washingtonpost.com  > Print Edition > Sunday Sections > Washington Post Magazine
Page 4 of 5  < Back     Next >

No Joke

By 9 a.m., older members, some of whom had followed LaRouche for decades, were working the phones to raise money. Younger recruits loaded card tables and literature into cars, then fanned out to troll for new members. Everyone was given a daily quota of money to raise, Winstead recalls. If they hadn't made quota by late afternoon, they'd stake out intersections with long red lights and work the left-turn lane. "There's a horrible war," Winstead would tell anyone who'd roll down the window. "Lyndon LaRouche is going to stop it. Here's the paper; make a donation."

By 5:30 p.m., Winstead and his colleagues returned to the field office for another news briefing before dinner. Then they'd launch a new round of work: telephoning potential recruits. "That generally goes on until 10 at night," he says. "If it's not done, then you are pretty much in trouble."


Lyndon LaRouche addresses supporters during an April 30 Webcast in Washington. (Stuart Lewis - EIRNS)

Winstead was pretty much in trouble. He turned out to be not much of a true believer after all. He thought meetings where members professed that they were unworthy to follow LaRouche were like parodies of tent revivals. He wondered why, for all their talk of saving the world, LaRouche activists didn't seem to accomplish much other than raising money and recruiting new members.

He was stunned, at first, to find out what happened when he asked questions or complained. "Maybe you are too [expletive] busy [masturbating] thinking about your mother to go out and organize," he recalls one of the leaders barking at him. "How much money did you raise today?"

"I'm caught off-guard, like, what the hell just happened?" Winstead recalls. "The yelling goes on for maybe five or 10 minutes while I'm furiously backpedaling."

Eventually, he became accustomed to the humiliating insults and tirades. "They call it making somebody a self-conscious organizer," he says. "It is about getting somebody to break down and cry, just to have an emotional collapse. Once you do that, then people are malleable."

LaRouche declined to discuss how members of his youth movement are treated, characterizing a series of questions about those practices as "simply garbage."

According to Winstead, attacking someone for having "mother issues," being homosexual or sexually perverse seemed to be a common strategy for controlling members in the office where he worked. Leaders directed the group to gang up on colleagues for minor infractions, a phenomenon Winstead calls "wolf-packing." It was effective, he says.

Once he witnessed organizers surround and berate a woman, he says. The sobbing woman tried to leave, but one organizer wrestled her back into a chair, Winstead says. She didn't resist again, he says.

Another time, Winstead says, a member having second thoughts about the group asked him for a ride to the bus station so he could visit relatives. Winstead obliged, infuriating movement leaders. "That whole week I just got pounded [by] everyone in the organization. It was comments like . . . 'Mike, you've been driving people away from this movement! You are an agent, aren't you?' "

One day a member of LaRouche's inner circle of advisers was giving a lecture when he touched upon a favorite topic in the movement -- brainwashing. He mentioned a 1957 book on the subject, Battle for the Mind. Curious, Winstead tracked down the book at a library.

"Various types of belief can be implanted in people, after brain function has been sufficiently disturbed by accidentally or deliberately induced fear, anger or excitement," the author, William Sargant, wrote. "Of the results caused by such disturbances, the most common one is temporarily impaired judgment and heightened suggestibility."

Chinese communists "spread their gospel," the author noted, through psychological conditioning: inventing enemies, isolating trainees in special locations, keeping them exhausted by performing demeaning tasks and learning difficult new terminology, using informers to keep people tense and uncertain, and forcing them to sever ties with family and friends, even encouraging their recruits, as Hitler had, to denounce their parents.

Winstead felt ill, he says. "I sat there and I read exactly what I had been going through for the last six months," he says. "It definitely had worked on me quite a bit, more than I'd like to admit to myself then or now."

Now Winstead wanted out. He was scared, he says.

That night Winstead returned to the house he shared with LaRouche organizers. Before he went to bed, he piled furniture in front of his bedroom door. Next to the bed he placed a chef's knife, just in case he had to defend himself.

He repeated that ritual for several nights, he says, while he compiled an "intelligence report" outlining what he'd read about brainwashing techniques. The day he left the LaRouche Youth Movement, he says, he stuffed the memo into the mailboxes of other members, packed up his car, drove to his mother's house and hid.

THE MOOD WAS APOCALYPTIC AS PEOPLE GATHERED AT A LAROUCHE CONFERENCE in Bad Schwalbach, Germany, on March 21, 2003. After tense weeks of international debate, the air assault on Baghdad was underway.

The conference was sponsored by the Schiller Institute, an organization founded by LaRouche's wife and named for the 18th century German poet Friedrich von Schiller. The institute is dedicated to reviving the spirit of the American Revolution and the German classical period, according to its official Web site, which lists its address as a Washington, D.C., post office box.

As LaRouche claimed the floor for his keynote address, he denounced Bush as an "unreformed drunk." Corruption in the White House is pervasive and long-standing, LaRouche informed his listeners, some of whom had come from as far away as Russia and Nigeria. Woodrow Wilson founded the Ku Klux Klan from the White House, LaRouche charged. President John F. Kennedy "was not killed by Oswald; he was killed by a special operation, inside our country, called the Special Warfare Section, which does these kinds of things."

Now the United States is using Iraq to ignite catastrophic global warfare, said LaRouche, according to the official transcript of his speech posted on his campaign Web site. The Bush Administration "is totally committed to worldwide fascist imperialism," LaRouche warned, adding that North Korea, Iran and China are already targets.

If anyone in the audience found this scenario too fantastic, LaRouche had an answer: It was not safe for them to trust their own thoughts. They needed to be retrained to recognize the truth. "Don't trust your own independent thinking," LaRouche said. "You probably don't have any independent thinking. But you delude yourself that you do."

Jeremiah Duggan dutifully took notes on unlined sheets of paper, which his parents later found in his suitcase. "Question your own false assumptions," he wrote.

LaRouche told his audience that this plot to launch a new world war has been intellectually influenced by people who, like Hitler, admire Nietzsche, but "being Jewish, they couldn't qualify for Nazi Party leadership, even though their fascism was absolutely pure! As extreme as Hitler! They sent them to the United States."

"Now are these guys the cause of the war?" LaRouche asked. "No. They're only lackeys.

"If Israel goes to war in the Middle East, Israel will be destroyed, like a hand grenade which has been thrown. When it reaches its destination, it explodes. It does the job, and then it fragments. It doesn't exist anymore.

"So, is Israel behind this? No. Israel is a hand grenade being thrown at the Arab world . . . George Bush hasn't got the brains to be behind it. Who's behind it? . . . The independent central-banking-system crowd, the slime-mold. The financier interests." The very same people, LaRouche explained, who brought Hitler to power in 1930. Forces must be mobilized to crush this terrible plot, LaRouche said.

"Leadership means one thing," he concluded. "It means people who, like Jeanne d'Arc" -- Joan of Arc -- "are willing to put their lives on the line to get the job done."

Speakers at the three-day conference returned again and again to the martyrdom theme, LaRouche-posted transcripts of their speeches show. Elodie Viennot, a LaRouche leader in France, asked the young people present if they could be as brave as Joan of Arc if they were taken to Guantanamo Bay and interrogated mercilessly "because you are associated with Lyndon LaRouche?"


< Back  1 2 3 4 5    Next >

© 2004 The Washington Post Company