One quirk of applying skepticism to current events is that they often move very quickly. A blog post can go up and seem out of date within a few weeks. So I’m going to go take a look back at two of the more popular pieces I’ve written and check in with their more recent developments. Because a real conspiracy theory never goes away, it just mutates.
In February, I wrote a piece about the Iraqi dinar scam, a “prosperity scam” where marks are encouraged to buy nearly worthless Iraqi currency, fueled by the pipe dream that it will magically “revalue” to a level on par with the US dollar, making instant millionaires of those who bought it.
Since the piece went up, things have not gone well for Iraq. The terrorist group Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL) has taken a large swath of territory in the north of the country, instituting a reign of terror, murder and breathtaking violence. The Maliki government collapsed and the Iraqi army crumbled. Iraq has since plunged into sectarian chaos, with IS fighters, Iraqi military units and various regional militias battling for control of major cities and oil fields.
This hasn’t really hurt the dinar, since it had nowhere to go but up anyway. It hasn’t moved in value at all, and it seems like only a matter of time before the notes permanently become worthless. One would think IS would put the final nail into the coffin of the dinar scam, but that’s not how scams work. In the face of overwhelming adversity, the scammers simply crank up the volume on their false hope, and the marks cling even tighter to it.
Even with IS on the march, dinar “intel” websites like Dinar Guru, Dinar Detectives and Dinar Recaps have continued cranking out their usual “updates” that constantly tease the RV being right around the corner. Just a look at these sites for the last few days showers one with ridiculous nuggets like (sic):
All global and financial indicators point to the fact that Iraq has a stable, viable, and working economy; is ready, and is already functioning at the next level.
If they were going to coordinate anything, this is the window, as no exchanges could take place during this time frame, save special offsite secret exchange centers for contract-rate participants. So, from a logistics standpoint, they could release the 800#s and begin the procedural briefings, and begin making appointments so as to have things running like a sewing machine by Tuesday’s regular business hours.
Bottom line is Iraq looks phenomenal. The full GOI was formally seated and announced yesterday evening in the 11 oClock news, at the mosques and other places. The expectation is that the RV is coming shortly…with the US and the world ready to handle exchanges.
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It doesn’t look like much has changed, but the entire situation has changed. Every single source that I talked to today said that they received the same information……….The RV was finalized at 11pm last night. Bankers came in at 7am and they were told that the rates were live and that the currency exchange would start when the doors opened, (we can see that didn’t happen).
All of this gibberish would have you believe that the RV and instant wealth are literally days away – just as they’ve been for years. In reality, Iraq is farther from having a stable economy than it was when I first wrote the piece. This is a country barely hanging on to its sovereignty, and it has much bigger problems to deal with than the value of its already unloved currency.
Yet the hopium grows strong, as evidenced by a check of the favored Twitter hashtag of the dinar scam, #wearethepeople. Nobody, buyers or sellers, seems either willing or able to admit that whatever chance there was that the dinar would spike (and there really was no chance) is long gone.
It’s far more likely that when the smoke clears, Iraq will either redenominate the dinar or split into multiple smaller countries with their own currency. This will leave dinar holders with nothing but boxes of worthless paper – and dinar pumpers who have long since taken their money.
Incidentally, one element of the IS rampage that involved the dinar was falsely reported – the supposed heist of the Mosul Central Bank. Numerous sources reported that IS gunmen had stolen 500 billion dinars from it – which would make the prospect of an RV even more remote. But the story was proven to be a hoax, and no robbery had ever taken place. No doubt this was used as “intel” by the dinar gurus, just another piece of the puzzle about something that will never happen.
The other piece I wanted to check in on was regarding a mysterious spate of “banker suicides” that had taken place in the first months of 2014. According to lists floating around conspiracy websites, anywhere between nine and twelve bankers, many working for JP Morgan, had all died under strange circumstances – prompting believers to connect them, as they do with any string of “mysterious deaths.”
In examining the list, I found that many of the names either had nothing to do with banking or were out of the field. Several others didn’t have any role in financial operations, and one was dealing with an indictment. Finally, banking is a high pressure occupation, and a small spate of suicides linked to a huge corporation is simply not statistically significant.
Of course, logic and reason have never been the currency of conspiracy theorists. In the time since I posted the initial debunking, the “list” going around has expanded to at least 15 names, with half a dozen added. A commenter named “Kate” left a much longer list in the comments section of my piece, dozens of names going back over a year, but I can’t find where it came from, so there’s no way to confirm or debunk it.
Instead, I’ll take a quick look at the new names on the “list” as it’s been posted on popular conspiracy sites, and see how they get shoehorned into the “dead banker” narrative. They are (sic):
Edmund (Eddie) Reilly, 47, a trader at Midtown’s Vertical Group, commited suicide by jumping in front of LIRR train
Kenneth Bellando, 28, a trader at Levy Capital, formerly investment banking analyst at JPMorgan, jumped to his death from his 6th floor East Side apartment.
Jan Peter Schmittmann, 57, the former CEO of Dutch bank ABN Amro found dead at home near Amsterdam with wife and daughter.
Li Jianhua, 49, the director of China’s Banking Regulatory Commission died of a sudden heart attack
Lydia _____, 52 – jumped to her suicide from the 14th floor of Bred-Banque Populaire in Paris
Julian Knott, 45 – killed wife and self with a shotgun in Jefferson Township, New Jersey
Leaving aside “Lydia,” whose identity can’t be confirmed without a last name, we have another string of people who worked in the same industry, but doing different things for different companies in different parts of the world. As before, there’s no indication any of these people knew each other or worked together in any way.
Two of the deaths were murder-suicides, a rare and complex crime that almost always involves a domestic partnership gone wrong. One death was a heart attack from overwork – a fate that befalls 600,000 Chinese workers every year. The other suicides were apparently battling depression, according to interviews with their family members.
What linked these poor souls wasn’t a massive conspiracy or global elite tying up loose ends, but the same thing that caused the previous victims to take their own lives: exhaustion, extreme stress and the high pressure of the banking industry.
Nobody should be surprised by the high number of suicides in the financial industry. It’s a serious problem that requires serious solutions, not titillating conspiracies and gloating over “dead banksters.”
As you can see, once memes and scams are out there, they become impossible to take back. Instead, they grow, fueled by misinformation, rumor and the endless desire some people have to put one over on others. Continue being skeptical of anything that doesn’t seem like it makes sense – whether it’s a pie in the sky financial scheme or an ever-growing list of “mysterious deaths.”