Political extremists receive relatively little press and public attention nowadays as long as their activities remain nonviolent. Numerous such groups exist, particularly on the far right, but active followers are few in number and factional splits occur more often than do significant recruiting drives. Only in the rare instance when a self-proclaimed extremist attains public office--such as Louisiana state representative David Duke--or when one band or another turns to visible criminality is the critical eye of the media turned their way.
Often the unspoken premise is that expanded coverage, be it of Louis Farrakhan or a white neo-Nazi, will help promote a message rather than expose it. Only when the danger seems immediate--a credible election campaign of lightly veiled public death threats--does a harsh and unremitting spotlight descend.
Quietly but persistently, however, a few journalists and a few civil liberties groups, most notably the Anti-Defamation League, keep a careful and almost respectful eye on those whom most political observers find too marginal or bizarre to worry about. Often their published work--Chip Berlet's investigation of the Fred Newman/Lenora Fulani New Alliance Party, James Coates's 1987 Armed and Dangerous: The Rise of the Survivalist Right, and Elizabeth Wheaton's 1987 Codename GREENKIL: The 1979 Greensboro Killings--receives far less public attention than deserved.
Among students of extremism no one's commitment or courage exceeds that of Dennis King, who for over a decade has studied Lyndon LaRouche and LaRouche's chameleon-like network of organizations with remarkable dedication, undeterred by the foul aspersions that every critic of LaRouche encounters. In recent months LaRouche and his Leesburg, Va.-based followers have been more in the news as LaRouche himself and six top aides have been convicted of federal fraud and tax-evasion charges and jailed for sentences reaching up to--in LaRouche's case--15 years. While King emphasizes that LaRouche's legal downfall had its roots in the brazenly deceptive fund-raising practices that were employed in his 1984 presidential campaign, the most significant stimulus for both media and prosecutorial scrutiny of LaRouche's network came from the unexpected March 1986 Democratic primary victories of two of his followers running, respectively, for lieutenant governor and secretary of state in Illinois. Although most voters had not known who they were, and although they were resoundingly rejected in the general election, the LaRouche followers' Democratic success fatally harmed the gubernatorial campaign of former senator Adlai E. Stevenson III.
King's detailed and fascinating book traces both LaRouche's life story and the development of his cult-like band of followers. Now 66, LaRouche was born a New England Quaker, spent part of World War II as a conscientious objector, and in 1949 joined the small, Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. Up until his 1966 expulsion from the party, LaRouche busied himself with the minutiae of Marxist sectarianism while earning a living as a management consultant. As a self-designated teacher of Marxism on the upper west side of Manhattan during the late 1960s, LaRouche acquired some adherents within the "progressive labor" faction of Columbia University's important chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. When SDS disintegrated, LaRouche gathered his several hundred followers together as the National Caucus of Labor Committees (a rubric LaRouche still retains) and initiated physical confrontations with other left sects while beginning to introduce cult-like psychological dependency tactics along with a conspiracy-theory view of history that gradually became more and more explicitly anti-Semitic. Beginning as early as 1973, and unmistakably apparent by 1977, LaRouche moved his 500 or so energetically devoted adherents from the far left to the far right.
Kingís book provides as full a picture of LaRouche's convoluted rhetoric and ideology as anyone is likely to want. Despite the odd shift, despite the transparent anti-Semitism and despite a maximum number of committed followers of under 1,000, LaRouche from 1979--when he entered the Democratic Party--through 1988 accumulated no shortage of politically significant achievements: personal audiences with CIA deputy director Bobby Ray Inman, Mexican president Jose Lopez Portillo, Argentinian president Raul Alfonsin, Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and heads of state in Turkey and Peru; federal matching funds for his 1980, 1984 and 1988 presidential campaigns totaling $1.7 million; a nationwide electoral effort that put hundreds of candidates on Democratic primary ballots; and a predatory fund-raising effort that generated over $30 million in 1984 and over $200 million from 1980 to the present--often by deceiving elderly conservatives.
King's argument that LaRouche should be viewed as a dangerous and anti-Semitic fascist, rather than simply a bizarre figure given to weird ranting about the Queen of England and Henry Kissinger, is persuasive and correct. However, King errs in stressing that LaRouche's greatest threat lay in the electoral potential of his conspiratorial blame-laying; instead, LaRouche's greatest harm has been the human damage done by his financial frauds, which, as King notes, bear "striking resemblances to a traditional racketeering enterprise."
The same point--that extremist groups consistently pose more of a criminal than a political threat--can be made more directly about the rural western revolutionaries--also right-wing and anti-Semitic--profiled by Denver reporters Kevin Flynn and Gary Gerhardt in The Silent Brotherhood. The central figure in their story is handsome, clean-cut Robert J. Mathews, who joined the John Birch Society at the age of 12 and eventually, at age 31, died in a 1984 shoot-out in Washington State with scores of federal agents following a year-long series of successful robberies--including the largest armored car hold-up in American history. The proceeds were to provide multi-million dollar funding for "The Order," Mathews's small, white "Aryan" army that he hoped would violently overthrow "Zog," the "Zionist Occupation Government."
The Order's most notorious crime was the 1984 murder of acerbic, Jewish Denver radio personality Alan Berg, who regularly baited anti-Semites on the air. Flynn and Gerhardt came to the larger story through covering the investigation into Berg's killing, but neither local lawmen nor the FBI were very far along in understanding how the murder, the armored car robberies and the "The Order" all interrelated until Thomas Martinez, a prospective "Order" member from Philadelphia who had been arrested passing counterfeit bills, revealed Mathews's deeds and plans to the FBI. Martinez has told his own story (with John Guinther) in Brotherhood of Murder (1988), and his account nicely supplements the comprehensive, first-rate reporting of Flynn and Gerhardt by giving distinct portraits of Mathews's followers.
Flynn and Gerhardt view The Order as "rather ordinary" working-class white men, many with one employment grudge or another, for whom the robbery loot had as much meaning as Mathews's battle plan. If LaRouche's several hundred middle-class, generally well-educated adherents are psychologically trapped in an all-but-total dependence upon LaRouche's all-encompassing version of "us versus them," Mathews's brand of more violent but similarly money-oriented anti-Semitic racists are simpler, more familiar figures. In both cases, however, basic criminal law enforcement--whether against fraud, robbery or murder--will curtail most extremist threats. Most, but not all--and in this King is correct in his largest point, even if not in its application to LaRouche, rather than, say, to David Duke. "America is too violent and diverse--and too vulnerable to economic crisis," he writes, "to avoid forever a major internal challenge from some form of totalitarian demagoguery." When that time comes, however, parallels will be drawn to Huey Long and George Wallace, if not Duke, rather than to Lyndon LaRouche or Robert J. Mathews.
David J. Garrow is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Bearing the Cross: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
LaRouche's Bizarre Brand of Fascism
From the Jewish Exponent (1989)
By BURT SIEGEL, Associate Executive Director, Jewish Community Council of Philadelphia
The fact that we know as much as we do about Lyndon LaRouche (which is probably not all that much) and his myriad of front organizations is largely due to the persistence of Dennis King.
King, a freelance writer and researcher with a moderately left political bent, has spent the last decade or so studying and exposing LaRouche as a fascist and an anti-Semite. In the late '70s, when most political observers and reporters were dismissing LaRouche as, at worst, an obnoxious screwball, King published an outstanding and frightening series of articles on LaRouche in a small New York weekly called Our Town. For his pains, King was harassed, sued and physically threatened by LaRouche's henchmen.
LaRouche went on to raise more than $200 million from both unwitting as well as fully witting sources, garnered almost 200,000 votes for president of the United States and gained access to the National Security Council during the first Reagan administration.
Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism is a detailed and gripping journey through the not always underground of American fringe (both left and right) politics. The bizarre LaRouche odyssey takes us from New England Quaker pacifism (he briefly served in a camp for conscientious objectors during World War II), the Communist Party of Calcutta, the extreme Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party, in which he rose to some prominence, and finally to his own brand of American fascism.
Throughout it all LaRouche demonstrated a brilliant analytical mind, an increasingly wide streak of paranoia and megalomania and a hatred for a broad spectrum of enemies that have included at one time or another the Queen of England, the Soviet Union, Solidarity, rock musicians, Nelson Rockefeller, AIDS sufferers, environmentalists and always, always, Jews and Israel.
The list of LaRouche's "good guys" is equally as disparate, including the Shah of Iran, the Teamsters Union, the Soviet Union (no one ever called LaRouche consistent), various American racists, Ronald Reagan, accused Nazi war criminals, and Panamanian strongman Manuel Noriega. King does a valiant job of helping the reader understand what makes LaRouche and his loyal acolytes tick. It isn't an easy task, and, not surprisingly, he doesn't quite succeed.
Disturbingly, in spite of LaRouche's vicious anti-Semitism, at one time as many as one-fourth of his followers were Jewish. Even today, many of his most trusted lieutenants bear names like Goldstein, Liebowitz and Steinberg.
While King attempts to explain the phenomenon by documenting how LaRouche has "redefined" the terms "Jew" and "Nazi," this effort doesn't quite work. In fairness, it is not for King to explain either Jewish self-hatred or the attraction of cults, which in fact the LaRouche organization closely resembles.
Probably the most frightening aspect of this book is the ease with which LaRouche and his front organizations were able to disarm so many seemingly rational people. Long ago he developed the ability to home in on those issues that grab us by our emotions.
Thus, long before it became the issue on the agenda of just about every candidate for public office, the LaRouche-run Anti-Drug Coalition published anti-drug broadsides urging citizens to drive drugs from their neighborhoods. I know of at least one Philadelphia politician who agreed to lend his name to their anti-drug efforts and was even scheduled to appear at one of their programs until I spent hours with him pouring over LaRouche publications. It was only after he threatened them with legal action that they removed his name from a list of endorsers.
In more than one poll a significant number of voters said that while they would not vote for a racist or anti-Semite out of agreement, they would not necessarily vote against them either if there were other important issues where they found themselves in agreement.
LaRouche, like David Duke, the newly elected Louisiana state legislator, well understands this. Fortunately, his outlandish political beliefs and his avarice have probably done him in. He and several of his closest associates are currently serving federal prison sentences for fraud and tax evasion.
But King's message isn't so much that LaRouche represents a direct threat to American democracy or even Jewish security. Rather, it is that our political system is nowhere as immune to the inroads of extremists as we would like to believe.
King raises many important and disturbing questions such as: Why weren't Democratic Party leaders more forceful in exposing LaRouche-supported candidates in local elections? Why were various Republican officials willing to allow access to LaRouche operatives? Why would radio talk-show hosts throughout the country have LaRouche or his representatives on their programs as guests? He still does these kinds of interviews from prison. While King doesn't fully answer these questions, he deals with them in a most thoughtful manner. They are questions with which we should all wrestle.
AUTHOR LIFTS VEIL ON LYNDON LaROUCHE
Traces extremist's rise to power and influence
By SARA FRANKEL, San Francisco Examiner, Sunday, August 27, 1989
Investigative journalist Dennis King first encountered Lyndon LaRouche in 1968, when the future right-wing extremist, conspiracy theorist, presidential candidate and convicted felon was teaching a class on dialectical materialism, wearing rumpled flower-children clothes below a bushy beard that flowed halfway to his waist.
By the time King began working on his book-length investigation of LaRouche two decades later, the former student leader had as many as 600 full-time followers and thousands of casual supporters in the United States and around the world. His organization, which had raised an estimated $200 million, boasted close ties to political figures from Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega and North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms to Mafia and Teamster leaders and scores of individuals associated with intelligence organizations--from the CIA to the KGB, the book says.
The story of LaRouche's transformation from small-time leftist to internationally known right-wing extremist is the subject of Kingís recently published Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism, the first study exposing the full scope of LaRouche's ideological and political activity during the last twenty years. A dry, meticulously documented account of how LaRouche went about amassing more power than most mainstream politicians, the book provides a frightening look at the ease with which an ideologue can penetrate the highest levels of a democratic political system.
A total power trip
The son of orthodox Quakers who themselves had a penchant for paranoia and conspiracy theorizing, LaRouche was an early convert to radical politics. But it wasn't until the breakup of his first marriage (to Janice LaRouche, now an expert on assertiveness training for women) that LaRouche displayed a manifest desire for what King calls "total power," first on the leftist fringe and then on the right.
If there's a shortcoming to the book, itís that it fails to provide much psychological insight into LaRouche's intense hunger for power. But what the book lacks in psychological explanation it makes up for in its step-by-step exposition of how LaRouche obtained and exercised the influence he wanted.
According to Kingís account:
LaRouche began reframing his ideology in rightist terms in the early '70s, after "Operation Mop Up"--a violent, ultimately unsuccessful campaign to emerge as a leading leftist--convinced him there was little money and even fewer converts to be gained on the left. To keep from losing his followers he began introducing cult control techniques--including creating a controlled environment and encouraging disciples to inform on each other--that he had learned from a Trotskyite splinter group in the middle '60s.
He developed an elaborate theory in which Jewish financiers, the CIA, the Rockefeller family and the queen of England, among others, were conspiring to carry out a Holocaust thousands of times worse than Hitlerís. The only alternative, he told disciples, was to counterattack against this new "Nazi" force. Once Jews had been recast as Nazis, it was a small step from there to arguing that LaRouchians should ally themselves with other anti-Jewish forces--including the Ku Klux Klan, the "anti-Zionist" Liberty Lobby and other white supremacist and fascist groups.
The Grand Design
LaRouche's "Grand Design" for humanity, developed in his voluminous writings, featured a total dictatorship that ruthlessly suppressed dissenters, denied citizenship to the "bestial" masses and overwhelmingly concentrated its centralized economic resources on mobilizing for a "total war." The ultimate aim of LaRouche's proposed dictatorship was world conquest, cultural as well as political and military: The scientific soldier-citizens in his ideal republic would also be experts in Schillerís poetry, Beethoven's music and German philosophy.
"It is not necessary to wear brown shirts to be a fascist," LaRouche once wrote. "It is simply necessary to be one!"
To finance his group's political activity and develop its international contacts, LaRouche got involved in gathering and selling intelligence. By 1977, when King visited the mid-Manhattan LaRouche headquarters, the organization had banks of WATS telephone lines, state-of-the-art computers (still an expensive rarity in those days), telex machines and printing presses. King isn't sure where the organization's start-up money came from, but by that time he says much was coming from the CIA.
"LaRouche wasn't just giving them information," said the author, who has tracked LaRouche for the last 12 years, in a recent interview. "He was giving it to governments all over the world. And of course peddling intelligence is one way of gathering intelligence, because if you take the information to some Third World country, then maybe they'll give you something in return, and then you can take what they give you and peddle it to the first country's enemy."
The money LaRouche raised through such creative schemes financed political organizing all over the world. His National Caucus of Labor Committees had regional or local units in 20 American cities, and political parties in eight countries were financed in part by LaRouchian funds.
Aside from fund-raising, much of the organization's effort went into running an extensive anti-Semitic propaganda machine, King says. But LaRouchians also ran for public office (hundreds of them now hold local and state posts in the Democratic Party), got involved in organizations to promote their ideas (LaRouche played an important role in helping to popularize the concept of Star Wars, for example), and cultivated relationships with public officials as powerful as Richard Morris, right-hand man to Reagan National Security Adviser William Clark.
The extent to which LaRouche's ideas actually penetrated mainstream politics, says King, is evident in the 1986 California battle over Proposition 64. Although the LaRouchian-sponsored proposal to quarantine AIDS patients was ultimately defeated by voters, the measure--which, King points out, echoed Hitler's Mein Kampf proposal to quarantine syphilis patients--successfully reframed the mid-1980s debate about AIDS.
"People called it a 'humiliating defeat' for LaRouche," says King. "I regard it as a stunning victory: Over 2 million people voted to quarantine a hated minority--and they did it knowing the measure was sponsored by dangerous extremist Lyndon LaRouche. It showed the radical right how to make previously unacceptable ideas palatable--how gradually to make an unacceptable idea discussable and entirely conceivable."
King attributes much of LaRouche's success to the fact that the mainstream press--usually quick to condemn extremists of any stripe--completely neglected to do its job. "They would use phrases like 'conservative Democrat Lyndon LaRouche' or 'conspiracy theorist Lyndon LaRouche'," says King. "The evidence [about LaRouche] was there all along....[But] he spoke with a cultivated accent, he used big words and his lieutenants had graduate degrees. Even today I think there's a feeling that if a [Ku Klux] Klansman does something bad, you know, heís a redneck, throw him right into prison. But if a LaRouchian does something bad, he's an unfortunate, misguided cult follower, let's give him some psychotherapy and a scholarship back to graduate school."
LaRouche ended up getting stopped not by the media (which he successfully intimidated through constant lawsuit threats) but by his own fund-raising schemes, which got him convicted last January of conspiracy, mail fraud and defrauding the IRS (he is now serving a 15-year jail sentence). But his influence, King warns, has far from diminished.
His disciples are still active raising funds and organizing among farmers and the Christian right, and their electoral activity is picking up again around the country. LaRouche, who maintains close contact with his top disciples, is running for Congress from his prison cell.
The LaRouche legacy
More importantly, argues King, the man he calls the first "truly intellectual fascist" significantly strengthened the long-term influence of right-wing ideology. He was a pioneer in developing the techniques of political cultism--"a powerful technology for harnessing human energy," King calls it--and he introduced the idea of using the Democratic primary process to run extremist candidates for public office. He also revitalized international fascism by providing it with a sophisticated and internally consistent ideology--for the first time giving right-wing ideas a powerful appeal to young people and intellectuals.
And even if LaRouchianism itself is finished as a political force, King points out, other extremists are all too likely to duplicate its success in penetrating the U.S. mainstream. "LaRouche recognized that extremist movements need crisis conditions to come to power," King says. "This society is supposed to have an immune system against extremists, but in LaRouche's case the system utterly failed to do its job.
"And if Lyndon LaRouche could go this far under conditions of relative stability," he adds, "how far could someone go under conditions of real crisis?"
A FASCIST WRAPPED IN OLD GLORY
Los Angeles Herald Examiner, April 18, 1989
By JOEL BELLMAN
When I began looking into the activities of political extremist and cult leader Lyndon LaRouche for a radio documentary I was producing in 1981, the work of journalist Dennis King was already legendary among seasoned LaRouche-watchers.
At the time, little had been published in the mainstream media about LaRouche and his shadowy network, which was just beginning to recruit and organize on the West Coast and here in Los Angeles. But the group was firmly established in New York, and King's 1979 investigative series for the Manhattan weekly Our Town had quickly become the standard reference on the subject.
As one of the first journalists to break the LaRouche story, he has now written the book that will surely be the hallmark work: Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (Doubleday).
For more than a decade, King has endured more lawsuits, more libelous and slanderous personal attacks, more unrelenting 24-hour intimidation, dirty tricks and physical threats than any other reporter who tried to reveal the truth about LaRouche's neo-Nazi organization.
Long before I met him or even read his Our Town series, the first LaRouche cult member I interviewed demanded to know "if Dennis King had been feeding me stuff." When I eventually did speak to King on the phone from New York, I expressed amazement that he had a listed number, considering all the harassment. "There's no point in unlisting it," he said wearily. "Every time I change it, they find out the new one within a day or two. They've got contacts inside the phone company."
It's tempting to dismiss such comments as misplaced melodrama, but they accurately describe an occupational hazard of covering this story. I've seen the countless LaRouche news interviews, public addresses, paid advertisements and published propaganda that have attempted to smear King and destroy the credibility of his work. And I've shared his frustration at the indifference of mainstream editors who just wouldn't believe that the most sophisticated political extremist group in modern times was a story worth reporting.
Despite all that--or perhaps because of it--King has come closer than anyone else to unraveling the mystery of how LaRouche, now serving time in federal prison for tax evasion and conspiracy to commit loan fraud, was able to get away with it for so long. His book chronicles time after time when prosecuting agencies, political parties and even the press simply failed to recognize or act on the danger to democracy posed by LaRouche and his minions.
The broad outlines of the saga are by now familiar, and King sketches them deftly, filling in the picture with rich detail: LaRouche's long involvement on the radical left beginning with the Socialist Workers Party in the late 1940s and extending on through the Students for a Democratic Society in the late 1960s; gradual formation of a breakaway leftist sect in the early 1970s, followed by a sharp lurch to a far-right ideology modeled closely on classical fascism, laced with racism, anti-Semitism and demented conspiracy theories; and finally, the creation of a private intelligence service, publishing and financial empire, electoral organization and political network girding the globe.
King's book is alive with anecdotes, both amusing and frightening, of how LaRouche's various megalomaniacal schemes played themselves out. But where it's most valuable is in supplying what until now has been missing from most accounts of the LaRouche phenomenon, including my own: A systematic analysis of his political program, not as an arbitrary assortment of obsessions conjured up by a clinical psychotic, but as a fiendishly clever and coherent strategy, a "grand design" aimed at achieving world conquest.
This is not to argue that LaRouche, on some level, isn't insane. Most of us who've followed his career closely believe he is. The Nazi "big lie" propaganda technique depended on repeating an untruth so outrageous that eventually it came to be believed. The success of LaRouche's plan hinges on precisely the opposite. It is, in reality, a gigantic worldwide conspiracy so elaborate and audacious that almost nobody has taken it seriously. And it can only succeed as long as we don't give it serious attention.
Uncovering the LaRouche story has been a fascinating and frightening experience for all of us, and not only for the reasons commonly supposed. LaRouche's penchant for lawsuits is famous, and even the fear of getting sued has successfully squelched countless investigative exposes of his organization. As a sociopathic personality, he has a well-deserved reputation for sadistic cruelty toward his own followers, employed as part of his cult-indoctrination techniques, as well as a single-minded ruthlessness in hounding his political enemies.
But there's also another kind of fear that sooner or later takes hold of everyone who gets hooked by this story: As you read more of LaRouche's many publications--which is essential, after all, to understanding his motivations--you cannot escape the terrifying sense that at some point you, too, run the risk of losing your grip on reality as you get sucked deeper into LaRoucheís madness. As in all effective propaganda, threads of truth are densely woven into its fabric, and trying to unravel them is mentally and physically exhausting. It becomes as much a battle to keep your own perspective as it does to comprehend the lunacy of the LaRouche world.
Doesn't the fact that LaRouche ended up behind bars ultimately prove that the system works? Not at all. As King observes, if LaRouche's criminal convictions finally put an end to his political career, it will be due not to the strength of grass-roots resistance to fascist ideologies but, paradoxically, to its weakness. That vulnerability encouraged the kind of recklessness and rampant fund-raising fraud that eventually caused LaRouche's entire scheme to unwind.
The case of Lyndon LaRouche is a cautionary tale of how American institutions collectively failed to confront and counter a dangerously subversive political movement. Could it happen again? Indeed, it's still happening.
Down, but not out, 'New American Fascist' keeps plan alive, writer says
By MARY GILLESPIE, Chicago Sun-Times, Sunday, June 11, 1989
Mention the name Lyndon LaRouche at a cocktail party and witness the response: Eyes roll, heads shake, jokes fly and the cries of "wacko, wacko!" echo like the duck calls of the intelligentsia.
Mention the name Lyndon LaRouche to investigative journalist Dennis King and you get a far more serious, reasoned and highly unsettling response.
With persistence bordering on obsession, King has spent the last decade of his life dogging Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr. and his minions and documenting their beliefs, strategies and techniques. King believes that the eye rollers--particularly those in the media--are missing something very scary when they dismiss LaRouche's thinly cloaked (and sometimes uncloaked) fascism as the ravings of a megalomaniac.
King's new book, Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (Doubleday, $19.95), is densely packed with analysis of LaRouche's methods and evidence that the man is not merely a bizarre eccentric but a true political player--a man who, as King puts it, has "a coherent program, subtle tactics and what is usually lacking in American politics, a long-range plan of how to get from here to there."
In short, says King: A nasty virus is undermining America's political immune system, and LaRouche is a prime carrier.
These days, the 66-year-old LaRouche is serving time in a federal correctional facility for tax evasion and conspiracy to commit loan fraud. He is appealing his conviction and granting scores of interviews from prison. He is still powerful, warns King, who believes that when LaRouche's power wanes there will be plenty of "brilliant, talented" people to take up the cause.
It's a cause that employs confusing, mixed-message rhetoric, says King, but is fundamentally anti-Semitic and racist. LaRouche is quick to label others, the author notes, but disdains labels for himself. The LaRouche quote King chose to open his book tells the story: "It is not necessary to wear brown shirts to be a fascist....It is not necessary to wear a swastika to be a fascist....It is not necessary to call oneself a fascist to be a fascist. It is simply necessary to be one!"
King's fascination with the man who began as a far-left Trotskyist and ended up a fascist started more than a decade ago, when he first observed LaRouche's power for himself.
"I had friends I'd known around Columbia University in 1968 who had joined LaRouche when he was part of the New Left," recalls King. "Several of these friends were Jewish, and when LaRouche moved into anti-Semitism in the middle 1970s, I was thoroughly puzzled as to why these people, who I remembered as being level-headed, intelligent and emotionally stable, stayed with him. I had to know what this was about."
And so he began looking into LaRouche's growing organization--and was increasingly amazed at what he found.
"In 1977, I went to LaRouche's offices in lower Manhattan," King says. "They had three and a half floors of a factory building that must have carried an astronomical rent; they had computers in there--which, in 1977, was a big deal--and Teletype machines and banks of WATS line phones. They had well over 100 people in there working full-time on intelligence-gathering tasks. LaRouche had set up his own parallel CIA.
"I wondered where the money was coming from; it was obvious that this was taking millions of dollars a year, and they weren't making that kind of cash by going out and selling their little radical paper on street corners.
"What was this guy up to? I began looking into his ideology. I went to a man who was a longtime leader of the Conservative Party in New York; he had made quite a study of anti-Semitism and with him I had one of the most eye-opening afternoons of my life. He kept pulling down books by anti-Semitic writers from his shelves and showing me exactly where LaRouche had picked up various ideas. It was then that I realized this stuff was far more virulent than it appears on the surface.
"At first I didn't believe what I'd heard--that he could really be making inroads into the American electoral process and that he was really linked to all these influential people. It was too absurd. But once you've called 50 state boards of elections and found out the statistics are true; once you've called a dozen Teamsters leaders and politicians and found out that, yes, LaRouche has met with them, it begins to sink in.
"In 1979, I wrote my first series about LaRouche [for the Manhattan weekly Our Town]. At that time, I wrote that they had broken out of quarantine and were doing some alarming things. But if you told me that within five years LaRouche would have access to the highest levels of the National Security Council, would be running more than 2,000 candidates for public office in the Democratic primary and would be raking in $30 million a year--as he did in 1984--I would have said you were crazy. I would not have believed it."
Most of the American media, says King, didn't believe it--or want to believe it--either.
"They regarded him as a kook," says King. "The fear of libel suits was definitely a factor. But I don't think the American media are lacking in guts; the main problem was the perception that Lyndon LaRouche simply wasn't worth it, that he was a wacko. So why cover him?"
LaRouche and his followers were, indeed, regarded as little more than pernicious oddities by the press. In Chicago, however, one startling event snapped the media to attention--at least for a while. On March 18, 1986, two LaRouchies--as they quickly came to be called--won the Democratic nominations for Illinois lieutenant governor and secretary of state.
Suddenly, the media had no choice but to take these "wackos" seriously. Janice Hart, the new 31-year-old nominee for secretary of state, informed the local press that she wanted to "revive the spirit of Abraham Lincoln and Gen. [George S.] Patton. We're going to roll our tanks down State Street."
King points out that on primary night, the LaRouchians, as he refers to them, were just as stunned as everybody else by their victories. They couldn't watch the returns because they were "too busy conducting a mock exorcism in front of the home of University of Chicago Professor Mircea Eliade," who they claimed was an evil warlock, he writes.
The LaRouchians' bizarre antics just appear to be thus, King argues. He believes they're often clever, premeditated camouflages to mask a neo-Nazi message aimed at those primed to hear it.
"LaRouche has developed an elaborate smoke screen," says King. "Many of the people who have actually run for office under his aegis aren't clear on what it is he stands for."
There's little doubt that LaRouche is slippery. But is he, as the conventional wisdom would have it, a certified kook?
"People always tell me LaRouche is a kook," says King. "I have a standard answer to that: In California, this kook got 700,000 people to sign a petition to put a segment of their fellow citizens [AIDS victims] in concentration camps. And then that kook went out and got two million people to vote in favor of it. He actually managed to desensitize the public to the idea of concentration camps. People started talking about it; because of LaRouche, it became part of the legitimate marketplace of ideas. To me, that's stunning.
"I believe LaRouche knows he's crazy, but he knows how to use his craziness," adds King. "I have seen him play crazy; I sat across from him at depositions where he didn't want to answer the questions the attorneys were asking. [King was a co-defendant in a libel case against NBC in 1984.] He ran circles around the network's expensive corporate attorneys.
"He kept this little smirk on his face while he talked about the Queen of England being a drug pusher and all that. And he would call me a drug pusher, too, and then look over and wink at me. It was clear that he knew I knew it was all a game."
A dangerous game at that: In the 10 years King spent researching LaRouche and his cronies, he suffered extreme personal harassment at their hands.
"It started in 1979, when I first published stories about him," recalls King. "They went after me nonstop through 1984. I'd say there were at least 1,000 hang-up phone calls. Sometimes they would tell me they were going to beat my brains out with a baseball bat. They called up my girlfriend and told her she could find me in the basement refrigeration unit. They followed me around the streets. Someone smashed up the offices of Our Town, the paper in which I first published the LaRouche stories, then poured acid over the wreckage. Nobody else had a motive to do that.
"They found out where my father, a man in his 80s, lived and went after him with poison pen letters and threatening phone calls. They passed out leaflets in my apartment building accusing me of all sorts of sexual and political misdeeds. LaRouche even bought time on a local Manhattan radio station, and every half hour his voice would come on and warn everyone that Dennis King, a freelance journalist living in Manhattan, was a drug pusher. Some of it was comic opera, but some was very nerve-wracking.
"Why did I continue [to look into LaRouche's dealings]? It just kept building. I was compelled to know what made this brilliant, tragic man work.
"The one thing I want to make clear is that I bear no personal ill will toward Lyndon LaRouche. I think he is a tragic case--not because I feel sorry for him, but because I feel sorry that he was unable to use his talents for the good. Here is a man with a magnificent intellect. He could have been a brilliant statesman, a Nobel Prize-winning economist. He could have done a lot of good for America. He could have had all the recognition he wanted legitimately. And instead he was warped somewhere in childhood and ended up giving American neo-Nazis a full-blown ideology."
That ideology is scarier--and far more pervasive--than the man himself, warns King:
"In 1988, David Duke [the former Ku Klux Klan wizard and head of the National Association for the Advancement of White People who was recently elected to a state representative's seat in Louisiana] followed LaRouche's tactics to the letter. He is part of LaRouche's legacy already, and that is perhaps the most frightening thing to consider."
For now, King says he's done considering LaRouche, except while promoting his new book. His agent is shopping around with another book he wrote during his "LaRouche years"; it is, appropriately enough, a treatise on investigative reporting.
He's happy to be thinking about other things, he says, but he realizes that the expertise he has gained on his subject will make it hard to ever really break free.
"Once you learn so much about any one thing, you sort of have an obligation to keep up with it because people look to you for imformation," he says. "The most important thing is this: I have faith in the American people, and that's why it's so important to bring what Lyndon LaRouche stands for out into the open.
"I believe that once Americans truly understand, they will reject him. I just want to help them understand."