In the same Good Morning America interview in which he said that Jared Lee Loughner “wasn’t on the left, he wasn’t on the right,” former Loughner friend Zach Osler mentioned a documentary film called Zeitgeist, which he says heavily influenced the alleged Tucson gunman.
Osler, who George Stephanopoulos described as perhaps “Loughner’s last close friend,” said, “I really think that this Zeitgeist documentary had a profound impact upon Jared Loughner’s mindset, and how he viewed the world that he lives in.”
And though by Osler’s account he and Loughner stopped hanging out two years ago, and there’s no way of knowing what Loughner thinks of the documentaries today, there are a few resonances between the film and the online videos attributed to Loughner.
Zeitgeist: The Movie, produced in 2007 by a man named Peter Joseph, is actually the first film in what’s now a trilogy. A sequel, Zeitgeist: Addendum, came out in 2008, and a third film, Zeitgeist: Moving Forward, was scheduled to be released over the weekend. Together, they form the foundation for The Zeitgeist Movement, which, according to the movement’s website, “works globally to spread information about a new social system called a Resource Based Economy.” The website claims 420,000 people have registered as part of the movement, and says “estimates” put the number of online views of the original Zeitgeist: The Movie at over 100 million. (In March 2009, The New York Times reported on a “Z-Day” event in New York City.)
The first film (which you can watch in its entirety here) “debunks” myths and “exposes” conspiracies about religion, monetary policy, wars and 9/11. The film features a nameless narrator, and combines graphics, news footage and trippy animations with words from famous thinkers, stand up comedians and public officials, topping it all off with commentary from various conspiracy theorists. Among other things, the movie critiques the central bank model, controlled by the “ruthless banking interests,” which it says leads inexorably to debt.
“The end result of this system is essentially slavery,” the narrator says. “For it is technically impossible for a government and thus the public to ever come out of this self-generating debt.”
Getting rid of the gold standard, according to the film, was a way to rob the public of wealth, and lock it into a system controlled by an elite few.
“The only thing that gives our money value is the public faith and how much of it is in circulation,” the narrator says. “Therefore, the power to regulate the money supply is also the power to regulate its value, which is also the power to manipulate and control entire economies.”
In online videos attributed to him, Loughner shows an obsession with “currency” that echoes the arguments from Zeitgeist. He spoke of “mind control” and government control. One video, titled “Introduction: Jared Loughner,” was concerned with the creation of “new currency.”
“No! I won’t pay debt with a currency that’s not backed by gold and silver!” Loughner wrote. “No! I won’t trust in God!”
[TPM SLIDESHOW: TPM Retraces Shooting Suspect’s Steps]
In another video, titled “hello,” Loughner writes, “the current government officials are in power for their currency, but I’m informing you for your new currency!”
After Osler mentioned his movie to the press, Peter Joseph issued a statement criticizing the media for making any connection between the massacre that occurred in Tucson and his film.
It has come to my attention that various mainstream news organizations are beginning to run an association between my 2007 performance piece/film, “Zeitgeist: The Movie” and the tragic murders conducted by an extremely troubled young man in Tucson, Arizona. They are also slowly beginning to bleed the obvious line between my 2007 documentary work, my film series as a whole and The Zeitgeist Movement, which I am the founder. Frankly, I find this isolating, growing association tremendously irresponsible on the part of ABC, NBC and their affiliates - further reflecting the disingenuous nature of the America Media Establishment today.
Make no mistake: The Social System is to blame for the rampage of Jared Loughner - not some famous online documentary which is known as the most viewed documentary of all time in internet history. Are the other 200 million people who have seen the film also preparing for murder sprees? I think not.
Eric Lach is a reporter for TPM. From 2010 to 2011, he was a news writer in charge of the website’s front page. He has previously written for The Daily, NewYorker.com, GlobalPost and other publications. He can be reached at ericl(at)talkingpointsmemo.com