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‘Don’t Panic, It’s just a Documentary’

November 16, 2009

– The Public Record –

‘Don’t Panic, It’s just a Documentary’

Posted By Zachary Roberts On November 15, 2009 @ 6:00 am In Commentary | 6 Comments

Michael Ruppert in 'Collapse'Opening my e-mail, the other day, after coming back from seeing “Collapse” for a second time, I’m immediately inundated with links to a new article on the Guardian’s website: “Key oil figures were distorted by US pressure, says whistleblower. Watchdog’s estimates of reserves inflated says top official.”

Now, I’ve never been a big follower of the ‘peak oil crowd’ – a group of people that have the same passion as 9/11 truthers. At my last job I received many an e-mail from peak oilers that contained threats. For that reason, over the years I have chosen to stay away from the conversation all together, merely shrugging my shoulders when the topic comes up at conferences and talks that I’ve attended. “I’m not an expert” then following that with “Hubbard’s “peak” has been moved forward several times,” and adding finally – now with a raising of the hands “but that’s just what I have read,” and then quickly changing the subject to something about Bush’s oil wars.

There is no doubt in my mind that there is a peak – if we have reached it already it does not matter – what is important is that at the current rate of global economic expansion an oil collapse is imminent. And this is where I begin with Michael Ruppert and Chris Smith’s new documentary ‘Collapse.’

Mr. Ruppert began his adult life with a “Q” clearance (above top secret) – essentially inherited from his father, an Air Force officer and his mother a cryptographer for Army Intelligence. Michael was given the “Q” since he could have potentially look in his fathers briefcase as a child. If genetics meant anything for an investigative journalist – he’d would have started out as one of the best. They don’t of course – but Ruppert set out to spend the next 30 years building a resume the hard way.

As a young officer in Los Angeles in the 70’s, he claimed to be approached by the CIA to help smuggle drugs into the U.S. That was a turning point for him and over the next three decades he would become one of the most prolific and well known underground journalists, starting his own newsletter ‘From the Wilderness,’ and eventually a website of the same name. Some of the stories that he has broken – or at least was the first to publish – include the Pat Tillman scandal, Cheney’s environmental meetings, and of course CIA’s drug dealings. You can see him here confronting CIA Director John Deutch at a Los Angeles town hall meeting.

Collapse opens with Ruppert sitting in what looks like an abandoned building, smoking a cigarette, he will smoke many of them by the end of this film. Honestly, by the end of Collapse I felt like picking up smoking again – what did i have to lose – the world was ending as we know it. Dire predictions are this man’s strong point, what worries me (and should worry you) is that he seems to be so often right case in point – the economic collapse of 2008. Ruppert sees this not as a one time dip but as the coming of a greater depression. He seems to scoff at the idea that human ingenuity will be able to pull us out of this one – essentially we are in too deep.

Ruppert, explains ‘peak oil’ – the idea, put simply that we have hit the top of the bell curve of crude oil discoveries – not now, or even as the new numbers suggest in 2005 but in the 70’s – Hubbard’s earliest predictions. If he, and Hubbard are correct we are very near the collapse of the oil culture. This is the collapse that he’s really talking about – not the recent economic one but the point when oil – the thing that everything, and I mean everything is built with becomes too expensive for us to continue.

“10 hydrocarbons for every ONE calorie”

This, and that seven gallons of gasoline go into every tire are the two facts that he continually goes back to when explaining why we’re are in such deep sh*t. Ruppett isn’t ok with just knocking the present – point by point he knocks down the alternatives – “electricity is not an energy SOURCE” – bashing electric cars as an alternative to petrol run autos and “[there is] no such thing as clean coal.” To call him blunt is an understatement. I would thoroughly enjoy a debate between Ruppert and Al Gore about the future of energy policy in the U.S. -although I may not agree with all of his pronouncements his ‘wake up and smell the oil fumes’ attitude is well needed within Al Gore’s current soft and fluffy cap and trade environmental movement.

“Don’t Panic”

In Cormac McCarthy’s ‘The Road’ we follow a man and his son through a desolate wasteland where all civilization has broken down. McCarthy’s vision is not that far off from Ruppert’s post-collapse world. This is where Ruppert loses me completely but it’s also where the film gets really good.

Chris Smith, the director of ‘The Yes Men’ and ‘American Movie’ makes a very interesting choice at this point in the picture – which up until now has mainly consisted of Errol Morris-esque use of stock footage and interview style – he allows his subject to put a pause in the film. Ruppert is having a revelation, a mighty smile crosses his face and he begins again this time with breakneck speed, explaining point by point how we can survive the coming end of (oil) days. It’s also at this point in the documentary when you realize how well Smith has presented this mad prophet – who if you gave him a trenchcoat would be a modern day Mr. Beale. This is something that Smith must be credited with, because what Ruppert has to say is important and without ‘Collapse’ it would be left to the Internet trolls, whether they be 9/11 or peak truther’s to scream in caps on YouTube pages at the bottom of this review. Chris Smith during a talk at the Angelika Theater in NYC said that this will be his last documentary, that he wanted to return to fiction film calling it much easier – let’s hope that’s not true. Collapse is a dire wake up call for the YouTube Generation, the VHS generation and the cinemascope generation – wake up or die.


SUBJECT: Take your friend to this picture – you’ll need someone to talk about it with.

Zach Roberts is a journalist and film reviewer, he edited the 2008 investigative comic book “Steal Back Your Vote” with Greg Palast and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. and is producer of several DVD’s including The Election Files and Big Easy to Big Empty. Currently he is working on a film investigating mining related pollution. Follow him on twitter at

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