L.B.: Not a conspiracy theory

Left Behind, pp. 80-87

Investigative reporter Buck Williams, we learn here, was headed to London to meet with his old college friend Dirk Burton. (For those keeping score at home, our list of male porn names thus far: Buck, Steele, Plank, Dirk.)

Dirk is "a former Princeton classmate" of Buck's, "a Welshman who had been working in the London financial district since graduate school." That much makes him sound like a sane, respectable fellow. But then we read this:

"Dirk Burton had been a reliable source in the past, tipping off Buck about secret high-level meetings among international financiers."

Ah. "International financiers."

There are, of course, real people who really work as financiers. And, since some of these people work internationally, they can accurately be called "international financiers." Yet these two words together convey much more than that. They come with a host of conspiratorial connotations. LaHaye and Jenkins are poised on the threshhold of the looking glass, inches away from a LaRouchian wonderland.

To their credit, sort of, L&J seem to realize this. What unfolds over the next several pages is an unsuccessful tightrope act as they try to have it both ways. They want to convince readers that neither they nor Buck are mere conspiracy theorists, while simultaneously outlining a grand conspiracy theory.

Even as they follow the trail blazed by John Birchers and LaRouchies, they want to demonstrate that they have nothing in common with such people. They thus take pains to identify the main figures in their grand plot as Anglo-Americans and WASPs, hoping to avoid the anti-Semitism of most such theories in which "international financiers" is a coded synonym for "international Jewish bankers" or just, "The Jews."

The year before LB was written, Pat Robertson had published his own End Times conspiracy theory, The New World Order, in which he repeated some of the nastier delusions about international Jewish bankers. L&J may have taken note of the criticism this prompted. In any case, "The Jews" have a different role to play in their apocalyptic fantasy, so they have cast their shadow-government of international financiers differently. (We'll see quite a bit more of L&J's complex, conflicted attitude toward The Jews in the chapters to come.)

So first we get a couple of pages in which L&J doth protest too much that they do not "buy into conspiracy theories." Buck at first is skeptical of Dirk's allegations of a shadow-government:

"You think these guys are the real world leaders, right?"

"I wouldn't go that far, Cam," Dirk had said. "All I know is, they're big, they're private, and after they meet, major things happen."

"So you think they get world leaders elected, handpick dictators, that kind of a thing?"

"I don't belong to the conspiracy book club, if that's what you mean."

Conspiracy theories? No, no, no, no, no. Not at all. No.

Well, a little.

Here it is:

"… the scuttlebutt is that this guy is real hot on getting the whole world into one currency. You know half our time is spent on exchange rates and all that. Takes computers forever to constantly readjust every day, based on the whims of the markets. …

Buck had passed off most of Dirk Burton's ideas until a few years later when Dirk had called him in the middle of the night. "Cameron," he had said, unaware of the nickname bestowed by his friend's colleagues, "I can't talk long. You can pursue this or you can just watch it happen and wish it had been your story. But you remember that stuff I was saying about the one world currency?"

"Yeah, I'm still dubious."

"Fine, but I'm telling you the word here is that our guy pushed the idea at the last meeting of these secret financiers and something's brewing."

"What's brewing?"

"Well, there's going to be a major United Nations Monetary Conference, and the topic is going to be streamlining currency … They have it down to three currencies for the entire world, hoping to go to just one inside a decade. … If my information is correct, the initial stage is a done deal. The U.N. conference is just window dressing."

This, then, is Step 1 in the Grand Plot — a single currency for the entire world. As far as the nefarious master plans of evil geniuses go, this one seems, well, more odd than evil. Call me old-fashioned, but I prefer something more along the lines of a giant space-based death-ray.

I don't know enough about economics to evaluate all that the move to a single world currency would entail, how difficult such a thing might be or what all the implications would be for international trade or the wealth of nations. As a reader of the novel, it shouldn't be my job to figure all that out for myself. Unfortunately, my only guide to such questions in LB is Buck Williams, who again demonstrates his staggering journalistic incuriosity and has no interest in exploring them.

One can imagine this as the subject of an airport novel by a capable hack such as Michael Crichton. He'd do enough research to make the subject plausible, running the manuscript past economists (in Crichton's case, right-wing economists) who could help ensure that the plot made sense. (The inevitable movie version, "Rate of Exchange," would star Michael Douglas as the investment banker who uncovers the plot, but is forced to go on the run when agents of the shadow government frame him for the murder of his mistress. "In a world of international finance …" trailer-guy intones at the beginning of the preview.)

L&J don't have to bother with any such research because this move to a single world currency is for them, literally, an article of faith. They believe this will happen as the fulfillment of biblical prophecy. Specifically, they believe it is foretold in Revelation 13:16-17: "[The beast] also forced everyone, small and great, free and slave, to receive a mark on his right hand or on his forehead, so that no one could buy or sell unless he had the mark …"

This beast, by the way, is described as having "two horns like a lamb, but he spoke like a dragon." You almost have to pity L&J for their determination to interpret such passages "literally."

Dirk Diggler Burton also reveals to Buck the identity of "the power behind the power … the mightiest of the secret group of international money men." No, it's not Dr. Victor Von Doom, it's … Jonathan Stonagal:

Buck had hoped that Dirk would name someone ludicrous so he could burst into laughter. But he had to admit, if only to himself, that if there was anything to this, Stonagal would be a logical choice. One of the richest men in the world and long known as an American power broker, Stonagal would have to be involved if serious global finance was being discussed. Though he was already in his eighties and appeared infirm in news photos, he not only owned the biggest banks and financial institutions in the United States, but he also owned or had huge interests in the same throughout the world. …

Stonagal seems like an interesting figure. The man owns "the biggest banks" — plural — as well as the biggest "financial institutions." I don't comprehend the advantage Stonagal sees in owning several competing banks without consolidating them into a single institution, but then I'm not an international financier and power broker. I also don't understand why someone like Stonagal, who could easily make a fortune exploiting international exchange rates, would be so eager to eliminate this cash cow in the drive for a single currency, but maybe if I owned several banks in countries thoughout the world the logic of such a step would be clearer to me.

The plot unfolded exactly as Dirk had described it to Buck. With Stonagal pulling the strings behind the scenes, a strangely competent, efficient and powerful United Nations had decreed the "streamlining" down to three currencies for the entire world. "Many Third World countries fought the change," L&J tell us, although they do not say why.

Buck had told only Steve Plank of his tip on the U.N. meetings, but he didn't say where he'd gotten the information, and neither he nor Plank felt it worth a speculative article. "Too risky," Steve had said. Soon they both wished they had run with it in advance. "You'd have become even more of a legend, Buck."

I understand Buck's regret at not running the article. But even more than that you'd think he'd regret not having invested everything he owned in dollars, marks and yen. He could've made a fortune — at least enough to afford hotels with laundry service.

Dirk and Buck had become closer than ever, and it wasn't unusual for Buck to visit London on short notice. If Dirk had a serious lead, Buck packed and went. … [But now] he was stuck in Chicago, after the most electrifying phenomenon in world history.

Ah, that's right. Buck is still in Chicago. More precisely, he is still in a stall in the men's room of the Pan-Con Club at O'Hare.

He won't leave the stall for another two pages.

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  • maggie koerth

    I can’t believe that I’m the first person to comment on THIS line:
    :::Dirk and Buck had become closer than ever, and it wasn’t unusual for Buck to visit London on short notice.::::
    Yeah, I BET it wasn’t…
    With a history like that, you’d think they’d have gotten raptured along with Tony the Flight Attendant.

  • Ken

    Ah, that’s right. Buck is still in Chicago. More precisely, he is still in a stall in the men’s room of the Pan-Con Club at O’Hare.
    He won’t leave the stall for another two pages.
    Plop… Plop… Plop…


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