Tag Archive | New Age

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?

No.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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.

Conclusion

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.

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

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

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

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

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

What’s the Controversy?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who Is Robbert van den Broeke?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does This Have to Do With Thrive?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sources:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: “Stop Throwing Daggers!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update I, 22 June 2012

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

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

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

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

She continues:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The previous photos were these:

crop-NL-

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

crophoeven

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

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

mudman-robbert-mudmand

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

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

broeke_meier

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Update II, 16 July 2012.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrive Is Free: New Fans, New Approach, and a Fresh Welcome to This Blog.

The big news in Thrive-land this week is that the movie is now free. Originally released on the Internet on November 11 of last year—a date that supposedly has some kind of cosmological significance in New Age circles—the film was initially available only as a download for $5, although it was ripped to various torrent sites and even YouTube within hours after its release. Now it seems that Foster Gamble and Clear Compass Media don’t care if you pay for the movie anymore. You can now download the film from the Thrive website for free. We can speculate as to the motives for taking this new approach to the movie, but up until now there certainly have been those—even people highly complimentary of the film—who criticized the fact that you had to pay to see it. This move is likely to silence those critics.

Yesterday, coinciding with the release of Thrive free, I noted a sudden and dramatic upswell in page views here on the Thrive Debunked blog, which is now more popular than it ever was. Each of the last two days has been a record-breaker for page views. As people discover the film, in many cases they discover the debunking at the same time. One of the most common ways people come to this blog is by clicking from various forums, some conspiracy-related, others not, where a link has been posted. In almost all cases the paradigm is the same. A user on a forum will make a topic to the effect of, “Hey, have you seen this movie Thrive?” Usually the user posting the topic will be complimentary toward the film. Within a few replies someone will take a different view of the movie, and they’ll very often provide a link to this blog. I’ve seen forums from Germany, Romania, Italy, Poland, Hungary, Australia and Israel where this blog has been mentioned and discussed. This tells me that Thrive Debunked is doing exactly what I hoped it would do: it’s serving as a powerful counterpoint to make people think about the issues before blindly accepting the spurious claims in Thrive as gospel truth.

Because we now suddenly have many more readers thanks to the free release of the film, I thought I would provide a fresh welcome to those who are discovering Thrive Debunked for the first time. This blog has now been around for about five months. There’s a lot of material here and a lot of discussion especially in the comments. Here, therefore, is a quick guide to what parts of the film have been debunked, what remains to be done, and where you might be able to find answers to some of the most common questions about the movie and its claims.

Comprehensive Debunkings

Full Debunking of Thrive, Part I. This article, by our contributor SlayerX3, is the first of three to try to go through Thrive very quickly, tackling many of its claims in sequence. Not every claim in the first third of the film is dealt with here, but you’ll find comments on the film’s intro, the “torus” shape with which Foster Gamble is so entranced, the “Flower of Life” claims (which are dealt with in much greater detail in other articles), the supposed 64 energy units, Steven Greer and his UFO claims, more UFO material from Edgar Dean Mitchell, Clifford Stone, Harry Allen Jordan, Dwynne Anderson and John Callahan; and finishing up with crop circles. All of these subjects are roundly debunked.

Full Debunking of Thrive, Part II. SlayerX3’s second outing, this one at the middle section of the film. Here you’ll find debunkings of the UFO and energy claims of James Gilliland and Daniel Sheehan; the movie’s nonsensical distortions of the work of Nikola Tesla; free energy suppression; Adam Trombly (himself the subject of two additional articles), John Bedini and John Hutchinson, who all claim to have invented “free energy” machines; and Eugene Mallove, who was not killed (as the movie claims) because of his work on cold fusion.

Full Debunking of Thrive, Part III. The third in the full debunking series by SlayerX3 debunks the following: oil and energy empires; Foster Gamble’s misstatements about the Green Revolution; loss of biodiversity and environmental harm; Vandana Shiva; free trade agreements and globalism; a fake quote from Henry Kissinger; NEA and the Rockefellers; John Taylor Gatto; Deepak Chopra; alt-med quackery from R. Royal Raymond Fife, Rene Cassie, and Max Gerson; and the controversial Hoxsey Therapy.

Debunkings of Specific Topics and People

Crop Circles—Debunked! This article demonstrates how and why we can be sure that crop circles are not created by extraterrestrials, are not mysterious or unexplainable, and certainly are not messages from aliens telling us how to turn spinning electric donuts into “free energy” machines. In terms of page views, this is one of the most popular articles on the blog and seems especially offensive to fans of Thrive. It was the response to this article that began to convince me that the target audience of Thrive is the New Age religious crowd. For some reason I do not understand, the notion that crop circles are not extraterrestrial in origin is deeply offensive to many people in the New Age milieu. This article has surpassed the David Icke exposé as the single most controversial piece we’ve ever done on this blog.

Thrive Makers Back Down on “Flower of Life” Claim: This article details an extremely rare event—a factual correction by the Thrive makers. In this case they admitted that the claim, made in the movie by Nassim Haramein, that the “Flower of Life” design at the Osirian Temple in Abydos, Egypt is somehow “burned into the rock at the atomic level,” is in fact false. Nevertheless, despite this retraction, many Thrive fans continue to believe that the “Flower of Life” was put there by aliens and not by crafty Egyptian artisans.

Who Is Nassim Haramein? This article is a profile of Nassim Haramein, the person who makes the “Flower of Life” claim and most of the “ancient astronauts” claims in the film. As this article shows, Mr. Haramein has a history of making pseudoscientific and pseudohistorical claims that are met with extreme skepticism by members of the legitimate scientific community. An example of such a claim is his inventive “Schwarzschild Proton” theory, which postulates that every atom is a mini-black hole, despite the fact that this theory flies in the face of established physics. Yet, according to many Thrive fans in the comments, Mr. Haramein is a scientific visionary right up there with Galileo, Copernicus and Einstein. I’m not ready to book my plane tickets to Oslo for Mr. Haramein’s Nobel Prize acceptance ceremony quite yet.

Ancient Astronauts—Debunked! This article takes apart the ridiculous notion that Egyptians, Mayans and Incas were too stupid, backwards and ignorant to have created great works of ancient engineering, which Thrive claims must have been built by aliens instead. As you’ll see in the article, this idea rests awkwardly on a single untenable assumption that manages to offend historical fact, scientific reality and cultural sensitivity all at the same time. If there’s an old paperback copy of Erich von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods on your bookshelf, you need to read this article.

Who Is Adam Trombly? This article must be read in conjunction with Exclusive: Allegations About Adam Trombly Present Potential Credibility Crisis for Thrive. The first article, the earliest person profile on the blog, began our descent into the Adam Trombly saga. Adam Trombly claims to have invented a “free energy” machine that will solve all the world’s energy problems. As you’ll see in the second article, another inventor, David Farnsworth, came forward in March 2012 and claimed that the machine shown in the movie and identified as Trombly’s was actually invented by him (Farnsworth), and that it can’t do what Thrive claims it can do. I don’t know what the absolute truth is here. Despite a lengthy back-and-forth between Mr. Farnsworth and Mr. Trombly, as well as additional comments from Mr. Trombly’s daughter and Foster Gamble himself, the two questions I have about the machine—(1) did Adam Trombly really build it? and (2) can it do what Thrive says it can do?—remain unanswered.

Global Domination Agenda—Debunked! This is my personal favorite of all the articles on this blog. In it I debunk the idea that the Illuminati or New World Order, which Foster Gamble calls the “Global Domination Agenda,” actually exists and is trying to control the world. In fact it does not exist, but the article attempts to explain why believers in this bizarre conspiracy theory are not only utterly convinced that it does exist, but why everything they see and hear seems to confirm their belief. Hint: it’s a self-reinforcing delusion that is specifically designed to be impervious to anything in the way of reason or evidence. My one regret about this article is that its length probably scares away most casual readers, but you can’t really describe the issues involved in Illuminati/New World Order conspiracy theories without using a lot of words.

False Flag Attacks—Debunked! This article attacks a small section of the film where Foster Gamble is guilty of serious historical distortions, especially regarding the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident that was a prominent milestone on the U.S. road to involvement in the Vietnam War. In the article I explain why Gulf of Tonkin was not a “false flag” attack, how and why conspiracy theorists get the whole idea of “false flag” attacks totally wrong, and why, contrary to what the film asserts, belief in the bizarre and ridiculous “9/11 was an inside job” theory is in fact declining rather than increasing. Hint: it’s declining because the idea that “9/11 was an inside job” is a bunch of crap, and the vast majority of the American public knows it’s a bunch of crap. Nevertheless, the true believers have chosen to go down with the sinking ship on this one; devotees of conspiracy theories are ferociously resistant to the reality that fewer people believe 9/11 conspiracy theories now than at any time since the disaster itself.

Who Is David Icke? Formerly the most controversial piece on this site–until surpassed by the crop circles article–this article profiles British conspiracy theorist David Icke, who, if Thrive had a conventional cast list, would probably get top billing as the star of the film. Mr. Icke believes that the world is secretly run by an evil race of reptilian shape-shifting aliens. “But wait!” you protest, “he doesn’t say that in Thrive!” This article explains why, and it also explains why Mr. Icke’s reptilian shape-shifting alien theories are especially dangerous and offensive.

Thrive’s Philosophy, Purpose and Broader Context

Should We Give Thrive a Pass on its Facts, And Instead Praise its “Message?” This article answers many of the objections Thrive fans have to why I don’t just go quietly into the sunset. Although the point of the movie seems to be to establish conspiracy theories as a theodicy for New Age belief systems (see the article for an explanation of what that means), it does still purport to be a documentary, and as such it has a duty to present the facts responsibly.

Progressive Think Tank Slams Thrive’s Political Agenda. This article could also go into the feedback/response section, but I put it here because it’s a good exposure of the neo-libertarian, pro-Ron Paul political subtext of the film, which many viewers who don’t follow politics may miss entirely. Much of this article is my critique of a progressive reviewer’s take on the film, and my thoughts on how conspiracy theories, such as those advanced by Thrive, are increasingly becoming intertwined with libertarian political ideology. The progressive reviewer herself chimed in in the comments section, as well as an especially shrill Ron Paul supporter.

A Post at the Sister Blog: Thrive Demonstrates How the Conspiracy World is Changing. This is a portal to an article I posted on my other blog, which is not specifically limited to Thrive, dealing with how the world of conspiracy theories is changing in the wake of the ignominious death of the “9/11 Truth Movement.” The article mentions Thrive as an example of how conspiracy theories are increasingly being deployed either as recruiting tools for particular groups or as marketing angles for ideological, political and even religious belief systems.

Reception and Reaction to the Film

JREF Reviews Thrive! This article, fairly short, showcases a review the film received from a writer for the James Randi Educational Foundation, a group devoted to skepticism and busting woo beliefs. Needless to say, the Randi folks didn’t exactly have Thrive on their best-films-of-2011 list.

Another Negative Review of Thrive Hits the Nail on the Head. This article presents the thoughts of a noted UK environmentalist blogger and activist on Thrive. Predictably, he savaged it, and many of the arguments he made against the film echo criticisms that had already been made on this blog. Be sure to see the comments on this one, where the UK blogger himself chimes in, and gets some heavy flak from outraged Thrive fans.

Thrive—A Flop? This article is somewhat outdated. Thrive seems to have become much more popular recently, but in December there were some indications that it had peaked. Nevertheless, there is still some topical material here, such as the controversy among conspiracy theorists as to whether the film is “disinformation” and especially whether its promotional poster contains “Illuminati symbolism.” It astonishes me that anyone could be so loony as to think that, but conspiracy theorists never cease to amaze me with what they’ll be willing to swallow.

Just for Fun

Poll: Is the Creator of This Blog a “Paid Disinformation Agent?” This article is a specific response to those readers (you know who you are) who insist that no one in their right mind could ever criticize the shining truth of Thrive, and therefore anyone who does so must be an agent provocateur paid by _________ (fill in the blank—the government, the Rockefellers, the oil industry, or whoever you most love to hate). In the poll at the end of the article you get the chance to vote on whether I am really a “paid disinformation agent,” but be careful—I might be logging your IP and telling the Illuminati death squads exactly where to find you!

Debunkings We Have Not Done Yet

This site is not yet complete. There are several topics I’d still like to tackle at some point, but, as I do have a job, a life, loved ones etc., I can’t spend all my time working on this blog (contrary to what some people think). While I can’t guarantee I’ll get to all of these topics, here are some topics I’d like to cover in the future.

  • Claims regarding fractional banking and the Federal Reserve. There is a lot of demand for a debunking of Thrive’s views on this topic, but as anything to do with banking bores me silly, it’s not a topic I relish taking on. However, SlayerX3 is reportedly working on an article along these lines. I think it will be a crucial addition to the site.
  • UFOs. Thrive traffics in so much UFO folklore and apocrypha that it seems incomplete for a site devoted to debunking it to not have an article specifically devoted to UFO claims.
  • Global warming denial. Thrive doesn’t hit it that hard, but I observe from other sources (interviews, etc.) that there are some indications that Foster Gamble is a global warming denier. I don’t know that for sure, but I do know that many conspiracy theorists deny the proven scientific reality of anthropogenic climate change, so it’s relevant enough to be included here. This is a topic I know much about and have written about before on other blogs. As it’s not a huge part of Thrive, it’s a lower priority, but I do hope to get to it.
  • Other claims regarding free energy. This is a very rich topic and I’ve learned a great deal about it in the past five months. Lately with the Trombly-Farnsworth debate we’ve focused a lot on energy claims, so the time is not right to do another article on it quite yet. However, it may be coming in the future.

Conclusion

Contrary to what it may seem like at first glance, I don’t dislike Thrive fans. I want to reach them and get them to expand their thinking. My whole point here is to educate people and get them to ask for evidence before accepting someone’s word for anything. In that spirit, I welcome all the new Thrive viewers who will be attracted to the movie now that it’s free. Read the articles, join the discussion, and understand what this movie is about, why it exists and what it’s telling the world. I already feel that this blog has been phenomenally successful, and I look forward to the discussions to come.

Who Is Nassim Haramein?

One of the people whose views the Thrive movie showcases is a man named Nassim Haramein. A caption on the screen identifies Mr. Haramein as “Cosmologist, Inventor.” Beginning at 12:23 in the film, excerpts of interviews with Haramein begin and continue for almost the next ten minutes. Mr. Haramein opines on questions of astronomy and ancient history. Even before Thrive, Mr. Haramein was well-known in New Age circles. This article will evaluate what Mr. Haramein claims in Thrive, and also try to answer the question, who is he?

What Does Nassim Haramein Claim in Thrive?

In his first appearance in Thrive at 12:23, Nassim Haramein appears in the context of the discussion about the “torus” design which Thrive creator Foster Gamble believes is the key to free energy. Mr. Haramein refers to “big arms of galaxies spinning around” and a claim is made at 12:34 that the galactic halo is shaped like a torus. A little later, at 16:12, Mr. Haramein appears again, talking about the Osirian Temple in Abydos, Egypt. This discussion occurs in the context of the “Flower of Life” design that Foster Gamble asserts is of extraterrestrial origin. At 16:32 of the film, Mr. Haramein states that the Flower of Life at the Osirian Temple is “burned into the atomic structure of the rock in some extraordinary way.” No backup is given for this claim at all. In fact, this claim is false. It is the only factual claim that I know of, to date, which the Thrive creators have retracted.

Mr. Haramein continues to appear sporadically over the next few minutes. He appears again at 18:20 talking about the Forbidden City in China, “where the sun gods reside.” Later still, at 20:10, Mr. Haramein again refers to “sun gods” from Egyptian, Incan and Mayan culture who supposedly came to earth and taught ancient peoples engineering, writing and science. This is clearly an assertion that “ancient astronauts” are supposedly responsible for great feats by ancient civilizations, who were mistaken by these civilizations for “sun gods.”

At 21:25, Foster Gamble states that “Nassim has impressive evidence to back up his theories.” He does not state what this “impressive evidence” actually is.

Is Nassim Haramein Right About the Things He Says in Thrive?

Not very much of the time. A lot of what Mr. Nassim states in Thrive is simply false. On this blog we have already debunked much of the material he presents. For example, we’ve already noted that his claim about the “Flower of Life” in the Osirian Temple is incorrect. It is not “burned into the atomic structure of the rock.” In this article, which debunks the idea of “ancient astronauts,” I explain at length how and why Mr. Haramein’s assertions about ancient civilizations and ancient history are wrong. For instance, the Egyptian and Mayan “sun gods” had nothing to do with science or engineering. A case can be made that the Incan “sun god” did supposedly teach some knowledge to the Incas, but the context in which Mr. Haramein employs this idea—supposedly to illustrate that “ancient astronauts” exist—is totally incorrect. There is not a single piece of evidence anywhere in the world indicating that aliens visited ancient civilizations thousands or hundreds of years ago. The only basis for the “ancient astronaut” claims is the supposition that particular structures, such as pyramids, were beyond the capability of ancient peoples to construct, and therefore they must have been built by aliens. As I explained in the article debunking ancient astronauts, that supposition is totally unsupportable. Furthermore, he’s also wrong about the Forbidden City being “where the sun gods reside.” The Forbidden City, built in Beijing in the early 1400s, was where the terrestrial emperor resided, not the “sun gods.”

Who is Nassim Haramein?

The subject that concerns the bulk of Mr. Haramein’s testimony in Thrive is ancient astronauts. He is clearly identified with that theory. In fact, while this article was being written, in late February 2012 yet another YouTube video popped up of Mr. Haramein claiming that certain archaeological artifacts “prove” ancient astronauts existed. These claims are no different than the basic gist of his claims in Thrive. All proceed from an assumption that “ancient peoples couldn’t possibly have created this!” because whatever is being examined is judged from the standpoint of modern technological and scientific understanding.

However closely he’s associated with ancient astronauts in Thrive, this theory is not Mr. Haramein’s main claim to fame. Who is he, then and what his he known for?

According to the bio that appears on his own site—for the Resonance Project—Nassim Haramein was born in Switzerland in 1962 and began developing, at the age of nine, a “hyperdimensional theory of matter and energy.” His bio goes on to state:

“Haramein has spent most of his life researching the fundamental geometry of hyperspace, studying a variety of fields from theoretical physics, cosmology, quantum mechanics, biology and chemistry to anthropology and ancient civilizations. Combining this knowledge with a keen observation of the behavior of nature, he discovered a specific geometric array that he found to be fundamental to creation and from which the foundation for his Unified Field Theory emerged.”

Mr. Haramein often gives lectures at conferences, and you can see many of his talks on YouTube. The topic he lectures on most often is something called the “Schwarzschild Proton,” which we’ll get to in a minute. I find it interesting that neither the Thrive movie nor Haramein’s own website list any degrees or credentials. That is noteworthy, because people who do have degrees or credentials and who are interviewed in Thrive are usually presented with a title card on-screen that lists what their credentials are—example, “Dr. Jack Kasher, Ph.D.—Professor Emeritus of Physics, University of Nebraska” (31:01). I have also not been able to locate a C.V. (curriculum vitae), sort of an academic résumé, for Mr. Haramein. If anyone is aware that he has advanced degrees in physics or other relevant fields, please pass on the information to me and I will gladly add that to this blog.

What Is the “Schwarzchild Proton” Claim?

This blog has already debunked what Mr. Haramein claims in Thrive, both in this article and the previous articles. Let’s move on to some of the other claims he makes other than the ones in the film. Although the focus of this blog is on the film, Mr. Haramein’s other claims are relevant to judging his overall credibility as a source on matters of science and ancient history.

The “Schwarzschild Proton” theory states that a proton is really a miniature black hole. I am not trained in physics, but what I do know of it, this assertion is completely outside the realm of science as we understand it. Needless to say, the scientific community is not impressed by the “Schwarzschild Proton.” In fact, it’s very difficult to get a scientist to spend their time debunking it. Nevertheless, there are scientific opinions about Mr. Haramein’s theories. Here’s one, a fairly high profile blog called “Up,” which ran several articles about Mr. Haramein and his various theories. The creator of this blog, Bob (also known as Bob-a-Thon), had this to say about Mr. Haramein and his paper:

“(a) His overall argument is circular, which means it shows nothing. A hypothesis is presented that a proton might be considered as if it were a black hole, and his first conclusion, after a few pages of equations, is that the forces between them would be very strong, like the forces in a nucleus. But this goes without saying! If you pretend that something is as heavy as a thing can be, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise to find that the forces would be as strong as a force can be. There’s no significance in this whatsoever.

(b) His theory implies that the nucleus of a single atom of hydrogen has a mass of nearly a billion tons. This does seem a bit silly – but theoretical physicists do hypothesise apparently silly things sometimes, so that’s not a deal-breaker. For obvious reasons, though, you need a very convincing reason to do something like that, including an explanation as to why we never measure this huge mass when we weigh hydrogen (or anything else), and none is given.

c) The paper, while using some scientific terms, is presented at a very basic level. This could be considered a plus – all scientists would agree that there’s nothing better than a simple theory, if it works. But Nassim is merely playing with equations from student textbooks (these are the only references cited in the paper), things that have been explored thoroughly for decades, and he’s using them in a pretty simplistic way. It’s unlikely that he’ll find anything that hasn’t been found before by doing this. What he has found is some values for things that look suspiciously like what he knew when he started. This is often what happens when you go around in a circle.

It’s a bit of a joke to claim that anything profound can come from this kind of thing. But again, it looks cool, and it’s clearly enough to impress a lot of his followers.”

Bob went on to post a lengthy scientific debunking of the Schwarzschild Proton theory. You can find it here. I won’t reproduce it here because it’s full of a lot of very specific scientific jargon and equations that I don’t think I need to show here so long as it’s available at the link. Suffice it to say that Bob’s blog makes a strong argument that Mr. Haramein’s theory does not have any validity when judged against actual provable science.

Bob’s conclusion, at the end of that article, was the following:

“Haramein claims to be doing serious science. He claims to have unified the forces of nature, and to have created a unified field theory. He claims to be able to point out where all ‘the other physicists’ are going wrong. He claims, moreover, that his paper, The Schwarzschild Proton, has won serious academic acclaim. All of these are patently false.

The only sensible conclusion from looking at this example of his work is that he is utterly incompetent as a physicist – even with the help of his hired academics, whose “advice and careful reading of the manuscript” didn’t reveal any of the myriad of nonsensical implications that a little exploration should have found.

He knows that taking on the air of authority of a research physicist will give weight to his outlandish ideas, many of which are in the language of physics. And he knows that this will bring him followers and cash. Indeed it does.”

It appears likely from this analysis that Mr. Haramein’s claims are not supportable by science. I say it appears likely because I’m not a trained scientist. While I suspect that Bob is a trained and credentialed scientist, we do not know this for certain. Therefore, I’ll state that if someone with at least a Ph.D. in physics is willing to come forward and state (1) that Bob’s debunking of Mr. Haramein’s Schwarzschild Proton theory is fundamentally flawed, and (2) that Mr. Haramein’s theory is correct or at least reasonably arguable in good faith, I will retract this article and issue a high-profile correction.

Good luck. I’ve been searching for a physicist who will comment on Mr. Haramein’s theories on the record since Thrive came out. No one will touch it. It’s that bad.

Here’s what other scientists are willing to say, however. On the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast of January 12, 2011, linked here, Dr. Phil Plait had this to say about a video he saw of Mr. Haramein expounding various astronomical theories (the relevant part starts about 50 minutes in):

“It’s hard to actually describe or understand a place to start or find any sort of grip on the amount of weirdness that this video has in it. I mean, he just says stuff and it doesn’t matter what he’s saying, he just says it. He’s talking about watching Shoemaker Levy 9, the comet, hitting Jupiter back in ’94, and he says, “the community said that comet might not be visible from the earth.” No, actually most astronomers thought it would, and there were a few who said it might not, but we weren’t sure, but that’s how science works…His whole thing, watching this, he’s talking about the tetrahedron dictating the energy about to happen inside Jupiter, and I’m thinking tetrahedrons, certain specific latitudes, he’s talking about Hoagland! And five seconds later “this is the theory of consultant to NASA, Richard C. Hoagland!”…This is so bad it’s not even wrong…You can watch this guy giving talks about pyramids and Egyptians and he just says stuff…it’s made-up silliness.”

Richard C. Hoagland is an infamous pseudoscience purveyor and conspiracy theorist. He’s most famous for expounding the ridiculous Face on Mars theory from the ‘80s. Any mention of Hoagland as a credible source should set off alarm bells.

Need more to convince you that Mr. Haramein’s theories are not good science? Check some physicists kibbutzing about him over at Reddit. Here are some of the comments:

“For some reason I was browsing /r/psychonaut and I saw a video posted of this guy, Nassim Haramein, lecturing about “sacred geometry and unified field theory”. After about 5 seconds you see he’s just making it up as he goes along, misunderstanding even the most basic principles of physics and math(s). He basically just tells people into that whole “new age” thing exactly what they want to hear. This pseudoscientist is either deliberately misleading the public, extremely deluded or mentally ill in some way.”

“We can, but on the other hand we could do physics instead. Nevertheless, I took the liberty of correcting one of your hecklers.”

“You’re probably right… I’m not sure why it bugs me so much. I guess I just think it’s sad that the people who are enjoying his talks are showing an interest in physics and not being told anything that resembles real physics.”

What Does Mr. Haramein Say In Response?

Bob’s “Up” blog engendered a response from Mr. Haramein himself. Here it is. Please go to the link for the full text, as it’s very lengthy. Here are a few excerpts:

“I typically avoid wasting my time participating in these so-called debunking sessions. However, as I can see that the gentleman has invested substantial efforts in this particular example, and because it is such a prime and typical expression of the reactionary tendencies defending against all odds the status quo and proclaiming it as “the truth”, I feel obligated to reply.

I actually don’t believe in mediocre minds, as I consider that everyone is born brilliant but that certain life experiences and difficulties can reduce one’s capacity to access deeper levels of awareness that are necessary for creative and fundamental reflection. Here the inhibitors are constraints resulting from a style of education in which what is taught is proclaimed as the truth and the only truth, and where students are discouraged and severely reprimanded if they tend to wander in the awful world of untruth as predetermined by the Obvious Truth Holder…

[H]istory speaks for itself as any new significant changes that were brought to the scientific community were typically largely resisted, ridiculed and then eventually accepted. As Schopenhauer said, ‘All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.’”

Much of the rest of the response is very technical, and those issues, while quite relevant, are beyond the scope of this blog. Nevertheless, Bob responded to the response. Needless to say he wasn’t too impressed:

“So, what to make of all this. To summarise, his rhetoric is great! The bits of physics he’s thrown in look really impressive! If the aim is to wow the fans and seal their contempt for me, he’s done an excellent job.

But has he actually addressed the criticisms that I’ve raised? Surely, somewhere in all that work, he must have? Help me out here if you think I’m missing something, but I really don’t think he has. I’ll illustrate some of the ways he’s misused physics in his defence later on.

If you disagree – if you can find any single point in there that convinces you that any of my criticisms of his physics aren’t completely valid – then I’d really love to hear from you. It would be great if we could keep it to the physics. I know it won’t happen, but it would be great if it did.

Meanwhile, as you can see for yourself, he has had fun doing what he does best – inventing things to entertain his fans, and telling them what they want to hear. He presents this new, conveniently fictionalised version of me to his followers as “an important study for anyone who is interested in my work.”…

The back-and-forth between Bob and Mr. Haramein is actually quite interesting. Because I can only present the smallest snippets of it here, I strongly recommend that anyone interested in evaluating Mr. Haramein’s grasp of physics (or ancient history, for that matter) look at the entire exchange. Looking at this material certainly led me to a a conclusion regarding the level of credibility to which Mr. Haramein is entitled.

A Related Issue: Academia, Credentials, and the Value of Experts.

A key theme that you should see emerging from this analysis is that Mr. Haramein does not and cannot back up any of the major assertions he makes with any evidence or argumentation that passes muster among professionals in the fields he opines on—physics and ancient history. If you read Mr. Haramein’s responses to Bob’s critique, you’ll see a lot of references to Einstein and how Einstein was not (supposedly) a “mainstream” physicist, coupled with philosophical statements about how closed-minded and corrupt the institutions of mainstream learning are. Indeed, from what I’ve observed in my research for this article, this is the primary line of defense when Mr. Haramein is attacked: claim that Einstein (or someone else who is well-respected but has an unorthodox background) had radical ideas too, and suggest that because he was vindicated, Mr. Haramein’s unorthodox ideas are worthy of the same level of credulity and acceptance that we today give the theories of Einstein and Copernicus.

I’ve encountered this line of argumentation many, many times before. In fact, it’s a trope used almost universally by believers in fringe phenomena such as pseudoscience, pseudohistory, and conspiracy theories. I wrote an article about this about 18 months ago on my other blog, specifically in the context of conspiracy theorists, and explaining why their views on academics and experts are wrong. The same principle goes here. People who accept fringe beliefs exhibit a curious form of bipolar behavior when it comes to experts. On the one hand, they really wish that some credentialed experts would agree with them so it would lend credence to their pet theories. Simultaneously, because they can’t get any credentialed experts to agree with them, they’re forced to explain why this is by claiming that credentialed experts are worthless and that the institutions they come from are closed to any new ideas or new knowledge.

The problem with this argument, however, is that it presumes the legitimacy of credentialed experts and institutional knowledge—academia and peer-review, if you will—is essentially arbitrary and has little to do with the substantive content of their fields. Followers of pseudoscience, pseudohistory and conspiracy theories think that academia and institutional knowledge is a sort of old boy’s club, where a cap and gown and a secret handshake get you “in the club,” and only knowledge that originates from within “the club” is taken seriously. The reality is very different.

You do not have to be a credentialed expert with a Ph.D. in physics to come up with a revolutionary new idea that totally redefines scientific truth. You could be a plumber and still come up with a revolutionary new idea that totally redefines scientific truth. However, whether you are a Ph.D. physicist or a plumber, the validity of your idea must be still be provable using the scientific method.

You do not have to possess a Ph.D. in archeology to come up with a bold new theory that explains the workings of ancient civilizations. You could work at Subway and still come up with a revolutionary theory that redefines ancient history as we know it. However, whether you are a Ph.D. archaeologist or a Subway sandwich maker, the validity of your idea must still be provable with evidence and the methods of archaeological research and historical analysis.

This is what Mr. Haramein doesn’t seem to understand. The reason his theories don’t have any credibility is not because he is not a credentialed expert doing research at a traditional institution. The reason his theories don’t have any credibility is because they’re not verifiable or supportable according to the methods of physics, astronomy and ancient history. It’s the methods that matter. Scientific inquiry and historical analysis have been built up over centuries, even millennia. Democritus was doing science in Thrace in the 4th century B.C., and Thucydides was researching history at about the same time. Guess what? The methods that Democritus used all those centuries ago are still sound by today’s scientific standards (though of course technology is much different), and the methods that Thucydides used to describe the Peloponnesian War are still recognized as hallmarks of historical scholarship today. This is not to say that science or history haven’t advanced since the time of the ancient Greeks; clearly they have. But our process of asking questions and seeking answers, of judging hypothesis based on verifiable facts, and of testing the evidence for its reliability are remarkably similar to the processes that experts have been using for centuries to get at the truth of various problems.

Want to know something else? The “scientific heretics” that fringe believers like to trot out on cue—Galileo, Copernicus, Einstein, etc.—could prove their unorthodox theories by using those same processes. Galileo was persecuted by religious authorities, but he could still prove that Jupiter had moons; Copernicus’s books were banned by political authorities, but his mathematics still proved that a heliocentric solar system was the truth. Einstein wasn’t even much of a heretic at all. After all, he won a Nobel Prize. They don’t give Nobel Prizes to people who don’t use the scientific method or whose discoveries can’t be verified by it.

Through his rhetoric about institutional knowledge and credentialism, Mr. Haramein and his supporters seem to want you to jump to the conclusion that he’s a bold innovator and a brave defender of scientific truth in the face of unreasonable conformity. But the real bold innovators and brave defenders of scientific truth, like Galileo and Copernicus, could prove their theories using scientific methods and reasoning, and thats why their ideas are accepted today as truth. By contrast, Mr. Haramein seems to want to skip the part where his theories are actually proven using the methods and reasoning that experts have been using for centuries to determine what’s true and what’s not. Unfortunately, science and history don’t work that way.

Conclusion

During his brief appearance in Thrive, Nassim Haramein makes a number of statements and invites a number of inferences. He makes statements about the “Flower of Life” design which are incorrect. He makes statements about ancient gods and the history of ancient peoples which are incorrect. He invites the conclusion that aliens came to Earth long ago to help civilizations build various things, a conclusion which is unsupportable.

Outside the movie Thrive, Mr. Haramein is known for making similar wild claims, which are similarly incorrect. His “Schwarzschild Proton” theory is absolutely unsupported given physical science as we know it today. Real scientists consistently deride his methodology as flawed and his arguments as totally unpersuasive. His response to these criticisms, which is to dismiss the value of expert opinion or institutional knowledge, is similarly unpersuasive.

The rational viewer of Thrive, when confronted with these facts, should not only be extremely skeptical of the assertions Mr. Haramein makes in the film, but should also wonder why the makers of the film did not conduct better research, and consult more reliable sources, about the matters Mr. Haramein discusses.

Who Is David Icke?

Arguably the most famous—and certainly the most infamous—person who appears on-screen in Thrive is David Icke. As probably the most well-known conspiracy theorist in the world, Mr. Icke is quite naturally a lightning rod of controversy and a divisive figure who evokes strong emotions both pro and con. This article will attempt to answer the question, “Who is David Icke?”, and also make some attempt at evaluating why he appears in Thrive, what he says while on screen, and why his inclusion in the film is one of the key issues to understanding the message Thrive is trying to get across to its audience.

What Does David Icke Say in Thrive?

An extended interview with David Icke, intercut with various material, forms much of the middle section of Thrive. Although the interview with Mr. Icke proper begins at 53:48 of the film, his face first flashes on the screen at 6:55, in the credits sequence. I believe the appearance of Mr. Icke’s image early in the film is very important, as I’ll get to later.

Mr. Icke’s interview is used in Thrive mainly to explain Foster Gamble’s opinion of banking and also to bolster his claims that a “Global Domination Agenda” is trying to control the world. When Mr. Icke first appears (excluding the credits sequence), a title card identifies him as “David Icke—Researcher, Author, The Biggest Secret.” He asserts, beginning about 54:00, that people “ask few questions” about the inner workings of banking. He goes on to state that, when you take out a loan, you begin paying interest on money that (supposedly) does not exist. This is a lead-in to Mr. Gamble’s critique of fractional reserve lending.

At about 1:05:00 of the film, Mr. Icke appears again, explaining how he thinks bankers “rig” business cycles and deliberately cause depressions. At 1:18:03 he stops talking about banking and says something to the effect of, “The greatest prison people live in is the fear of what others will think. One result of the ridicule I went through is that I stepped out of the fear of what other people thought.”

Mr. Icke then talks about how social norms dictate thinking and how peer pressure stigmatizes those who don’t think “normally.” At 1:19:10 he explicitly mentions the “Illuminati,” which is his term for what Mr. Gamble calls the “Global Domination Elite.” For the next several minutes he talks about this GDE and their supposed agenda. He refers to a “problem-reaction-solution” paradigm, suggesting that the GDE causes problems in the world deliberately so they can solve them. At 1:28:30 Mr. Icke specifically mentions the September 11 attacks as an example of this, clearly indicating that he thinks 9/11 was rigged.

David Icke: A Biographical Profile

David Icke was born in Leicester, UK in 1952, the son of a British World War II hero. He did not do well in school, but was talent-scouted by a football (we call it soccer in the U.S.) team, Coventry City. He also played for Hereford United. Early onset of arthritis ruled out a football career, and Mr. Icke retired from the sport in 1973. During the 1970s and 1980s he was a print and television journalist. He also began to dabble in politics, and after 1988 became one of the spokesmen for the UK Green Party.

About 1990, Mr. Icke began to get heavily into New Age ideas, evidently while searching for alternative cures to the pain of his arthritis. In early 1991 he claims to have had a spiritual experience at a pre-Columbian burial site in Peru. Not long after he returned to the UK, he resigned from the Green Party. At this point in his life he began wearing only clothes that were turquoise colored, believing it channeled positive energy. He also began making bizarre doomsday predictions, such as a prognostication that Great Britain would crumble into the sea as a result of earthquakes. (There is no significant seismic activity in Britain). Mr. Icke later recanted these predictions, admitting they were “nonsense.”

What really projected Mr. Icke into the public eye was an April 1991 interview with BBC personality Terry Wogan. You can see a video of the interview here. In the interview, Mr. Icke continued to make strange apocalyptic predictions. He also claimed, or at least implied, that he was the Son of God—later Mr. Icke said this was misinterpreted. The studio audience present at the interview laughed. The BBC brass cringed; many thought the show went too far. Fifteen years later, Mr. Wogan admitted that he was too hard on Mr. Icke during this interview. Certainly the interview had a devastating effect—Mr. Icke said he was afraid to walk down the street for fear of public derision, and he dropped out of sight for several years.

In 1999, Mr. Icke came out with his most famous book, The Biggest Secret, the book with which he is identified on-screen in Thrive.  This book established the central tenet of Mr. Icke’s philosophy: that the world is run by a race of reptilian aliens that can change their shape and appear to be human, and that the world’s political, economic and social systems are a colossal conspiracy by these evil aliens to enslave mankind. These aliens are supposedly from the constellation Draco, but also from another dimension. Over his various series of books and lectures, Mr. Icke has expounded on this theory, weaving a complicated science-fiction history of the world wherein these aliens have been breeding humans since ancient times. People whom Mr. Icke thinks are secretly reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco include Bill Clinton, the late Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II, former Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, President George W. Bush (of course), and, for whatever reason, Hollywood actor and former country star Kris Kristofferson.

Mr. Icke has not changed this basic narrative in 13 years. Indeed, he’s still out there today, giving lectures all over the world and getting paid handsomely for it. According to one estimate, he may make as much as £300,000 (about $475,000) for one appearance in the UK.

Is There Any Evidence to Support David Icke’s Theories?

No.

There is not a single shred of evidence anywhere in the world to suggest that (1) shape-shifting reptilian aliens from the constellation Draco actually exist; (2) various world leaders, celebrities and country-western stars are actually reptilian shape-shifting aliens from the constellation Draco; or (3) that there is a such thing as an “Illuminati,” a “New World Order” or a “Global Domination Agenda.” On this blog, I have already debunked the Global Domination Agenda and demonstrated why we can be certain that it does not exist. All of the so-called “evidence” produced by Mr. Icke and/or his supporters falls along exactly the same lines as the discussion in that article about why evidence proffered by Illuminati/NWO/GDA believers does not, in fact, prove the existence of this group or their supposed agenda. Mr. Icke’s theories are total fantasy.

A favorite activity of believers in Mr. Icke’s fantastic delusional scenarios is to scrutinize videos on YouTube of world leaders suspected of being reptilians for “evidence” of them changing from their human into their reptilian form. Sometimes believers will seize upon a glitch or anomaly in the video, often lasting only split seconds, and trumpet it as “proof” that the person is “changing into a reptile in front of our eyes!” Often the culprit will be a bulging vein in the person’s neck, a common retinal flash (red-eye), or a pixellation error in the streaming video which the believer insists makes the person look like they have “lizard eyes.” For some reason, former presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush are favorite targets for this ludicrous accusation. Here is an example of a video which reptilian believers cite as total vindication of Mr. Icke’s claims.

As you can see, it’s a pretty boring interview by the former presidents, and despite the frenzied claims of the subtitles, neither of them change into reptiles, nor anything even remotely close.

I challenge any believer of Mr. Icke’s theories to explain how and why this video proves (I) that reptilian shape-shifting aliens exist; (II) that these aliens come from Draco; (III) that these aliens rule the world, or (IV) that President Clinton and President Bush are said reptilian aliens.

To those supporters of Mr. Icke who will invariably say, “But you haven’t proved that what he says isn’t true,” I will reply, I don’t have to. It’s Mr. Icke’s burden to prove that what he says is true. The burden of proof never shifts to skeptics to disprove conspiracy theories. I am not suggesting that we reject David Icke’s theories about reptilian shape-shifting aliens because they sound crazy. I’m suggesting that we reject them because there is no evidence to support them, and because, as if this is not enough reason to reject them, they have another very serious and troubling problem.

What Do David Icke’s Theories Really Mean?

The problem with Mr. Icke’s false assertions is that they are essentially science-fiction redresses of the old “Jewish world conspiracy” theories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco standing in for Jews. Mr. Icke even believes in the authenticity of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a notorious anti-Semitic forgery that was proven false almost a century ago. Of course, in Mr. Icke’s mythology, it was not the Jews who wrote about their plans of world domination in the Protocols, but aliens.

Michael Barkun, an academic researcher who studies comparative religion, wrote a book called A Culture of Conspiracy: Apocalyptic Visions in Contemporary America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003). Dr. Barkun is the leading scholarly expert on conspiracy theorists in the United States today. On page 104, in a chapter where Dr. Barkun describes the conspiracist ideology of Mr. Icke, he says:

“This set of nested conspiracies [described by David Icke] achieves its goals through control of the ‘world financial system’ and its mastery of ‘mind control’ techniques. Its goal is a ‘plan that, according to Icke, had been laid out in The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Although Icke is careful to suggest…that the Illuminati rather than the Jews wrote The Protocols, this is the first of a number of instances in which Icke moves into the dangerous terrain of anti-Semitism.”

The reason that aliens became stand-ins for Jews has to do with the evolution of conspiracy theory during the 1980s and 1990s, when right-wing militia conspiracy milieu (think Timothy McVeigh) became intertwined with the UFO/alien subculture. Dr. Barkun states, on page 144:

“This type of speculation projects terrestrial racial categories onto creatures from outer space….Such racial classificatory schemata are common among those who argue for multiple types of alien visitors. Even among writers who most unambiguously reject anti-Semitism, the alien racial types disquietingly appear to reproduce old stereotypes. The evil Grays are dwarfish with grotesque features—not unlike stereotypes of the short, swarthy, hook-nosed Jew of European anti-Semitic folklore. They are contrasted to the tall, virtuous Nordics or Aryans. Although there is little to suggest that those who employ such terms do so to make direct parallels to earthbound categories, the images seem clearly to be refracted versions of older racial anti-Semitism.”

This is useful background, but it isn’t really about Mr. Icke per se. However, Dr. Barkun does get there, after discussing how conspiracists like David Icke are inconsistent about proclaiming to not be anti-Semitic while advancing clearly anti-Semitic theories:

“David Icke also seeks to have it both ways, simultaneously claiming to be offended at the thought that anyone might find him anti-Semitic and hinting at the dark activities of Jewish elites. He protests that the charge of anti-Semitism is merely a ruse to silence truth seekers, a tactic of the shadowy ‘Global Elite,’ who ‘denounce anyone who gets closer to the truth as an anti-Semite.’ According to Icke, the Anti-Defamation League is the conspiracy’s tool for silencing ‘researchers who are getting too close to the truth about the global conspiracy.’…

The more strongly Icke is condemned for anti-Semitism, the stranger are his protestations of innocence. He attacks alleged exploiters of the Jewish people, including B’nai B’rith, which he identifies as the Rothschilds’ ‘intelligence arm,’ used to ‘defame and destroy legitimate researchers with the label anti-Semitic.’ It was supposedly the Rothschilds who brought Hitler to power, created Zionism, and ‘control the State of Israel.’…Icke and other UFO anti-Semites obsess about ‘Jewish bankers.’ They are alleged to be the international wire-pullers behind countless episodes of national collapse and international turmoil. The old names, such as Rothschild and the firm of Kuhn, Loeb, continually recur. Given this penchant for recycling old themes, it is scarcely surprising that that hoary forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, exerts an abiding fascination.”

Wait, What Does This Have to Do With Thrive?

The anti-Semitic echoes of David Icke’s theories present a very difficult problem. Thrive‘s treatment of Mr. Icke illustrates the extremely delicate dance that one must do when confronted with this material. If you believe at least some of what David Icke is saying, how do you separate what you like and agree with from the ugly anti-Semitic stuff, and how do you prevent the negative press surrounding Mr. Icke from totally overshadowing everything else? Furthermore, how do you do this when Mr. Icke’s theories specifically posit that it’s a grand over-arching superconspiracy, meaning that he sees no separation or compartmentalization of one part of the superconspiracy from another? Thrive never solves this conundrum, which is why Mr. Icke’s appearance in the film seems so forced and awkward.

It is very evident, from the sections of Dr. Barkun’s book that I’ve excerpted above, that Thrive is at the very least sympathetic to key elements of the grand conspiracy views of Mr. Icke, even if it doesn’t come out and specifically endorse reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco, and even if the film denounces anti-Semitism (which it does). Indeed, aside from the aliens themselves, Thrive traffics in a lot of other things that feed into David Icke’s theory. Foster Gamble rages at the Rothschilds and Rockefellers several times in the movie. Immediately after addressing anti-Semitism, the film brushes the issue off with an accusation that the “central bankers funded both sides of World War II,” quite a transparent evasion. And, of course, much of the core ideology that Thrive wants its viewers to adopt relates to the notion of “evil bankers” supposedly in control of the world. And, of course, one of the major messages of the film is the idea of a “Global Domination Agenda.” All of these ideas lie at the very heart of Mr. Icke’s ideology. What David Icke adds, that Thrive isn’t willing to sign on to, is what he thinks stitches them all together: those pesky reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco.

Just to be absolutely clear: I am not suggesting that Foster Gamble is anti-Semitic. I don’t believe he is. He makes clear, at 1:13:56 of the film, that he’s not calling this a “Jewish Agenda,” and I don’t think he’s implying that it is. I think, in fact, that Mr. Gamble is probably genuinely ignorant of how closely Mr. Icke’s ideology mimics the toxic anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. But this point itself demonstrates how insidious David Icke’s theories really are. By candy-coating anti-Semitism in a science-fiction shell, most people who swallow it don’t realize they’ve just ingested a dose of bigotry. This deception is all the more tragic precisely because I think Mr. Gamble is a nice man who believes in equality, dislikes racial prejudice and who genuinely wants the world to be a better place. But, as I explained in a previous blog, his good intentions shouldn’t isolate him from criticism for advancing the negative effects that this sort of ideology has on public discourse and the world at large.

What Is David Icke Doing in Thrive, Anyway? Why Did the Filmmakers Choose Him?

Even some Thrive defenders who have commented on this blog have been brave enough to concede that, saddled as he is with baggage that is utterly poisonous, public relations-wise, inviting Mr. Icke to elucidate key messages of Thrive was probably not the smartest move. The mere appearance of David Icke in any public forum causes people to bolt for the lifeboats—such as a notorious speaking tour in Canada where various Jewish groups lobbied, successfully in some cases, to have his speeches canceled. Why, then, would the makers of Thrive choose to court controversy by inviting him into the movie? Couldn’t they have gotten someone less controversial to expound the opinions Mr. Icke talks about in his appearances in the film?

The answer, I believe, is that the makers of Thrive specifically wanted to market their movie to Mr. Icke’s fans. Let’s face it, in the conspiracy theorist underground, David Icke is a rock star. He’s known all over the world. In the United States, the only conspiracy theorist with more immediate name recognition is Alex Jones. If you get David Icke to channel your message for you, his followers will automatically accept it, because they think he’s an oracle and uniquely gifted to explain what’s going on in the world, and you also make $5 a pop from them for downloading the movie starring their hero. Furthermore, David Icke is well-known in New Age circles. If you’re making a movie about conspiracy theories which you want to sell to a New Age audience, you want access to David Icke’s fans, don’t you?

This argument is strengthened if you look at what Mr. Icke says—and doesn’t say—in Thrive. He talks about banking, about social controls, and about the “problem-reaction-solution” paradigm. Virtually any believer in the Global Domination Agenda, or anyone who shares Mr. Gamble’s views on banking, could have talked about these exact same ideas, in almost exactly the same words. If the three topics Mr. Icke talks about in the movie could have been easily covered with a less controversial and less polarizing figure, wouldn’t Foster Gamble and the makers of the film have chosen to go with someone else who didn’t have the millstone of reptilian shape-shifting aliens and accusations of anti-Semitism hanging around their necks? Wouldn’t that have been the rational choice, from a public relations standpoint?

The fact that they did not make that choice means that must be something particular to Mr. Icke that the filmmakers wanted to take advantage of. It’s probably his popularity and the audience he brings to the table, but we can’t be sure. Nevertheless, the makers of Thrive must have felt either that the controversy surrounding Mr. Icke could only help them publicize the movie, or else they felt (or perhaps felt in addition) that the baggage associated with David Icke would be outweighed in the long run by the advantages they thought they would gain by connecting with his audience of New Agers and conspiracy theorists.

I wrote in an article over at the sister blog that Thrive has three main sections which are closely intertwined with each other. The first seeks to “earn its chops” among the intended New Age audience by pushing as many traditional hot buttons for New Agers as possible: ancient astronauts, alt-med cures, zero-point energy, UFOs, crop circles, etc. The second part downloads the conspiracy theory narratives. The third part proposes a solution for these awful conspiracies, somewhat tautologically: New Age beliefs and libertarian political ideas.

David Icke’s appearance in the movie impacts both the first and second parts. He is unique as a figure who (I) has cachet in New Age circles, (II) has cachet among conspiracy theorists, and (III) commands the attention of a large-scale audience that Mr. Gamble probably couldn’t reach on his own. The appearance of David Icke’s head on the screen in the credit sequence is a key signal being telegraphed to the audience: “Hey, look, we’ve got one of your oracles, David Icke, in this movie. We know you’ll want to pay attention to what he says!” By putting David Icke in the film, the makers have bought an admission ticket to access the worldviews of two of their target audiences: New Agers and believers in conspiracy theories, two populations which, as I’ve argued before, are exhibiting increasing overlap and crossover.

From this standpoint, then, David Icke is not only a key participant in the film, but possibly the most important participant. Nassim Haramein has a fan base of his own, but the movie could get along fine without him, more or less; Adam Trombly, Stephen Greer and others interviewed are generally not well known outside of the specific niches that their issues occupy, and few people had heard of Foster Gamble before Thrive. It’s clear that David Icke is the key personality. Regardless of what he says on-screen, without him Thrive has a much more limited reach.

If Icke is So Key, Why Doesn’t He Talk About Reptilian Shape-Shifting Aliens? After All, Isn’t That What He’s Known For?

I think there are two possible answers to this question. The first is, perhaps Mr. Gamble didn’t feel comfortable going there because he doesn’t literally believe it. Even many conspiracy theorists have a hard time swallowing David Icke’s bizarre theories. Icke himself has said, quoted on page 106 of Dr. Bokun’s book: “Some of the most fierce abuse that I’ve had since [The Biggest Secret] came out has not been from the public, actually, it’s been from some other conspiracy researchers who can’t get their head around anything beyond the physical.” (A rather telling statement—is Mr. Icke admitting here that his reptilian shape-shifting aliens aren’t actually real?)

The second reason may be that the makers of Thrive wanted to try to preserve, as much as practical without diluting their message, the possibility that the movie might have some crossover appeal to non-New Age, non-conspiracy audiences. If Mr. Icke gets up there and starts blathering about lizard men from the constellation Draco, you’re going to turn off a lot of people pretty much instantly. Perhaps, in exercising some restraint on the views Mr. Icke presented on-screen, Thrive evinces some minimal standards on how far into the realm of conspiracy esoterica is too far to venture without totally losing the audience in the process.

Conclusion

David Icke is a person, popular in New Age and conspiracy theorist circles, who espouses an elaborate belief system so bizarre, so implausible, and so far-removed from reality that it is incapable of being accepted in any rational frame of mind. The fact that this worldview lacks a single shred of evidence to support it should underscore precisely how far-removed from reality it is. The fact that it so eerily resembles crude anti-Semitic conspiracy theories from yesteryear, with a modern sci-fi twist imported from UFO mythology, should make the theories of Mr. Icke even more radioactive. But, despite all these strikes against it, there are people out there who not only believe that reptilian shape-shifting aliens are trying to control the world simply because Mr. Icke has told them this is the case, but these people are willing to pay to see him espouse these theories in sufficient numbers to provide him with a comfortable living going around the world lecturing about how awful reptilian shape-shifting aliens are. It is these people to whom I believe the makers of Thrive were trying to sell their film, and Mr. Icke’s presence in the movie represents the opening of that commercial and ideological gate.

David Icke is not a credible source. His inclusion in Thrive is another of many reasons why this movie and its messages should be treated with extreme caution and subjected to the most rigorous factual scrutiny—a level of scrutiny which, as I think this blog has demonstrated on numerous occasions, it cannot hope to meet.

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

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

My main argument in that article is stated thusly:

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

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

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

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