Forest boy ‘inspired by Zeitgeist movement’ – A Rebuttal

(This post’s concluding words were re-edited on June 23rd, to correct the perceived tone and add an outbound link.)

If you happen to order fish and chips at any point tomorrow in the UK, amongst the greasy second-hand newspaper used to line the take-away box, you might catch sight of a bent corner of an article by Damien McElroy of The Telegraph on the mysterious story of “Forest Boy”, a young man named Robin Van Helsum, a 20-year old from Hengelo in the Netherlands. Van Helsum ran away from home many months ago, and then concocted a story that he had been living with his father in a forest. Heart-breakingly, his father, who was not with him, actually died in the interim without knowing whatever happened to his son. It is of course an bitter coincidence that this article appears on Father’s Day to boot.

I mean no personal disrespect to Mr McElroy in the following paragraphs – indeed, my long-haired opponent and I even share a Scottish prefix, so who knows, maybe we’re related in some distant way. I’ll be sure to check at my next family reunion.

No – my disrespect here, if there is any, is for his fact-checking, and his present ability to reason and employ logic, or even Google, to inform a very wide readership about current events and important issues and trends in a correct way.

I’ll link you to the online version of the story, (and I mean “story” in the real sense of the word) rather than attempt to locate the grease-ridden version of it tomorrow. Of note particularly here is the article’s overarching attempt to characterise what is claimed to be one of the “inspirations” behind Forest Boy’s disappearance: The Zeitgeist Movement (what we shall abbreviate to TZM.)

Amongst various assertions, whose sources must be fictional or non-existent, are the claim that he “was inspired to travel to Germany by the teachings of the far-Left Zeitgeist movement that aims to destroy market capitalism”.

TZM is not “far-left”. Far-left covers the end of the political spectrum associated with violence, terrorist acts, direct action and even classicide. Not only is TZM not far-left, it is also explicitly non-violent and doesn’t even recognise politics as any kind of solution. Try and vote for us – go on! You won’t have much luck. It’s like trying to define invisibility on the colour spectrum.

As for the assertion that we aim to “destroy” market capitalism (from the sub-headline, no less.) The author knows what he’s doing here – this is a weasel word designed to make you think that this organisation is some out of control violent threat to humanity. And if this is not a conscious judgement by the author, it’s even worse, for it betrays carelessness probably brought on by the pressure to have to publish quickly. That and pandering to your right-wing audience, of course.

Yes we are opposed to the monetary system. And we spend hours explaining why. Amongst the permutations of this system is “market capitalism” – although the author doesn’t explain what he might mean by this term. He ought to, given that even economists disagree as to the meaning of the term, or even if we’re in fact IN a market capitalistic society (an attribute which varies by country, and even regions within countries). Never mind all that exactness and pettiness though – the author thinks he knows what his readership might think it means, and that’s what matters, right?

This violent overture is perhaps a clue to why the author then decides to make his most laughable error (in my opinion) – that the movement was founded “in Germany” by Peter Joseph (who has, as far as he has told me, never lived in Germany, although he is what some would call an Italian-American; so if you scroll far enough out on Google Maps, Italy is pretty much in the same place as Germany. Put that in the final copy, Damien…right next to that advert we’re selling!)

The continued references to the popularity of the movement in Germany (which is true), and the reference of being based in Berlin quietly smuggles in ideas of “radical national socialism”, and cuts off logic at the root. Certainly a possibility for a nationally-focused paper.

Or, should we give the author a little more credit, it’s perhaps down to the German name. In which case we have just given him less credit, for it would betray no research whatsoever. Or perhaps, someone told him – in which case, it should have been researched and proven.

The article also maintains that the movement is based on “four films” should actually be welcome news to Peter himself; for this would mean that he has indeed already finished his fourth film, a non-Zeitgeist branded one called “Beyond the Pale”, rather than having barely begun the arduous task of producing it. What a relief.

It would also be news to most of the TZM membership, since our understandings are based on the model of a Resource Based Economy (again, we’ll abbreviate to RBE), which are expressed in two of Peter’s films (the newest of which came out after the existence of the Movement.)

By that same logic one could also argue that TZM is based on Future By Design, a biographical film of Jacque Fresco that dwells little on the social model of an RBE; it will also thus be “based” on The Venus Project’s excellent Film “Paradise or Oblivion” which references Buckminster Fuller in its title. Perhaps it’s also based on the excellent collage “Owned & Operated” because a small portion of that film discusses the movement’s focus and efforts.

In fact if we are based on anything, we are based on the understandings of what technology can do and does do for humanity if used in life-enhancing ways – not the militaristic wanton destruction of the environment and each other (both of which, I should not have to add, we need to preserve in order for humanity to survive and live in what Martin Luther King jnr might have called “the good society.”)

Also – nowhere in our materials do we propose to “go and live in a forest”. A cursory and un-lazy look at any of our materials will make this clear. And so when the author makes the claim that “[t]he fantasy forest existence [...] could be closely related to the eco-warrior teachings of the Zeitgeist campaigners” one must only assume that the author is either genuinely unsure about the link – or that none exists and he was missing another paragraph to flesh out the article. I know what my “money” is on.

Not pictured here in a Resource Based Economy

And while we’re on this point, note another bonus smuggling in of violent language, with the term “eco-warrior”. Not only is it violent, it’s not even trying not to be a cliché – and an author’s greatest downfall is cliché. But re-treading the same old steps comes so naturally in this piece, one must marvel at it as a feat on its own merits.

Overall this is a short-sighted, shallow and false representation of what the movement spends its time advocating. It is not surprising, though – we are used to, and indeed expect, misreadings of our tenets; misreadings which are themselves a product of a closed-logic system of “capitalism vs (in this case) far-left socialism”, “good vs evil” (especially in the media) – over and over, the dualism of indoctrination.

Ladies and gentlemen – make it your personal tool set to rationally research everything you read, even if it is a harmless little piece about a kid who got horribly lost. The same bad judgements that plague this piece are the same bad judgements which led a dutch boy to think that TZM somehow might directly advocate that we return to the jungle we have only just emerged from, instead of perhaps visiting the lovely people at Zeitgeist Netherlands and, without a price tag or any other requirements other than some time spent, developing his understanding of what we actually advocate. Maybe he would have felt like there were alternatives available to him than his flight from the stress of his situation.

The point of this article was and is not to criticize Robin himself (I have no basis for which to do so), but instead to highlight the fact-checking and the misrepresentations of the Telegraph’s article  - with which said I link to an entry by a fellow member with some words of solidarity for Mr van Helsum himself.