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Desteni Has Had a Bad Month. (UPDATED!)

Author: Clock
Date: Aug 13, 2013 at 11:35

This blog, originally published August 20, 2011, was updated on September 19, 2011. Scroll to the end for the update.
By Muertos

Reposted By Clock for the Muertos Blog on Skeptic Project

The month of August has not been kind to the conspiracy theorist cult known as Desteni. Indeed, while it's probably too early to declare the impending extinction of this bizarre group, they are undoubtedly reeling from a series of recent disasters, one of which may well strike at the cult's ability to reach new members.

On August 9, YouTube shut down several of Desteni's main channels, including "DesteniProductions," "BernardPoolman," "DesteniMoney" and "DesteniProdDemons." If you click these accounts (you'll see that the stated reason for the closure of these accounts is repeated violations of community guidelines and/or copyright infringement. In other words, somebody at YouTube officially got wise to the cult's spurious tactics. While we can't know for sure, my surmise is that it was the promotion of the fraudulent multi-level marketing scheme known as the "Desteni I Process" which probably pushed them over the edge.

This move by YouTube is very possibly a stake in the heart for the cult, as YouTube is their main recruiting portal. While Desteni uses Facebook to a lesser extent to spread its message, its main strategy has always been to reel in the gullible via YouTube videos spouting their bizarre philosophy and promoting conspiracy theories. Indeed the use of YouTube to appeal to a conspiracy theorist demographic is no accident. Conspiracy theorists are uniquely attracted to YouTube, for reasons I explained in another blog on the SkepticProject site. [The link to that blog is temporarily down as the SkepticProject site upgrades--I will add it when it's again available]. Furthermore, Desteni has always marketed itself using a uniquely visual interface. Blogs and even Facebook posts just don't have the same visceral appeal.

The cult's indignation at this move was palpable. In an "official statement," the Desteni cult, mere hours after the channel closures, was already crafting its take on this event: it is (naturally) claiming this is censorship and an attempt to prevent Desteni's pure message of equality from getting out. The statement read in part: {clock comment: Article was retrieved here:}

"We can only assume the real reason for this. One thing is certain - Desteni is hitting the nerve of some people and it's hitting hard. It also shows the nature of the system we live in. I mean what we deal with in our material - self-forgiveness, self-perfection, establishing and Equal Money System for all. Points that everyone can benefit from, points that are best for all. Many people have been supported by this material and shared their results publicly. Yet, this is not recognized and even fought against. Shame."

Desteni immediately launched a counter-strike, commanding its members to spam YouTube with a form email protesting the closure. Not surprisingly, the form email blames the whole thing on Desteni's external enemies-the "haters" with whom the higher-ups in the cult seem bizarrely obsessed:

"Hereby we declare, as the individuals that have received the support and assistance from the material provided by these channels, our discontent and discomformity with the decision that youtube has taken based on the false-flagging done by people that have been opposing our stance in relation to world equality."

Although there is some precedent for reversing YouTube channel closure decisions, it has now been 11 days since the closure and the hundreds of emails sent by dutiful Destonians seem to have come to nothing. None of the channels have been reinstated.

Desteni spokesperson Darryl Thomas, who I suspect (but do not know for sure) is #3 in the cult hierarchy after leader Bernard Poolman and New Age whack job Sunette Spies, took to his blog with an even more defiant statement denouncing the closure, as well as reinforcing the cult's narrative that it's all the fault of "haters." For the record, Darryl once told me he "enjoys being in [my] head." I wonder if I and other Desteni critics were not in his head as he fired off this seething invective:

"It is so unfortunate that these misled fools will one day realize after it is too late, that they stood on the wrong side of history. They have unwittingly - in their misguided zeal to stand against equality for all - unleashed demons that will return to devour them in madness and direct them to a fitting end. And the beautiful thing is they brought it on themselves. How fitting.

And to all the Haters, do not gloat so loudly. DesteniProductions is not dependent on YouTube for our continuance - Desteni has its own websites and forums, and so, still lives. And even though equality-speech is apparently strictly verboten on YouTube, Desteni finds this entire affair little more than a nuisance. The Desteni Material will soon be released as book and DVDs and the thousands of texts and videos will still be available on the Desteni website for anyone who wants to watch them.

I know it will sound strange to some people who believe that Desteni is defeated by this treacherous activity by YouTube, but we haven't gone anywhere and in time, this alleged "setback" will turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to the Desteni Group."

The closure of the cult's YouTube channels was evidently enough to bring cult leader Bernard Poolman out of hiding on his South Africa ranch. Two days ago Poolman uploaded a video that is remarkably shrill even for him, urging followers to flag as inappropriate any video on YouTube that they don't like for any reason-regardless of copyright or privacy status. The video is here, but as the video itself violates YouTube's terms of service I doubt it will be up for very long; I'll therefore link you to another blog that ran a story on the video. Essentially, Poolman is, in evident desperation, commanding his followers to create such havoc on YouTube through the flagging process that the video website giant will be brought to its knees. Somehow I don't think this is likely.

The second blow to the cult fell just this morning. As you can see from Darryl's defiant statement, the cult clearly did have plans to relocate to another web video service, though of course being denied access to the vast numbers of YouTube users must be galling. Desteni attempted to move over to Vimeo. Today, however, suspended Desteni Productions's account. Why? Because promotion of multi-level marketing schemes is not permitted on Vimeo.

In short, it seems that efforts to promote awareness of the fraudulent and destructive nature of the Desteni cult are finally bearing fruit. While we have no idea what's next, I wonder if Facebook may be the next social network outfit to ban them. Facebook's terms of service, like Vimeo's, expressly forbid the promotion of MLM schemes, and Desteni watchdog bloggers are already spreading the word that Desteni violates Facebook's guidelines.

It's not inconceivable that in the near future Desteni may be reduced down to its own website and a much less-centralized structure of communication. Individual Desteni users are still as thick as fleas on YouTube, but the authoritarian coordination of their message seems to have already suffered a serious disruption. Their bizarre "Anti-Hate Response" ritual, for instance, has ground to a halt. Without central coordination from YouTube, marshaling the Destonians in the future is going to be a much tougher slog than before.

It almost goes without saying that this has nothing to do with Desteni's message of "equality," as much as Destonians would like to make it about that. Instead, it's about the fact that Desteni is a fraud and has been using social networking tools to make money, possibly illegally but certainly spuriously, through a remarkably transparent pyramid scheme. It is certainly not against YouTube or Facebook's terms of service to use their services to promote belief in conspiracy theories. And it's ludicrous to believe that the owners of these services give a whit about messages of "equality." They just don't want to get tagged with advancing fraud and illegal activities, and rightly so.

I'll continue to update the future developments regarding the Desteni cult on this blog. Thanks for reading.

Update 19 September 2011

Desteni spokesman Darryl Thomas really, really, really doesn't like me. Largely in response to this article, he posted an entry on his blog that ranks as probably the single most vitriolic rebuttal ever directed at me.

For paragraph after paragraph Darryl screeched, raged, fumed, foamed, and made veiled threats about how sorry I will be someday that I ever chose to oppose Desteni. As to the recent actions by YouTube and Vimeo, he shouted "F*ck YouTube! F*ck Vimeo!" and insisted that their closure of Desteni's accounts was the best thing that ever happened to the cult. And, as I pointed out in my second-to-last paragraph of the original blog, he tried to assert that the issue really is about YouTube, Vimeo and "Desteni haters" supposedly opposing Desteni's message of "equality." In short, his reaction was entirely consistent with how Desteni has chosen to deal with the August setbacks.

Darryl also asserted that I'm a white supremacist, a charge he made completely without evidence, which is not surprising since I am very obviously not a racist. In fact one of the reasons I oppose Desteni is because of its disturbing patina of racism, evident in their various pro-Hitler material and its association with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories such as "reptilians," which are sci-fi stand-ins for Jews. The irony of a cult that looks up to Hitler charging its critics with racism is quite rich. (Ironically, there are some indications that Desteni is trying to cleanse the web of its pro-Hitler material. I guess Darryl didn't get that memo).

Darryl is in quite an angry mood these days. I'm not the only person to face the wrath of his blistering invective; in addition to trashing me, he's also tried to paint cult expert Rick Ross as a "cult leader" himself, and called another anti-Desteni blogger a "psychopath." Indeed he seems to be on the verge of launching a comprehensive campaign against anyone that criticizes the group. Judging from the number of "likes" you see on his blog from folks with bald-shaved heads, the obedient Desteni cult members are lapping it up. I believe it's safe to say that, despite Darryl's defiant bluster, Destonians are deeply anxious about the recent setbacks and more afraid than ever that the growing wave of negative press about the group is having an effect.

Seeing Like a State, Take 2: Responding to the Zeitgeist Movement's Latest Broadside.

Author: Clock
Date: Aug 11, 2013 at 21:17


By Muertos

Well, I seem to have struck a nerve. On Saturday, October 23, I posted a blog which was also reposted on the Skeptic Project Blog, that has engendered a fairly passionate response from a member of the Zeitgeist Movement explaining his objection to my analysis. In this blog I will respond to those remarks.

To recap: on October 23 I posted about a book I read recently, James C. Scott's Seeing Like A State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. The thesis of this book is that "high modernist" projects--basically, social engineering that proceeds from the assumption that planned top-down programs can greatly improve the world--are doomed to fail because of their intrinsic naïvete about human nature and, often, their ideological blindness to the way things really work. I applied Scott's analysis to the Zeitgeist Movement, which I maintain is precisely the type of "high modernist" scheme that Scott identifies as a certain failure at best, and an (unintentionally) murderous catastrophe at worst.

The response, by Roan Carratu, is here (

I'll put Roan's statements in green text, but because he quotes heavily my own words, where necessary I'll show my own previous words of the October 23 blog in non text colored italics.

"I get the Google Alerts feature in my mail on what pops up on the internet about the Zeitgeist Movement. Yesterday I received an Alert that had a link to [Muertos's blog] which was one of the most blatantly ignorant web editorials I have read recently from a group which is supposed to be based upon rational perspectives based upon good information."

He refers to, a consortium of self-appointed "debunkers" who present the facts indicating that the Internet's most popular conspiracy theories are mistaken, deceptive and often outright fraudulent. This is what brought into conflict with the Zeitgeist Movement in the first place. The Zeitgeist Movement was spawned from a series of pro-conspiracy films by NYC musician and former art school student Peter Joseph Merola, who among other things is a 9/11 Truther. It was only later, after the first Zeitgeist film became an Internet sensation, that Merola included in his worldview the neo-utopian ideology that I took to task in my October 23 blog. So, for the uninitiated, that's how we got here.

"They apparently miss the obvious fact that the world is rapidly heading towards disaster, (as if a billion people going hungry every day and the extinction rate of the ecology is not a disaster in itself) so their whole silly bias is clearly the result of incredible ignorance."

This is a typical maneuver by Zeitgeisters: if you criticize the Zeitgeist Movement ideology even slightly, in any way, in their eyes you are asserting that everything in the world is peachy keen and that there is no room whatsoever for any improvement in human affairs. Naturally this binary argument is as absurd as it is insulting. I never once in my blog suggested that world hunger or ecological disaster is not happening; neither was the point of the blog. So right off the bat Roan is trying to box me into a corner and paint me as a defender of "the system." Nice try, but this isn't going to work.

"If alien archeologists ever come to the late great planet Earth to study the extinct species called 'Humans', they will at least get a laugh at what we said in the last decades of that extinction. lol. (That is if the ZM concepts do not become the global paradigm shift that we must have to survive our own past ignorance. If those concepts manage to change our worldviews, and we manage to survive, we will likely greet them with peace and open hearts.)"

The Late, Great Planet Earth was of course a notorious religious eschatological screed by wanna-be prophet Hal Lindsey which predicted (in 1979) the imminent end of the world in a Biblical-style rapture. Needless to say it didn't happen. Zeitgeisters seem to have jettisoned the fire-and-brimstone Revelation references, but clearly here Roan predicts something not unlike the end of the world--and adding the unconscionably arrogant coda that only adopting Zeitgeist ideology as a "global paradigm shift" will save the human race. Wow, and here I was thinking global warming was a big threat!

Let me put this in simpler language: Roan believes the end of human civilization is imminent, and that only the Zeitgeist Movement can save us. Yes, you read that right. Only the Zeitgeist Movement can save the world. As I said in my blog, cajones are definitely not lacking on these people.

[My words:] I've blogged several times before about the Zeitgeist Movement. This bizarre organization, based almost exclusively on the Internet and spawned from the Zeitgeist series of Internet films, is primarily aimed at spreading conspiracy theories...

"Gee, can this blog be any more ignorant? Conspiracy theory was in the Zeitgeist Movie, but that was a concept video by Peter before the Zeitgeist Movement ever existed, and the conspiracy sections, about religion and 9-11, are not part of the Zeitgeist Movement's concepts. They are irrelevant, period. The Zeitgeist Movement may have started from that movie, but those sections are not part of the Zeitgeist Movement's basic concerns."

This is the age-old favorite chant of the Zeitgeister, "The movies aren't the movement!" Number one, in fact, on the Zeitgeisters' Greatest Hits, which I have already debunked here this blog I intend to explain why the Zeitgeist Movement/Venus Project's utopian vision for the future of humanity is, at best, doomed never to get off the ground, and at worst is a recipe for a catastrophe that could potentially claim millions of lives.

"hehe... and what we live in now is not a recipe for a catastrophe that could potentially claim billions of lives before we go extinct or produce a few stragglers living in a fascist slavery in a nearly barren world?"

Again, painting me as an all-or-nothing defender of the status quo. In case you haven't caught on, Zeitgeisters are rather monochromatic in their thinking.

"We know the map is not the terrain. WE know that what will emerge will be vastly more complex than anything we have thought of... reality does not emulate virtual (conceptual). But we can also understand what is wrong in the way the world is now, and we are going with that, by altering the dynamic of those factors which are not survivable and proposing alternates that might work better. Since they are 'emergent' they cannot be forseen, but almost anything we think of and manage to pull off is going to be better than what exists now."

This is as close as a Zeitgeister will ever get to admitting that they have no idea what they're talking about, and that their ready-made ideological chant of "Resource based economy! Resource based economy!" is totally inadequate to address the world's problems. Still, close is no cigar.

"[Regarding James C. Scott's analysis in Seeing Like a State] Could you consider that the social paradigm of the book's premise is a result of the same social paradigm that is currently destroying the ecology of the planet and unnecessarily starving thousands of people to death every day in the world? Can you consider the possibility that the past failures didn't work because they were forced, that is, coerced?"

Roan, can you consider the possibility that you haven't actually read Scott's book, and thus are grossly mischaracterizing his thesis? Can you consider the possibility that, when "debunking" a blog that is about a book, you might bring more to the table after having actually read the book? Guess not.

"Can you imagine the idea that survival is the basis of the Zeitgeist Movement concepts, and that coercion is completely rejected by the Zeitgeist Movement?"

One of the points Scott makes is that "good intentions," meaning, the absence of a coercive motive, is generally irrelevant both to the failure of high modernist designs and to the suffering that results from them. Roan would have known this if he had read Seeing Like a State, which clearly he has not.

"I have no doubt that the writer of this blog approves of coercion and much of the nastiness that goes on in the world, seeing them as 'practical'. But we don't."

Again, painting an all-or-nothing picture totally in shades of black or white. Because I refuse to accept the Zeitgeist Movement's ideology, by definition I must approve of coercion and "nastiness." I never made any such statement.

"We think there are other dynamics that will make the concepts of the Zeitgeist Movement spread and be accepted....While technology cannot in itself correct Humanities suicidal actions, it is how we advance. It is the one variable we can most certainly do something about, and it has a far reaching effect upon everything, even the ecology of the planet. It changes the way we think, and that is what is most necessary. If we are comprehensive about our use and application of technology, it stops being a Utopian idea and becomes a super practical idea. Our situation comes from our use of technology, but we know now that we have been doing it stupidly, and we want to simply do it so it harmonizes with both the ecology and 'human nature'. We are not naive."

To this I can only repeat what I quoted of Scott's definition of "high modernist" ideology in Seeing Like a State:

"[High modernism] is best conceived as a strong, one might even say muscle-bound, version of the self-confidence about scientific and technical progress, the expansion of production, the growing satisfaction of human needs, the mastery of nature (including human nature), and, above all, the rational design of social order commensurate with the scientific understanding of natural laws. It originated, of course, in the West, as a by-product of unprecedented progress in science and technology."

The irony is palpable. In arguing that Zeitgeist can't possibly be the sort of thing Scott denounces in Seeing Like a State, Roan underscores the fact that Zeitgeist precisely is the sort of thing Scott denounces in Seeing Like a State. Welcome to the inverted, war-is-peace, freedom-is-slavery, the-movies-aren't-the-movement Bizarro world of Zeitgeist. Get used to it. These inversions (perversions?) of logic are par for the course for Zeitgeisters, as Roan amply demonstrates later on.

Zeitgeisters embody Scott's definition of high modernist ideology in several interesting ways. First, there is the blind and virtually unquestioning acceptance of the concept of superabundance, which Zeitgeisters believe is technologically created. Second, Zeitgeisters' ideology explicitly refers to the "scientific method," which they say is the bedrock of how their system will organize the world. Thirdly, they insist that human nature is mutable and will be subordinated to ideology in an RBE order...

"And this is significant? Your third point is rather out to lunch. The mutual interaction of individuals and the social paradigms is well established, so changing the social paradigm will change the most destructive aspects of what is called 'human nature' as well..."

My third point was that Zeitgeist presumes human nature will become subordinate to their "superior" ideology. Yet this is precisely what Roan argues. How then, exactly, is my point "out to lunch?" By Roan's own admission it's spot-on.

"The first two points are true... is there something wrong with that? If so, what? Why not try it... certainly we could not do better by staying as ignorant as our social systems are now and having no 'rudder' on our social boat."

So, by admitting that my first two points are true, and by illustrating that he actually agrees with my third point, Roan places Zeitgeist ideology precisely in the same category as the "high modernist" ideology that concerns Professor Scott. "Why not try it?" Well, read Seeing Like a State for the answer to that question: trying it will very likely involve the deaths of millions of people.

My fourth point, in demonstrating how Zeitgeist ideology is exactly what Scott is talking about with "high modernism," was this:

Finally, their visions--lavishly illustrated in artist's depictions of circular cities and YouTube videos--unabashedly wallow in technological and aesthetic fetishism. Any one of their designs could have been torn from a sketchbook from the 1930s film Things To Come, depicting a utopian future world where denizens of an automated city are pampered by ubiquitous machinery.

About this Roan says:

The final point is also true, Jacque's city designs are from that era. He is 94 years old. What would you expect?

So, then, Roan agrees with all four of my points. He stated explicit agreement with the first two and the fourth, and argued the third in such a way as to make his agreement with it self-evident. Conclusion: Zeitgeist is high modernist ideology, exactly the same type of high modernist ideology that Scott demonstrates is naïve, ill-conceived and horribly dangerous.

Gee, and when I started reading his reply I thought Roan was trying to refute what I said! Instead he has ended up supporting it. Again, welcome to Bizarro Zeitgeist-world.

"You are even ignorant of the original source of the money system? You think it 'grew organically'? Well, it was implemented by ancient 'godkings' for control purposes, and forced by coercion. It did not 'grow organically' through any of the mythological processes that academia teaches, and more than one historian has said so in uncertain words."

Maybe Roan should read more historians, because he's completely wrong about the "source of the money system." Money economics have been developing in human societies since almost the dawn of time. Our current economic system--which is not monolithic, as Zeitgeisters tend to treat it--is the result of billions of decisions and actions, some conscious, others unwitting, by billions of individuals, companies, guilds, governments and organizations across thousands of years of human history. It wasn't a sui generis invention by some "godking" for "control purposes." In their profoundly shallow and reductive view of world history--such as their complete and uncritical acceptance of the asinine assertions of pseudohistorian D.M. Murdock, also known as Acharya S.--Zeitgeisters presume that everything they see as bad in the world, principally money and religion, was designed by a single person or group of people and then implemented whole and complete, the way automobiles go from the drawing board to the factory floor in Detroit. Of course no one who has even the slightest understanding of ancient, pre-modern or modern history could countenance this laughable idea.

"You can call us naive if you like, but you are profoundly naive yourself. We do not think as you describe us, and history shows that it is technology that has created the destruction of the ecology now..."

Oh, but Zeitgeisters believe that it's technology that will save us! Once we live in their bubble cities and have robots cater to our every whim, all problems on Earth will magically disappear.

"We have no idea what people will decide. But we will certainly make sure that the necessary systems are integrated into those designs so that a billion people will not go hungry each day in the world. And we will not force people to have lives of quiet desperation as the existing system does. Think about it."

The arrogance of this statement is breathtaking. We--meaning the Zeitgeist Movement--will make sure that the necessary systems are integrated. Put your trust in Peter Joseph Merola, Jacque Fresco and their robots, and a new day will dawn for humanity. This is precisely the class of thinking that Scott illustrates, in Seeing Like a State, is the key ingredient in high modernist catastrophes. Once more, Roan, in his attempt to argue against Scott's classification, puts his organization squarely within its ambit.

"If the world wasn't in the middle of a Man made Mass Extinction Event and killing millions continuously, perhaps your argument might mean something, but the fact is, what we have now is Omnisuicidal."

"Omnisuicidal?" That's not even a word. And I'm not sure the Random Capitalization of Mass Extinction Event makes Roan's argument any more persuasive. Note he offers no specifics whatsoever; he merely repeats the claim that a billion people starve every day, or something, and that the human race is headed for extinction unless we immediately surrender to Zeitgeist's ideology and become perfectly obedient drones in Peter Joseph Merola's new world order.

"Yes, we work for the radical transformation of the entire earth, but we will not use force and we will apply what works, as proven by the scientific method. And it will be what people want, not what a few pundits think people want. Unless you think science is just a conceptual game like religion, you will eventually understand what we are saying."

So, Roan is telling us that, in the very unlikely event that Zeitgeisters ever get to implement their civilization-destroying ideology, when it fails spectacularly they will fade quietly into the sunset admitting that they were wrong and everything can go back to the way it was. Anyone who knows anything about what Scott is talking about will recognize this as highly unlikely. Considering that in order to even have the chance to implement Zeitgeist's ideology someone would have to claw their way to considerable power using ruthless tactics to begin with, it doesn't seem to comport with what we know about power dynamics. The more the Zeitgeisters believe their ideology will save the world--as Roan clearly does--the higher the stakes become. Once in a position of power to implement their program, they certainly wouldn't step aside and go home over the objections of a few people, or even a few early failures. They, like Stalin, like the architects of Brasília, like the "villagization" bureaucrats of 1970s Tanzania, would press forward, no matter how much opposition there was or (probably) no matter how many lives or communities were destroyed. This is how power works and it's a key piece of Scott's analysis.

"Scott is just another naysayer who must love the death of billions and the destruction of the ecology. Frankly, I'm sorry for him."

This statement shows how blinded Roan is by his bizarre ideology. Far from "loving the death of billions," James C. Scott is actually an anarchist who disdains almost any form of central state control. A main theme of Seeing Like a State is the terrible human cost of high modernist failures. He's not exactly the Stalinist type, if you know what I mean. If interested, here's his Wikipedia page. (

"And unless the ideas are accepted, in a radical paradigm shift, the Zeitgeist Movement will simply fade from existence. All we are doing is trying to help people see the possibilities if we choose to live, and we don't see many choices."

Of course Roan doesn't see many choices. If Zeitgeisters do come to power--which, again, is a pipe-dream of the highest order--no one will have a choice. This is how high modernism works. Regardless of good intentions, these schemes almost always devolve into one form of authoritarianism or another. Zeitgeist, if it were implemented, would be no different.

"Certainly as you describe it, this author you quote is very researched but completely without a clue. He thinks what is is all that can be and the best possible world we can create. And if everyone thought like him, nobody would have children and mostly the great dynamic of our culture would be suicide, although it is a major component even with many people not accepting his cynical perspective. Sad, really."

This paragraph is profoundly and appallingly stupid. Without even having read Scott's book, Roan assumes that he must be, like me (evidently), a total apologist for everything in the world today and that he (Scott) must believe there is no room for improvement in anything, anywhere, under any circumstances. This is idiotic. But it's par for the course for Zeitgeisters, who, as I said earlier, operate in a totally binary universe. You are either one of them or you are the enemy. You either accept 100% of their program, full-bore, and hail Peter Joseph Merola as the new messiah, or you're in favor of genocide, the deaths of billions and the extinction of human civilization--period. There is no room for debate. Either get behind the Zeitgeist program, or you are valueless. One wonders how Roan could be so blind to the blatant authoritarian undercurrent of this thinking, which he just got done accusing Scott--and me--of exhibiting.

"And you think the temptation will exist to become violent in our goals?"

Well, yes--that's a main point of Scott's argument. It's good to see that Roan is at least catching on to what the argument is, instead of denouncing an anti-authoritarian anarchist as someone who must "love the death of billions."

"You really are clueless about the Zeitgeist Movement. It is not a hierarchical organization beyond the necessities of organization, with even Jacque and Peter being only spokesmen."

This is the "Peter Joseph is not a leader...we have no leaders!" argument, which is Number 8 on the list of Zeitgeisters' most often-used canned arguments. Go here for an explanation of why it's silly.

"As to your point about 'what if'... if you don't grasp the most basic ideas of the Zeitgeist Movement, you creating 'what ifs' is a futile attempt to produce an argument. When a town or group of Mormons are without food, the other Mormons send it to them on their own dime. If religious zealots can do it, why do you think we can't do it globally?"

Because I read Seeing Like a State, that's why. Perhaps Roan would do well to actually read the book he's attacking.

"You don't seem to be noticing that the world is ominously having incredibly nasty, bloody, and preventable problems under the existing systems. In your paradigm, I'm sure avoiding admitting ideological failure IS irresistible. But the world's current ideological systems are failing big time."

So, by this logic, the certain failure of the Zeitgeist Movement's ideology is preferable to (in their view) the even more certain failure of the world's current systems. "Try us, what have you got to lose?" works when selling cola or car insurance, but when we're talking about a fundamental top-down reorganization of human society and the complete abrogation of all organically-developed cultural, economic and political constructs to an artificial ideology developed by Peter Joseph Merola and Jacque Fresco, there's a little more at stake here than that. And again Roan tries to load the scale with Zeitgeist ideology on one pan and all that's wrong with the world on the other, daring the reader to choose between them.

"Do you have a solution other than that status quo? Do you not now 'ignore or rationalize mass suffering'? That is a ubiquitous trait of our current social paradigm, right? A social paradigm shift means we do not think in your terms."

Again Roan dares me to solve all the world's problems on my blog, and if I cannot, then any criticism I may level at the Zeitgeist Movement is by definition illegitimate.

"We go with practicality, not delusion or cynical projections."

This is not persuasive, considering there is nothing even remotely practical about the bizarre 1930s stone-age-science-fiction scenario of Zeitgeist's "Resource Based Economy."

"[After criticizing the likely catastrophic effects of Zeitgeist ideology] Sounds to me like you are describing the existing social systems. You cannot 'devalue' people more than blowing them up or starving them or sticking them into metal boxes like prisons... The existing system IS NOT 'organic'. Unless the use of a gun to force compliance is organic! And in the current system, there ARE people who profess to know better and who demand, using force and coercion, to get compliance with their 'better' way... better for them, that is. That is exactly what we are working to eliminate, although a superficial glance at our movement, put into the existing paradigm, would automatically filter the observation to support the unconscious 'axiom' of cruelty and 'cog-ness'. After all, it's all you know."

Roan assumes that the entire world is a police state, which is a typical meme from conspiracy theorists. I do not know if Roan himself is a conspiracy theorist, but certainly he's internalized the conspiracist ideology that "they" are "forcing" the world to be the way it is, and if only "we" would "wake up" we would see the self-evident way to a better life. This naïve and bitter vision is profoundly depressing, but it's a large part of how Zeitgeist sells itself to its would-be followers.

This is the essence of the Zeitgeist Movement's social vision for the future.

"Uh, no, it's not. Do some self-educating, get your head out of your armpit, and reconsider what you think. Seriously, if most of your opinion is of sources in your subconscious, you have no mind. But you could. Reconsider HOW you think. THEN find out what we think."

Another conspiracy theorist meme--the old "wake up, sheeple!" argument. Here I am (again) being portrayed as the bad guy, as the closed-minded stick in the mud who refuses to accept any conflicting information. This is a common tactic among Zeitgeisters, to presume that the superiority of their ideology is self-evident to anyone who "understands" it, and that anyone who rejects it must be doing so on the basis that they don't understand. Zeitgeisters cannot countenance the notion of disagreement, and simply can't accept that there are those who have very legitimate reasons for opposing their ideology.

Zeitgeisters are fundamentally incapable of conceiving that their ideology could have that effect [the unintended suffering and deaths of millions]. They're as blind as the overzealous architects, city planners and Soviet revolutionaries described in Seeing Like a State. Given the colossal scale of Zeitgeist's designs, their dangerous naïvete far outstrips any of those examples.

"And that is possibly the stupidest thing you have written yet. I'm sorry you have put your mind through this process in order to 'de-bunk' us. But I suggest you research us a bit better first, and realize that we are a large group of disparate people with many different views of the ideas, so you can find someone in the Movement who believes in anything you can come up with... and it doesn't mean a thing. The same probably applies to every group in existence as well as every person on the Internet. Having worked in labs I know it applies to scientists as well as everyone else. To say someone is 'fundamentally incapable' is really being an ass. I don't even say that about you, because I know you could understand the Movement and probably join it someday."

This paragraph dwells in the Bizarro world of Zeitgeist where everybody gets their way, and everybody's right. Of course that is fantasy, every bit as much as Zeitgeisters' dreams of reordering human civilization are fantasy. Here Roan dismisses the reality that the Zeitgeist Movement has a rigid orthodoxy imposed by the iron fist of Peter Joseph Merola, who appears to be the only serious gatekeeper on who is "in" or who is "out" of the Zeitgeist Movement. On the forums, at least, public disagreement with Peter Merola results in denunciation, banning and banishment. Refutation of conspiracy theories that Peter Merola personally believes results in the same thing. Indeed, while Roan paints a picture of some sort of open-source paradise where all viewpoints are welcomed, the reality is that the Zeitgeist Movement is rigidly orthodox and its members are kept on an extremely short leash. This should surprise no one who's been following along regarding the authoritarian undercurrent of the Zeitgeist Movement. Such a bold experiment in social engineering must, by definition, have an authoritarian basis. Roan proves once again that the Zeitgeist Movement could not fit James Scott's definition of "high modernism" more perfectly if it was tailor-maid to do so.

I love the gratuitous prediction that I will eventually join the Zeitgeist Movement. I find that amusing. Zeitgeist leader Peter Joseph Merola has publicly referred to me as a "monkey" who "flings poop," so it's not particularly likely that he would allow me into his movement even if I somehow became deluded enough to join it.

Fortunately, in the real world we don't have to worry about Zeitgeisters implementing their designs, because they'll never get anywhere close to achieving them.

"Let's see... we started with two people, Jacque and Roxanne, and now, in less than about two years, we have nearly 500,000 members, although most are not very active."

At least Roan admits "most are not very active." That's more than most Zeitgeisters will concede: to hear them tell it they have millions of die-hard members ready to storm the world's capitals demanding a "Resource Based Economy." The reality, of course, is much different. Of the 500,000 (it's more like 400,000) who have registered with the Zeitgeist Movement forums since 2008, I would estimate that considerably less than 1% have even posted on the boards. Also, the turnover of frequent posters is extremely high, with (I estimate) better than 80% of the active posters at any one time sporting less than 200 total posts on the forum. (If anyone has done a quantitative analysis on Zeitgeist's posters, please correct me--these figures are of the "eyeball" variety and admittedly unscientific). In short, the vast majority of Zeitgeisters--better, I would imagine, than 99%--join the forums, post a few times, get disillusioned, and leave. Even if these numbers are overstated, it's clear that this is not exactly a movement that's going to take the world by storm.

"It's a long term idea in the first place, so there is no stress about it. Emergence means 'the appearance of new properties or species in the course of development or evolution'. It's not a fast event but I think the ecological mass extinction event is pushing it a lot. If the ship is sinking, the passengers tend to all want the same thing. And you are making a fundamental mistake in saying that we have plans to implement. As I've said, we are not making plans because nothing we came up with would likely fit the conditions when the plans are implemented. We will come up with them when it's time to implement them."

So, I'm making a fundamental mistake by saying Zeitgeist has no implementation plans...and then the next sentence admits that Zeitgeist is not making any plans? Roan again contradicts himself, continuing to foster the impression that he has no idea what he's talking about.

"We will come up with them when it's time to implement them."

Remarkably proactive organization, this Zeitgeist Movement!

In truth this paragraph is an attempt to rationalize why the Zeitgeist Movement has done nothing, and will continue to do nothing for the foreseeable future. This effect is common among Zeitgeisters. They talk big about changing the world, but when it comes down to brass tacks, the answer is always "mañana."

Zeitgeist is a fringe movement existing mostly on the Internet. Oddly, its internal cohesion seems to owe more to its reliance on conspiracy theories than on any conscious unification behind the RBE concept (despite what many of its followers say to the contrary).

"So, you are so desperate to 'de-bunk' us you have to call us liers? Perhaps you think there are no 'conspiracies'?"

This is a classic conspiracy theorist comeback--"So, you believe everything the government says? You think no one ever does anything wrong?" After this statement I am more inclined to believe that Roan is a conspiracy theorist, but even if he isn't, as stated before he's clearly internalized conspiracist thinking and styles of argument. Beyond this observation, this part of the argument isn't worth responding to.

"Meanwhile, there are armed men applying weapons of incredable destructive power to slaughter people, families, other species... anything living... and a billion people go hungry each day on this planet of incredable prosperity. That is not conceptual. That is real."

No, it's fake. If a billion people starved to death per day, the human race would cease to exist in nine days. World hunger is a problem that must be addressed, but Roan vastly overstates the case in his zeal to present the world as on the brink of human extinction.

I would like to know which "armed men" are using this "destructive power" and against whom. Roan seems to believe that there are vast genocides going on all over the world at any one time. This simply isn't true. Yes, there are wars going on in several corners of the globe right now, including Afghanistan, but they're all relatively low-level conflicts. The last significant genocide on planet Earth was the horrific tribal violence in Africa in the mid-1990s. As terrible and appalling as it was, it had nothing to do with "incredable [sic] destructive power." Most of the tribal murders in Africa were committed with machetes. This violence was not directed by one or a group of "evil men," either. It was ethnic in origin, springing relatively spontaneously from social, economic and political factors that existed in central Africa at that time.

Why is Roan bringing this up anyway? He gets to something of a point here:

"And that is the motivation for the emergence and continuation of the Zeitgeist Movement. If you can't understand that, then you must be someone's dogmatic follower, believing in some purely virtual ideas some abusive lying power wielding idiot tells you... oh, wait, wherever you live, you have a 'president' or 'Chairman' or suchlike... right? Who defines the status quo ideas you apply to your 'de-bunking' efforts? May you rethink every concept in your head... or continue to live in abject denial of anything new even when it comes up and gets in your face."

Oh, okay. So I'm a "dogmatic follower" of somebody. That is rather ironic, considering it seems Roan is quite a dogmatic follower of Peter Joseph Merola and Jacque Fresco. And note again how the "abject denial" charge plays into the Zeitgeist conceit that the only reason why someone would ever reject their ideology is out of some sort of unthinking reflex, the implication being that everyone who seriously considers their program will definitely agree with it.

Not a single economist, sociologist or government official, to my knowledge, has associated him or herself with the Zeitgeist Movement.

"HAHAHA... like you cannot value something unless someone who gains from the current system supports it? You seem to be more naive than I thought."

This is the most telling part of Roan's essay. Here he literally laughs at the idea of expertise and those who wield it, dismissing the fact that the Zeitgeist Movement has absolutely no support among professionals who understand how social and economic change works as some sort of conspiracy because those people must "gain from the current system." What does that even mean?

Zeitgeisters are forced to reject the value of expert opinions because they can't get any experts to agree with them. I guarantee that if a sociologist did decide to endorse the Venus Project, and stated in his or her expert opinion that it could work, the Zeitgeist Movement would be rolling loudspeaker trucks through the streets blasting the news at everyone who would listen. An economist who agreed with the idea of a "Resource Based Economy" would be the immediate poster child for the Movement. But since they can't find one, they're forced to say that expert opinion doesn't matter.

"So... on one hand, I can read a cynical book of opinion which says that anything good is bad and anything bad is good and wallow in the status quo, keeping my ears and eyes ...and MIND shut..."

That is not even close to what Seeing Like a State is about. Roan would know this if he actually read it, but since he has not, this criticism is meaningless and laughable.

"or on the other hand I can work for a survivable prosperous future for all life on the planet... hummm, such a choice. HAHAH...Frankly, your recommended book is about as defective an ideology as I can imagine. And this post of yours is really a terrible attempt to de-bunk the Zeitgeist Movement. I'll talk to you when you join us."

Once again, the false dichotomy and binary choice: either you agree with the Zeitgeist Movement, or you and the rest of humanity will die. Literally. Those are the choices Roan poses for the future. And I'm supposed to be the authoritarian? Join Zeitgeist or die? Really?

And again Roan dangles the possibility of me turning around (evidently when I "do my homework" on the Zeitigeist Movement) and joining it, which is about as likely as Louis Farrakhan converting to Judaism.

It is clear that Roan Carratu has not read Seeing Like a State, nor does he even attempt to take seriously its criticism of high modernist ideology and why it's defective. This essay is, like most apologist screeds for the Zeitgeist Movement, an arrogant, illogical, poorly-argued, poorly-conceived and ultimately incoherent mishmash of high modernist sound bites, false binary choices, logical errors, projections, and sycophantic hero-worship of Peter Joseph Merola and Jacque Fresco. It is not a serious argument. It is, unfortunately, illustrative of the general approach of the Zeitgeist Movement toward its critics. With so poor an understanding of the implications of their own ideology, it's no wonder that the Zeitgeist Movement is so dysfunctional. When attempts to educate them end in diatribes like Roan Carratu's, it's evident that their naïvete will not be easily cured, nor will their fanaticism be blunted by reason or logical argument.

Thanks for reading.


Roan has evidently attempted to leave comments on this blog but for whatever reason can't make them here in this post. (This blog does require you to register with to comment-that's for spam control). I have not censored or disallowed ANY comments regarding this blog. So, to make clear that I welcome Roan's rebuttals, I'm going to paste the comments on this blog entry that have been made elsewhere.

The thread (on Facebook) in which Roan comments on this blog is here:


Roan Carratu

I don't think they will even consider any info that we would consider relevant.

I think there is a strong 'Social Darwin' flavor to this guy's response, perhaps a Ayn Rand follower, but he doesn't actually say what he thinks, only what he t...hinks we are saying that he considers stupid.

I don't think I will get together a lot of data to show him. I don't get the impression he will consider it as anything but BS, regardless of the source. So be it, some are too afraid of everything to consider doing anything good.

He surely gets off on the attention he gets. Loves to argue, to make himself seem smart, which probably means he is compensating for other things about himself that he feels short on... Classic twit.

(But I'm considering getting together the data I once ran across and should probably post on the ZM site for others to see. It's hard to imagine that our species can have the impact on the world ecology the data describes.)

I think he will continue to slander us and I don't see there is anything we can do about it. but he is quite safe among his own. He definitely stains his comrades reputation in the 'anti-' conspiracy 'science' site. That's sad, but it is also an extreme position much like those who propose the opposite viewpoints.

I have often said that it will take the changes in the world impacting people's private lives before they will even consider the possibility that the world's changes can impact their private lives, and therefore consider any other perspective. Time will tell, I guess.



I am neither a Social Darwinist, nor an Ayn Rand devotee. In fact I despise Ayn Rand. I am not a Libertarian. My politics, to the extent they're relevant, are solidly mainstream (US) Democratic Party.

I find it amusing that Roan suggests I must be a "Social Darwinist" because I reject Zeitgeist ideology. Social Darwinism, as I understand it, is a "survival of the fittest" mentality as applied to society-usually manifesting itself in an ethos that no help should be given to poor or underprivileged so as to encourage them to be winnowed out by natural selection.

Nothing could be further from my beliefs. I strongly believe in the establishment of a social safety net and the advancement of social and economic justice. If Roan would like me to detail some of the charity activities that I do toward this end, to the tune of hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars per year, I'd be happy to do so. But to suggest I'm a "Social Darwinist" and must want the "weak" to die out, simply because I think Zeitgeist is a bad idea, is absolutely asinine. I have no idea where Roan gets this argument out of either my criticisms of the Zeitgeist Movement or my take on "Seeing Like A State."

As for "some are too afraid of anything to consider doing anything good," this is also false. Interestingly, a few years back someone did an unofficial study of one of the charity groups I'm involved with (and was president of for a time). Their conservative estimate was that, through the various programs our small group of 40 people (about 25 active members) administered, we had saved 21,000 lives in the course of a year.

I would advance this statistic as proof that Roan's assertion is false that I refuse to "consider doing anything good." Again, if he'd like a detailed analysis of what I actually do to help people, I'm happy to give it to him.

This is not about me "making myself feel smart." The original blog was posted as an assessment of the Zeitgeist Movement's ideology and an explanation of why it's faulty-a case I believe I buttressed by support from Scott's book, which, I repeat, Roan Carratu has not even read.

Roan's response to that assessment has been hysterical and hyperbolic. I've been accused of being a Stalinist sympathizer, a Social Darwinist, of "loving the death of billions," and of being an Ayn Rand supporter. Oh yes, and being a "twit." I've also been told in no uncertain terms that if I don't accept Zeitgeist ideology, I will die along with everyone else on this planet.

These responses, soaked as they are in hysterical and personal vitriol, are unfortunately typical of Zeitgeist Movement defenders when their ideology is challenged. I leave it to the readers of this blog to determine whether these responses are appropriate; however, rest assured, should they appear on this blog, I have no intention of censoring them. Just want to make that clear.

In the nature of completeness I'm posting Roan's response to MY response. It's long:


OK, perhaps I misinterpreted the meaning of the messages Matthew posted. I interact on a lot of forums with people who say the same things but definitely do not have a rational mindset. I could be wrong in this case.

I am not into debating this issue. I don't care if what I say convinces anyone. Either the reality of our global situation is real or it's not. Time will tell. Our opinions about it are just opinions. The idea that the ZM is some kind of threat due to the ideas presented in the book and by Mathew on that site is a distortion that comes from comparison to those groups and ideas the book uses, and it is a projection. Mathew says we are like those groups and we will produce the same results in his estimation. I disagree.

So be it. I don't think the Zeitgeist Movement has an 'ideology', I think it comes from the situation in the world and scientific findings presented in scientific publications. He thinks we are just really screwed up and are seeing the world through a particular mistaken binary mindset. And perhaps we are, but it is how we are seeing it. I don't think the ZM, even if wrong, is a major threat to anyone. I fail to see why Matthew sees it that way, if he does. Compared to mass starvation, war, pollution, and other global problems, the ZM cannot be all that dangerous.

And he has not posted any alternatives.

I was going to find and post the data which I had seen that presented the danger Humanity is creating in the ecology, the data that produces the either/or situation. I have not found that data, although I do remember reading it. But the Internet did not exist yet when I saw that data, and while it might be somewhere in the archives of various science publications, I have not found it. One would think that it would be important enough to be presented frequently, but perhaps not. I call upon others to present it if they find it.

I did find this data on a site dedicated to presenting much the same data as I remember reading:

This site in particular seems relevant:

This is the kinds of data I was talking about. The Zeitgeist Movement is simply a human social response to this data. Framing the ZMs ideas into a label, as an 'ideology', I do not see as being real. I do not see it as an 'ideology'. The ideas seem concise and logical to me, while discrediting them, if they represent a social response to an actual danger, seems rather self-defeating. If the ZM's framing of the world's situation is false, then it will 'come out in the wash', so to speak.

There is no monolithic control mechanism in the ZM, no violence enforced hierarchy that can impose some control system upon those who join it. It is completely voluntary and anyone who decides not to participate can do so anytime. Nobody is asked to donate money, so any donations are also completely voluntary and more than once, even those donations have been turned down to make sure no misunderstanding results.

The projection of evil intentions upon the ZM seems to be a fear response without evidence, much of it coming from the first Zeitgeist video, which was not produced by the Zeitgeist Movement. It was an art piece by Peter before the movement existed. He did not even know Jacque Fresco when he produced it. I would not have supported the Movement if that video was a basic of the Movement.

Zeitgeist Addendum is the first real ZM video produced, and Peter has rescinded most of the first video, saying publicly those parts, parts one and two, the anti-religious and 9/11 parts, of that video are irrelevant.

There is no 'canon' of approved ideas in the ZM. It is common knowledge in the ZM that much of what we thought has to be altered by new information. It is why we use the word 'emergent' so often. We claim it is a 'paradigm shift'. If it is not, it will simply not show in the results of the movement's efforts and the Movement will adapt or fad away. If it is a fantasy, then clinging to it would be irrational.

The movement rejects coercion as an action and concept which does not result in anything workable, as proven by history. This is one of the most basic ideas of the Movement. If this is so, how can anyone see the ZM as 'dangerous'?

I do not feel the need to argue about the Movement with anyone. I answer as a courtesy, nothing more. If the ZM's data and conclusions from that data is true, then it will become more and more obvious in the daily lives of the Human species on an individual level. If the Zm's data and conclusions are erroneous, then that will also become obvious over time.

I apologize if anything I said was felt to be a personal attack. I do run across a lot of twits who jump to totally fearful conclusions based upon no information whatsoever. A TWIT is an old term from the early days of the Net meaning 'shallow uninformed person who loudly asserts their fears without reason.'

I will attack ideas without remorse, but I do not devalue other people because of what they believe. (or at least that is my intention) The projection of fear that the ZM is a horrible mistake requires response when posted in public. A writer's opinion, supported by past group's efforts and results defined by and concluded in a book, cannot be rationally projected upon a new group as if it is some 'universal' truth and any future group effort has to produce an evil result. That is what it appeared to me that the original post was saying and to which I responded.

We can agree to disagree and let time show the results.


The only further comments on Roan's statement I wish to make are the following:

- My name isn't Matthew, but that's fine. I understand my comments here were cut-and-pasted onto the Facebook group by someone called Matthew, so I understand the confusion.

- It doesn't matter if the Zeitgeist Movement has violent/coercive motives. It doesn't matter if the Zeitgeist movement rejects coercion in all forms. The thesis of "Seeing Like A State" is that high modernist ideology by itself tends toward authoritarian results-regardless of whether the express intention is or is not coercive. Roan would know this if he'd actually read the book.

- "How can anyone view the ZM as dangerous?" Easily. It's a movement that has, as its main but unacknowledged goal, the promotion of conspiracy theories and conspiracy thinking. That goal is dangerous. It's a movement that embraces ideology that leads, as Prof. Scott demonstrates, irretrievably to authoritarian results. That goal too is dangerous, although, as I pointed out in the main blog, the Zeitgeist Movement has no realistic chance of ever achieving its stated goals, so we don't have to worry too much about this.

Nevertheless, does the Zeitgeist Movement do more harm than good? Yes, I believe it does, which is why I continue to speak out against it on a regular basis. If nothing else it should stop promoting conspiracy theories. Would a de-fanged Zeitgeist Movement-meaning one that actually IS divorced from conspiracy-mongering, as opposed to one that merely says it is while acting at variance-really be dangerous? Probably not. Its ideology is dangerous, but the Zeitgeist Movement is, fortunately for us, too attenuated, anemic an ineffectual a group to make any real difference in world economic or social policy.

God help us, though, if someone in a position of actual power ever signs on to Zeitgeist ideology. Then we'd really be in trouble. But, hopefully, and most likely, that will never happen.

The Zeitgeist Movement, Take 2: Conspiracies Are Us! (UPDATED!)

Author: Clock
Date: Aug 11, 2013 at 20:48

This article, originally posted May 6, 2010, was updated on December 3, 2010. Scroll to the bottom for the update.
By Muertos

This blog is a follow-up to my earlier column about the infamous "Zeitgeist Movement." Just to recap briefly, the Zeitgeist Movement is a pro-conspiracy group based on the Zeitgeist films, created by former New York City musician "Peter Joseph" (true name Peter J. Merola), which make the claims that (1) Jesus never existed, (2) 9/11 was an inside job, and (3) a secret cabal of bankers controls the world. The second Zeitgeist film attempted to introduce a "cure" for these ills, which is the Venus Project, a neo-utopian idea created by designer Jacque Fresco in the 1970s which evidently involves computers ruling the world.

My blog was critical of the Zeitgeist Movement's insistence on using conspiracy theories, specifically 9/11 Truth, as a marketing tool to get people involved with the movement. The Zeitgeist Movement and its leader Peter Merola have gone to some length to address the issue of conspiracy ideology. In a post on their "knowledge base" (translation: propaganda toolkit) regarding this issue, the author, presumably Merola himself, states:

"The term "Conspiracy Theory" is, at the present time, used mostly as a derogatory term to condemn an idea (or set of ideas) that is contrary to the often presupposed claims of an established order, specifically in regard to an act of criminal conduct. The technical definition of "Conspiracy" has a few variations, the most common being : 1)"an agreement to perform together an illegal, treacherous, or evil act" 2) a secret agreement between two or more people to perform an unlawful act."

This is a common dodge by conspiracy theorists, which is to try to redefine the culturally-accepted usage of the term "conspiracy theory"--which we all know means wacky tinfoil-hat stuff like 9/11 Truth, "the moon landing was faked" and "global warming is a hoax" allegations--to be more in line with the legal definition of "conspiracy," which Merola sets out more or less accurately. This is a dodge because the legal definition of "conspiracy" is totally different than the cultural definition of "conspiracy theory." Why do conspiracy theorists do this? Because it lowers the bar on what can be considered a true "conspiracy."

In law, conspiracies are relatively easy to prove. Example: you and I decide to shoplift a six pack of beer from 7-11. We go into the store and you start an argument with the clerk to distract him while I grab the beer and run out with it. Even if I don't succeed--say I trip on the door jamb and fall flat on my face, and the beer never leaves the store--you and I could be convicted of conspiracy to commit theft, assuming that a prosecutor could prove we went to 7-11 with the intent to steal the beer.

A "conspiracy theory," however--such as the allegation that 9/11 was an "inside job," which Merola and most Zeitgeisters believe--is much harder to prove, and requires totally different proof. The attempt to substitute the broad legal definition of "conspiracy" for the cultural understanding of what a "conspiracy theory" entails is totally disingenuous.

But Merola's just getting started. He goes on to state:

"The qualifier of "Theory", as opposed to "Fact", is an ambiguity which means it has attributes that are unknown/unresolved. During the Richard Nixon Administration, in America, there was a criminal conspiracy which led to what we know today as "Watergate". While this conspiratorial event is widely understood and accept as "fact", there are still ambiguities, such as erased audio tapes/evidence, which reflect a less than total picture of the actions, unfolding, considerations, background, benefits, and the like. Thus, the widely accepted account of this event is, in fact, formally a "Conspiracy Theory."

Um, not exactly. Watergate is a historical fact. It happened. We have Nixon on tape obstructing justice, recommending to Bob Haldeman that he tell the FBI not to investigate the June 17, 1972 burglary at the DNC headquarters in the Watergate building. And yes, it was a conspiracy, though a very small one that fell apart relatively quickly, as almost all real-life conspiracies do. The fact that there are "ambiguities" about some of the details, such as the 18-minute gap on one of the tapes, does not transform it from historical fact to "conspiracy theory." In citing Watergate, Merola intends for his audience to conflate historical fact with conspiracy theories--possibly assuming, for instance, that there is just as much historical evidence to support "9/11 is an inside job" allegations as there is to support the facts of what happened in the Watergate affair. To Merola, not knowing all the facts is what makes it a "theory," and therefore in his mind Watergate, the existence of which is proven by historical evidence, is equivalent to the "9/11 conspiracy," the existence of which has not been proven.

Merola is by no means the only 9/11 Truther to play games with the word "conspiracy." Many Truthers who resent being called conspiracy theorists point out that the "official story" of 9/11 (no one except Truthers uses the words "official story") involves 19 Al Qaida hijackers (20 if you count Moussaoui) who banded together to hijack planes on the orders of Osama bin Laden. Obviously this is a conspiracy in the legal sense of the word, so Truthers will often refer to it as the "official conspiracy theory" or "OCT," again as a way to confuse people into thinking that there is little difference between a real event supported by historical fact and a set of fanciful allegations totally unsupported by any fact. This is how they get to the finish line of arguing that the term "conspiracy theory" or "conspiracy theorist" is totally pejorative in nature, and is a weapon wielded unfairly by "debunkers" to ridicule non-mainstream explanations for historical events.

Merola tries to do this exact same thing, but fails miserably in his next statement:

"Likewise, the Government's account of the assassination of JFK by L.H. Oswald is, indeed, a government sanctioned "Conspiracy Theory". Oswald never confessed - therefore it isn't definitive as fact. It is one word against another and since Oswald was killed before any trial, the lack of legal conviction also lends to the ambiguity."

This is totally, egregiously wrong, intellectually dishonest, and a prime example of the sort of pseudohistorical propaganda that is Merola's forte in the Zeitgeist films. It's a failure because the conclusion of the Warren Commission--that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone to assassinate John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963--does not even meet the legal definition of "conspiracy" that Merola wants you to use. Once again, in law, a conspiracy is a secret agreement between at least two people to commit an illegal act. Oswald acted alone, and there is no credible evidence to indicate anything to the contrary. So it's not even a legal conspiracy, much less a "conspiracy theory." The conclusion of the Warren Commission is not "one word against another," either. We know the bullets that killed JFK were fired from Oswald's rifle, to the exclusion of all other weapons in the world. We know that Oswald fired that rifle on November 22. We know the rifle belonged to him. All of these conclusions are supported by evidence--mountains of it. There was no "grassy knoll" shooter; we know that too. This is not "one word against another." It's fact. Not a "conspiracy theory," or even a conspiracy in the eyes of the law. Fact. History. Merola fails in his basic grasp of this.

"So, again, the use of this term, coupled with the even more derogatory distinction of the "Conspiracy Theorist", is to take anything that is not inline with the current, accepted explanations of the establishment and dismiss them as mere " Conspiracy Theories", when in fact they are really "alternative conspiracy theories" to the existing "official conspiracy theories". It is one sided, in other words."

So, after trying desperately to redefine the term "conspiracy theory," Merola wants you to believe that there are "official conspiracy theories" and "alternative conspiracy theories," and the only difference between them is that one group has "official" sanction and the other does not. This is classic conspiracy theorist ideology, and also a classic conspiracy theorist argument tactic, which is to do everything possible to either elevate conspiracy theories to the level of accepted and supported fact, or (more commonly) undermine supported and accepted fact to the level of being a "theory" about which there can be more than one reasonable explanation. Conspiracy theorists often try to do this by emphasizing things that are unknown or not fully understood within the context of the "official theory." Merola himself does this in his very next sentences:

"As another example, The 9/11 Commission openly admits that there are many details they don't know about in regard to the events of September 11th. Hence, they have their "Official Conspiracy Theory", while others might have "Alternative Conspiracy Theories". It is simply a double standard. Very simply, the establishment chooses to present their "theory" as "fact", when it cannot technically be defined as such, based on the reality of missing information, which is constant in almost every case of known criminal conspiracies, historically."

This is, in a word, bullshit.

Not all facts are created equal, which is a reality that conspiracy theorists have a hard time understanding. Some facts are more important than others. Yes, there are things we don't know about 9/11. But how consequential are the things we don't know in light of what we do know? For example: the "put options" placed on various airline stocks in the days before 9/11 certainly do seem suspicious at first glance, and it's true we don't know much about them. Truthers insist it's proof that somebody in the US had foreknowledge of the attacks. But think about what we do know about 9/11. We do know that 19 hijackers took over four planes, crashed two into the WTC towers, one into the Pentagon and one into Shanksville, PA. We do know that the attacks were planned by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed working in conjunction with Osama bin Laden, that both men confessed and that the hijackers left behind suicide videos. We do know that there was no indication whatsoever of any "conspiracy" within the US government (or any other government, such as Israel's) to either cause the attacks or knowingly allow them to take place. In light of these facts, whatever the answer is to the "put options" mystery, it must fall in line with what we already know--which means that whatever the answer is, it's not very consequential to the basic understanding of what happened on 9/11.

Let's take a hypothetical example. Let's say Jake walks into the First National Bank on Main Street at 2:00 PM, pulls a gun on a teller, hands over a canvas bag and demands the teller fill the bag with money. Jake is not wearing a disguise and is clearly visible on the security camera. The teller hands over the money, but puts a dye bomb in the bag. On the way out, Jake shoots a security guard. Police do not arrive in time to apprehend Jake and he gets away. At 4:00 PM, Jake is noticed at the bus station paying for a ticket out of town with cash smeared with purple dye which is also on his hands. He is arrested while getting on the bus. In his possession are found stacks of cash smeared with purple dye. The gun is found in a trash can a block from the bus station. The bullets that killed the security guard are traced via ballistics to Jake's gun, and we know it's Jake's gun because he bought it two weeks ago. Both the bus station clerk and the bank teller identify Jake in a police line-up, and the security camera image supports the identification. The canvas bag is never found, and we have no idea where Jake was between 2 and 4 PM. Jake pleads not guilty to bank robbery and murder, but before he can come to trial, Jake hangs himself in his jail cell.

Here is what we know:

1. Jake bought the gun and the bullets.

2. Jake came into the bank and robbed it.

3. Jake shot the security guard.

4. The dye bomb must have exploded sometime between 2 and 4PM, staining the money and Jake's hands.

5. Jake threw away the gun near the bus station.

6. Jake paid for the bus ticket with stolen money.

Here is what we do not know:

7. Where did Jake go between 2:00 and 4:00 PM?

8. What did Jake do with the canvas bag?

Because items 1 through 6 are established fact, this means that items 7 and 8, whatever the explanation for them, cannot alter the conclusion we draw from items 1 through 6, namely, that Jake robbed the bank and shot the guard. Therefore, items 7 and 8, although unknown, aren't very consequential.

By Merola's twisted analysis, however, Jake's guilt is only a "conspiracy theory" because (A) we don't know the answers to items 7 and 8, and (B) Jake never confessed. This is absurd, however; we know Jake robbed the bank and killed the guard, and the unanswered questions cannot impeach the conclusion.

Let's say Jake's girlfriend comes up with a crackpot theory that the man arrested at the train station at 4:00 PM wasn't really Jake, and that Jake is still alive somewhere. There is no evidence to support this claim, and it is in fact refuted by all the available evidence. However, in Merola's world, this "conspiracy theory" should be accorded equal consideration with the "official" judgment that Jake is a bank robber and murderer, and to prefer the "official" judgment to the "alternative" explanation is a "double standard."

After happily mangling the definition of "conspiracy," Merola pronounces his movement not guilty of spreading conspiracist ideology in this breathtaking display of chutzpah:

"So, no - we [the Zeitgeist movement] don't "support conspiracy theories", for it is a truncated, contrived, false notion. To ask if "we support conspiracy theories" is really asking "do criminal conspiracies exist". It is too narrow of a distinction, not to mention the question is intrinsically invalid, for it is, again, a falsely derived, derogatory contrivance."

Um, how about, no?

This entire argument is predicated on the ridiculous notion of Merola's definition of "conspiracy theory," which he wants you to conflate with the legal definition of "conspiracy"--something he doesn't even really understand anyway, as evidenced by his laughable fumble with the JFK/Oswald example. After elevating conspiracy theories to the level of factual history, he claims his movement doesn't support conspiracy theories! Say what? This is a person who came to prominence claiming that Christianity is a fraud and 9/11 was rigged. But no, he doesn't believe in "conspiracy theories," because the question is "intrinsically invalid." The mental gymnastics required to reach this conclusion is beyond my capability to assimilate, I'll admit.

After this statement, Merola goes on to apologize for the conspiracist ideology that is spewed with a fire hose out of his virtually fact-free films by stating:

"Now, with that out of the way, a part of TZM's educational imperative is to bring to light the consequences of our social system and how it creates aberrant human behavior ("crime"). When there is a criminal "conspiracy" by Goldman Sachs to defraud it customers, we view the event as a systemic consequence of the monetary structure. In other words, we view any such "criminal" or offensive acts as products of culture and attempt to consider the cause/motivation of these acts, and adjust society according, ideally removing the motivation for such offensive acts."

So, there you have it. Why did those evil conspirators blow up the World Trade Center on 9/11? It's a "systemic consequence of the monetary structure," whatever that means. What should we do about it? We should "consider the cause/motivation of these acts" and "remov[e] the motivation for such offensive acts." Okay. Not sure what that means except that, as I'm sure the Zeitgeist defenders who will post angry comments on this blog will tell me, it means I have to join the Zeitgeist Movement and support a "resource-based economy" or else I'm as evil as those awful people who blew up the World Trade Center and lied about Jesus existing.

Conspiracy theories are a corrosive cancer that destroys rational thought and political discourse. It should be very clear from even a cursory examination of the Zeitgeist Movement and the materials produced by Peter Merola that a major--but unacknowledged--goal of the Zeitgeist Movement is to promote conspiracy theories and conspiracy thinking. I really could not care less about a "resource-based economy" or the pretty models Jacque Fresco makes in his garage. I do, however, care when people who should know better are fire-hosing the public with false theories unsupported by fact, and who then make intellectually dishonest arguments to justify having done so--and who then claim, equally dishonestly, that "the movies aren't the movement" or that somehow all that ooky conspiracy stuff in the Zeitgeist films is secondary to some wonderful utopian goal that we all must strive for. You don't need to lie to people to make the world a better place. Try telling them the truth once in a while. You might find it easier to get them behind your program. Gee, you think?

UPDATE (December 3, 2010)

It's been a while since I wrote this blog. In the seven months since I originally published it, the Zeitgeist Movement has removed the section from their "knowledge base" specifically addressing conspiracy theories and which I addressed here. It's now replaced with a pretty generic statement denying any association between the Zeitgeist Movement and the Zeitgeist films.
It remains open to question whether this subtle change-which appears to have been made without any overt announcement-indicates a shift in the Zeitgeist Movement's official ideology toward an acknowledgement of their previously unacknowledged goal to spread conspiracy theories and conspiracy thinking.
What is intriguing is that on November 1, about the same (roughly) time that the deletion of the "Do We Support Conspiracy Theories?" topic from the dogma occurred, Peter J. Merola posted on another forum (link here) a rather bellicose statement aimed at those who suggest that the Zeitgeist Movement change its name to avoid association with the conspiracy films:

"Anyone semi-intelligent person who has eyes and cerebral cortex can see through the propaganda coming from the anti-z1 community as they try to apply it to the movement. anyone who cant think through it isn't fit to understand the materials at that stage anyway. it is a progression...I'm sorry to say, but as long as i am here - you have to deal with the bad press [of the association]. live with time, Zeitgeist I propaganda will fade- our message is just that strong."

To put this statement in context, in July of this year Merola re-released the Zeitgeist film and promoted it heavily with a lengthy "companion guide" purporting to source all the statements in the movie and refute the "debunkers" who, he says, have falsely attacked the conspiracy theory claims made in Zeitgeist I. So, in essence he is saying, "Zeitgeist I is true, I'm standing behind it, and I utterly refuse to change the name of my movement away from the name of the film I continue to promote, but anyone who explicitly draws that association is merely spreading false propaganda and is unworthy of understanding us anyway."
In my view these actions and statements underscore the Zeitgeist Movement's continued, deliberate and enthusiastic association with conspiracy theories. In short, Merola's actions appear to have proven the main point of this blog to have been right.

Adventures in Conspiracy-Land: the "Zeitgeist Movement." UPDATED!

Author: Clock
Date: Aug 09, 2013 at 12:46

This blog, originally published March 13, 2010, has been updated once (as of March 27, 2010), again (on May 19, 2010) and a third time (February 10, 2011). Scroll to the end for the updates.

For the last couple of months, my adventures in conspiracy-land have taken me to the frontier of an organization called "the Zeitgeist Movement," and led to the inevitable crossing-swords with those who support and promote it. Let me tell you, you're signing up for a huge can of worms the moment you start on Zeitgeist, because this movie has literally legions of rabid supporters, and they all think they're saving the world.

What is the Zeitgeist Movement? We'll get to that in a moment; first you have to understand what is Zeitgeist. Unless you've been living in a cave in Baluchistan with no access to the Internet since 2007, you've probably heard of Zeitgeist. It's an Internet film created and promoted by an ambitious young New Yorker named Peter Merola, who (for reasons that will be discussed later) calls himself "Peter Joseph." (Note: the evidence suggests that Merola is his name, and although he hasn't introduced himself as such, I'm not aware that he has denied it. If anyone can definitively state that it's not, please correct me; until then that's what I will call him). Merola's film, which is very slick and well-produced in Loose Change style, is very manipulative and has three parts which promote three main points:

1. Jesus never really existed, and Christianity is a lie artificially constructed from pieces of other ancient religions (most notably, sun worship).

2. The 9/11 attacks were a conspiracy "false flag" operation conceived and conducted by the Bush administration (or somebody) to justify war and curtailment of civil liberties.

3. A cabal of evil greedy "international bankers" controls the economy of the world, thus enslaving mankind in an artificial and exploitative system.

I'd provide you the link to watch Zeitgeist yourself, but trying to increase the visibility of this film is frankly unethical and certainly a crime against logic and common sense. It's so ubiquitous, though, that if you really want to watch it you can find it in less than a minute.

Despite the numerous and comprehensive debunkings of its theses and repeated demonstrations of its virtually complete lack of factual support, Zeitgeist: The Movie has been very popular. Its promoter, Peter Merola, claims on his website it's been viewed 100 million times. You can't swing a cat by its hind legs without finding someone who's seen--and most likely believed--the conspiracy folderol that's happily crammed down the audience's throat in Merola's little magnum opus.

According to a somewhat-high official in the Zeitgeist Movement, a certain Brenton Eccles (at least that's his handle on the Zeitgeist Movement forum), after he made the film Merola received numerous emails from viewers saying, "What do we do about these problems?" and his answer was invariably, "I don't know." Then someone mentioned to him the Venus Project.

The Venus Project is an old idea, having been cooked up about 1975 by a sometime designer (I could not verify that he's actually an architect, as many claim he is) called Jacque Fresco. Basically it's your standard issue '60s/'70s utopian idea: wouldn't it be great if all the Earth's resources were freely distributed to people according to their need. Does this sound like warmed-over Marxism? Well, whether it is or not is hotly debated--Fresco himself tries to distance himself from Communist ideology in Zeitgeist's disingenuous FAQ--but add to this the idea of computers controlling resource allocation, and you've got the Venus Project.

What does this have to do with conspiracist and 9/11 Truther Peter Merola? Well, exactly nothing, until Merola latched onto it as the answer to the world's problems. He made a second movie called Zeitgeist: Addendum which shills again the conspiracy theories from the first film, albeit at softer volume, but also adds an extended section delving into Mr. Fresco's theories. With this somewhat awkward marriage, Scientology had found its Tom Cruise. Merola and his friends started "the Zeitgeist Movement," which purports to be "the activist arm of the Venus Project," galvanizing the masses (mostly on the Internet) to make the resource-based economy brainchild of Jacque Fresco a reality.

Sounds great, right? Well, there's a bit of a problem. A couple of problems, actually. See, there's not very much fact in Zeitgeist: The Movie. But that didn't stop it from becoming extremely high-profile, due to the fact that upon its appearance it was denounced by Christians as a lie and sneered at by rational-thinking people who, quite rightly, look askance at 9/11 Trutherism. The Trutherism of Merola and Zeitgeist isn't even very good by Truthers' very elastic standards, having repeated in 2007 many of the silly conspiracy claims that were roundly debunked in 2005. Zeitgeist's 9/11 Truth ideology is several steps behind Loose Change's.

So, let's take Merola at his word that he's really about promoting the Venus Project, and all that ooky conspiracy stuff he was spouting in 2007 isn't really the movement. Merola himself makes this point on his own forum. His words, exactly, responding to one of his own followers who was surprised to learn that Jacque Fresco evidently does not believe in 9/11 conspiracy:

"It [9/11 conspiracy] doesn't matter. Fresco and I have never talked about it. The view isn't promoted in the movement either. The films are not the movement. I am not the movement...It is a big part of that FILM not THE MOVEMENT. The Movement is not the films. One day I might make a movie about Fishing... that doesnt mean the movement has anything to do with it, despite the name 'zeitgeist'."

Well yeah, it's all about that name, Zeitgeist, isn't it? The facts, according to Merola himself on the Zeitgeist website, are that 100,000,000 people have viewed Zeitgeist: The Movie. Yet the same website also claims that only 10,000,000 people have viewed Zeitgeist: Addendum, which also pushes the conspiracy claims but gives them considerably less prominence. Assuming for the sake of argument that Zeitgeist I can be considered a conspiracy film and Zeitgeist II cannot, by Merola's own figures his viewership dropped by 90% when he stopped talking about conspiracy theories as the main focus. (Incidentally, Zeitgeist: Addendum never repudiates the conspiracy theories; in fact it promotes them. There's a third Zeitgeist movie in the works. From the selfsame quote by Merola that I quoted above, he says: "Yes, 911 will be in the Directors cut - expanded," an unambiguous indication that he intends to continue hammering conspiracy theories in his films).

One of the Zeitgeist Movement's own members, on their own forum, had this to say to one of their members who questioned how good an idea it was to get so publicly in bed with 9/11 Truthers:

"So it [9/11 conspiracy theories] pulls in certain people just like it repells certain others, up until know I'd say the conspiracy has given us almost 400.000 in a year and a half. That's not bad, so for the time being, it's not a problem."

Not a problem. Yeah, right. Merola has purportedly stated that he's "moved beyond" 9/11 conspiracy theories, and he's now all about the Venus Project; but one of Zeitgeist Movement's own members suggested, on the forum, the idea that the movement change its name to distance itself from the unsavory connotations of being associated with a movie that pushes as its main points that Jesus never existed and 9/11 was an inside job. Here was Merola's response:

"As far as the 911 and religious "conspiracy theories" you denote- they are, despite the controversy, still highly relevant. However, we move forward. You will notice little time is spent on these issues. There are larger order issues and even if the Zeitgeist name was changed, the associations will be found by anyone who takes the time to track history. 911 is not taboo- nothing is taboo. If everyone simply didn't talk about ideas because they were afraid of what other's thought, society would be paralyzed...Changing the name of the Movement is the least of my concerns at this time."

English translation: the Zeitgeist movement is high publicity and a good recruiting tool, so they're better off keeping it rather than starting from scratch with a non-Truther-associated name.

It should be obvious to anyone reading this far what's going on here. Merola, who began his public life as a 9/11 Truther, had never heard of the Venus Project or Jacque Fresco before he started making movies. When he did hear about them, he latched on to them, and now the tail wags the dog. The Venus Project, which has been around for 35 years, has been virtually unknown until Merola came along with his Zeitgeist conspiracy movie. Now it has more visibility than it ever has in its existence, solely because of Merola's conspiracy film. Merola now has a delicate dance to do. Because the Venus Project is not ostensibly a conspiracy movement, he has to try to appeal to non-conspiracists who might agree with the goals the Venus Project espouses, while also placating the vast legions who've flocked to his banner precisely because they thought the Venus Project was a conspiracy movement.

What do Zeitgeisters themselves say about this apparent dichotomy? Here's what Brenton Eccles had to say on the Conspiracyscience forum:

"[E]very member is responsible for producing content. This is just Peter's content, and that's how in the long term (especially with others making films about The Venus Project) it will be I've also highlighted, regardless of whether the whole of ZI is wrong - the underlying philosophical (human value) implications still hold strong. Very strong. And that's what'll pull people in after watching that film."

Uhh, yeah. All of those conspiracy loons out there who lap up Zeitgeist with a spoon are going to say to themselves, "Yes, this film totally validates my paranoid world view, but I realize that it's just the personal opinion of that wacky Merola guy and has nothing whatsoever to do with the Zeitgeist Movement, which has the same name as this film, and who the producer/director of this film is the acknowledged leader of, and what I should really be getting out of this is the philosophical implications."

Actually they won't say "that wacky Merola guy" because Merola goes to considerable lengths to conceal his name. He calls himself "Peter Joseph," his first and middle names. Why does he conceal his last name? Hmm, maybe something to do with the fact that being one of the major public figures closely associated with 9/11 Trutherism and anti-religious conspiracy theories might have a depressing effect on one's future job prospects. Everybody who can surf the Internet can find "Peter Joseph" easily, but who the hell has ever heard of P.J. Merola? In fact I didn't even know that was "Peter Joseph's" real name until his true identity was exposed on this blog written by a former Zeitgeister who is now sharply critical of the movement that he considers a cult. When this blog came out the Zeitgeisters apparently did some quick damage control, hastily producing another Internet film--an extended interview with Merola--in which he deals with the name change business dismissively for about 10 seconds or so. Granted, I have published novels--fiction novels--under a pseudonym, Michael De Los Muertos, but I have never maintained publicly that that's my name; the whole thing was a satire on the black metal practice of creating scary-sounding pseudonyms. (Most of my books are published under my own name, Sean Munger). I have also never claimed to be the leader of a self-proclaimed Very Important Social Movement that seeks to revolutionize humanity. So why the desire for anonymity?

What is Merola's position in the Zeitgeist Movement, anyway? Is he their leader? Their high priest? Their guru? Despite his claims that "I am not the movement," Mr. Eccles certainly seems to think he is, remarking (again on the Conspiracyscience forum):

"[H]e's really serving as more of a director than a leader at this stage."

Leader, director, chairman...just a matter of semantics, no?

When approached about the factual errors and flat-out lies in Zeitgeist, Merola brushes them off. He has never once to anyone's knowledge acknowledged or corrected a factual error. Mr. Eccles, to his credit, does not try to defend the lunacy of the conspiracy theories in Zeitgeist. That doesn't mean he's done, though. Eccles, who I suspect (but do not know for sure) is speaking with some measure of official voice with input from others high-up in the Zeitgeist Movement, suggests that ooky conspiracy stuff be dealt with in the following manner:

"I certainly advocate showing it [Zeitgeist I] to conspiracy theorists, because, if you show them ZI and then follow with ZII you have an opportunity to reorient then away from those views as far as possible. So despite the huge problem of the first film, it can be (and has been by me) used in that way to move people away from caring about that nonsense."

That nonsense. Yeah, all that stuff that the movement's leader, Peter Merola, built his entire persona on. To my view this is an admission that the Zeitgeist Movement uses baseless conspiracy theories as bait to reel in the gullible. What I suspect happens less often than Eccles suggests, however, is the attempt to "move people away" from the beliefs that brought them into the movement in the first place. If reorienting conspiracy theorists is such a problem, why not stop baiting them in the first place, denounce the conspiracy theory in Zeitgeist: The Movie and Zeitgeist: Addendum and make it perfectly clear that the Venus Project is not a conspiracy movement? Well, you can see Merola's response to someone who suggested this, quoted above. He pretends it's not important enough to matter, as if he has more pressing things to do with his time...such as making a new conspiracy film that he admits will deal with 9/11 again and hit it even harder than he did in Zeitgeist: Addendum.

Just for the sake of argument, let's take these people at their word that the Zeitgeist Movement isn't really about conspiracy theories. What are they actually doing to foster their grand schemes of world utopia and computers designing our future for us? This is where it gets a little vague. I read the FAQ on the Zeitgeisters' web page--supposedly authored by Jacque Fresco ( and found it, in addition to being carelessly written to the point of cut-and-pasting the same material verbatim several times, long on abstractions and short on action. When pressed on how the Zeitgeist Movement is actually addressing particular specific problems in society, Eccles said this:

"With a systems approach to society. This is not something new from The Venus Project. Sciensits [sic], anthropologists talk about this again and again and again. And by continually asking 'how would they tackle specific problems' really makes me laugh."

Yeah, that whole idea-into-action thing is really humorous. Nothing to waste our time on there. Grand scheme to reinvent the planet and turn society upside down, but when you get down to brass tacks, the only thing they can really agree on is that posting on an Internet message board is a good thing. There is talk of raising money for a big-budget movie to promote the Venus Project but that's another species of "getting the word out."

So, let's sum up. We have a movement started by a conspiracy theorist, which really isn't about conspiracies; it's led by the same conspiracy theorist, who is reluctant to attach his real name to the movement he purports to lead, and he's not even a leader but a "director"; and when it comes to taking action other than posting on an Internet forum we're told that we have to take "a systems approach," whatever that means. If you don't know what "a systems approach" is, well, you better run out and join the Zeitgeist Movement...but just don't give people the impression that the Zeitgeist Movement is about conspiracy theories, because it's really about Jacque Fresco, or Peter Merola, or a systems approach, or computers ruling the world, or...damn, I'm getting a headache. If anyone can figure out what it is that these people actually do, please let me know.

Is anyone getting the impression that the Zeitgeist Movement, to the extent it's not about conspiracy theories (which it is), is mainly a vehicle for Peter Merola to achieve Internet fame and notoriety? And what of the poor long-suffering Jacque Fresco, who's been flogging the Venus Project whale since 1975, but who got nowhere until a 9/11 Truther made a movie and decided to include his philosophy in its tepid sequel--which, I might underscore again, was seen by 90% fewer people than the first film which didn't even mention the Venus Project?

I could go on all day about the disingenuousness of the Zeitgeist Movement, but I think I've made my point. They're a bunch of Truthers posting on an Internet message board, and that's pretty much all they'll be, despite their grand schemes of redesigning human society. In fact, the conspiracy theorizing is probably going to drag them down; I mean, who but the tinfoil hat crowd credits anything a Truther says? To the extent there are valid ideas within the Venus Project-and there more than likely are-they'll be pulled to the bottom of the dustbin of history by virtue of being chained to the cinder block of conspiracism. That's pretty unfortunate, but that's how it seems to be going.

Update 3/27/10.

I originally posted this blog, and got largely the push-back I expected-namely, a few Zeitgeisters shilling their movement, questioning my motives in posting this article, and uniformly asking the question that Zeitgeisters are instructed to ask to critics: "Well, how would you fix the problems of the world, then?" All but the most arrogant of us would shrug and say, "I don't know," which is then an entree to shill the Venus Project, the thinking being, "Well, if all you can do is tear us down and can't provide any ideas of your own, then why not try the Venus Project and the resource-based economy? It's a better solution than you can come up with." Scroll down and read the comments to this blog for an example of this tactic.

Since this blog was written, however, Peter Merola, the 9/11 Truther who is the de facto leader of the Zeitgeist Movement, has made some interesting statements regarding the goals of the movement and its relationship to conspiracy theories-exactly the topic this blog is about. One of the longtime posters at the Zeitgeist Movement's forum, a fellow known simply as Ed, has been a supporter of the non-conspiracy aspects of the Venus Project, but has also been extremely vocal about how the conspiracy aspects undermine the credibility of the Zeitgeist Movement and are ultimately counter-productive. Ed has criticized Zeitgeist: The Movie and pointed out its many factual errors, only to be attacked by other forum members, many of whom are 9/11 Truthers (as is Merola himself). Today Merola had enough and banned Ed. He posted this message in explanation:

"Ed- since you obviously have no interest in discussing ANYTHING but your disapproval of the 911 info in Z1, coupled with your neurotic obsession with making sure everyone who comes in contact with you endures your narrow declaration that Z1 is some huge blight for the movement(when, in fact, it is the core generator of interest- still- to this day for the movement), I have come to the conclusion that your interest in the movement is more undermining than anything else. You are not really interested in what we are doing. You are interested in being right in regard to your assumption that you know everything about 911 and that is that- awaiting any debate you can latch onto."

These are Peter Merola's exact words-you can see the exchange here, if it hasn't been wiped clean from the forums (if it has, go">here for a screenshot). The key words here are, and I will bold them for emphasis, "[Y]our neurotic obsession with...your narrow declaration that Z1 [Zeitgeist I, the film that most explicitly shills the conspiracy garbage] is some huge blight for the movement (when, in fact, it is the core generator of interest-still-to this day for the movement..."

Yes, "the core generator of interest." Merola admits that his conspiracy movie is what brings people into the movement, and is the most important thing that brings people into the movement. This is exactly what I'm arguing in this blog, and it has been confirmed by Peter Merola's own words. Therefore, no one can accuse me of misinterpreting his motives or of putting words in his mouth. He has confirmed exactly what this blog says.

The tenacity with which he clings to the 9/11 and other conspiracy theories, and specifically his utter refusal to repudiate them despite overwhelming evidence that they are false, can be interpreted in only one of two possible ways:

1. Mr. Merola believes that the theories are actually, factually true, in which case he is extremely misinformed, a poor scholar, a failure as a documentary filmmaker and/or largely disconnected from logic and reality, as most conspiracy theorists tend to be; or

2. Mr. Merola does not care whether his films are factually true or not, so long as they drive interest in his movement and generate membership to show up at meetings and post on his site.

Either way, there's a serious problem here, which can only lead a rational person to be extremely skeptical of the motives and efficacy of the Zeitgeist Movement and the Venus Project.

Update 2/10/11.

It's been almost a year since I posted this blog but it's still worth updating.

First, as many people are aware, the tragic shooting last month of Rep. Giffords and numerous others in Arizona by crazed madman Jared Lee Loughner brought some unwanted press attention on the Zeitgeist Movement. As it turns out, Loughner was heavily influenced by conspiracy-oriented programs-most notably Zeitgeist and Loose Change. In fact his former best friend stated that Loughner was virtually "obsessed" with Zeitgeist. Bizarrely, Zeitgeist Movement leader Peter Joseph Merola issued a statement threatening legal action against ABC News for reporting the Zeitgeist connection to Loughner.

This happened at the worst possible time for the Zeitgeist Movement, who have been trying to drum up support for their organization with-you guessed it-a new film, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward. It's a 2-hour, 41-minute commercial for the utopian ideology pushed by this movement, and in that sense isn't really anything new. Its release doesn't seem to have generated a lot of mainstream press interest (not surprising), so the Loughner connection will, unfortunately, probably remain Zeitgeist's claim to fame in the eyes of the mainstream media.

Brenton Eccles, mentioned prominently in the original blog and the updates, has gone back to the Zeitgeist Movement. After giving statements to the press that were highly negative of the Zeitgeist Movement, he quite suddenly recanted his past statements and tried to withdraw what he'd said to the press. Evidently he is now of the opinion that the Zeitgeist Movement is a worthwhile organization, and that the problems he had with them were his own fault.

Eccles is quoted in this article which characterizes the Zeitgeist Movement as an "Internet-based apocalyptic cult." His sudden change of heart is also referred to:

"At times, it even seems like the world's first Internet-based cult, with members who parrot the party line with cheerful, rote fidelity. In a phone conversation, Brenton Eccles, a former member from Melbourne, described how his involvement cut him off from reality. "It's very, very, very isolating," says Eccles, who was part of the communications team in the movement's Australia branch. "You're encouraged to kind of exit the real world. There's kind of this us-and-them attitude." A few days later, he sent me a document recanting most of his charges and claiming that his conflicts with the organization had in fact been his fault. This did not make it seem less cult-like."

The reasons for Brenton's abrupt about-face are unknown. It does indeed seem very bizarre.

In the last few months I've become a particular target of the Zeitgeist Movement. My name, for instance, appears on an "enemies list" compiled by the Movement's self-described official spokesperson; I've had blog posts and YouTube videos devoted to tearing down my arguments; and, most ominously, Merola himself recently mistook someone on YouTube for me and threatened that he was keeping a "file" on him (meaning me). The aggressive and reflexive push-back from Zeitgeisters has intensified in the last six months, and I'm by no means special.

Until recently I have resisted calling the Zeitgeist Movement a "cult," although I have said that I think it comes close. I'm now rethinking this position. Given the lengths they'll go to in order to silence their critics, the lockstep "rally around the cause" behavior of its adherents particularly with regard to criticism of their leader, and the creepy about-face by Brenton Eccles, I believe this organization has crossed the line into true cult territory. (There are cults that do not have the worship of a deity as their main tenet-many people, for instance, consider Amway/Quixtar to be a cult, and that's a business). I may write a future blog about this aspect, although it may take me a while to get around to it.

Anti-Hate Responses: Desteni's Deceptive Groupthink Ritual.

Author: Clock
Date: Aug 07, 2013 at 22:47

By Muertos

This blog continues my examination of Desteni, a cult that uses, among other things, conspiracy theories as a tool to attract and recruit new members. Desteni is a mostly Internet-based cult, and they have never been shy about taking on those who criticize them. Recently, however, Desteni's tactics have changed. They are now engaging in a ritual that they call "Anti-Hate Responses." Destonians characterize any criticism of their group or their ideology as "hate speech," so the very term "Anti-Hate Responses" is carefully constructed as a thought-terminating device.

The "Anti-Hate" cycle works like this. A video on YouTube critical of the cult is selected as the target. Members then make videos responding to, and trashing, the target video and posting the links on a topic on the Desteni web forums. (I might add that the Desteni forums were recently made almost exclusively members-only, after an embarrassing incident where their forum was hit by a porn spammer. However, there is still one part of the forum, "Introduction to Desteni," that is still public. The "Anti-Hate Responses" topics are posted in this publicly-viewable forum. What goes on behind this public forum is no longer visible to non-Desteni-affiliated Internet users).

What's interesting about the "Anti-Hate Response" ritual is what's missing from it. Due to the clampdown on Desteni's web forum, the manner in which the target videos are selected--and by whom--is kept carefully out of sight. We know nothing about who is choosing these videos, why, and how the selections are communicated to Destonians. In fact, the forum topics laying out the responses rarely link the target video directly, and none are posted on YouTube as video responses directly to the target. To me this suggests the "Anti-Hate Response" procedure has some sort of top-down coordination. If the "Anti-Hate Response" phenomenon was spontaneous and user-initiated, most likely you'd see these responses popping up all over the place and being done in all sorts of different ways. That's not the case. Indeed just by browsing the "Anti-Hate Response" section of the Desteni public forum, one gets the sense of a well-coordinated effort directed at churning out angry responses to critics in eerie lockstep with each other, which is the only way Destonians ever do anything.

Let's look briefly at a case study. One video that was selected as a target was created by a YouTube user called "TonyAteJesus" and was posted as a video response to one of the many videos in which Desteni spokesperson Sunette Spies pretends to channel various spirits through an "Interdimensional Portal." I picked this particular subject because the video TonyAteJesus was responding to is part of the conspiracist mythology of Desteni--it purportedly deals with the "Annunaki," which Destenians believe were reptilian extraterrestrials who exerted a large impact on humanity in ancient times. Actually the Annunaki were gods believed in by the ancient Sumerians, but the identification of Annunaki as reptilian aliens in Desteni mythology intentionally dovetails with the widely-known views of British conspiracy theorist David Icke who maintains that the world is still secretly run by reptilian aliens ("reptoids") who shape-shift into human form. It appears that many Destenians believe in the conspiracy theories of David Icke, or similar variants of these theories. Desteni cult leader Bernard Poolman obviously does, as he has warned Desteni members about "reptilian sleeper cells."

In any event, in his video TonyAteJesus posits, quite reasonably, that Desteni's interpretation of Sumerian mythology is completely false, and states that intellectuals who are knowledgeable about this subject would find Desteni's take on it to be ridiculous. He also states that Ms. Spies is acting and there's no such thing as an "interdimensional portal." Interestingly, this video was posted almost three years ago and is the only video this user has ever made.

You can see three representative responses to this video. One user takes a philosophical approach, speaking about the "key to truly understand us." Another Destonian goes after TonyAteJesus with both barrels blazing, flinging insults not only at him but at intellectuals in general, insisting that historical knowledge of Sumerian mythology is totally irrelevant. Another cult member obliquely reinforces the reptilian conspiracy theory by stating, "You are clinging to your constructed identity," playing into the old conspiracy theorist trope that what we know to be reality is a false construct created by conspiratorial powers. She even employs two age-old catch phrases of conspiracy theorists, that being "why haven't you proposed a solution?" (meaning a solution to all the world's problems), and the ubiquitous "Wake up!"

All three responses, and the others I sampled, make the same claim that the creator of the target video doesn't really understand Desteni and hasn't researched it well enough. This is a very common tactic used against Desteni critics and one that appears in almost every "Anti-Hate Response" I watched in one form or another. The argument is silly because this cult has literally thousands of hours of YouTube videos out there, which altogether spin a dense web of often self-contradictory material. A person could spend a lifetime watching nothing but Desteni videos. If one chooses not to do that, he or she is vulnerable to attack by the cult for "not having researched it well enough."

After sampling a broad range of "Anti-Hate Responses," I believe that these videos are not really aimed at Desteni's critics. Nor do I believe they are intended to sway fence-sitters or potential recruits to discredit voices warning them against getting involved with the cult. Instead, I suspect that at least one motivation behind the "Anti-Hate Response" ritual is to shore up Desteni members' own beliefs about the cult, to reinforce the "us vs. them" mentality that Desteni is the only proper way to think and act, and to serve as a vehicle by which Desteni members can demonstrate, to themselves and each other, how devoted they really are to the group and its ideology.

In this sense the "Anti-Hate Responses" are a form of group-think, as well as a means of control by the Desteni higher-ups. We already know that Desteni encourages its members to confess publicly on the Internet everything they've ever done wrong in their lives, in the guise of "self-forgiveness." Encouraging "Anti-Hate Responses" is merely another way for the cult to ensure that its members do what is expected of them. When prompted by a target video, they dutifully take to YouTube to sing the cult's praises and trash its critics, thus demonstrating how well they've absorbed and internalized the teachings of the group, and how willing they are to let the world see it. That it does double duty as damage control and broadsides against the critics is merely a fringe benefit.

The more I investigate Desteni, the more astounded I am at the tremendous sway that this group and its leaders have over the members. Each aspect of the cult's public persona, from the "Desteni I Process" financial scam to the skillful deployment of footsoldiers on YouTube to crush dissent against the group, seems to be carefully engineered to reinforce the cult's authoritative and xenophobic structure. The "Anti-Hate Responses" are merely another facet of this same tendency, and one that seems particularly disingenuous. It's not really about the critics at all. It's about how far Destenonians will go to to appease their leaders.

Thanks for reading.

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