Features & Columns

Progressive Icons Denounce 'Thrive'

John Robbins, Deepak Chopra and others call the film in which they appear 'dangerously misguided'
thrive GRAVE DISAGREEMENTS: Deepak Chopra is one of several 'Thrive' interview subjects having second thoughts about the film.

Last fall, the acclaimed environmentalist and nutrition guru John Robbins was invited to the home of his friends Foster and Kimberly Carter Gamble, near Santa Cruz, to view the Gambles' just-completed film, Thrive. Robbins, who makes a brief appearance in the film, says he was "overwhelmed" by what he saw.

"There were parts I liked, but there were other parts that I just detested," he recalls. "I didn't want to be rude—we were there with our families—so I just didn't say anything."

Thrive, which was released online in November, had its theater debut in March, and is now touring the country, is an uncanny hodgepodge of pseudo-science, Utopian fantasy and veiled right-wing conspiracy theory. Strangely, it also includes onscreen interviews with a number of bona fide progressives, environmentalists and spiritual leaders.

In addition to Robbins, author of the groundbreaking Diet for a New America in 1987, the film features conversations with Deepak Chopra, the superstar self-help author; Paul Hawken, the green entrepreneur and environmental economist; Elisabet Sahtouris, the evolutionary biologist and philosopher; Duane Elgin, the futurist and author of Voluntary Simplicity; Vandana Shiva, the physicist and advocate for sustainable agriculture; and former astronaut Edgar Mitchell.

In the months since the film's release, Robbins says, he has been in communication with all of these folks. He wasn't surprised to find that many of them agreed with his assessment of the film.

While they might have hoped the film would just disappear, Thrive has become something of a web cult phenomenon—by some estimates it's been seen by more than a million people. And now they have decided to speak out.

Robbins, Chopra, Hawken, Sahtouris, Elgin, Shiva and Mitchell recently issued a statement saying that they have "grave disagreements with some of the film's content."

"We are dismayed that our participation is being used to give credibility to ideas and agendas that we see as dangerously misguided. We stand by what each of us said when we were interviewed. But we have grave disagreements with some of the film's content and feel the need to make this public statement to avoid the appearance that our presence in the film constitutes any kind of endorsement."

Talking about Thrive a few weeks ago, Robbins enumerated a long list of complaints. Much of his critique is centered on the film's politics. "Foster says he's not advancing a political agenda," Robbins says, "but his sources certainly are."

Robbins is particularly galled by the presence of G. Edward Griffin and David Icke—both of whom are featured prominently in the film and on the Gambles' website (thrivemovement.com). Both Griffin and Icke have long defended themselves against charges of anti-Semitism with needle-threading arguments pointing out that while the nation faces an enemy that is decidedly Zionist, it is only coincidentally Jewish.

But Robbins isn't buying that. He says that in private correspondence, he learned that his friend was being influenced by the ideas of Eustace Mullins, whom he calls "the most anti-Semitic public figure in U.S. history."

Foster Gamble did not respond to an email request for an interview, but there is certainly evidence in Thrive that Mullins' views influenced him. One of the central features of the film is the supposed revelation that the Federal Reserve Bank is a criminal enterprise; Mullins is the man who gave birth to that theory, in his 1952 book, The Secret of the Federal Reserve.

The following year, Mullins published his most notorious tract, "Adolf Hitler: An Appreciation," which praises the fuhrer for his crusade against the "Jewish International bankers" who were attempting to take over the world. In subsequent books, Mullins argued that the Holocaust never happened and that the Jewish race is inherently "parasitic." Incredibly, Mullins also insisted until his death that he was not an anti-Semite.

Robbins does not in any way accuse Gamble of bigotry—but of dangerous naivet–. "Foster isn't anti-Semitic," Robbins says, "but he is listening deeply to and promulgating the ideas of Eustace Mullins."

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