Trailer for Ethos: the truth about the U.S. Government and its corrupt system

[Video Link] Sounds like this documentary explores the same kind of mass psychological manipulation that Freud's nephew, Edward Bernays invented to convince Americans that it was a good idea to get involved in World War One, as well as convince women that they'd become socially powerful if they smoked cigarettes.

Directed by filmmaker Pete McGrain and hosted by Academy Award nominated actor and activist Woody Harrelson, Ethos: A Time for Change, explains how our country is controlled by some very wealthy families and not our chosen government. These families control the main pillars of our society which include; politics, corporations, banks and the media. The United States is framed as a democracy, suggesting that we the people govern our country and elect our officials, but the truth of that matter is that a democracy does not exist. Rather, the nation was designed to be a polyarchy, one that is ruled by many, those many being the key families. By structuring the country this way, it was premeditated that ultimately it would not matter who is in office because the people campaigning would be controlled and influenced by those controlling the money.

Those featured in the film include renowned historians such as Noam Chomsky (Manufacturing Dissent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media), Chalmers Johnson (Blowback: The Sorrows of Empire), Howard Zinn (A People’s History of the United States), the CEO’s of massive corporations such as Goodyear and Interface, as well as filmmaker Michael Moore.

Buy Ethos: A Time for Change on


  1. Ethos: A Time for Change, explains how our country is controlled by some very wealthy families and not our chosen government. These families control the main pillars of our society which include; politics, corporations, banks and the media.

    Sad seeing people on the left fall down the Illuminati/Protocols of the Elders of Zion/Reptilians hole usually occupied by those on the right.  Not that this is the first time, but still…

    1. Yeah, where do people get the crazy idea that people with great wealth manipulate political, social and economic systems for their own gain? It just isn’t logical, and there are no examples of it to be seen.

    2. Anyone who tries to denies conspiracies exist is denying the existence of organized crime.

      There’s so many conspiracies to violate the law constantly going there’s special Federal RICO Laws to prosecute them.

      “The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization. The RICO Act focuses specifically on racketeering, and it allows for the leaders of a syndicate to be tried for the crimes which they ordered others to do or assisted them, closing a perceived loophole that allowed someone who told a man to, for example, murder, to be exempt from the trial because they did not actually do it.

      RICO was enacted by section 901(a) of the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970 (Pub.L. 91-452, 84 Stat. 922, enacted October 15, 1970). RICO is codified as Chapter 96 of Title 18 of the United States Code, 18 U.S.C. § 1961–1968. While its original use was to prosecute the Mafia as well as others who were actively engaged in organized crime, its application has been more widespread…”

      Every other major country in the world has their own version of US RICO law to prosecute conspiracies.

      1. I’m not saying conspiracies don’t exist, because they do.  I’m saying that this particular conspiracy has been recycled over and over again for decades with minor alterations.  And that it’s sad to see otherwise intelligent people falling for it.  

        1. You are either a pink, a glorp, a wingman for the bilderburgers, a reptofacist, a subversive grey,  or the spawn of Obo. Now fess up!

        2. There’s 17 US Federal Intelligence Agencies in the District of Columbia White Pages.What do you think 17 Federal Agencies full of people with Classified clearance + do with their day, shelve books at the Library of Congress?

        3. Saying that a small number of extremely rich people are controlling our system is not “a conspiracy theory”.  For one thing, the term “conspiracy” implies something covert, hidden, deliberately kept unknown to the public and law enforcement. 

          But the public already knows it, the actors at the top aren’t hiding it, and laws have already been changed (by them) to make sure they don’t have to worry about being caught.

          The reason you have been hearing about it for decades is because it was in the press decades ago that some very rich people were funding infrastructure to make this happen, and the press has continually documented this process as the very people who are responsible have told them about it, sent out press releases, made it anything but a hidden process.

          You can call it “a conspiracy theory” if you want to, but it’s not “the left” that is responsible for the fact that you can’t read the news.

          1. “Saying that a small number of extremely rich people are controlling our system is not “a conspiracy theory”. “

            Actually it is. In fact, that is pretty much the very definition of what a conspiracy theory is.

            The term “conspiracy theory” is used to indicate a narrative genre that includes a broad selection of (not necessarily related) arguments for the existence of grand conspiracies. The term is frequently used by scholars and in popular culture to identify secret military, banking, or political actions aimed at “stealing” power, money, or freedom, from “the people”.

            “But the public already knows it” and “The reason you have been hearing about it for decades is because it was in the press decades ago”

            FALLACY of popularity. That “everybody knows” something is true or that it has been published in newspapers doesn’t make it true.

            “it’s not “the left” that is responsible for the fact that you can’t read the news.”

            I’m pretty sure that I am still able to read the news.

        4. ” it’s sad to see otherwise intelligent people falling for it.”

          Intelligent people don’t fall for it.

    3. There is serious confusion here. There are conspiracies in the sense of groups of people co-operating towards definable goals which may seem undesirable to outsiders. There is the problem of conspiracy theorists. This is a problem of advanced/late? capitalist society and the instability of meaning (which may be perceived as flexibility but sure as fuck ain’t). Conspiracy theorists suffer from a linguistic process in which meanings start to slide in unpredictable ways. They are right – the problem is motivated externally through instability of meaning. The invention of conspiracies stabilizes the situation preventing schizophrenia. They are mostly a-political or anarchist/left leaning but even better produce fucking good parties.


    No but seriously, systems can be broken/ineffective/favor the wealthy without there being some conspiracy to that effect. 

    1. Yeah, actual conspiracies are so rare.

      I know because I’m privy to all those backroom dealings, and they’re as pure as the driven snow. All the participants are as ethical as they are obscenely rich. They are all wonderful people who care deeply about our welfare.

      Why, it’s just unthinkable that these people would convene far-right think tanks for decades, seeking to bend society to their will. Unthinkable.

    2. There’s no conspiracy – just a small, powerful group with common interests.
      There’s no secrecy – it’s all out in the open, it’s done with money.
      None of it is illegal – they have seen to that.

        1. Thanks for the tip! You ought to try invoking conspiracy to wash your feet, too. It’s better than Doctor Bronners!

        2. Sticking to general principles is fine. As soon as we start discussing specifics the temptation is to divide the world into good and evil. I believe absolutely that evil exists but wouldn’t know how to define it. Evil can have both negative and positive effects.

          1. I follow the lead of mother Nature in that matter, who seems to know no evil.

            What I am most worried about is the decline of voters participation. It’s been decreasing steadily and I wouldn’t be surprised if in 2012 there would be less than 50% of eligible people to go to the pole. Non-presidential elections already near the 33% floor.

    3. The lie is that our democracies empower everybody. Rather the separation of powers disempowers the majority enabling a few to use institutions for their own benefit. Conspiracies do exist but are ultimately not that interesting or important except as an indicator of other problems.
      When did Chomsky become a historian? What happened to linguistics?

      1. Democracies do empower their citizens… but we’re not a Democracy. Neither are any of the countries in the EU. We’re a representative republic. The American people have zero actual ability to govern here.  All the power is in the hands of carefully selected members of the two groups of the political establishment.

        That’s looks like one of the broken things that needs to be fixed. Real Democracy. Citizens making the decisions instead of political hacks.

      2. When did Chomsky become a historian? What happened to linguistics?

        IIRC, when he was a teenager and started publishing political/historical analysis.

      3. “When did Chomsky become a historian?”

        He isn’t. He’s not even a good political analyst. He is wrong about linguistics too.

  3. Does it hurt to give it a viewing before trotting out the whole ‘this is a conspiracy theory and therefore wrong’ thing?

  4. I’m not sure I buy into conspiracies like what this documentary suggests, buuuuuuuuuuuut I do think that George Carlin may have been a prophet after all.  He was very outspoken about the USA being bought and paid for and I’m hard pressed for reasons to not believe him.  Jokes are only funny when they’re true in some way, so good comedians like George Carlin, Stephen Colbert, etc. are arguably the most honest people on earth.  They know what they’re talking about, so if they say it’s called the American Dream because you have to be asleep to believe it, I want to strive to be an insomniac.

  5. Cynthia McKinney and Michael Moore ?! Spare me.
    You just blew any credibility this film might have had.

    1. I thought that was her. She’s a nutter for sure. Michael Moore I’m more inclined to cut some slack. Bowling For Columbine and Sicko had some real problems (editing for effect rather than just telling the truth, etc) but The Big Guy and Roger and Me are still good works.

      1. Sicko had some real problems

        You may not have liked the style, but the substance of Sicko was spot-on according to this top insider from CIGNA healthcare:

        1. Bowling for Columbine is, at best, short on cogent points and excessive on style. At worst it’s a propagandistic film. You may sympathize with his political viewpoint but despise his reckless disregard for his viewers intelligence and  and their right to make up their own minds. 

          I havent seen this film so I’ll withhold judgment but we on the left need to demand a higher level of discourse and demand integrity. The answer to Limbaugh and Beck isn’t  Olbermann or indoctrinal  documentaries like Bowling. 

          1. OK, if you’re so sure of that, tell me exactly what Bowling for Columbine was propaganda for?  What view was it trying to promote.  In what way is Moore (or Olbermann) similar to Limbaugh and Beck?

    2. You probably believe virgins can get pregnant, and man was created by God roughly 6000 year old, but you call Christina McKinney a nutter?

      1. I call her Cynthia McKinney. 

        The people who call her a “nutter” are usually right-wing GOP partisans or “centrist” idiots who have no idea what they’re talking about. 

        Everyone else thought she asked some good questions and still wants to know what was so crazy about asking them.

    3. Why?  What did McKinney and Moore do that cost them credibility?

      I’ve seen a lot of people slam McKinney and Moore for alleged laxity in their fact-checking, but I’ve yet to see any evidence that this is the case.

  6. what this psa wasnt brought to me by monsanto? ” dont just watch this movie and turn away”  mmkay, what should we be doing? creating havoc and insurrection?

    maybe i need an actor to point out things,  i don’t,  well unless you include the mpaa/riaa as having influence, well then sure i will pirate the same garbage…

    1. You’re exactly right. The *best* analysis/documentary  of mass communication that I’ve ever seen. Adam Curtis’s work is amazing. And largely free to watch … check out Youtube for The Century of Self… his stuff is extremely well researched and beautifully presented…

      1. It’s also on Amazon, but hey, this is the Internet, so make sure you watch that well-researched and beautifully presented shit free and don’t reward the man for his hard work.

        You know, if we’re going to work this hard to keep the Internet from getting unplugged, do you suppose we could balance our seconds and thirds at the free buffet with purchases of good material here and there?

        1. It’s been on Youtube for more than ten months now. Don’t you think that, if the copyright owners of this documentary wanted it, they could notify Youtube to cease and desist, like they do quite often for other content ?

          There are good reasons to keep a poor quality version on Youtube: old stuff doesn’t sell and gets forgotten is nobody can ever see it. Now it stays alive, as it deserves, and I bet that sales are all the better for it.

          New business model, remember?

          1. So post a link to Amazon too.  Not asking for one or the other.  Asking for balance.   New business model.

            If our purpose here is to provide a viable alternative to the Hollywood everything-for-us nothing-for-you business model, let’s put some time and effort into making guys like this more like Louis C.K.

            Five bucks is all it takes.

        2. Yea, what iSpied   did was s like telling someone he can read a book from a library instead of pointing them to Barnes & Noble. 
          We have to stop those communist tendencies. 
          Free advertisement without instantly finalizing sales.  Rude. 

          If you felt like a link to a specific seller of your choice was missing, you could have linked to them.

        3. It’s on YouTube. It’s been there a long time. For free.

          I tend to prefer offering links to material that’s available at no cost because there’s this subgroup called poor people and, well, I’ll let you look that up…

          The minions of intelligence have already shredded your little straw argument, so while you slither back to where you came, let me just say that a) You don’t get to decide the terms of why people engage with Boing Boing (sorries!) and b) coffee100 is not a name that will go down in the annals of history as the classic representation of human integrity – see if you can guess why.

          Do us a favour and go have your “creators-getting ripped-off” moment somewhere else.

      1. Not sure what Trent is thinking of, but for me Woody’s participation is…thought-provoking, given that whole thing with his dad.

  7. The Chomsky book is actually title “Manufacturing Consent:…,” I think. Unless he wrote another one to accompany the original.

      1. Renowned is the operative word. When I think of renowned historians, I think of Gibbon, Hugh Thomas, Jacques Barzun, John Julius Norwich. Certainly not Professor Chomsky whose elite status lies elsewhere.

      1. For there to be a conspiracy, the people involved would have to be very competent over a long time – something that doesn’t really seem more probable than “a concentration of wealth and power is a natural end-state of capitalism in the absence of strong controls, even without conscious planning”.

  8. Wait, I’m not sure I understand the “conspiracy theory” claims, here. There’s just a claim that the ownership of media companies, industries, and so on is extremely concentrated, and a few individuals have an outsized influence, and they use it. Why does that amount to a “conspiracy theory”? That just seems like fact, to me.

    1. It’s this bit:

      “our country is controlled by some very wealthy families… These families control the main pillars of our society… the nation was designed to be a polyarchy, one that is ruled by many, those many being the key families.”

      There is no democracy, the country was designed from the start to be run by certain families –> conspiracy theory

      But every Western country is the same as the States. Was Australia also designed to be run by certain powerful families? People pick a few families as svengalis (someone was telling me the other day it is the Rothschilds, I think he might have been worried about the Jews) and link everything to them by picking and choosing evidence.

      Yes, there are some massively powerful families around, since wealth breeds wealth. And wealth has always bought political power. But billionaires come and go, and new ones like the Koch brothers can have just as much political influence as those families who happen to have stayed wealthy for a few hundred years.

      1. Families who have stayed wealthy for a few hundred years are more likely to have flown under the radar by skimming less off the top and being more subtle about political manipulation.

        1. I’m not that worried about threats to democracy that are too subtle to be noticed as threats. The greatest damage to Western democracy since the Second World War was done through subversion and blocking of regulation of the financial industry over the last ten years, and that wasn’t due to rich families flying under the radar.

          1. More like the heirs of the neo-rich flying under the radar.  They used our post-WWII economy (created in large part by very high taxes on the rich coupled with strict regulation of business) to get very rich, then their children took that wealth and reversed the tax and regulation regimes to become even richer and create an environment where it has become extremely difficult for anyone else to get a leg up.

            Of course, all of this has happened in full view of the public – not some covert “conspiracy”.  I have no idea why it has taken so long for so many people to put 2+2 together – it was happening right in front of their faces.

          2. Wealth is power, or more precisely energy, in every society. That’s different from setting up the system from the start for the benefit of certain specific families.

  9. I’d be interested to see the people they’re interviewing, but the trailer is problematic. A three minute trailer is about as overlong as a three hour movie. Would have been better if they could keep it to 2 or 2:30. Second, the bits where they show smaller images of Woody talking, then lower the volume as they reveal a separate image of him talking about something else, increase volume on the new image, then turn it down and move on to another image, gives the impression that he’s rambling for hours and we’re just peeking in on portions of it. Also gives the impression that whatever he’s saying isn’t very important, because even the filmmaker framing this thing is turning it down and trying to move on to something else.

    Whether or not you personally like Harrelson or think they could have chosen someone better, it seems like a bad choice to focus on him as a talking head, especially having him comment on himself, “I’m just an actor…” Show, don’t tell. Or I should say show the parts that matter, like the substantial interviews, don’t tell us that you’re an actor who is presenting some interviews that are substantial. Oh well.

  10. I haven’t seen this Ethos thing, so I have no idea if it’s good/factual or not.  But I did recognize some of those clips and they are from fantastic documentaries that you can purchase and/or watch online:

    1: Why We Fight –
    Watch it here:

    2: The Corporation –
    Watch it here:

    If you enjoy these, I hope you purchase their DVDs to support these great people.

    1. Thank you!  I was just scrolling down to say this myself. I’d also say there’s a fair amount, thematically, of Adam Curtis in there as well.

  11. More scare tactics from a film maker.


    BTW, nobody but this film is predicting world population will double in the next 30 years.

    And thank goodness we don’t have a true democracy. If we did, women would never have gotten to vote, blacks would still be slaves in the USA, and anyone that didn’t fit what the masses liked would become the subjected minority that would be at the whim of a fickle and unhumane majority.

  12. I am still interested to see this, but my BS warning flag went up when I heard ”
    I’m just an actor, so I can give it to you straight”.  Right, because actors are naturally good at telling the truth and never go into politics.

  13. Well duh, pyramid schemes always work this way and are the steps of simian society. Primal instinct for territory and control exists even though we like to think we are not animals but civilized.

    Professor Sapolski knows it best.

    Turn on, tune in, drop out.

  14. The fact is that we’re wired for status. What this means is that as long as the drive for status includes the accumulation of material wealth (and, there were early-in-our-species-history reasons why this was valid), we are going to have people who have the means trying to outdo one another. So, the problem is, how do humans, over time, begin to give status to those who use wealth in a different way, and make the “status” part of the equation more about openness and sharing (to a degree). This is what’s called for, and it may already be starting, with people like Gates and Buffet (who are now very rich, and very comfortable) trying to change things. (side note: Ludwig Wittgenstein, born within one of the wealthiest families in Europe,  gave almost everything away, but he was an odd exception).

    There are other solutions – long term. Other things, like global catastrophes might also “reset” our sharing impulses. It’s a tough call.

    It’s always tempting to blame the “rich folk”. I do it myself, sometimes – but then, invariably, I will run into a very wealthy person who gives a lot away, and will reveal himself or herself as someone who has suffered greatly in life.  Wealth is not a bad thing, nor are wealthy people. There is something larger afoot than control by the wealthy.

    In the meantime, try ti enjoy every day, and be grateful for what each one of us has. It’s not easy to keep that mindset, because the drive for status is ever present. Writing in this blog is a drive for status, believe it or not. Have a nice weekend!

  15. Our biggest problem is that wealth is both an input and a goal. This makes it naturally self re-enforcing, and therefore increasingly held in the hands of a few. It does not really matter if we are greedy, status-seeking, or whatever else – as long as wealth makes it easier to acquire more wealth but talks of “equality of opportunity” within the economic system do not explicitly acknowledge this effect, we will have this problem.

    Imagine what sport would be like if whoever came first in the 100m got a 0.1s head start in the next race. And if he won again, he would have another 0.1s added for the next race (so 0.2s from ‘base’), and so on. The initial wins would be earned, but after a while he would become by default unbeatable but for an act of god.

    The only way I see to counteract this is a periodic resetting of the playing field. Fortunately, biology provides with a pretty decent way – we die. Unfortunately, our socio-economic system has been structured to minimise the resetting effects of death to the greatest degree possible.

    To be fair, progress also acts as a resetting mechanism. ‘Deployed’ or ‘physical’ wealth (e.g. a factory) has momentum. The greater the amount of wealth deployed under certain assumptions/expectations, the more difficult it is to quickly redeploy it when the assumptions get disrupted by progress/innovation. This is Schumpeterian creative destruction. Of course, we have worked hard to neutralise the resetting effect of this dynamic as well – financial capitalism allows wealth to be much, much more nimble than physical capital.

    Finally, such persistent handicaps (in the sense handicapping is used in sports) are also frequently transferred along with professional positions. As a result, instead of seeing free market competition to best serve end customers (which would produce a quite smooth distribution of outcomes) we now have aggressive (labour) competition for a small number of rentier positions (e.g. top-tier firms versus the rest), which, once achieved, allow for much, much greater value creation per unit effort, resulting in the “winner-take-all” outcomes we now observe.

    At the end of the day, none of this is a conspiracy. It is merely the outcome that the present system naturally moves toward, given the way it is designed. Feudal systems naturally tended to “winner-take-all” and consolidation of political power in much the same way.

  16. So was I a fugitive in a sidecar I used my free will twice to opeen small successful businesses in the last twenty years? One of them vegan and popular. Wherever there is $$ there will be mass marketing and a portioin of the human race actually perefers being told what to do. I see it everyday. Chomsky and people like him come out with one of these reactiionary products about every few years to keep your mind on the products THEY are selling. Nothing new here.

  17. Meh, we always look at history from the perspective of the present. We scream conspiracy instead of genius, just because we don’t like the outcome.

  18. This just looks like a re-edit of the Corporation which is a very fine documentary.  Skip this movie and just watch The Corporation. It’s streamable on Netflix.

  19. No reason to buy this from Amazon when it’s apparently free to view at and Youtube.

  20. My comment was removed because I stated that with my own free will I have started , owned and operated 2 small businesses in the last 15 years. I have freely employed myself and others and no one stood in my way or my national suppliers way.
    The most offensive I guess to BoingBoing censorship was when I stated: that one of the greatest self revolutions I made was emptying my head of the virus propaganda of the main writers behind this film. They are propagandists for $$ and care not what lies they fill peoples heads with. Every 5 years Zinn, Chomsky and their like come around with another way to make themselves a buck with reactionary doodoo. LIVE!

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