February 3, 2011

AS IF THERE WAS A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO WINGS:

Brave New World: The Zeitgeist movement is the first Internet-based apocalyptic cult, centered around a doomsday-proclaiming film and an ideology filled with classic anti-Semitic tropes (Michelle Goldberg | Feb 2, 2011, Tablet)

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward is silly enough that at times I suspected it was all a put-on, a sly satire about new-age techno-utopianism instead of an example of it. But to hundreds of thousands of people worldwide, the Zeitgeist movement is entirely serious. 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.

There are lots of strange things about the Zeitgeist phenomenon, but strangest is how it got started. It’s a global organization devoted to a kind of sci-fi planetary communism, but it was sparked by a 2007 documentary steeped in far-right, isolationist, and covertly anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. The first Zeitgeist documentary borrowed from the work of Eustace Mullins, Lyndon LaRouche, and conspiracy-mad Austin radio host Alex Jones to rail against the cabal of international bankers that purportedly rules the world. It was this documentary that reportedly obsessed Jared L. Loughner, the disturbed young man who allegedly shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords.

Since the shooting, conservatives have latched on to the Zeitgeist movement’s new-age side to argue that Loughner hailed from the left. Others, myself included, have pointed out that the original Zeitgeist film is full of fringe right-wing ideas that have migrated toward the mainstream via the Tea Party. Zeitgeist warns, for example, that the United States could soon be subsumed into a North American Union as a precursor to the establishment of totalitarian one-world government. Members of the Zeitgeist movement, not surprisingly, reject any connection between the shooting and their ideology, even as some of them welcome the new attention that it has brought their ideas. “It’s ultimately a positive thing,” says Keith Embler, the earnest aspiring actor who co-chairs the New York chapter. “It’s press. And”—with the third documentary just released—“the timing couldn’t be better.”

Meanwhile, the evolution of the movement itself remains obscure. How did a modern gloss on The Protocols of the Elders of Zion inspire a global organization of wide-eyed technophile environmentalists? What is the Zeitgeist movement?

Enhanced by Zemanta
Posted by Orrin Judd at February 3, 2011 6:25 AM
blog comments powered by Disqus
« DEFINE THE CONTRIBUTION NOT THE BENEFIT: | Main | THEY'LL HASVE TO PROVE THEMSELVES AT THE POLLS, LIKE EVERYONE ELSE: »