I couldn't help myself. Walking back from class early last fall, I saw two middle-aged white men standing next to a table in front of the Johnson Center. I can't recall exactly what the sign on their table said, but it sparked my attention enough for me to stop and look. This was my first encounter with the LaRouchians.
A shifty fellow who refused to look me in the eye shoved a graph in my face showing the rise of oil prices over the last year. Evidently he assumed I had been living in a cave. He explained that greedy Wall Street speculators were killing children by controlling oil prices. Interesting angle. He then explained that the only way to avoid a total economic collapse was for the government to set a ceiling on the price of oil. I brought up the fact that our government tried this in the 70's, and it led to a huge shortage resulting in mile long gas lines. I smiled as he fumbled through his graphs.
He must have been new, because before he could stutter through his next sentence I was approached by his older, gray-bearded associate. The older fellow then launched into a story about how United States dollars are on loan to the Federal Reserve from the British government. He told me that all the money in my wallet was totally worthless, and that England could recall "their" money at any time. I was pretty sure that candid camera had seen its last season, but I still looked around for a lens. He wasn't joking.
He went on to tell me that the United States government is secretly being controlled by the British Monarchy. I asked him why our economy and military were stronger than England's. According to him, we have been lied to about our economy, and the U.S. military is actually a puppet of her majesty, the Queen. I guess I saw this coming, but I couldn't help but laugh.
At this point I realized that I was talking to two conspiracy theorists, and decided it was time to go. Never argue with an idiot, they drag you down to their level then beat you with experience. I guess they thought they had sucked another college student into their fringe political party, so they asked for my phone number. I declined, but to be nice I told them I would take a look at one of their publications. The bearded fellow handed me one of their newspapers, "The New Federalist", and asked me for some money. I was fairly sure he was kidding, but to kill the awkward silence I looked him in the eye and said "But you told me my money is worthless, what are you going to do with it?". He stared back and said "Come on, printing these things gets kind of expensive." I thanked him for his time and walked away.
It was not until later that I found out that these two men worked for Lyndon LaRouche. Lyndon LaRouche has been campaigning for the office of President since 1976. He was convicted of tax evasion in 1989 and was sentenced to 15 years in a federal prison. LaRouche was released 10 years short of his sentence in 1994 and has since run for President in both 1996 and 2000. He is currently hard at work on his LaRouche in 2004 presidential campaign. It turns out that LaRouche actually has quite a few followers, which is scary considering that as a convicted felon he can't even vote for himself. The LaRouchians set up shop outside of the Johnson Center quite often and if you have a few minutes I highly suggest stopping by. Afterwards, make sure you thank your parents for sending you to college.