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SXSW Review: New World Order

We’re drowning in beer, bad ideas, and conspiracy theories at South By.
By  · Published on March 14th, 2009

New World Order, the new documentary from SeeThink Films and IFC, opens with an audio recording of John F. Kennedy addressing the American Newspaper Publisher’s Association in 1961. “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society,” he says. “And we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, and secret oaths, and secret proceedings.” He goes on to warn that threats to security will lead to official censorship and concealment and that the only hope for a free and independent America rests with the media. The previously blackened screen changes to the Zapruder footage of Kennedy’s assassination, and then a second voice booms from the speakers. “You want us to stand down. You want us to back off. You want us to shut up while our country and our sovereignty and our borders and everything we’ve even been everything we’ll ever be is being destroyed.”

The speaker is perhaps the most famous conspiracy theorist around, Austin-based radio talk show host Alex Jones. The implication seems clear. Kennedy spoke out, and he was killed. Jones speaks out, and he lives in constant danger. Or so he wants us to believe anyway. We’ll come back to this guy…

The New World Order is the collective label used to describe the elite members of government and media who are planning to create a one world government. They manipulate the masses through fear and controlled knowledge, and are apparently behind events such as Kennedy’s murder, the 9/11 attacks, and inexplicable success of CBS’ “Two and a Half Men.” This documentary is only peripherally about these mysterious men and their power though. Instead, the focus is on some of the people who believe these theories and who dare to speak out about the truth as they see it.

Jones is the most well-known in this circle, but the others are actually more compelling in their beliefs. Luke Rudowski is a young twenty-something living in New York City who lives these theories without making a living from them. After being indoctrinated by Jones’s internet videos, Rudowski and some of his friends have taken to spreading the word about bombs in the World Trade Center buildings, military involvement, and more. They do this in their spare time dispersing DVDs and fliers free of charge to people on the street. He makes no profit from his hobby, but he’s compelled to do it all the same.

Timucin Leflef is an Irish filmmaker who makes annual trips around the world chasing and investigating the Bilderberg cabal, a yearly gathering of supposed NWO members including heads of state, both current and former, high ranking members of the media, and corporate CEOs. He details how the Bilderbergers are responsible for famine, civil wars, and the overall malaise affecting people all around the world. While discussing the possibility of continuing with his obsession for the rest of his life, Leflef slips in that “I did actually get a CAT scan, and it showed something very interesting.”

Retired police officer Jack McLamb currently resides on a mountain top in Idaho with a few hundred other folks hoping to avoid the coming collapse of American civilization. He broadcasts a shortwave radio show and travels nationwide discussing the Constitution, the right and need to own weapons, and the growing role of law enforcement as part of the NWO’s evil machinations. “I’ve dedicated 27 years to this work as a volunteer, and my wife can tell you we have nothing. My bride deserves better than that… but I can’t stop.”

Others include Mike Edgerton, who doesn’t believe in aliens, couldn’t care less about who killed John F. Kennedy, doesn’t “give a fuck if we landed on the moon or not,” but believes 9/11 was an inside job. Seth Jackson is a God-fearing Christian from Arkansas whose mistrust for the US government culminated in a move to New Orleans to help out after Hurricane Katrina. All of these people share one thing in common… they truly believe.

Then there’s Alex Jones. “Of all the hundreds of sources, really thousands total out there,” Jones says early on in the film, “you know I’m the big thing that it all orbits, which I hate.” You’d be forgiven for thinking he’s full of shit on that last point… he absolutely thrives on this attention. He’s made a successful career out of catering to conspiracy theorists by providing information, confronting politicians, and helping to justify their fears. New World Order shows Jones in action, and a few scenes seem to reveal a fairly high degree of shtick in his repertoire. One scene features Jones and company in a hotel when a fire alarm goes off. No mere prank this… it was obviously done intentionally to prevent Jones from being interviewed on a radio show. Sure, he has his own show syndicated to millions of listeners on a daily basis, but this appearance had to be stopped. He recounts off-camera events to the filmmakers with the alarm still blaring, and you can almost see the cogs and wheels spinning behind his eyes as he suddenly remembers new details to make the “confrontation” even more ominous sounding. Later, he decides they’re being followed in the car (“Yeah that’s definitely military intelligence!”), but when the opportunity arises to confront the man behind the wheel Jones says “That’s alright, I don’t want to harass him, he has potential to call in backup.” Another scene finds Jones arrested in NYC during a 9/11 march. The camera sees him handcuffed in the back of a police car, sitting calmly… until Jones turns and sees the camera, and suddenly he writhes in pain from the obvious police abuse he’s apparently suffered.

That’s not to say Jones isn’t entertaining. I used to listen to his show occasionally when I lived in Florida because the man is extremely compelling, charismatic, and always interesting. One scene finds him singing along to Jerry Reed’s “East Bound and Down” and his smile is almost contagious. He makes a personal phone call at one point, presumably to his wife or girlfriend, and his normally bombastic and raspy voice lowers to a more tender tone as he asks how she’s doing, how his daughter (?) is feeling, and tells her he misses and loves her. It’s a brief but very human break from Jones’s public persona, and it seems to show that unlike the others profiled in the film, he has a visible line separating his life from his work. Does any of this mean he isn’t as convinced of his own words as others are? Only he knows.

Directors Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel make no attempt to persuade the audience into believing the theories, but it’s clear the film’s subjects are convinced. The trouble is that every little thing becomes further evidence for their cause. Cars with tinted windows are always members of the elite, unless the cars are behind you… then they’re Secret Service or undercover security agents following you. Men in ties on balconies are suspect, people who look towards your camera are suspect, shirtless guys drinking Gatorade are suspect… From the outside at least, their lives look depressing and lacking in anything but conviction. But they would probably say the same thing about the rest of us.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.