Posted on Sunday, October 25th, 2009 by Hunter Stephenson
Bill Murray recently offered the following skepticism at a press junket, “I saw a guy talking about the end of the world a couple of years ago, and I haven’t seen that either.” Many notable critics feel that the new documentary entitled Collapse, from the well-regarded director behind American Movie and The Yes Men, more or less informs the world, Murray included, that the end in the form of total economic collapse is once again near. “No, this time it is. Really.” Based on surface impressions, Collapse‘s message sounds not unlike Michael Moore’s recent Capitalism: A Love Story, which is a turn off, considering that it’s rather obvious things are currently effed in America (the job market, health care, pundit-hungry media, two aimless “wars,” startling deficit, for starters). One need not prescribe to “doomist” theorizing in order to wave a frightened fist online, though multi-thousands do on a daily basis. But what separates Collapse from Capitalism is the man professing the nation’s and world’s anxiety-addled, certain doom: Michael Ruppert.
He’s by no means a household name (yet?) or even as well known as Alex Jones, but Ruppert’s outspoken role as a visible “truth teller” dates back to the ’90s when he began publicly stating that the CIA was complicit in cocaine/crack distribution throughout the country. Such allegations of course were and are not solely Ruppert’s—see here, Iran Contra, et al—but Ruppert’s claims that he was privy to such info during his time as an LAPD narcotics detective made him stand out and difficult for politicians and the media to negate outright. He also claims that he was dismissed from the LAPD for related reasons. In the years since, Ruppert has continued on as an investigative reporter and become associated with questioning 9/11; his stances on these controversial hot topics have been featured in smaller, independent docs like Crack the CIA and Aftermath: Unanswered Questions from 9/11.
Collapse is easily the most high profile and widely reviewed doc to feature Ruppert, and it is also the first of its kind to focus solely on him as a subject. The doc is said to be an objective presentation of Ruppert’s views and insights on the end of civilization as we know it, and consists of Ruppert explaining how the future will play out as he sits in a room “that looks like a bunker,” to borrow from the official synopsis. The use of the word “bunker” implies to me that the film is well aware of Ruppert’s vicinity to the modern conspiracist fringe, but according to many reviews—see below—he’s utterly convincing. Many critics at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival cited Ruppert’s reliance on facts and data as a major strength that resonated far beyond Moore’s schtick; EW‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote the following in a positive and contemplative review…
[Ruppert] starts out with a trump card of credibility. In 2006, Ruppert predicted the economic crisis — I mean, he really saw it coming. We’re shown clips of him from that year, and there’s nothing vague or abstract about his statements. He glimpsed the whole house of cards in prophetic detail: the sub-prime mortgage crisis, the inevitable breakdown of a system built, like a gold-leaf castle in the air, on leverage. His astonishingly acute foresight seizes your attention, and so you’d better believe that you’re sitting up and listening as he starts to talk about “peak oil,” the term that’s used to describe the fact that the majority of oil reserves on the planet have, in all likelihood, already been depleted.
… If you wanted to pigeonhole Michael Ruppert…You’d say that he’s a conspiracy theorist who has thrived within the information-age quasi-underworld of the Internet. Yet the power of Collapse is that Ruppert, with his dazzling articulation and disarmingly low-key, just-the-facts-ma’am encylopedic-associational style, never sounds like a crackpot. You may want to dispute him, 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.
What’s a bit surprising about many of these mainstream, credible reviews is how many seem to agree wholeheartedly with Ruppert’s alarming, glass-is-empty forecasts. Jeff Wells in particular sounds like he’s ready to stock up on candles and make like Tim Robbins in War of the Worlds: “Before I saw Collapse I would have readily agreed with the view that things are very, very bad in terms of the world’s economic and energy scenarios. After seeing Collapse I’m 95% convinced that we’re on the brink of Armageddon—that we’re truly and royally fucked.” But in the end, even Wells admits that the toll of all this “sky is falling”-type proclamation is not to be overlooked on Ruppert’s person (he’s a voracious chain smoker, played up in the trailer).
One peer whose opinion I trust is Michael Tully at Hammer to Nail, who views the film’s title like this: ”…what makes Collapse even more powerful is the realization that the title has two meanings….this is ultimately the story of a bitter man who has isolated himself, and been isolated, from society. That we have previously watched him express himself with such intellectual precision, with such emotional passion, only adds to the film’s sense of sadness and doom. Yet having said that, Ruppert gives a rousing call-to-arms at the end, explaining that when the shit does indeed hit the fan, we can’t start freaking out. The world is about to change seismically, there’s no doubt about it.”
In the past, many smart (and dumb/crazy/depressed) men have declared the end of the world, as Bill Murray joked above. But I think what makes me curious about Collapse yet also has me not dying to see it is the gut instinct that Ruppert has researched and memorized for hundreds of hours if not more only to point out what is so figuratively apparent to so many 20somethings: smoke ‘em if you got ‘em. I wonder if the film will end up being a nascent document of the old school, singular doomist as on the way out on a cultural level, finally accepted with a tinge of pity by a younger generation that looks at him as if to say, “And…?” and also, “We know a fissure is about to open up right in the middle, but do you mind not smoking in this credit-card friendly restaurant until that happens?”
If you have seen the film or are familiar with Ruppert—there he is below, the guy certainly has grapefruits—let us know what you think in the comments. Also, are Balloon Boy and Glee part of an inside job that also involves sightings of Moth Man?