"New World Order," which premieres today on the Independent Film Channel, is a film about people battling with phantoms. They are volunteers in an "information war" who see as clearly, as John saw his four Apocalyptic horsemen and seven trumpeting angels, that 9/11 was an "inside job," that the military-industrial complex killed Kennedy, and that an international "power elite" is plotting to enslave us all, excepting for those it will kill outright.
They are hard to pigeonhole politically, these conspiracy adepts, trusting neither the "socialist Democrats" nor the "fascist Republicans" -- Ron Paul seems to be their man, if anyone is -- yet sounding as often like '60s leftist radicals as right-wing militiamen. They take the 1st Amendment as seriously as any card-carrying member of the ACLU, styling themselves muckrakers and speakers of truth to power, often through a bullhorn.
The man with the biggest bullhorn is Alex Jones, an Austin, Texas-based syndicated radio host and maker of such films as "Endgame: Blueprint for Global Enslavement" (116 five-star reviews on Amazon.com) and "Martial Law 9-11: The Rise of the Police State," and the point through which all the strands connect in this unexpectedly affecting, nonjudgmental documentary by Luke Meyer and Andrew Neel. Meyer and Neel don't get in the way of their subjects; there are no talking heads or title cards to contradict their worldview, or even to put it in perspective, only the occasional collision of the theorists' certain knowledge with others' actual experience.
Much of what Jones and his fellows and followers believe is, in a general way, hardly controversial: that the world is run by the few, not necessarily in the interests of the many; that there are things the government won't tell you, and things it just invents; that alternative media go where mainstream media fear to tread -- these things seem obvious to many of us. But whether 9/11 was a plot to bring on world government, or whether the government you already have has painted a red or blue dot on your mailbox to indicate whether you will be shot immediately or merely be sent to the "FEMA camps" when the American Armageddon arrives, well, that's a pale horse of a different color. (Still, you'll want to check your mailbox now.)
Jones is a self-inflating (though not charmless) showboat who gets energy from hearing himself speak; he has cast himself as the star and main target in a conspiracy thriller he sees following him everywhere: a shirtless biker hanging around the Washington Mall is certainly Secret Service; the fire alarm that goes off in his hotel can only be a "setup."
But many of his fellows and followers seem something closer to sad -- hurt, almost, by What They Know.
How they see it
If anything, "New World Order" plays as a bittersweet, all-too-human comedy. Like the pair's previous documentary, "Darkon," which looked at a self-described "full-contact medieval fantasy war-gaming group," it's a film about people who have found the thing that gives their lives shape and meaning, that corrals the world's random messiness into a unified theory of disaster. It does not make them happy, but the scales having fallen from their eyes; they are helpless to look away and too terrified not to speak out. Their zeal is literally missionary.
"This is more important than how much Britney Spears' hair sold for on EBay, 'Dancing With the Stars' or who's gonna be America's next idol," says one believer. "People think this is a joke. We're not a joke."