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Blogs - Clock - Confessions of a Disinformation Agent! Chapter 5

Author: Clock (Show other entries)
Date: Jul 03, 2013 at 14:04

I am not Muertos and I do not know him. I am simply reposting these articles because I had found them on the Internet Wayback Machine. Do not contact me when it comes to this blog, I am not its author and my views are not necessarily his. REPEAT: I AM NOT MUERTOS.


Chapter V: Thriving.

My involvement with debunking Thrive is replete with ironies. I didn't even want to do it. Well, part of me obviously did; the blog Thrive Debunked is the single largest and most time-consuming debunking project of my entire seven years of refuting conspiracy theories. But when an email from a friend arrived in November 2011 asking me if I'd seen the trailers for a new conspiracy film that was about to hit the Internet, I had already decided to quit debunking. The "darkness" that I talked about in the last chapter was getting too much for me. Besides, it seemed that my work was largely done. The Zeitgeist Movement had folded, and it appeared that Desteni was on the ropes too. Very few people believed in 9/11 Truth anymore. There wasn't much left to debunk.

I watched the trailer for Thrive on YouTube. Almost instantly it made me very angry, and also filled me with despair. Here was a very slick, visually appealing production, obviously made with a substantial budget ($7 million, or so I heard). It was the brainchild of Proctor and Gamble heir Foster Gamble. And it was packed wall-to-wall with conspiracy nonsense and New Age tropes: crop circles, UFOs, ancient aliens, free energy suppression, the New World Order, population control, RFID chips, 9/11, Rockefellers, big bankers, the whole nine yards. It was the Ziegfeld Follies of conspiracy theories. You could almost imagine Gamble breaking into song and a softshoe number with dancing girls in elaborate headdresses walking down a tower of dollar bills with the All-Seeing Eye and the WTC towers in the background, a la Busby Berkeley. It was, in a word, ludicrous.

Thrive made me despair because I thought it had the potential to be another Zeitgeist: The Movie, which was obviously what its makers intended. I'd spent the better part of two years pushing back against the nonsense in Zeitgeist, and here was another conspiracy movie--much prettier and more competently made--unleashing the bacillus of conspiracy theories out into the world yet again. It was like washing your car, getting it sparkling clean, and then as you're putting the hose away you see thunderclouds gathering for an epic drenching. It felt almost like a personal snub.

I also realized there was an opportunity. Thrive was just then coming out. (At that time you could only see it on the Thrive movie's website, and you had to pay $5 for the privilege). If debunkers acted fast and established a significant web presence refuting the film, they could expose potential fans to the facts about the movie contemporaneously with their discovery of it. Zeitgeist had a honeymoon with the public for about two years before serious organized debunkings began to appear on the Internet. Thrive could not be allowed to enjoy such a honeymoon. The net moved much faster in 2011 than it had in 2009, and it seemed that the time to start debunking Thrive was now--right now. If we did that, we could strangle Thrive in its cradle.

I debunked the trailer for Thrive before I even saw the full movie. I didn't want to give Foster Gamble $5 for having him spew conspiracy theories at me, so I figured someone in my circle would eventually give me the film (someone did, less than a week later). Right after posting the trailer debunking I created a Wordpress blog called Thrive Debunked, mainly to grab the URL before anyone else did. My model was Screw Loose Change, whose major contribution to debunking that piece of malarkey was a "viewer's guide" that exhaustively refuted all the claims in the movie.

The two hours I spent watching the full Thrive movie for the first time were two of the most hellish hours in my life. It was that bad. It almost made me physically ill. I could feel brain cells dying by the thousands with each excruciating minute of this fulsome, intelligence-insulting geek show. I viewed it as sort of a homework assignment. I collected many pages of notes and then set about breaking down the movie into its constituent parts. The blogs started going up in late November, with the debunking of the "Global Domination Agenda" (Illuminati/NWO by another name) being the most important.

I expected Thrive Debunked would be popular among skeptics, but would have little resonance beyond that. I was totally unprepared for what happened. The blog became wildly popular, with several hundred unique page views a day by the beginning of December. More people read Thrive Debunked in its first month of operation than have read this blog in the entire three years it's been online.

And the comments...dear God, the comments! They came fast and furious, usually furious. People were outraged that I had criticized Thrive. Some of the movie's fans were absolutely unhinged, so insensate with anger that I could feel their white-hot hatred bleeding through my computer screen. I had the settings on the blog such that I received an email each time a comment was posted. By the end of 2011 my email box was crammed to the rafters with Thrive Debunked comments. Hundreds of them; eventually thousands. At least 75% of the comments were hostile. All the epithets that conspiracy theorists had been flinging at me for years--stupid, ignorant, closed-minded, evil, retarded, paid disinformation agent, etc.--were thrown at me all over again by fans of Thrive, many of whom (ironically) purported to be all about peace, love and understanding. I received death threats, only some of which I chose to publicize. Some of them were deeply disturbing. I had not just gone into the darkness. I had leapt into its depths with abandon, wrapped myself up in it and let it embrace me.

Yet there were good people too, and supportive ones. Several people emailed me or left comments to the effect that they were very glad I'd taken the bull by the horns and sought to refute Thrive as quickly and forcefully as I had. No other debunkers were working on Thrive, at least not exclusively. People would contact me with tips or ideas for stories, or to contribute information they knew about the movie or its makers. Some of them became friends. Of all my debunking efforts, Thrive Debunked was the most collaborative.

The most important epiphany of my seven years of debunking came in January 2012 while working on Thrive Debunked. I had an email exchange with a British academic who had cited Thrive Debunked on his own blog. As it turned out, the academic was doing research on conspiracy theories from the standpoint of religion. What he told me--that Thrive represented a new trend of melding conspiracy theories with New Age sensibilities in a sort of quasi-religious context--suddenly made sense of all the changes I'd seen in the conspiracy underground since 2005. That conversation became the article "How the Conspiracy World is Changing," which I think is the most important article I've ever written on the subject of conspiracy theories. It explains how the conspiracy world has been evolving. Today's conspiracy theorists, unlike the Truthers of 2005-06, aren't out to convert the world to accepting their erroneous version of the facts. Instead, conspiracy theories are being used to sell belief systems. The facts of the theories are incidental. Other researchers have begun noting this too. Two British academics even coined a name for this emerging belief system: "conspirituality." Their article on it, published in early 2011, cited the Zeitgeist Movement as the paradigm example.

As soon as I realized this, I knew that I, as a debunker, would soon be extinct. The war was reaching its end, and our side was losing. Because conspiracy beliefs are susceptible to being rebutted by the facts, the conspiracy peddlers of tomorrow will seek to neutralize this disadvantage by cutting facts out of the equation. They will profess that 9/11 was an inside job and that the Illuminati controls the world not as matters of fact, but matters of faith. Conspiracy theories will become a religion. You can't attack a religion on factual grounds. Those of us armed with facts--debunkers--will have no more utility in this new order. Our enemies will destroy us, the rational people of the world, by making us irrelevant.

Not long after I had this depressing epiphany, the battles over Thrive reached their crescendo. In April 2012, ten people interviewed in the film signed a letter repudiating it and dissociating themselves from it. The leader of the dissociators, John Robbins, wrote several extremely eloquent statements condemning Thrive on precisely the same grounds that I criticized it--and he did a much better job of explaining his opposition than I ever could. The dissociation effectively killed Thrive in the minds of the public. Immediately after the story broke, page views on Thrive Debunked began to go down. The public was losing interest in this film. It would not be another Zeitgeist. In a very telling move, one of my contributors sent me a link to a discussion page behind the scenes at Wikipedia where editors were deciding whether or not to make a Wikipedia page on the film. They decided not to. Reason: it wasn't notable enough.

There were still a few fireworks to come. Foster Gamble himself engaged me in debate, posting through blog comments. I knew there was little chance I could get through to him--the man believes in the HAARP earthquake machine, for God's sake!--but I did my best. Personally, I was not quite ready to let go of debunking. The darkness, horrible as it was, had become very comfortable. I tried to quit debunking several times, the way others try to quit smoking or gambling. There is no 12-step program for conspiracy debunkers. My family urged me to quit. What are you getting out of this? they asked me, especially after they saw the death threats. What makes this worth it? Why should we have to worry about you because of the ignorant beliefs of these crazy people? Why would you let their ignorance and stupidity affect our family?

Thrive Debunked is now almost finished. I've begun turning over the blog to others, such as the very capable SlayerX3, one of those contributors who became my friends. In a way it's a happy ending: the dragon of Thrive has been largely slain, and with the film totally discredited by its own participants, it has little chance of being resurrected. Oh, it will linger out there, like the rusting hulk of a wrecked ship bleeding oil into the water for decades. That's the problem with conspiracy theories. They never go away.

In a way, though, the ending is a sad one. The tide of bullshit surging through our world is simply too big. You can surf on it for a while, but eventually you're going to wipe out. The best you can do is to keep your own sanity and not lose your perspective. That's easier said than done.