A young student from larryflynt.com infiltrated some LYM meetings and wrote this in 2006:
Infiltrating a secretive Lyndon LaRouche compound, UCLA student journalist Garin Hovannisian gets a frightening lesson in idolatry and indoctrination.
While heading to class along UCLA’s main pedestrian thoroughfare, a daytime hangout for young prophets and propagandists among others, I run into an old friend for the first time in two years. Back in high school, C.J. was a real character—a no-nonsense, call-it-like-it-is skeptic, jokester and poet. I soon learn that he’s been recruited by the LaRouche Youth Movement (LYM). After attending a weekend retreat at what he refers to as a “cadre school,” C.J. promptly dropped out of college, deserting family, friends, personality and every vestige of his past. Now living in a commune, he’s a full-fledged LYM member.
Born in 1922, the enigmatic Lyndon Hermyle LaRouche Jr. is a perennial Presidential candidate, prolific author and founder of several political organizations. Critics counter that he’s a trumpeter of outlandish theories, an extremist, a cult leader, a homophobe and an anti-Semite, but with 22 cadre schools in the U.S., LaRouche’s army is growing, his doctrine gaining more clout.
Since 1999 LYM has offered college dropouts a regimen of pseudo-intellectualized socialism, absolutist musical theory, post-calculus mathematics and a view of history as an ongoing clash between the forces of good and evil. LaRouche’s current whereabouts are unknown, but he communicates to his followers via messengers and Internet broadcasts.
So what turns an outgoing guy like C.J. into a politicized pamphleteer and peddler?
Spiritual enlightenment? Is my old pal playing a sinister joke on me?
In search of answers, I sign up for my first meeting. To my horror, I find myself in a secretive group of young revolutionaries seeking college-educated recruits for brainwashing.
LYM’s Southern California headquarters is a decrepit two-story structure in Eagle Rock, a short hop from downtown Los Angeles. C.J., who is waiting for me at the back door, escorts me inside. LaRouche propaganda is everywhere, even in the kitchen and bathroom. The largest area is set aside for volunteers who work the phone lines, talking it up with potential recruits.
In the library I find texts by Plato, Kepler, Gauss, Leibniz and Schiller, but Aristotle is banned. Sir Isaac Newton? According to LYM leaders, he’s a fraud and plagiarist. Only “pro-mankind” intellectuals are permitted. Charter member Cody Jones explains to me that science, economics, politics, culture and music are all measurable by a “mankind yardstick.” Pro-mankind: LaRouche, Plato and Bach. Anti-mankind: Aristotle and Rachmaninoff.
Later, everyone is summoned to the conference room, where an ensemble performs Bach chorales. Phil Rubenstein—a balding, spectacled fellow in his 50s—takes the stage for “the weekly update.” Rubenstein, who claims to be a minister, fires off a homily on the “major political force in the U.S.—the LaRouche Youth Movement!” This becomes a routine reassurance, I soon learn.
There are conspiracy theories (“The economist George Schultz is behind it all!”) and hush-hush secrets (“Tuesday, Lyn [LaRouche] had a private, off-the-record meeting with 12 development sector embassies”). Rubenstein’s camaraderie with the younger members gives him easy access to their malleable minds.
Once the official program concludes at 8 p.m., I stick around to mingle, hoping for casual conversation. My efforts prove futile. LYM followers never watch movies, don’t listen to music (other than the prescribed dose of classical), don’t tell jokes and don’t have hobbies.
Individual egos have been replaced by a collective identity. Every pursuit, aspiration, passion, emotion and thought revolves around “Lyn,” as members reverently call LaRouche—“the founder…the genius among geniuses…the leading prophetic figure of modern history.”
Dreadfully tired, I cannot survive any more of this. I say goodbye to C.J., gather my bags and leave LYM’s little empire.
/UCLA senior Garin Hovannisian, 20, is editor of The Bruin Standard, a campus alternative newspaper. The Los Angeles native is also a freelance writer and blues addict and can be contacted at ghovannisian@BruinStandard.com.