Friday, May 8, 2009

Cults of unreason and the anti-nuclear tribe

David P. Goldman has offered us on of the most interesting self revelations from an intellectual that I have seen in a long time. In an essay titled "Confessions of a Coward" Goldman, a Jewish intellectual, revealed a prolonged career as a follower of an out and out anti-Semite Lyndon LaRouche. One of the most interesting and disturbing things about the LaRouche movement is its roots in the far left. As Goldman explained:
During the 1960s, LaRouche was a one-man Trotskyite splinter group, teaching free-lance courses on Marxist economics at whatever venue would have him.
LaRouche began to acquire a following just as the anti-nuclear movement took off.
He culled student radicals with an intellectual bent who were repelled by the mindlessness endemic on the left in the late 1960s. LaRouche’s pitch was insidious: How can you justify yourself morally unless you know that what you are doing is right? There existed a science of mind, LaRouche claimed, that would enable the adept to reach the right conclusion. . . .

And that is where LaRouche had us. His intellectual method resembled the old tale about stone soup: Having announced that he had the inside track on the hidden knowledge that underlay Western civilization (one of his essay was titled “The Secrets Known Only to the Inner Elites”), he attracted a small parade of intellectual orphans, whom he then put to elaborating the details. By the late 1970s he had collected some highly credentialed acolytes, including a group of physicists and mathematicians at his front organization, the Fusion Energy Foundation.
There is more than a passing resemblance to the anti-nuclear movement here, but without a central cult leader figure. What the anti-nuclear movement had in common with the LaRouche cult was was a need to establish an identity, The anti-nuclear movement might also be described as a stone soup ideology. Despite its embrace of a green identity, and its professed despite to protect the environment from the wicked nuclear industry, in fact anti-nuclear Greens have an extremely shallow commitment to the protection of the environment and to environmental values. As I explained on Rod Adams blog yesterday,
I view myself as being far more pro-environment, than the so called "greens." I take the Greens to task for their inconsistent commitment to environmental values. I criticize Greens for their semi-secret commitment to burning CO2 emitting natural gas, for their very anti-environmental commitment to burning biomass, and the creation of liquid fuels from harvesting vegetation from the land. i also criticize greens for such anti-ecological practices as stripping the soil in solar power facilities, and disturbing soil and water resources in the construction of windmills. There are significant attacks on wildlife habitat associated with both solar and wind projects. Because of my attacks on anti-environmental practices among the greens, I might get mislabeled as anti-environment. Quite obviously this is not the case.
I have argued that both the right and the left have taken on tribal aspects. Tribal ideology has taken on a major role in explaining who they are, and why they oppose other tribes. Tribes sometimes fight for silly reasons as the Book of Judges illustrates in the story of the war of the Ephraimites and the Gileadites under their tribal leader Jephthah. The quarrel between the two tribes was due to the unexpected failure of the Ephraimites to back the Gileadites in a war with a third tribe. The Gileadites claimed that the Ephraimites failed to respond to a summonds while the Ephraimites claimed that they had not been summonds. After a fracus over the dispute the Ephraimites headed for a ford of river Jordan with the intint of going home, but the Gileadites were waiting for them.
4 Immediately Jephtha collected all the men of Gilead together and fought Ephraim; and the men of Gilead went striking Ephraim down, for they had said: “Men escaped from Ephraim is what YOU are, O Gilead, inside of Ephraim, inside of Manasseh.” 5 And Gilead got to capture the fords of the Jordan ahead of Ephraim; and it occurred that when the escaping men of Ephra·m would say: “Let me pass over,” then the men of Gilead would say to each one: “Are you an Ephraimite?” When he would say: “No!” 6 then they would say to him: “Please say Shibboleth.” And he would say: “Sibboleth,” as he was unable to say the word correctly. And they would lay hold of him and slay him at the fords of the Jordan. So there fell at that time forty-two thousand out of Ephraim.

The modern tribes now use words like nuclear power and global warming to decide who belongs and who doesn't.

Lyndon LaRouche was a true genius of the tribal system in American politics, because he realized that loyalty to tribes was irrational, and thus the shibboleths of the LaRouche tribe needed to be deeply irrational. if rationality and indeed commitment to rationality were a standard for tribal membership, then members would quickly fall away when ever the tribe started behaving irrationally. Fighting a war over whether or not an unreceived message was sent is of course irrational.

Central to the identity of modern political tribes is the claim to posses unique knowledge which is not shared by the other tribes.
LaRouche claimed to trace a tradition of secret knowledge across the ages,
That knowledge demonstrates that not only are members of the tribe good, but members of other tribes are evil.
In LaRouche’s Manichean view of the world, a conspiracy had suppressed the truth in the service of evil oligarchs. Starting with Aristotle, it continued through to the nominalists, the British empiricists, and that supposed pinnacle of modern evil, Bertrand Russell. The Venetian Inquisition, the British Empire, the Hapsburg family, the Rockefellers, and the Trilateral Commission all figured variously in this grand conspiracy against LaRouche’s supposed intellectual antecedents. Jewish banking families kept popping up in LaRouche’s accounts of the evil forces.
What LaRouche required of his followers was a sacrifice of their identities out side the movement, and a sacrifice of their capacity to engage in rational, critical thought.

Loyalty to the tribe, and in the case of the LaRouche movement, loyalty to the tribal leader proceed critical thinking. Breaking free of the colt had more to do with changing life circumstances, than simply applying critical thinking skills to the irrational cult concepts. Goldman relates that beginning in 1981
nearly all his key people had quit. Once they began to engage the real world at a serious level, they broke free of LaRouche’s spell.
We see many members of the green anti-nuclear cult beginning to break free, often in response to changing life circumstances. They usually don't loose their commitment to the environment, but they do loose their willingness to recite the green tribal shibboleths. Those who are no longer recite the shibboleths are of course traitors. After Patrick Moore broke with Greenpeace and began to act as a paid spokesman for the nuclear industry, former Greenpeace associate Paul Watson attacked him viciously
"You're a corporate whore, Pat, an eco-Judas, a lowlife bottom-sucking parasite who has grown rich from sacrificing environmentalist principles for plain old money."
Moore viewed things from a different perspective:
"There's no getting around the fact that 6 billion people wake up every morning with a real need for food, energy, and material."
It is a flaw of the Greenpeace types that they fail to understand this human reality.
"Their idea is that all human activity is negative, while trees are by nature good, . . . That's a religious interpretation, not a scientific or logical interpretation.
Of course it is not. Real science does not support their conclusions about nuclear power and thus is an anathema to Greenpeace,

It should be noted that the Greenpeace cult and the Lyndon LaRouche cult emerged at the same time from the left. Both movements rejected the enlightenment tradition was central to the moderate left for the last two centuries. Both turned their back on the values of the enlightenment, including the value of rational, critical thought. Both cults are paranoid, and were either to prevail their prevalence would be a dead end for human civilization.


DV8 2XL said...

With supporters like LaRouche, the pronuclear movement doesn't need enemies.

I recall the first time I was handed one of their screeds outside a post office. It seemed to have something to do with physics. I struggled for a few paragraphs trying to understand what the point was. It would seem that it was that Boltzmann statistics was some sort of conspiracy!

My opinion of LaRouche has never recovered from that moment.

Charles Barton said...

What can you say about a man who took his first name from LBJ, and his last name from the clip used to hold marijuana joints? Ayn Rand and Lyndon LaRouch once planed to marry and merge their movements, but discovered that the could not get their egos to fit inside the same church at the same time. In fact Ayn Rand died when shortly after LaRouch's ego gre to such an extent, that Rand's ego no longer fit into the same universe as Larouch's. Rand was forced out of the Universe, so the story was put out that she had died.

David Walters said...

I don't know if he's an "outright anti-semite". I've followed them for over 30 years, Charles. There are also take-out quotes from him and his followers on various anti-Larouche web sites.

Here is what I wrote last night on a leftwing blog when asked about this same question:

"Just on the Larouche angle. As you know, Larouche has been accused by
many Larouche-watchers as being anti-Semitic. There is *some* truth in
this. They, of course, deny this.

"Larouche has at times described Judaism as a "failed cult of nomadic
desert monotheists" or some such thing that I had read years ago. He
uses the term "Jew" in the "Woody Alan" sense as an accusation of sorts. Maybe. It's is sometimes hard to tell, to be honest. I would dispute that he singles out specifically Jewish bankers, mostly because there are so few.

At the same time, I've read some rather fascinating and even
enlightening essays by him and his supporters glorifying the modern
secular Judaism of Moses Mendelssohn, the famous German-Jewish
philosopher of the 18th century. They recently wrote a glowing essay on
Shalom Aleichem and the "Renaissance of Yiddish". (I have a lot time on
my hands so I generally read everything and anything of interest to me).

"If anything his world view is so contradictory to reality and his focus so much on the British, that the "Jewish Question" rarely passes his lips except as a footnote. But it's hard to reconcile his 'anti-Semitism' with the above to noted essays". Anti-semites don't write like that" -end-

Now having said all that, his politics have evolved since he was a member of the CP and then the SWP in the 1950s and 1960s.

The description Goldman gives is fairly accurate. But they are not the same group they were when they were attacking leftists in the 1970s and we had to organize self-defense groups to beat them back. At that time we considered them out-right-Fascists, not leftists. During this 1981 period, on the frontend a few years and the back end by about 5 years, Larouche's dealings were only with those on the far-right.

They've taken a populist turn in the last 10 years, defending public heatlh, opposed to privatization.


donb said...

Charles Barton quoting David P. Goldman wrote:
And that is where LaRouche had us. His intellectual method resembled the old tale about stone soup: Having announced that he had the inside track on the hidden knowledge that underlay Western civilizationAgain Gnosticism appears in one of its many guises.

When I first heard of Lyndon LaRouche, what he was saying sounded interesting enough for me to dig down to the next level, where he quickly failed the smell test.

If anything, I see the modern pro-nuclear movement as anti-Gnostic and anti-tribe. Far from the knowledge being hidden, the pro-nukes are trying to make what they know be well known and understood by as many as possible.

On the other hand, there will always be people who have questions or doubts about nuclear power to which the answers are necessarily complex. Some of these people are unable or unwilling to learn enough to understand the answers, and so accuse those who do understand of being members of a supposed nuclear priesthood. The best we can do is simplify things as much as possible, but no more (as Einstein said).

The great positive about nuclear energy is that the rational discussions about it take place between individuals of all political stripes. There are legitimate disagreements about exactly how this great energy source should be integrated into our national infrastructure, but broad agreement that it needs to take the lion's share of our energy supply.

Charles Barton said...

David, from the Original edition of LaRouch's book, "Dope, Inc,:
"The Order of Zion was simply the Jewish division of the Most Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem, the London-centered chivalric order and secret society, whose members swear—and act on—a blood oath. A secret meeting in Paris in 1884 yielded the famous minutes of the Order, published under the title, Protocols of the Elders of Zion "

According to Dope, Inc., the drug trade was run by the Queen of England and the Rothschilds. LaRouch also played a major role in theextremely sucessful conspiracy by the left wing to disguise its anti-semitism under the title of anti-zionism. In 1978 he wrote "Register the Zionist Lobby as Foreign Agents!": "The U.S. Congress, the Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the relevant state and local police agencies must establish a Task Force with wide-ranging investigative and subpoena power to root out the cancer in the American body politic that is the so-called Zionist Lobby" He added that the "entire Zionist apparatus in the United States exists as an unchecked threat to national security" with "illegal and subversive primary links" to various elements in an international conspiracy, including the Israeli and "British" secret services. "Literally thousands of operatives for the Zionist Lobby," the editorial proclaims, "have penetrated the halls of Congress, the State and Defense Departments, the CIA, and American business and labor organizations to gather information which is then transmitted up the chain of command to Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, and the Maltese Order." "These agents gather information and intelligence on U.S. national security policy, corporate policy, and financial policy for transmission to the enemy. Their loyalties lie not with the United States but with the Zionist British organism." "The Zionist octopus must be eliminated. Leaders of the 'Jewish Lobby' must be investigated and their various organizations dismantled or registered as foreign agents." LaRouch called for: (1) a "permanent Special Prosecutor's office" which would prepare a "series of major indictments"; and (2) a special Congressional committee which would "clean out Senators and Congressmen who maintain their covert relationships with Zionist spies."

I take LaRouch's attitude towards Zionism as being derived from the Stalin's late anti-Zionist campaign in which zionist was a code word for Jew, and the 1968 Polish CP anti-Zionist program, in which virtually every Jew in Poland - including high officials of the Polish Communist Party - was quite literally driven out of the country with nothing more than the clothes on their back. Again Zionist was a code word for Jew.

The North Coast said...

Dr. Barton, that is a great joke, the tale that Ayn Rand and Lyndon LaRouche planned to marry. A joke, surely- I like the line that Rand was forced out of the universe because her ego was too big for it (which is not an outrageous claim!)and it was put out that she died.

I can't imagine their separate movements ever being able to mesh in any way.

Charles Barton said...

North Coast, thank you for the compliment on my Joke. I am not a PhD, or an MD, so I don't take the title of Dr. Of course, given an attractive and willing female companion, I have been known to play doctor. (He grins wickedly.)

David Walters said...

I think it's far more complex than that. The "Rothschilds" consipiracy is the root of many conspiracy theories not all of which are anti-Semitic. Also, in LaRouche's case, his anti-Zionism is totally different than the lefts anti-Zionism which is not, in the west, used a code word for "Jew". In act there is little "anti-Jewishness" to it, it's *political* and isn't aimed toward "Jews" generally but the political entity known as "Israel".

Larouche's anti-Zionism doesn't even stem from wanting to dismantle Israel. Dope, Inc. doesn't call for this. This is why it's not traditional anti-semitism because it's not focused on *Jews* but on some individuals who are Jewish. That is, the conspiracy theory is organized around with a focus on the *British*.

The issue of AIPAC is distinct and it is where he crosses over to anti-Jewish bogtory, of a type. The idea of the "Jewish Lobby" as opposed to what AIPAC itself calls itself: a Pro-Israel Lobby. The power of which is tremendous but doesn't include only Jews, but far-right Christians as well. Not for anything does LPAC bend the truth to fit it's conspiracy theory. The focus of which is again, the British, not Jews.

AIPAC itself of course is a legitimate target because of it's work in the US. The problem with AIPAC, like that of the ADL, it's no longer a case of "anti-Semitism being those that hate Jews, but who *some* Jews hate. Another issue of course". Thus, Zionism is parsed out to *equal* Judiaism, an abomination of a comparison as the Zionists simply do not, and never will, speak for me.

My point is not to defend LPAC at all but to show their contradictions and how it's warped and not the main label (anti-Semitic) I would attach to them. It's just weird.

I believe they are more in the tradition of the 1920/30 "Positivists" and "Technocrats", the right-wing, pro-technology group that flirted with fascism and it's more sophisticated academic type: "Corporatism".


Charles Barton said...

David, Too many issues to debate and this is the wrong place to do so. LaRouch use the terms Jewish Lobby and Zionist Lobby interchangably. Features of LaRouche's program including a purge of Jews in government, seem closly related to the 1968 polish anti-zionist campaign which saw the purging of all jews with government and communist party positions, and then the expulsion of 85% of Poland's Jewish population together with many Poles whose sine against the Communist party was that they had some Jewish ancestors.

European and American left wing anti-zionist faithfully follow the anti-semetic Arab League line on Israel. Many American supporters of Israel are not Jews or right wing Christians. A minority on the left are pro-zionism, and note that while Zionish is firmly routed in the liberal left tradition, that Hamas, and Fatah are homophobic, denie civil rights to religious and ethnic minorities, openly advocate anti-semitism, deny Jews the right to own property in arab controlled areas, deny the right of jews to appear as witnesses in religious courts, oppose granting full civil rights to women, etc. Anti-zion leftist betray liberal values. Enough said.

PhilOssifur said...

Everyone here is unbelievable. I've learned a lot about nuclear power from Larouche-- here are the hits I get , for example, on his website from the issue of "power density". Having studied physics, I know he's on the right track here...

The power density of power generation other than nuclear isn't enough to sustain 7 billion humans on earth. So there. Weed out what you don't like about Larouche and listen to him on the issue of power density. Use your mental filter.


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