October 29, 2007

Publish and Perish

We have a new piece by Avi Klein in the Washington Monthly that I think is well worth a read. It begins with the mysterious suicide of a man named Ken Kronberg, who ran the printing operation for the notorious Lyndon LaRouche. As Avi notes, there is some indication that Kronberg may have been goaded to commit suicide by an internal memo from the LaRouche leadership that Kronberg read the morning that he died.

As Avi investigated this incident and learned more about Kronberg, he figured out an essential truth about the LaRouche movement: more than a cult of personality or a political movement, what it really resembles is a "vast and bizarre vanity press." LaRouche's MO for changing the world was to bombard its citizens with printed disquisitions on esoteric subjects (see above). He also depended on his printer financially, using his various magazines and dubious intelligence reports to raise cash (although the movement always seemed to be on the run from its creditors.) As the owner of the printing operation, Kronberg was at the center of all this. And as the movement's finances became increasingly shaky (a development brought on, in part, by LaRouche's obsession with the printed word in the face of the rise of the Internet), Kronberg came under increasing strain. The demise of Kronberg and his printing company tells a fascinating story about the decline of the LaRouche movement itself, a strange and unique presence in American politics for the past thirty years. Check it out.

Bonus reading: via Kevin, this piece in Inside Higher Ed takes a look at some of LaRouche's more quixotic causes (although, to tell you the truth, his causes all tend to be incredibly quixotic.) For instance:

"LaRouche has also determined the correct pitch for tuning musical instruments. Any other tuning bothers him, besides being incompatible with the structure of the universe. In the best of all possible worlds, people found in possession of “incorrect” tuning forks and pitch-pipes would be fined. His followers in Italy once proposed legislation to that effect. It failed. That campaign seems to be at a standstill, but it once drew close attention in the pages of Opera Fanatic magazine."

Ah, Opera Fanatic magazine --almost certainly the only opera publication whose cover once promised nude centerfolds and “For the First Time: Photos of Castrati.” But that's another story.

LaRouche pamphlet image from Flickr user whitbackup81 under a Creative Commons license.