Chapter Four

The Great Manchurian Candidate Scare

In the summer of 1973, LaRouche began sessions of what he called "ego-stripping." He suggested this would cure his followers of the cowardice and bourgeois moral qualms they had displayed during Mop Up. The big problem with most NCLC members, he said, was their psychosexual fears. LaRouche proposed to use fear to fight fear:

"I am going to make you organizers—by taking your bedrooms away from you . . ." he announced. "What I shall do is to expose to you the cruel fact of your sexual impotence . . . I will take away from you all hope that you can flee the terrors of politics to the safety of 'personal life.' I shall do this by showing to you that your frightened personal sexual life contains for you such terrors as the outside world could never offer you. I will thus destroy your rabbit-holes, mental as well as physical. I shall destroy your sense of safety in the place to which you ordinarily imagine you can flee. I shall not pull you back from fleeing, but rather destroy the place to which you would attempt to flee."

The ego-stripping sessions were similar to the confrontational therapy practiced by psychological cults. LaRouche would pick an NCLC member at random, or perhaps one who had failed at some political assignment. The group would heap nonstop attacks on every aspect of the victim's behavior. Supposedly it was a sign of psychic liberation if he or she broke down and started sobbing hysterically. LaRouche said this was the way in which the individual "abruptly 'breaks free' as if from a drugged state; a sudden personality change occurs, in which the group sees the real person come forth, assume control of himself, or herself, and bring the ego-state under control." Thus ego-stripping was "an act of social love."

Christine Berl, who participated in these sessions, gives a different view. The so-called social love, she writes, was "pure psychological terror" and resulted in an extreme form of "depersonalization." The T-group members were "transformed into sniveling informers vying with each other for [LaRouche's] approval. Even couples were encouraged to 'inform’ on each other's 'progress,' particularly by singling out any behavior that could be construed as apolitical, or that was suspected of being 'resistant' to the aims of the sessions."

LaRouche took to calling himself Der Abscheulicher (the Abominable One). Along with the ego-stripping, he began to instill in his followers an outlook of all-pervasive paranoia. In the unconscious mind, he warned, there lurked dark forces producing impotence, homosexuality, zombie states, madness. These "pit creatures" would destroy anyone who let his or her guard down. Meanwhile, in the outside world, Rockefeller, the CIA, and a vast network of secret agents and assassins were poised to attack at any moment. Safety could be attained only by following LaRouche's every command, replicating his thoughts and remaking oneself in his image.

Some NCLC members were unconvinced of this, despite their deep admiration for LaRouche's intellectual abilities. Matters came to a head in January 1974, when LaRouche seized upon a fantasy that united the demons of the unconscious mind and the assassins of the outside world into a single horrifying vision. This was the Great Manchurian Candidate Scare, which wiped the slate clean of skepticism among the members and completed their transformation into a totalitarian political cult.

The prologue to this momentous event took place in the summer of 1973, when LaRouche traveled to West Germany to meet with members of the European Labor Committees, a newly formed NCLC affiliate. In early August, LaRouchians in the United States began to read in New Solidarity how Konstantin George, a member of the German organization, had been drugged and brainwashed by the East German secret police while visiting a girlfriend in East Berlin. George had then been sent back over the wall, so the story went, to spy on the European Labor Committees and finger LaRouche for assassination by a KGB-CIA hit team. The plot was foiled when LaRouche recognized the symptoms of brainwashing in George's behavior, and deprogrammed him using techniques "absolutely unprecedented in 'psychological science.’ " The details of these techniques were not revealed, but NCLC members were warned to be on the lookout for other brainwashing victims.

The George affair did not unduly alarm the NCLC membership. Not only was the story extremely confused, but also a rumor was rampant that George had denied it all. Real fear seized the organization only after LaRouche announced the uncovering of a second zombie—a Manchurian Candidate in every respect—Christopher White, a twenty-six-year-old NCLC member and British national who had earned the personal resentment of LaRouche. In 1972, Carol Schnitzer had left LaRouche and married White, who was ten years her junior. The Whites had withdrawn to London, promising to organize a British NCLC branch.

In December 1973, LaRouche ordered them to return to New York for an NCLC year-end conference. White had good reason to feel nervous about this. He had done a poor job of organizing the British branch, and was a prime candidate for ego-stripping even apart from the love triangle. During the flight over the Atlantic, he viewed the film Trinity. According to his recollection of the plot (in an article he wrote two months later), the hero has a girlfriend "at least ten years older than himself." She is murdered, and the hero then arranges the execution of a "rather paternal figure." White became increasingly agitated. When the plane landed, he began to shout that the CIA was planning to kill both his wife and LaRouche.

Instead of calling a doctor, Carol called LaRouche. Chris was rushed into a deprogramming session at LaRouche's apartment. LaRouche's security aides and Dr, Gene Inch, a physician and NCLC member, rushed to the scene. Meanwhile, members from across the country had gathered in New York for the conference. The suspense began to mount as alarming rumors emanated from LaRouche's apartment. It was said that White had been tortured and brainwashed in a London basement by the CIA and British intelligence, who had programmed him first to kill his wife upon the utterance of a trigger word and then to finger LaRouche for assassination by Cuban exile frogmen.

LaRouche mobilized the entire NCLC. They passed out fliers on a massive scale in New York and other cities, describing White's alleged tortures in lurid detail. The national office issued over forty press releases in a two-week period. LaRouche and the Whites filed a complaint with the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and launched a lawsuit against the CIA. NCLC members frantically solicited their parents and friends to serve on an Emergency Commission of Inquiry.

LaRouche's proof for the story was his tapes of the deprogramming. But New York Times reporter Paul Montgomery listened to them and gathered only that White was emotionally distraught. "There are sounds of weeping and vomiting," Montgomery wrote. "Mr. White complains of being deprived of sleep, food and cigarettes . . . . There is also what appears to be an attempt to hypnotize Mr. White." Montgomery wrote that at one point, after White failed to contradict one of LaRouche’s suggestions, LaRouche exclaimed, "Now do you see Carol? Do you believe?" At another point, White complained of a pain in his arm. When LaRouche said the pain was merely part of the "program," White suddenly shouted: "The pain is real . . . I have to tell you what's real and stop this crazy fantasy world. Because it's not my fantasy."

The NCLC brought in three psychiatrists. None would substantiate the Manchurian Candidate story. Dr. Israel Samuelly suggested that White was suffering from "schizophrenic catatonia with paranoiac features." Most of the persons listed on the Emergency Commission either quit or said they had never agreed to serve in the first place.

Within the NCLC, the atmosphere of hysteria was so intense that facts didn't matter. LaRouche drilled his followers on what each could expect if kidnapped by the CIA: "When they really start the heavy programming," he said, "first of all they give you heavy electric shock. Heavy electric shock. . . .

"But then, you know what they do to you? It's not the pain that brainwashes people.

"What kills you is when you eat excrement as a way of inducing your torturer to lay off the pain. In permitting a bottle to be inserted in your anus and sitting on it on a chair for hours while interrogation continues, as a way of avoiding greater pain. Lying on the floor and whining like a puppy, as a way of getting your torturers to lay off. Or permitting yourself to be subjected to homosexual rape, oral and anal. . . . They say your father was nothing, your father was a queer, your father was a woman. . . ."

As for the skeptics in his audience, LaRouche cried, "Any of you who say this is a hoax—you're cruds! You're subhuman! You're not serious. The human race is at stake. Either we win or there is no humanity."

New Solidarity followed up with an editorial entitled "Will You Eat Shit for Rockefeller's CIA?" It warned that the enemy would use "every form of degradation known to man.” During the next few weeks, each NCLC member was terrified that he or she had been brainwashed. (LaRouche emphasized that the victims would have total amnesia about the experience—until the moment of utterance of the fatal trigger word.) The leadership was flooded with requests for deprogramming from those who found themselves harboring vaguely murderous thoughts about LaRouche. One member went berserk, screaming, "Cancel me! Cancel me!" and had to be hospitalized. According to LaRouche, this individual's "code barrier" had gone out of control.

The hysteria prompted the issuance of an "intake procedure" manual by Carol White. "The brainwashed comrade's version of events should be taken down," Mrs. White wrote, "and particular attention should be paid to his fantasies—reference to witches, devils, sensitivity to hissing sounds. . ."

Predictably, any member who expressed skepticism became immediately suspect. Christine Berl called the story hogwash and withdrew from any active role in the leadership. LaRouche said that the CIA, acting through her boyfriend, had taken over her mind. A friend warned her that a plot was afoot to kidnap and deprogram her—to liberate her from her brainwashed condition. They waited outside her door, but she didn't come out. Less fortunate was Alice Weitzman, also a skeptic, who was held captive in her apartment and forced to listen to Beethoven at high volume—a deprogramming technique suggested by LaRouche. Weitzman managed to throw a note out the window. A passerby picked it up and alerted the police. When officers went to the apartment, they heard screams, forced their way in, and freed her. Later that day, they arrested six NCLC members on kidnapping charges. (The case was ultimately dismissed after Weitzman refused to press charges.)

NCLC security chief Jose Torres was another skeptic. "The spook stuff [went] on for weeks," he recalls, "and for that time I was the functioning head of the LC because nobody would do shit." Torres decided he'd had enough. "I [took] Chris White aside and said, 'Do you know who I am?' And he said, 'Yes, I know you.' I said, 'Look, I'm going to bust you up right now if you give me any bullshit about being brainwashed because you weren't brainwashed so why the fuck did you put us on like this?' And he said, 'It's too late to turn back now.' He couldn't back out now, it was all crap, all of it."

Torres says he told LaRouche about this, but LaRouche dismissed it as part of White's brainwashing. Torres later concluded that White had known "exactly what he was doing" and had been motivated by a desire to avoid a psychological dressing-down. Says Torres: "White knew how Konstantin George had been deemed a victim of brainwashing and forgiven. So why not be brainwashed? He did it, and…Lyn…believed him and that was all it took. . . . He just kept feeding Lyn, and Lyn constructs the whole big thing out of it."

At the time, an NCLC leaflet described the deprogramming of White as "opening up a whole new area of psychology—the solution to psychosis." But LaRouche apparently decided in later years that the incident was best forgotten. His 1979 and 1987 autobiographies, although boastful about his alleged discoveries in many fields of knowledge, are silent about his cure for psychosis.

Most NCLC defectors agree with Jose Torres that LaRouche appeared genuinely spooked during the Chris White affair. They point out that on several later occasions LaRouche's belief in being a target of assassination seemed to fill an inner need. Yet the frequent security alerts to protect LaRouche also serve an extremely practical goal: They keep the NCLC membership in a state of mindless hysteria, scrambling frantically to raise money for LaRouche's coffers.

Various articles and speeches at the time by LaRouche and top aides suggested a high degree of calculated behavior.[FOOTNOTE 1] Key passages dealt with the psychological weaknesses of the NCLC membership, their vulnerability to brainwashing, and the various manipulative techniques that might be used on them (for instance, playing on fears of homosexuality and triggering an infectious group paranoia). Although these methods were described—as in LaRouche's January 3, 1974 speech—as something the CIA was planning, they bore an uncanny resemblance to what LaRouche himself was doing to the NCLC membership.

To brainwash someone (so the LaRouchian theory went), it is first necessary to "terrorize" him into regarding "the entire world as a police-controlled environment." This was done during the Chris White affair, when many members believed themselves in imminent danger of being picked up by the CIA and/or the New York City police for tortures worse than death. The victim must believe the entire world is falling apart and that he himself is personally to blame. This was also done: NCLC members were told that if they didn't stop the CIA conspiracy, the entire human race would die—and they would be responsible. Finally, the victim must be placed in a controlled environment, an artificial family. This, too, corresponds to life in the NCLC. ·

LaRouche also described brainwashing as a system of doublethink, or metalogic, by which a person comes to believe that it is not he but the rest of the world that is brainwashed. "The victim's sense of reality is turned inside out," he explained. Christine Berl and Alice Weitzman accused him of brainwashing the membership, he said, because the CIA had brainwashed them to say this.

The doublethink during the Chris White affair went far beyond anything during Mop Up. Thus leading NCLC members who had readily supported Mop Up, such as Berl and Torres, challenged LaRouche's credibility during the spring of 1974. They had believed in Mop Up because it possessed at least a veneer of rational justification: CP members indeed had assaulted NCLC members and spread exaggerated accusations about them on several prior occasions. Berl and Torres thus could convince themselves that the CP was a counterinsurgency force standing in the way of Revolution. But the Chris White story had no empirical basis at all. It required a leap of faith, not just contorted logic. NCLC members with a strong sense of reality found it intolerable. One by one during 1974 they defected.

Those who remained were capable of believing in anything LaRouche might suggest, even neo-Nazism.

[1] LaRouche knew exactly what he was doing, according to Dr. Fred Newman, a Stanford University-trained logician-turned-Marxist-activist who worked with the NCLC during the Manchurian Candidate Scare. Newman was the author of Explanation by Description (1968), a study of how we believe what we believe. After splitting with the NCLC in mid-1974, he wrote a pamphlet analyzing how LaRouchians believe what LaRouchians believe. He charged that LaRouche had a "systematic plan" to transform his followers' ordinary middle-class values into an explicitly fascist consciousness, chiefly through the generating of an artificial paranoia at every level of the organization. (Newman went on to build his own political cult, the New Alliance Party, which through the years has mimicked LaRouche's tactics to an uncanny degree.)