Forgotten Horror -- How an 80s ‘cult leader’ convinced TWO MILLION Californians – including top politicians – that AIDS sufferers should be sent to ‘death camps’

California held two referendums on HIV/AIDS policy in the 80s which would have resulted in the mass quarantine of sufferers and the mandatory testing of gay men and school teachers

Sun, UK/March 1, 2018

By Mark Hodge

This is the disturbing story of how a "cult leader" convinced two million voters that AIDS was a “biological holocaust” and that sufferers should be sent to death camps.

Political activist Lyndon LaRouche and his group PANIC managed to get California to have a referendum on whether HIV/AIDS carriers should be mass quarantined in 1986 and again in 1988.

LaRouche, a far-right member of the Democratic party who ran for President eight times, claimed that AIDS was created by “the Soviet war machine” and was spread by mosquitoes and "casual contact".

By the mid-1980s, rates of HIV doubled every 12 months in an epidemic which LaRouche’s followers claimed was “worse than the Black Death” and more deadly than a "thermonuclear war.”

The PANIC group, also known as Prevent AIDS Now Initiative Committee, referred to sufferers as the “walking dead” and advocated a mass quarantine programme and mandatory testing of gay men, school teachers and restaurant workers.

The group estimated that the initiative would cost in the region of $100 billion annually - which included the construction of quarantine camps.

After gaining hundreds of thousands of public signatures, PANIC brought California Proposition 64 to ballot in 1986.

The initiative - which sought to class AIDS as a contagious disease - gained over two million votes and 29% of the electorate meaning it was ultimately defeated.

Professor Chris Toumey, of the Center for Environmental Nanoscience and Risk, says that scientific uncertainty about the virus caused a “thriving sub culture of alternative knowledge about HIV/AIDS”

Speaking with The Sun Online, Professor Toumey, who has published several papers on the AIDS Crisis, said LaRouche's group, which he agrees was a "cult of personality", used a “very sophisticated message of fear” to mobilise public opinion.

He said: “In the 70s, LaRouche’s group predicated there would be some kind of biological holocaust and then when AIDS came along, their view was that their predictions had been realised.

“In the early days of the crisis in the 1980s people began to fear that AIDS might be spread by mosquitoes – because they spread other things such as malaria.

“This led to LaRouche and PANIC to claim that every mosquito was like a flying hypodermic needle.”

LaRouche claimed to be “influential in scientific circles internationally” while insisting that AIDS was spread by “casual contact.”

He enlisted medical experts such as British doctor John Seale to join PANIC which Toumey says gave his bonkers claims “an aura of scientific respectability.”

Like PANIC, Seale believed that HIV/AIDS was a biological weapon invented by the Soviet Union.

Seale’s publications in respected medical journals were later revealed to have been printed in the “letters to the editor” sections and were in fact “highly speculative opinion pieces.”

Toumey added: “What is remarkable is that he was able to find people with good scientific and medical credentials to get onto his PANIC committee to lend an aura of scientific respectability to his theories.”

LaRouche and his allies appeared on television in debates over Proposition 64 which added another layer of credibility to the initiative.

His group distributed a 24-page booklet to Californians titled "A Vote for Proposition 64 Could Save the Life of Someone in Your Family.”

But a 1986 poll published in the Los Angeles Times showed that LaRouche’s fear tactics were working.

The survey showed that 50 per cent of those polled supported the mass quarantine of AIDS sufferers while 48 per cent approved of identity cards for those who tested positive.

Astonishingly, 15 per cent of those questioned favoured the tattooing of AIDS victims.

And PANIC were not finished. After losing the 1986 vote, the group managed to get 700,000 signatures from Californians to bring the initiative to ballot once more.

However, the 1988 vote on Proposition 64 was again unsuccessful gaining 32% of the electorate and with a smaller overall turnout.

Professor Toumey believes that if the initiative had been successful then the quarantine and testing programme could have been rolled out in other US states.

He said: "If California has passed the proposition, I think it’s plausible that a mass quarantine plan would have spread to other states in the US especially conservative states which could be accused of being more homophobic."

LaRouche began his political career as a Marxist founding the US Labor Party in 1973 - a political group which was branded a "cult-like organisation" by the New York Times.

But the late 1970s, the firebrand performed an extraordinary political about-turn and became an ultra-rightest managing to join the left-leaning Democratic Party in a bid to appeal to its fringe conservative members.

Despite his increasing bizarre claims, including that Queen Elizabeth was involved in international drug smuggling and that US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger was a Soviet spy, his band of sycophantic followers stayed loyal to him.

In the decade before the AIDS crisis, he set up the Biological Holocaust Task Force making the vague predication that an epidemic would soon threaten humanity.

It was little surprise then that he and his followers used HIV/AIDS to gain mainstream political clout in the 1980s.

In 1984, NBC journalist Pat Lynch alleged that LaRouche was the leader of a "cult" citing claims from former members of his movement.

Following the failure of the Proposition 64, LaRouche and 13 of his associates were found guilty of credit card fraud which resulted in the PANIC leader being jailed in 1989.

With his political reputation in ruins, LaRouche was paroled in 1994 after serving five years of a 15 years sentence.

Yet some of his disturbing views still persisted in the American political mainstream.

Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, who has competed for the Republican presidential nomination, called for AIDS victims to be "isolated" in 1992 - a statement he has refused to retract as long ago as 2007.

Lyndon LaRouche's Political Action Committee has been approached for comment.

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