‘The Truth Has Changed’: Filmmaker considers science, fact, conspiracy, lies

‘The Truth Has Changed’: Filmmaker considers science, fact, conspiracy, lies
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

“In this series, we’re going to go back throughout history and point out all those times when people didn’t know the truth, and it cost them their lives,” says climate change activist Josh Fox in a trailer for his documentary “The Truth Has Changed,” coming virtually to the Walton Arts Center on Oct. 7. “It was the difference between war and peace. And in the future, truth, science, facts — that may very well be the difference between a stable climate and total civilization collapse. We’ve got to know the truth, and we may just have to fight for it.”

Fox’s out-of-the-box performance piece is a multimedia extravaganza that is part monologue, part documentary film. Fox says he first devised the piece in 2017, when it was commissioned by an executive at HBO; though the executive then left the company, Fox completed it and took it on the road.

“The project was shown in places like the [Columbus, Ohio] Wexner Center, UCLA and the [Minneapolis-based] Walker — but it was also performed in Unitarian churches and back yards and small places like that where people were really struggling and needed a lift against the oil industry,” says Fox.

“At a time when methods of technologies for destroying the basis of truth in our society are stronger and more pervasive than ever, when algorithms are used to categorize and market information in a language specifically tailored to who you are and what will persuade you, how do we know what’s true?” reads the promotional material for the production, and, says Fox, that’s a question he’s uniquely qualified to answer. Fox says that, since his activism against the environmental destruction wrought by the oil industry — as well as his 2010 Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland,” which detailed the dangers of fracking by the natural gas industry — he’s frequently been the subject of smear campaigns and online harassment.

“As a person who went through all the smear, misinformation tactics of the largest and most powerful industry on the planet, I see those same tactics being used very frequently by the likes of people like Steve Bannon and Donald Trump and the Republican Party,” he says. “Watching that occur through social media without context, misleading people in very, very dangerous ways, bothers me a great deal. It strips our compassion away from each other. It makes us not understand and appreciate each other. The walled garden of social media leads us down our own narcissistic path over and over and over again, without us being able to see and appreciate the truth.

“The truth is something very difficult. The truth is hard to achieve. The truth is something that takes a great, great struggle to find and work in it — it never stays still, it requires active participation in the world,” Fox says. “What bothers me right now is that we’ve gone so far away from the path of science, we’ve become incredibly divided as a country, and we’re watching that become a very dangerous situation with respect to fascism, with respect to our own internal domestic terrorists. We see right now massive violence in the United States. We have a mass shooting practically every day. We have white supremacist terrorism being unleashed throughout our country.”

Ultimately, says Fox, he hopes “The Truth Has Changed” will not only open people’s eyes — he’s hoping it will open hearts, as well.

“What I hope is that people will start to understand and wake up,” says Fox. “We have to treat each other like human beings, we also have to embrace the truth, we have to embrace science, and we have to embrace the fact that we have to care for one another, we have to understand and live in a way that that is not going to devolve into violence.”


The New York Times has called Josh Fox “one of the most adventurous impresarios of the New York avant-garde.” His 2010 documentary, “Gasland,” was nominated for an Academy Award. (Courtesy Photo)


‘The Truth Has Changed’

WHEN — 7 p.m. Oct. 7

WHERE — Streaming via the Walton Arts Center

COST — Sold out

INFO — 443-5600

FYI — Josh Fox’s performance will be presented virtually for those already holding tickets. “While we generally prefer to present communal arts experiences, in this instance a virtual experience will provide an enhanced level of intimacy with the artist and the subject matter while also maintaining the original scope and production value,” says WAC spokeswoman Jennifer Wilson. “We believe in the artist and value the message of this performance and are eager to present both in a virtual format.”

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