I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it before, but I am quite the fan of Kirby Ferguson’s work. For those of you who don’t know, Mr. Ferguson is a filmmaker of sorts who made this great mini-series back in the early 2010’s called Everything is a Remix. In this series, he basically explains how art, and to a larger extent, thought itself is memetic. We take ideas that are established and copy, combine, and transform them. It’s all for free on his YouTube channel. Overall I was impressed with his profundity and expert editing, so I was relatively excited when I learned he had a new series he made, entitled This is Not a Conspiracy.
The Big Picture
In a nutshell, This is Not a Conspiracy talks about how thought patterns from The Enlightenment thinkers of early America shaped most of the conspiratorial thought going forward in the nation, including in the country’s roots. They believed that intention defined human events as the reason why things happen (hence the oft repeated phrase “Cui bono?”). This thinking, while critical, is often unnecessary and overexaggerated to a point where Occam’s Razor is typically a more sensible option. Human problems and systems are complex. You might be able to explain how things rotate around a floating plasma ball but predicting human events is an insanely more difficult task, due to the dynamicness of human beings. There are simply too many variables to come to a sensible conclusion. In time, these theories are debunked, pruned, and ultimately shelved. Not to say there aren’t conspiratorial forces in this world, but not all human events can be controlled by a proverbial puppet master.
Now that I’ve summarized pretty much the entire thing, let me just say that the film itself
This is going to be more of a video editing review so bear with me.
I was genuinely shocked by how little of the video footage pertained to what Ferguson was actually talking about. It tended to use a large amount of stock footage, and while there were clips from films, serializations, and video games (only two by my count), they were never used really cleverly with interesting transitions and added visual aid. Most of the visuals came off as generic filler used to pad out what Ferguson was saying, which is really a shame because he presents a lot of good ideas. However, the visuals just make it more unegaging and I found myself tuning out several times throughout this 2 hour slog. It’s the only series I think I’ve seen recently that I’d call “overedited”. Too much random visual information to maintain a solid focus. I can think of a handful of editors that can engage people properly but even people like Luke Smith can create entertaining slideshow-esque presentations if you just show relevant, engaging images that pertain and enhance what you are talking about.
Overall, I was incredibly disappointed by how amateurish the editing and visuals felt, along with audio, which also lacked any flair and consisted of stock sounds and music as well. Now, the topics were actually genuinely well researched, but I feel are somewhat inconsequential to the main message, which is that conspiratorial thinking is an inefficient and inaccurate way to view to world for what it really is; a network of complex systems. I literally gave you a summary up there that more than suffices. I even mentioned Luke Smith earlier, who literally made an article about this very topic a while ago. His article is honestly a lot better than this documentary if you are interested.
Speaking of which, this documentary series costs money on top of that. I think I paid $40 for a blu-ray copy. I admit I was suckered in. It only arrived recently (I assume the pandemic did something to shipping). Mr. Ferguson even sent me a note with the order.
I don’t think Mr. Ferguson is a fraud or anything. In the right context his is incredibly profound. I just don’t like this series in particular. If you haven’t already, go watch Everything is a Remix. If you have, you aren’t missing out on much over here.