Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Close Encounters of the LaRouche Kind
Last week I had an encounter with some members of the Lyndon LaRouche movement. I was going to the local post office to drop off some mail and was surprised to find two LaRouche movement members camped outside with some literature and their now-infamous "Obama Hitler" sign. I could tell that the post office patrons were not too happy about the situation, but being a curious (or foolish) fellow, I walked over and started talking with one of the LaRouchies, a woman, probably in her 50s or early 60s.
The conversation was rather one-sided. I heard some of the usual LaRouche conspiracy theories about the "British Empire" and whatnot. However, when it came to topics such as labor rights and austerity, I found myself agreeing with the LaRouchies, or at least with this particular LaRouche movement member. The woman made the point that a society that squeezes fire and police department budgets but lavishes money on banks to make up for their speculative losses is a dysfunctional one. While I found some common ground on some topics, I just couldn't get past the conspiracy theories and the lionization of the bizarre Lyndon LaRouche. I accepted some literature (which, to be honest, I disposed of as soon as I got home) and politely made my exit.
At a time when so many people are dissatisfied with the political mainstream, it is not surprising that conspiracy theorists such as Lyndon LaRouche and Alex Jones receive so much attention. On the other hand, conspiracy theories often do not accurately depict reality and prevent people from engaging in systemic, institutional or philosophical analysis. At their worst, conspiracy theories can lead to the scapegoating of unpopular groups, as is the case with anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, for example.
That being said, I do not see the growth of "fringe" movements as a huge problem, despite fears that one of these relatively small groups will transform into a powerful fascist movement. More worrisome is the alienation of increasingly large numbers of people from public life. I see mass resignation as the most likely result of the transformation of politics into a wholly plutocratic affair. It seems that if democracy is on its way out, it will go out with a whimper, not a bang.