Features & Columns

thrive NOT ON MY WATCH: Author John Robbins is distancing himself from 'Thrive,' the film made by his friend Foster Gamble.

Privilege and

In issuing their statement distancing themselves from Thrive, Robbins and his colleagues point out that they are "dismayed" that the Gambles refused to let them know what the film was about until the time of its public release. In interviews in March, Paul Hawken and Elisabet Sahtouris both said Foster Gamble misrepresented the film when he asked them to participate.

Robbins says it's clear that Gamble used him and the others to draw people to Thrive. He is distressed that the film weaves progressive ideas into its paranoid, radical libertarian narrative. But he stops short of accusing Gamble of deliberately deceiving his audience.

"Foster is extremely naive about the political consequences of his film," Robbins concludes.

But how could someone be so naive? Robbins says he is in a unique position to be able to answer that question: "The bubble of entitlement that he has lived in is almost impossible to understand if you haven't lived in it."

As it happens, John Robbins and Foster Gamble have lived uncannily parallel lives. Robbins was born heir to the Baskin-Robbins ice cream fortune, and Gamble was born heir to the Procter & Gamble cosmetics fortune. Both men rejected the destinies their families had chosen for them, and both moved to Santa Cruz.

Although the men would later become friends, a couple of crucial decisions set them on very different paths. In the early 1980s, Robbins decided to disinherit himself from his family's wealth. After his Diet for a New America, which wedded personal and environmental health, was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he went on to live a very public life, writing books and heading organizations advocating for the environment and a plant-based diet.

Gamble also walked away from his family's business, but chose to accept his inheritance, and use it to go on the personal quest which led him to the series of extraordinary conclusions documented in Thrive.

Robbins points what he sees as a crucial error in Thrive, which he believe is the result of a blind spot caused by Gamble's "bubble." "Foster wants us to follow the money, and leads us to a group of obscenely wealthy families using their extravagant wealth for ill," he says. "But nowhere in his film does he mention the Koch brothers."

Robbins points out that David and Charles Koch, the multi-billionaire heirs of the second-largest privately held company in the nation, who are using their vast wealth to bankroll the radical right, espouse the same libertarian agenda promoted by Thrive. (He also points out that their father, Fred C. Koch, was one of the founding members of the John Birch Society.)

Like many progressives, Robbins sees the Koch brothers as two of the most dangerous men in American politics.

"If you want to follow the money, it leads to the Koch brothers," he says, "If Foster had gone after them, I'd be right there with him."

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6