You know the story: the globalists want your guns. They want your democracy. They’re hovering just beyond the horizon in those black helicopters. They control the media and Wall Street. They’ve burrowed into a deep state that stretches like a vast tectonic plate beneath America’s fragile government institutions. They want to replace the United States with the United Nations, erase national borders, and create one huge, malevolent international order.
The only thing that stands in their way is — take your pick — the Second Amendment, Twitter, or Donald Trump.
Conspiracy theorists have, in fact, been warning about just such a New World Order for decades, going all the way back to the isolationist critics of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and to fears about the United Nations in the post-World War II moment. During the Cold War, the John Birch Society and fringe elements of the Republican Party nurtured just such anti-globalist sentiments, but they never made much headway in the mainstream world. As the Cold War ended, however, the anti-globalist virus began to spread again, this time more rapidly, and it’s threatening to become a pandemic.
The Agenda 21 Dystopia
On September 11, 1990, just after Saddam Hussein ordered the invasion of Kuwait and just before the reunification of Germany, George H.W. Bush spoke of a “new world order” that would unite all countries in defense of the rule of law and thwart the Iraqi autocrat’s regional ambitions. The phrase was meant as a rallying cry, not an actual plan, but that didn’t stop the president’s America First critics from reading all manner of mayhem into his speech.
The elder Bush, who had long toiled in the shadow of Ronald Reagan, was in some ways a curious target for those who feared the end of U.S. sovereignty. As recent posthumous assessments revealed, he was an early champion of states’ rights (against civil rights), supported prayer in school and the NRA, made a U-turn as a presidential candidate to oppose abortion, launched wars in Panama and the Persian Gulf, and presided over the collapse of the Soviet Union. Anti-globalists, however, focused on a different part of Bush’s résumé: he’d gone to Yale, later belonged to a wealthy elite of Texas oil barons, served as ambassador to the United Nations, and was a card-carrying member of both the Council on Foreign Relations and that most elite of global agenda-setting outfits, the Trilateral Commission.
Such characteristics made him particularly vulnerable to attacks from the far right. Preacher Pat Robertson, for instance, disliked Bush’s staid Episcopalianism and resented losing to the future president in the 1988 Republican primaries. In his 1991 bestseller, The New World Order, Robertson refocused all his ire on the president’s presumed global ambitions. “Is George Bush merely an idealist or are there now plans underway to merge the interests of the U.S. and the Soviet Union in the United Nations?” he asked rhetorically and then, of course, provided the answer:
“A single thread runs from the White House to the State Department to the Council on Foreign Relations to the Trilateral Commission to secret societies to extreme New Agers. There must be a new world order… There must be world government, a world police force, world courts, world banking and currency, and a world elite in charge of it all.”
Though that 1991 book is largely forgotten, the televangelist’s attacks on Bush’s “globalism” resurfaced again and again in different forms. Beginning in 1994, for instance, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins’ Left Behind series spun Robertson’s dire predictions of a one-world government into 16 novels and several dreadful movies. Just to ensure that readers wouldn’t miss their point, they even installed the anti-Christ as the head of the United Nations. More recently, Donald Trump’s attacks on Hillary Clinton’s elitism echoed some of the very themes Robertson had sounded almost three decades earlier.
Oddly, though, Bush and Robertson agreed on one thing, on which they even found common ground with former Vice President Al Gore: the importance of addressing climate change.
As president, Bush pushed a number of environmental initiatives related to air quality, ozone depletion, and climate change more generally. In 1992, his administration even endorsed a tepid “action plan,” Agenda 21, that came out of that year’s global environmental meeting in Rio de Janeiro. In reality, it was just another of an endless stream of documents produced by such environmental conferences. For some Americans, however, those two words came to evoke the most terrifying aspect of the Bush era, proof positive that he was covertly constructing the very New World Order that he had invoked.
Perhaps the leading proponent of Agenda 21 conspiracy theories has been TV and radio personality Glenn Beck. In 2012, he even published a dystopian novel called (you won’t be surprised to learn) Agenda 21. In it, he and co-author Harriet Parke fingered environmentalists as the true agents of the coming apocalypse and issued dire warnings about climate change becoming the lever a future global authority would use to eradicate national sovereignty and enslave Americans to a collective vision. “Just a generation ago, this place was called America,” Beck and Parke wrote. “Now, after the worldwide implementation of a UN-led program called Agenda 21, it’s simply known as ‘the Republic.’ There is no president. No Congress. No Supreme Court. No freedom.”
Once you start looking for Agenda 21, it pops up in all sorts of strange places. Newt Gingrich ran for president in 2012 with a pledge to rescind the “plan.” Ted Cruz linked it to — you guessed it — George Soros and warned that its implementation would deprive Americans of their right to play golf (no joke). Most recently, YouTube and Twitter have lit up with contrived reports that Agenda 21, not climate change, was somehow responsible for the latest California wildfires.
And here’s the truly bizarre part: while Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich, Ted Cruz, and the rest of them were nattering on about an obscure, non-binding U.N. document, they were missing the real story. A nightmarish New World Order was indeed being constructed around them. It’s global, malevolent, aimed at destroying ever more American lives, and — according to a recent Trump administration report — getting worse by the minute.
The Real New World Order
A significant number of Americans believe that they’re still relatively safe behind the walls of Donald Trump’s Fortress America. Homeland Security protects them from international terrorists. Border patrol agents block caravans of refugees and asylum-seekers. By refusing to ratify membership in institutions like the International Criminal Court, Congress keeps the U.S. safe from foreign influences. President Trump has only reinforced such feelings by pulling the United States out of international pacts like the Paris climate accord and global bodies like the U.N. Human Rights Council.
Because the world keeps knocking on America’s door, the present wave of nationalist politicians has added a few more locks for safety’s sake. All such precautions, however, have done nothing to prevent the establishment of an actual New World Order on American soil. Yes, it’s happened, even if the conspiracy mongers haven’t cared to notice.
There is indeed a new global order. It’s called climate change and, unlike the scenarios imagined by the anti-globalists, it’s wreaking havoc not in some dystopian future but right in the here and now: the prairie fires that struck Oklahoma, Kansas, and the Texas panhandle in the spring of 2017, killing seven people and destroying an area equivalent to three Rhode Islands; Hurricane Maria that devastated large areas of Puerto Rico that fall, leaving nearly 3,000 people dead; Hurricane Michael that swept through Florida, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Virginia with unprecedented winds and flooding this October, killing 45 and causing $30 billion in damage; and the wildfires that raged across California in November, killing more than 80 people and destroying nearly 14,000 homes. And that’s just to begin a list of weather catastrophes in this country.
Global warming did not, of course, create the weather itself. It’s only intensifying it. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently put it, “A changing climate leads to changes in the frequency, intensity, spatial extent, duration, and timing of extreme weather and climate events, and can result in unprecedented extreme weather and climate events.” This summer, for instance, saw record-high temperatures in the United States and around the world. Large stretches of the South and West experienced near-record droughts in 2018, while other parts of the country suffered from historic levels of rainfall. (North Carolina recently endured an astounding years’ worth of snow in barely more than 24 hours. Both the number and the severity of Atlantic hurricanes are also on the rise.
And according to a Trump administration report released last month that the president himself rejects, it’s going to get a lot worse fast. That Fourth National Climate Assessment paints a dire picture of plummeting agricultural yields, declining dairy and seafood production, spreading wildfires, shrinking water resources in the interior of the country, and flooded areas on the coasts before century’s end. Extreme weather events since 1980 have already cost the United States more than $1 trillion. By 2100, the assessment projects, the costs of climate change will absorb as much as 10% of this country’s annual gross domestic product. Meanwhile, any hopes that global carbon emissions had begun to flatline in recent years, thanks to efforts to move toward renewable sources of energy, were dashed this month with reports that the output will actually grow by a projected 2.7% in 2018, a larger percentage than the previous year, on the way to the highest levels on record.
Americans can blame state governments or Washington for failing to respond in a timely manner to these disasters, but such intensifying weather patterns aren’t a local or even a national phenomenon. What’s happening in the United States is happening everywhere. The New World Order of climate change connects people abandoning their homes to rising tides in Florida and Bangladesh, dying from drought-related fires in California and Australia, being swept away by huge storms in the Carolinas and the Philippines, or losing their livelihoods in Nebraska and Honduras. It’s an order defined by a terrifying new rulebook in which more carbon emissions translate directly into less polar ice, an increase in sea levels, and more extreme weather.
Climate change doesn’t care about borders. It thumbs its nose at laws and legislation. It is unaffected by the size or destructive capabilities of even the mightiest militaries. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this particular New World Order, at least in the United States, is that many of those most affected by it refuse to acknowledge its existence.
Interviewing people affected by last year’s prairie fires in the Midwest, for instance, the New Yorker’s Ian Frazier encountered an extraordinary level of denial:
“No one I talked to in Kansas told me that he believed in climate change. Prevailing opinion holds that nothing about the recent extreme weather here is much different from what’s always been. People say that Native Americans sometimes used prairie fires as an environmental tool.”
Yet the recent fires were both unprecedented and part of a longer-term transformation of the Great Plains from irrigated farmland into what will someday be a spreading desert thanks to rising temperatures and extreme weather above ground and the disappearing Ogallala aquifer beneath it. And this time, the dispossessed Midwesterners are unlikely to be able to relocate to California, as they did when dust storms hit in the 1930s, because the West Coast will have major problems supporting even its existing agriculture.
If all the death and destruction connected to this New World Order were simply the result of periodic shifts in the life cycle of the planet — as some climate-change deniers maintain — then humans could just prepare for the inevitable, dinosaur-style extinction to come. But that’s hardly the case. Climate change is the direct result of human action — and some humans are so much more responsible than others.
Blame the Globalists
From 2006 through 2016, before he served briefly as secretary of state, Rex Tillerson was the head of ExxonMobil. He was supposed to be a cleaner, greener Big Energy CEO, but during his tenure he never altered the company’s basic DNA of drill, drill, drill. He entered into murky energy deals with Russia, Iraqi Kurdistan, and Saudi Arabia. Worse, he attempted to profit off climate change by, among other things, expanding operations into a rapidly warming Arctic. Even though he publicly acknowledged global warming — with plenty of caveats and misstatements — he also helped funnel millions of dollars to climate denial groups and suitably climate-denying politicians.
Not much changed when Tillerson became Trump’s first secretary of state. He failed to prevent the president from withdrawing from the Paris climate accord. He dutifully implemented new rules to facilitate the international funding of coal-fired power plants. And he presided over a gutting of the State Department meant to hamper its ability to address global issues like climate change.
Through it all, however, Rex Tillerson remained just the kind of globalist that Donald Trump had railed against as a presidential candidate. While head of Exxon, he had, for instance, been a regular participant at the World Economic Forum at Davos as well as in the Clinton Global Initiative. Ultimately, Trump criticized his secretary of state for having “totally establishment” views on foreign policy before unceremoniously firing him by tweet.
But there’s the establishment Trump likes and the establishment he doesn’t. Despite their very public falling out, the president has always admired establishment types in the Tillerson mold, those who belong to the international network of fossil fuel execs (oil, gas, and coal) chiefly responsible for building the New World Order of climate change. Rockefeller, Hunt, Getty, Mellon, Drake, Buffet, Koch, and Icahn: these are the globalists who set in motion the transformation of our world in which a growing dependency on fossil fuels morphed into an economic system geared to ever-expanding exploitation of such resources, and finally to an ecosystem on the verge of catastrophe.
Keep in mind that this is exactly what Donald Trump grew up with in fossil-fueled New York City in the 1950s and 1960s. It’s what he’s still nostalgicfor. Hence, his push for the United States to become “energy dominant” by extracting every last drop of fossil fuel from land, sea, and ice. Hence, his close relationships with petro-autocrats, especially Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This is, in short, his kind of globalism, and it’s now fully embedded in the White House, his administration, and Washington.
The U.N.? Environmentalists? George Soros? Peanuts compared to the real globalists, the ones who have controlled the supply and pricing of energy for more than a century and now have a representative sitting in the Oval Office. Think of it as a magician’s classic misdirection trick: look over there at Agenda 21 while the real globalists pick your pocket and poison your world. As environmentalist Bill McKibben has pointed out, the latest generation of fossil-fuel globalists knew exactly what they were doing (and what the consequences would be) when they devoted immense amounts of money to emphasizing “the uncertainty” of the science of climate change.
The magician David Copperfield once created the illusion that the Statue of Liberty had disappeared. The present crew of magical globalists have done him one better. They have been surprisingly successful in creating the illusion that the New World Order of climate change doesn’t exist when the proof is increasingly all around us.
There’s no conspiracy, no weather mafia, but the United States is nonetheless firmly in the grip of a New World Order. Many thousands have already lost their lives, their liberty, or their ability to pursue happiness thanks to the global forces now being loosed on our planet — and the more the United States has asserted its exceptionalism in recent years, the more it has proven to be no exception to the rules of climate change.
Here’s the rub: it’s long past the warning stage. Metaphorically speaking, the black helicopters have already landed on the White House lawn (and probably in your own backyard as well). A New World Order is indeed beginning to tyrannize America and Donald Trump is encouraging the globalists responsible to do even more of the same. The only way to address this ultimate threat is through the sort of international cooperation that the anti-globalists fear the most, a linking of arms across the rising seas to defeat a malign global force and the powerful elite that maintains it.
This challenge requires the equivalent of war against something as evil as totalitarianism. Anything less would be like trying to put out a wildfire with gasoline or like spitting into a (Category 5) hurricane. Anything less would be an epoch fail.
This column originally ran on TomDispatch.