Tag Archive | philosophy

Why We Fight: Progressive Leader Who Repudiated Thrive Explains Why Its Conspiracy Theories Are Harmful.

This week I had an email conversation with John Robbins. Mr. Robbins is a well-known environmentalist author and lecturer, undoubtedly a leader in the intellectual progressive movement in this country. He appears in Thrive, and is one of the ten people who signed an open letter declaring their disassociation from the movie. I wrote an article about this development earlier this weekend, which includes the text of that letter.

The text of the letter does not mention conspiracy theories. I was curious whether Mr. Robbins had an opinion on the conspiracy content of Thrive and whether this was a motivating factor in his decision to disassociate himself from the film. The response I got from him was very interesting and illuminating. When I read it, I was amazed at how cogently he was also expressing my own reasons for opposing the movie.

The Text of John Robbins’s Letter to Me

Mr. Robbins gave me permission to post his response here on this blog. Here it is.

“There is a great deal about Thrive that I find untrue and dangerous.   You ask if I have any comment on the film’s promotion of conspiracy theories.  Yes, I do.

There is no doubt that staggering wealth and power is today concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of humanity.  The combined net worth of the world’s richest thousand or so people — the planet’s billionaires — is almost twice that of the poorest 2.5 billion.  This disparity is nothing less than an indictment of our civilization.  It is also certain that networks exist among the most powerful people that enable a remarkably few people to shape the world’s economy,  to determine what is known and what is not, which views are accepted and which are not, and what priorities and values will prevail.  They decide whether we will live in war or peace, how our treasure will be spent, and they have proven to be eminently successful at enriching themselves at the expense of the common good.

But fantasies about secret conspiracies distract us from the work at hand.  Those few who hold immense wealth and power are still people.  They are not reptiles in human form.  They are perhaps pathologically competitive or greedy, but still human, riven with differences and egos, and not particularly good at sustaining relationships, much less of organizing massive secret cabals to dominate all life on this planet.

Thrive promotes conspiracy theories that are based on an imaginary division between “us” and “them.”  “We” are many and well-meaning but victimized; while “they” are a tiny, greedy and immensely powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who will do absolutely anything in their quest to achieve total world domination.  I think the allure of this way of thinking is that it distracts and absolves us from the troubling truth that the real source of the problem is in all of us, and in the economic systems we have collectively produced.  As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”

Foster Gamble has said that the earthquake that caused the tsunami that wreaked havoc on the nuclear plants in Fukushima was deliberately created by those seeking absolute world domination  to punish the Japanese for not acceding to their wishes.   He has said that “they” have a machine in Alaska that enables them to create earthquakes at will, anywhere on earth, and of any desired strength.  In my judgement, this is the thinking of someone who has lost all grounding in reality.

Thrive advances the idea that vaccinations have been purposefully created by the global elite to decimate the population, an idea that I find both ludicrous and dangerous.  There is no doubt that vaccinations have troubling side effects.  Some of them may be more toxic than we know.  But it was a vaccine that enabled the elimination of smallpox, a scourge which was responsible for approximately 500 million human deaths in the 20th century.  Thrive promotes the idea that the U.N. and world treaties are the work of evil-doers intent on total world domination.  These institutions are far from perfect.  But it was only through the concerted efforts of the global health community and the World Health Organization that smallpox, perhaps the killer of more humans than any other in world history, was eradicated.

There are many things that are terribly wrong in our world.  All living creatures are poisoned and compromised by surging levels of man-made toxins that spew into our world, relatively unchecked.   We are experiencing unprecedented levels of heart disease, cancer, obesity and childhood diabetes.  Our financial institutions and to a large extent our political system have been hijacked by greedy, sociopathic individuals who seem to feel no sense of responsibility to the well being of the whole.   Our  military industrial complex with its voracious appetite for new markets, and its obscenely paranoid world view, expands unchecked with frightening and horrific speed.

But holding these tragedies as the intentional acts of a tiny group of families seeking to rule the world distracts us from the arduous work of confronting the real challenges before us.

I hope this is helpful.

Warmly,

John”

My Own Thoughts

I find myself in virtually total agreement with the points Mr. Robbins raised in his letter. He’s not only expressed his own reasons for turning his back on the film, but he’s very neatly and eloquently summarized my own motivations for opposing it.

Some readers of this blog may be surprised to see this. The tone taken in many comments by Thrive fans who disagree with me seems to indicate that many of them assume that because I don’t believe in the film’s conspiracy theories, this must mean I agree with every action taken by the government or by economic interests, or that I don’t think there is corruption, or that I must think our current economic system is fair and just. Although I’ve stated repeatedly, beginning in the FAQ, that I don’t hold any of these views, many—perhaps even most—Thrive fans just don’t get it.

I believe that income disparity is a huge problem in the United States and the world. I believe that the economic system in America isn’t functioning fairly or properly. I believe business and corporate interests have too much influence and control over policy. I believe that we spend too much on wars and military interventions and not enough on helping Americans here at home. Above all, I believe that anthropogenic global warming is a dire threat to our planet and that immediate and decisive action must be taken—by governments, by businesses, and by individuals—to combat it. From his statement, I gather that Mr. Robbins probably shares these views.

How Does Thrive Divert Attention from Real Problems?

Thrive is deeply misguided because it’s diverting its viewers’ attention away from the real solutions that we must pursue to these very real problems. My core grievance with conspiracy theories is that they are false. However, it’s the effect of that falsity in the real world which is why opposing conspiracy theories matters. Conspiracy thinking reduces the world into a simplistic black-and-white, good-versus-evil, lightworkers-versus-disinformation paradigm. Against that background, nothing productive can get done.

Here’s how Thrive operates in this regard.

Problem: environmental degradation caused by reliance on fossil fuels.

Real solution: Work toward developing economically and socially realistic alternatives to fossil fuels, such as renewable energy resources (solar, wind, water power, etc.) as well as smarter solutions in building, land use and lifestyle.

Thrive solution: “Free energy” machines developed from technology given to us by aliens will save the world without us having to do anything (except to oppose the “Global Domination Elite.”).

Problem: income disparity and poverty.

Real solution: Work toward meaningful and fair reform of the economic system, policies that promote economic opportunity at the bottom, and make sure businesses and corporations pay their fair share and contribute to our society.

Thrive solution: Take out the “Global Domination Elite.” Taxation is theft; abolish it.

Problem: government corruption.

Real solution: Meaningful campaign finance reform; eliminate (or at least reduce) corporate/business influence in politics; punish wrongdoers; elect honest candidates.

Thrive solution: All corruption is the fault of the “Global Domination Elite.” Rise up against them and destroy them, and everything will be fine.

Problem: disease in the developing world.

Real solution: Develop medical technology and healthy vaccines, and put social and political institutions in place to distribute medical care to as many people as possible.

Thrive solution: Vaccines are evil tools of the “Global Domination Elite” and should be banned.

Problem: anthropogenic global warming.

Real solution: Massive worldwide mobilization by governments and business interests to develop clean technology as rapidly as possible, reduce carbon emissions and mitigate areas impacted by global warming disasters. International cooperation on political, economic, and scientific levels.

Thrive solution: The problem does not exist. Global warming is a hoax, a sham and a conspiracy by the “Global Domination Elite.”

Do you see how this works? This is why Thrive is worth speaking out against.

One Last Example: the HAARP Earthquake Machine.

A totally shocking detail included in Mr. Robbins’s letter is his statement of Foster Gamble’s statements about the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan early last year. Mr. Robbins says, “He has said that “they” have a machine in Alaska that enables them to create earthquakes at will, anywhere on earth, and of any desired strength.”

This is a very old conspiracy theory called HAARP. You can read a debunking of HAARP conspiracy theories from noted skeptic Brian Dunning here. It’s one of the stupidest, most irrational and most paranoid conspiracy theories out there, but many people, unfortunately, believe it. I didn’t know until I saw Mr. Robbins’s letter that Foster Gamble has expressed belief in HAARP, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s also a perfect illustration of how conspiracy theories, once they get inside a person’s head, can totally corrode their ability to think rationally about world problems.

If people who believed in HAARP had any significant positions of power, what sort of world would we have? An earthquake and tsunami in Japan, caused by tectonic stresses and geologic processes, would be interpreted through the lens of this conspiracy theory as a man-made act of war, quite naturally inviting some sort of retaliation or response. If Foster Gamble could identify a specific individual or groups of individuals that he thought caused the Fukushima disaster, I would venture a guess that he would want those individuals to be held accountable in some way. This is in the total absence of any evidence whatsoever that an earthquake and tsunami in Japan was caused by HAARP.

Can you see how dangerous this type of thinking is? Furthermore, does the fact that this sort of thinking is on the rise scare you as much as it scares me?

Why is conspiracy thinking and conspiracy ideology on the rise? Because of people like Alex Jones, Eustace Mullins, David Icke, and Jeff Rense—and because of movies like Loose Change, Zeitgeist, and yes, Thrive.

So, those of you who wonder why I created this blog, why I speak out so forcefully against conspiracy theories and conspiracy thinking, you now have your answer.

When I open my email inbox every morning to see the host of comments posted on this blog during the night—the majority of them highly negative—I sometimes think of this old song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won’t back down.”

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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.

Should We Give Thrive a Pass on Facts, And Instead Praise its “Message?”

As stated here, the purpose of this blog is to bring to light the many errors, distortions, and inaccuracies contained in the conspiracy theory documentary Thrive. My objections to Thrive are primarily fact-based. It presents many claims as fact which are simply untrue: for example, that crop circles are of extraterrestrial origin, that Adam Trombly has invented a working “free energy” device, and that an insular group of conspirators control the world. These things are not true, and many other claims the movie makes aren’t true either.

A common thread in many of the comments I’ve received on this blog, however, has been to take me to task for focusing on the factual veracity of claims made in Thrive. According to certain commenters, the factual accuracy of the film and its claims aren’t the point, and instead of debunking them, I should be praising what some people view as the movie’s “positive message.” This article will evaluate that assertion critically, or at least as critically as an essentially faith-based proposition can be evaluated.

Should we give Thrive a pass on its purported facts, or some of its purported facts, in favor of praising either its overall “message” or the good intentions of its creators, such as Foster Gamble? I would clearly answer no to this question, but it’s equally clear that many fans of the film would unhesitatingly answer yes. This difference in approach illustrates some interesting things about the movie itself and the audience at which it is aimed.

Do Facts Matter?

On the face of it this question seems silly. Of course they do. Facts always matter. Without ascertaining what’s fact and what’s not, the world is unnavigable. However, it appears that, when one delves into the strange New Age netherworld of the sorts of subjects covered in Thrive—UFOs, magical energy devices, ancient astronauts, and conspiracy theories—facts become a whole lot less important, at least to the people who believe in these things.

Let’s take, for example, Adam Trombly’s “free energy” machine. An early article on this blog presented the facts that, not only is there no evidence that Trombly’s machine works, but the principle by which it supposedly operates violates the laws of physics. In the comments on that and other pages, however, some defenders of Thrive don’t seem to be very troubled by this. Believers in “free energy” devices, when confronted with facts demonstrating that a particular machine has not been proven to work, will often start arguing about possibilities and potentials of unlimited energy devices, sometimes citing examples of other particular machines—whose operations have not been proven either. You can see examples of this sort of argumentation in the comments to that page. To them, therefore, what seems to be important is that a person believes in the possibility of “free energy.” When you come at it from that tack, whether Trombly’s specific machine does or does not work suddenly recedes in importance. The factual question of whether it does or doesn’t work is no longer the key issue you’re arguing about.

But what does this say about Thrive? It seems safe to conclude that Foster Gamble believes strongly in “free energy” devices, and promoting that belief to the public seems to be one of the key objectives of Thrive. One would assume, therefore, that Adam Trombly and his device are, if not the best and most compelling example of “free energy” devices that Gamble could find, at least a representative example. Even if Gamble, in preparation for making the movie, interviewed 50 inventors of so-called “free energy” devices and only Trombly was willing to sign up to appear on camera, it wouldn’t make sense that Gamble would put him in the movie if his specific device wasn’t capable of illustrating the point Gamble wants to make about “free energy.” Seen in that light, isn’t the failure of Trombly’s case to persuade us that “free energy” devices are real extremely damaging to Gamble’s argument in general?

Don’t misunderstand what I’m arguing here. One failed example is not an excuse to trash an entire idea. If you can show me a working example of a “free energy” device whose operation is clearly and publicly verified by reputable scientific sources—a “free energy” device whose operation and functioning are unmistakable, explainable by science and capable of being reproduced—I will concede that “free energy” exists, and the fact that Trombly failed to build such a device is irrelevant. But what I am saying is that if Trombly is the best example of this phenomenon that Thrive can offer us, and that example fails to make its case, doesn’t that diminish the ability of the movie Thrive to persuade us that its arguments are credible?

Again, just to be clear: the point I’m making is that, by using Adam Trombly as a (presumably) representative example of “free energy,” Thrive turns out to be not very persuasive that “free energy” exists. This may be just because Trombly is a bad example, in which case the makers of Thrive chose him poorly; or it may be because there’s nothing to “free energy” to begin with, in which case the makers of Thrive are asserting something they either know is false or ought to know if they had done proper research into the matter. Either way it seems inescapable that Thrive’s competence and credibility as a source diminishes as soon as you realize that the claims the movie makes about Trombly and his machine don’t pan out.

To at least some defenders of the movie, however, this analysis doesn’t follow at all. To them it doesn’t really matter whether Trombly is a good example or a bad one—they wish to believe that “free energy” exists, and the fact that the specific inventor showcased in Thrive has not created a working “free energy” machine is not permitted to impeach this conclusion. This is purely faith-based, result-driven reasoning.

I’m using the Trombly case as an example here, but it is by no means the only example. It would be one thing if it was the only unpersuasive example. But it isn’t. If you pile the numerous errors, distortions and unwarranted conclusions in Thrive atop one another, it quickly becomes clear that the movie as a whole has an extremely serious problem with basic factual credibility on multiple levels.

Should We Cherry-Pick the Claims in Thrive, Believe Some and Leave Others Alone?

Another thread that comes through in some of the pro-Thrive comments suggests that viewers are approaching it as a sort of cafeteria smorgasbord where you’re expected to take one or more claims it makes at face value while dismissing, or ignoring, others. The movie offers so many conspiracy theories and New Age perspectives, changing gears so rapidly, that it’s difficult to keep track of them all. The problem is compounded when one looks at the Thrive Movement website, especially its section on the “Global Domination Agenda,” and sees links to a bunch of other conspiracy theories that the movie didn’t have time to cover, as well as mentions of conspiracy theorists, like Alex Jones, who themselves espouse particular conspiracy theories not specifically mentioned in the film. It’s difficult to accept that anybody could believe the literal truth of all of the conspiracy theories mentioned in Thrive or referenced, directly or indirectly, on the website, but, as I have long experience dealing with conspiracy theorists, I know that it is (unfortunately) possible, perhaps even likely.

A good example of the “cherry-picking” approach concerns David Icke. As most people familiar with the conspiracy underground know, Icke, perhaps the most well-known conspiracy theorist in the world, is instantly identified with his bizarre theories that the world is secretly run by evil reptilian shape-shifting aliens. These theories are science-fiction redresses of the old anti-Semitic “Jewish world conspiracy” theories that were popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with aliens standing in for Jews. Icke appears in Thrive—in fact, although he isn’t interviewed until later in the movie, his face flashes on screen within the first seven minutes of the film—but does not talk about reptilian aliens on-screen. One of my strongest objections to Thrive is that Icke is involved in it and quoted as a reliable source about anything, even though he doesn’t push his reptilian alien crap in this specific film. Pro-Thrive readers of this blog have taken me to task for this. According to them, I’m supposed to overlook the fact that Icke believes in reptilian shape-shifting aliens and instead focus on positive things he says in Thrive. (Like what? The false claims of a “Global Domination Agenda”?)

I remain unconvinced that Foster Gamble put Icke on-screen just because he had something supposedly worthwhile to say that is unconnected to his reptilian alien delusions, as some Thrive fans have asserted. For one thing, Icke’s entire worldview stems from this delusion. If you read his writings it’s difficult to find anything he talks about that isn’t connected in some way to his elaborate sci-fi conspiracy mythology. For another thing, David Icke’s associations are so toxic that there’s no chance anyone who is not already predisposed to accept, or at least consider, Icke’s ideology could overlook them. The fact that David Icke appears in this movie at all is a not-very-subtle bid to market Thrive and its conclusions to Icke’s core audience, whom Gamble is obviously interested in reaching. Thus, don’t tell me that the fact that Icke believes in evil reptilians from outer space is somehow irrelevant to what he’s doing in this movie. Whether Foster Gamble himself believes in evil reptilians from outer space is not the point—he probably doesn’t (I certainly hope he doesn’t!)—but if you want to reach conspiracy theorists who dwell at that advanced level of fantasy, you can do no better than to utilize David Icke as a mouthpiece.

Again, as with the Trombly issue, if Icke was the only unreliable or questionable source in the movie, it might be easier to look past his presence and simply chalk up Gamble’s invitation for Icke to appear as a fluke in the “bad call, Ripley!” category. But in Thrive you don’t just get David Icke. You get Nassim Haramein, touted as a reliable source on ancient history but who plays fast and loose with the facts; you get Steven Greer, whose claim to fame is pushing the-gubbermint-is-covering-up-UFOs conspiracy theories; you get Edgar Mitchell, a former astronaut known for making outlandish conspiracy-oriented claims that NASA has officially denied; you get Deepak Chopra, well-known in New Age and alt-med circles; the list goes on and on. Inviting people to your movie to espouse controversial opinions is fine, and I have no problem with that. But these people are asserting as matters of fact many things which are demonstrably false. Everyone has a right to their own opinion. But nobody has a right to their own facts.

Good Intentions?

Okay. So Foster Gamble is wrong about crop circles, free energy, the Global Domination Agenda, the Rockefellers, alt-med cures, Nicola Tesla, UFO suppression, alien astronauts, and countless other things. One can certainly argue that he made a couple of poor decisions, credibility-wise, by giving the floor to Adam Trombly, whose claims cannot be verified, and David Icke, whose claims are something out of bad science fiction. Should Mr. Gamble’s good intentions in making Thrive insulate him from criticism on these points?

I’m sure Foster Gamble is a nice guy. On-screen he comes across as extremely personable. Before he made this movie he was widely associated with a campaign to ban (or reduce) industrial pesticide spraying—which I regard as a good cause and effort well spent. I’m quite sure he honestly wants to see the world improve and to see people lead better lives. I’m also quite sure he works very hard and puts a lot of effort into activities that he believes advances these goals.

Here’s the thing: so do I. However, I do not hear defenders of the Thrive movie arguing that my good intentions should insulate me from criticism for doing what I do on this blog.

Indeed, who doesn’t have good intentions? Who honestly doesn’t think the world can and should be improved, that people should live longer and more fulfilling lives, and that social justice should prevail? It’s not as if it’s so unusual to find a person as well-intentioned as Foster Gamble that a person with such intentions suddenly becomes immune from criticism on the basis of factual inaccuracies or logic errors, especially in a media piece that is, as Thrive purports to be, a documentary supposedly telling the truth about “how things really are.”

Personally, I devote a great deal of money and time to volunteer and charity activities. I believe strongly, for instance, in providing better access to education, especially higher education. I’m out there working on my ideas to “save the world” just as hard as Foster Gamble is working on his. What sort of special privileges or immunities do I believe this entitles me to? Absolutely none at all.

Here’s something else to keep in mind: peoples’ ideas for improving the world can, and usually do, conflict with one another. I believe that conspiracy theories impair peoples’ ability to think rationally and thus participate meaningfully in public discourse. Therefore, refuting conspiracy theories and promoting the facts is something I feel is a strong social good. I would venture to say Foster Gamble would disagree. He seems to believe that promoting conspiracy theories is a social good, or otherwise he wouldn’t have made Thrive in the first place. I do not question Gamble’s good intentions. But it’s a simple fact that Gamble’s activities in promoting conspiracy theories directly conflict with my own efforts to refute them. He has money to burn and an audience of millions, so he’ll probably make a lot more headway on his goal that I will on mine, but that doesn’t change that I think Foster Gamble is wrong. Am I not allowed to assert that view because I also believe that, however wrong he is, he at least is acting out of good intentions and pure motives?

What Is the “Point” of Thrive, Anyway?

Here we get to the real issue: why was Thrive created, what is its ultimate “message,” and who is it aimed at?

When I first began this blog I was reluctant to speculate too much as to Foster Gamble and the other makers’ motives in creating the movie, because those motives are extremely unclear. After studying the film and reaction to it for the past two and a half months, however, I believe we can make a reasonable hypothesis as to why this film was created and what it’s ultimately trying to say.

I’ve recently had a fascinating conversation over email with an academic, who happens to be an expert on conspiracy theories and New Age mythology. This person, whose credentials are impressive, is not a “debunker” as I am—he studies the phenomenon of conspiracy theories and why people believe them, whereas my study of them (and I do not study them in an academic realm) focuses on ascertaining their factual veracity. After my conversation with this person regarding Thrive, which helped me to see the larger context in which the movie operates, I think I understand the point of the film much better than I did in November. This topic is worth expanding upon and will probably be the subject of a self-contained article.

The upshot of my conversation with the expert was that Thrive was created as a means to explain, at least partially, the failure of New Age concepts—which have been around and popular since at least the ‘70s—to result in the transformative change that many New Age believers insisted would flow from the implementation of their ideas. Here is what he had to say on the subject (he asked that his identifying information not be disclosed on this blog, but he gave me permission to post his words): 

“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.” 

Once you start to consider Thrive from this angle, everything falls into place. It suddenly makes sense why Thrive carefully strokes the various tropes of New Age belief systems: UFOs, ancient astronauts, alt-med miracle cures, benevolent aliens and magical free energy machines. It also makes sense why, once the movie has proclaimed its sympathy with these themes, it turns on a fire hose of conspiracy craziness, theory after theory thrown willy-nilly at the audience in an attempt to make one or more of them stick. The movie’s point, therefore, is this: “The reason that our New Age beliefs haven’t transformed the world is because the evil conspirators are thwarting us.”

This also explains why Thrive’s supporters aren’t generally swayed by factual arguments or applications of logic and critical thinking. The point is not to establish literal, verifiable truth (though the film seems, on the surface, to want to do this as well). The point is to validate an essentially spiritual belief system. At its core, then, seen from this angle, Thrive is basically a religious text. A Thrive supporter is no more likely to abandon his support for the film, when presented evidence that crop circles are terrestrial in origin or the Global Domination Agenda does not exist, than a Mormon is to leave the Church of Latter-Day Saints when told that there is no archaeological evidence that the Nephites and Lamanites actually existed.

That Thrive supporters take the movie this way—whether they are consciously aware of it or not—is borne out by comments like this one, which seems to equate criticism of the movie with some sort of assault on the primacy of the human spirit:

“Thrive is not out to get anyone other than the people that Gamble feels are responsible for the situation we find ourselves in today. I believe that all Thrive is trying to do is show people the power they have, which to me is amazing because all I see everywhere are reminders of how I need to better myself or change who I am because its not good enough. I don’t feel the need to back up any claims with links or anything of that nature because you can’t cite the claim I have which is this; Every human being has the capability of being amazing no matter what but there are people who try very hard to keep us unaware of this….I just love the movie Thrive because it gives me hope. All I want is for as many people to be inspired by this movie the way I was because it is too hard for me to see and hear about so many people living with so little while we enjoy the benefits of their destruction.”

So Thrive, then, is probably intended to be accepted on spiritual and philosophical terms—not factual ones.

That means that unless I’m ready to give battle on the supposed spiritual basis of Thrive, I need to delete this blog immediately, right? Not quite.

There’s Just One Problem…Thrive Purports to be a Documentary. 

Unfortunately Thrive doesn’t wear its intentions on its sleeve. On the face of it, it appears to be a documentary—a movie intended to state what the facts actually are. The fact that I had to talk to an academic expert on conspiracy theories and New Age beliefs to realize that it is not really a documentary demonstrates this. It also leaves the movie and its makes with the same fundamental problem that drew me to begin debunking it in the first place: the things that it says are facts are not, in fact, true. 

Appreciating the New Age context in which many supporters of Thrive perceive the movie is one thing. However, it doesn’t change that the movie is still out there claiming to be a documentary and telling people that the Rockefellers control their food supply and that evil oil companies are suppressing extraterrestrial technology. So long as statements of fantasy such as these are continued to be passed off as objective fact, attacking Thrive on the basis of its factual accuracy is, in my view, entirely fair game. To argue otherwise is to argue, effectively, either that (i) facts don’t matter; (ii) Foster Gamble’s good intentions in making the film should immunize him from criticism about its assertions; or (iii) that the purported “goodness” of the movie’s overall message outweighs the transgressions it makes against the truth. This article, I feel, has already effectively refuted (i) and (ii). Point (iii) makes me uneasy because it’s essentially an “ends justify the means” argument, which is always dangerous. 

Regardless of whether Foster Gamble would himself agree that the purported factual assertions in the movie should be taken with a “grain of salt”—and it would be very problematic if he did state that unequivocally—there’s no question that some people out there do believe everything Thrive says. I can state that, between comments received on this blog and replies directed to me on Twitter, I have, since beginning this blog, seen an example of an assertion of the direct factual accuracy of every major claim made in the film. Granted, this is spread among many different commenters, but if each individual claim in the movie is believed to be literal fact by at least one person, that still adds up to a lot of people believing in a lot of untrue claims. This is the problem with movies that play fast and loose with the facts masquerading as documentaries. It’s deceptive. If you’re trying to tell people the way things really are, here on Earth in our real world, by doing so you owe at least a moral duty to tell these things accurately, and that means doing diligent research to make sure the claims you want to make are really true. Given the ease with which I and the other contributors to this blog have debunked many of its claims, I’m left with serious doubts that Mr. Gamble and the others responsible for Thrive have done the research they should have done before passing off these claims as true. 

Should we give Thrive a pass on its facts and instead praise its motives or its message? So long as its makers offer it as a factual documentary, no, we shouldn’t. It’s just that simple.