Wall Street, treason and Pat Buchanan
The London Times, 4th march 1996, page 16
Every conspiracy theorist in the United States seems to be backing Pat Buchanan, along with one or two in Britain as well. One of my occasional correspondents is Mr Peter Johnston; I suspect that he also corresponds with quite a number of other people. He has taken up the cudgels on behalf of Pat Buchanan and objects to my reference to Buchanan as “too fascist”. He has sent me an open letter and copied it to Norris McWhirter and others.
I do not think his open letter will attract much attention, because his views will be regarded as outside the boundaries of reasonable discourse in Britain, though they would be common enough on the Internet or talk shows in America. However, they interest me precisely because they do fall outside the boundaries of what is discussed on the BBC or in most of the broadsheet press. His views are worth considering, if only because he and quite a few people like him hold them passionately. Certainly, many of Pat Buchanan’s voters do, and, up to a point, Mr Buchanan does himself.
Let me quote from Mr Johnston’s letter on Pat Buchanan:
“A merchant of fear”, “A merchant of anger” might have been better more honest! but then, I suppose your readers would have expected an explanation of why Americans are so angry; that just wouldn’t do, would it!
Pat Buchanan is the only Republican candidate who has spurned the blandishments of the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Group and theTrilateral Commission, and denounced the New World Order a conspiracy to establish “World Government”. Pat Buchanan is the only Republican candidate committed to reform of the Federal Reserve “system” the biggest and most far-reaching fraud ever perpetrated on a free nation, except for the Maastricht Treaty!… Even if Pat Buchanan is “stopped” in his bid for the presidency, already he has swept away the hollow shams of Press and Money Power, and demonstrated by personal example what one man, armed only with integrity and the courage to act upon it can achieve . . . P.S. To denigrate Mr Buchanan is to denigrate his millions of supporters too.
This is punchy stuff, and I enjoy receiving Mr Johnston’s letters, even though I disagree with most of what he has to say. They show what the world looks like from a completely different point of view. I do not know whether Mr Johnston has an American connection himself, but his belief that America has been taken over by Establishment conspirators is very widely held in the United States.
In 1984, the year of President Reagan’s second election, I was given a lecture on the world conspiracy by a black taxi driver in Atlanta, Georgia. He explained that in 1917, General Motors, US, and General Motors, Russia, had agreed to divide the world between them. Since then they had been in control of their respective countries, employing such characters as Franklin Roosevelt and Joseph Stalin as convenient figureheads. They had organised the Second World War in order to sell arms, and, because they had surplus arms factories after 1945, they had arranged the Cold War. In effect, Reagan and Gorbachev were senior employees of the same company.
At this level of myth, conspiracy theories become completely grotesque, though that does not mean they can be disregarded, as Waco and the Oklahoma City bombing showed. At Mr Johnston’s level, the theories may be equally erroneous, but the fact that so many people believe them shows that they possess psychological attraction. To these conspiracy-mongers, as to Pat Buchanan, the world is a place manipulated by the Establishment of which columnists like myself form a part to the disadvantage of outsiders, of ordinary Americans, ordinary Britons or ordinary Russians. There is indeed one American propagandist who has broadcast the view that I am the head of the British Secret Service, and that I have conspired with the Dalai Lama to put the Queen on the throne of Mexico. That would be news to MI6, the Dalai Lama and the Queen.
How can one be sure that one’s own perception of reality is more reliable? Last time I went to a Bilderberg conference, it was held in Athens, about three years ago. Tony Blair was there, not yet leader of the Labour Party [and now, of course, prime minister], Conrad Black and Barbara Amiel were there, the Queen of The Netherlands was there. It was all pleasantly grand. Yet it is hard to think of any subject on which we would be likely to conspire. The Queen of The Netherlands is as Euro-fanatic as Ted Heath, Tony Blair is a modest good European, I have been an anti-Maastricht campaigner and Mr Black is a Canadian neo-realist who owns 500 newspapers. The idea that we all join hands on some witches’ Sabbath to manipulate the world is almost as absurd as the belief that I am trying to make the Queen of England the crowned head of Mexico. Yet Mr Johnston is not alone in turning shadows into bogeys. Mr Buchanan himself is threatening to take the United States out of the World Trade Organisation, which he regards as another sinister international body, conspiring against American interests.
Such popular fears of a conspiracy of power are nothing new; even John of Gaunt suffered from the belief that he controlled a sinister Establishment, which included Geoffrey Chaucer. My American grandfather was an active local Democrat who worked on Wall Street; indeed, my mother was kissed as a baby by Grover Cleveland during the campaign of 1892. In 1896, my grandfather could hardly bring himself to vote for William Jennings Bryan because of Bryan’s populist attacks on the Wall Street conspiracy. My grandfather did not believe that “mankind is crucified upon a Cross of Gold”. He thought gold was a very useful monetary commodity, as I do myself.
Mr Johnston is probably right to say that Mr Buchanan is “a merchant of anger”, though I still think he is also a merchant of fear. There is an anger running through modern society, a terrible anger in Russia, a gallic anger in France, a mild anger in Britain, an anger that could conceivably elect Buchanan in America. It is not a reasonable anger; many of its targets are hard-working people doing useful jobs which hold the world together. Yet anger and fear go hand in hand. Our late-20th-century fear is the natural product of accelerating economic change.
In my last article on Pat Buchanan, I referred to the opposition he faces from the so-called “cognitive elite”, the people who are the beneficiaries of the information age. The phrase comes from The Bell Curve, by Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray. These are the people with high IQs and good education, who get the highly skilled jobs that pay the best; they often marry other high-earners. They are a pivotal group in the modern world economy, but they are a minority, and people are jealous of their success.
An identifiable privileged minority, like Wall Street financiers in the 1890s, Jewish businessmen in Weimar Germany or the brightest and the best in America of the 1990s are always likely to attract suspicion, fear, anger and hatred. These are dangerous emotions which arise naturally from the resentment of those who believe that they stand outside the windows of the clubhouse of power and cannot quite hear what is being said inside. Mr Buchanan both shares these emotions and plays on them; he is the hero of the disempowered, and they help him to split the Republican vote.