"Zeitgeist," the Conspiracy Film That Possibly Inspired Loughner

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 13 2011 11:20 AM

"Zeitgeist," the Conspiracy Film That Possibly Inspired Loughner

Robert Stacy McCain has been flooding the zone about "Zeitgeist." According to Roxanne and George Osler, it was one of the conspiracy documentaries that influenced Jared Lee Loughner. It's online, of course. Here's a full version ; a version with some audio removed has more than 2 million views on YouTube.

What's it about? Lucky for us, the New York Times attended a 2009 "Z-Day" party where the movie was screened for joyous fans, including Jacque Fresco, whose essays inspired the movie.

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If the election of Barack Obama was supposed to denote the gradual demise of churlish, corporate governance and usher in a new, sustainable era of visionary change, there was little sign of it at the second annual meeting of the Worldwide Zeitgeist Movement, which, its organizers said, held 450 sister events in 70 countries around the globe.

"The mission of the movement is the application of the scientific method for social change," Mr. Joseph announced by way of introduction. The evening, which began at 7 with a two-hour critique of monetary economics, became by midnight a utopian presentation of a money-free and computer-driven vision of the future, a wholesale reimagination of civilization, as if Karl Marx and Carl Sagan had hired John Lennon from his "Imagine" days to do no less than redesign the underlying structures of planetary life.

In other words, a not entirely inappropriate response to the zeitgeist itself, which one young man, a philosophy student in a roomy purple blazer, described before the show began as "the world as we know it coming to an end." As the evening labored on with a Power Point presentation, a panel talk with Mr. Fresco and a spirited question and answer session, some basic themes emerged: modern economics is a fraud; global debt will crush the planet; society itself is dying from the profit motive; and people ought to wise up to the fact that more than legislation — or presidential administrations — needs to change.

The feature-length conspiracy movie has been with us for a while, but it has only recently become omnipresent. "Loose Change," another favorite film of Loughner's, is a frequently re-edited, celebrity-approved document of "9/11 Truther" thinking, and it's free on Google Video for anyone who wants it.

Is either film "left-wing"? They're better described as "fringe," if you ask me. I've been at Republican and Democratic events where 9/11 Truth activists pitched their stuff, often coming away thinking they had converts. The newfound popularity of Ron Paul has convinced some people that utopian obsession with currency is a "right" tendency, but it's really just fringe.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.