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March 9, 1998

Conspiracy theories alive in class

Government agencies and millionaires want to build a New World Order, a college instructor says.

By Steve Friess

Jack Ringler opened the semester with a largely unnecessary, somewhat defensive plea to his students.

"Don't turn me off," said the veteran history professor at the Community College of Southern Nevada to the overflow class. "Don't just say, 'God, he's way out there.' I'm not trying to convince you. I'm just trying to give you information."

With that caveat, and to rapt attention of a standing-room-only crowd, Ringler offered an overview of his alternative take on world history. He spoke about the American millionaires who have been plotting world dominance for decades by controlling the economy and politics. About their efforts to confuse the American people, lulling them with reassurances that freedom is safe even as they quietly snatch liberties from an unsuspecting populace. About the Federal Reserve System, the Trilateral Commission and the Council on Foreign Relations, a trifecta of secretive organizations supposedly working to amass power through the United Nations.

"You begin to see how all this stuff fits together," said Ringler, a stout 67-year-old man with a Ross Perot-style haircut and thick hands he used to flail demonstrably. Now, because of age and a gruesome recent car accident, they merely chop slowly at the air.

From Ringler's perspective, everyone is a suspect -- first lady Hillary Clinton's best-seller "It Takes a Village," for instance, is dubbed a "blueprint for the plot" -- and everyone is suspicious.

The students, more than 40 that first night in January and now about 35 as the semester hits midstride, knew what to expect from a course titled, "The New World Order: The Ultimate Conspiracy." And if they didn't, the syllabus describes the three-credit class as "a study of geopolitical history of a conspiracy which may bring the world into a New Order to be governed by a group of world elitists."

"I subscribe to most of his views," said education major Kevin Mangold, 38, who accuses radio commentator Rush Limbaugh of faking his conservative credentials. "There aren't very many places you can get this information. The traditional media won't discuss it."

Classmate Dawn Tyler can't even discuss it at home, so class is refuge from such automatic skepticism.

"My husband won't listen, doesn't want to hear about it," said Tyler, a 36-year-old accounting major. "If you do talk about it, people ask if you're a right-wing lunatic with a gun rack in the back of your truck. And, I mean, what's wrong with that, anyway? They haven't taken that right away from us yet, have they?"

The course's syllabus warns that students may be ostracized if they espouse such views, noting that "the American people by and large do not want to hear about secret societies, and particularly today are turned off by the word 'conspiracy.' This is ... a part of the catalog of deception being practiced upon us by our thought conditioners, who teach that there is no conspiracy worth mentioning."

Ringler, who twice before has offered the popular class, believes it may be the only one of its kind in the United States. Such a claim is hard to prove because no national database exists storing information on what classes are taught at the thousands of U.S. colleges.

Still, some noted conspiracy theorists said they've never heard of such a course and requested a fax of Ringler's syllabus.

"I would imagine it is very interesting," said Dennis Cuddy, a senior associate of U.S. Department of Education and author of "Now is the Dawning of the New Age New World Order." Added Cuddy, "As long as the community college wants to offer it, and it's said up front that this is a conspiratorial view of history, it is a good idea."

Administrators at the community college didn't flinch at his proposal to offer the course, Ringler said. The professor, a retired Army major who served in Korea and Vietnam, came to the college in 1973 as its only history professor. That seniority allows him to decide what academic endeavors to pursue.

In this case, Ringler's pursuit is a different -- and highly opinionated -- approach to discussing the motives and deeds of U.S. presidents, major media companies and wealthy families such as the Rockefellers. Ringler, whose accusatory editorials about the United Nations are published occasionally in local newspapers, insists he tries to be fair with the information. Yet he acknowledges he is trying to counter the anti-conspiracy bias taught in more typical history courses. The course textbook, "Treason," by Gurudas, includes chapter headings like "Fooling the People" and "Freedom is Being Lost."

The bulk of Ringler's class consists of a lecture three hours each Wednesday night packed with names and dates to memorize. Ringler offers a methodical sweep through history, though in his case the pivotal moments worth hours of concentration are the establishment of the Federal Reserve System and the United Nations. These, the professor explains, are seminal events in the progression toward a New World Order and the effort to exterminate American pride and tradition.

To the occasional annoyance of his students, Ringler keeps the focus tightly wound on the economic and political quest for world power. He has no interest in the kinds of events typically associated with conspiracy buffs -- the assassination of President Kennedy, research on extraterrestrials in Nevada, or the mysterious suicide of presidential aide Vincent Foster.

"The students like to talk about things like that, but that's not really the theme of my course," Ringler said. "They go all over, to the Oklahoma City bombing, things like that. They range far afield, and I have to keep them on target."

Even so, he offers an outlet for other ideas, allowing students to earn extra credit for oral reports on conspiracy concepts that intrigue them.

Some students disagree with Ringler's views, but most do so quietly. One exception is history major Ken Wegner, a 42-year-old Gulf War veteran and the group's resident cynic. Wegner frequently questions Ringler's sources and interrupts lectures to demand clarification, though many times Ringler dismisses the questions by saying, "I don't want to get into that now."

"He has some theories that just don't hold water," said Wegner, a history major. "I do believe there are some people who want a one-world government, but I believe they are equal in strength to those who don't. But I think he lets both sides come out."

Other students aren't so concerned with balance.

"The people in this class take an interest in an aspect of history that is not normally taught," said history major Nick Cyronek, 26, a former Naval officer. "We're not paranoid conspiracy theorists. I just want to find out the truth. We're not going off the deep end here. If he were to go over the line and say something preposterous, we'd say something."


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