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"Zeitgeist", the movie, debunked (part 2)

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This is the second part of the review. The first part is here:

http://florin.myip.org/blog/zeitgeist-movie-debunked-part-1

The 9/11 thing

Ah, yes, the 9/11 conspiracy theory. Essentially, in the second part, called "All the world's a stage", the movie claims the events on September 11 2001 were an inside job, staged and directed by elements within or affiliated to the US government.

This topic has been beaten to death all over the Internet. It is not the stated mission of this essay to deal with this subject - if anything is real regarding these theories, it's a matter of high secrecy and there's probably not much I (or you, for that matter) can do. If you're interested to read more about this subject, here's some material - it's a lot more than what the movie mentions, with plenty of references.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/9/11_conspiracy_theories

As for my opinion: I don't really have one. I do incline, somewhat, toward rejecting the conspiracy theories, merely because executing something like this, on such a big scale, without any whisper leaking out, seems quite improbable. I'm not saying it's impossible. Also, I think there were plenty of elements, within or associated with the administration at that time, who were 100% capable of contemplating such an operation and finding nothing wrong with it. But from thought to action the road is sometimes long and arduous. Being capable of, or even inclined to, doing something does not imply being responsible for it.

Only time will tell. Probably.

Of money and evil

Part three, "Don't mind the men behind the curtain". The claim here is that the biggest bankers are the real power brokers in the world, with the politicians as mere talking heads to create an illusion.

Finance and economy are not really my strong points - if I do have any such things, you've seen them already at work deconstructing the misinformation in the first part of the movie regarding mythology. But anyway, I was watching the third part and I had the feeling that the author talks about fiat currency, credit and debt and somehow magically calls all of them "debt", merely because it sounds scary. I am under the impression that finance is significantly more complex than that. I could be wrong, of course, since I'm not a trained professional in this field. But, then again, neither is the movie's author.

Of recessions and depressions

Allegedly, there was a "conspiracy" by major bankers at the beginning of the 20th century to create an economic crisis to further their own interests. The movie doesn't even mention the name of that event, but I'll spell it out for you since the author or authors can't be bothered to: it's called The Panic of 1907.

According to the movie, one of the main architects of the event was J.P. Morgan. This criticism is mainstream indeed, "Zeitgeist" is not alone in attributing Morgan part of the blame. What the movie fails to mention is that, also, Morgan is seen as one of the people who averted the crisis and worked to fix a very messy situation. This is not okay - if you're talking about a controversial topic, please present both sides of the story. Otherwise you're getting high points for partisanship but not much for anything else.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panic_of_1907

Also, the movie doesn't fail to make a point that the Great Depression itself was caused by the bankers. This, too, is not an opinion unheard of. The trouble is when you attribute to malice what can be explained very well by plain old ignorance.

The educated, mainstream explanations are much more complex and nuanced. While there is no consensus, the most common schools of thought are somewhere in between "natural effect of past policies" and "cluelessness of the financial institutions at that time." Here's a list of the more common theories:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_the_Great_Depression

It's funny, though, how the image of "shadow overlords" that the movie tries to create for the major players in the financial field is nowadays contradicted by the current events (I'm writing this in March 2009) - look at all the banks that are failing now, waiting to be rescued like beached whales gasping for water. Not so omnipotent after all, are they?

And yes, I am aware that the crisis we're facing nowadays is said to be caused by the banks too. But there's a difference between world conspiracy, and plain old individual greed, shameless and lacking any trace of scruples. I'll get back to this idea below, when I'll talk about conspiracy theories in general.

McFadden

The movie quotes at some point one Louis McFadden, politician in the 1920s and '30s. His claim was that the Depression was created by "international bankers". The conspiracy theorists love this case, because apparently McFadden had made many enemies, enough so that there were several attempts at his life. Was that the long hand of the financial tycoons, or is the explanation more mundane? Hard to tell.

In any case, it does not help the movie's cause that McFadden was anti-jewish and pro-Hitler. Not exactly the kind of source you want to quote in polite company. But this is just one more example in a long sequence of bad sources for this movie - I have dedicated an entire chapter below to this problem.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_Thomas_McFadden

The almighty income tax

Finally, the movie claims the income tax is "unconstitutional".

Um... Okay, I can be pretty verbose sometimes (as you can surely tell from the length of this essay), but there are situations when, facing absurd blatant nonsense, words seem to betray me. This whole issue is such an imbecile technicality, I don't really have anything to say. If you want to educate yourself, fine, here's a truckload of material, merry Christmas, have at it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_protester_arguments
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_protester_constitutional_arguments
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tax_protester_Sixteenth_Amendment_arguments

If there was any real basis, don't you think there would be a whole lot more noise surrounding this issue, more anyway than two conspiracy theorists and three run-of-the-mill lunatics chatting on a mailing list? Jesus Christ, there's far-fetched, there's downright moronic, and then there's this.

So many flags, all false

Next up: false flag operations.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_flag

This is an old concept. There's a good chance that even the Great Fire of Rome, back in the time of emperor Nero, was in fact a false flag operation - Nero was just crazy enough to do it. Whether the fire was actually started by Nero or not, it cannot be demonstrated today beyond doubt. But there's no doubt that the Roman administration did its best to put the blame for the fire on the shoulders of this new inconvenient religious sect, which they wanted to destroy, called Christians. The public swallowed it hook, line and sinker - and so that guy, Peter the Apostle, one of the leaders of this novel religion, was caught and crucified upside down. That'll teach them to refuse to worship the emperor!

So apparently this false flag stratagem is as old as civilization, or maybe older. The movie's point is that America got involved in all its recent wars through false flag operations. All, without exception. Well, I have a problem with that. One, maybe two, okay, I can believe it. But every single war?

World War I

They say the US got dragged into World War I in order to satisfy the interests of (guess who) financial tycoons who stood to profit from this involvement, and the alleged false flag operation which did it was the sinking of the ocean liner Lusitania in 1915, with 2000 people aboard, by the German U-boats.

The reality seems to be quite a bit different. It looks like Lusitania was attacked and destroyed due to the recklessness of its new captain, a bit similar to the catastrophe of the Titanic (what, just a bit of ice floating by? no matter, full steam ahead!). There seem to be no mainstream sources alleging anything close to a false flag operation in this case - only conspiracy theorists.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RMS_Lusitania

World War II

On to World War II and Pearl Harbor, of course. The claim is that the attack on Pearl Harbor was either engineered by the US ("baiting" Japan into it), or known in advance but not acted upon. Here the controversy is more voluminous, if not more substantial. The movie barely makes a dent in the variety of arguments brought on both sides.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pearl_Harbor_advance-knowledge_debate

Was Pearl Harbor staged or somehow permitted by the US military and government? I incline to answer in the negative, although I would not rule out the other reply completely. In any case, keep in mind this: at that time Hitler was already a big and pretty obvious threat. It is unlikely that any government would have needed to stage a false flag attack to convince its citizens to get up and defend themselves.

Also, there's always the sad and embarassing truth that failure to act due to incompetence or plain old sloth is a pill very bitter and hard to swallow. So, let's say I make a pretty serious blunder, something monumental in its sheer stupidity - what do you think is easier for me to admit: that I was just too lazy to act even though I knew it was coming (or even worse, too dumb to even know something was being cooked up for me), or that somehow the whole Universe conspired against me and mysteriously made me fall flat on my face, no responsibility on my part required? You don't have to be an expert psychologist to tell the answer. I'd rather invent massive conspiracies than admit such a huge mistake.

To support the "Pearl Harbor as a false flag operation" hypothesis, the movie quotes Charles Lindbergh (yes, the aviator) who, in a speech, said that America "could be enticed into" WW2. Again, this is one of the many bad sources and references that the movie is leaning on.

If you do a bit of digging through various references, you find out quickly the quote is from Lindbergh's September 11 1941 speech at the America First rally in Des Moines. Pearl Harbor took place on December 7 the same year, almost 3 months later, so he was not talking about an actual event during that speech, he was just agitating the spirits. The movie is misleading in the way it presents the facts.

One might say that Lindbergh was prescient. In reality, by today's standards, his political views were somewhere in between oddball and simply insane: almost a Nazi sympathizer but steering very short of actually supporting them, almost anti-Jewish but narrowly escaping the accusation, advocate of eugenics (castrate the "inferior" people, encourage the reproduction of the "superior" ones), promoter of Nordicism (people from the North are racially "superior"), it goes on and on and on. Wow! And this is the guy you're bringing in as witness, "Zeitgeist"? Scraping the bottom, are we?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Lindbergh#Political_allegations_against_Lindbergh

Ironically and unfortunately for "Zeitgeist", after Pearl Harbor Lindbergh changed his opinion and abandoned his non-interventionist views, and fully supported the war effort. But the movie makes no mention of that. How convenient.

Again unfortunately, at the same rally in Des Moines, Lindbergh claimed the three groups "pressing this country toward war [are] the British, the Jewish and the Roosevelt Administration." Oh, the irony. A couple minutes later, the movie brings nobody else but Roosevelt himself as witness against the financial tycoons, quoting: "a financial element [...] has owned the government since the days of Andrew Jackson."

Well, "Zeitgeist", your own witnesses seem to not like each other very much, and internecine accusations are rife in your own camp. How about you clean up your own act before pointing fingers at others, huh?

Anyway, moving forward. The movie doesn't fail to mention how some big bankers allegedly financed Hitler at the beginning of his career. Prescott Bush (the father of George H. W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush) is, of course, brought to attention, the claim being that he was involved in operations which ultimately gave (through Nazi industrialist Fritz Thyssen) financial support to Hitler in the '30s.

Well, duh. In the '30s I'm sure there were plenty of bankers who were happy to do business with Germany. After all, under the Nazi regime, the country was rapidly building its military, so no doubt plenty of cash was being routed across its borders. But is that a proof that the financial giants are somehow inherently evil? Far from it. In fact, well into the late '30s, Hitler was still not necessarily seen as a bad guy by everyone. As late as 1938, the British prime minister Neville Chamberlain was still thinking it was possible to negotiate with Hitler. Sure, Chamberlain is now seen as naive, but hindsight is such a great thing to possess and leisurely enjoy, isn't it? Mmm-mmm, hindsight, yum.

By the way, for what it's worth, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement in 2003 aiming to clear Prescott Bush of involvement with the Nazis. I can't say I'm a big fan of Bush The Second, but that doesn't automatically make his grandpa a Hitler sympathizer.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prescott_Bush#Bush_and_the_Union_Banking_Corporation

Vietnam

Then it goes on and on. The Vietnam War was triggered by the Gulf of Tonkin Incident which, again, is claimed to have been a false flag operation. Was it, really? Or was it a series of initially honest reporting mistakes, quickly followed by a flurry of cover-your-ass "corrections"? Or did it happen literally as reported? Hard to tell.

Of all the alleged false flag operations discussed in the movie, in my opinion this one seems to have the highest chance to be indeed an "engineered" event. But to extend this allegation to everything else is unjustified and downright irrational. Yes, that was a pointless war. But do you need to watch "Zeitgeist" to realize it?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gulf_of_Tonkin_Incident

And of course the authors go full circle and allege, again, that 9/11 was a false flag operation too. And then they mention the burning of the Reichstag in 1933 by Nazi operatives as yet another example of a false flag operation - at least this one is quite likely true, the Nazis probably did it and Hitler's political career took a great leap forward after the event.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reichstag_fire

But that's the movie's over-arching theme: wild allegations and bad sources. And it doesn't stop here.

Of modern media and other scary things

LaRouche

The next sequence in the movie begins with a talk by someone called Lyndon LaRouche. He speaks about various methods used by powerful nations to destabilize governments in parts of the world they want to control, various manipulation techniques used to exert covert power over those regions, and so forth. Now, again, this is not something new. If "Zeitgeist" was the first place where you've seen these things mentioned, you probably have quite a bit of catching-up to do. The CIA, the Mossad, the KGB, have used these techniques so many times, they have ceased to be secret - and even before the modern age, it is conceivable that similar things have been done in past ages, using the methods available at those times. So this is not really something shocking or something new.

What is grating about it is the fact that the movie uses LaRouche as a reliable witness. Google him up, and it's like turning a rock over: suddenly, cockroaches start squirming all over the place. This individual is anti-semite, covert fascist and, no surprise here, conspiracy theorist. He claims to be the real originator of the SDI (the Strategic Defense Initiative, the anti-missile project under Ronald Reagan dubbed "Star Wars") - no mention of the real drivers of the project, Lt. Gen. Daniel Graham and the renowned scientist, and father of the hydrogen bomb, Dr. Edward Teller. LaRouche did some years in jail for tax evasion, and then him and his attorney started a campaign saying that his imprisonment was a "conspiracy" by government officials to discredit and destroy LaRouche and "brainwash" the population.

It's all very surreal, until you learn that he was bullied and isolated in school - well, that explains it, he looks then very much like the mad scientist from Batman, except without superpowers or death rays.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lyndon_Larouche

That's someone who the movie presents, keeping a straight face, as a reliable source of information. Sigh.

Too much TV

The movie then mentions the very real phenomenon of media saturation - TV and all the information channels can inform, but can also brainwash. This is true, a TV channel is only as good or as impartial as its owners, and TV in general is a very poor channel for aquiring information. But look at it this way: even if there is a conspiracy to brainwash you through the 'tube, the only person responsible for its existence is you. Nobody forces you to grab the remote and turn the screen on. Nobody forces you to spend 4 or 5 or 6 hours daily in front of the TV like a vegetable... erm... I mean like the average person in the western world. If TV is your main view to the Universe, you definitely deserve whatever you get in the process.

There are much better ways to stay informed nowadays. Just look at the variety of news aggregators on the Internet - not impartial per se, but closing in on impartiality just because of the law of the averages: when you combine so many different sources, the extremes are bound to cancel each other out. And there's always the good old alternative of reading a book, a time-tested method to eliminate ignorance and promote critical thinking. You know, when even the president of the U. S. of A. tells you to turn off that TV and read a book, either by yourself or to your kids, well, there might be something to this book reading thing after all.

So, "Zeitgeist", what's your point? You're saying the TV makes us dumb? But we know that already. Those who didn't know it are those who probably have spent already too much time in front of the "dumbificator" and now may be quite a ways beyond salvation. So who are you talking to actually?

New World Order

Predictably, the movie then attacks the alleged issues of the "North American Union", the Amero, and the One World Government. Again and again, the authors are not original. This is a conspiracy theory at least hundreds of years old, which resurfaces here and there periodically. It is the idea that there is some sort of conspiracy at the highest levels of power to dominate large parts of the world, or the entire world perhaps, for the purpose of more easily enslaving and controling the population. It's the "powerful people want more power" slogan - basically true, but deceptive when unjustifiably extrapolated.

The earliest signs of this collective delusion that I can identify go back to the early 1600s and the "Fama Fraternitatis" manifestos, which were the equivalent of a today's wildly optimistic sci-fi novel, but back then were taken seriously by quite a few smart people and triggered the so-called Rosicrucianism. Many readers only paid attention to the alleged technology and knowledge vaguely alluded to in "Fama", believed it was real, and made all attempts to aquire that knowledge, hoping to put it to some lucrative use, or perhaps hoping to achieve power. That stock of ideas got mixed with the Knights Templar myth and absorbed into today's Freemasonry.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rosicrucianism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freemasonry

The Illuminati of Bavaria in the 1700s, the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" in the early 1900s, all these belong to the same category. It's the thought that somewhere, some very powerful people, perhaps possessing some "occult" power, work in secrecy to enslave and rule the whole world. Over and over again, this myth resurfaces in new forms, Rosicrucians here, Illuminati there, Synarchy over there, always covertly operating, but never quite achieving palpable or visible results in the real world.

North American Union? Lots of chatter on conspiracy-theory-oriented websites, but nothing concrete so far. Amero? (the supposedly unified currency of the alleged N.A. Union, modeled after the Euro) Well, there's this guy who claims to show "genuine amero bills" as proof that the conspiracy is real; it turns out, they were photoshopped by another guy on Flickr.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_American_currency_union
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_World_Order_(conspiracy)
http://www.snopes.com/politics/business/amerocoin.asp
http://www.snopes.com/politics/immigration/nau.asp

Pffft. This is just lame.

Here's my take. On one hand, I think all these conspiracy theories are pure bullshit. On the other hand, I do think the world is moving toward ever-increasing unification. There's a World Federation waiting for us a few generations in the future; it's either that, or back to the Stone Age (or a radioactive desert). The national and cultural egos in the contemporary world are just too big and too nasty and too toxic to be compatible with the survival of our species over a long time. So we either recognize our fundamental unity as a species, or we perish.

The One World government presented as an evil conspiracy is the product of troubled minds on the fringes of both the political left and the right - the extremes are both pathologically afraid of this idea, for reasons apparently different but ultimately surprisingly similar. The extreme left anarchist is intrinsically afraid of any sort of law and order, so by extension a World Government I guess is pretty frightening - they would rather live in a village in the woods and grow pot (yes, I am stereotyping, thank you), no law at all. The extreme right, very likely American supremacist in secret if not openly, is afraid of anything that may threaten America's status as the most powerful country in the world - becoming part of a planetary federation is seen as a fall back into mediocrity. Different causes, same compelling instinct: fear.

So, I think it will happen, but not as some sort of nefarious conspiracy, but purely as the result of a growing awareness and understanding. Just extrapolate the recent past and current tendencies: Germany used to be a motley collection of tiny states for hundreds of years, no more; India used to be the same kind of fractured country, not anymore. Europe is already a federation. There are talks of a pan-African union modeled after Europe, and a South American one too, and no doubt Asia is mulling similar thoughts, and one day all these things may just happen.

I think the world is slowly coalescing not as a giant blob under a single government, the One World boogeyman, but perhaps a federation, maybe following the EU example - by small hesitant steps it moves, but irresistibly. Maybe. I guess we'll see, if we survive to that point.

RFID

Right, of course they had to mention the RFID chips scare. This is another oldie but goodie, and this time it goes back to John the Apostle and the book of Apocalypse and the number of the Beast, 666. "He also forced everyone, small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of his name." (Rev, 13:16-17) This is another very pervasive and very persistent myth of the Western world. Too bad there isn't much to support it, other than a few lines in the Bible and a bazillion metric tons of wildly imaginative commentary on top of it.

Look, shortly before 1000 A.D. people thought the world was going to end. Many renounced their fortunes, gave everything to the poor, gathered in churches on the new year's eve and waited for the celestial trumpets to break the silence. Midnight came and went, and the silence lay unbroken, except for the occasional crickets chirping.

Nowadays, since that other myth was busted, people with a need to be scared of something are frantically looking for a replacement, and the whole 666 affair is so convenient, because it provides a concrete idea to hold on to (it's a number, now go search for it everywhere) and because it appears similar to the techniques of electronic identification in the modern world. Maybe it's a tatoo, maybe a bar code, maybe an RFID chip implanted under the skin, we don't know, this Beast fellow is pretty deceptive, we better keep our eyes open.

And once again, the future is going to give these people a good scare by seemingly confirming their fears. See that smartphone-slash-computer you're wearing, hanging on your belt? It's not going to stay there for too long; give it a few decades and it's going to become miniaturized and much smarter and more powerful, and is going to live as an implant inside your skull, or your arm. No, it's not an evil plot by the Beast, or the Illuminati or Synarchy, or the nefarious financial tycoons, it's something else called Progress. It will happen, and it's not going to be the first time that Progress will march forward claiming a religious belief or myth or a conspiracy theory as a victim under its boots.

Are there any valid, rational concerns regarding the chip implants? Sure, privacy being probably number one. These things will need to be executed very well, or they will give away too much information about ourselves. On the other hand, privacy looks more and more as a thing of the past - if you do any purchases and banking online, your privacy is largely gone already. Maybe this is a topic that merits a separate analysis, and maybe I'll do it, if I find enough time.

You're only as good as your references

From a 10 km perspective, and perhaps at a much closer view too, this movie's biggest problem is its sources and references. When you're researching a topic, it does happen that you unwittingly throw a few bad apples in the basket, along with the good ones. But a few bad apples is one thing, while a whole swimming-pool-sized mudfest of errors and distortions is another, and "Zeitgeist" is taking the latter path.

Already we have mentioned Gerald Massey, Lyndon LaRouche, Louis McFadden and Charles Lindbergh. Let's see who the others are.

Chogyam Trungpa

The movie opens with a discourse by Chogyam Trungpa. On one hand, this is a rather famous Buddhist scholar who lived in the Occident in the 20th century, pretty important figure for the cultural dialogue between East and West, author of books, commentaries, poems, and also a guru.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chogyam_Trungpa

On the other hand, it's hard to find a more controversial figure in this field. Throughout his entire adult life he was a heavy drinker, and died exhausted, of heart failure caused by alcohol, at the age of 48. During his latter years was crippled by partial paralysis after speeding and crashing a sports car under the influence. While being appointed by the Dalai Lama as a spiritual advisor at a school for young monks, he had a child with a nun. He married another woman disciple when she was at the age of 16. Many times his sermons faded out mid-course and he was carried off-stage for being too drunk to talk coherently.

Astute observers familiar with Tibetan Buddhism may observe these are not unusual features of some Tantric gurus, and perhaps the remark is not entirely unjustified - Tantra has a peculiar definition for "freedom" and some of the followers of this doctrine were and are known for their eccentric behavior, as if the normal rules did not apply to them.

But it's one thing to live the life of Marpa the Translator, one of the most important scholars at the time when Buddhism was being "imported" by Tibet from India, and also the guru of Milarepa (major figure in the Tibetan spirituality, founder of a large monastic order, comparable with St. Francis in the West), and so live in a place that could accept and indeed understand (as strange as that may sound to us) such behaviour and integrate it with its mainstream culture. And it's an entirely different thing to pretend to be Marpa and live in a very different culture, in a very different time and place.

In the 11th century Tibet, Chogyam Trungpa would have been a revered guru. In the 20th century West, he was an alcohol addict with a messianic complex. And this movie is quoting him as a reliable authority. Wow.

Jordan Maxwell

Jordan Maxwell appears several times during the movie, directly or implied, so much so that the whole thing seems, to an extent, a vehicle for advertising his ideas. And after briefly reading a few pages on his website, those appear to be curious ideas indeed.

http://www.jordanmaxwell.com/

But first, let me make an observation, in case you haven't visited his website yet. Believe it or not, in this day and age, a website sporting a black background with a blinking starfield, achieved through the awesome power of animated GIF images, is sooo last century. I'm looking at it and - lo and behold - it's 1995, Clinton is a faithful husband, Lady Di is alive, the space shuttle Columbia is still flying, it's deja-vu all over again. But enough about the form, let's see the substance, if any.

Reading the Links section on his site, we find such fascinating things as a document called "How To Legally Avoid Unwanted Immunizations Of All Kinds". When vaccination conspiracy theory nutjobs are jacking up the risk for diseases long gone to reappear in the US because they refuse to immunize themselves and their children (see this LA Times article), Jordan Maxwell is fanning the fire. That's just great.

He seems to believe also that the water-powered engine (yes, an engine that runs on pure water and nothing else) is a genuine invention, and people such as Paul Pantone and Stanley Meyer (self-styled "water engine inventors") are veritable scientists, rather than cranks or con artists, and are "persecuted" by the government, rather than institutionalized for mental health problems. And it goes on and on, just peruse the aforementioned Links section.

The original conspiracy theorist, if there ever was one. A major source of "information" for this movie. Wonderful.

Sri Chinmoy

During the final minutes, the movie inserts a quote from Sri Chinmoy: "When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace." Nice saying, uplifting message. But why, oh why, does it have to come from Sri Chinmoy?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sri_Chinmoy

This was an indian guru who in the '60s, at the age of 33, went to the US and had many disciples. He spoke passionately about religious tolerance and love. And at some point he sort of went berserk.

This is a guy who, at a pretty old age, claimed being able to lift extraordinary weights, culminating with the alleged lift of 7,000 lb (seven thousand pounds, or 3175 kg) with one arm. He had the famous musicians Carlos Santana and John McLaughlin as disciples, but they left him, and Santana said later that Sri Chinmoy was "vindictive". Has been accused by a number of former followers of sexual misconduct. And at some point started touring the world, claiming to transmit a "soulful message" through music.

I've been to one of his "concerts". Now, look, I am not a stranger to religious, spiritual and psychedelic music. I grew up Orthodox Christian and I am familiar with Gregorian chants. I have assisted to live performances of genuine Indian religious music (bhajan) and I've been deeply moved by it. I am somewhat familiar with the practice of chanting mantras. The trance-inducing experiments of abstract musicians such as Klaus Schulze, believe it or not, are one of my favourite forms of music. And then I've found myself listening to this guy.

As opposed to about 50% of the audience who left the hall before the end, I actually tried hard to "get it" and struggled through to the final note. He would grab an instrument, fiddle with it, emit a series of sounds, put it down, pick up another one, and then do the whole excruciating procedure all over again. There was no music, and I'm not going to add "that I could perceive", because there was no music, period. There was no hypnotic mantra-like repetition. There were no brilliant fractal intricate progressions as conceived by Schulze and, long before him, J.S. Bach. There was only this old guy, probably in a state of trance (I'll give him that much), trying to put some musical instruments to work but having no idea how it's actually done.

And this is the brilliant spiritual master that the movie is quoting. Sigh. I should rest my case right here and now.

And so on

It's probably a waste of time to keep digging through the names listed in the final credits, so I'll keep it brief.

There's one John Allegro who claimed that psychedelic mushrooms were a major factor in the creation of the Christian religion - essentially saying that a bunch of guys in Oriental robes, sitting on the shore of the Dead Sea, ate a whole lot of 'shrooms, tripped their brains out and made up the whole thing.

Okay... Now, look, they may both be semi-deserts, but still the Dead Sea area and California are quite a ways apart, and while the latter's fungi and cacti indeed make you see pink elephants and enjoy Grateful Dead, the former's bad mushrooms actually just straight out kill you. Kids, if you're reading this, heed my advice - don't eat weird mushrooms from the Old World. If you do, you won't have a chat with St. Timothy Leary in the seventh heaven, you'll be dead.

It goes on and on, the gift that keeps giving. Having overwhelmingly made my point, I am going to turn the spigot off at this point.

The few good ones

Give credit where credit is due, I've been taught, and that's what I will do. The movie does mention a few good and prominent names on the credits, and I'll pass the information on.

For once, there's Carl Sagan, astronomer and popularizer of science. He is the scientist who has determined that Venus is an ultrahot, high-pressure environment completely incompatible with life as we know it. His TV series "Cosmos" has reached hundreds of millions of people and inspired many. His book "Contact" is a great science-fiction literature novel, a work of extraordinary vision and imagination (one of my favourites). I wonder what is the movie giving him credit for, since Sagan remains a model of scepticism and rationality, while the movie goes in the opposite direction.

Then there's Joseph Campbell, mythologist and writer, known for his work in the fields of comparative mythology and comparative religion. Do read his books, they're illuminating.

Then there's Sir James Frazer, social anthropologist, writer of "The Golden Bough", seminal work that opened and paved the way for Campbell, Eliade and others. Read that book; put the "Zeitgeist" DVD down and read the book. Read Eliade's books too. It's like a detox diet after the "Zeitgeist" junk food.

So, yes, the movie does quote a few good authors, but the amount of bad stuff is so overwhelming, the well is forever poisoned. It's not just the one proverbial bad apple, it's more like a few good ones in a barrel full of rot.

Let's move on.

The third part of the review is here:

http://florin.myip.org/blog/zeitgeist-movie-debunked-part-3