TF: The second-biggest story

TF: The second-biggest story June 19, 2009

Tribulation Force, pp. 56-59

I confess that I still can't make any sense out of what Nicolae Carpathia is supposed to be trying to do in his dealings with Buck Williams. It doesn't help that I also can't figure out what Buck is trying to do in his dealings with Nicolae.

The trouble comes from the fact that Buck isn't very, very dead at this point. Or at the very least in some secret dungeon at the United Nations* being tortured for an explanation as to how he managed to resist the AC-mojo brainwashing.

Let's review this relationship. Initially, it seemed the Antichrist was grooming the GIRAT to be his go-to friendly reporter. The arrangement would work the way these things always do, as an exchange of access for cooperatively fawning coverage. Neither Buck nor the authors would admit it, but he was quite useful in that role throughout the first book, providing invaluable assistance in helping Carpathia to suppress stories about Stonagal and Cothran and their role in the deaths of two of Buck's friends and of one of his rivals.

Buck was then hand-picked to be the sole witness to the birth of the New World Order — the only journalist present at the meeting in which the form and the leaders of the One World Government were established, with 10 princes or lieutenants or whatever they're to be called put in charge of 10 vaguely defined regional divisions of the globe. This is where Nicolae's plans for Buck seem to have gone awry. Buck proved immensely helpful when it came to burying stories, but of little actual use when it comes to reporting them.

In all of the confusion surrounding the double homicide and the subsequent brainwashing in that U.N. conference room, it's possible at first to overlook the other, vastly more significant news to come out of that blood-shortened meeting. The bigger story went wholly unreported — by Buck or by anyone else — and still seems, days later, to be wholly unacknowledged and unnoticed. Buck sat there with a front-row seat as Nicolae Carpathia rebuilt, restructured and restaffed the government of the entire world. As that happened right there in front of him, as Nicolae worked his way around the table, elaborately swearing in each of his new potentates, assigning to each a tenth of the globe, Buck failed even to take notes on what he was witnessing. How hard would it have been to jot down, at the very least, the names and titles and jurisdictions of each of these new world leaders? That's Journalism 101 — the sort of thing any intern sent to cover a school board meeting would have done as a matter of course. But not our Buck.

This was, please note, a huge story. Every political boundary and border on earth has been redrawn. Every constitution nullified. Every economy fundamentally altered. No matter who you are or where you live, the leader of your country is no longer the leader of your country. Your country is no longer your country. (Except, of course, for Israel, which is allowed to remain autonomous so that it can enter into a 7-year peace treaty with everyone else and then get destroyed after 3 1/2 years.)

Yet several days after this happened, no one in our story even seems aware that it did. Bruce and Rayford haven't gleaned a hint of it despite all of their CNN-watching. Even poor President Fitzhugh is apparently still sitting there in the Oval Office, not realizing that the USA is merely one regional district in the Global Province of Canamico and that he now is merely a ceremonial figure with less clout than, say, Prince Charles.

Buck Williams, the only reporter present at this epochal event, has yet to mention this reinvention of all nations to anyone, let alone to file a story on it. The equally incompetent Steve Plank and Nicolae Carpathia apparently forgot to mention it at their post-meeting press conference, and the 10 new world leaders themselves have evidently remained silent and anonymous. Even the authors themselves seem to have forgotten this occurred, spending the early chapters of this book, instead, on Buck's office politics, his fumbled flirtation with Chloe and Bruce's sense of being burdened with burdensome burdens.

This tectonic remaking of the world would seem to be the second biggest story of all time. Just quickly consider some of the lesser implications. Taiwan is politically unified with mainland China. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh are joined together as one. There are no longer two Koreas, Germany has once again absorbed the Sudetenland and Poland, and the Balkans are united as part of a single political entity. The world has been redrawn, with the outlines of something like the Ottoman and Holy Roman Empires reappearing on the map. And those vast, astonishing changes are, again, some of the lesser implications of what Nicolae has just done.

And yet, due to the distraction from the death of a couple of bankers, nobody noticed. What if we threw a New World Order and nobody came? If a OWG falls in the forest …?

This launchpad collapse of the NWO suggests that none of the actors involved is capable of doing their job. Buck, Steve, Nicolae, the 10 princes and the authors themselves should all be fired for incompetence over this.**

Confronted with yet another bizarre impossibility, we readers are once more forced to concoct elaborate and implausible theories in an effort to account for the things the book has told us which cannot be so.

So here's mine. I'm going to account for this unnoticed remaking of the globe by accounting for another lesser, but still impossible, impossibility: The fact that Buck Williams is still alive.

Buck was the lone journalist at the table for the 10-princes meeting because Nicolae needed him to perform a job. He failed at that job and thus became unuseful and potentially dangerous. Several days later, Buck has vastly exceeded the life expectancy of people whom the Antichrist finds unuseful and dangerous.

The idea was to lure Buck to the meeting with the promise of exclusive access to the second biggest story in history. His presence there would mean that Nicolae would have a credible, disinterested and skeptical-but-convinced witness to brainwash into supporting the official double-suicide explanation of Stonagal and Cothran's deaths. It seems inexplicable, but in LB-world, Buck does have a reputation for being an independent and truth-telling journalist, so he'd be a useful guy to have on hand, allowing Nicolae to say, "Even if you do not believe my word or the testimony of those who work for me, listen to Mr. Williams and he will verify our account of what happened."

Carpathia double-checked everyone in the room to make sure the mojo had taken effect. God intervened directly to keep Buck from saying anything stupid just then, and Nicolae was, for the moment, fooled into believing Buck was brainwashed along with everyone else.

But then Buck blew it. He hadn't yet been made as a spy, but he abruptly stopped playing along and bolted, rushing off to his office to type up an account of what he had really seen. Once he revealed himself, ditching the police and the post-meeting press conference, Nicolae had to realize he had a rogue witness and a loose end.

This loose end called for a simple two-step solution. Step One: Apply a bit more brainwashing mojo so that no one remembers seeing Buck at the meeting, thus neutralizing any contradictory testimony he might offer as the rambling of a liar or madman rather than an eyewitness account. Step Two: Buck takes a one-way ride on the Staten Island Ferry or, better yet, his body is found the next morning in his apartment, the apparent victim of an autoerotic asphyxiation mishap.

Step Two is non-negotiable, I'm afraid. Sure, Nicolae may suspect that Buck, being Buck, won't bother to do anything or to tell anyone about what he has learned, but he can't afford to take the chance. Wh
en Buck ran out of that meeting, demonstrating hi
s mojo-resistance, he signed his own death warrant.

Yet here he is still alive after several days — carefree days during which he hasn't taken the slightest precautions to protect himself from the supreme global ruler, a man he knows will not hesitate to kill those who have knowledge against him.

My theory doesn't account for Buck's behavior. From the moment he fled that meeting, he must have realized he had only two options*** for staying alive. He could fake his own death and go into hiding, or he could arrange a meeting with Nicolae and beg for his life, offering to report or not report whatever he was told in exchange for being allowed to live. In the last book, you'll recall, when it was merely Cothran who wanted Buck dead, he chose both of those options in turn, so we know that Buck knows how this works and what's at stake.

Instead of either of those things, Buck flew to Chicago under his own name, leased a condominium, bought and registered a car — all while maintaining his usual heavy schedule of regular phone calls to his known associates. He is restless and obsessively second-guessing himself, but only over whether or not he should call Chloe again so soon when she's still dealing with the death loss of her mother and brother and is probably, like him, wondering if the Apocalypse is the most opportune time to start a relationship.

So instead of potentially suspenseful passages involving half-glimpsed figures lurking in the shadows outside of Buck's condo and the palpable sense of impending doom that comes from his knowing that the attack could come at any moment, instead of that, we get a lot more of this:

Buck had half expected to hear from Chloe. He thought he had left it with Rayford that she would call at her convenience. Maybe she was the type who didn't call men, even when she had missed their call. On the other hand, she was not quite 21 yet, and he admitted he had no idea about the customs and mores of her generation. Maybe she saw him as a big brother or even a father figure and was repulsed by the idea that he might be interested in her. That didn't jibe with her look and her body language from the night before, but he hadn't been encouraging then, either. …

But maybe she had phoned when he was with Bruce that morning. …

Several more pages of that, actually. And it's hard to read those pages without resenting Nicolae for killing Buck like he ought to have done several days and chapters ago.

Buck is distracted from this mooning reverie by a voicemail message from Steve Plank, of which I'll offer only an abbreviated sample because, despite the fact that we know Steve has e-mail, he's still the kind of guy who thinks it's appropriate to play phone-tag while leaving book-length voicemail messages:

Did you get my message that Carpathia wants to talk to you? People don't make a habit of making him wait, my friend. … I honestly don't know what he wants except that he's still high on you. He's not holding a grudge over your standing him up on his invitation to that meeting, if you're worried about that.

Tell you the truth, Buck, the newsman in you would have wanted to be there and should have been there. …

Bailey tells me you're putting the finishing touches on the theory article. If you can get with Carpathia soon enough, you can include his ideas. He's made no secret of them, but an exclusive quote or two wouldn't hurt either, right? …

The only reassuring thing about that message is that Steve doesn't seem aware that his boss is using him to lure Buck to his death, yet Buck doesn't seem terribly worried. He spends the next two pages weighing the pros and cons of Nicolae's invitation. On the one hand, it's quite an opportunity "to interview the leading personality in the world on the eve of the delivery of your most important cover story." On the other hand, you know, Antichrist.

He didn't know much about the Antichrist. Was the man omniscient like God? Could he read Buck's mind? … He wished there was something in the Bible that specifically outlined the powers of the Antichrist. Then he would know what he was dealing with.

This is why Bible-professor Bruce couldn't fulfill his duties as Mr. Exposition and explain to Buck "what he was dealing with." There's a kind of weird integrity at work here. L&J concede that there's nothing in the Bible "that specifically outlined the powers of the Antichrist." They seem to share Buck's disappointment over this omission, but they are unwilling to go beyond what they believe the Bible teaches about the Antichrist prophecies. Those prophecies are, themselves, a fevered collage of inventions, fantasies, misquotations and virulent eisegesis, but the authors have mostly convinced themselves that those prophecies are really present in a simple and straightforward reading of the text and they won't go beyond that self-deluding imagined reading to offer a list of Antichrist superpowers that isn't there. LaHaye would say, I'm guessing, that the Bible tells us about the outcomes of the Antichrist's actions, but not about the powers he uses to produce those outcomes. (The exception would be Nicolae's brainwashing mojo, which seems to come from LaHaye's "literal" interpretation of passages saying that "many will be deceived" by false messiahs.)

At the very least, Carpathia had to be curious about Buck. He must have wondered, when Buck slipped away from the conference room where the murders had been committed, whether there had been some glitch in his own mind-control powers. Otherwise, why erase from everyone else's mind not only the murders, replacing them with a picture of a bizarre suicide, but also the memory that Buck had been there at all?

Clearly, Nicolae had tried to cover himself by making everyone else forget Buck was there. If such a move was supposed to make Buck doubt his own sanity, it hadn't worked. God had been with Buck that day.

Again, the idea couldn't have been "to make Buck doubt his own sanity," but to make him appear insane to everyone else and thus not a credible accuser when he described the murders he witnessed.

It's also strange that Buck understands the meaning of the "glitch" in Nicolae's mind-control, but that he assumes Nicolae himself would not understand what this signifies — that "God had been with Buck that day." Buck doesn't seem to appreciate that Nicolae must suspect that he has become a Christian or, as Nicolae would call him, a martyr-in-waiting.

Buck at least gets this much right:

One thing was sure, he would not tell Carpathia what he knew. If Carpathia was certain Buck had not been tricked, he would have not recourse but to have him eliminated.

This strikes me as an overestimation of his own importance and uniqueness. Buck assumes that Carpathia may suspect him, but doesn't know for sure that "Buck had not been tricked." He apparently thinks he's special enough that Carpathia is willing to put off having him killed until he confirms which is which. But he isn't that special — he works for the Chicago bureau now — and that isn't how evil tyrants usually operate. They tend to err on the side of lethal prudence and the mere suspicion of disloyalty is enough to get you killed. It's not like they'll lose sleep if they find out later you weren't actually disloyal — they're evil tyrants, that sort of thing doesn't actually bo
ther them much.

And but so, here's my theory.

Nicolae sat in his office at the Plaza, kicking himself over his botched roll-out of the New World Order. In retrospect, he realized, it probably wasn't a good idea to try to pull off such a major announcement at the same time he was using his mojo to make everyone forget what they had just seen. The whole thing was exasperating — three days later and people in Antwerp still thought of themselves and Belgian, rather than as citizens of the Great States of Britain. It didn't help, of course, that the newly appointed prince of the GSB had actually gotten himself arrested while trying to move into his offices on Downing Street, hauled off by a bunch of goons from MI5 who mistakenly still thought there was something called the British government (and who also didn't seem to have gotten the memo about global disarmament).

He realized he was going to have to re-do the whole thing.

Well, almost the whole thing. Not the killing of Jonathan and Joshua, of course — that part had gone off well enough. But the rest of it, all of it, was going to have to be done all over again. He would re-do it a thousand times if that is what it took, dammit, and nobody was going to go anywhere until they were all quite done dividing the world into 10 kingdoms and making sure everyone everywhere knew that it has been divided into 10 kingdoms. And if doing all that meant keeping Buck Williams alive for another week so that they could get him back here to report on this, then so be it.

OK, so it's not the best theory, but really, I don't know how else to explain the fact that Buck Williams, foe of the all-powerful Antichrist, is still breathing.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

* In the world of LaHaye and Jenkins, you just know the U.N. has secret dungeons, right there in Manhattan. And, probably, a network of tunnels connecting it to the subterranean bathhouse that's home to the headquarters of the dreaded IHA (International Homosexual Agenda).

** The authors here seem to be following the Rumsfeldian approach of ignoring difficulties in the hope that they will thereby not matter, all the while steadfastly ignoring that they are dis-proving everything they had set out to prove.

These novels were written to illustrate the near-future scenario that Tim LaHaye insists will happen. By vividly portraying what this scenario will look and feel like when it actually unfolds, he and Jenkins hope to convince readers of its reality — to make us say, "My gosh, yes, this is so plausible and it all seems so real! This is obviously exactly where the world is headed. This is what the future has in store!"

Yet by setting down an endless string of ridiculous, inconsistent, contradictory and impossible events, they instead convince readers that LaHaye's prophesied future could never occur the way he promises that it must. Left Behind and all of its sequels disprove every tenet of premillennial dispensationalist mythology. They refute what they were meant to reaffirm.

This is one of the places where this self-refuting dynamic becomes so obvious that even the authors seem to have noticed it. Tim LaHaye teaches that, very soon, the whole world will be divided into 10 political kingdoms. He says the Bible teaches this, so it must be so, citing a "literal" reading of Revelation 13:1-2:

And I saw a beast coming out of the sea. He had ten horns and seven heads, with ten crowns on his horns, and on each head a blasphemous name. The beast I saw resembled a leopard, but had feet like those of a bear and a mouth like that of a lion. The dragon gave the beast his power and his throne and great authority.

There is only one possible meaning to that passage, LaHaye insists. If you take the Bible seriously, he says, you must conclude that it foretells an Antichrist very much like Nicolae Carpathia appointing 10 princes to lead the 10 divisions of the OWG. He believes that this will and must occur rapidly, without resistance, and due to nothing more than the fact that the Antichrist will be an immensely charming fellow.

It quickly became obvious to the authors, however, that writing a fictional account of such a scene would be impossible. A realistic portrayal of such a thing is, like the thing itself, unimaginable. Close your eyes and throw a dart at a map of the world and it won't land more than a few inches from somewhere that such a rapid and voluntary obliteration of borders and national identities is simply inconceivable. Ireland, Tibet, Iraq, Kosovo, Sudan, Quebec, Kashmir, Vietnam, Korea, Texas — from Afghanistan to Zaire, an atlas offers an alphabetical refutation of LaHaye's ridiculous prophecy. Such a thing cannot happen. Such a thing will never happen. And any attempt to describe it happening will only serve to reinforce that irrefutable fact and to expose Tim LaHaye for what he is: a false prophet and a buffoon.

Faced with the impossibility of providing even the sketchiest fictional account of the division of the world into this non-literal 10-headed creature, the authors balk: "And then the Antichrist Nicolae Carpathia divided the world into 10 kingdoms and … OMG, look at Verna's shoes! What a castrating shrew, huh?" It seems unlikely they're even fooling themselves with such a transparent dodge.

*** He would have had a third if he'd bothered to do his job and had taken notes at that meeting. The names and shapes of the 10 kingdoms and the names of their leaders still haven't become public knowledge. By showing that he knew those things, Buck could prove that he had been at the meeting and could thereby present a compelling case that Nicolae was both a murderer and a brainwasher. He'd probably still have to fake his own death, dye his hair, grow a beard and move to Paraguay, but at least he'd have been able to get a parting shot off first.

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