Tag Archive | Truthers

One Year Later: Thriving No More.

By Muertos

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

Thrive’s Declining Popularity: The Empirical Proof.

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

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

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

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

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

Why is Thrive Declining?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Cycle of Thrive Discovery—And Rejection.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading.

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Thrive, Zeitgeist and the Illusion of Conspiracy Activism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is This Real Activism?

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

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

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

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

Okay…but how? What does this actually mean?

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

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

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

Thrive isn’t doing anything even close to this.

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

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

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

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

Why Do Conspiracy Theorists Engage in Conspiracy Activism?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion: Do You Really Want to Help?

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

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

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

http://www.redcrossblood.org/

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

http://www.adultliteracyleague.org/volunteers/orientation.html

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

http://www.worldvision.org/content.nsf/getinvolved/caregiver-kits-church-volunteer-activity

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

http://www.collegefund.org/content/donate

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

“Follow the Money”–Debunked!

By SlayerX3

One of the central passages of Thrive is a section often referred to as “Follow the Money,” which Thrive fans treat as some sort of slogan. This section contains Foster Gamble and others’ views on fractional reserve banking, the Federal Reserve, the economic crisis, and conspiracy theories related to these. This article debunks those ideas.

Fraction Reserve Banking

Disclaimer:

Before the Wikipedia bashing begins, I’m using Wikipedia for two reasons: (1) Simplicity, and (2) it works well for summaries of information, even though I will provide further sources and more detailed information links than Wikipedia can provide.

PS: This part of the movie is incredibly complicated for anyone involved here to deal with, as given that most people don’t understand how economy and politics work by themselves, much less together, unless you’re well-versed in mathematics, economics or political science. Comments that simply complain about how wrong or rigged the actual political and economic systems are will be seen basically as an opinion and not fact.

It also doesn’t help that for the makers of Thrive the current economic system is a scam/conspiracy created by a powerful Financial Elite to perpetuate their own power. Arguing the existence of this conspiracy (Thrive mostly uses misinterpretations and opinions that they exist instead of verifiable facts) feels like beating a dead horse, thanks to our good old friend Confirmation Bias.

When they begin talking about Fractional Reserve Banking, Foster Gamble and and David Icke get a few things right at the beginning. They are right about how saving deposits are used by banks for loans and financing, but the film cuts short the explanation of why this happens and the economic reasons to use fractional reserve banking. Instead of explaining the real reasons behind this, the movie simply dismisses it by saying “it creates money out of nowhere.”

What is Fractional Reserve Banking?

Fractional Reserve Banking (FRB) is a form of banking where the deposits made on the bank are separated in two parts. The first is the amount the bank is allowed to loan and the second is the part the banks is obligated to keep as a reserve. This amount is dictated by the central bank of the country where the bank is operating.

Does it really “create money out of nowhere?”

The answer will depend of which kind of money you’re talking about. If you’re referring to printed money, it can’t “create money out of nowhere,” as the values being loaned and being circulated haven’t been made or printed yet.

If you’re talking about value: yes it can create more value since there is more money circulating than there is physical printed money.

This is much better explained by the links I’ll provide.

Why do banks work with FRB and how come they don’t “run out of money”?

Because it is fluid, FRB allows banks to generate profit and still provide access to people or business to acquire money for whatever reasons they need it–for example, to buy a house or start a business. FRB guarantees there will be money circulating for investments, consumer goods and to accommodate a growing and active economy.

[Muertos comment: this is not a new invention. If we did not have FRB in some form, our economy would be stuck in the early 19th century. The whole concept of modern banking, historically, developed as a means to permit sufficient capital to be accumulated to fund large-scale projects, both public and private. Without something like FRB, we would not have public works projects like dams, sewer systems or transportation, and we would not have privately-funded industries such as computers and information technology, because it simply wouldn’t be possible to get enough capital together to even begin to pay for these things. This is the historical reality that critics of FRB refuse to understand.]

The influx of savings deposits and payments on loans that they make usually are enough for most banks to be secure they will have the money needed to honor the withdrawals, as there are more people making payments and saving deposits than there are people making withdrawals of their own savings and assets.

What if there are more people making more withdrawals than the bank has money on reserve?

Remember the credit crisis that started in 2008 and is still kicking? One of the reasons why it went from bad to worse and from worse to a total disaster was because of this–people making more withdrawals than banks had in reserve. In times of economic crisis, if there is a doubt that the banks will be able to honor the deposits made on them, this leads to people and investors to withdraw all their assets within the bank in a really short amount of time, before other depositors can withdraw their share. This creates a cascade effect that can possibly (almost certainly) cause a bank run. This forces the bank to call in its short term loans, draw upon credit lines with other banks or ask for last resort rescue loans from the central bank.

Okay, but how this is bad for people?

In time of a stable economy this not bad for financially responsible people, those who take out loans that are smaller than their average yearly income and can make sure that the accumulated interest won’t surpass all their earnings during the intended financing period. Take for example financing the purchase of a house with a 10 year mortgage plan. It is, however, extremely dangerous for people who to borrow who are in unstable financial situations (like no job security, health problems, addictions) or do not measure how much interest they’re incurring compared to how much they earn, or people who simply don’t care about the long term consequences of their lack of foresight (I can’t miss the chance to throw this jab at the American reader).

In times of instability, however, irresponsible borrowing (and lending) can hit hard even the responsible people hard. This is what happened in 2008.

Gamble continues with a story telling how the fractional reserve banking system was born.

Setting aside Mr. Gamble’s implications of how it is used to create money on the backs of people (which is an arguable question), if you want to know how central banks and fractional reserve banking came to be, look for the history of the  Bank of Amsterdam.

Here are some links that further explain what FRB is and how it came about:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractional_reserve_banking

http://www.canadabanks.net/default.aspx?article=Fractional-Reserve+Banking

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH2-37rTA8U (Khan Academy on FRB, quite educational I must add, as long as you avoid the comments section).

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/4a/Modern_Money_Mechanics.pdf

http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/wpawuwpma/0203005.htm (look for the download link)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Criticism_of_fractional_reserve_banking

Later Gamble states how FRB is used to create a population that is tied to their debts to the bank.

Then Thrive provides us with this quote: “It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning” – Henry Ford, 1922

The quote appears to be completely fake. Although it is commonly cited on conspiracy theorist, 9/11 Truth and “End the Fed” websites, there is no source and no context linking it to Henry Ford. Not even the dates that Ford supposedly said it are consistent.

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Henry_Ford

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Conspiracy#Attributed

[Muertos comment: conspiracy theorists love to use fake quotes, and this is not the only fake quote in Thrive–there’s a quote by Henry Kissinger that is equally false. The problem with these quotes is that, once it gets out there and conspiracy theorists decide they like it, a quote gets repeated all over the place on all sorts of conspiracy theorist websites–thus creating the erroneous impression that, because the quote appears so often, it must be true and accurate. If you don’t believe that this happens all the time, just think back on all the things comedian George Carlin is supposed to have said–only a small fraction of them are actually real Carlin quotes, and as he is dead, he can’t dispute that he didn’t say them.

When conspiracy theorists are challenged on fake quotes, many of them will say something like, “Well, you can’t prove that he didn’t say it!” That, of course, is asinine. You can’t just make up any crap you like, put it in someone’s mouth and then challenge people to prove they didn’t say it. But, sadly, this is how conspiracy theorists think. Quotes about banking are particularly attractive to conspiracy theorists because they love the idea of respected figures from history having supposedly “warned” us about the dangers that they (conspiracy theorists) insist are right around the corner.]

After the fake Henry Ford quote, Gamble resumes his rant on how we have become debt slaves of a financial elite who has rigged the system to their benefit.

Take this as you will, but you’ll become a debt slave if you decide to acquire (too much) debt in the first place. For many this seems unavoidable.

[Muertos comment: the term “debt slave” bothers me because it’s misleading. Suppose you have a good job and a family. You take out a 30-year mortgage at a reasonable interest rate in order to buy a bigger house to raise your kids in. You can easily make the payments and your house increases in equity in the meantime. Are you still a “debt slave” for the next 30 years? If you decide to sell the house you pay off the mortgage, and can take the equity and invest in a bigger house elsewhere. How is this “slavery”? And what’s the alternative–live in a smaller, crappier place and try to raise your kids there, where you don’t have room for them? Why is taking advantage of the opportunities that debt creates necessarily a bad thing? Thrive doesn’t see distinctions along these lines. In its ideology, all debt is bad.]

Catherine Austin Fitts

From Muertos’s article debunking the trailer:

Catherine Austin Fitts was Assistant Secretary for Housing in 1989-90 under the first George Bush. She is also a Wall Street banker. She currently works for an investment advisory firm called Solari, Inc.”

Ms. Fitts, along with Mr. Gamble, keeps reaffirming how FRB is used to print more money and enslave more people through debt. Later she makes a comparison with ordinary people counterfeiting money being a crime, while the [central] banks printing money being called “increasing the money supply” as if there’s no distinction here. There is a distinction. I don’t know, maybe it’s related to the fact that central banks are trusted institutions, and they are an effective way to control interest rates and the amount of money being circulated so as to make sure hyperinflation or hyper-deflation do not take place. Yes, said measures can fail, but it’s certainly not the same as “printing money” just for the hell of it.

Gamble then cites the gathering of the “secret” Morgans and Rockefellers on Jekyll Island, where (he says) the draft of the Federal Reserve was created.

First he fails to mention that a central banking system was already in place in Europe–especially in Germany–long before the bankers and politicians in US were considering using a central banking system. Second, politicians in US were already studying alternatives to the US Treasury bonds and lack of liquidity and access to credit, mostly in response to the Panic of 1907.

After this Gamble beings talking about the creation of the Fed and the Internal Revenue Service in the same year, “forcing us to pay for the politicians’ debt”, and introduces the viewer to G. Edward Griffin and his book.

G. Edward Griffin

Writer of “The Creature from Jekyll Island” which is about the creation the Fed, Griffin is a critic of the current banking system and advocates private currency as being “real money.” Needless to say, his ideas are quite popular amongst libertarian circles.

(If you want to know how bad this idea of “real money” is, just imagine going to the state next to yours just to find out that the private currency of your local bank, backed by a commodity like silver or gold, is worthless because the other state operates at different standards or doesn’t accept your currency. Or, worse yet, imagine if the bank goes bankrupt, all your assets in said bank are gone, and there is no central bank or institution to guarantee the bank will have the resources to honor its deposits).

[Muertos comment: we had precisely this problem in the Great Depression, which resulted in an entity called the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation–an agency that makes sure that you, as a bank depositor, will be able to retrieve your money from that bank (up to $250,000, I think) even if the bank fails. Where would the money come from if the FDIC had to make you whole after your bank fails? It would come from a fund administered by the federal government. Doesn’t sound so bad when you think about it like that, does it?]

Griffin goes on about how the central banks are cartels that work with governments and have the legal power to create money out of nothing when the government needs it.

I think the “out of nothing” part of the money is not entirely nothing. There seems to be a massive misconception that when a central bank prints more currency, it’s simply creating more money out of nothing. First, it doesn’t happen this way. Even though the money is not backed by a scarce commodity (like gold), the value attributed to it is related to how trusted and reliable the country’s central bank is. Printing more money without the generation of wealth decreases the value of the money. This is why you can trade one US Dollar for 10,000 Zimbabwe Dollars, and the same reason why the Zimbabwe 1000 Dollar bill is worth less than the paper it’s printed on. Printing more money without generation of wealth will lead to inflation and the loss of value for the currency.

[Muertos comment: this has been proven time and time again historically, such as in the U.S. when “greenbacks” were printed to help finance the Civil War. It didn’t work then either.]

The central banks are not only able to create more money. They are also capable of removing money from circulation when needed. For example, during Christmas the US Federal Reserve prints more money to assure all the withdraws will be possible, and then they remove the extra bills from circulation afterwards.

When this happens, the fiat currency doesn’t lose its value because it is just a representation of the wealth that already does exist, even though most of this wealth is in form of data like the amount you have in your bank or how much all your declared belongs are worth. It doesn’t mean it’s worthless. It’s a representation. It’s not wealth itself.

Let’s put this way. The amount of wealth in dollars is X and the amount of printed paper money is Y. Because most of the wealth being traded, stored or transferred is in the form of savings, credits, stocks, checks and representations other than printed fiat currency, X will be always higher than Y, but when people are making withdrawals, collecting their payments or selling things, more money will begin to circulate from hand to hand. Since there is more money in data form than there is in the form of printed money, the Central Banks print the money and send bills to the local banks to make sure they are capable of handling all the money being moved and spent. This will make Y approach the amount of X, but if the amount of Y being printed and in circulation is  getting closer to the amount of X, there is a chance that Y will surpass X. This will lead to the devaluation of the currency on which X and Y operate, leading to inflation.

To put it in even more simple terms: when you print currency to represent wealth, you’re not creating money out of nowhere. When you print more currency than you have wealth, you’re lowering the value of the money. The amount of wealth is still the same but the value of the currency changes.

Bill Still on the Federal Reserve

Bill Still is another Libertarian film producer, highly critical of the monetary system in US.  He is also seeking the nomination from the Libertarian Party for the 2012 elections.

During his short appearance in Thrive, Mr. Still claims that the Fed is a privately-owned bank made to look like a government bank. To get his point across he says the Federal Reserve, instead of being on the blue government pages in the Washington DC area phone books, is on the white pages. He thinks this is evidence!

Since I don’t live in the US and I didn’t look at a phone book from the DC area during my short but pleasant stay in US, I have to say that was a really bad choice for evidence.

[Muertos comment: there are a lot of stupid assertions in Thrive, but this one has got to be in the top five most ridiculous things in the entire movie. I can’t believe Mr. Gamble let this one through–it’s simply insulting to the intelligence.]

Alan Greenspan on the government’s relations with the Federal Reserve

At 1:00:02 of the movie there is a short video clip in which Alan Greenspan claims that the Federal Reserve doesn’t take direct orders from the president or the Congress. This is used to show the Fed as a rogue agency that answers to no one.

This is totally wrong. Mr. Greenspan’s quote is taken out of context.

For starters, all members of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, are handpicked by the president and approved by Senate vote. They are required by law to have a “fair representation of the financial, agricultural, industrial, and commercial interests and geographical divisions of the country.” This means they have to be scholars in economics, politics and above all they must represent the economic interests of the nation, not the interests of the Congress and not of the president. They are accountable for their actions which can lead to members of the board not being nominated again as well the formal and informal relationships of the board members with the president and the Congress.

There is a really good reason why the central banks usually don’t answer directly the executive chief in office and the Congress: if they did, politicians could use these banks for political gain and directly affect the economy. We need an independent Federal Reserve.

A brief study of history, especially looking at some South American countries and African countries, will show that when the politicians can control the decisions of the central banks and therefore dictate the course of the economy, the results are not pretty. More often than not this is completely disastrous for the country.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3QkmLnNEvdU

Even though the title of the linked video and the comment section of the youtube page follow the same line of thought of the people featured in Thrive, I’d like the viewer to see the part beginning at 8:00 where Greenspan remembers that the actions taken by the Fed would hurt G.H.W. Bush’s reelection. Just think about that for a few minutes. What if Bush was able to change the decisions of the Fed for his own political gain? What would that do to the economy of the United States? This could potentially harm the economy more than it was already harmed in 1992 (which at that time was in a deep recession). This is why the Congress and the president don’t have much say in the decisions of the Fed, but the Fed is still accountable for its decisions. The people on the Federal Reserve Board were chosen by the president and approved by the Senate in the first place, making them accountable for their actions inside the Federal Reserve.

Here are some documents containing detailed explanations of the relations of the Federal Reserve with other branches of the US Government. As you will see, it’s far from an unaccountable rogue entity.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-federal-reserve.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/od/governmentagencies/p/fed.htm

http://www.federalreserve.gov/boarddocs/speeches/2000/20001024.htm

http://www.publiceye.org/conspire/flaherty/flaherty3.html

“Economic parasite”

After this, Mr. Gamble and Ms. Fitts give us analogies on how the bankers use their data on the economy to benefit themselves at expense of others. I won’t argue much with that because it is happening, but not for the reasons  Gamble & friends would you like to believe.

FBI Raid

Since it is Mr. Gamble talking about the FBI raiding her (Ms. Fitts’s) company not her saying it, and nowhere in her company’s website or her bio mentions the said raid, I’m skeptical that it even happened. I also tried to look for news articles mentioning this raid hoping to see something like the paper shot Gamble gave us on the screen, but the only places I saw any mention of it were 9/11 Truth websites and a few truthers’ blogs without any external links or sources to this event beyond what their word for it.

[Muertos comment: always be skeptical of anything that appears on 9/11 Truth websites and nowhere else. 9/11 Truthers are notoriously incapable of getting almost anything right.]

Unless Ms. Fitts herself can come forward and explain in her own words what happened, or if someone can provide me a reliable link or newsfeed with info validating Mr. Gamble’s characterization of what happened, I’ll keep my sense of disbelief about the big government suppressing her findings, specially someone with credentials and political reach like her. (Blogs or forums do not count as reliable source; I’m talking about newspaper articles or public data).

[Muertos comment: given the fact that ten people who appear in Thrive have signed a letter repudiating the film and saying the movie was misrepresented to them, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if what Ms. Fitts would say about what happened would differ significantly from the way Mr. Gamble puts it in the film.]

The Dollar and the Sub-prime crisis:

Gamble begins this part with a moot point about the devaluation of the dollar, showing it from 1913 to 2010.

Remember when I discussed the matter of currency in circulation vs. the real value of wealth? Well, this is what happened: when the Federal Reserve came into being, having a regular universally recognized currency made trade easier both on the internal market as well the international market. It made the US economy more open to these markets, generating more trade, and as result more currency started to circulate. To compensate for the new amount of money circulating and more people earning more money, prices rose, because people where consuming more. This effect is called “demand-pull inflation.” This is regarded as the good kind of inflation because it shows that the country is THRIVING.

This doesn’t make people poor. If the prices are rising, so are peoples’ wages. Even if products have higher prices they still hold the same value. (The kind of inflation that rises both price and value is called “cost-push inflation,” and this happens due to the increase of production cost or scarcity. This is the bad kind of inflation).

But why doesn’t the currency return to its original value after a while? This happens because of an economic effect called “built-in inflation,” where past experiences dictate how the wages and prices will rise. Workers expect inflation to pinch in the future, so they start asking for higher wages to compensate. As a result, companies start raising the price of their products so they don’t lose their profit margins. Because this builds over time it becomes something like a change of currency or a hard economic crisis, where money is being hoarded and trading comes to a halt.

Even if you look to Mr. Gamble’s graph you’ll notice the periods when the dollar’s value rose were in the interwar period and during WWII, when US was still suffering from the 1929 stock crash that brought the US economy to its knees, and during WWII where all the US economy was focused on the war effort instead of producing consumer goods and trading. After those periods were over, trading resumed and, as expected, the value of the dollar declined as more currency began circulating again.

http://www.wisegeek.com/what-causes-inflation.htm

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Built-in_inflation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cost-push_inflation

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demand-pull_inflation

Wealth Gap

Same case as the “economic parasite” claim: the gap in wealth is a big problem, but Thrive has the wrong take on what is the cause.

No, I don’t have a magic bullet solution for wealth disparity. No one does. I do, however, support several policies involving fiscal responsibility, fair taxation, better public health and education plans, transparency from both government and corporate business and not reelecting the same politicians with histories of corruption and incompetence.

Bankers and crisis

Gamble tries to correlate the stock crash of 1929 and the Great Depression to the creation of the Fed. Logically correlation does not equal causation. If you take a look at what happened, the stock crash of 1929 was caused by reckless investments on high risk and speculative shares. With the investments boom more people where buying shares and raising market prices. This would only become viable if the stock market kept rising at a quick rate. If the rise wasn’t fast enough, halted or went into a downturn, those shares would lose their value. This was combined with the massive loans stock brokers were making to investors (called “margin”). The investor only had to pay 50% of the share value and the broker would complete the rest with his own money. Thousands of people taking loans to purchase more shares didn’t help as it was creating a massive economic bubble. As expected, once the stock market faced a downturn, mass panic selling followed, forcing the share’s values down creating a cycle where investors had to sell their shares to pay their brokers and avoid losing too much money with shares that by this time had lost all their value.

[Muertos comment: the causes of the Great Depression are still highly controversial today. There is no one clear answer, but what you’ve identified is clearly part of the problem–any basic book on the crash will make this case. It’s also not limited to 1929. I was working in the financial sector during the “dot com bust” of 2000-2001, and much the same thing happened–shares were grossly overvalued, and there was too much credit attached to financial speculation. When dot coms started to post less than impressive profit numbers, the whole thing collapsed. Something similar happened in 2008, except instead of stocks it was financial products tied to real estate.]

It is also worth remembering that the both people buying and selling the shares are normal people, prone to make mistakes, get nervous or act on impulse. This means one bad rumor in a highly volatile place such as the stock market can cause many stocks’ value to plummet. Do this on a large scale and you can get yourself a nice big crisis on your hands.

http://eh.net/encyclopedia/article/Bierman.Crash

http://stocks.fundamentalfinance.com/stock-market-crash-of-1929.php (this is a TL;DR version of the previous link)

I also would like to have access to this “research” Mr. Gamble claims did on the “major banks” moving their money away from the stock market before the crash, because I’m not able to find any reliable link or article showing that this in fact happened.

The 2008’s credit bubble crisis

This is the only thing preventing me to copy paste the debunking of Zeitgeist here and calling it a day.

But where do I start? First Foster Gamble and David Icke and their “research” (really, I’d like to see the data Gamble uses to make his statements) want to lead the viewer to believe the 2008 economic crash was a ploy engineered by the major banks to consolidate their power by breaking smaller business and seizing their assets.

But there are a few problems with this. For one those assets (mostly houses) have become worthless, and the bail outs are not even close to the amount lost by the banks during the crisis. Plus, why create an economic crisis in the first place? The last thing you want, if you’re a banker or an industrialist, is an economic crisis where people stop spending and the economy stagnates.

So what happened in the 2008’s subprime crisis?

It was caused by a combination of lack of foresight, greed, high interest rates, high risk investments and a complete lack of regulations for the financial sector (I can hear from here all the libertarians shrieking in horror after reading this).

Putting it in layman’s terms, before the 2008 crisis the housing sector in United States was one of the most attractive investments for a few reasons. First, the continuous rise of housing prices and the demand for new houses, and second the too low interest rates from the Federal Reserve that were not attractive to the investors anymore (they were around 1% during 2008).

Okay, what was the banks’ deal then?

They were buying the mortgages from lenders and then reselling them to investors looking for investments with better rates. The banks would proceed to lend more money, mostly from other major banks and from central banks, to acquire more mortgages. Then the banks would generate massive profits from all the homeowners paying their mortgages.

So far so good. But for them there was a problem: since this was one relatively safe and high profit deal, the banks wanted more people paying more mortgages on the rising housing prices.

When a financing company sold the mortgages for the banks, if the homeowner went into default the bank would get the house. This was attractive for the bank because the housing prices were rising at the time. This meant that when the mortgage broker sells the house at a new higher price, the lenders and the banks would make a better profit with the new mortgage payers.

Okay, but where do the problems begin?

The number of AAA home buyers (meaning, reliable and financially responsible people) buying houses was too low to sustain the kind of profits they wanted to make selling and flipping mortgages. So, not wanting to miss the opportunity of selling the houses at higher prices and collecting the higher mortgages, the banks and lenders started selling the houses to subprime families (non reliable people) that they knew would go into default in a matter of time so they could resell the house again and again. Major profits were made this way. The lender would sell the mortgage for the banks and then the bank would sell it to an investor willing to take the risk.

With this happening soon the number of houses going into default was increasing. The number of houses being placed on the market for sale was also rising, but the number of people looking for a house was not. Actually most of the people who could afford a house already had one and with the subprime families simply not paying, this was starting to drive the housing prices down. To make things worse, the people who could afford their high mortgages simply started abandoning their houses because now they were worth a fraction of what they used to be worth, and yet their mortgage was the same.

This left the banks with a lot of houses, but with no one paying for them. The banks borrowed massive amounts of money to buy those mortgages, and the lenders had a lot of houses with people who were going into default, and the investors had a lot of high risk deals that have become worthless. The investors were not able to sell the risk to anyone because by this time everyone noticed that things were not going as planned and stopped buying or selling, essentially freezing the banking and the financing market, bankrupting the banks, the investors and the lenders.

And the banks owned a lot of money they couldn’t pay back, usually to other large banks either in US or Europe, thus dragging those banks down into the crisis with them.

This is the simple explanation, but there are other factors that contributed to the crisis. For example, easy credit (it stimulated not only banks to borrow huge sums of money but also common folk), predatory lending (lending deals so long and prone to change that people were deceived into deals that aren’t what they are advertised) and underwriting (banks with mortgages that didn’t meet proper standards and selling them to other banks and investors) and deregulation of the banking industry (this made easier for banks and financing companies to pull their stunts without the government being able to interfere).

This showed that the banking system had serious problems both ethically and financially, but the reality is much less Machiavellian (and boring) than Gamble would you like to believe.

Back to the movie. We have Mr. Gamble explaining the crisis using a fish hook analogy to show how the financial elites consolidate their power. I’d bother to explain who this logic is wrong if I didn’t do it already above.

Again the banks won’t make major profit from a lot of houses with devaluated prices and with their credibility shot.

Gentlemen! Behold the links!

http://crisisofcredit.com/ (a friendly video explanation about how the crisis came to be)

http://www.mortgageguideuk.co.uk/blog/debt/credit-crunch-explained/

http://useconomy.about.com/od/criticalssues/f/What-Is-the-Global-Financial-Crisis-of-2008.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/od/themarkets/f/hedge_funds.htm

http://useconomy.about.com/b/2008/09/23/why-the-bailout-is-necessary.htm

http://www.federalreserve.gov/generalinfo/foia/emergency-lending-financial-crisis-20111206.pdf

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2009/apr/21/imf-huge-global-bank-losses

https://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/22/business/global/22fund.html?_r=1

http://beginnersinvest.about.com/od/banking/a/aa062405.htm

“Give me control over a nation’s money and I care not who makes her laws.”–Baron Mayer Amschel Rothschild

I can’t find this quote in any history source or website. The only result that purported to show where it came from besides attributing it to Amschel Rothschild is from The Creature of Jekyll Island.

And it featured in America: Freedom to Fascism.

Too bad Mayer Amschel Rothschild died in 1812, virtually a hundred years before the quote started making its first appearances during the early 20th century.

http://quotes.liberty-tree.ca/quote/mayer_amschel_rothschild_quote_8bed

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/America:_Freedom_to_Fascism#Quotation_of_Mayer_Amschel_Rothschild

[Google Books link discussing the quote]

Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF)

There isn’t much to talk about the BIS and the IMF. The BIS acts like a hub for central banks to organize themselves, regularize the sector and push for transparency on the business. The IMF is a bank responsible for money lending programs enjoyed by its contributors. It is infamous for cases of sheer incompetence due to lack of touch with the reality of the countries they were lending money to or how the assistance programs are perceived by the local population.  Depending on who you ask or which country you’re talking about, the IMF can be either seen as a major tool for the development of a country or just a means for the developed and industrialized nations to explore the undeveloped ones.

Like the Federal Reserve and other “major banks,” Gamble also claims they are controlled by the financial elite.

http://www.bis.org/

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/b/bis.asp#axzz1sXrQrlhd

https://www.imf.org/external/index.htm

http://ifiwatchnet.org/

Conclusion

As with much else in Thrive, the “Follow the Money” section is long on rhetoric and short on identifiable facts. There are oversimplifications, important concepts left out, quotes whose truth can’t be identified, and a lot of distortions. This section isn’t done very much better than any other section in Thrive.

As difficult as this subject is, hopefully this analysis gives you something to work with as you evaluate the claims made by the movie.

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

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

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

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

Comprehensive Debunkings

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

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

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

Debunkings of Specific Topics and People

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thrive’s Philosophy, Purpose and Broader Context

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

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

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

Reception and Reaction to the Film

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

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

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

Just for Fun

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

Debunkings We Have Not Done Yet

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

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

Conclusion

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

“False Flag” Attacks–Debunked!

This blog will deal with the claims made in a very small portion of the movie Thrive—small, but important. One of the key claims Foster Gamble makes in the film is the claim that there is a “Global Domination Agenda” where a small elite is plotting to take over the world. As I have already demonstrated, that claim is completely false. One of the pieces of “evidence” that Mr. Gamble employs to reach this finish line is the idea that this “Global Domination Elite” (“GDE” for short) uses what he calls “false flag attacks” as pretexts to start wars and/or institute policies that supposedly advance this imaginary conspiracy. In doing so, Mr. Gamble makes some pretty serious distortions of a few particular events in U.S. history. As American history is my professional field, I feel particularly obligated to set the record straight as to the misleading information and false conclusions invited by Mr. Gamble in Thrive.

What Does Thrive Say About “False Flag” Attacks?

At 1:30:00 (+/- a few seconds) in Thrive, Mr. Gamble asserts that “it is a documented fact that we entered the Vietnam War under false pretenses.” He is talking about the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident, an attack by North Vietnamese forces on U.S. warships which caused President Lyndon Johnson to ask Congress for a resolution broadly authorizing expanded use of military force in Vietnam. A few moments later, Robert McNamara, who was Secretary of Defense under Johnson, is shown on the screen acknowledging that the attack on a U.S. ship in the Gulf of Tonkin did not actually take place.

At 1:30:44, after Mr. Gamble mentions that George W. Bush used the idea of weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) in Iraq to build support for the 2003 invasion, he states, “Tactics such as this are sometimes referred to as ‘false flag’ operations.”

At 1:30:56, Gamble makes the following assertion:

“A growing number of people believe that 9/11 was a ‘false flag’ operation by the global elite as a means of taking over Middle Eastern oil and dismantling U.S. constitutional protections.”

As he says this, on the screen the collapse of World Trade Center 7 is shown. The title on the screen reads, “Building 7, World Trade Center—September 11, 2001—(not hit by any plane).”

In about one minute of screen time, Mr. Gamble has committed a number of serious historical, logical and factual errors. This article will demonstrate three principal factual conclusions: (1) that Mr. Gamble is absolutely wrong, as a matter of historical fact, to claim that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a “false flag” operation; (2) that belief in “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theories is not growing, but in fact shrinking; and (3) the conclusion that Mr. Gamble invites, but does not expressly state, regarding September 11—specifically regarding WTC7, that it was part of a “false flag” operation—is incorrect. Additionally, this article will demonstrate why the whole idea of “false flag” operations, as conceived of by conspiracy theorists, is extremely unrealistic and in fact pretty silly.

What Is a “False Flag” Attack?

If you hear the term “false flag” in ordinary conversation, chances are pretty good you’re talking to a conspiracy theorist. As conspiracy theorists often do, they have taken a fairly obscure term—this one from the world of military and intelligence strategy—and colored its meaning into something not quite the same as its original meaning. Just for the sake of defining the term, I’ll quote the Wikipedia definition:

“False flag (aka Black Flag) operations are covert operations designed to deceive the public in such a way that the operations appear as though they are being carried out by other entities. The name is derived from the military concept of flying false colors; that is flying the flag of a country other than one’s own. False flag operations are not limited to war and counter-insurgency operations, and can be used in peace-time.”

Historically, false flag operations have been confined to fairly small-scale military maneuvers, especially in naval warfare. Did you see the film Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, which involves British Navy ships in the Napoleonic era? There is a scene in that film where a British warship disguises itself as a whaling vessel from Brazil so as to lure an enemy French ship into close quarters, whereupon the British standard is suddenly raised and the attack begins. This is a type of false flag operation in its proper context.

When conspiracy theorists talk about “false flags,” what they mean is a tragic event, usually a very large-scale attack or other act of war or aggression, which is entirely staged by a government or elite group as a means to blame a totally innocent party and thus create a cause to retaliate against that innocent party. It’s the same thing in spirit, but not in scope. False flag operations in real life tend to be small and limited in scale. To conspiracy theorists, however, there is no practical limit to the events that can be staged successfully. Indeed the term “false flag” itself is often used as shorthand to allege a conspiracy behind something.

Why Is The Gulf of Tonkin Incident Not a “False Flag”? 

Mr. Gamble states boldly that “it is a documented fact that we entered the war under false pretenses.” It’s very clear that he’s alleging that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a false flag attack. But it wasn’t. The reality is complicated, and considerably different than Mr. Gamble’s conspiracist shorthand. 

First, and most importantly, he does not tell the audience that what is referred to as the “Gulf of Tonkin incident” was actually two incidents. There were two alleged attacks on U.S. warships by North Vietnamese patrol boats on two separate occasions in early August 1964. One such attack clearly and definitely occurred. In fact it has been admitted by Vietnamese officials. The second attack did not occur. This is the attack that Robert McNamara is speaking of in his brief clip shown in Thrive, which is taken out of context. 

Because we know for a fact that one attack definitely occurred, this automatically disqualifies the Gulf of Tonkin incident as being a “false flag.” However, the second attack—the one that did not happen—doesn’t satisfy the definition either. It didn’t happen, but it wasn’t staged. Gamble clearly wants you to believe that elements of the imaginary “Global Domination Agenda” staged the incident in order to give the U.S. a pretext to go into Vietnam. That’s not what happened. Whatever did happen in the Gulf of Tonkin that night was misperceived by U.S. military personnel as an attack. They made a mistake; but that’s different than staging an attack.

What Happened in the Gulf of Tonkin in August 1964?

The United States had been supporting the government of South Vietnam since 1954, when a complicated cease-fire ended France’s war there (much of Southeast Asia had long been a colony of the French). This accord separated Vietnam into two countries, North Vietnam which was Communist, and South Vietnam which was pro-Western. American military and intelligence forces, euphemistically called “advisers,” were in the country beginning in the late 1950s, helping the South Vietnamese resist the civil war going on within its borders to unify all of Vietnam under Communist rule. Inch by inch the United States was being pulled in to a more active role, but by August 1964 there were no U.S. combat troops directly engaged in warfare with the Vietnamese.

On August 2, 1964, the destroyer USS Maddox, cruising in the Gulf of Tonkin on a mission to collect intelligence about North Vietnamese military activity, fell under attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats. The U.S. returned fire and sank one of the boats. Part of the reason this small battle occurred was because North Vietnam claimed a zone of up to twelve miles from its coasts were its territorial waters, and this claim was not recognized by the United States. Historically, there is no question that the August 2 attack did occur. The only question was who in North Vietnam’s military had ordered it and whether they had authority of the government to do so.

In 1998, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara—the exact person who a brief clip of appears in Thrive—and other U.S. officials, in an effort to repair relations with Vietnam (which ultimately was unified under Communist rule in 1975), went to Vietnam to talk about the war with officials who had been in command of the North Vietnamese government at that time. These fascinating discussions were recorded and became the basis of a book by Robert S. McNamara, James G. Blight, and Robert K. Bringham called Argument Without End: In Search of Answers to the Vietnam Tragedy (New York: Public Affairs, 1999). On page 203 of this book, McNamara and his opposite numbers from Vietnam discuss the Gulf of Tonkin incident. Here was the record of the exchange about the first attack:

Robert McNamara: The first question I have is: was there an attack on the Maddox on August 2, 1964? The answer to that is almost surely ‘yes.’ I say this because I have a fragment of a North Vietnamese shell that I took off the deck of the Maddox, so I think there had to be an attack. But I’d like this on the record. I see my Vietnamese colleagues nodding agreement. Okay, we’ll accept that.”

Gen. Nguyen Dinh Uoc: Gen. Vo Nguyen Giap said that one of the responsibilities of the Vietnamese navy in Thanh Hoa was to guard against any vessels violating the national waters of Vietnam. And if there were violations, the navy had the right to attack in order to protect those waters. That was the general policy adopted by the central authority to defend the country’s sea coast, at the time. It was not a decision made centrally. That is the answer.”

Robert McNamara: Thank you for a very clear answer. It points to something that we certainly did not understand or anticipate at the time…There was a far greater decentralization of authority and command with respect to the North Vietnamese military than we understood at the time…”

So you see here that even the North Vietnamese admit that the August 2 attack did in fact take place. This is proof positive that Foster Gamble (A) is wrong that the Gulf of Tonkin was a “false flag,” because it is clear that an attack did take place; and (B) that he took the McNamara quote out of context. Before I explain where the McNamara quote comes from, let’s look at the second part of the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Two days after the August 2 incident, the USS Maddox and another ship, the USS Turner Joy, claimed that they were under attack again. Technicians aboard these ships saw radar blips and there were also visual sightings of what people interpreted as patrol boats headed toward the U.S. ships. In fact, they misinterpreted what they saw. I will quote from another book, Edwin E. Moise, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), where it states on page 203-04:

“Several participants in the incident who contend that there really was a PT boat attack on the night of August 4 have summarized for the author the reasons for their belief. John Barry firmly believes that his ship actually was attacked by torpedo boats…Ensign Douglas Smith was completely convinced, on the basis of what he could see on his radar screen, that the Turner Joy was under PT boat attack. Despite contrary evidence of which he has become aware since, he is still inclined to believe in the reality of the attack…The evidence of the radar screen returns was convincing then, as it is now…

When the documentary evidence is added, the weight of the evidence is overwhelming: no attack occurred. There exist rational explanations of how all the evidence of an attack could exist without there having been an attack.”

The captain of the Maddox cabled Washington that his ship was under attack. Not long after he began to send cables hedging on this conclusion and suggesting that perhaps the second attack had not, in fact, occurred. McNamara did not tell President Lyndon Johnson that the Maddox commander was changing his mind. When Johnson made the decision to seek Congressional authority to strike back, on the basis that U.S. forces had been attacked, he did not know that the August 4 attack was in serious question.

In 2003, Robert McNamara gave a lengthy interview to filmmaker Errol Morris. This interview became the basis of a documentary film called Fog of War: Eleven Lessons From the Life of Robert S. McNamara. It is from this film that the brief clip of McNamara that appears in Thrive is taken. (I hope Mr. Gamble got the appropriate clearances to use it). In the specific clip that is used in Thrive, McNamara, who died in July 2009, is clearly talking about the August 4 attack. To my knowledge, at no time did he ever hold the opinion that the August 2 attack did not take place.

It is important to view the questions about the August 4 attack in their proper context. The brief and misleading presentation of the Gulf of Tonkin issue in Thrive clearly invites the reader to jump to the conclusion that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was some sort of deliberate fabrication. Indeed, the characterization of the event as a “false flag” attack requires that interpretation. But, as we’ve seen here, the August 2 attack did occur, and the August 4 attack, which did not occur, was a result of mistake, not fabrication. There is not a single shred of evidence anywhere that the apparent August 4 attack on the USS Maddox was a deliberate and knowing fabrication. Thus, it is impossible that it could have been a “false flag.”

Did the Gulf of Tonkin Incident Really “Get us into Vietnam?” 

Historically speaking, the answer to this question is clearly no. By August 1964 the United States was already deeply involved in Vietnam. It is therefore a mischaracterization of history to assert that the Gulf of Tonkin incident caused the United States to enter the Vietnam war. It simply didn’t happen that way. 

While obviously the point of this section of Thrive is not to engage in any sort of deep historical analysis, again the conclusion that Mr. Gamble invites with his words, and his selective presentation of the issues, is telling. Look at his exact words again: “It is a documented fact that we entered the Vietnam War under false pretenses.” It is not a documented fact, because it simply isn’t true. He’s playing games with the idea of when and under what circumstances the U.S. “entered the Vietnam War.” 

I will again quote the Moise book, Tonkin Gulf and the Escalation of the Vietnam War. In the preface, Moise states: 

“The incorrect report of August 4 did not really “cause” the outbreak of large-scale war in Vietnam. By August 1964, Washington and Hanoi were already on a collision course. The level of combat in South Vietnam, and the level of outside support on both sides, were increasing; meanwhile the United States was sponsoring a program of covert operations against North Vietnam…If reports from the Gulf of Tonkin had not caused President Johnson to order airstrikes against North Vietnam in August 1964, something else would have done so within a few months. 

“[T]he Tonkin Gulf incidents—the real one of August 2 for which the United States did not retaliate, and the imaginary one of August 4 that provoked the airstrikes and the Tonkin Gulf Resolution—deserve careful attention.”

This analysis is absolutely supported by all historical data regarding the United States’s entry into the Vietnam War. If you go to the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C., you’ll see two dates on the wall—1959 and 1975, the prior being the first year in which a U.S. serviceman died in Vietnam, and the latter being the last year in which that occurred. Those are, incidentally, also the dates by which the U.S. government, for purposes of veterans benefits and classification, defines the “Vietnam conflict.” It is true that a sustained long-term air campaign (“Rolling Thunder”) and large-scale infusion of American ground forces into Vietnam did not occur until 1965, after LBJ asked for, and received from Congress, the Tonkin Gulf Resolution. But it is totally false to state or imply that the war began in the Gulf of Tonkin. If it did, what war did the Americans who died between 1959 and 1965, and whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam War Memorial, die in? 

By his misleading use of the term “false flag,” Foster Gamble seems to want you to conclude that the Gulf of Tonkin incident alone took the United States and North Vietnam from peaceful coexistence to open armed conflict, and that, if the Gulf of Tonkin incident hadn’t happened, or if the truth about the August 4 attack had been known, the Vietnam War would not have occurred. This conclusion is ludicrous and is totally at odds with every bit of historical knowledge we have about the war. It simply isn’t true. 

Okay, So the Gulf of Tonkin Wasn’t a False Flag. Does That Mean the Vietnam War was Perfectly OK? 

No. That is not the argument at all. The issue is whether the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a “false flag.” It was not. The legitimacy or morality of American involvement in Vietnam is a totally different question. 

Because I’m sure I’ll be asked about it, I’ll state that, personally and as a historian, I do not believe the Vietnam War should ever have been fought. I have not been able to find in the historical record anything that I regard as a convincing argument having been made by proponents of the war, such as John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson or Robert McNamara, as to why U.S. national interests at stake in Vietnam justified the terrible price of that conflict. I believe the U.S. government sorely misjudged both the stakes and the likely consequences of the war, and compounded the damage by making one disastrous decision after another. That’s what I think about Vietnam. But was it started by a “Global Domination Elite” with a “false flag” in the Gulf of Tonkin? Absolutely not. 

Is the Number of People who Believe 9/11 Was a “False Flag” Growing? 

Let’s move on to the subject of 9/11. Mr. Gamble is curiously circumspect about 9/11, as we’ll see in the next section, but let’s look briefly at what he specifically says: “A growing number of people believe that 9/11 was a ‘false flag’ operation by the global elite as a means of taking over Middle Eastern oil and dismantling U.S. constitutional protections.” 

This statement is utterly false. Although most 9/11 conspiracy theorists refuse to accept it, fewer people believe that 9/11 was an “inside job” now than did four, five, or six years ago. An interesting article from Slate.com charts the rise and fall of 9/11 conspiracy beliefs: 

“[I]n the immediate aftermath of 9/11, only a tiny segment of the American population, 8 percent according to one poll in early 2002, was inclined to believe that their government was lying to them about what happened that day….

Although most Americans still believed that the Bush administration was “mostly telling the truth,” by early 2004 16 percent of the population believed it was “mostly lying” about how much it knew prior to the attacks—double the number from the same CBS poll two years prior…By mid-2006, one in three respondents would tell pollsters that they believed the government either orchestrated the attacks or allowed them to happen in order to go to war in the Middle East…

By 2009, with the first-ever African-American president having taken office, the number of Americans who said that Bush let 9/11 happen in order to go to war in the Middle East was at 14 percent. (Because the wording of questions about responsibility for 9/11 has changed over the years, getting a consistent measure of the public’s view is difficult)…. In another poll in 2010, only 12 percent of Americans said they did not believe Osama Bin Laden had carried out the 9/11 attacks.”

Did you follow that? Belief in conspiracy theories started out at 8% in 2002, doubled to 16% in 2004, exploded to 33% in 2006, then slumped to 14% and was still falling as of 2010. If you follow the links in the above quote you can see the raw poll data upon which this summary is based. Any way you slice it, you’ll see that 9/11 conspiracy theories are becoming less popular, not more.

It is very clear: Foster Gamble is simply wrong when he says “a growing number of people” believe that 9/11 was a “false flag” operation. In fact, the reverse is true: a shrinking number of people believe that 9/11 was a “false flag” operation. 

Was September 11 a “False Flag” Operation? 

No. 

Mr. Gamble is curiously circumspect about the subject of 9/11. He doesn’t specifically state in Thrive that “9/11 was an inside job.” All he says specifically is that “a growing number of people” believe that it is, a statement which, as you’ll see above, is incorrect. But let’s not kid ourselves. Thrive is aimed at conspiracy theorists. Among such people, the delusional belief that 9/11 was an “inside job” is an axiom. If Mr. Gamble does not believe that it was, I challenge him to come out and say unequivocally, without reservation, that he believes that 9/11 was done by Osama bin Laden and his Al-Qaeda terrorists without the foreknowledge or assistance of the U.S. (or Israeli) government. 

Clearly Mr. Gamble invites you to make the conclusion that 9/11 was an “inside job.” While he makes his incorrect statement about the numbers of people who believe it is, on the screen we see World Trade Center 7 crumbling. 9/11 conspiracy theorists continually point to WTC7, a skyscraper that collapsed several hours after the main WTC towers fell, as “evidence” that it was a conspiracy. I’ll give Thrive a very rare point for factual accuracy when I note that the caption flashed on the screen at this part of the movie, stating that WTC7 was not hit by a plane, is correct. It was not hit by a plane. However, that doesn’t mean that September 11 was a “false flag.” 

At my other blog, I have written extensively about September 11 conspiracy theories and why they’re false. You can peruse examples here, here and here. I won’t rehash all the material debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories in this article. If you need convincing that 9/11 was not an inside job, I suggest you consult this website, or this one, which has a page devoted specifically to explaining why WTC7 does not indicate conspiracy, or you can go to an article I created in 2010 setting out very carefully what we know about 9/11 and why we know it was not an “inside job.” In a nutshell, WTC7 collapsed because it was severely damaged structurally, and set on fire, by debris that struck it when WTC1 and WTC2 collapsed earlier in the day. Uncontrolled fires raged for hours in the building and authorities knew well ahead of time that it was going to collapse. Here is a recent news article incorporating footage that graphically shows how bad the damage was in WTC7. It is very clear that September 11 was not an “inside job.” 

So, Mr. Gamble is 0 for 3. He is wrong when he says the Gulf of Tonkin incident was a “false flag.” He is wrong when he says that a growing number of people believe in 9/11 conspiracy theories. He is also wrong when he invites the audience of Thrive to draw the conclusion that 9/11 was a “false flag.” 

“False Flags” in General: They’re a Lot Rarer Than You Think. 

For the most part, I’m annoyed when conspiracy theorists like Mr. Gamble assume that certain events must be “false flag” attacks. They always—always–jump to this conclusion without investigating the evidence behind a particular event. They also ignore the fact that, in real life, “false flag” attacks are exceptionally rare. I can think of only one that makes any sort of fit with the concept as Mr. Gamble describes it, and ironically he doesn’t even mention it in Thrive. On August 31, 1939, the day before the beginning of World War II, Nazi commandos attacked a German radio station on the frontier between Germany and Poland, and planted false evidence to make it look like Poles had done it. This is known as the “Gleiwitz Incident.” However, even at that, it wasn’t very consequential. By that time Hitler had been railing at Poland for months, with his usual demand being the return of a piece of Polish territory, known as the Danzig Corridor, to Germany. Had the Gleiwitz Incident not occurred at all, the war would have begun the next day just as scheduled. Furthermore, the Gleiwitz Incident failed to fool very many people in the first place. Virtually no one outside of Germany believed it, and as for belief within Germany, Hitler, being an absolute dictator, did not require public support to launch his war against Poland in the first place. Gleiwitz simply didn’t matter very much—far from being the global game-changer of the kind Mr. Gamble imagines happened in 1964 in Vietnam, or suggests happened in 2001. 

Only one other alleged “false flag” even bears mentioning. Whenever you hear the words “false flag,” conspiracy theorists trot out another tired trope—that being “Operation Northwoods.” This was a memo drawn up within the U.S. intelligence community in 1962 suggesting that acts of terror be committed against U.S. interests abroad and blamed on Fidel Castro, so as to galvanize public opinion for an invasion of Cuba. The document was declassified in 1998. What conspiracy theorists forget is that this document, and the scenario it suggests, was so outlandish and outrageous that President John F. Kennedy, to whom it was presented, was aghast at the suggestion and rejected it out of hand. Not only was “Operation Northwoods” never attempted, Kennedy fired the guy who proposed it. Sadly for conspiracy theorists, this document does not help make their case that “false flag” operations are common. 

When I hear conspiracy theorists complain that “false flag” attacks are used to justify American action against terrorists abroad, I sometimes present them with a list of terrorist attacks that have occurred in the past 30 or so years and then ask them to identify which ones they are willing to believe as really having occurred—i.e., as not “false flags.” For example, conspiracy theorists love to talk about 9/11 and the 2005 “7/7” London Underground massacre as being “false flags.” 

However, what about lesser-known acts of terrorism? What about the hijacking of TWA Flight 847 in the summer of 1985, in which a U.S. Navy diver was murdered and his body thrown on an airport runway? Or the hijacking of the cruise liner Achille Lauro, also in 1985, where an elderly American passenger in a wheelchair, Leon Klinghoffer, was murdered and thrown overboard? Or, at the very end of the year, the machine-gun massacres at airport ticket counters in the Vienna and Rome airports? These are three terrorist incidents that occurred in 1985 alone. Which of these three are “false flag” attacks? All of them? One of them? Two? If any of them were “fals flags,” where is the evidence that they were faked? 

When I ask questions like this, conspiracy theorists usually confess that they’ve never heard of these incidents so they can’t opine whether they are “false flags” or not. Some will add a naked and uninformed conjecture that they probably are, because most conspiracy theorists are reluctant to concede that terrorism really exists. 

The reality is this: “false flag” attacks are extremely rare, they are of limited size and scale, they are difficult and dangerous to pull off, and even the ones that do occur (like the Gleiwitz attack) are rarely convincing or consequential. The scale and scope of “false flag” activity imagined by Mr. Gamble and other conspiracy theorists is simply the stuff of fantasy. 

Thrive is wrong about “false flag” attacks. Period.

Thrive: A Flop?

Lately I have been browsing around the net trying to ascertain the sort of impact that the Thrive movie is having. While admittedly there is no reliable quantitative way to measure such a thing, from my own experience observing conspiracy theories and conspiracy movements, I’m suspecting that Thrive is not having the impact its makers hoped for–and in fact it may be an out-and-out flop.

It has been more than a month since the release of the film on the Internet. In that brief space of time, “buzz” about the film seems to have declined rather than increased. Stats on how many times it has been paid for and downloaded aren’t very reliable, considering the film was ripped to various torrent sites literally the day it was released (November 11), and it has been popping up on YouTube (and being taken down again) several times in succession. Do a search for the hashtag #ThriveMovement on Twitter and you’ll bring up only 26 hits since December 9–most of which are the same people over and over again, some of whom are critics (including me). The hashtag #Thrive has more hits, but many of them are not related to the movie at all. Indeed, most of the hits on Google regarding the movie lead to conspiracy theorist web forums where someone brings up the movie, it is briefly discussed, and then the participants move on to another topic.

I suspect the model the Thrive makers intended to emulate is the Zeitgeist experience. Zeitgeist: The Movie, a poorly-made Internet documentary released in 2007 which also promoted conspiracy theories, went viral and even sponsored an online cult of followers, the “Zeitgeist Movement,” which is now largely defunct. The buzz on Zeitgeist built slowly and peaked around 2008, but even then the whole “Zeitgeist Movement” had to be kept alive by the release of two (soon to be three) sequels, with each one decreasing markedly in popularity from the previous one. Nevertheless, Zeitgeist had a life-span of about four years. It seems Thrive may be looking at a life-span considerably shorter–months, or perhaps even weeks.

Here are some reasons why I think Thrive may be struggling to achieve or maintain its relevance.

1. Many conspiracy theorists don’t trust Thrive…because they think it’s a conspiracy!

Most of the criticism directed at the Thrive movie is not from people who debunk and disbelieve conspiracy theories, but from the exact opposite. The vast majority of anti-Thrive commentary on the net comes from conspiracy theorists who believe the movie is deliberate “disinformation” made by conspirators!

Take for example this webpage, which warns people not to get “sucked in” to the film. The site rails at the movie thusly:

“The Thrive movie has big advertising. Big names. Big message. Big budget…and it has big “disinformation” mixed with truth. Watch the trailer…and get sucked right in to yet another hijacking of the activist movement by the ruling crime families. This is a hijacking!”

A discussion on a conspiracy-friendly web forum contains similar sentiments, such as this:

“In my opinion the movie was made to suck people’s energy out of them and make them feel hopeless! It is so overwhelming in what they say….I personally believe this film was made by the same elite that he (Gamble) talks about in the movie and how they control every aspect of the world.”

The number one reason paranoid conspiracy theorists distrust Thrive is because its director, Foster Gamble, is a member of the Gamble family (of the corporation Procter & Gamble). To conspiracy theorists, this is proof positive that Gamble is part of the “global elite” that secretly runs the world. This blog has already debunked the ridiculous “Global Domination Agenda” conspiracy theory as presented in Thrive, but, as that article notes, because it is extraordinarily difficult to convince believers in this nutty conspiracy theory that it is not happening, Gamble’s last name plays right into their paranoid delusions and he magically becomes part of the conspiracy.

This type of thing is an occupational hazard of being in the conspiracy theory business. Conspiracy theorists see enemies everywhere and believe that powerful forces are expending a lot of effort to spread “disinformation” to discredit them–for example, many believers in the ridiculous “9/11 was an inside job” conspiracy theory believe that Dr. Judy Wood, who thinks the World Trade Center towers were demolished with super magical beam weapons from outer space, is an agent provocateur who was planted in the “Truth movement” to make it look ridiculous. What they miss is that, in the eyes of the vast majority of the public, conspiracy theorists could not look more ridiculous than they already are.

Gamble either didn’t appreciate this, or gambled (no pun intended) that his name, wealth and connections to a large corporation wouldn’t sour his pro-conspiracy-theory message. Nevertheless, Thrive seems to have a serious credibility problem within the core demographic at which it is aimed, that being paranoid conspiracy theorists.

2. The Thrive movie doesn’t really have a “happy ending.”

Another potential reason Thrive isn’t catching on is because it’s too bleak, and is not clear enough about proposing solutions, which its audience evidently wants to hear about. This is a criticism I’ve seen several places on the net–you can see a hint of it in the second forum post reproduced above. Here is another similar sentiment:

“It pretends to be an examination of the power elite but it conflates this power-elite analysis with an “alien code.” This does two things. For many people it makes the movie a kind of “crackpot” endeavor (and we note they’ve gone out of their way to include many prominent free-market thinkers in their narrative). Second, it doesn’t apparently produce any real solutions, inspiring helplessness and fear rather than inspiration or education.”

It may seem strange that an audience of conspiracy theorists, who love predictions of economic or societal collapse, craves a “happy ending,” but it makes sense if you understand the basic psychology of conspiracy beliefs. Many conspiracy theorists are attracted to these theories because they like the idea of having “secret knowledge” that is generally denied or ignored by the world at large. This gives them a feeling of empowerment, that they’re in a secret club that knows the “truth” and is fighting the good fight to get other people to notice it. However, this dynamic doesn’t work without the implicit assumption that this secret knowledge can do some good. Conspiracy theorists like to think of themselves as Neo, the hero of the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix, who takes the “red pill,” recognizes that the world is fake and then becomes a sort of messiah to bring it down. Those who are bothered by Thrive’s failure to propose “solutions” seem to be disappointed because Gamble has given them the “red pill,” but hasn’t told them what to do with it.

One of the most common conspiracy theorist memes is that people are “waking up.” If you surf conspiracist web sites or read their forum posts you’ll see a lot of metaphors related to sleep, waking up, opening eyes, etc., and material that posits conspiracy theories, especially “Global Domination Agenda” theories and similar tropes, will often be praised as helping “wake people up.” Thrive itself plays on this meme in its promotional poster, showing a woman removing a blindfold. But it seems, interestingly enough, that “waking people up” alone isn’t enough anymore. Conspiracy theorists want to be “inspired” or “educated” as to what they can do about all these horrible conspiracies. Thrive is very short on action points and that seems to bother people.  While it is part of a conspiracy theory narrative, it seems to lack the elements necessary to compel commitment among its followers–meaning, validation of the implicit idea that the “special knowledge” the movie imparts will be of some earthly use.

If Gamble does make a Thrive 2, expect that to be the plot.

3. The conspiracy theory world moves much faster than it used to.

It is possible that, even in the short space of a month since its release, Thrive may have already peaked. Only time will tell, but if this is true, it lends credence to a theory by former JREF debunker Ryan Mackey, who stated recently that the world of conspiracy theories moves a lot faster than it used to thanks to social networking and instant information sources like Twitter. If this is true, it may be a lesson that many purveyors of conspiracy theories have yet to learn.

In November, Mackey published (on the web) a very interesting essay called The Great Internet Conspiracy: The Role of Technology and Social Media in the 9/11 Truth Movement. The essay is very long but a fascinating read. In diagnosing the rise and fall of the 9/11 “Truth” movement from its beginnings in 2005 to its burnout in 2008-09, Mackey analyzes two conspiracy theories that became popular after 9/11 Truth, those being the “Birther” thing (the conspiracy theory that Barack Obama was secretly born in Kenya and his Hawaii birth certificate is a fake), and the Osama bin Laden “deathers” (the conspiracy theory that Osama bin Laden was not killed by US forces on May 1, 2011, or that his death was somehow different than explained, and covered up for whatever bizarre reason). He makes the point that these conspiracy theories peaked much, much faster than 9/11 Truth did, which took years:

“The Birther conspiracy theory…made the jump into the mainstream very quickly. Unlike the Truth Movement, it seems to have begun its runaway growth phase in only a matter of months, steeply increasing in popularity from mid-2009 through April 2011. It peaked with something like 30% of Americans believing the conspiracy theory (there is a lot of scatter in the polls), but then rapidly slipped to a stable support level of about 10%….We see a similar pattern in the Deather conspiracy theory, except here the timeline is compressed even further. This conspiracy theory exploded into the mainstream at the same speed as the news story it challenged, reaching the media almost instantly…

In this case, the conspiracy theory still exhibited distinct phases of initial growth among conspiracy theorists, rapid growth as it assaulted the mainstream, and then a decline back to its conspiracist base, but here it all happened in a matter of hours. It is no coincidence that Twitter played such a significant role this time. As our relationship to the Internet continues to evolve, we now receive news and new information faster than ever, albeit without any sort of context at all. Much of this conversation now takes place on personal devices instead of workstations, which both enables and constrains this new, terse, burst-mode form of communication. As a result, the public experienced the conspiracy theory almost at the moment of its origin, discarded it as nonsense, and moved on.”

Could this be what happened with Thrive? There was a big roll-out and a lot of attention on 11/11, the day of the film’s release. There was Internet traffic, Facebook posts, Twitter posts, and the movie went up on YouTube. Then, as the movie saturated into the conspiracy theorist underground, people saw it, talked about it, and moved on. Now, while Thrive is still out there, it definitely does not have a sense of urgency around it as it did on 11/11. People still do watch it and talk about it, but its momentum doesn’t seem to be building.

Indeed, statistics from this blog could support this theory. I started this blog within days after Thrive’s release because I knew that in order to have any impact, fact-checking and debunking the film would have to be essentially simultaneous with the film’s discovery–meaning, people who Google “Thrive movie” for the first time, and are introduced to it, must also be introduced to its debunking material at the same time. At this I think this blog has been pretty successful. The high water mark of page views on this blog occurred on November 26, Thanksgiving weekend. Since then, views have been declining–just, as I suspect, like views of the Thrive movie itself.

If Foster Gamble hoped that Thrive would replicate the “success” of Zeitgeist, he may well not have taken the increased speed of the conspiracy underground into account. Zeitgeist was released in 2007, toward the end of the 9/11 Truth movement. But even four years ago the Internet moved much slower than it does now. People could continually discover the Zeitgeist movies on YouTube and other video sources at their own pace and then buy into its conspiracy ideology, which by the advent of the Zeitgeist Movement, was ready and waiting to receive them. This doesn’t seem to be happening with Thrive. At least, I don’t see indications that it’s going to have a slow simmer that will eventually build into some sort of mass discovery of the movie or its messages. While we can’t know for sure until more time passes, it could very well be that Thrive peaked on Thanksgiving weekend, and may never attain that level of interest again.

Of course, this prediction could be wrong. Thrive may gain a high-profile supporter or suddenly and inexplicably achieve some type of viral saturation–maybe as part and parcel of the ridiculous but inevitable “2012 doomsday” hysteria that is certainly right around the corner. And it’s always possible that Gamble may make a follow-up movie or take some other action to try to capitalize on the film. But if it does gain a sudden notoriety, I would be very surprised if that translates into sustained and durable popularity. I just don’t think Thrive has it in itself.

Is Thrive really “waking people up”?

As stated earlier in this essay, conspiracy theorists love to believe that they are “waking people up” and “opening people’s eyes.” Indeed the conviction that conspiracy theory X or Y is gaining more and more acceptance with the general public is a virtually universal belief among conspiracy theorists, even in the total absence of evidence that it is true. For example, far fewer people today believe that “9/11 was an inside job” than did in 2005-06, yet Truthers are still out there claiming that “critical mass” of belief in their conspiracy theory is right around the corner, or, even more astonishingly, that a majority of the public already believes that 9/11 was a government conspiracy and that their work in convincing people is largely done. No amount of evidence that the Truth movement is dead could convince these believers.

Similarly, I would be very surprised to encounter an enthusiastic supporter of Thrive who does not believe that the movie is a rip-roaring success that is going to gain millions of converts. This despite the fact that the mainstream media has completely ignored the film, views of the film are apparently declining after only a month, and the film is encountering significant obstacles to widespread acceptance by large segments of the conspiracy underground. The fiction of Thrive gradually snowballing, gaining converts and credibility until it bursts into the mainstream with legions of high-commitment supporters, is probably one that we are going to encounter for quite some time to come.  However, I have seen no evidence that this is even close to true, and considerable anecdotal evidence that the opposite is true.

Thrive is not “waking people up.” Indeed, it appears to be putting them to sleep.

The Second (Partial) Debunking of the Full-Length Thrive Movie.

This is Part II of the first debunking done on the full-length Thrive movie. There will be additional debunking material that is more detailed, both on the full movie and on various individual aspects of it, posted later. This debunking is not by me, but by gabrieltech, who will (we hope) be a contributor to this blog. If you missed Part I, here it is.

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Dr. Jack Kasher, Lane Andrews and James Gilliland

Little is known about these two (Kasher and Gilliland). They continue to claim a correlation between torus and energy control and transportation in UFOs, with Lane Andrews (supposed alien abductee) showing with sketches and drawing of the shape and pattern of the UFO. I’m sure she was chosen because her deception of the UFO was the only one from all alleged abductees that matched Gamble’s torus obsession along with James Gilliland who also described a similar UFO encounter to Andrews and of the two is the only one I whose information I could find on-line. He runs a website dedicated to alien encounters and the footage from his ranch sightings.

http://eceti.org/Eceti.IndexII.html

Some talk with Dr Kasher about the age of earth and the possibility of an earth like planet containing intelligent life existing, and faster than light travel.

Daniel Sheehan:

Nothing special about him besides his connection to Greer’s Disclosure project. In his brief appearance he tells how no politician likes to touch the extraterrestrial life theme because it’s a “world view” challenge instead of the political suicide of being associated with conspiracy groups.

Free energy and torus:

This part starts with Nicola Tesla’s works, and mistakenly relates it to free energy and radiant and how his work and financing was shut down by J.P Morgan and later had his laboratory burned and ostracized for his goals of implementing unlimited energy for everyone.

First, the free energy claim.

A few of Nicola Tesla’s works were related to wireless energy (http://www.google.com/patents?vid=1119732) and electro static induction,  methods to transfer electrical energy without the need to use wires. The power itself came from conventional electrical generators, it wasn’t free energy and neither was generated by his devices.

Second, J.P Morgan sponsor shut down.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wardenclyffe_Tower

The project J.P Morgan was sponsoring wasn’t related to energy but communications the Wardenclyffe Tower (the wireless power transmission served only for demonstration purposes), a wireless radio communication tower. Morgan withdrew his support for the project after failures and delays after changes in the main project resulted in undesired effects.

Tesla laboratory burned down.

While this indeed happened and was due to Tesla’s works it’s not about the reason Gamble leads you to believe. During Tesla’s time there were major patent wars between Tesla and several other inventors, the most notable being Thomas Edison.

This competition often ended with one inventor sabotaging each other’s labs and inventions, in when Tesla’s lab was burned down he was working on his Tesla generator and liquefaction of air, after the event a competitor in Germany Carl Paul Gottfried von Linde filed a patent for the same process Tesla was working on.

Tesla ostracized.

This part is an outright lie. Even after Wardenclyffe Tower and his lab being burned Tesla remained a respected scientist and filed several patents up until his death in 1943. His deeds are still remembered and his contribution to science are respected.

There is nothing relating those incidents to free energy.

Free Energy “suppresion”

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_energy_suppression

This bumps into another conspiracy theory, but instead of 9/11 and New World Order we have free energy being suppressed (In my opinion it’s a convenient way to shrug off failure by just saying, “hey my generators worked, it was the government that confiscated everything !”).

Adam Trombly:

Mr Trombly is a common name in free energy circles an enthusiasts but none of his works or machines have been proven to work on their own.

http://peswiki.com/index.php/Directory:Adam_Trombly

http://cassiopaea.org/forum/index.php?topic=8510.0

http://www.ahealedplanet.net/journey.htm

http://projectearth.com/about/adam-trombly

http://www.rexresearch.com/trombly/trombly.htm (Trombly’s profile and his Homopolar Generator)

He talks about how his device resonates with earth magnetic field to generate power and how such device could bring power to anywhere on earth. Despite claiming his generator works as a fact, Thrive has shown nothing but CGI representation of the generator instead of a real life working one.

I couldn’t find references and pages about the federal raid and the alleged confiscation of his devices. The only places where I could find this were “free energy” forums, and sites that linked me to once again Greer’s work.

[Muertos comment: this is a telltale sign of a pseudoscientist. Any scientist or inventor with a radically new machine or process would be canvassing the legitimate scientific and engineering community in the hopes of attracting investors to help him bring the process to market. If the inventor won’t show you what he invented, especially if you want to invest money in it, chances are there’s nothing to see.]

John Bedini:

http://johnbedini.net/ (his website has a page that links to Rife, but more about Rife soon)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bedini

http://johnbedini.net/john34/bedinibearden.html

His devices descriptions in Thrive fill the category of perpetual motion machines: “a device that generates more energy than it takes to run them.”

[Muertos comment: that is impossible given the laws of physics as we know them to be.]

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetual_motion)

Bedini still sells models and blueprints of his devices on-line and still has a company selling his inventions(some of which have been dismissed by the skeptic  James Randi (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_Randi)

He later claims Bedini was intimidated into stop advocating free energy, he doesn’t say by who and which organization, certainly he implies the US government is involved.

After showing videos with poor quality of free energy machines working Gamble’s appeals to his authority for the veracity of such concepts and their real applications.

John Hutchinson

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WK-BziiId_0 (This video fails at physics forever)

http://www.skepdic.com/hutchisonhoax.html

Another hoax passed as truth by Thrive and Gamble. I won’t waste my time trying to debunk this because it was already done.

But long story short, Hutchinson is credited in free energy circles to have created the “Hutchinson effect,” in which he used a series of Tesla coils and other electromagnetic equipment to resonate with objects in a testing table making the “defy” gravity and levitate. Needless to say no other scientist has been able to replicate the same results in a controlled environment using the same type of apparatus Hutchinson used.

His lab raids are only discussed free energy forums and other conspiracy theory sites, including David Icke’s forums, and somehow he becomes related to 9/11 “anomalies”.

http://www.rexresearch.com/hutchisn/hutchisn.htm#7

http://forum.davidicke.com/showthread.php?t=17964 (tying the he Hutchison effect to 9/11)

[Muertos: absolutely no reputable scientist or researcher would allow their work to be attached to 9/11 conspiracy theories. Witness what happened to Steven Jones. In addition to his work being incapable of being replicated, the 9/11 association alone is enough to declare Hutchinson completely untrustworthy.]

Eugene Mallove:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_Mallove

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion

Mallove gained some notoriety for advocating room temperature fusion also known as cold fusion and he is the creator of infinite energy magazine.

Cold fusion is considered by the scientific field as pathological science where experiments are made to trick people into believing false results. The history of cold fusion is ridden with false positives, measurement and theoretical errors and several attempts to replicate the results claimed by Martin Fleischmann were met with negative results.

[Muertos comment: Steven Jones, former BYU professor who later gained fame as a 9/11 conspiracy theorist, got his start in the late 1980s pushing cold fusion theories. Funny how these conspiracy people keep a tight circle, isn’t it?]

So far there has been no device able to create and manipulate cold fusion, and unlike what Thrive wants to make you believe, it wasn’t because of lack of attempts either, as major universities and research institutes poured money and time researching cold fusion.

Mallove was murdered in 2004. Gamble’s tone implies that he was also victim of suppression, but reason of his death was due to troubles he had with Chad Schaffe, who along his fellow Mozzelle Brown (Brown had prior criminal records) beat Mallove to death after finding Mallove was throwing away Schaffer’s parents’ belongings after their eviction.

http://www.norwichbulletin.com/carousel/x1555988219/Police-have-3rd-suspect-in-Eugene-Mallove-killing#axzz1dsQ12xFA

After the presentation of the suppressed “inventors”, Trombly and Greer talk about the military and major energy groups suppressing the free energy inventors and how free energy suppression is hand in hand with UFO suppression due to their supposed technological links, and implications of how free energy would shift the wheel of power from major energy corporations.

A few more pictures and videos of supposed working free energy generators are shown along with Brian O’Leary’s comments.

Gamble claims that instead of “smashing things together and trying to control the explosion” free energy relies on “blending and dancing with what naturally it is” with the common denominator is that they mimic the torus energy shape (news flash: every electromagnetic generator does).

Gamble couldn’t be less specific when describing how free energy devices work, and later implies why corporations and governments force us to rely on dangerous and polluting energy sources, declaring there are no other clean and cheap energy sources.

Right after this, Gamble, O’Leary and Gamble’s wife have a brief speech about the benefits and the importance of free energy and alternate technologies.

More material from gabrieltech’s debunking of Thrive will be posted at a later time.