Zeitgeist review

Zeitgeist is a 2007 documentary by Peter Joseph, described in the Amazon summary as “extremely controversial”. When it was recommended to me by a friend, I had to give it a go. The piece is split into three sections; the first deals with religion and asserts that Christianity is a fabrication rather than being a story of real divinity. The second section deals with 9/11 and puts forward what is essentially a conspiracy theory that the attacks were carefully orchestrated to provide a reason to go to war. The third section broadens the scope to suggest that for the last 100 years or more, critical conflicts and financial events were the result of manipulation by a small elite group.

Somewhat unprofessionally for a review, I skipped the first section. It starts with an over-long clip of audio with an almost completely dark screen, which tried my patience somewhat. I also had my reservations about this segment given the subject matter. In the interests of disclosure, I should state that I am not religious myself, but I make an effort not to be anti-religious. The argument of religion being fabricated certainly make sense to me, but it’s my belief that religion was created was with good intentions – to provide a moral framework for people to live their lives by. Unfortunately the message of various religions gets twisted to serve the agendas of people who should know better.

9/11 Section
The second section of the documentary looks at the 9/11 events and I found this part un-watchable. It has an almost music-video feel to it, and quick cuts of planes hitting the towers timed to audio seemed tacky and insensitive to me. The continual chatter of selective news networks coverage that supports the ideas being presented was something I quickly found irritating – it wasn’t backed up by more in-depth sections that actually expanded on the opinions being expressed. More worryingly, certain sections appear to be composed of video taken from the news networks but without their audio track, instead we get voice-overs from unknown commentators. If I’m right this is a cheap trick to add weight to the ideas being put forward by showing presenters from major news networks.

The men behind the curtain
As the third section started my interest was waning in Zeitgesit, but fortunately I stayed with it because the third segment is easily the best of the three. It takes the concept of 9/11 being stage-managed and applies it to the other major conflicts in recent history – the two World Wars and Vietnam. It explains that in all cases, vested interests pushed the case for war because of the opportunities for private enterprise to make huge profits. This certainly ties in with other material I’ve seen, like footage of the Halliburton seminars showing the new world of opportunities for services and products that the Iraq invasion has made possible.

The theory goes that acts of provocation against the United States are engineered so that the US public approves the decision to go to war when they were previously against it. The First World War provocation scenario presented is the sinking of the Lusitania, which doesn’t quite add up to me. At the time, Germany had changed its terms of engagement for submarine warfare and was openly attacking non-military ships. It was only a matter of time before they attacked a ship carrying enough American passengers to cause outrage.

The provocation scenario presented for the Second World War was that FDR had been baiting the Japanese forces into attacking America,  and eventually they did so by bombing Pearl Harbour. It goes without saying that Pearl Harbor changed US public opinion from wanting to stay out of a war which they felt was irrelevent, to national outrage with men signing up to the armed forces in huge numbers. Again I’m slightly sceptical of this, a lot of the examples of baiting are really just actions like financial embargoes which are often used during times of conflict, especially against countries battling US allies (the UK in this case). Of more interest is a fabulous piece of muckraking on a member of the Bush family (none other than Prescott Bush, grandfather of George), who was involved in a Wall Street finance operation that had it’s assets seized for the duration of the war because of suspicions that they were trading with the enemy – Nazi Germany!

The Vietnam scenario is described in much starker terms as a deception on the part of the US Navy in reporting an event between North Korean and American ships which never actually took place – the Gulf of Tonkin Incident. Evidence on the usual sources such as Wikipedia appears to back up some of the claims made in this section.

The final section draws to a conclusion that I found very disturbing – like the worst dystopian visions of science fiction, we are heading towards a World Government which will control the entire population. To the ruling elite of the wealthy and intellectual (although I would question whether the two go hand in hand), this model will make it far simpler for them to achieve their objectives compared to the more fragmented democratic models we have now. A second key assertion is that we will be individually tracked and validated into society by the use of RFID tags. Dissent will be suppressed by turning off the tag which then strips the individual of the ability to carry out transactions or prove their identity. Although terrifying, just because we are capable of imagining such a nightmare scenario, it doesn’t follow that the outcome is a foregone conclusion. There are far too many obstacles in the way of such a massive change to world order.

For all the posturing in Zeitgeist that the media is simply a drone controlled by ‘men behind the curtains’, it remains true at least for the present that there are still a few shining examples of news organisations which remain impartial and investigative, and uncover corruption and scandal around the world. The US movie industry is also a powerful liberal voice and regularly creates anti-establishment entertainment that is seen by audiences worldwide.

Zeitgeist is in places a thought-provoking documentary which presents some very big concepts in a clear and concise way. The controversial angle is certainly entertaining and provokes the viewer to really consider the ideas presented and how plausible they are, which is – I would hope – exactly what the authors intended. My only concern is that it could work as a form of brainwashing for people who take everything in without questioning or evaluating what they are being told.

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