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The World Wide Weirdness of Lyndon LaRouche

By April Witt

The desperation in her son’s voice jolted Erica Duggan fully awake. “Mum, I’m in big trouble,” Jeremiah, a 22-year-old college student, said into the phone quietly, as though trying not to be overheard.

It was nearly 4:30 am in London. Erica Duggan, a retired teacher, had been awake even before the phone rang. Restless — a mother’s instinct, she would later say — she’d gone down to the kitchen to make herself a cup of tea.

It was March 27, 2003, the eighth day of the war in Iraq. Erica’s idealistic son had gone to Germany to attend an anti-war protest and conference with a group called Nouvelle Solidarité. All Jeremiah told his mother about the group before he left was that its views were "extreme" and that it was affiliated with an American presidential candidate she’d never heard of, a man named Lyndon LaRouche.

"This involves Solidarity," Erica recalls her son saying before he added: "I can’t do this. I want out. It is not something I can do.’’

Alarmed, she tried to assure her son that he didn’t have to do anything with this group that he didn’t want to. Then the line went dead. Almost immediately, Jeremiah rang back.

"I’m frightened," she remembers him saying, his voice hushed and strained.

"What is it?" his panicked mother demanded. "Tell me!"

Jeremiah seemed to be having trouble speaking. "He sounded terrified," Erica says. "Because of that I found myself saying, ‘I love you.’ It just came out. I thought his life was in danger.

"When I said, ‘I love you,’ then he said to me in a very, very loud voice, ‘I want to see you NOW.’"

"Where are you?" his mother cried.

"Wiesbaden," he said.

She had difficulty making out the name of the German city, and she asked him to spell it. Jeremiah began spelling Wiesbaden. He wasn’t halfway through the letters when the line cut off again.

Thirty-five minutes later, Jeremiah was dead. He lay crumpled on a roadway into town.

The guises of Lyndon LaRouche (from top): another speech in a never-ending presidential campaign; expounding his strange cocktail of economic, political, geometric and philosophical theories; and assuming Presidential mode (an image editing fantasy from the LaRouche website)

“This system is breaking down,” LaRouche says. “It is crumbling... The crisis is here.”

Jeremiah’s death has propelled his parents into the political orbit of Lyndon LaRouche, a realm of plots, counterplots and apocalyptic prophesies that they hadn’t known existed. Their campaign to learn the circumstances of their son’s death has brought rare scrutiny to an American politician whose eight presidential campaigns have netted him two precious commodities: millions in federal matching funds and a cadre of fresh-faced recruits who, like Jeremiah Duggan, want to help save the world.

LaRouche, 82, is glowering behind outsize eyeglasses. His hair is wispy on his prominent head. His shoulders stoop. Yet he still projects supreme self-assurance. It is April 30, 2004, and LaRouche is speaking at the Marriott at Metro Center in Washington. Important supporters around the globe, his staff says, are listening via the Internet. Inside a spacious meeting room, dozens of other followers sit rapt in folding chairs.

A sinister network of conspirators is about to plunge the world into a new Dark Age, LaRouche warns, but it’s not too late. He can save mankind. That is why he must be elected president. "I have a better chance of being elected than you have of surviving if I’m not," LaRouche tells the assembly. "And that’s a fact. It’s not an exaggeration."

The octogenarian denounces President Bush as a "dummy sitting on the knee of a Vice President Cheney." Cheney "is controlled by strings from his wife, who is worse than Cheney is! She’s the clever one," LaRouche continues. "He’s the dumb brute who’s holding the strings on the President, the marionette."

This attack is relatively mild for LaRouche. He frequently refers to the Vice President as "the beast-man."

To prevent catastrophic, perpetual, worldwide religious warfare — the ultimate clash of civilisations — LaRouche demands that Bush adopt the LaRouche Doctrine for Southwest Asia. Listening to his rambling talk, it is difficult to make out just what the LaRouche Doctrine for Southwest Asia is except that it apparently "follows precisely the guidelines of the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia."

"As a matter of fact, there is going to be no solution to the crisis in Southwest Asia unless we can adopt it as my doctrine — by name!" LaRouche says. " If they’re serious about saving the country and dealing with the problem, they would talk with me. Why don’t they talk? . . . What does that mean?"

LaRouche, who lives and works behind a curtain of secrecy and security in Northern Virginia, has been asking that question for much of his public life. Always, he comes up with the same answer: People are out to get him. Powerful people — Zionists, bankers, the British. People who control the Republican and Democratic parties and ensure his votes aren’t counted. People, according to LaRouche and his followers, who have plotted to send brainwashed zombies to assassinate him.

In three decades of failed US presidential bids, LaRouche has never won more than 80,000 votes in any election cycle, never emerged as more than a fringe figure joked about in late-night television monologues and on "The Simpsons." He began running for president in 1976 — the first year presidential elections were publicly financed. Since then he has run seven more times, and garnered US$5.9 million in federal matching campaign funds. This election cycle alone he has received more than US$1.4 million. LaRouche calls himself a Democrat, much to the chagrin of the Democratic National Committee.

LaRouche, who expresses loathing for timid conformists, wears belligerence like a badge. He and his supporters accuse perceived enemies of slander, crimes, plots and perversions. Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001, attacks, LaRouche says. Elements within the US military launched the attacks as an attempted coup. Defense Undersecretary Paul Wolfowitz was one of the conspirators, LaRouche claims, along with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and the Israeli army.

In 1988, LaRouche was convicted of mail fraud, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and conspiracy to hide his personal income. Prosecutors argued that aggressive LaRouche fundraisers solicited more than $30 million in loans from supporters, many elderly, with false assurances they’d be repaid. While some lenders lost their life savings, the LaRouche organisation spent millions on property, a swimming pool and a horse-riding ring, according to testimony.

LaRouche maintained that the convictions were engineered to silence him politically and set him up to be murdered in prison. One of his cellmates was disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker, who later described LaRouche as amusing, erudite and convinced their cell was bugged. "To say that Lyndon was slightly paranoid," Bakker wrote in his autobiography, "would be like saying the Titanic had a bit of a leak."

In 1992, LaRouche ran for President from his cell, and taxpayers helped pay his way. The Federal Election Commission reluctantly awarded him federal campaign matching funds behind bars. Under federal campaign law, candidates seeking their party’s presidential nomination qualify for matching funds by raising at least $5,000 in each of 20 states.

For all LaRouche’s attacks on the "dummy" and the "beast-man," the Bush-Cheney administration has been good for LaRouche. It has allowed him to recruit students who weren’t born when he was convicted of multiple felonies. The LaRouche Youth Movement has "hundreds" of members in the United States and "perhaps a lesser number abroad," LaRouche says by e-mail.

His new acolytes believe him when he says he can stop the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and save the world. They also believe that he’s shaping them to help rule the world. He does so, they say, not merely by educating them about politics, history and the arts, but by turning them into authentic geniuses.

"You can actually teach genius," says 21-year-old Ed Hamler, one of LaRouche’s new followers.

LaRouche is preparing them to wage a new American revolution, Matthew Ogden, 21, says. He was a music student, studying bassoon at Indiana University, when planes hit the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Now he spends much of his time trying to persuade other young people to escape "the whatever generation, the culture of dullness" and become "historic individuals."

Youth movement members attend LaRouche-sponsored classes where they learn how great figures of history such as Benjamin Franklin are similar to LaRouche. "You understand how they were operating in history and, even though they are dead, now you are actually carrying on their mission," Ogden explains.

Hamler left Philadelphia University, where he’d been studying graphic design, two years ago to work full time for LaRouche. Hamler’s parents didn’t object, he says, because they’re poor and understand the need to change the world. Rich people whose kids quit school to join LaRouche "freak out," Hamler says, "because they are in the baby boomer fantasy."

To LaRouche followers, baby boomers are a lost cause. "I can’t stress this enough, baby boomers are insane," Hamler says. "They say: ‘Don’t mess with this LaRouche guy. You can’t endanger my comfort zone.’ They look at their kids as objects."

LaRouche, he says, challenges young people to ask the most important question: What is truth? "LaRouche and the youth movement have discovered a method where you can discover truth," Hamler says.

What’s the method? "We have to double the square," Hamler says, smiling.

LaRouche followers are big on doubling the square. Outside the room where LaRouche just spoke is a signboard marked with a square and the teasing question: "Can you double this square?" As Hamler leads a reporter through trying to double the square, a small crowd gathers.

"This is from Plato; don’t worry," Hamler says. "Let’s say you have a square with an area of one, what are your sides going to be? That’s right, one times one is one. Your area is one. Now, what I’m going to need you to do is double the area of the square. Physically, how could I produce a square with the area of two?"

A square where each side is two won’t do. Its area would be four. "Once you investigate things like this, what you automatically run into is what is called the paradox," Hamler says. "You run into a problem that lies outside the way you are already thinking . . . You are going to have to think outside the way you were thinking to make this discovery, to make a breakthrough."

You could draw a square where each side is the square root of two — but that number has an infinite decimal, with numerals stretching on forever. "How can you have a finite measurement?" Hamler asks. "How can you have a discrete side?"

So the problem can’t be solved?

"No, it’s doable," Hamler’s friend chimes in. "There is a solution. But you are coming to see for yourself right now what happens when a system of thinking is, in itself, not adequate for the creation of something that you are looking for. When that’s the case, if you are not willing to change the way you are thinking about it, you are screwed."

The cheerful young men clearly relish this exercise. It’s an important recruiting tool on street corners and college campuses across the United States and Europe. To join forces with LaRouche — to enter his world of conspiracies and counter-conspiracies — you have to accept that everything you know, even the way you think, is wrong.

Victim: Jeremiah Duggan

The week of September 11, 2001, Jeremiah Duggan, an energetic young man with a mop of dark curls, moved to Paris to study. He carried an ambitious double course-load: French at the British Institute and English at the Sorbonne. In Paris, spurred by world events, he paid attention to politics for the first time. He also fell in love with a French voice student.

In early 2003, Jeremiah telephoned to say he’d met a LaRouche activist who wrote for a French-language LaRouche newspaper, Nouvelle Solidarité. The following March, on the eve of the US-led invasion of Iraq, Jeremiah phoned home to say the LaRouche activist had invited him to Germany for an anti-war conference and protest. Busy cramming for exams, he asked his mother to search the Internet for information about LaRouche. She tried, but misspelled the name as Laroche, and found nothing to alarm her. If she had spelled the name correctly, she might have learned that LaRouche’s campaign Web site champions him as "the only qualified candidate for US President with a political movement representing what Franklin D. Roosevelt referred to as the ‘forgotten man.’" She also might have found anti-LaRouche electronic bulletin boards, where former adherents claim psychological abuse and parents of current followers seem desperate to extricate their children from the group. She might have stumbled across a LaRouche campaign press release, which lambasts its critics.

"They say things like LaRouche is a leader of a cult or that he is anti-Semitic, or some other vile epithet," the release says. "Don’t be fooled by these rumors and lies." They originate from Gestapo-style "thought police", and the families of the financial oligarchy who "exert control over politics in the US, through the top-down management of ‘approved’ popular beliefs…"

But Erica didn’t see any of that. Looking back at that moment, when a keystroke might have altered her son’s fate, she starts to weep.

Born in 1922, LaRouche spent a painful childhood in New England, he writes in a 1988 version of his autobiography, The Power of Reason. His parents were fundamentalist Quakers and fierce anti-communists. When other children taunted him, he writes, his father forbade him to fight back.

He was an unsuccessful student, he recalls, because he refused to believe his teachers’ accepted truths.

LaRouche’s mother wanted him to become a minister. Instead, he became a communist organiser. As a leader of the National Caucus of Labor Committees, LaRouche ordered a series of physical attacks on rival groups which involved beatings with metal pipes, clubs and martial arts devices known as nunchuks and took place in New York and other cities in 1973 and 1974.

During this period, LaRouche wrote about psychological techniques for transforming recruits into faithful organisers. In one treatise, "Beyond Psychoanalysis," he wrote that organisers should strip recruits of their egos and reduce them to a state called "little me," in order to rebuild their personalities around a new socialist identity. LaRouche opined in another manifesto, "The Sexual Impotence of the Puerto Rican Socialist Party," that "Sexual impotency is generally the causal root of Left political impotency." To become politically potent, he said, leftists must confront their sexual problems, such as their fear of and desire for their sadistic mothers.

LaRouche on television in 1976, during the first of his quixotic presidential campaigns

For three decades, LaRouche and his followers have accused enemies, including American, Soviet and British intelligence agencies, of sending brainwashed zombies to assassinate him. In December 1973, a 26-year-old British LaRouche associate named Christopher White claimed that he had been brainwashed as part of a plot to kill LaRouche. LaRouche activists announced that they’d been forced to put White through a grueling "de-programming," and offered recordings of the sessions to a New York Times reporter as proof.

"There are sounds of weeping, and vomiting on the tapes, and Mr White complains of being deprived of sleep, food and cigarettes," the resulting Times story says. "At one point someone says ‘raise the voltage,’ but (LaRouche) says this was associated with the bright lights used in the questioning rather than an electric shock."

Soon afterward, the Times reported, another LaRouche follower, Alice Weitzman, wrote a desperate note claiming that she was being held prisoner, folded her plea for help into a paper airplane, and sailed it out the window of her New York City apartment. According to the Times, when police arrived, they found several LaRouche followers who said they were "staying" with Weitzman because she had been brainwashed as part of a plot to kill LaRouche.

LaRouche had led his followers to the political right by the time Ronald Reagan reached the White House. He added environmentalists to his list of enemies, talked about having connections in the intelligence world, championed nuclear energy and the Strategic Defence Initiative, and sought donations from retirees and disaffected farmers in the heartland.

LaRouche also relocated his headquarters from New York City to Leesburg, Virginia, then a sleepy semirural town of about 12,000 people. LaRouche moved into a rented mansion patrolled by heavily armed guards. According to a 1985 Washington Post series, there were sandbag-buttressed guard posts and metal spikes in the driveway. The gun-toting guards alarmed the locals. Civic leaders who criticised LaRouche were denounced by followers and in LaRouche literature as commies, homosexuals, drug pushers or international terrorists.

In October 1986, more than 275 armed officers from federal, state and local law enforcement agencies staged a dawn raid on LaRouche’s Leesburg operations. LaRouche and six followers were later arrested and convicted of multiple felonies stemming from their aggressive fundraising operations. The Federal Election Commission, which had sparred with LaRouche over the years, tried to stop funding his presidential aspirations while he was in jail, but LaRouche challenged the decision in federal appeals court and won in 1993. LaRouche was released from prison the following year.

There were protesters all over the National Mall the spring day in 2002 when Michael Scott Winstead stopped to chat with a LaRouche organiser from Baltimore. Winstead gave the organiser his phone number and said he wanted to help stop the war in Afghanistan.

Winstead, a dark-haired former actor who’d once had a role in the touring company of "Up With People", was at low ebb. He had dreamed of a career in the theatre but was working as an office temp. Soon after his chance meeting on the Mall, Winstead attended a LaRouche speech and then a "cadre school" to learn how to be a LaRouche Youth Movement organiser. The cadre school, held at a Virginia state park, was a taxing series of lectures and discussions that "scared you to death" about the state of the world, says Winstead, now 28. "He tells these kids ‘You have no future, you are finished, the economy is collapsing. It’s going to be famine and flood... unless you find not God, but find me, or support me, or we win.’"

Young LaRouche campaigners, providing niusance value during the Democratic Party primaries of 2004

He joined the youth movement without hesitation. Soon, he was living in a house with other LaRouche followers and working full time at the Baltimore field office. He’d been promised a salary of $300 a week, but his paycheques dwindled, he says. When he asked why, he recalls, "They said, ‘Well, you know we have to send Lyn all over Europe.’"

The group’s leaders, Winstead says, "were constantly asking us if we would die for these ideas." At one retreat of about 100 young people, a LaRouche organiser asked for a show of hands. "Most of the group raised their hands," Winstead says. "I think I did."

Visits home were frowned upon, he says. Parents were derided as "brainwashed baby boomers" or agents of the worldwide conspiracy against LaRouche.

LaRouche followers were expected to work six days a week, he says, beginning at 8 am, when a few dozen activists would gather at the office to sing — typically old slave spirituals. Then they’d listen via speakerphone to an organisation leader give a news briefing highlighting events that, Winstead says, "support their view that the world is crumbling basically and the economy is collapsing."

By 9 am, 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 trawl 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.

By 5:30 pm, 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."

Winstead was pretty much in trouble. 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 organise," he recalls one of the leaders barking at him. "How much money did you raise today?"

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 organiser," 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."

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 organisers surround and berate a woman, he says. The sobbing woman tried to leave, but one organiser wrestled her back into a chair, Winstead says. She didn’t resist again, he says.

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.

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."

Recent LaRouche publications provide ample evidence of his bizarre demonology: available from LaRouche’s Australian arm, the Citizens Electoral Council

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 website. 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 recognise 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... 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 the 1930s.

"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?"

She urged her audience to heed LaRouche’s call to take Joan of Arc as their role model and make their bid for immortality: "They burned her alive, and she didn’t flinch at all... Are you willing to put your life on the line? Because your life might actually never die if you accomplish those matters."

Jeremiah was critical of much of what he was hearing at the conference, a French university student who befriended him there later told his mother. But he and the French student decided to stay on together for a much smaller cadre school, where LaRouche organisers would be trained. The cadre school was held at a youth hostel in Wiesbaden. There were about 50 people there, one participant said.

Jeremiah stood out. Not only was he Jewish, he was British. According to Jeremiah’s written notes, at least one speaker described the Tavistock Institute, a public health research centre in London, as a brainwashing centre. Jeremiah, as it happened, had firsthand experience with Tavistock. When he was 7 and his parents were divorcing, they took the family to Tavistock for counselling. At the cadre school, Jeremiah discussed his experience at Tavistock with LaRouche organisers, participants later told his mother. His parents wonder if Jeremiah’s nationality, religion and comments about attending Tavistock marked him as an "agent" or special target.

The first thing Jeremiah said when he telephoned his girlfriend early Thursday, March 27, 2003, was that he was under “too much pressure.”

"I asked him what kind of pressure, but he didn’t explain himself coherently," she recounted in her written statement to British authorities. "His voice was very small and weak."

"He said they were doing experiments on people with computers... and magnetic things... the government," his girlfriend recalled in her statement. "I was very worried, but wondered if he hadn’t started to imagine things because of information overload."

Jeremiah’s girlfriend begged him to take a train to Paris right away. Not long afterward, Jeremiah placed the two desperate phone calls to his mother, both of which ended abruptly. Frantic and confused, his mother made predawn calls to law enforcement agencies in Britain, telling them that she believed her son had stumbled into a terrorist organisation in Germany and needed help.

It was too late.

Just before 6 am in Wiesbaden, the driver of a BMW saw a pedestrian run into the roadway. He swerved, he later told police, but clipped the young man with his side-view mirror, knocking him down. Jeremiah got up and ran. Minutes later, two more cars came into view, moving fast. A red Peugeot swerved. Jeremiah leapt forward, the driver later said. His arms were raised. His mouth was open. The windshield and a passenger door window of the car shattered. Jeremiah went down. The driver of a blue Golf ran him over. Jeremiah had massive head trauma and died on the road.

German police quickly concluded that Jeremiah had committed suicide by leaping into traffic. They talked to drivers and measured skid marks, but didn’t probe deeply into how Jeremiah spent his final hours or investigate alternatives to suicide, police records indicate.

Jeremiah’s parents arrived in Wiesbaden the next day. There, they met with German police, who told them LaRouche officials claimed that Jeremiah had suffered from suicidal impulses and had been a mental patient at the Tavistock Institute.

Erica and Hugo Duggan were stunned at first, then outraged. Jeremiah had no history of mental illness or suicide attempts, according to evidence later offered at a British inquest.

A British coroner convened a court hearing last year to determine how Jeremiah died. According to a transcript of the inquest, he found no evidence to support a ruling of suicide. "I could not accept the investigators’ bald conclusion that Jeremiah Duggan intended to take his own life," the coroner, a magistrate, concluded. He noted that, based on the evidence he’d heard, Jeremiah had been "in a state of terror." He lamented that he lacked authority to compel German witnesses to answer his lingering questions. "What was it that turned that young man into a terrified young man?" the coroner asked. "Sadly, we might never know..."

Jeremiah’s parents are campaigning for German authorities to reopen the case, and the British government has provided them with a lawyer to help. Meanwhile, the Duggans are conducting their own investigation.

Michael Winstead was so shaken after he quit the LaRouche Youth Movement that he barely spoke to anyone for weeks, he says.

Eventually, he sent anti-LaRouche letters to local newspapers and colleges where he’d tried to recruit for the movement. He chatted in anti-LaRouche Internet discussion groups. In May, he mentioned on one electronic bulletin board that he had given an interview to a reporter asking about LaRouche and Jeremiah Duggan.

Soon afterward, the New Federalist, a LaRouche newspaper, ran a photo of Winstead on its front page under the headline: "The Washington Post’s Latest Pervert: Michael Winstead." The accompanying article suggested that Winstead and The Post are part of the worldwide conspiracy against Lyndon LaRouche

The June 25 issue of LaRouche’s Executive Intelligence Review suggested that Jeremiah’s death was not only part of a US-British conspiracy to "get LaRouche," it was also linked to the failed search for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and the suicide of British weapons expert and senior civil servant David Kelly.

For more than a year now, Erica Duggan has been possessed by the very question that young LaRouche activists say they burn to answer: “What is truth?”

With her gentle voice, cascade of soft red curls and open manner, the 58-year-old mother makes an unlikely agitator. She spent her career helping immigrant children adjust to London schools. She is spending her retirement and savings pursuing clues to her son’s death. She sold her home and is using the proceeds to investigate.

It is an irony not lost on Erica that LaRouche, veteran weaver of conspiracy theories involving the British and Zionists, is being pursued by a Jewish mother from Britain. She has become an accidental but determined traveller in his realm of plots and apocalyptic fantasies.

Sometimes she thinks about showing up at one of LaRouche’s speeches and disrupting it the way LaRouche activists disrupt other people’s events. She’d like to pose some hard questions from the audience: How dare he dismiss her son’s death as a hoax? How dare he talk about saving the world when he doesn’t have the humanity to help a grieving mother find the truth?

It is very late, almost midnight in London. She is very tired. And dark fantasies are infectious. "I suppose he has security people who have guns, and they might try to shoot me," she says, speaking softly. "Then the world would know the truth, wouldn’t they?"

April Witt is a staff writer at the Washington Post Magazine. © 2004 The Washington Post Company, reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.