I received an interesting email recently from a reader of Thrive Debunked who often forwards me leads and information. The subject was a conversation about me and this blog that recently went on between someone who has frequently commented on this blog (sometimes in support, but often in opposition) and another person who is evidently a filmmaker of some stature. The filmmaker, whose name I do not know, claimed to have done an analysis of me by reading Thrive Debunked. Just for fun I thought I’d present it here, as I find it both very amusing and very sad, and unfortunately typical of the conspiracy mindset behind Thrive. I’ll also offer some comments on the analysis by SlayerX3, the other frequent contributor to this blog.
I should state before we begin that who this person is doesn’t matter to me. I could not be less interested in their identity. It’s the content of the analysis that is interesting here.
The “Disinformation” Trope—Again.
“Muertos is a very interesting character. I’ve gone through a good bit of that site. I just want you to know that, in my considered opinion, this is all what it looks like: purposeful and intentional disinformation. This is NOT the efforts of a few intelligent skeptics who are determined that the public know the “truth”. This is a strategically mounted, carefully conceived and administered campaign to shift public opinion away from having a sincere interest in these topics.
Who would want to do such a thing is not a conversation for email, as far as I am concerned. Too complex, murky, and too detailed to write about. I just wanted you to know that disinformation has been a topic of interest of mine for a long, long time. There are reasons my films generally withstand certain kinds of scrutiny, in that I’ve always had a bit of a natural style and methodology that results in well-knit story structure and coherence.
But what’s going on now with Robbert (and with Foster and Thrive), is a step or two beyond the usual “civil vigilantism for the truth”. There’s something happening with guys like “Muertos” (who I suspect is probably more of a team than an individual) that calls for being very, very careful. One thing to notice about this “guy” is that he is very, very well informed about what it is he goes after- and I mean down to the history, the players, the real detailed nuances — and yet all he has to offer is dissention, ridicule and disbelief.”
This person evidently believes, as many readers of this blog do, that I’m a “paid disinformation agent.” This is a classic fallacy of conspiracy theorist thinking. Conspiracy theorists live in a shuttered universe, intentionally separated from any sources of information that would challenge their belief system. In this closed universe, no one could or would disagree with their conspiracy conclusions honestly, rationally or on their own. The only way they would ever disagree with conspiracy theories is if they’re being paid and/or criticizing conspiracy theories as part of some ideological, political or economic campaign. That’s what the term “disinformation” means in this context.
Repeating once again that I’m a totally ordinary private citizen, that I am one person working alone, and that I’m not being paid or directed by any government, agency, cartel, business interest, activist group, or any person at all to write Thrive Debunked is as pointless now as it ever was. Fans of Thrive who choose to accept this film’s misguided premises as their primary belief system will never accept that I’m not “working for someone.” I find it amusing that the accusation continues to be made, and repeated among my critics as if it is settled truth. It’s simply ridiculous.
Thrive fans aren’t the first conspiracy believers to accuse me of being a “paid disinformation agent,” nor the first to accuse me of being more than one person or having some sort of staff. In August 2011, a few months before Thrive came out, Peter Joseph Merola, the leader of the Zeitgeist Movement and creator of the conspiracy film series Zeitgeist (itself a major progenitor of Thrive), made the same accusations against me on his forum. I wrote an article about that incident on my other blog. Most amusing to me is the idea that I have a “staff.” I take it as a backhanded compliment. If people look at my blog and think it’s impossible that one guy can do all of this in his spare time, I suppose I must be pretty good at blogging!
I also take as a compliment the analyzer’s warning that I’m “very, very well informed about what it is he goes after- and I mean down to the history, the players, the real detailed nuances.” Yes, I am. A lot of research goes into the articles here. For various articles on Thrive Debunked, I have read numerous books, reviewed Congressional hearing testimony, conducted my own independent interviews, consulted newspaper archives, and emailed scientific experts to make sure my facts are right. This is, in fact, the difference between what I do and what Thrive does. I’d like to think this is a mark of quality. Thrive Debunked is listed on Rationalwiki.org’s page about the Thrive movie. It is also now a go-to source on the Debunkatron, a clearinghouse of conspiracy theory and woo belief debunkings. You don’t get listed on these sites by offering shoddy, poorly-researched material and just shouting opinions, which is what many angry Thrive fans accuse me of doing.
As for offering only “dissention, ridicule and disbelief,” this is, of course, false. I offer facts, evidence, and logical reasoning. Just to name a few at random, I offered the fact, backed by eyewitness testimony and historical data, that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was not a “false flag” operation. That fact had the effect of directly refuting Foster Gamble’s claim in Thrive about the Gulf of Tonkin affair. I offered the fact, backed by scientific evidence, that St. Sofia in Istanbul was constructed in the 530s (A.D.) using a process of earthquake-proof cement that was unknown to modern engineers until 2002—thus demonstrating that questions of ancient engineering do not indicate, as Thrive would have you believe, that certain structures must have been created by aliens. Most controversially on this blog, I offered the fact that crop circles of flawless geometric precision can be and are made by human beings in a short period of time with a few simple tools—a fact you can verify with your own eyes by watching it being done in the YouTube video embedded on that page.
Thrive fans do not like facts such as these, because they impugn the film’s conclusions. I have no control over what the facts are. As I’m fond of saying to conspiracy theorists, don’t blame the facts if they lead to a conclusion you don’t like.
So, What’s My Motivation?
The analysis goes on:
“Plus, (from what I can tell) he’s also not someone like Peter Sorenson, or Colin himself, having been a former true believer who for some reason became disillusioned. No, this guy “Muertos” appears to be a total independent, and a newbie at that. So, what’s his motivation? Why put so much effort into researching and debunking people and topics that you fundamentally don’t have any true regard for? There’s a disconnect here that deserves some attention, I think.
And the way he operates is 100% political — you can see that in the construction of the language he utilizes. There is certainly no real room in his approach for any sort of “open discussion” on the “possibilities” of what is real. So my question is: “what’s really going on here?”
“Colin” is Colin Andrews, a crop circle researcher who recently exposed the fraudulent video being supported by Nancy Talbott of BLTResearch.com, which is Thrive’s main source for the false claims made about crop circles at the beginning of the film. I’m not sure I understand the distinction the analyzer is making between “true believers” and “independents.” It is true, however, that the vast majority of high-commitment conspiracy theorist debunkers are former conspiracy theorists themselves. In fact, I am one of them. I used to believe very fervently that John F. Kennedy was assassinated by a government/CIA/Mafia conspiracy, and I also used to believe that TWA Flight 800, which exploded overLong Island in July 1996, was secretly shot down by the U.S. Navy. It was my recovery from this sort of conspiracy thinking that motivated me to try to prevent others from falling into it.
I am also not a “newbie.” I’ve been debunking conspiracy theories for over seven years. Although Thrive only came out a few months ago, I have a great deal of experience in researching and refuting conspiracy theories, from “9/11 Truth” to JFK, to cults, MLM scams and other forms of what I call organized deception.
I strongly dislike conspiracy theories. They are harmful to society, corrosive to democracy, and inimical to rational and critical thinking. This is my motivation for speaking out against them. Nothing more, nothing less. (If you need a fuller explanation for this, see this article). Anyone who knows me knows that I do nothing by halves. If I committed myself to refuting the movie Thrive, it makes no sense that I would not try to do it as competently, completely, and persuasively as I possibly can. Otherwise I just wouldn’t do it. I find it bizarre that critics use the amount of effort I put into this blog to try to “prove” that I must be a “paid disinformation agent,” because no “real” person would put so much effort into refuting something they don’t like. That argument is ridiculous and ignores the powerful motivations that ordinary people find to speak out against things that they think are harmful.
My model in matters of debunking is a fellow named Mark Roberts. In 2005, Mr. Roberts committed to refuting and debunking the asinine conspiracy theorist film Loose Change, which claimed that “9/11 was an inside job.” Mark Roberts, who was known as Gravy on the JREF Forum, put together a website that is absolutely magnificent in its accuracy, its breadth of coverage, and its total refutation of the lies and errors contained in Loose Change. Who is Mark Roberts? He’s not a “paid disinformation agent.” He runs a tour service in New York City. He’s a totally normal guy. He achieved with Loose Change far more than I have with Thrive. But if you need proof that ordinary people really do get motivated enough to push back against conspiracy movies that are hurting people, all you need do is look at Mark Roberts’s website.
As for whether I am “open” to “possibilities,” I am open to anything—so long as the evidence demonstrates it is true. With regard to free energy, for example, I’ve stated many times that, although I believe free energy is impossible and a sham, if someone were to produce a free energy machine and demonstrate that it does what is claimed of it—in a public forum, and in a way where reputable scientists can verify and duplicate the machine’s operation—I will take down everything I’ve ever said about free energy. But Thrive fans can’t present that evidence. Nor can they present evidence for any of the other weird claims they make. Until and unless that evidence appears, it is entirely rational and justifiable for me to denounce these claims as false.
I would like to ask the person who wrote this analysis—what’s so unreasonable about asking for evidence?
“Disinfo” Again. There’s Something Going On!
“Something is definitely going on in my opinion, and there are few of us who are even aware of it, let alone oriented towards finding a way to deal with it. It’s a very dicey situation, and long-term, I feel. Someone is trying to “manage history” here, and we are in the crosshairs, so to speak. Your manner of reply, which is very similar to what Foster has attempted, has a lot of limitations in terms of really countering these initial disinformation salvos. Too much detail (for one thing), and not enough “sizzle”, and NO clout.
Disinfo is a very interesting game (and one I am not adept in — I just have an long-standing interest in it). It plays, of course, upon the lowest common denominator, upon common fears, and upon reinforcing existing and limited worldviews. Easy to do if you know the techniques, I would think. Effectively countering it is a separate and unique process, I believe — and one I have tremendous interest in.”
Ooh, look at that! I’m trying to “manage history!” That term is silly. All I’m trying to do is present the facts, and educate people about the factual and logical deficiencies of the claims in Thrive. Is this “managing history?” What does that even mean?
As for this person’s interest in “disinformation,” I’d be glad to enlighten him/her. Whoever wrote this analysis is welcome to ask me any question they want about how much I’m being paid to write this blog ($0.00), who’s paying me (no one), what agenda I’m serving (none), how I do my research, or how I come up with subjects to cover. Seriously. I’ll totally honor this person’s anonymity if they like. My email is email@example.com. If they are so interested in “disinformation,” I offer myself as a resource to explore that interest.
The upshot of these last two paragraphs is another backhanded compliment. The person who wrote this is throwing up his or her hands and conceding that they know of no way to counter the hideous “disinformation” I’m spewing with my evil blog. That is not surprising; the facts speak for themselves. Conspiracy theorists, when confronted with facts they can’t deny, usually run away from them. That’s what’s happening in this case, except it’s not “disinformation” at all—it’s fact.
So yes, there is “something going on”: someone out there is viewing this blog through a very paranoid mindset, and seeing a number of things that simply aren’t there. Even to make the allegation that I’m some sort of “disinformation agent” betrays a level of paranoia that I frankly find very difficult to fathom. Another thing I have often told conspiracy theorists is that I don’t quite understand how their paranoid fantasy world works, but however it does, I’m glad I don’t live there.
SlayerX3’s Response to the Analysis
[SlayerX3 is a contributor and author of several articles on this blog including the three full-length debunkings, and the fine “Follow The Money” Debunked article. I do not pay him, I don’t direct what he writes, and he’s not working for anyone. Like me, he does this in his spare time and out of his own motivations.]
It is indeed a clear headed analysis but it also stumbles on the same problem when skeptics debunk or criticize events or theories: we eventually end up being either called “naysayers,” or worse, “disinformation agents.”
Topics like these are complicated to deal not with their subjects—since these are relatively easy to prove and show why they are wrong—but with the people who believe in them. Challenging an idea is easy. People can change or even shape ideas to correct fallacies and mistakes, but beliefs aren’t that easy [to change]. Since they have become rooted in people’s minds, challenging them will be always met with degrees of hostility or denial, along with other justifications by the believers to reinforce their beliefs but without addressing the questions that challenge those beliefs (such as the classic reasoning of, “If they are attacking me that means I’m right,” or “You are being paid to disagree with me”).
It is true some of those areas are far from being something we’d care about if there weren’t people trying to pass it as if those “happenings” were 100% true. I do not care if people believe in UFOs or Jewish shape-shifting reptilians, but I do care if people start spreading their version of a “truth” that doesn’t have any connection with reality, or a twisted interpretation of real-life facts to convey their own beliefs and convince other people to share them in a quasi cult-like manner. (It is worth it to cite groups like Desteni as an example of what can go extremely wrong with those beliefs).
Personally, I think the greatest motivation debunkers have is to force engagement with facts, in my case correcting the erroneous interpretation of physics and the pseudo-science in Thrive. Debunkers in general don’t have an agenda behind them besides showing where the mistakes and misinterpretations are.
[The analysis] mentions that we try to “manage history,” but this argument could be thrown back at them the same way they are throwing it at us. Movies like Loose Change and Zeitgeist attempted doing so for their own agenda, like the cuts in the 9/11 footage to insinuate the attacks were done by cruise missiles instead of planes (the Pentagon case in Loose Change) or to re-write history with false facts and misinterpretation of religions (the “Christ conspiracy” falsehood in Zeitgeist). The “disinformation” accusations are not something we take so lightly. When we debunk we’re not just saying “no, it didn’t happen like this PERIOD”—we focus on a more objective approach by doing research about the subject, showing from where and how we took the data werre using and taking a look at both sides before we reach any conclusions. And, more importantly, we never cease asking questions.
The difference is when we [debunkers] ask questions and look for answers, once we find one that is consistent with facts and reality we drawn our conclusions. Something I’ve noticed about conspiracy theorists is that no matter how much we prove their beliefs wrong and answer their questions, they keep asking questions until someone gives the answers they want to hear. (It doesn’t matter if this someone is telling the truth or not).
Perhaps the questioning is what really scares people in conspiracy theory circles, not the followers but the people responsible for spreading and making the [conspiracy] content. [The analysis] said we have a political agenda, which may or may not be true, I don’t in my case. But so do the creators of those movies, whether be it for money (Like Zeitgeist’s Peter Joseph Merola), to push a political agenda (Thrive’s Gamble) or simply for fame (I think David Icke fits). Debunkers, both professional and amateur, are seen as a threat by those people, a stone wall between their beliefs and the people they feel they need to reach to accomplish these goals.
The phrase “Disinfo is a very interesting game (and one I am not adept in — I just have an long-standing interest in it). It plays, of course, upon the lowest common denominator, upon common fears, and upon reinforcing existing and limited worldviews” left me in awe a bit, since this is exactly what conspiracy theorists prey on. 9/11 conspiracy theories preyed on the broken sense of security among Americans; Zeitgeist and Thrive prey on the inequality and poverty problems around the world, blaming them on conspiracy groups and elites. The Protocol of the Elders of Zion (which David Icke refuses to say is fake) preys on hatred against the Jewish population. And it is clear these thoughts can be dangerous. They can either shift the attention to the wrong place or instigate hatred against a particular group of people.
There is an observation that should be reinforced about debunkers, the same one I stated in the beginning of this text: debunkers are called “disinformation agents” because we ask questions that will bring inconsistencies, fallacies and mistakes to the surface, and not only ask these questions but find views and facts to verify if the statements made by conspiracy theorists are factual or not. Since conspiracy theories tend not to be factual we’ve yet to find facts and evidence supporting conspiracy theories.
Remember the founding base of debunkers is skepticism. We won’t believe something outright without definitive proof.
Although the main objective of Thrive is informational—to disseminate conspiracy theories and promote right-wing libertarian political ideology—it cannot be ignored that Thrive’s makers and a lot of its supporters say they want to take action. On this very blog Foster Gamble, creator of Thrive, has dismissed the utility of discussing the factual errors and distortions in his film, in favor of “creating solutions.” Unfortunately, the “solutions” that Thrive fans say they want are aimed overwhelmingly at exposing and combating the various conspiracy theories that the film asserts exist. This is the central tragedy of conspiracy thinking—that it diverts people’s energies and attentions away from solving real problems in the real world, and instead motivates them to solve fake problems endemic to the fantasy world in which conspiracy theorists dwell.
This article will discuss the phenomena of what I call “conspiracy activism.” Thrive is not the first conspiracy movie to spark an activist response. Mr. Gamble’s film exists in the context of a conspiracist underground that has, in recent years, been rapidly transformed by the Internet, and is continuing to evolve quickly. I wrote about this in an article over at my other blog, which I also publicized on this one. You can consider this article to be sort of a companion piece to that one.
What Is The “Thrive Movement” And What Is It Actually Doing?
Before we get to the topic of conspiracy activism in general, let’s look at what “solutions” the Thrive people are promoting. There is no “Thrive Movement” to speak of in any real sense. Foster Gamble is not, so far as I can tell, attempting to exert any sort of real control over the activities or direction of the film’s fans, and I’ve seen no evidence that the fans of the movie are trying to organize themselves.
Clicking the “Solutions” tab on the Thrive website unleashes a dizzying avalanche of propaganda. The vast majority of it is right-wing libertarian propaganda, such as the “Liberty” page which assaults the reader with political diatribes studded with quotes from libertarian deities like Stefan Molyneux, Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. Although Thrive’s political agenda is a serious issue, we and others have dealt with it before. The key message is “vote for libertarians,” and thus we’ll leave the film’s political advocacy at that.
More interesting are the “Critical Mass Actions” tabs. Here the Thrive people have listed twelve specific campaigns they’re promoting, with icons where you (as an Internet user) can “sign up” or else embed the icon itself on another site. If you click the icons so sign up, it produces a box where you fill in your email info and hit submit. Almost all of the links included in the “Critical Mass Actions” sections are to websites or online petitions. Of these twelve campaigns, two are anti-Federal Reserve; three are related to protesting GMO food; two relate to “free energy” devices; two are protests of “chemtrails,” a conspiracy theory promoted by the film; one is anti-nuclear power; one is “protect Internet freedom”; and one protests resource extraction on Native American lands.
The Federal Reserve is what Thrive identifies as the linchpin of a worldwide conspiracy theory to enslave the globe through the use of deceptive currency practices. We debunked the film’s money conspiracy theories here. “Free energy” does not exist, as we have also demonstrated. “Chemtrails” have not been debunked on this site, but they’ve been amply debunked elsewhere; it’s abundantly clear that “chemtrails” are a total fantasy. You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to oppose GMO foods, but Thrive couches its criticism of such foods in expressly conspiratorial terms; they think it’s some weird kind of plot aimed at killing people with poisons in the food.
These issues account for nine of the twelve “Critical Mass Actions.” Of the twelve, only three—anti-nuclear power, protecting Internet freedom, and protesting resource extraction on Native American lands—are not somehow addressing the conspiracy theories the film promotes.
Ironically, it is one of these three non-conspiratorial solutions—the Internet freedom icon—that had the most people (5,547 on the day I checked) signed up.
When it comes to what these “Critical Mass Actions” actually are, the website is extremely vague. Here’s what it says when you click on a question about “how do you know when an action reaches critical mass?”
“As actions gain momentum and the most popular ones become apparent we will set a target number for “critical mass.” We will keep in touch via email to make sure you know when we’re approaching critical mass. What determines an effective “critical mass” will vary according to the nature of the action to be taken. The critical mass number will be announced as far in advance as possible and will be determined by what would create significant impact and assure optimal security for participants.”
That’s it. You’ll get an email once they decide how many people they need. In the meantime, it’s a lot of Internet petitions and “getting the word out.” That’s what the Thrive Movement is doing—that, and organizing local screenings of the film itself. The act of promoting Thrive is itself treated as a form of activism to which fans should aspire.
Is This Real Activism?
No. The “solutions” offered on Thrive’s website are ineffective in changing anything in the real world for two reasons: first, the vast majority of them are aimed at ameliorating conspiracy theories that don’t exist; and second, even for the non-conspiratorial goals, there is no actual real-world activity being proposed. Thrive’s brand of activism is a complete chimera.
Take chemtrails, for example. We know for a fact that chemtrails do not exist. The elaborate narrative that conspiracy theorists construct—that a “Global Domination Elite” is spraying chemicals into the sky to sicken and kill people deliberately—is simply fantasy. Yet, Mr. Gamble wants to “Expose Chemtrails With a Mass Protest at NOAA Offices.” Even assuming that legions of Thrive fans get organized and storm NOAA’s headquarters, what effect is this going to have? NOAA can’t do anything because there’s nothing to do anything about. Chemtrails do not exist. This is a “solution” that, even if it’s pulled off, will accomplish exactly zero, except wasting the time of the people involved.
As to the second criticism, it’s difficult to see how these “Critical Mass Actions” will have any effect regardless of the goals they’re aimed at. Take for example the critical mass action about stopping the environmental poisoning of Native American communities—which is a goal I think most people would agree with, and is one of the few that isn’t specifically directed at a conspiracy theory. Here’s what Foster Gamble wants you to click to sign up for:
“In the US, indigenous lands are being exploited and targeted by big business for resource extraction, nuclear dumping, and more. There are proposals for coal, oil, gold and copper mines, coal bed methane, natural gas “fracking,” and nuclear storage that threaten these communities and the environment. This is a chance to stand up for Native American rights and show that we are committed not just to apologizing for past wrongs, but ending the violations that continue to this day.”
Okay…but how? What does this actually mean?
What are the Thrive fans going to do? There’s no protest march planned. There’s no letter-writing campaign. There’s no attempt to introduce legislation or lobby lawmakers. There’s no fundraiser. There’s no outreach to any of the Native American communities impacted by resource extraction. There’s not even a link to an online petition, as there is for the “End the Fed” suggestion. There is exactly…nothing.
You click on, sign up and get an email. That’s it.
In the meantime—or, should I say, in the real world—if you care about resource extraction harming Native American communities, there are real people doing real things to try to stop this. In less than five minutes of searching online I came across this site for the Wolf River Protection Fund which is seeking to buy key lands to protect the watersheds and wetlands related to Native American communities in Wisconsin. One of the tribes associated with this fund recently celebrated a huge victory by buying out—yes, actually buying out—a mining company that was planning to mine near their lands. That’s activism. Not just clicking on a website—but actually sending your dollars to an organization that is taking action to make a real-world impact. And yes, the Wolf River Protection Fund does take donations.
Thrive isn’t doing anything even close to this.
So If They’re Not Making a Difference In the Real World, What Are They Doing?
They’re promoting conspiracy theories and related ideology—in Thrive’s case, right-wing libertarian ideology. The promotion of the ideology is the ultimate point of the activism.
This is understandable, if you analyze the thought processes of Thrive’s makers and fans from the standpoint of their conspiracy beliefs. They believe that all or most of the world’s problems stem from actions taken in secret by groups of shadowy conspirators. How best to combat these actions? Expose the secrets and shine a light on the conspirators. Then, it is presumed, the nefarious activity will end, and things will get better.
Seen from this standpoint, the act of exposure is the most important action. Therefore, most of a conspiracy theorist’s preferred “solutions” for solving problems start and end from a “get the word out” type paradigm. Indeed, most of the nine conspiracy-oriented Critical Mass Action suggestions on the Thrive website are aimed at information exposure or gaining visibility for something. This is classic conspiracy activism.
Why Do Conspiracy Theorists Engage in Conspiracy Activism?
It used to be that conspiracy theorists weren’t activists. There were certainly groups of them, and there have been conspiracy-related newsletters—especially related to the JFK assassination—circulating for decades. But traditionally they didn’t try to reach out to the mainstream or get others to join them.
That changed with 9/11. The purveyors of conspiracy theories related to the 9/11 attacks—especially Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin—changed the stakes in the mid-2000s by waging concerted, energized campaigns to try to increase the exposure of their conspiracy theories and encourage people to believe in them. Ultimately their success was only temporary; as I pointed out in an earlier blog here, contrary to something Foster Gamble says in Thrive, fewer people believe that “9/11 was an inside job” today than have so believed at any time since 9/11 itself. However, the conspiracy activism of 9/11 Truthers upped the ante and set a new paradigm, vastly aided by the rise of the Internet: if you believe in conspiracy theories, now you’re expected to go out there in public and try to get others to believe in them as well.
As the conspiracy world has changed, and (as I argued in February) conspiracy theorists have gone from defining “victory” as increasing the numbers who believe their theories to selling prepackaged ideologies, the activism component remains. Now what conspiracy theorists are selling are the ideologies, not the theories, but they’re still self-motivated to try to proselytize in exactly the same was Richard Gage and David Ray Griffin did with their nonsense 9/11 theories. I argued in the February blog that it was Zeitgeist: The Movie and its conspiracy-activist offshoot, the Zeitgeist Movement, that cemented this development into the basic blueprint of future conspiracy endeavors.
As there are many instructive lessons for evaluating Thrive inherent in the Zeitgeist story, let’s turn to that next.
Why Conspiracy Activism is Pointless: The Example of the Zeitgeist Movement.
One of the first statements I ever made about Thrive was that it appeared to be “Zeitgeist 2.0.” Clearly the movie imitates a lot of features of Peter Joseph’s notoriously fact-free 2007 Internet conspiracy film Zeitgeist, and even the suggestion of a “Thrive Movement,” aping the Zeitgeist Movement, indicates a kindred spirit.
The Zeitgeist Movement, founded in 2008 by Peter Joseph, attempted to capitalize on the interest generated among conspiracy theorists from the first Zeitgeist film to sell a neo-Utopian ideology called the Venus Project, which resembles late-stage Marxism except with computers and technology in the role of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The problem with the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project, however, was that support for the non-conspiratorial (but deeply flawed) “Resource Based Economy” paradigm was built entirely on the backs of conspiracist beliefs and the popularity of Zeitgeist: The Movie. Most fans joined the Zeitgeist Movement because they were attracted by the conspiracy explanations; to the extent the movement’s leaders could motivate them to care about the Venus Project and a Resource Based Economy for its own sake, it was mainly presented as a “cure” for all those horrible conspiracies. As a result, “get the word out” type activist projects meant to promote the Venus Project and Resource Based Economy became increasingly conflated with promoting the Zeitgeist movies and its conspiracy worldview.
The Zeitgeist Movement imploded in April 2011 when the Venus Project side of the organization divorced itself from the group as a result of a dispute over donations. Since then the Zeitgeist Movement has dwindled to an insignificant core of high-commitment fans who do little more than post occasional comments on blogs or YouTube videos. (Zeitgeist Movement supporters constantly show up on the Thrive website comments, still valiantly trying to sell their Resource Based Economy shtick. Few Thrive fans are buying). The Zeitgeist Movement’s attempts at conspiracy activism could never effectively outpace the reach of the films themselves. Unlike the Thrive Movement, the Zeitgeist Movement did have a central, engaged, hands-on leader who directed the group; in fact that was one of its downfalls, because Peter Joseph’s inept leadership of the group transformed it into something very much like a cult surrounding him personally and his films.
The failure of the Zeitgeist Movement can teach Thrive fans an important lesson: that conspiracy activism is inherently self-limiting. Five years after its release, Zeitgeist: The Movie is now old news. Most conspiracy theorists have seen it. The sequels which completed the Resource Based Economy narrative could barely achieve a tiny fraction of the impact that the first film had, because the second and third Zeitgeist films dealt much less with conspiracy theories. Essentially, when Zeitgeist stopped talking about conspiracy theories, the Internet stopped listening. With the market of potential converts already saturated, the Zeitgeist Movement sputtered into oblivion. Once you “get the word out” about your pet conspiracy theories or the ideology you’re promoting by using conspiracy theories, where do you go from there? Zeitgeist couldn’t answer this question. It’s unlikely Thrive will be able to either.
Does Clicking Links, Watching Videos and Signing Online Petitions Really Help?
There’s another more fundamental reason why Thrive’s conspiracy activism will have no real-world impact other than to “get the word out” about what they think the world is like. Most of the consumers of this material, especially those who are heavy Internet users, aren’t really willing to do more than click links, watch videos and sign online petitions. Very, very few of them will actually be motivated to go out of their homes and do something in the real (non-cyber) world. This is just a fact of life. If you put a website up about any cause, however well-intentioned, the more you actually have to do to take action on it, the fewer people you’ll have who will make the effort. People click “like” buttons and share links because it’s easy and they can do it in the flash of an eye. Only the truly devoted will be motivated to get in their cars and go to a preplanned event; fewer still will do that if it will cost them money. This is a self-limiting factor of Internet activism.
The problem is even worse when the main audience you’re preaching to consists of conspiracy theorists. Conspiracy theorists are notoriously lazy. Few of them, for example, can even be motivated enough by their beliefs even to pick up a book and read it. To them, videos on the Internet are just as good as books, and they require much less effort to comprehend. Most conspiracy theorists have virtually no awareness of the depth of knowledge the world contains beyond the Internet or how to access that knowledge. Many of them live their lives in an online bubble; if it’s not happening on the web, it’s not worth knowing about. If this is the crowd you’re trying to draw activists from, the chances of finding supporters who are high-commitment enough to meet in person, put together a viable plan of action on something and see it through to the end are much reduced.
That’s not to say that this doesn’t happen. In the heyday of 9/11 Truth theories, for example, hundreds of Truthers would gather at Ground Zero in New York City and harass people by shouting conspiracy garbage at them through bullhorns. But what did they do beyond that? Note that even this real-world activity is just another species of “getting the word out,” albeit in an extremely destructive, annoying and disagreeable way that turned off and angered far more people than it attracted. Even the 9/11 Truth organizations, like the ridiculous “Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth”—clearly an organization created by the most high-commitment supporters of the conspiracy theory—continue to focus their efforts on “getting the word out” as opposed to actually doing anything. In the very, very few instances where they do try something other than “getting the word out”—like filing a lawsuit, as one group of 9/11 Truthers attempted—they always meet with spectacular failure.
Activism in the real world is hard. It takes money, time, effort and competent people to guide the activity toward any real goal. Conspiracy theorists are mostly kids. They don’t have a lot of money. What time they have they usually spent on the Internet. Exerting real-world effort happens in a few rare cases, but not very often. Competent people who can actually think something through and put something together are about as rare in this subculture as blue diamonds.
As a result, conspiracy theorists rationalize. They lower the bar and define what they are willing to do as “activism.” Thus, the sort of low-intensity effort that they can get many people to do—clicking “like” buttons, sharing links, watching videos and signing online petitions—becomes, in their minds, a substitute for real-world activism. In an endeavor where “getting the word out” has already been defined as the major goal, getting 10,000 people to click a “like” button becomes the equivalent of a smashing victory for right and justice.
Conclusion: Do You Really Want to Help?
This article has demonstrated why conspiracy activism is pointless and counterproductive. I can hear the shouts from angry Thrive fans now: “Why don’t you stop blogging and do something that actually helps?” (This assumes that I do nothing but write blogs all day—obviously an incorrect assumption).
What can you do to make the world a better place instead of watching Internet conspiracy videos or wasting time on the Thrive website (or this one)?
Here’s something you can do: give blood. This is one of the easiest things you can do, and one which has a huge real-world impact—you can literally save someone’s life. Here’s a website where you can type in your zip code and find out where to go in your area to give blood.
Here’s something you can do: become a tutor for adult literacy. You can find organizations that do this all over the country. Here’s just one example, from Florida.
Here’s something you can do: get a group of people together and assemble care packages of medical supplies for AIDS sufferers in Africa. This has been a hugely successful program. It also has real-world impacts. Here’s how to get involved.
Here’s something you can do: donate money to the American Indian College Fund. This fund helps people from America’s least-college-educated demographic get access to higher education. This helps real people in the real world. Here’s how to donate:
There you go. Stop watching Internet conspiracy movies and go do some good in the world. You have no excuse now.
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
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://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nH2-37rTA8U (Khan Academy on FRB, quite educational I must add, as long as you avoid the comments section).
http://econpapers.repec.org/paper/wpawuwpma/0203005.htm (look for the download link)
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.
[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
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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://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)
“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.
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.
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.
Foster and Kimberly Gamble, the husband and wife team behind the conspiracy theory movie Thrive, have issued a statement firing back at the ten signatories of last week’s letter, people who appeared in the film but who have now disassociated themselves from it. The signatories include progressive leader John Robbins, who knows Foster Gamble personally, and who also gave me a statement regarding his views on the conspiracy aspects of the film, and Adam Trombly, the inventor whom the film claims created a “free energy” device. The full text of the statement was posted on this blog as a comment by one of Thrive’s official spokespersons. It’s also available on the “Thrive Movement” website.
The disappointing and fatuous statement by Mr. and Mrs. Gamble attempts both to minimize the controversy and to belittle the signers of the letter and critics of the film. Most notably, Mr. and Mrs. Gamble accuse John Robbins, the driving force behind the disassociation letter, of engaging in a “disinformation campaign” to discredit the film. The statement also makes clear that acceptance of the conspiracy theories advanced by Thrive as literal fact is a prerequisite for being taken seriously in the discussion of “solutions” that the makers of the film say they wish to engage in.
Because there are also parts of the statement that may be addressed to me and to this blog, I thought I would present my comments regarding it here. If you’d rather see the statement in its full form, without my comments interjected, either click the link to the comment above, or go here to the statement on Thrive’s website.
“As those who have seen THRIVE know, we are committed to a bold inquiry into what is really in the way of our thriving – and to offering much more than just a tweak to our fundamentally flawed and failing system.
One of our core approaches in making THRIVE was to hear from people with differing points of view and to go for vital information regardless of the political affiliations of the source. That way we could do our own informed and critical thinking and glean the principles and facts from which true, just and lasting solutions can be created.”
I remain skeptical that anyone connected with Thrive engaged in any sort of sustained effort at critical thinking. Indeed, as this blog has shown, the makers have engaged in very little critical thinking. In order to reach the conclusion that aliens built various large works of ancient engineering, for instance, you must first accept a totally counter-intuitive assumption about the capabilities of ancient civilizations as compared to our modern world. Similarly, you have to turn off large portions of your brain to even conceive possible the bizarre “Global Domination Agenda” which a centerpiece of Thrive’s message.
“We encourage a transparent, respectful, informed and constructive dialog that can address the specifics of any differences some of the pioneers in THRIVE might have with us. Although the letter of dissociation raised no specific issues, we understand from John Robbins’ articles and the correspondence that he wrote soliciting others to participate in his disinformation campaign that the objections range from ET presence, to naming the reality of the Global Domination Agenda, to validating Zero Point Energy, to adhering to the Principle of Non-violation. Wow, not much of a movie left after eliminating those taboo inquiries!”
Setting aside the “disinformation campaign” accusation for the moment, I observe that Mr. Gamble is employing a common tactic among conspiracy theorists—labeling critics of conspiracy theories as people who are reluctant to discuss “taboo” subjects. This is a pretty transparent diversion. I don’t reject the Global Domination Agenda conspiracy theory because it’s “taboo” to accept it. I reject it because it is totally unsupported by evidence and also because it’s contrary to logic. I don’t denounce the idea of ancient astronauts because it’s “taboo” to admit that aliens built the pyramids. I reject it because aliens did not build the pyramids, and there isn’t a shred of evidence to suggest that they did. This has nothing to do with anything “taboo.”
The “disinformation campaign” comment is astonishing. Does Mr. Gamble really believe that John Robbins, who (Mr. Robbins told me) he has known for many years, is deliberately spreading false information about Thrive and soliciting others to join him? Really? I can’t even imagine, if this is what Mr. Gamble really thinks, why he supposes Mr. Robbins would do this. I’ve been accused many times of being a “paid disinformation agent” out to trash Thrive, and I’ve even joked about it. But it’s easy for Thrive supporters to make that accusation about me. Here’s Foster Gamble accusing his personal friend of that. How deep do you have to be in the thrall of conspiracist ideology to believe that your friends are spies out to destroy you?
“Decades Doing Our Homework”?
“We encourage everyone reading this to watch THRIVE and determine for yourselves if you agree that there is enough evidence to warrant additional dialog – about a covert agenda, about revolutionary new technologies and about bold strategies for achieving true liberty and justice for all.
We spent decades doing our homework on these issues and stand with complete integrity and clarity behind the facts represented in THRIVE.”
If Mr. Gamble and his team spent decades researching Thrive, they certainly missed a great deal of relevant information. It doesn’t take decades to find plenty of evidence, for instance, that crop circles are man-made. It also doesn’t take decades to research a historical event such as the Gulf of Tonkin affair, research which would have clearly indicated that the Gulf of Tonkin incident was not a “false flag” operation, as Mr. Gamble asserts in Thrive. I run this blog in my spare time. If I found all this information refuting the assertions in Thrive in my spare time in a mere five months, how come Thrive’s researchers, whoever they are, fell down on the job so badly?
The key part of this section of the statement is Mr. Gamble’s doubling down and going for broke. He says he stands behind Thrive’s facts. That’s extremely unfortunate, because countless matters he asserts as facts are untrue, misleading or taken out of context. Yet it seems Mr. Gamble is unwilling to admit that Thrive has any significant problems.
“We welcome meaningful dialog and otherwise consider it dangerous to undermine the millions of us who are standing up to expose the covert global scheme amongst the elite and their secret societies and intelligence agencies to destroy the economies of countless nations, take over their resources, and kill whatever leaders or people don’t play along.”
This is also classic conspiracy theorist paranoia. Anyone who opposes conspiracy theories is not only wrong in their eyes, but “dangerous.”
This part of the statement appeals to one of the central conceits of conspiracy theorists—that they’re privy to some sort of special knowledge that the rest of the world refuses to accept, and that knowledge will supposedly “save the world.” In this case Mr. Gamble is painting Thrive fans as an army of noble millions fighting the good fight against evildoers who destroy economies and kill people. Conspiracy theorists tend to love movies like The Matrix and V For Vendetta because they underscore this basic and very simplistic narrative. The real world is far more complicated than this, unfortunately.
Oh, did I mention that the “covert global scheme amongst the elite and their secret societies” does not, in fact, exist? I did? Oh, sorry. Just don’t want that to get lost in the shuffle.
“Hit and Run Communications”!
“Further hit and run communications are of little interest to us, especially as it distracts from time better spent with motivated solutions groups forming all over the world who are awakening to the agenda and taking actions based on integrity and freedom rather than staying confined by outworn and deceptive political polarities.”
Mr. Gamble is here saying that he has more important things to worry about than, say, the credibility of his entire movie. Well, no matter. The purpose of this blog is not to motivate any action by Mr. Gamble; nor is it, as some have suggested, to “troll” Thrive fans. The purpose of this blog is to expose the general public to the reality of the serious factual and logical problems with the movie Thrive. That purpose will continue to be served whether Mr. Gamble is paying any attention or not.
“We encourage those who have publicly dissociated to offer their best information and solutions rather than spending time trying to undermine ours.
Each of the pioneers in THRIVE were invited because their expertise in a particular area had been helpful in our gaining an understanding of the bigger picture that includes, but vastly transcends, their sector of expertise -or anyone’s political affiliation. We clearly state this in the movie:
“The people in THRIVE do not necessarily agree with the themes, statements, claims or conclusions presented in the film or website, nor does their inclusion imply our full agreement with all of their views. The people interviewed have each contributed in some deep way to our understanding and we are grateful to them all.””
Again, the statement seems preoccupied with political affiliation. Yes, I do oppose the libertarian aspects of Thrive, as John Robbins has stated that he does; however, speaking only for myself, this is not my primary disagreement with the film or even in the top five. Though I find Thrive’s politics fulsome, if it was just a piece of libertarian political propaganda I probably wouldn’t care that much about it. It’s the conspiracy angle that concerns me. Although conspiracy thinking is becoming increasingly interwoven with libertarian political thought, at least until the last few years conspiracy beliefs cut across the political spectrum. I think this has much less to do with political affiliation than Mr. Gamble suggests here.
Thrive’s Millions are Coming! Or Are They?
“We are encouraged by the millions of viewers, thousands of self-created screenings, the hundreds of THRIVE Solutions groups forming to get on with what’s needed now – informed and leveraged action. People from all over the world- Greece, Poland, India, Portugal and more have voluntarily translated THRIVE into their languages to get the important information to their cultures. THRIVE is now translated into 18 different languages and we hear from people all over the world about the value THRIVE is offering in their cultural transformations.”
People from all over the world are viewing my blog, too. Aside from the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, today alone I had page views from Israel, the Netherlands, Poland, Singapore, Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Brazil. Given the hits that show up from Google Translate it is also clear that Thrive Debunked has been translated into other languages also. This demonstrates to me that this blog is a clear success: many people are discovering the debunking at the same time as they discover the Thrive film for the first time. Therefore, they’re able to evaluate its claims side-by-side with the facts and logical arguments that refute it.
“We also are moved by the healings being reported in families, workplaces and communities as millions are getting the bridge between worldviews and beyond unnecessary and dangerous divide-and-conquer illusions. The new conversation, about what is really going on and solutions with human rights as primary, is, fortunately, unstoppable.
As stated in the book “1984”, “In times of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act.” There is a well-informed, nonviolent revolution brewing and we welcome constructive contributions from everyone ready to participate.
Foster and Kimberly Gamble”
Time will tell, but as hopeful a chord as this part of the statement sounds, I’m skeptical. Changing the world takes a lot more than just showing a movie to like-minded people who agree with it. The “Thrive Movement,” if such a thing can even be said to exist, isn’t doing much other than organizing screenings and discussion groups of fans who get together to talk about the movie. The problem is that this type of thing has been done before—with exactly zero effect. Here Thrive is emulating another group that organized itself as a fan club for a conspiracy movie, that being the infamous Zeitgeist Movement. Although the Zeitgeist cult is largely dead, there are still dwindling groups of supporters who meet occasionally to spin grandiose dreams of their “Resource Based Economy.” They have accomplished exactly nothing in the real world, except the promotion of conspiracy theories. Zeitgeist is different than the Thrive Movement in that it was, at least at one point in time, a real movement, with an identifiable leader, strict ideological guidelines and orthodoxy, and an organizational hierarchy. Even if a group can be said to be coalescing around Thrive—again, I’m skeptical this is even happening in any meaningful sense—it has none of these characteristics. If Zeitgeist can’t do it with a strong leader and supposedly an identifiable policy direction, I doubt very much that the fans of Thrive will be able to succeed where the Zeitgeisters failed.
That brings us to the next point:
What “Solutions,” Anyway?
The problem with Thrive’s “solutions” is that they are illusory, and in more ways than one. For one thing they aren’t clearly defined. The various “solutions” flogged on the Thrive website are all extremely vague and general. (I actually agree with many of them, but they’re still vague). Bank locally. Support independent media. Take part in “critical mass actions.” These sound terrific, but what do they really mean? What specific action are the Thrivers supposed to take to achieve these goals? That’s never defined, and Foster Gamble isn’t making any concerted effort to define them. And, as the experience with the Occupy Movement last fall demonstrates, getting a group of like-minded folks together and hoping that they work out for themselves what sort of specific goals they should pursue doesn’t tend to work very well. Successful grass-roots activist movements have never functioned on this model, and they never will. You’ve got to have someone in charge. Foster Gamble doesn’t seem to want to be in charge, which is fine. But expecting that a headless, leaderless group with no defined goals will accomplish anything in the real world is more than a little naïve.
Secondly, the point of Thrive is not really to push these “solutions” anyway. The point of Thrive is to make an ideological statement. The movie was created to animate belief, not action. It was created to advocate belief in New Age religious beliefs and conspiracy theories. I believe that the lip service given to the “solutions” is an add-on to mollify audience expectations. Thrive represents incremental progress on a very long road to legitimize and advance a certain belief system. If Thrive does end up “changing the world,” it will only be so because it leads to something else down the road. I discussed ideas along these lines in an article I wrote for my other blog about how the conspiracy world has changed.
But, let’s just assume for the sake of argument that I’m wrong about all that. The very troubling thing about Thrive is that the “solutions” its adherents say they advocate aren’t solutions to problems that we have. For example, as the Gambles’ statement indicates, Thrive fans fervently believe that crushing this “Global Domination Agenda” is a matter of paramount importance. But the “Global Domination Agenda” does not exist. They want to solve a problem that doesn’t exist. In the meantime, take a real problem that does exist—anthropogenic global warming, for instance, which I happen to believe is the single most crucial problem facing the world today—and most of them deny that it’s even a problem! Foster Gamble has made statements to the effect that he believes global warming is some sort of hoax. This, despite the absolutely overwhelming and conclusive scientific evidence that it’s happening, and that man has caused it.
So there you have it. Even if you can get past the vagueness of Thrive’s proposed solutions, it turns out they’re fired up to solve problems that don’t exist, and they deny the existence of the number one world problem that really does exist. Add to this the fact that the Gambles’ statement indicates that they’re not even really interested in talking to anyone who doesn’t, as a factual matter, accept the truth of the conspiracy theories pushed in Thrive, and you begin to see why this doesn’t work as a realistic means to move forward to solve world problems.
Conclusion: Why Am I Writing This Blog Instead of Making the World a Better Place?
This question is asked me often by Thrive fans, and you hear an echo of it in the Gambles’ statement: that somehow taking the time and effort to criticize Thrive is a waste of time, because instead you could be “making the world a better place.” This view is quite disingenuous.
For starters, I am making the world a better place by criticizing Thrive. Since the very beginning I’ve believed that this film, with its numerous deceptions, errors and incorrect statements, is on balance a bad thing. Belief in factually baseless conspiracy theories is a bad thing. This article I wrote last week explains why. My program for a better world is a world in which people think critically and rationally, and act on the basis of evidence and logic. In that world, conspiracy theories would not survive for long.
Secondly, none of the readers of this blog know what I am doing, and what I have done for a good many years now, to “make the world a better place.” The readers of this blog don’t know this because I haven’t told them, and I haven’t told them because this blog is not about me. So the readers of this blog don’t know that I have contributed large amounts of money to numerous charities and nonprofits. They don’t know the work I’ve done, and continue to do, to expand opportunities of higher education for kids from poor families—a cause I feel is especially important—or for children with cancer. They don’t know the work I did, personally, with my own two hands, to try to reduce wastewater emissions in the city where I used to live—a program that cumulatively cut toxic urban runoff by a total of 50% in three years. A few years ago I was the chief executive officer of a local activist organization that was estimated by the American Red Cross, during the year I was in office, to have been responsible for saving 21,000 lives. They don’t know the work I’ve been doing to increase historical understanding of global climate change. They don’t know about the kid in the Philippines, previously almost blind, who can today see because of something I did.
I hesitated to write the above paragraph because, as I said, this blog is not about me, and because I don’t wish to be seen as entering some sort of pissing match about “who’s done more.” I know that Foster Gamble has pursued many legitimate projects for positive change, such as his work on trying to limit pesticides, and I think that’s great. Nonetheless, I mention my own activities here for no other purpose than to demonstrate that I require no lectures from Foster and Kimberly Gamble, nor from any other Thrive fan, about what I should be doing to help “make the world a better place.”
I appreciate the Gambles’ desire to help. But, in my humble opinion, they’re not helping. Thrive is not part of the solution, it’s part of the problem. This was the reason the ten signed the disassociation letter. I commend them for having done so.
Why We Fight: Progressive Leader Who Repudiated Thrive Explains Why Its Conspiracy Theories Are Harmful.
This week I had an email conversation with John Robbins. Mr. Robbins is a well-known environmentalist author and lecturer, undoubtedly a leader in the intellectual progressive movement in this country. He appears in Thrive, and is one of the ten people who signed an open letter declaring their disassociation from the movie. I wrote an article about this development earlier this weekend, which includes the text of that letter.
The text of the letter does not mention conspiracy theories. I was curious whether Mr. Robbins had an opinion on the conspiracy content of Thrive and whether this was a motivating factor in his decision to disassociate himself from the film. The response I got from him was very interesting and illuminating. When I read it, I was amazed at how cogently he was also expressing my own reasons for opposing the movie.
The Text of John Robbins’s Letter to Me
Mr. Robbins gave me permission to post his response here on this blog. Here it is.
“There is a great deal about Thrive that I find untrue and dangerous. You ask if I have any comment on the film’s promotion of conspiracy theories. Yes, I do.
There is no doubt that staggering wealth and power is today concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of humanity. The combined net worth of the world’s richest thousand or so people — the planet’s billionaires — is almost twice that of the poorest 2.5 billion. This disparity is nothing less than an indictment of our civilization. It is also certain that networks exist among the most powerful people that enable a remarkably few people to shape the world’s economy, to determine what is known and what is not, which views are accepted and which are not, and what priorities and values will prevail. They decide whether we will live in war or peace, how our treasure will be spent, and they have proven to be eminently successful at enriching themselves at the expense of the common good.
But fantasies about secret conspiracies distract us from the work at hand. Those few who hold immense wealth and power are still people. They are not reptiles in human form. They are perhaps pathologically competitive or greedy, but still human, riven with differences and egos, and not particularly good at sustaining relationships, much less of organizing massive secret cabals to dominate all life on this planet.
Thrive promotes conspiracy theories that are based on an imaginary division between “us” and “them.” “We” are many and well-meaning but victimized; while “they” are a tiny, greedy and immensely powerful few who are masterfully organized, who are purposefully causing massive disasters in order to cull the population, and who will do absolutely anything in their quest to achieve total world domination. I think the allure of this way of thinking is that it distracts and absolves us from the troubling truth that the real source of the problem is in all of us, and in the economic systems we have collectively produced. As Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wrote, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
Foster Gamble has said that the earthquake that caused the tsunami that wreaked havoc on the nuclear plants in Fukushima was deliberately created by those seeking absolute world domination to punish the Japanese for not acceding to their wishes. He has said that “they” have a machine in Alaska that enables them to create earthquakes at will, anywhere on earth, and of any desired strength. In my judgement, this is the thinking of someone who has lost all grounding in reality.
Thrive advances the idea that vaccinations have been purposefully created by the global elite to decimate the population, an idea that I find both ludicrous and dangerous. There is no doubt that vaccinations have troubling side effects. Some of them may be more toxic than we know. But it was a vaccine that enabled the elimination of smallpox, a scourge which was responsible for approximately 500 million human deaths in the 20th century. Thrive promotes the idea that the U.N. and world treaties are the work of evil-doers intent on total world domination. These institutions are far from perfect. But it was only through the concerted efforts of the global health community and the World Health Organization that smallpox, perhaps the killer of more humans than any other in world history, was eradicated.
There are many things that are terribly wrong in our world. All living creatures are poisoned and compromised by surging levels of man-made toxins that spew into our world, relatively unchecked. We are experiencing unprecedented levels of heart disease, cancer, obesity and childhood diabetes. Our financial institutions and to a large extent our political system have been hijacked by greedy, sociopathic individuals who seem to feel no sense of responsibility to the well being of the whole. Our military industrial complex with its voracious appetite for new markets, and its obscenely paranoid world view, expands unchecked with frightening and horrific speed.
But holding these tragedies as the intentional acts of a tiny group of families seeking to rule the world distracts us from the arduous work of confronting the real challenges before us.
I hope this is helpful.
My Own Thoughts
I find myself in virtually total agreement with the points Mr. Robbins raised in his letter. He’s not only expressed his own reasons for turning his back on the film, but he’s very neatly and eloquently summarized my own motivations for opposing it.
Some readers of this blog may be surprised to see this. The tone taken in many comments by Thrive fans who disagree with me seems to indicate that many of them assume that because I don’t believe in the film’s conspiracy theories, this must mean I agree with every action taken by the government or by economic interests, or that I don’t think there is corruption, or that I must think our current economic system is fair and just. Although I’ve stated repeatedly, beginning in the FAQ, that I don’t hold any of these views, many—perhaps even most—Thrive fans just don’t get it.
I believe that income disparity is a huge problem in the United States and the world. I believe that the economic system in America isn’t functioning fairly or properly. I believe business and corporate interests have too much influence and control over policy. I believe that we spend too much on wars and military interventions and not enough on helping Americans here at home. Above all, I believe that anthropogenic global warming is a dire threat to our planet and that immediate and decisive action must be taken—by governments, by businesses, and by individuals—to combat it. From his statement, I gather that Mr. Robbins probably shares these views.
How Does Thrive Divert Attention from Real Problems?
Thrive is deeply misguided because it’s diverting its viewers’ attention away from the real solutions that we must pursue to these very real problems. My core grievance with conspiracy theories is that they are false. However, it’s the effect of that falsity in the real world which is why opposing conspiracy theories matters. Conspiracy thinking reduces the world into a simplistic black-and-white, good-versus-evil, lightworkers-versus-disinformation paradigm. Against that background, nothing productive can get done.
Here’s how Thrive operates in this regard.
Problem: environmental degradation caused by reliance on fossil fuels.
Real solution: Work toward developing economically and socially realistic alternatives to fossil fuels, such as renewable energy resources (solar, wind, water power, etc.) as well as smarter solutions in building, land use and lifestyle.
Problem: income disparity and poverty.
Real solution: Work toward meaningful and fair reform of the economic system, policies that promote economic opportunity at the bottom, and make sure businesses and corporations pay their fair share and contribute to our society.
Thrive solution: Take out the “Global Domination Elite.” Taxation is theft; abolish it.
Problem: government corruption.
Real solution: Meaningful campaign finance reform; eliminate (or at least reduce) corporate/business influence in politics; punish wrongdoers; elect honest candidates.
Thrive solution: All corruption is the fault of the “Global Domination Elite.” Rise up against them and destroy them, and everything will be fine.
Problem: disease in the developing world.
Real solution: Develop medical technology and healthy vaccines, and put social and political institutions in place to distribute medical care to as many people as possible.
Thrive solution: Vaccines are evil tools of the “Global Domination Elite” and should be banned.
Problem: anthropogenic global warming.
Real solution: Massive worldwide mobilization by governments and business interests to develop clean technology as rapidly as possible, reduce carbon emissions and mitigate areas impacted by global warming disasters. International cooperation on political, economic, and scientific levels.
Thrive solution: The problem does not exist. Global warming is a hoax, a sham and a conspiracy by the “Global Domination Elite.”
Do you see how this works? This is why Thrive is worth speaking out against.
One Last Example: the HAARP Earthquake Machine.
A totally shocking detail included in Mr. Robbins’s letter is his statement of Foster Gamble’s statements about the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami which devastated Japan early last year. Mr. Robbins says, “He has said that “they” have a machine in Alaska that enables them to create earthquakes at will, anywhere on earth, and of any desired strength.”
This is a very old conspiracy theory called HAARP. You can read a debunking of HAARP conspiracy theories from noted skeptic Brian Dunning here. It’s one of the stupidest, most irrational and most paranoid conspiracy theories out there, but many people, unfortunately, believe it. I didn’t know until I saw Mr. Robbins’s letter that Foster Gamble has expressed belief in HAARP, but it doesn’t surprise me. It’s also a perfect illustration of how conspiracy theories, once they get inside a person’s head, can totally corrode their ability to think rationally about world problems.
If people who believed in HAARP had any significant positions of power, what sort of world would we have? An earthquake and tsunami in Japan, caused by tectonic stresses and geologic processes, would be interpreted through the lens of this conspiracy theory as a man-made act of war, quite naturally inviting some sort of retaliation or response. If Foster Gamble could identify a specific individual or groups of individuals that he thought caused the Fukushima disaster, I would venture a guess that he would want those individuals to be held accountable in some way. This is in the total absence of any evidence whatsoever that an earthquake and tsunami in Japan was caused by HAARP.
Can you see how dangerous this type of thinking is? Furthermore, does the fact that this sort of thinking is on the rise scare you as much as it scares me?
Why is conspiracy thinking and conspiracy ideology on the rise? Because of people like Alex Jones, Eustace Mullins, David Icke, and Jeff Rense—and because of movies like Loose Change, Zeitgeist, and yes, Thrive.
So, those of you who wonder why I created this blog, why I speak out so forcefully against conspiracy theories and conspiracy thinking, you now have your answer.
When I open my email inbox every morning to see the host of comments posted on this blog during the night—the majority of them highly negative—I sometimes think of this old song by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. “You can stand me up at the gates of Hell, but I won’t back down.”