Features & Columns
The Dangers behind Cult Film 'Thrive'
Thrive, a two-hour documentary that has gone viral since its release on the web in November, sells itself as an optimistic vision of a utopian future marked by "free energy," freedom from oppression and spiritual awakening. But on its way to depicting a dream-world utopia, Thrive delivers a dark and dishonest version of the real world and espouses a blend of paranoid conspiracy theories and right-libertarian propaganda.
The Santa Cruz couple who made the film, Foster and Kimberly Carter Gamble, build their tale around an undeniably poetic idea: that there is a secret pattern to be found in nature, and that we can learn from it.
Filled with beautifully shot vistas and psychedelic graphics, the film begins with what seems to be a scientific and historical examination of this pattern, with intriguing images from religious art and ancient architecture found in various cultures around the world.
Much of the first section focuses on the various meanings of this shape or pattern, which mathematicians call a "torus," and which Foster Gamble believes holds vast significance and power.
Very soon, however, the film jumps the tracks, ostensibly proving that a) the torus can be used to create a kind of perpetual motion machine and deliver "free energy"; b) the torus is a code delivered to humanity by aliens via UFO; and c) the government, backed by a cabal of powerful families, is violently suppressing this secret energy source.
We live in a time, sadly, where this kind of post-rational mumbo jumbo can find an audience—and Thrive has become something of a cult phenomenon since its release. Nevertheless, if Thrive stopped with the free energy and UFOs, it would be nutty, not dangerous.
In the film's second section, Gamble sets out to show exactly how and why the government and its sponsors are duping us. This section probably accounts for its burgeoning online popularity with the Occupy movement and its supporters. (For the record, I count myself among that audience segment.)
Bringing in progressive heroes such as Vandana Shiva and Paul Hawken to recount the more or less well-known crimes against humanity perpetrated by the likes of Monsanto and Exxon-Mobil, Thrive makes the familiar, and justifiable, case that huge corporations have too much power, are largely corrupt and pose a threat to society.
But then, once again, the filmmakers jump the tracks of rationality. This is where the film should go political, but instead it plays the conspiracy card. And not just any conspiracy, but the granddaddy of them all: that a handful of families control the world and plan to enslave humanity.
In his soft voice, the gray-haired, blue-eyed Foster Gamble says, sadly: "As difficult as it was for me, I have come to an inescapable and profoundly disturbing conclusion. I believe that an elite group of people and the corporations they run have gained control over not just our energy, food supply, education and health care, but over virtually every aspect of our lives.
"When I followed the money, I found it going up the levels of a pyramid." (As the torus symbol dominates Thrive's first section, the pyramid dominates the second.) And at the top of this alleged pyramid of evil: the Rothschilds.
Not everyone watching this film will know that this argument has been around, and been discredited, for decades. Apparently, the desire to find someone to blame for all the world's problems spans generations. And the Rothschilds make a pretty good target.
Are the Rothschilds very, very rich? Undoubtedly. Are the members of this family doing the work of Mother Teresa or the Dalai Lama? Mostly not. Are they all-powerful puppet-masters who secretly rule the world? Are they descended from a race of snake-people? Do they eat children? Um ... no, no and no.
Are they Jewish? Well, yes. And it must be said: The argument made in Thrive precisely mirrors an argument that Joseph Goebbels made in his infamous Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew: that a handful of banking families, many of them Jewish, are running the world and seeking global domination.
Foster Gamble inoculates himself against charges of anti-Semitism, stating flatly: "This is not a Jewish agenda. Let me be clear." But while he scrubs out the openly anti-Semitic aspects of the disgraceful idea, the rest of it haunts the film.
And, once again it must be said, when describing symbolism used by his imagined Dark Lords of the Universe, Gamble does not hesitate to note that the Sign appears on the building that houses the Israeli Supreme Court, which he erroneously claims "is funded entirely by the Rothschilds."
To prove his economic theory, Gamble invites G. Edward Griffin, author of The Creature from Jeckyll Island, which recounts the creation of the Federal Reserve Bank, a historical moment which Griffin claims was orchestrated by the "global elite who want to control the world and create a New World Order."
One of several veteran conspiracymongers who appear onscreen in Part Two of Thrive, Griffin is a longtime leading member of the ultra-right wing John Birch Society, a fact not mentioned in the film. For those who may have forgotten—the John Birchers practically invented the modern conspiracy theory.
Founded in 1958 to carry on the work of the anti-Communist crusader Sen. Joe McCarthy, the Society went on to battle the Communist conspiracy we now known as the Civil Rights movement, and its leader, whom many of them referred to as "Martin Lucifer King."
Then the Birchers focused their energies on revealing the existence of a Satanic (literally) group they called the Illuminati—a cadre of powerful families that secretly rule the world.