Lyndon LaRouche is dead at 96.
For those of you lucky enough to have no idea who he is, imagine if the choice cuts of Jordan Peterson, Alex Jones, David Miscavige, and the platonic ideal of a Bernie Bro were put into a blender, then filtered through a philosophy degree. He ran for president eight times between 1976 and 2004, each effort about as successful as our own. He was the butt of jokes and often accused of being a cult leader, and throughout his decades of clinging to the fringes, he helped create the world we live in today. A world where anyone who pauses to consider the facts must be an elitist monster out to destroy America.
Entire (deeply cursed) books could be (and have been) written on LaRouche's life, but a few of his key ideas should give you a sense of how many Lovecraftian spiders were living in his brain. LaRouche believed *deep breath* that the Holocaust was a myth, that rogue elements of the U.S. military participated in 9/11, that the British royal family secretly controls the world's drug trade, that climate change is a plot to destroy America, that people with HIV are part of the "lower sexual classes" and must be quarantined, and also, for some reason, that there's a nefarious conspiracy to control the standard of musical pitch, and that rock music was invented by British intelligence to wreak havoc in the U.S.
Oh, and one of his neophyte followers got cold feet before dying in suspicious circumstances, to which LaRouche naturally responded by claiming that it was a hoax launched by Dick Cheney to undermine his otherwise-sterling reputation. And before you ask, yes, of course he had his own compound maintained by loyal followers and armed guards.
So LaRouche was ... let's say a bit of an odd duck. Now stop us if this sounds familiar: A political outsider claims that America is teetering on the brink of destruction, and that only he can restore Western civilization to some vaguely defined glory days. His ideas aren't crazy or wildly impractical; they're bold, too bold for the stodgy political establishment.
Sure, he's a belligerent manchild who says awful things about anyone who ever disagrees with him, and some of his ideas seem contradictory, and anti-Semites really seem to like him for some reason. But that's because he's a next-level genius trying to save a doomed society by taking those stuffy elites down a notch. The fact that his ideas are barely comprehensible is clear proof that he's smarter than the rest of us. So are you with him and his plan to give power and jobs back to the people, or have you been brainwashed into hating America by his endless enemies and the lies of the mainstream media?
LaRouche is far from a perfect analogy for Trump, if only because LaRouche had bizarre but passionate opinions on why Plato ruled but Aristotle drooled, while if you were to ask Trump for his thoughts, he'd tell you that Plato has always been his favorite Disney character, but he could tell that Aristotle was a bum from the moment he met him. But LaRouche and his followers helped build a world where Trump could thrive. A world where Alex Jones could become a celebrity and the alt-right movement could spring up, all because we accept that a certain level of violent, factually dubious ramblings will always be buzzing away in the background.
Before the advent of podcasts and YouTube videos in which people with terrible haircuts talk about how the latest mass shooting was staged or those dastardly Jews are once again oppressing the endlessly trod-upon straight white man, LaRouche's supporters would occupy street corners and invade college campuses to picket and hand out pamphlets, write their own books and magazines, broadcast radio and TV shows, and generally live in their own reality. They were the forerunners to internet conspiracy theorists and hatemongers who will say anything to get attention, and who will believe anything to feel special. Some even spent years working and living in LaRouche's offices and compounds -- while now, thanks to the magic of the internet, you can immerse yourself in an all-consuming alternate reality from the comfort of your own home.
LaRouche's most hardcore believers dedicated their lives (and often their finances) to the movement, and LaRouche turned them against their own families. If you weren't with them, you were dooming America. They heckled and harassed political opponents, actual or perceived -- they were traitors, communists, icky homosexuals.
They abused their own people and sent death threats to those brave enough to quit. Oh, and this might sound familiar again, but they took to rallying in force and assaulting people who didn't share their beliefs. (Sometimes with nunchucks!) When called to account for any of this, LaRouche would present himself as a serious intellectual who couldn't possibly be held responsible for the actions of a few crazies. Surely the man talking about how the world is so broken that only immediate and extreme action could fix it wasn't responsible for any extreme action that took place. That would be absurd.
LaRouche eventually spent five years in jail for tax evasion, obstruction of justice, and fraud, having bilked or strong-armed supporters and befuddled senior citizens for millions of dollars. But he was mostly considered a joke, a weirdo whose insane ramblings were a curiosity, but who could do no real damage except to those stupid enough to believe him. Decade after decade of "Those lunatics who are rewriting history, spreading hate, and occasionally getting people killed sure are hilarious! It's a good thing that we, the people of the 1980s, can declare with confidence that they'll never have any real power! Also, New Wave will reign forever!"
LaRouche used to rub shoulders with politicians (and Russian intelligence), but his influence waned tremendously in his later years, and his death has been little more than a footnote in the news. But we're all living in his weird world now, whether we want to or not. He was responsible for turning George Soros from just another rich guy into a right-wing bogeyman, a supposed shadowy string-puller now publicly attacked by Trump, neo-Nazis, and your weirdest aunt alike. Alex Jones was a fan, and Roger Stone credited LaRouche's "extraordinary and prophetic thinking" and "important backstage role" in assisting Trump's election. LaRouche broke ground for a world where any idea can become credible if you spent enough time screaming it. And that, unfortunately, is a reason to remember him.
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