Collapse goes mainstream: MSM attention to new film COLLAPSE is attention-worthy itself
I started reading Mike Ruppert about five years ago. As is true for many other people, the man played a major part in my personal introduction to peak oil theory and its global implications — “global” both literally and metaphorically, not only in terms of PO’s worldwide and cross-national scope and impact but in terms of its all-encompassing significance for the likely future of the human race. True, I never bought his 2004 book Crossing the Rubicon: The Decline of the American Empire at the End of the Age Is Oil, nor did I pay for a subscription to his newsletter From the Wilderness. But then, I didn’t have to, because he provided an avalanche of information and analysis at his From the Wilderness Website. (Sorry about that, Mr. Ruppert. I’ll always opt for good, free resources when I can find them.)
This being the case, and in light of the fact that, naturally, Ruppert and his theories have always inhabited a fringe position relative to the mainstream media, I and the rest of the peak oil-aware community are fairly astonished to see the new documentary film Collapse, which consists mostly of Ruppert sitting in a bunker-like basement and explicating his dire prognosis for the near and far future of industrial civilization, receiving major — as in, really major — mainstream media attention.
New York Times reviewer Jeanette Catsoulis says the film “is not just sobering; it’s a full-on assault,” and then elaborates: “Lucidly and with weary conviction, he cites evidence for a declining global oil supply (like costly offshore drilling in Saudi Arabia) and demolishes hopes pinned on substitutes like ethanol (‘a complete joke’) and clean coal (‘no such thing’). His well-rehearsed rhetoric is shockingly persuasive, and since the majority of his premises are verifiable, any weakness in his argument lies in inferences so terrifying that reasonable listeners may find themselves taking his advice and stocking up on organic seeds” (“Single Focus: An Outsider with Doomsday Vision,” Nov. 6).
A Wall Street Journal interview with Ruppert — the mere existence of which is a marvel — provides the spectacle of America’s most revered financial newspaper giving space to statements like, “Money is useless without energy and money has no respect for power or ideology. We have to reconnect with the requirements that we’re living on a planet that’s falling apart. And we have to maintain some relationship that’s separate from the illusory power of money. Clearly, the power in this country is not in Washington, it’s in New York, with the Fed and with Wall Street. . . . Until you change the way money works, you change nothing. The current economic paradigm calls for infinite growth, from fractional reserve banking to compact interest. So Wall Street needs to somehow help us find an economy that works without requiring more and more consumption” (“Sounding an Alarm on Oil,” Nov. 4).
Owen Gleiberman in his November 6 review of Collapse for Entertainment Weekly — the touchstone print publication for all-things-mainstream pop culture — asserts that “You’d be hard-pressed to find a movie that channels the anxieties of our time with the power and terror of the documentary.” He also counsels that “you’d better believe that you’re sitting up and listening when he starts to talk about ‘peak oil,'” and concludes that “You may want to dispute Ruppert, but more than that you’ll want to hear him, because what he says — right or wrong, prophecy or paranoia — takes up residence in your mind.”
NPR offers a cautious assessment: “Ruppert states things that are clearly true, makes claims that are fairly plausible and delivers predictions that no viewer without a time machine can adequately evaluate.” It also follows the lead of the documentary’s director, Chris Smith (of American Movie fame), in criticizing Ruppert for his de facto discounting of any possible grounds for optimism, and for “see[ing] everything through the prism of failed policies and near-obsolete technologies” (“Michael Ruppert, Explaining the Coming Collapse,” Nov. 5). But the headline is in the subtext: Mike Ruppert is being talked about and taken seriously on freaking NPR.
It’s probably difficult or impossible for somebody who hasn’t been following the peak oil story for the past several years to understand the depth of the “Holy crap” feeling that many of us are experiencing right now. A large part of that feeling comes simply from the fact that, as I’ve mentioned here before, lots of things appear to be playing out according to the long-forecasted “plan,” including, most prominently, the expected development in which oil-and-energy issues have moved to the forefront of public discourse. Of course that has nothing, or at least not much, to do with the question of whether peak oil is actually “real” — a word that raises the need to distinguish between peak oil, the geological phenomenon, and peak oil, the theory that ties oil’s fortunes to the very survival of growth-based economies and industrial-technological civilization. In our ever-intensifying age of 24/7 digital linkage and global conversation, it’s impossible to ferret out how much of what we’re collectively thinking and feeling comes from reality itself, as in, the reality outside the media web, and how much is simply a self-reinforcing feedback loop.
What’s incontrovertible is that we’re right now living through the giddiest age of apocalyptic cultural ferment that any of us have ever experienced. I think it’s safe to say that it tops the ones that accompanied the turn of the 20th century, and the advent of World Wars I and II, and the Depression era, and the social and cultural upheavals and meltdowns of the sixties and seventies, and the turn of the 21st century. It even tops 9/11, although in fact it incorporates the 9/11 feeling of an imminent breakdown in everything. Maybe the only thing that equals it is the nuclear terror of the Cold War era. Because now, as then, the fear isn’t just of a national or international breakdown or some such thing (although obviously that one is currently in play, too) but of a show-stopping calamity that would write “The End” on the last page of the book that is the human race, or at least on the book that is civilization as we have known for at least a century or two (since the full implementation of the Adam Smithian economic growth model and the rise of technocratic industrialism). The ecological term “die-off” has gained currency. The word “collapse” is on everybody’s minds and lips.
Over the past two or three or four years, this arch-awareness of a possible impending doom has dominated the collective attention of an increasing segment of the population at large. Now it has thrust its way into the prominent collective conversation that’s mediated by our official cultural gatekeepers, as seen in the MSM coverage of Ruppert’s/Smith’s movie. In an age where our ability to loop our collective obsessions back at ourselves with obsessive frequency and thoroughness has been perfected — via television, talk radio, blogs, Websites, iPhones, etc. — we’re able to, in effect, skywrite the idea of collapse across the expanse of our very awareness. How this will play out is anybody’s guess, but it should be, to say the least, interesting to watch, let alone to experience.