dismissed the utility of discussing the factual errors and distortions in his film, in favor of “creating solutions.” Unfortunately, the “solutions” that Thrive fans say they want are aimed overwhelmingly at exposing and combating the various conspiracy theories that the film asserts exist. This is the central tragedy of conspiracy thinking—that it diverts people’s energies and attentions away from solving real problems in the real world, and instead motivates them to solve fake problems endemic to the fantasy world in which conspiracy theorists dwell.

This article will discuss the phenomena of what I call “conspiracy activism.” Thrive is not the first conspiracy movie to spark an activist response. Mr. Gamble’s film exists in the context of a conspiracist underground that has, in recent years, been rapidly transformed by the Internet, and is continuing to evolve quickly. I wrote about this in an article over at my other blog, which I also publicized on this one. You can consider this article to be sort of a companion piece to that one.

What Is The “Thrive Movement” And What Is It Actually Doing?

Before we get to the topic of conspiracy activism in general, let’s look at what “solutions” the Thrive people are promoting. There is no “Thrive Movement” to speak of in any real sense. Foster Gamble is not, so far as I can tell, attempting to exert any sort of real control over the activities or direction of the film’s fans, and I’ve seen no evidence that the fans of the movie are trying to organize themselves.

Clicking the “Solutions” tab on the Thrive website unleashes a dizzying avalanche of propaganda. The vast majority of it is right-wing libertarian propaganda, such as the “Liberty” page which assaults the reader with political diatribes studded with quotes from libertarian deities like Stefan Molyneux, Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. Although Thrive’s political agenda is a serious issue, we and others have dealt with it before. The key message is “vote for libertarians,” and thus we’ll leave the film’s political advocacy at that.

More interesting are the “Critical Mass Actions” tabs. Here the Thrive people have listed twelve specific campaigns they’re promoting, with icons where you (as an Internet user) can “sign up” or else embed the icon itself on another site. If you click the icons so sign up, it produces a box where you fill in your email info and hit submit. Almost all of the links included in the “Critical Mass Actions” sections are to websites or online petitions. Of these twelve campaigns, two are anti-Federal Reserve; three are related to protesting GMO food; two relate to “free energy” devices; two are protests of “chemtrails,” a conspiracy theory promoted by the film; one is anti-nuclear power; one is “protect Internet freedom”; and one protests resource extraction on Native American lands.

The Federal Reserve is what Thrive identifies as the linchpin of a worldwide conspiracy theory to enslave the globe through the use of deceptive currency practices. We debunked the film’s money conspiracy theories here. “Free energy” does not exist, as we have also demonstrated. “Chemtrails” have not been debunked on this site, but they’ve been amply debunked elsewhere; it’s abundantly clear that “chemtrails” are a total fantasy. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to oppose GMO foods, but Thrive couches its criticism of such foods in expressly conspiratorial terms; they think it’s some weird kind of plot aimed at killing people with poisons in the food.

These issues account for nine of the twelve “Critical Mass Actions.” Of the twelve, only three—anti-nuclear power, protecting Internet freedom, and protesting resource extraction on Native American lands—are not somehow addressing the conspiracy theories the film promotes.

Ironically, it is one of these three non-conspiratorial solutions—the Internet freedom icon—that had the most people (5,547 on the day I checked) signed up.

When it comes to what these “Critical Mass Actions” actually are, the website is extremely vague. Here’s what it says when you click on a question about “how do you know when an action reaches critical mass?”

“As actions gain momentum and the most popular ones become apparent we will set a target number for “critical mass.” We will keep in touch via email to make sure you know when we’re approaching critical mass. What determines an effective “critical mass” will vary according to the nature of the action to be taken. The critical mass number will be announced as far in advance as possible and will be determined by what would create significant impact and assure optimal security for participants.”

That’s it. You’ll get an email once they decide how many people they need. In the meantime, it’s a lot of Internet petitions and “getting the word out.” That’s what the Thrive Movement is doing—that, and organizing local screenings of the film itself. The act of promoting Thrive is itself treated as a form of activism to which fans should aspire.

Is This Real Activism?

No. The “solutions” offered on Thrive’s website are ineffective in changing anything in the real world for two reasons: first, the vast majority of them are aimed at ameliorating conspiracy theories that don’t exist; and second, even for the non-conspiratorial goals, there is no actual real-world activity being proposed. Thrive’s brand of activism is a complete chimera.

Take chemtrails, for example. We know for a fact that chemtrails do not exist. The elaborate narrative that conspiracy theorists construct—that a “Global Domination Elite” is spraying chemicals into the sky to sicken and kill people deliberately—is simply fantasy. Yet, Mr. Gamble wants to “Expose Chemtrails With a Mass Protest at NOAA Offices.” Even assuming that legions of Thrive fans get organized and storm NOAA’s headquarters, what effect is this going to have? NOAA can’t do anything because there’s nothing to do anything about. Chemtrails do not exist. This is a “solution” that, even if it’s pulled off, will accomplish exactly zero, except wasting the time of the people involved.

As to the second criticism, it’s difficult to see how these “Critical Mass Actions” will have any effect regardless of the goals they’re aimed at. Take for example the critical mass action about stopping the environmental poisoning of Native American communities—which is a goal I think most people would agree with, and is one of the few that isn’t specifically directed at a conspiracy theory. Here’s what Foster Gamble wants you to click to sign up for:

“In the US, indigenous lands are being exploited and targeted by big business for resource extraction, nuclear dumping, and more. There are proposals for coal, oil, gold and copper mines, coal bed methane, natural gas “fracking,” and nuclear storage that threaten these communities and the environment.  This is a chance to stand up for Native American rights and show that we are committed not just to apologizing for past wrongs, but ending the violations that continue to this day.”

Okay…but how? What does this actually mean?

What are the Thrive fans going to do? There’s no protest march planned. There’s no letter-writing campaign. There’s no attempt to introduce legislation or lobby lawmakers. There’s no fundraiser. There’s no outreach to any of the Native American communities impacted by resource extraction. There’s not even a link to an online petition, as there is for the “End the Fed” suggestion. There is exactly…nothing.

You click on, sign up and get an email. That’s it.

In the meantime—or, should I say, in the real world—if you care about resource extraction harming Native American communities, there are real people doing real things to try to stop this. In less than five minutes of searching online I came across this site for the Wolf River Protection Fund which is seeking to buy key lands to protect the watersheds and wetlands related to Native American communities in Wisconsin. One of the tribes associated with this fund recently celebrated a huge victory by buying out—yes, actually buying out—a mining company that was planning to mine near their lands. That’s activism. Not just clicking on a website—but actually sending your dollars to an organization that is taking action to make a real-world impact. And yes, the Wolf River Protection Fund does take donations.

Thrive isn’t doing anything even close to this.

So If They’re Not Making a Difference In the Real World, What Are They Doing?

They’re promoting conspiracy theories and related ideology—in Thrive’s case, right-wing libertarian ideology. The promotion of the ideology is the ultimate point of the activism.

This is understandable, if you analyze the thought processes of Thrive’s makers and fans from the standpoint of their conspiracy beliefs. They believe that all or most of the world’s problems stem from actions taken in secret by groups of shadowy conspirators. How best to combat these actions? Expose the secrets and shine a light on the conspirators. Then, it is presumed, the nefarious activity will end, and things will get better.

Seen from this standpoint, the act of exposure is the most important action. Therefore, most of a conspiracy theorist’s preferred “solutions” for solving problems start and end from a “get the word out” type paradigm. Indeed, most of the nine conspiracy-oriented Critical Mass Action suggestions on the Thrive website are aimed at information exposure or gaining visibility for something. This is classic conspiracy activism.

Why Do Conspiracy Theorists Engage in Conspiracy Activism?

It used to be that conspiracy theorists weren’t activists. There were certainly groups of them, and there have been conspiracy-related newsletters—especially related to the JFK assassination—circulating for decades. But traditionally they didn’t try to reach out to the mainstream or get others to join them.

That changed with 9/11. The purveyors of conspiracy theories related to the 9/11 attacks—especially Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin—changed the stakes in the mid-2000s by waging concerted, energized campaigns to try to increase the exposure of their conspiracy theories and encourage people to believe in them. Ultimately their success was only temporary; as I pointed out in an earlier blog here, contrary to something Foster Gamble says in Thrive, fewer people believe that “9/11 was an inside job” today than have so believed at any time since 9/11 itself. However, the conspiracy activism of 9/11 Truthers upped the ante and set a new paradigm, vastly aided by the rise of the Internet: if you believe in conspiracy theories, now you’re expected to go out there in public and try to get others to believe in them as well.

As the conspiracy world has changed, and (as I argued in February) conspiracy theorists have gone from defining “victory” as increasing the numbers who believe their theories to selling prepackaged ideologies, the activism component remains. Now what conspiracy theorists are selling are the ideologies, not the theories, but they’re still self-motivated to try to proselytize in exactly the same was Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin did with their nonsense 9/11 theories. I argued in the February blog that it was Zeitgeist: The Movie and its conspiracy-activist offshoot, the Zeitgeist Movement, that cemented this development into the basic blueprint of future conspiracy endeavors.

As there are many instructive lessons for evaluating Thrive inherent in the Zeitgeist story, let’s turn to that next.

Why Conspiracy Activism is Pointless: The Example of the Zeitgeist Movement.

One of the first statements I ever made about Thrive was that it appeared to be “Zeitgeist 2.0.” Clearly the movie imitates a lot of features of Peter Joseph’s notoriously fact-free 2007 Internet conspiracy film Zeitgeist, and even the suggestion of a “Thrive Movement,” aping the Zeitgeist Movement, indicates a kindred spirit.

The Zeitgeist Movement, founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph, attempted to capitalize on the interest generated among conspiracy theorists from the first Zeitgeist film to sell a neo-Utopian ideology called the Venus Project, which resembles late-stage Marxism except with computers and technology in the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The problem with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, however, was that support for the non-conspiratorial (but deeply flawed) “Resource Based Economy” paradigm was built entirely on the backs of conspiracist beliefs and the popularity of Zeitgeist: The Movie. Most fans joined the Zeitgeist Movement because they were attracted by the conspiracy explanations; to the extent the movement’s leaders could motivate them to care about the Venus Project and a Resource Based Economy for its own sake, it was mainly presented as a “cure” for all those horrible conspiracies. As a result, “get the word out” type activist projects meant to promote the Venus Project and Resource Based Economy became increasingly conflated with promoting the Zeitgeist movies and its conspiracy worldview.

The Zeitgeist Movement imploded in April 2011 when the Venus Project side of the organization divorced itself from the group as a result of a dispute over donations. Since then the Zeitgeist Movement has dwindled to an insignificant core of high-commitment fans who do little more than post occasional comments on blogs or YouTube videos. (Zeitgeist Movement supporters constantly show up on the Thrive website comments, still valiantly trying to sell their Resource Based Economy shtick. Few Thrive fans are buying). The Zeitgeist Movement’s attempts at conspiracy activism could never effectively outpace the reach of the films themselves. Unlike the Thrive Movement, the Zeitgeist Movement did have a central, engaged, hands-on leader who directed the group; in fact that was one of its downfalls, because Peter Joseph’s inept leadership of the group transformed it into something very much like a cult surrounding him personally and his films.

The failure of the Zeitgeist Movement can teach Thrive fans an important lesson: that conspiracy activism is inherently self-limiting. Five years after its release, Zeitgeist: The Movie is now old news. Most conspiracy theorists have seen it. The sequels which completed the Resource Based Economy narrative could barely achieve a tiny fraction of the impact that the first film had, because the second and third Zeitgeist films dealt much less with conspiracy theories. Essentially, when Zeitgeist stopped talking about conspiracy theories, the Internet stopped listening. With the market of potential converts already saturated, the Zeitgeist Movement sputtered into oblivion. Once you “get the word out” about your pet conspiracy theories or the ideology you’re promoting by using conspiracy theories, where do you go from there? Zeitgeist couldn’t answer this question. It’s unlikely Thrive will be able to either.

Does Clicking Links, Watching Videos and Signing Online Petitions Really Help?

There’s another more fundamental reason why Thrive’s conspiracy activism will have no real-world impact other than to “get the word out” about what they think the world is like. Most of the consumers of this material, especially those who are heavy Internet users, aren’t really willing to do more than click links, watch videos and sign online petitions. Very, very few of them will actually be motivated to go out of their homes and do something in the real (non-cyber) world. This is just a fact of life. If you put a website up about any cause, however well-intentioned, the more you actually have to do to take action on it, the fewer people you’ll have who will make the effort. People click “like” buttons and share links because it’s easy and they can do it in the flash of an eye. Only the truly devoted will be motivated to get in their cars and go to a preplanned event; fewer still will do that if it will cost them money. This is a self-limiting factor of Internet activism.

The problem is even worse when the main audience you’re preaching to consists of conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are notoriously lazy. Few of them, for example, can even be motivated enough by their beliefs even to pick up a book and read it. To them, videos on the Internet are just as good as books, and they require much less effort to comprehend. Most conspiracy theorists have virtually no awareness of the depth of knowledge the world contains beyond the Internet or how to access that knowledge. Many of them live their lives in an online bubble; if it’s not happening on the web, it’s not worth knowing about. If this is the crowd you’re trying to draw activists from, the chances of finding supporters who are high-commitment enough to meet in person, put together a viable plan of action on something and see it through to the end are much reduced.

That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. In the heyday of 9/11 Truth theories, for example, hundreds of Truthers would gather at Ground Zero in New York City and harass people by shouting conspiracy garbage at them through bullhorns. But what did they do beyond that? Note that even this real-world activity is just another species of “getting the word out,” albeit in an extremely destructive, annoying and disagreeable way that turned off and angered far more people than it attracted. Even the 9/11 Truth organizations, like the ridiculous “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth”—clearly an organization created by the most high-commitment supporters of the conspiracy theory—continue to focus their efforts on “getting the word out” as opposed to actually doing anything. In the very, very few instances where they do try something other than “getting the word out”—like filing a lawsuit, as one group of 9/11 Truthers attempted—they always meet with spectacular failure.

Activism in the real world is hard. It takes money, time, effort and competent people to guide the activity toward any real goal. Conspiracy theorists are mostly kids. They don’t have a lot of money. What time they have they usually spent on the Internet. Exerting real-world effort happens in a few rare cases, but not very often. Competent people who can actually think something through and put something together are about as rare in this subculture as blue diamonds.

As a result, conspiracy theorists rationalize. They lower the bar and define what they are willing to do as “activism.” Thus, the sort of low-intensity effort that they can get many people to do—clicking “like” buttons, sharing links, watching videos and signing online petitions—becomes, in their minds, a substitute for real-world activism. In an endeavor where “getting the word out” has already been defined as the major goal, getting 10,000 people to click a “like” button becomes the equivalent of a smashing victory for right and justice.

Conclusion: Do You Really Want to Help?

This article has demonstrated why conspiracy activism is pointless and counterproductive. I can hear the shouts from angry Thrive fans now: “Why don’t you stop blogging and do something that actually helps?” (This assumes that I do nothing but write blogs all day—obviously an incorrect assumption).

What can you do to make the world a better place instead of watching Internet conspiracy videos or wasting time on the Thrive website (or this one)?

Here’s something you can do: give blood. This is one of the easiest things you can do, and one which has a huge real-world impact—you can literally save someone’s life. Here’s a website where you can type in your zip code and find out where to go in your area to give blood.


Here’s something you can do: become a tutor for adult literacy. You can find organizations that do this all over the country. Here’s just one example, from Florida.


Here’s something you can do: get a group of people together and assemble care packages of medical supplies for AIDS sufferers in Africa. This has been a hugely successful program. It also has real-world impacts. Here’s how to get involved.


Here’s something you can do: donate money to the American Indian College Fund. This fund helps people from America’s least-college-educated demographic get access to higher education. This helps real people in the real world. Here’s how to donate:


There you go. Stop watching Internet conspiracy movies and go do some good in the world. You have no excuse now.