There's Something About Gary North
by Declan McCullagh
3:00 a.m. Jan. 7, 1999 PST
WASHINGTON -- For decades Gary North has made a living predicting modern society will end in panic and ruin. In 1980, he forecast rationing of housing and a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. He warned his followers to buy "gold, silver, a safe place outside the major cities."
Then AIDS became the threat: "In 1992, we will run out of available hospital beds.... The world will eventually panic," he wrote in 1987.
Now North has found Y2K and a skittish audience receptive to predictions of doom. A recent advertisement for his Remnant Review newsletter proclaims: "A bank run like no other will bankrupt banks all over the world in 1999."
If you fork over $225 for a 24-issue subscription, North will cheerfully equip you with "the tools you need to build untouchable wealth."
His advice is familiar, if unsurprising: Close your bank accounts, sell your stocks. Buy guns, gold, and grain. Move to a remote cabin where you can survive the collapse of Western civilization, safe from riots and hungry looters.
"The code is broken. It cannot be fixed. The panic is inevitable. It's a question of when," he wrote on garynorth.com last month. "Through his Web site he can help to fan the flames of Y2K panic to create social disorder so the social systems of the world crash. It's out of the ashes of those systems that he thinks the kingdom will rise," says Frederick Clarkson, author of the book Eternal Hostility: The Struggle Between Theocracy and Democracy.
The kingdom? Some sort of cultish year-2000 prophecy, perhaps? Nope. It's none other than the Kingdom of God and the return of Jesus Christ, events that North believes won't happen until a Draconian biblical law is imposed for a thousand years. For North, there's no better way to pull the plug on an ungodly society than fanning the flames of Y2K panic. "He wants to make sure the banking system crashes. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy," Clarkson says.
Out of this wreckage, North and many other Christian Reconstructionist men hope to build a harsh biblical order where sinners, such as adulterers and gay men, can be severely punished, even executed, preferably by stoning.
"Female homosexuality, or lesbianism, is a manifestation of the same evil as the masculine form, but the death penalty is reserved for the men," wrote R. J. Rushdoony, North's father-in-law, in The Institutes of Biblical Law. North contributed an appendix on Christian economics to the 1973 treatise, which laid the intellectual foundation for the Reconstructionist movement.
"What amazes me about Gary North is that he was such an obscure figure. Nobody ever heard of him until this came up. He's found his niche," says Skipp Porteous, a former fundamentalist minister who is now the director of the Institute for First Amendment Studies. "This mind-set believes that things are happening that we don't know about and they're going to get us. The source of it all is Satan," Porteous says. "Y2K is of great interest to these people."
North refused repeated requests for an interview. "I get daily requests for interviews. Without exception, they want to interview me about: (1) survivalism, (2) me. I turn down all such requests.... Another interview would be superfluous," he told Wired News in an email message. "At zero price, there is greater demand than supply. That's how I assess my time. Since I do not sell interviews, I do not give them."
Last year, North invited ABC News to his rural retreat, though the televised segment didn't mention his doomsaying history. Neither did a Wired News article, which merely dubbed North an economist. That's no accident. North has selected over 3,000 documents and news articles and painstakingly sorted them into 24 categories on garynorth.com. He adds about a dozen more each day to the pile, with his own comments -- often witty, always downbeat -- attached.
The site is wildly popular. In just the past few weeks, the discussion forum on relocating to the countryside received some 1,000 posts. But North doesn't highlight his incendiary views or his Institute for Christian Economics.
"He wants to present himself as a secular expert on Y2K," says Chip Berlet, editor of Eyes Right! Challenging the Right Wing Backlash. "It's much easier to take a Y2K expert seriously who doesn't promote Reconstructionism and its death penalty for adultery."
The true mark of success is, of course, imitators and detractors, and North has plenty of both. The Gary North on Y2K and Gary North is a Big Fat Idiot Web sites complain about North's "latest ruse for bringing about 'Christian Reconstruction.'" And garysouth.com, which launched this month, lampoons North's relentlessly dire warnings.
Unlike some Christians, North has not said he views Y2K as a religious portent. "Pre-millennialist" Christians believe Christ will appear during the Antichrist's reign to rule for a thousand years -- and some have pointed to the Year 2000 as a likely date. But "post-millennialists" like North believe a thousand-year reign of the righteous must come first, and it doesn't matter what year it begins.
North recently wrote that Y2K "will call into question science, technology, the free market, and the welfare state. It will call into question all of modern humanism."
His plan: "Christians will be in a position to win this battle. I'll put it bluntly. Y2K is about handing out blame. The corporate judgment of God always is." This blame is to be squarely laid on the shoulders of the current technological -- and to North, corrupt -- society that produced Y2K in the first place.
What will the Internet's best-known doomsayer do if Y2K results in just minor disruptions? "A few years later he'll reappear with another apocalyptic scenario," Berlet predicts.
Copyright ? 1994-2001 Wired Digital Inc.
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