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Humanity and Sanity: The Full Text of John Robbins’s Repudiation of Thrive and its Conspiracy Theories.

Probably the single most important event in Thrive‘s short history was the announcement, on April 10, 2012, that nine of the people interviewed in the film had signed a letter repudiating it and claiming that Foster Gamble misrepresented the film to them. (A tenth signatory, Adam Trombly, later joined the letter). Those events as well as the Gambles’ response were covered on this blog as they happened. The architect of the repudiation letter was John Robbins, who was nice enough to write me a note a few months ago specifically expressing his displeasure with the conspiracy theories advanced in Thrive. I found Mr. Robbins’s reasons for opposing the movie closely congruent with my own.

Mr. Robbins recently contacted me with a revised and complete version of his letter regarding Thrive, which he titles “Humanity and Sanity.” Although many of the words and especially the sentiment of Mr. Robbins’s statement have been reproduced here before at Thrive Debunked, I feel it’s important to produce the entire text all in one place for you to see. I think this is the best and most coherent repudiation of Thrive that we’re ever likely to see. Therefore, I offer it to you full, unedited and unabridged.

I haven’t put Mr. Robbins’s letter in block quote format because it’s so long and it would be distracting to read. Everything below the line comes from John Robbins, not me. I thank him for making his letter available to me and giving me permission to post it in its entirety here.

___________________________________________________________

Humanity and Sanity: Standing for a Thriving World

(and challenging the Movie Thrive)

 By John Robbins

Thrive is the name of a richly produced and controversial film that asks, and attempts to answer, some of the deepest questions about the nature of the human condition and what is thwarting our chances to prosper.  Elaborately funded, with appealing imagery and beautiful music, it features interviews with many leading progressive voices.  And yet ten of these leaders have taken the highly unusual step of signing a statement formally disassociating ourselves from the film.

Why have Amy Goodman, Deepak Chopra, Paul Hawken, Edgar Mitchell, Vandana Shiva, John Perkins, Elisabet Sahtouris, Duane Elgin and Adam Trombly, as well as yours truly, gone to the trouble of signing our names to this public statement?

“We are a group of people who were interviewed for and appear in the movie Thrive, and who hereby publicly disassociate ourselves from the film.

Thrive is a very different film from what we were led to expect when we agreed to be interviewed.  We are dismayed that we were not given a chance to know its content until the time of its public release. We are equally dismayed that our participation is being used to give credibility to ideas and agendas that we see as dangerously misguided.

We stand by what each of us said when we were interviewed.  But we have grave disagreements with some of the film’s content and feel the need to make this public statement to avoid the appearance that our presence in the film constitutes any kind of endorsement.”

I have joined the other signers of this statement, even though there are aspects of the film that I find inspiring, and even though the makers of the film, Foster and Kimberly Gamble, are old friends.

In Thrive, the Gambles have attempted to address some of the crucial challenges of our times.  I appreciate their idealism, their commitment, and their passion.  And I agree with them about some things they state in the movie and on their website — such as that the political system is depraved, the Federal Reserve has been used to consolidate economic power, fiat currency tends to produce a corrupt financial system that depends on ever increasing debt, the tax system is unfair, and enormously powerful economic interests often collude with one another to deceive and defraud the public.  I stand with them as they promote the labeling of genetically engineered foods and in their desire to see our nation cease spending enormous sums on war.  I appreciate that they support local and organic agriculture, their passion for credit unions and local banking, and their opposition to governmental invasion of privacy.  They recommend many action steps that I support.

But I do not agree with some of the core conclusions they draw.  Nor do the other signers of the statement of disassociation from Thrive.  Duane Elgin, one of the signers, says: “Thrive is idealistic, naive, narrow, shallow, and focuses attention away from more productive areas of engagement.”

At the very heart of the Thrive message is what it calls the Global Domination Agenda.  Foster Gamble explains:

“A small group of families are actually controlling virtually every sector of human endeavor…  Their agenda… (is) to take over the lives of all people across the entire planet… to collapse the economies throughout the European Union… to devalue the dollar to almost zero… and to create a one-world government, with them in charge.”

The Thrive movie and website also state that this “small group of families” are developing and experimenting with plans to radically reduce the world’s human population to make us “easier to manage.”

Could this be true?

There is no doubt that staggering wealth and power is today concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of humanity.  The combined net worth of the world’s richest thousand or so people — the planet’s billionaires — is almost twice that of the poorest 2.5 billion.  I believe this disparity to be nothing less than an indictment of our civilization.

It is also certain that networks exist among the most powerful that enable a remarkably few people to shape the world’s economy, to determine what is known and what is not, which views are accepted and which are not, and what priorities and policies will prevail.  More than most of us realize, they decide whether we will live in war or peace and how our treasure will be spent.  And they have proven to be eminently successful at enriching themselves, often at the expense of the common good.  Exposing the global power elite is tremendously important work.  And this, Thrive purports to do.

But the Thrive movie and website are filled with dark and unsubstantiated assertions about secret and profoundly malevolent conspiracies that distract us from the real work at hand.  The conspiracy theories at the heart of Thrive are based on an ultimate division between “us” and “them.”  “We” are many and well-meaning but victimized.  “They,” on the other hand, are a tiny, greedy and inconceivably powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who are deliberately destroying the world economy in order to achieve total world domination.

This way of thinking has an allure, for it distracts and absolves us from the troubling truth that the real source of the problem is in all of us, and in the economic systems we have collectively produced.  If the ills of the world are the deliberate intentions of malevolent beings, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our problems because they are being done to us.  Thinking this way may provide the momentary comfort of feeling exonerated, but it is ultimately disempowering, because it undermines our desire to be accountable for the way our own thoughts and actions help to create the environmental degradation and vast social inequity of the world in which we live.  As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”

The Thrive movie has lavish production values, and presents interviews with many leaders in the consciousness movement, all of which lend a beguiling aura of credibility.  Foster Gamble himself comes across as soft, warm, and inquiring.  Those who have only seen the film may not recognize the agenda and belief system that actually underlie Thrive.

For example, Foster Gamble says that the Japanese earthquake that caused the tsunami that wreaked havoc on the nuclear plants inFukushimawas deliberately created by those seeking absolute world domination, in order to punish the Japanese for not acceding to their wishes.  He explains that “they” are able to use an electromagnetic array project inAlaskacalled HAARP to create earthquakes and tsunamis at will, anywhere on earth.  The catastrophic earthquakes that devastated Haiti and Chile in 2010, he says, were intentionally created via HAARP.  According to this view, these earthquakes were not the result of tectonic stresses and geologic processes.  They were intentional acts perpetrated by a ruling elite with unimaginably sinister intent.

I’m tempted to think that Foster Gamble has watched too many James Bond movies.  But the level of diabolical malevolence in the Thrive worldview makes the villains in James Bond movies seem like Mother Teresa in comparison.

There are many things that are terribly wrong in our world, and some of them are dire.  All living creatures are poisoned and compromised by surging levels of human-made toxins that spew into our environment, relatively unchecked.  We are experiencing unprecedented levels of heart disease, cancer, obesity and childhood diabetes.  Our financial institutions and to a large extent our political system have been hijacked by greedy and at times even sociopathic individuals who seem to feel no sense of responsibility to the well being of the whole.  The world’s military industrial complex is spending more money than ever on guns, bombs, and the machinery of unfathomable destructive power, while governments learn little about how to make peace and hundreds of millions of people go hungry.

But holding these tragedies as the deliberate acts of a tiny group of families seeking total world domination via a global police state distracts us from the arduous work of confronting the true challenges before us.

For example, as an environmentalist I heed the monumental evidence that global warming may be one of the most serious threats faced by humanity and many of the other species on this planet.  Those who have merely seen the movie might not know that Foster Gamble and the Thrive website strongly recommend a film (The Great Global Warming Swindle) which states that man-made global warming is a “lie” and “the biggest scam of modern times.”

The Thrive website opens its climate change discussion with this question:

“How does the premise of man-made global warming relate to the banking elite’s effort to transcend national sovereignty, establish global governance and create a global tax to fund their dominance?”

The insinuation is that the idea of human-caused global warming is being fabricated as an excuse to create a global police state and a tax basis for tyranny.  If this is true, just about every scientific expert in the world has been taken in by the hoax.  A 2010 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that 97 percent of scientific experts agree that it is…

“very likely that anthropogenic (human-caused) greenhouse gases have been responsible for the unequivocal warming of most of the Earth’s global temperature in the second half of the 20th century.”

It has been personally painful for me to witness friends of mine become caught up in seeing just about everything on earth as part of a vast demonic conspiracy.  When I wrote Foster Gamble to voice my disappointment with many of the ideas in the film and website, he wrote back, encouraging me among other things to study the works of David Icke, Eustace Mullins, Stanley Monteith and G. Edward Griffin.  These are among the people he repeatedly refers to in the movie as his “sources.” It is in these people’s worldviews that Thrive has its roots.

I find this deeply disturbing.  Here’s why…

David Icke is a major player in Thrive.  In fact, he is featured more prominently in the movie than anyone other than Foster Gamble.  An extended interview with him, intercut with supporting material, forms much of the middle section of the film.

Though this is not mentioned in Thrive, Icke is well-known for advocating utterly bizarre theories, including that the entire world is run by a secret group of reptilian humanoids who drink human blood and conduct satanic rituals.  Forty-threeU.S. Presidents, he says, have been such reptilian beings, and many of them have been part of global satanic pedophile rings that murder hundreds of thousands of children a year.  I wish I was making this despicable stuff up, but I’m not.  This is what Icke teaches.

What is Thrive’s relationship to these beliefs?  Foster Gamble explains:

“In our film, we do not go into his (Icke’s) research on reptilians, nor his immensely important investigations into global satanic pedophile rings, because it does not serve our film.  That does not mean that revealing what is happening to hundreds of thousands of our most vulnerable every year should not be exposed and stopped.”

Icke’s war on common sense goes even further.  He says that the Global Elite’s plan for world domination was laid bare in a document titled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.  This document is actually a notorious hoax, published inRussia around 1903.  It supposedly presents a plan by the Jewish people to take over the world, and was a primary justification used by Adolph Hitler as he initiated the Holocaust.  This fraudulent document was also used to justify the violent pogroms and massacres of the Jewish people in pre-SovietRussia.

How anyone could take seriously a man who espouses such “information” is beyond me.  Thrive not only takes Icke seriously, but relies more heavily on his “insights” than on any other source, both in the movie and as a source of “data” for its website.

In a recent interview, Icke seemed to be competing for lunatic of the year:  “What I’m explaining now,” he said, “is that the moon is not a heavenly body but a construct.”

One of the signers of the statement of disassociation from Thrive, former astronaut Edgar Mitchell, has grounds to disagree.  As the lunar module pilot of Apollo 14, he spent nine hours working on the moon’s surface.

Another of Thrive’s primary sources, and another of the authors Foster Gamble told me I should read in order to better understand Thrive, is Eustace Mullins.  I honestly find it difficult to convey the level of anti-semitism in Mullins’s books, without it seeming that I am exaggerating.  So I will let Mullins’s own words speak for themselves:

“We must remember that there is no Jewish crime per se, since the existence of the Jewish parasite on the host is a crime against nature, because its existence imperils the health and life of the host…

This religious ceremony of drinking the blood of an innocent gentile child is basic to the Jew’s entire concept of his existence as a parasite, living off the blood of the host…

The Jews do not want anyone to know what Nazism is. Nazism is simply this–a proposal that the German people rid themselves of the parasitic Jews. The gentile host dared to protest against the continued presence of the parasite, and attempted to throw it off.”

The title of one of Eustace Mullins’s books is: Hitler, An Appreciation.  While Foster Gamble evidently believes that Mullins has shed valuable light on banking systems and other aspects of the “Global Domination Agenda,” I have no interest in looking to such individuals for insight into anything.

The Gambles state that they do not necessarily agree with all of the thoughts and beliefs of their sources, but rather that they have incorporated only those ideas they find useful and with which they agree.  I’m sure the Gambles do not condone Mullins’ overt anti-semitism, but I find it disturbing that the thinking of these men has been used as the foundation for some of the key ideas presented in Thrive.  While I do not believe the Gambles are themselves guilty of anti-semitism, I do believe they are naïve and gullible, and that in depending heavily on sources such as Icke and Mullins they have unwittingly allowed anti-semitism to become a subtext in their work.

As journalist Eric Johnson points out, viewers of the movie may not realize that Gamble’s central thesis, that a handful of families, many of them Jewish, control the world and plan to enslave humanity, is nearly identical to the argument that Joseph Goebbels made in his notorious Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew: that a handful of banking families, many of them Jewish, run the world and seek global domination.

Two of the other sources that Foster Gamble recommended to me so that I might better understand the philosophical underpinnings of Thrive are Stanley Monteith and G. Edward Griffin.  Monteith, who happens to be a neighbor of mine, has long been involved with Pat Robertson’s Christian Coalition, and professes that the environmental movement is a pretext for the effort to create a global police state.  The author of two books on AIDS, he says “the vast majority of AIDS information available to the American public has only one purpose – and that purpose is to deceive the people of our nation.”  Monteith’s answer?  He calls for schools to “abandon all comprehensive sex education” in favor of “abstinence only sex instruction.”

G. Edward Griffin is showcased in both the Thrive movie and website.  Both he and Monteith have long been members and officers of the John Birch Society, a far-right political organization that first came to public attention when one of its founders, Robert W. Welch, proclaimed that Dwight Eisenhower wasn’t the genial war hero and popular President he seemed, but rather “a conscious, dedicated agent of the international communist conspiracy.”  G. Edward Griffin has written an admiring biography of Welch, who co-founded the John Birch Society along with Fred Koch, the father of today’s notorious Koch Brothers.

Both Thrive and the John Birch Society view government, in Welch’s words, “as always and inevitably an enemy of individual freedom.”  And both see a small group of families, including the Rockefellers and Rothschilds, as behind an utterly malevolent conspiracy seeking total global domination.  The Thrive website features this statement from the second president of the John Birch Society, Larry McDonald:

“The drive of the Rockefellers and their allies is to create a one-world government…all under their control… Do I mean conspiracy?  Yes I do.  I am convinced there is such a plot, international in cope, generations old in planning, and incredibly evil in intent.”

There are only a few of the ultra-right wing sources whose ideas and agendas pervade Thrive.  Another is the economist Ludwig von Mises, whose words and beliefs are cited frequently and sympathetically on the Thrive website.  Many Americans first learned of von Mises when Michele Bachman, seeking the Republican nomination for the Presidency, said she read his books at the beach.  Von Mises’s brand of laissez-faire capitalism is hard-core.  In his eyes, nearly all government intervention in the economy is strictly verboten, and taxes are a crime against freedom.

Buoyed by lush visual effects and lovely words, the Thrive film has been attractive to many who know how often we are deceived and exploited by the powers that shouldn’t be.  “In times of universal deceit,” wrote George Orwell, “telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.”

But what is the revolution Thrive would bring?  Both the Thrive movie and website call for the end of taxation even for the rich.  Thrive’s goal is a world in which public schools and welfare programs, including social security, have been terminated.  Instead of police, we have private security forces.  As Foster Gamble puts it, “Private security works way better than the state.”

That may be true for the rich who can pay for it.  But who, I might ask, would pay to protect low-income communities if all security was privatized?

Eventually, if Foster Gamble had his way and the Thrive vision was fully manifest, there would be no taxes, no government, and everything would be privately owned, including roads.  “It’s clear that when you drive into a shopping center you are on a private road, and almost without exception it is in great shape,” explains the Thrive website, as though a free market unfettered by concern for the 99 percent would somehow magically meet the needs of all.

I am saddened to see Foster Gamble, an heir to the Procter & Gamble fortune, so oblivious to the realities of those who do not share his privileges.  If all roads are privatized, how will the poor get anywhere?

It is hard to overstate how opposed Thrive is to taxes, even on the ultra-wealthy.  To Foster Gamble’s eyes, any form of government that depends on taxation, including democracy, is unconscionable.  He writes on the Thrive website:

“Democracy…which is born of and sustains itself by taking people’s hard-earned money, whether they like it or not, and calling it ‘taxation,’ – is in and of itself a violation [against life].”

No wonder Amy  Goodman, who appears in the film, is one of the signers of the statement repudiating Thrive.  She has long been the host of what may be the most significant progressive news institution of our time.  While Thrive finds democracy abhorrent because it depends on taxation, her outstanding program is called Democracy Now.

How, you might be asking, did those of us who have signed the statement of disassociation from Thrive ever allow ourselves to be filmed for a movie that advances such ideas?  The answer is simple.  We were grievously misled about what the film would be.

I want to underscore that although I think the Gambles are promoting a destructive agenda (which they kept secret from those of who were interviewed for their film), I do not think either Foster or his wife Kimberly are sinister or malicious, which is why it has been a very painful process for me to write this critique.  I have known them to be kind people who mean well, and I have long considered Kimberly in particular to be one of my closest friends.  But I have found it necessary to speak out in this way, because some of the ideas at the heart of Thrive strike me as frightening and misguided, and they most certainly are not ones with which I or the other signers of the disassociation statement can condone.

I have spent decades exposing and seeking to undermine powerful industries whose ways of doing business are diametrically opposed to the public welfare.  In my view, the deregulation of the economy and the demolition of government programs that Thrive proposes, would take us even further in the direction of a winner-take-all economy in which wealth would concentrate even more in the hands of the financial elites.

As one of the signers of the disassociation statement, evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris, writes:

“Without community, we do not exist, and community is about creating relationships of mutual benefit.  It does not just happen with flowers and rainbows, and no taxes.”

Each of us who have signed the statement have dedicated our lives to creating and conveying positive visions of how to create a truly thriving, just and sustainable way of life.  We have been part of vast movements toward generating a human presence on this planet that is spiritually fulfilling, socially just, and environmentally responsible.  We do not want to see our names, reputations, and influence used to fuel unsubstantiated claims or misguided policies.  We want to see them used to strengthen individuals and communities, and to serve the ability each of us possesses to live with respect for ourselves, for one another, and for the truth of our interdependence.

As another of the signers, Paul Hawken, writes:

“The world is riven by people who are convinced they are right, while others are wrong.  Dualism permeates political, economic, cultural and religious conflict.  It is the true source of suffering and the despoliation of the world.  This wound cannot be healed by the us/them divisions that inform Thrive.  Evil most certainly exists, but the core of evil is ignorance, and it cannot be repelled by righteousness or by making others wrong.  It is only through compassion that we can create true transformation.”

We do not deny the evil in the world.  It is here and it is real.  But there is also hope here, and it too is real.

It is hope that believes we can build trust, build community, and build a better world.  Such hope is not the blind belief in something which has little possibility of ever materializing.  It is the hope which remains open to miracles while investing the sweat and perseverance to lend the Universe a hand in creating those miracles.  It is the hope that is borne from knowing that it is far too late, and our situation far too serious, to indulge in the luxuries of pessimism, paranoia, and finger-pointing.

The state of the world is perilous.  But it is not too late to love, not too late to work to realize our dreams, and not too late to believe in ourselves and each other.

In the end, we are all in this together.  Each step you take to lessen the amount of fear in yourself and the world brings us closer to a world reflective of the beauty that exists — sometimes buried and other times apparent — in each of us.  Every act you take that increases the amount of trust and compassion in your relationships helps us move from a world created by privilege to a world created by community.

As the poet Adrienne Rich wrote, “So much has been destroyed.  I have cast my lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

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My Open Letter to Foster Gamble: Turn Your Back on Conspiracy—Don’t Let Thrive Define You. (UPDATED!)

This blog, originally published April 30, 2012, was updated May 4, 2012. Scroll to the end for the update.

Dear Mr. Gamble:

I have been motivated to write this letter by yours and Mrs. Gamble’s response, posted yesterday on your Thrive website, responding to John Robbins’s recent statement entitled “Humanity and Sanity: Standing for a Thriving World.” The text of that statement has been reproduced here on John Robbins’s website. I was quite interested to hear what your response would be to Mr. Robbins’s critiques. As I pointed out to the readers of my blog in a recent article, one of the main reasons why John Robbins has felt the need to dissociate himself from your film—its advancement of conspiracy theories—is the core basis of the disagreement I have with Thrive. In fact, John Robbins’s statement expresses my disagreements with you and your film in some ways better than I can myself.

Consequently, I was extremely disappointed by your response. You have not only failed to address the substantive criticisms of the film, but your dismissive and reductive attitude toward the most serious issues with Thrive makes it harder, not easier, to move forward in assessing what’s wrong with the world and how we can make it better. More troubling than that, at least for me, your response indicates that you’ve become very deeply invested in conspiracy thinking and conspiracist ideology—and you’re not doing the world any favors by trying to advance this ideology through your film.

I wish to make several major points here. Some will deal with your response to critics such as John Robbins, while some will go beyond that. I hope you take this criticism in the spirit in which it is intended—which is to help right what I see as a dreadful wrong being done, especially to the young people who’ve seen Thrive and who may choose to believe it without thinking critically about exactly what it is you’re asking them to accept.

You are not a bad person. You are an intelligent, thoughtful, well-meaning person with a very deep desire to help make the world a better place. This much has been extremely obvious from the get-go. If I met you in person I think I’d like you, and you might be surprised to find that I am considerably less nasty or trollish than some of your fans seem to think I am. But, Mr. Gamble, you’re wrong. You’re as wrong as you can possibly be, and you’re becoming part of the problem—you’re not helping us get to a solution. I’m just a blogger on the Internet. I don’t have the resources or clout at my disposal that you do, and I don’t claim to be an activist trying to save the world. But I’m not alone in my criticisms of your film; some very prominent people feel the same way I do.

What is the basis of John Robbins’s disagreement with Thrive?

In your statement, Mr. Gamble, I believe you have seriously mischaracterized the nature of John Robbins’s disagreement with your movie. Your statement yesterday, and previous statements made by you responding to critics of the film, seem to indicate that you think the main basis of disagreement is political—that the film is caught in the traditional left-right divide that you say you want to transcend. This is not the case, and it’s very clear from Mr. Robbins’s statement that this is not the case. He says:

“[T]he Thrive movie and website are filled with dark and unsubstantiated assertions about secret and profoundly malevolent conspiracies that distract us from the real work at hand.  The conspiracy theories at the heart of Thrive are based on an ultimate division between “us” and “them.”  ”We” are many and well-meaning but victimized.  “They,” on the other hand, are a tiny, greedy and inconceivably powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who are deliberately destroying the world economy in order to achieve total world domination….If the ills of the world are the deliberate intentions of malevolent beings, then we don’t have to take responsibility for our problems because they are being done to us.  Thinking this way may provide the momentary comfort of feeling exonerated, but it is ultimately disempowering, because it undermines our desire to be accountable for the way our own thoughts and actions help to create the environmental degradation and vast social inequity of the world in which we live.”

Your response was:

“We believe this is an uninformed and dangerous interpretation that undermines people’s ability to recognize the power we have to change the dynamic.

If you feel you are personally responsible for the mortgage fraud, for the devaluation of the dollar, for the wars of aggression killing millions of innocent people with your money, for the lack of decent health care, and for the lies of the corporate media, then what THRIVE offers is not for you. If you instead believe that we have been deceived and deprived of our power and feel ready to reclaim it, then we encourage you to join with the millions of people empowered by THRIVE to come together in this bold time of awakened action to stand up for our lives and our future.”

This fundamental misunderstanding of John Robbins’s central argument is nothing less than tragic. John Robbins takes Thrive to task for establishing a pernicious “us vs. them” mentality, which he finds (and I agree) dangerous and counterproductive; in your response, however, you get right back up on the soapbox, point an accusing finger at the evil “them” and rage at the people you blame for “deceiv[ing us] and deprive[ing us] of our power.”

In your worldview, Mr. Gamble, bad things are done to us by evil people. Of course I can’t speak for him, but my interpretation of what John Robbins is saying is that we have done this to ourselves. There is no “Illuminati” out there trying to enslave the world. Who put the politicians into office who rolled back regulation of our economic and banking systems, thus leading to the 2008 economic collapse? We, the people did. Who supports, works for and buys the products of the corporations who are profiting from the destruction of our environment? We, the people do. Who is buying the fuel-inefficient cars that are contributing to anthropogenic global warming? We, the people, are. Who is consistently voting against property tax measures that fund schools to educate our children? We, the people, are doing that.

You want to blame a “Global Domination Elite,” or people who happen to be born with the names Rockefeller or Rothschild, for these problems. What I read from John Robbins’s letter is that, instead of looking for someone named Rothschild to blame for our problems, we should instead look in the mirror.

How is it that you don’t understand this is what he’s saying?

Do you not see what you’re doing, Mr. Gamble? You’re holding up a small group of people and telling the viewers of Thrive that they—this evil, sociopathic “other”—is responsible for their problems. You are encouraging the viewers of Thrive to hate those evil people who supposedly did this to us. This is so horrendously destructive, so antithetical to the central ideas of civil cooperation in a democratic society. But the conspiracy theories you espouse, and that you’re pushing through Thrive, reduce the complexities of our modern problems to a very simple and very cynical solution: hate them, the evil “other,” for doing this to us. As soon as the “other” is overcome, our problems will be over.

I cannot get behind this worldview. From my reading of his essay, I think it’s clear that John Robbins can’t either. Speaking only for myself, a worldview such as this is so harmful, negative, toxic and divisive that it absolutely negates the effect of what you think is the positive work you’re doing to improve society. You can do better, Mr. Gamble.

David Icke: do you believe in his “reptilian shape-shifting aliens” theories or don’t you?

Another key part of Mr. Robbins’s disagreement with the film is his objection to the presence of David Icke in Thrive. I agree. I would have to say that, if I were to make a list of the things that bother me the most about your movie, I’d probably put David Icke as #1.

You said:

“Robbins also does not feel comfortable being in a movie with David Icke, who he says “advocates utterly bizarre theories” –although none of the theories John objects to are in THRIVE. Instead, Icke provides a very sound critique of the money system: that banks have the power to create money out of nothing; that the Federal Reserve can rig “booms and busts” by lowering and raising interests rates; and that “the greatest prison people live in is the fear of what other people think.” We benefitted from this analysis, and find that millions of others feel similarly, which is why he’s included in THRIVE. We stand by what Icke says in the film.”

Mr. Gamble, I believe this is totally disingenuous.

You could have gotten any number of people to appear in your film to give a “very sound critique of the money system.” Instead, you chose to get David Icke. Why?

As I pointed out in my article profiling Mr. Icke, I believe the reason you chose David Icke to make this statement, as opposed to someone far less controversial who doesn’t bring the baggage to the table that Mr. Icke does, is because you wanted access to David Icke’s built-in audience of conspiracy believers—an audience that I think you felt, probably correctly, would be uniquely receptive to Thrive. Given the anti-Semitic flavor of David Icke’s ridiculous and untrue theories, if you had done even the slightest bit of due diligence you would have seen that Mr. Icke is absolutely radioactive from a public relations and credibility standpoint. Don’t get me wrong—I think you knew full well what baggage David Icke carries—but you elected to put him in your film anyway. So, my question is, why?

More importantly, if you’re willing to make a distinction between the “very sound critique of the monetary system” (which isn’t that sound, by the way) that David Icke espouses in your film, and his bizarre theories about reptilian shape-shifting aliens from Draco which he does not espouse in your film, are you willing to go on record as repudiating that very significant portion of David Icke’s belief system? You say it’s unfair of Thrive’s critics to taint you with the extremities of Mr. Icke’s belief system—if that’s the case, will you denounce the beliefs of Mr. Icke that have given John Robbins, and me, and many others, so much consternation?

Are you willing to state, Mr. Gamble, unequivocally and without qualification, that you reject the “reptilian shape-shifting aliens” theories of David Icke, that you dissociate yourself from them, and that you denounce them for the harmful paranoid conspiracy theories that they are?

Don’t just stand on the disclaimer that you’re fond of quoting from Thrive. Tell your audience clearly and without equivocation what you think of David Icke’s reptilian theories. Do you believe them or don’t you?

If you’re willing to make this statement, I think it may help clear the air. If you are not willing to make this statement, would you please tell us (A) what your views are on Mr. Icke’s reptilian shape-shifting aliens theories, and (B) why you included him in your film, when any number of others could have made the same statements about banking that he makes in your film?

What about Eustace Mullins?

In your statement, Mr. Gamble, you breeze casually past the objections to G. Edward Griffin by saying you don’t endorse the John Birch Society. But an even more important objection that Mr. Robbins raised was your apparent endorsement of the theories of Eustace Mullins. Mr. Robbins stated:

“Another of Thrive’s primary sources, and another of the authors Foster Gamble told me I should read in order to better understand Thrive, is Eustace Mullins.  I honestly find it difficult to convey the level of anti-semitism in Mullins’s books, without it seeming that I am exaggerating.  So I will let Mullins’s own words speak for themselves…”

Mr. Robbins then quoted three utterly disgusting paragraphs, dripping with hateful anti-Semitic vitriol, from this book by an author he claims you recommended highly to him. You do not comment on Eustace Mullins at all in your response. Why not?

There’s obviously something you like about Eustace Mullins, if you recommended him to Mr. Robbins. (If he was in error in claiming you did, now’s a perfect opportunity to set the record straight). This is all the more puzzling because I do not believe you are an anti-Semite; Mr. Robbins did not make that accusation either, and it’s clear that you’re not. But the fact is, once you cut out the anti-Semitism, there’s not much left of Eustace Mullins’s philosophy that stands on its own. So please, Mr. Gamble, educate us. Which parts of Eustace Mullins’s philosophy you like, and why? Furthermore, why did you not even mention this very key point of John Robbins’s criticism of Thrive in your response?

Global Warming Denial—Ignoring the Elephant in the Room.

Your statements regarding anthropogenic climate change are, like your mischaracterization of John Robbins’s central argument, profoundly unfortunate. The fact that you deny the irrefutable scientific proof that climate change is being caused by human activity is deeply depressing, and not just to me. Your denial of global warming seems to have been the key reason why Adam Trombly turned against you. It is also one of the key reasons why I find Thrive, and conspiracism in general, so pernicious, because it’s a prime example of how conspiracy theories divert attention away from real problems.

You stated:

“We do not question that the climate is changing…What’s called for here is to distinguish between denying that the climate is changing (which we do not) and valuable inquiry into some of the deeper issues surrounding climate change (which we do). This is a distinction we feel would serve people far more than name-calling and disassociation.”

So, you don’t deny that climate is changing; you just deny the evidence of what’s causing it. This distinction is utterly meaningless.

If you deny that human activity is causing global warming, you are endorsing an excuse to do nothing about it. By definition, if it’s natural, it will resolve itself on its own, right? If global warming isn’t being caused by greenhouse emissions and industrial processes, then there is no meaningful action that we have to take; in fact we shouldn’t take action at all because that would be tampering with a natural process. It seems that you don’t want us to take any action at all about global warming, other than to overcome the “Global Domination Elite” that you say is withholding “free energy” from us. Once we overcome them, all our problems will be solved. Isn’t that the take-home point from Thrive?

Your claim that you’re simply looking out for people in the hopes that carbon taxes don’t take away their freedom is a chimera. There are other ways to fight global warming besides carbon taxes. (For the record, I don’t believe that carbon taxes are the answer, and everyone who knows me knows that I’m passionate about the issue of fighting global warming). What actions by governments, business interests and individuals are you willing to support, Mr. Gamble, to reverse anthropogenic global warming?

You can’t deny the causation of the problem and then pretend like you’re still interested in solving the problem. This is the biggest problem on the planet today. What do you suggest we do about it?

Will you please tell us, Mr. Gamble, what action you are willing to support—besides reliance on “free energy” machines—in order to combat and reverse anthropogenic global warming?

HAARP—the Final Frontier of Conspiracist Thinking.

Your statement makes clear that you do believe in HAARP—one of the most farfetched, unsupportable and bizarre conspiracy theories out there, with the possible exception of David Icke’s reptile theories—after all. This is deeply distressing to me. Your attempt to address this subject simply digs you deeper into the hole:

“John Robbins claims we said Japan’s earthquake was caused by HAARP – an electromagnetic antenna array project in Alaska that can focus 3.6 billion watts of radio-frequency energy into a single area of the atmosphere. We hope John said this because he misremembered and was not just distorting this for effect. In fact, what we said is that we check into major earthquakes now that we are familiar with HAARP’s involvement in causing other quakes. We currently have no evidence of HAARP causing Japan’s earthquake, however, there is ample evidence of HAARP involvement in both the Chile and Haiti quakes.”

Okay—so Japan wasn’t HAARP, but Chile and Haiti definitely were!

Do you really think, Mr. Gamble, that this makes you seem any more in touch with objective reality regarding this subject than if you had asserted that the Japan quake was caused by HAARP?

You believe in a magical machine, controlled by the U.S. government, that can cause earthquakes anywhere on earth with the push of a button? Really? Do you appreciate how expressing beliefs such as these negatively affect your basic credibility as someone claiming to have answers for moving the world forward?

When you say things like this, can you really blame us for being skeptical?

The Disease of Conspiracy Thinking

Mr. Gamble, I’ve been debunking conspiracy theories, in one form or another, for seven years now. I’ve seen many tragic examples of what conspiracy thinking can do to a person. I had a friend, a young man, who was a believer in UFO/alien conspiracies and NESARA, a supposedly secret law that will bring unlimited plenty to the whole world if only the Global Domination Elite and their evil alien allies would stop obstructing it. This young man chose not to go to college or to prepare for any sort of meaningful future, because he believed NESARA would be implemented any day now and there would be no need to work or provide for himself. Another man, also a believer in the Global Domination Elite, decided to home-school his children because he feared they were receiving “Illuminati indoctrination” through the public schools. The “home schooling” he gave them consisted of making them watch Alex Jones and other conspiracist videos on YouTube, all day, every day, day after day. You may remember the “Don’t taze me, bro!” incident from a few years ago where a man was attacked with a taser gun at a John Kerry rally. Most people don’t know that the man involved in that incident was a conspiracy theorist; he was convinced Kerry was a member of your Global Domination Elite and was shouting questions about Kerry’s involvement with Yale’s “Skull and Bones Society.” These are but a few examples of the harmful effects conspiracy beliefs can have on a person.

Conspiracy theories are like a virus. They infect a healthy person, replicate inside of them, and then spill out to infect others. A person who believes in one conspiracy theory rarely stops there. Usually they end up swallowing them all. The person infected is no more to blame than someone who catches pneumonia or the flu. I know all too well; I myself recovered from this disease. I am a former conspiracy theorist.

I would like to ask you to think—just think—about your conspiracy beliefs in these terms. Suppose, just for the sake of argument, that the Global Domination Agenda doesn’t exist, that HAARP can’t create earthquakes, and that anthropogenic global warming is real. If it is possible that the things you believe are factually incorrect, how could you have come to believe them so fervently? Could there be an explanation in the way you’ve thought about them, the sort of evidence you find convincing, the questions you ask, or the people you seek out for information? I’m suggesting this because thinking along these lines is what got me out of conspiracy thinking. The more I insisted upon real evidence, solid arguments, and knowledgeable experts, the flimsier and falser became the conspiracy theories that I thought I believed in. I wouldn’t be surprised if you go down the same road someday. In fact I think it’s likely you will, and someday you may repudiate Thrive, the way Dylan Avery did with Loose Change.

We are all members of this society. We all have a stake in making the world a better place for our children. All I’m asking you to do, Mr. Gamble, is consider approaching these problems from a rational, skeptical and logical standpoint. If you do, it doesn’t mean you feel any less or that your passion for improving peoples’ lives is at all diminished. It’s not about taking the government’s word for anything. Approaching the world with skepticism doesn’t mean that you become more gullible, more trusting or more capable of being manipulated. In fact, you will find that the opposite is true. Let’s approach the world from the standpoint of what’s really out there. The disease of conspiracy thinking makes that very difficult, but this disease, thankfully, has a cure: critical thinking.

You Want to Talk About Solutions? Let’s Talk About Solutions.

In your statements you’ve emphasized that you’d rather talk about solutions to world problems than the problems with your movie. Okay, I have a few solutions. Let’s talk about them. As I said earlier, I lay no claim to being an activist, and I don’t pretend to have a plan to save the world. But with as many fans of your movie as have asked me what my solutions are, I guess somebody wants to hear them.

Solution 1: Stop promoting baseless conspiracy theories.

Diverting attention from real problems in the real world is not helping anybody—in fact, it’s hurting quite a bit. The central teaching of the disease of conspiracy thinking is “they are bad.” Whoever they are changes, but it’s always an external enemy, some super-powerful source that’s opposed to what’s good and proper. So long as we’re trying to overcome them, whoever you think they are, we’re not moving forward.

This is why Thrive is not productive, is not constructive, and is not helpful. It has nothing to do with your intentions, which I believe are good. But the simple truth is that the so-called “facts” your movie promotes are just not true. There is no “Global Domination Agenda.” Banks are not tools of the Rothschilds for world domination. 9/11 was not a “false flag” operation. These things just aren’t true, and it’s very easy to ascertain that they aren’t true. So let’s stop promoting them.

Solution 2: Fight anthropogenic global warming.

The warming of our climate, greatly accelerated to disastrous levels by the activity of human beings, is the single greatest threat to this planet right now. Inaction or denial is unacceptable. Neither can we wait for a “transition” to some nebulously-defined future utopian society in order to save us from global warming. We need action now—a mass program of cooperation between governments, business interests, individuals, and non-governmental organizations, on local, national and trans-national levels. We must reduce carbon emissions. We must change the game to make existing forms of clean energy—not magical “free energy” devices—economical and desirable, things like solar, wind and water power. We should have started doing this 35 years ago. We didn’t. Every day we delay means that the effects of our measures will pinch us that much more in the future.

Solution 3: Promote smarter, better, more compassionate government.

There are very few people in America who believe that our political system couldn’t stand drastic improvement. We need to reduce the impact of corporate money on politics. We need to make sure that government makes decisions that benefit real people before corporations and business interests. We need to increase funding for public education at all levels—and by increase I mean a vast increase, an increase of staggering proportions, a massive diversion of a significant chunk of America’s GDP to education. If we spent on public schools what we spend every year to fight the war in Afghanistan, the entire country would begin to reap immediate and dramatic benefits. Even a five-year program to fund schools at the level that we today fund military expenditures would profoundly transform this country. Education is the cure to so many problems in our society, and it’s a cure that exists now, without waiting for magical technology to swoop down from the sky, as Thrive asserts.

We, the people, have the power to enact these solutions. We can do it right now, in our existing communities; the politicians we send to our statehouses and to Washington, after all, are put there by us. This is what I think John Robbins meant, Mr. Gamble, when he talked about the problems being caused by us. But we have to recognize what our problems really are. Your film does not present the problems as they really are.

Why Listen to Me At All? Because It’s Not Just Me Saying This.

I doubt you’ll think very much about my solutions. Your past statements have indicated that the price of admission to a debate you’re willing to have about solutions is acceptance of the conspiracy theories contained in Thrive. Most likely you won’t take me seriously because I reject those theories. You took a similar tack toward Rob Hopkins and Georgia Kelly, both of whose criticisms you refused to entertain. What you’re doing, therefore, is to close yourself off into an isolated universe—where only the voices of fellow conspiracy believers are heard, a universe where the key litmus test of legitimacy is conspiracist thinking, and where input from the fact-based world is rejected as a mortal threat. Forgive me for being skeptical that any reasonable solutions to societal problems can emerge from such a universe.

If it were just me, some random guy from the blogosphere, saying this, that would be one thing. It would be very easy to dismiss me. Your spokesperson, Lee, has come to this blog several times to insist that because I don’t advertise my name on this blog, somehow this makes my criticisms unworthy of attention, as if the facts and reasoning I present here have no persuasive value unless my name is attached to them. I think this is nothing more than an excuse for refusing to engage with the serious problems surrounding Thrive. You’re fond of citing statistics on the number of people who have seen your movie, or the fact that it’s been translated into such-and-such languages. These statistics do nothing to bolster the veracity of your claims. In fact, they underscore the urgency of the mission of this blog. You claim your film has been seen a million times; my blog has been read by about 100,000 people. If an untruth can circle the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on, those of us who profoundly disagree with your movie have a great deal of work ahead of us.

But it’s not just me. Look at the main points I’ve made here. I take issue with your inclusion of David Icke, with your praise of Eustace Mullins, with your assertions about HAARP, and your conspiratorial worldview. Your friend John Robbins was bothered by these exact same points. Others are too; I’ve talked to many of them, some of them your personal friends and acquaintances. Your response to their very cogent criticisms has done nothing to ameliorate our concerns. If I went off into the sunset or deleted my blog tomorrow, these concerns about Thrive would still remain. That’s one reason I say that this blog is not about me.

Mr. Gamble, I believe you are a good, kind, compassionate and intelligent man. That’s one reason why Thrive bothers me so much, because I think you can do better. We could all benefit from your immense energy and passion to help the world, if it was directed toward that end. Please, Mr. Gamble: turn away from conspiracism. Don’t let Thrive define you.

Sincerely,

Muertos

Update 4 May 2012

Foster Gamble responded to this letter. His response is reproduced in its entirety here, along with my own remarks regarding his thoughts.

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.