Leave the world behind - Digital Threat Digest
PGI’s Digital Investigations Team brings you the Digital Threat Digest, SOCMINT and OSINT insights into disinformation, influence operations, and online harms.
Being a huge Julia Roberts fan, I recently watched her new film, ‘Leave The World Behind’. The movie follows a family who go on a last-minute vacation to get out of New York. Whilst they are away, the country falls into an apocalyptic state brought on by a cyber-attack, which brings down all communications, brings planes falling from the sky and results in humans getting mysterious physical symptoms.
A week after this film was released, the trailer for another movie, ‘Civil War’, due to hit screens in 2024 was released which follows a journalist travelling around the US just as a civil war erupts. A recent VICE article links these two movies and details how this genre has opened the gateway for a resurgence in online conspiracy theories, which at their core are based around ‘predictive programming’. This is a phrase coined by philosopher Alan Watts, to denote films or media, created by powerful Hollywood or government elites, to warn the public on how future events will play out. Think of those episodes of the Simpsons that are dug out from the archives and everyone goes crazy over the fact they ‘predicted the future’.
Barack and Michelle Obama’s production company, Higher Ground Productions, produced ‘Leave the World Behind’, with the director also stating that Barack gave extensive notes and plot revisions based on his knowledge from his time as President. Their involvement in the production has only helped to fuel conspiracies of predictive programming. In far-right and conspiratorial circles, the Obamas are alleged to be part of an evil cabal of high-ranking government officials, suggesting their positions make them well-placed to take part in the production of predictive programming and are using this film to warn the public of events that will take place in the future.
The idea of predictive programming was recently amplified on Steve Bannon’s War Room, by Eva Vlaardingerbroek, a Dutch conservative commentator. She states that predictive programming is ‘straight out of the globalist playbook’ and that those in power are telling us what is coming next. Researcher, Mike Rothschild (no relation to the family, as stated in his X profile), shares how these conspiracies based upon predictive programming lack any type of logic. If this movie was serving as some kind of warning from the Obama’s about what is to come, why would they want to warn people prior? Wouldn’t it be best for them to stay within this evil cabal and continue to work ‘behind the scenes’, as opposed to warning people?
As also mentioned in the VICE article, these types of conspiracies ignore the relationship between society and the art it creates. Movies like The Hunger Games and The Dark Knight Rises were also said to be evidence of predictive programming but were well-known to be inspired by numerous sources, which included past events as well as those in modern society.
As this genre of movies and shows continues to be released worldwide, the conspiracies relating to predictive programming are likely to increase and take hold of the information environment. Far-right influencers and pundits have increasingly used popular culture and new forms of media as a way of sharing and amplifying conspiracy theories, and apocalyptic movies like these, may just be their new way of doing so. Whether it will continue to pervade the information environment or fall off in the coming year, the conspiracy at its core presents an old conspiracy narrative experiencing a resurgence through the lens of new media.
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Our Digital Investigations Analysts combine modern exploitative technology with deep human analytical expertise that covers the social media platforms themselves and the behaviours and the intents of those who use them. Our experienced analyst team have a deep understanding of how various threat groups use social media and follow a three-pronged approach focused on content, behaviour and infrastructure to assess and substantiate threat landscapes.
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