Lyndon LaRouche was a prolific writer who developed a cult-like following and eight times, between 1976 and 2004, sought the presidency, seven times for the Democratic ticket. He wrote and spoke often about the economy and spun wild conspiracy theories. For example, he said Queen Elizabeth was a drug dealer. The Nation’s Bob Dreyfuss, a LaRouche acolyte who dedicated his first book to his former boss and had it published by LaRouche’s publisher, argued in it that Bernard Lewis, perhaps the most influential living historian of the Middle East, was a nefarious force behind Ayatollah Khomeini and Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

LaRouche achieved a particularly loyal following among college students. He anchored enough of his writing in fact that the 30 percent or so that was pure bunk became, for the gullible or willingly blind, believable. His writings adhered to the idea that falsehoods spoken with conviction and precision became credible. Like Ron Paul, he certainly was consistent in his willingness to believe the worst motivations of government officials or his opponents. While LaRouche reached the pinnacle of his influence in the pre-internet age, he managed to spread his conspiracies not only through teaching classes, but also through myriad pamphlets, leaflets, and newspapers. LaRouche is still around, of course, but a conviction for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and tax code violations has undercut his credibility among the young and disaffected enough so that he has returned to purely marginal status.

Into the vacuum left by LaRouche came Ron Paul. Without doubt, some of what Paul says makes sense. Americans are concerned with tremendous government waste and the intrusion of nanny-state governance into our daily lives. But, on foreign policy and defense, Paul supplements his isolationism with the same mold of conspiracy as LaRouche. Many of “the Bush lied, Americans died, Cheney led a secret cabal” conspiracies which Paul’s followers—if not Dr. Paul himself—seize upon have their origins with LaRouche acolytes like Dreyfuss or former Pentagon official and congressional candidate Karen Kwiatkowski, who seemingly hopped from the LaRouche bandwagon to Paul’s. Paul may not publish so many newsletters any more—with good reason—but his followers have certainly taken full advantage of cyberspace to connect imaginary dots and weave creative conspiracies that put the old LaRouchites and even Maxine Waters to shame.

The Iowa Caucus results suggest Paul has peaked. Good conspiracies never die, however. Paul has become the Lyndon LaRouche of the 21st century, an increasingly marginal figure with a disproportionately poisonous and vocal following, one which will never win elections, but will satisfy itself by spinning wild conspiracy theories and trolling comments pages on internet news sites for decades to come.

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