New York City, NY – A disruptive comment about eating babies in order to avoid climate change during a Thursday town hall meeting with U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY14) was claimed by political action committee “LaRouche PAC“, a hub for far-right cult-like methods of organizing led by the late Lyndon LaRouche, Jr.
LaRouche passed away in February of 2019 at the age of 96, but the pernicious efforts of his once-sprawling network to target mainstream progressive and leftist organizations continue.
The LaRouchian attempt to disrupt the climate meeting on October 3 was quickly amplified through President Trump’s Twitter account. The action, designed to agitate individuals and disrupt the progress of community conversations, was similar to agitation tactics used by the network since the 1970s.
In his lifetime, LaRouche was described by some observers as the architect of the largest domestic fascist political movement in U.S. history.
His network dwarfed the influence of other far-right groups since the 1970s, and constructed what may have been the largest private intelligence gathering organization in the country.
LaRouche network groups have attacked environmental organizing for decades.
The LaRouchies have been enemies of the green movement for decades. They used to carry signs that read “Feed Jane Fonda to the whales”. It’s linked with their conspiracy theory about the Queen’s “green fascism”. Piers Corbyn, by the way, was a member of their Facebook group.
— Matthew Sweet (@DrMatthewSweet) October 4, 2019
Matt Novak pointed out that the LaRouche PAC has been campaigning recently at the NYU campus in support of President Trump. There they have been distributing “eat the children” anti-global warming propaganda and other materials attacking climate change mitigation.
Antisemitic and international paranoia are a common motif in LaRouche materials. Over decades, LaRouche-led organizations have often used conspiratorial claims and bewildering personal attacks to disrupt progressive and leftist organizing. More modern groups based on conspiracy-driven messaging such as “QAnon” recycle old LaRouche materials.
As Andrew Woods writes in Commune, the false narrative of “Cultural Marxism“ which has steadily migrated into mainstream U.S. politics has roots in the LaRouche movement.
Mainstream conservatives frequently claim that financier George Soros is a hidden figure in countless intrigues, most recently in the Ukraine affair which has led to an impeachment inquiry in the U.S. House.
Soros was painted by LaRouche’s followers as a hidden hand in international politics at least as far back as 1996 when William Engdahl wrote in the LaRouche newsletter Executive Intelligence Review, claiming that “The most important of such ‘Jews who are not Jews,’ are the Rothschilds, who launched Soros’s career…. Soros is American only in his passport,” which is an example of the anti-Semitic “rootless cosmopolitan” trope.
LaRouche in the Left in the Vietnam Era
LaRouche spent about two decades inside the Marxist Socialist Workers Party (SWP) while also working as a management consultant. In the 1970s he built a cult-like following by organizing among leftist groups including Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and publishing materials making lurid accusations about other leftist groups.
He set up the National Caucus of Labor Committees with SDS members and in 1973 began “Operation Mop-Up” which included physical attacks on many other leftist organizations. LaRouche set up the U.S. Labor Party in the same year, which by 1977 had shifted to a more right-wing orientation.
Author Matthew Sweet, who called attention to the disruption in New York this week, wrote in the 2018 book, “Operation Chaos: The Vietnam Deserters Who Went to War Against the CIA, the Brainwashers, and Each Other“, that the LaRouche movement gained adherents from antiwar deserters during a particularly paranoid time in U.S. politics.
LaRouche groups became known in this era for using tactics to ensure followers stayed with the group, using both an all-explaining conspiracy worldview and tactics such as “ego stripping” to coercively break down and reshape personalities. A 1974 New York Times investigation took a close look at these coercive tactics. As with other cults and coercive groups, many former LaRouche group participants reported being ordered to distance themselves from friends and family members who objected to the groups and their goals.
LaRouche first ran for president in 1976, and in every subsequent presidential election until 2004. In his 1980 presidential campaign he attacked the environmental policies of then-President Jimmy Carter.
The Executive Intelligence Review (EIR) is a weekly magazine LaRouche set up in 1974 and is the group’s longest-running publication. Today EIR is used to defend the Trump Administration and make conspiratorial accusations about climate change protests and policy proposals.
In their claim of responsibility for disrupting the NYC townhall, the LaRouche PAC linked to an EIR report falsely claiming carbon reduction is a mass-murder conspiracy led by British banks, very similar to their other false conspiracy theories stretching back decades.
Similar to previous decades’ efforts, the LaRouche-aligned organization calls on the youth to organize for its authoritarian goals. The face of youth climate activist Greta Thunberg has been used in this anti-climate propaganda, complete with an “International Call to Youth” from LaRouche’s widow Helga Zepp-LaRouche.
LaRouche Influence in the Reagan Years
The LaRouche movement reached new heights of influence in the 1980s by attempting to participate in Democratic Party politics and also joining Cold War initiatives such as promoting the “Strategic Defense Initiative” (SDI), nicknamed “Star Wars” for its advocacy of lasers and other advanced anti-ballistic weaponry.
In 1986 LaRouche-allied candidates won Democratic primaries in Illinois for Lieutenant Governor and Secretary of State. Then-candidate for governor, Adlai Stevenson, removed himself from the Democratic ticket and said he could not run with “neo-nazis“.
The nonprofit analysis group Political Research Associates (PRA), founded in 1981, has kept close tabs on LaRouche groups since its early days.
In their 1989 analysis, “Fascism Wrapped in an American Flag“, Chip Berlet and Joel Bellman wrote that “Lyndon LaRouche represents the most recent incarnation of the unique twentieth-century phenomenon known as totalitarian fascism“.
LaRouche had been put on trial in 1987 in Boston. It was declared a mistrial but he was later convicted on charges involving illegally soliciting unsecured loans and tax code violations.
“The terms to describe LaRouche can be gleaned from the pages of any political science textbook. LaRouche’s political ideology is authoritarian. His view of history is paranoid. His economic theories are similar to Italian Fascism. His conspiratorial views are laced with racial and cultural bigotry and a large dose of anti-Jewish hysteria. His zealous stormtroopers are motivated by an internal organizational structure that is to politics what the blitzkrieg was to international diplomacy–that distinctive twentieth century phenomenon…the totalitarian movement.” – Chip Berlet & Joel Bellman
LaRouche and his wife Helga Zepp-LaRouche founded the Schiller institute in Germany in 1984. He purchased ads accusing Democratic presidential candidate Walter Mondale of being a Soviet agent of influence, which were satirized by Saturday Night Live in 1986.
Presaging this week’s stunt at the New York townhall, a similar stunt attacking then-Governor Michael Dukakis (D-MA) with the aim of making him appear mentally imbalanced got amplified by Ronald Reagan during the 1988 election campaign cycle. President Reagan called Dukakis an “invalid” while responding to a LaRouche EIR reporter, then later said he had been merely joking.
As author Matt Sweet pointed out, this week’s townhall disruption was an extension of those LaRouchian tactics of previous decades. He posted on Twitter, “the point here is that a small, weird, politically unclassifiable – once Marxist, now more often described as neo-fascist and antisemitic – has spent nearly five decades pulling these stunts.”
Ex-LaRouche Participants Find New Audiences
During the 1990s and 2000s the LaRouche network attempted to deepen its international connections by hosting conferences in other countries and tried to create an aura of intellectualism by adopting a kind of high-minded, “classical” interpretation of conspiracy theories.
The LaRouche network crafted high-level connections with other right-wing political figures around Asia, Europe and Africa. Louis Proyect quotes an email pointing out that during the 2011 Tahrir Square protests in Egypt, Russia Today featured Lyndon LaRouche himself as an expert on the situation. He attributed blame for the Egyptian uprising onto the British government.
“Many Larouche affiliated organizations seem to enjoy very active relationships with authoritarian regimes, an alliance that has become more useful to these governments after the Arab Spring created the need for a fresh crop of conspiracy theories to justify remaining in power.” – from an email sent to Louis Proyect
LaRouche even connected with GOP operative Roger Stone, who hosted LaRouche on his show in 2016. His organization also sent solidarity delegations to visit in support of the Syrian government during the Syrian civil war, and has long been an advocate of the Chinese “New Silk Road” development policy in Asia. Both positions are examples of a “Eurasianist” orientation promoted by far-right figures like Alexander Dugin.
LaRouche dogma frames all of history as a battle between ‘Platonic’ and ‘Aristoteliean’ political schools, claiming key intellectual figures such as German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz. In a typical example, just weeks ago current Schiller Institute president Zepp-LaRouche claimed the reason the modern climate movement is “Malthusian” could be because Leibniz had been sidelined from the British royal family in the 1700s.
In LaRouche’s revisionist anti-Semitic messaging, an alliance between the British royal family and the Rothschilds has been for decades their ultimate villain. Other conspiracy entrepreneurs such as David Icke subsequently mixed “reptilians” into this type of messaging.
As its leader reached old age, the LaRouche network saw the creation of “LaRouche Youth Movement” cadres (LYM) on college campuses as the key to keeping the movement alive. Using provocative messaging and an all-encompassing package of pseudo-intellectual classical doctrine, they created an alternative worldview to make adherents dependent on the network for their sense of self and social belonging.
LaRouche affiliate Dr. Fred Newman pioneered a system called “social therapy” which can be used for indoctrination. Newman and his associate Dr. Lenora Fulani were at one point able to take over the New York Independence Party. Chip Berlet wrote in 1987 about their New Alliance Party, “Clouds Blur the Rainbow: How Fred Newman & Lenora Fulani Use Totalitarian Deception to Manipulate Social and Political Activists.” Some of this network was later folded into Ross Perot’s 1992 Reform Party campaign efforts.
People who have escaped the cult-like trappings of LaRouche organizations can find websites that offer help and detailed information about the group’s inner-workings. LaRouchePlanet.info is the most detailed site about this subject. “Smiling Man from a Dead Planet: The Mystery of Lyndon LaRouche“, written by ex-insider, ‘Hylozoic Hedgehog’, covers intricate details of the early decades.
William Dennis King produced a book available online via the Internet Archive called, “LaRouche and the New American Fascism“.
Some conspiracy-oriented writers found audiences outside the niches of the LaRouche network. Longtime EIR writer William Engdahl’s 2009 book “Full Spectrum Dominance” became popular among the kinds of audiences that gravitated to sites like GlobalResearch. Webster Tarpley, another writer and radio host, left the inner circle of the LaRouche movement to associate for a time with Texas-based conspiracy kingpin Alex Jones.
Taking the microphone at a townhall meeting to make an absurd statement about environmental policy is a simple tactic, but the content of surreal provocations can have substantial political impact. LaRouche may now be gone, but the leftover elements of his network are still active and determined to continue undercutting environmental policy using provocative right-wing tactics, as they have done since at least 1980.