Eco-documentarian brings show on disinformation to Chico
Josh Fox came to many people’s attention in 2010 with the release of his Emmy-winning documentary GasLand, which exposed the dangers of fracking. Years before, and in the years since, he’s been the focus of attention by the petroleum industry. Fox has publicly discussed public relations, media and internet campaigns to discredit him, on which he estimates fossil fuel interests have spent at least $50 million.
Yet he continues. Fox produced GasLand Part II and How to Let Go of the World and Love All the Things the Climate Can’t Change—the latter occasioning a visit to Chico in 2016. He returns Saturday afternoon (Nov. 3) to perform his one-man show, The Truth Has Changed, laying out how the sort of disinformation created about him has become endemic in America. Recordings from previous dates will form a film for HBO.
Chico will be the last stop on his 40-city tour, scheduled to rally progressives ahead of the midterm election. During a recent day off, he spoke by phone with the CN&R.
What brings you to Chico?
This is my second time in Chico. Basically, we do grassroots tours for all of my projects, so that we can bring my work directly to the activists and organizers and front-line communities that are fighting the major fossil fuel industry, or fighting fracking, or are involved in a progressive campaign of some kind.
This particular tour, we brought it to Chico because organizers from Chico[350.org] asked us to come … but also to continue this dialogue I’ve had with my audience on the road since 2010, since GasLand.
The show is titled The Truth Has Changed—what has changed since you were here the last time?
The entire world has changed the last two years! The Trump administration has gone off the rails and turned America into a madhouse. But, most specifically, we’re talking about fracking, climate change and the media …. Trump has logged something like 12 lies a minute [laugh] and he has completely destroyed the notion of truth within our civic dialogue.
But it’s not just the Trump administration; it’s also very, very powerful forces that exist behind the scenes that have completely altered the ecosystem of truth and the ecosystem of journalism and reporting. I’m talking about Cambridge Analytica and how they manipulated Google and Facebook specifically, through the way that every piece of information online is targeted at people individually, to mess with people’s heads. We’re talking about psychological warfare that’s going on every single day.
This piece chronicles how Steve Bannon and the fossil fuel industry followed me around for nearly a decade—and they spent $50 [million] to $100 million attacking me, my journalism, my films and the [anti-]fracking movement specifically—and those people are now in charge of the way media and the government work.
Along with your personal experience, were there things you learned going down the rabbit hole of research?
Absolutely. First, let me go back and say this is a personal, deeply cathartic, incredibly emotional roller coaster of a story. It deals with my personal recollections in this incredible front-line action from 9/11 to the fracking wars to the Iraq War to being on the front lines at Standing Rock to being inside the Bernie Sanders campaign, the Hillary Clinton campaign and a member of the Democratic platform committee—nearly a 20-year arc.
But certainly, when I started to look into research, it was only because I had this extraordinary history with the fossil fuel industry that I realized that all of these stories intersect. We think about Cambridge Analytica as the thing that tampered with our news [feeds] during the election of 2016. We also have this huge story of Russia tampering with the election. What people don’t realize is this all connects to the fossil fuel industry … and I was in a very specific position to unearth the connection.
Why did you choose this performance format versus a more “traditional” documentary?
I’ve always been a person of the theater. All the films I’ve made over the past 10 years were really a weird side project from what I’ve done for most of my life …. So, when Sheila Nevins at HBO said, “We want you to do a one-man show, a performance,” it was right up my alley, and I took the challenge.
In the last 10 years, I’ve been out on the road, 500 cities, touring with these films, so I’ve kind of developed a personal approach to talking to the audience, which I really enjoy. So, we decided to put that front and center. It’s been a year and a half in development, with 30 performances coast to coast and now it’s ready. We’ve filmed it, we’re editing the film now, and I’m really excited to bring it to the audience there in Chico.