Political group accused of cult-like practices; LaRouche Youth Movement said to brainwash, manipulate

The South End News, Michigan/October 31, 2006
By Gloria Stamat

Members of the LaRouche Youth Movement (LYM) whisked Ed Capps and his friend, Katrina Fenton, away to their headquarters in Redford near the end of winter semester 2006. They were returned only after a six-hour indoctrination to get them to drop out of school and join their cause.

Brainchild of political activist Lyndon LaRouche, the LYM is a cultural movement that embraces Marxism and a reemergence of the classics. Though accused of being cultish in nature, the LYM has thousands of followers around the world.

How it all begins

Katrina Fenton, a political science and philosophy major at Wayne State, was approached by LaRouche Youth members. These members told Fenton that she had no respect for education or for thinking in general, and that her education did not equip her to solve even simple math riddles. She was urged to reconsider her education foundation. Being cold and hungry, Fenton pressed that she wanted to get some food at a restaurant, La Pita. A group member walked with her to the restaurant where she was meeting her friend, Capps.

After lunch, Capps and Fenton got into a van with six LaRouche members. Capps thought they were heading to the philosophy office on campus. Neither knew they were going 30 minutes away to Redford.

“So is this the part where we get locked in the garage and killed?” Capps asked. The LaRouche members emphatically denied being a cult.

The headquarters visit included reading LaRouche literature aloud in chorus, a general tour and listening to a LaRouche radio program. Capps was told that the group alternates between days recruiting at Eastern Michigan University, Wayne State University and University of Michigan. There was a discussion that LaRouche’s politics are the only way to save the world. Then the members pitched dropping out of school for the special education there.

Capps and Fenton were returned to campus afterwards. Capps didn’t give the LaRouche group his phone number. However, Fenton did, and has been receiving calls from the group ever since. She received about 20 phone calls last month urging her to come back.

How it can end

Jeremiah Duggan lived in England with his family. According to his mother, Erica Duggan, his school, the renowned Christ’s Hospital, called him a renaissance man, because he enjoyed science, math, literature, drama and so many other subjects. He later attended the British Institute in Paris. Then he decided to get two degrees at once by studying English at the Sorbonne and French at the British Institute. Duggan fell in love with a French girl in Paris who was a classical singer. He loved The Beatles, cinema and animals.

Despite studying history, and being part of a liberal Jewish youth group since he was 8, Duggan knew little about politics. After Sept. 11, 2001 Duggan became more interested in reading news and politics. In early 2003, Duggan came home for a visit and to introduce his new girlfriend. That was the last time his family saw him.

Erica Duggan wasn’t worried about her son because he was so independent.

According to his mother, Duggan bought a newspaper from a LaRouche recruiter outside of his school at the British Institute. He called her on the telephone and told her how impressed he was with the organizer, Benoit Chalifoux, and how he would like to write for the LaRouche publications. Duggan began to fear that the Iraq war would lead to a world war. So he believed he needed to go to Germany for what he thought was an anti-war conference to protest the war. Erica Duggan was unable to protect her son because the LaRouche movement was virtually unknown in England.

Duggan had no idea where he was headed with the group. He gave his girlfriend the names of three possible towns in Germany where he might be. Around March 22, 2003 Duggan attended the conference in Wiesbaden. Later, Erica Duggan found among his belongings, materials showing that week he was exposed to conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic statements. The last thing he wrote was, “Jewish leads to fascism leads to Bush leads to Cheney.”

On March 27, Erica Duggan said he called her for help, telling her he was under too much pressure and asked her to rescue him. Not an hour later, his body was found on a roadside near Wiesbaden.

German authorities concluded it was a suicide — that Duggan had jumped out into traffic. However, no proper investigation was conducted. The case was promptly closed with the evidence discarded.

The circumstances leading to his death are still unknown. Duggan had no history of mental illness.

According to his mother, there was a lot of blood seeping from his head, which got on to his clothing and pooled on the ground around him. Yet, there was no blood on the cars or on the roadway where he was supposedly dragged. She said she wonders whether her son was mentally tortured and driven to flee in front of cars, or even murdered and left by a roadside.

“They’ve taken from me my life. They’ve destroyed everything. I’ll never have any more joy in living. And not only have they taken my son, but on top of that, they’ve imposed on me the British, the German, the French, and perhaps even the American authorities — the fact that I have to investigate the death of my own son,” Erica Duggan said.

Erica Duggan is campaigning at justiceforjeremiah.com for funding to pursue legal means to a legitimate investigation into her son’s death.

How they do it

Chip Berlet, journalist and LaRouche researcher, believes that the main targets for LYM recruits are college campuses, urban inner cities and black communities. Students are attracted to the anti-war, anti-Bush and anti-Cheney rhetoric.

“They’re masterful at preying on the guilt of people, if you believe in helping the working class,” said Berlet.

Berlet said that the LaRouche group is a cult because a democratic or progressive group is not heavy-handed with indoctrination. But with LaRouche, his followers think he is the answer to all problems and is listened to without question.

“LaRouche is a crackpot,” Berlet said.

Dennis King, author of the book “The New American Fascism” about LaRouche, believes this group should be banned from college campuses. He feels they are deceptive and recruit aggressively, and that colleges should have orientations to warn students.

Paul McClung of Richland, Wash., is a former member of the LaRouche organization from 1978 to 2004. He dropped out of school to join the group. He said that young people are told that LaRouche is their only hope. They are told a dark age is coming and only LaRouche can lead them out.

“A young person who doesn’t know history would fall for this,” McClung said.

McClung had to change his phone number and move in with a friend to get away from the group. He warns that members are relentless in trying to reclaim those who leave.

“What most people don’t understand is that LaRouche sees himself as a God, and that he knows more than anybody, including his hero, F.D.R.,” McClung said.

Phil Fisher, a charismatic local organizer for the LYM, was told he could not give any official comments on the group. When asked basic questions like, “What are the group’s goals?” and “Why campaign so heavily on campuses?” he had no answers. Instead, the group released an advanced copy of a pamphlet against campus media, with sensationalist subheadings like, “The Campus Gestapo,” “Cheney’s Campus Stormtroopers,” and “The Bottom Feeders.”

According to Lt. Dave Scott of the Wayne State Police, he hasn’t heard any complaints about the LaRouche Youth Movement.

“We’re not going to stand around to screen people as to where they’re going, if it’s against their will or not. It’s a common sense issue,” Scott said.

Scott said that if people come forward about being taken off campus against their will, documentation would be needed to determine if a crime was committed or not.

And the answer as to which students are targeted lies with Katrina Fenton. Despite being harassed for over six months, she’s not ready to say, ‘down with LaRouche’ because she feels at least they are trying. She said she is tired of the general disinterest and apathy of young people today and feels that reform is necessary with our society. Yet, she is still unsure as to what LaRouche’s group is about. She wonders what LaRouche would put in place of the current political and economic systems

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