The New York Times Magazine referred to him as a “Y2K guru.” ABC featured him in a prime-time head-for-the-hills news story. And Wired called him “a historian and early leader in the Y2K preparedness movement.” His name is Gary North and the media have anointed him as their official Year 2000-survival poster boy. But who’s spinning whom here?
“My concern about Gary North is that there are a lot of innocent citizens out there who are taking his information as the unadulterated truth,” gripes Steve Davis, co-author of Y2K Risk Management: Contingency Planning, Business Continuity, and Avoiding Litigation (John Wiley&Sons). “Y2K just came along and fit his agenda perfectly.” While Y2K is a real problem with real consequences, it’s uncertainty provides the perfect cover for a whole slew of millennial panic profiteers.
Unfortunately, the details of North’s agenda are not revealed because reporters are too busy lapping up his end-of-the-world sales pitch when they should be checking his background. If they did, they’d discover that North is using the Y2K problem to promote his larger agenda of Christian Reconstructionism.
An outgrowth of Calvinism, Reconstructionism is an extreme belief of the Christian Right, whose advocates call for the imposition of an Old Testament-style theocracy, complete with capital punishment for such high crimes as adultery, homosexuality, and blasphemy. North, a star polemicist of the Reconstruction movement, is married to the daughter of its leader, theologian Rousas John Rushdoony. North himself has called for the public execution of women who have abortions and those who advise them to do so. The reason that North and other Reconstructionists are so busy hyping Y2K is simple: They see it as a trigger that could lead to The End of the World as We Know It (and especially of secular and pluralistic liberalism), ushering in their theocracy based on the principles of God.
Ironically, North is a figure of the Information Age, a savvy media manipulator. To disseminate his message, North employs a variety of communications outlets, including, most prominently, the Internet. He publishes a well-trafficked Website that features a host of links and forums devoted to Y2K. He also maintains an email discussion list where folks speculate on the downfall of civilization. As the founding president of the Institute for Christian Economics, he promotes his ideology through a truckload of books with titles such as Is the World Running Down, Liberating Planet Earth, and Unconditional Surrender: God’s Program for Victory.
Steve Davis was so taken aback by North’s gloom-and-doom rap that he carved out a section for North on his own Website, Dealing with the Year 2000 Problem, under the topic “Doom.” After corresponding with North in the summer of 1996, Davis says he realized that North wanted TEOTWAWKI. On his site, Davis published one of North’s emails, in which he wrote, “The Y2K crisis…will wipe out every national government in the West. Not just modify them-destroy them….I think the USA will break up the way the USSR did. Call me a dreamer. Call me an optimist. That’s what I think. This will decentralize the social order. That is what I have wanted all of my adult life. In my view, Y2K is our deliverance. Just don’t be in a city when deliverance comes.”
North is not the only Y2K “expert” pushing a hidden agenda. Pat Boone’s emergence as a spokesperson for the “non-profit” Year 2017 National Educational Taskforce, or Y2KNET, a shill site for coin specialists Swiss America Trading, has taken many by surprise (see “Singing Out for Y2K Paranoia,” Oct. ’98, p14). Y2KNET was founded by Swiss America, an organization that sells gold, silver, and platinum coins to individuals freaked about a potential global monetary crisis.
Expect more shady schemes like this to pop up over the year. Pat Wallace, president of the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the Better Business Bureau, hasn’t received any Y2K complaints yet, but says the bureau is keeping its eyes peeled for scams. His advice is simple: Caveat emptor.
Before you plunk down any money on a Y2K product or service, do your homework, get a second opinion, and only do business with experienced people who’ve got a history in your community. “Don’t just pull some name off the Net or from some flier of a company in Nova Scotia,” warns Wallace.