and the Legacy of Nazi Gardening
The LaRouche Show, April 21, 2007
The LaRouche Show host Harley Schlanger was joined by Prof. Cliff Kiracofe, and LaRouche Youth Movement members Paul Mourino and Leandra Bernstein.
HARLEY SCHLANGER: Good afternoon and welcome to The LaRouche Show. It's April 21st, 2007. I'm Harley Schlanger, and I'll be your host today. I want to begin by encouraging all our listeners to check out our new, improved LaRouchePAC website, which is http://www.larouchepac.com. We've made a commitment to have regular updates on the site with postings several every day, to provide you with the up-to-the-minute coverage of the breaking news stories, that you won't find anywhere else, as well as the background material which will make sense of these stories. Again, you won't find this kind of background anywhere else.
Today on The LaRouche show, we're going to be taking up two of the topics which we have been covering in depth on larouchepac.com: The first is the Nazi roots of today's so-called environmentalists, the anti-scientific basis on which the environmentalism associated with Al Gore comes from. And then later in the program, we'll discuss the role of violent videogames in the events such as the horrible mass murder last week at Virginia Tech.
While the mainstream media have been filled with coverage of Gore and his crusade to shut down production in the name of "fighting global warming," and also has deluged us with extensive reporting on the Virginia Tech massacre, the most crucial factors behind both of these matters have been blacked out. To help us get to the deeper truths which underlie these matters, we're joined today by Dr. Clifford Kiracofe. Dr. Kiracofe is a former leading staff member in the U.S. Senate and is currently a professor in a major in Virginia, where he teaches political science. Cliff, welcome to the show.
DR. CLIFFORD KIRACOFE: I'm glad to be on, Harley.
SCHLANGER: And also joining us today will be two members of the LaRouche Youth Movement, Leandra Bernstein and Paul Mourino. They've been working out of the war-room in Leesburg, Virginia—and for our literalist listeners, that doesn't mean they're shooting at each other. And they've also published articles in Executive Intelligence Review on the Nazi precedent for today's radical environmentalists, and they've been involved in the upgrading the larouchepac.
So, we'll begin with Dr. Kiracofe, and Cliff, let me ask you: For many years, Lyndon LaRouche has been providing evidence that today's so-called environmentalists are operating with an economic and political agenda, not a scientific one, and this is especially true in the case of the recent celebrity of Al Gore, who's using the issue of climate change to try to impose a post-industrial fascist dictatorship on the world, outlawing economic development, especially in the poorest nations of the world, while creating new financial bubble out of carbon trading.
In a discussion I had with you recently, you raise a fascinating aspect of the anti-scientific basis of this brand of environmentalism, in the perversion which was introduced in the study of botany and horticulture, which relates to the study of how the natural sciences was turned into a branch of Nazi race science. How did this occur? What can you tell us about this?
KIRACOFE: Well, Harley, I was working back in the 1990s on an article for the Journal for Illinois History, and I was working on an article about 19th-century and early-20th-century Chicago horticulture. And basically I went back into the concept of the influence of the Alexander von Humboldt, particularly tropic botany in the 19th century, and even earlier in the 18th century, the whole discovery and exploration and the location of beautiful and exotic flora. And in the 19th century, it became popular, when technology allowed, that is to say, conservatories, glass houses that are warm, steel and glass structures that are warm and could support tropical flora and other kinds of flora throughout the winter—in the 19th century it was quite popular, in public parks, public conservatories—you can think of the Brooklyn Botanical Garden—and in Chicago, we had a number of these very large, beautiful conservatories, housing plants from all over the world. And the public was welcome to come through, on the weekend, or during the week. Young people could learn botanical science by examining the plants and the Latin labels. So I got into it, really from the standpoint of horticulture history, and the display of exotic flora in urban American environments in the 19th century, much to the delight, of course, of urban dwellers.
And then, from that, as I was doing some of the research, I happened to notice this negative trend beginning about the early 1900s, that led to what you just mentioned, and I think what will be discussed a little bit later, this sort of Nazi application of aesthetic values to horticulture and landscape.
SCHLANGER: Now, just to make sure that everyone gets what you're saying: That actually the development of these conservatories was part of a real effort to give people a better understanding of the world, and a better understanding of what you might call "natural history.
KIRACOFE: Oh, absolutely. You can even trace it back to the Renaissance. For example: Back in the Renaissance, the old botanical gardens in some of these ancient universities, particularly in Italy, were working at the 15th century and 16th century. So you'd see in the academic world, the creation of botanic gardens, to scientifically study plants. And then, from that, scientific study of botany, from that developed areas of horticulture we would call "ornamental horticulture," which is a hybridizing plants, and bringing plants in for their aesthetic beauty, etc., from all over the world.
For example: A geranium. Now, probably everybody in the United States has seen a geranium, and maybe many own one. Germaniums are originally from the continent of Africa, Southern Africa. So that would be an exotic plant, brought to London first in the 18th century, and found its way over to our country probably in the late 18th century.
So, plants move around the world, and this is the excitement of the scientific aspect of horticulture, the excitement of discovering new plants, the excitement of exploration, the rational taxonomy, the organizing of the plant world, under Linnaeus, for example, and these Renaissance origins, these scientific origins. So you have a combination of science and beauty.
SCHLANGER: Yeah, I was just going to say that it's clear that you have natural beauty, and then you have man's discovery of it, and you have man's intervention into it, which is a natural process of civilizational development.
KIRACOFE: Oh, yes, indeed. The whole flora, for example, if you buy a bouquet of flowers for your friend, or your wife, or a girlfriend, or whatever, or when you walk into florist's shop, many of those plants have been have developed by horticulturists over the years, commercial florists, and using science to try to evoke beautiful color, or a beautiful structure. Many of those flowers and plants are from faraway places, all over the world.
SCHLANGER: Now, you traced the change in this to the beginning of the 20th century?
KIRACOFE: Yes, when I was working at the Chicago Conservatories and Chicago Public Parks, we had a very rich—just as in New York, for example, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and others—Chicago and other major cities had a very rich horticultural heritage in the late 19th and early 20th century, and of course, the Victorians in England had an impact on it, as well as the Continental developments in Germany and in France, and in other places in Europe, that is to say, the conservatories and display of these beautiful tropical plants in hothouses, for the public, that is, in public gardens.
But I did notice, toward, oh about 1900, the early 1900s, there began to be within Illinois, an unusual development—now, there's nothing wrong with native plants and natural plants, and natural landscapes; that's fine. But there seemed to be a developed a particular rejection of exotic flora, or hybridized plant stock for landscape, and this idea of a so-called "Prairie School" developed. And I started to examine the intellectual roots of that, and found that there could have been, every well may have been, some influence from certain German writers, in the early 1900s, the early 1910s and '20s, that led to actually the Nazi concepts of landscape design, for example.
SCHLANGER: Well, in a few minutes, we're going to be joined by Leandra and Paul who have written two fascinating articles that are available in the April 13 Executive Intelligence Review, where they actually take this up. Leandra's article is titled, "The Road to Hell Is Paved Green," and then Paul's article is "From Middlebury College to Al Gore: The Green and the Brown Nazis."
Now, it seems to me, that the one thing that started to change then, at the end of the 19th century, was the intervention in the sciences, of what might be called the Huxley-Darwin school. And this also was not limited to plant and animal study, but was, through Darwin's cousin Sir Francis Galton, was applied to human development—what was called "Social Darwinism."
Now, when you talk about the Prairie School and this kind of development in horticulture, how serious was this? Was there really a campaign at some point, to limit the—?
KIRACOFE: Well, there was tendency around the turn of the century, the early 1900s, there was the famous landscape architect—although he had not been formally trained in the subject or educated in it—Jens Jensen is one. He's idolized in the Middle West for being an advocate the Prairie School, that is to say, using only native plants, in only natural surroundings. Well, there's nothing wrong with that particular style. But to exclude everything else, and look down on everything else, and to try to push it a bit into the philosophy side of things, is not so far different from Nazi race eugenics, you know?
It's a bit of a stretch, and so, I think one of the reasons I was most interested in the research I was doing, was to try to bring back to life the 19th century, and early 20th century joy in horticulture, and particularly horticulture that had been found from all over the world, and brought into conservatories, or even introduced into our own gardens here at home.
SCHLANGER: Cliff, the previous occasion you've been on The LaRouche Show, you and I had a conversation about the financiers from the West who built up the Hitler movement, and the attempt to create a Nazi movement in the United States. And one of the things we looked at was the banking interests involved. Do you have any indication that the sponsors of this Prairie Movement may have had similar kinds of intentions, that they included financial interests?
KIRACOFE: I hadn't found that—yet. I hadn't found that. I'm not sure what the client list of some of the designers might look like, may lead to some of that type of thinking among some of their wealthier clients, but I hadn't discovered that angle quite yet.
SCHLANGER: Just a moment ago, you mentioned the question of eugenics, which is the so-called "race science," the study of how genetics affects human life. Clearly, when you talk about Linnaeus, and the classifications in horticulture, you are looking at primarily at genetic characteristics in plant life.
KIRACOFE: Taxonomy, yes.
SCHLANGER: But the effort was made initially in Great Britain: Before there was Hitler, there was the British Eugenics Society, which tried to apply those kinds of classifications to human civilization. The eugenics movement—and many Americans aren't aware of this—but the eugenics movement was sponsored in the United States by very powerful financial interests, associated with such prominent figures as the robber baron Rockefeller family, and the other big robber baron, the Harriman family. And this in fact, gets a little bit at the question of the relationship between the shift in these kinds of studies in plant life, to human life. Have you had a chance to look much into the application of eugenics to organization of human society?
KIRACOFE: No, I haven't seen that too much. Although when I was looking at the concept of landscape design, and started to notice some of these trends in the early 1910s and 1920s, in terms of landscape design, the idea of only using quote/unquote "native plants," reminded me a little bit of the German concept of "only native Germans," and everybody else had to be exterminated or whatever. So that, in a sense, that's how I kind of came into an understanding of what the philosophical implications would be of Nazi landscape architecture.
Now, it may seem a little odd to people, and it did to me, too, when I first saw it—I thought, "Gee, this is a bit strange." But, as I looked into, the main thing that struck me was how anti-scientific it was: the idea of exalting only native plants in a pseudo-native environment, and discriminating against any what we would call "exotic flora" being introduced into gardens or into the landscape, seemed to me to be completely bizarre. Particularly in light of the 19th century and the entire 400-, 500-year tradition of botany and horticulture. And of course, ornamental horticulture takes us back to Egyptian civilization, Roman civilization—it takes us way back. so, this idea of excluding the exotic or the foreign in landscape design, and privileging the so-called "native"—as the German Nazi landscape architecture started to do in the 1930s—struck me as completely bizarre, after my studies of what 19th century late-Victorian landscape work, and the whole concept of public gardens and public conservatories, in places in Continental Europe or England—Kew Gardens—or in the United States—New York, Chicago, Philadelphia—where you could go and see beautiful, exotic flora, flowers from all over the world, originally, displayed. And the Nazi concept was quite different. I guess we'll learn more about that from the LYM youth.
SCHLANGER: Yeah, I'd like to bring them on now, and Cliff stay with us, because we want to call on your expertise, to look at this question of what happened at Virginia Tech, a few minutes later in the show....
KIRACOFE: You bet.
SCHLANGER: [station id] And now, let me bring in Paul and Leandra.
Paul, I was just reading in your article some quotes, from someone that both you and Leandra mention, this Alwin Siefert, who was the State Attorney for Landscape Design—and Cliff, you'll find this quote interesting. He said: "Only our knowledge of the laws of Nature, of Blood and Soil, of ancestral manor ... enables and obliges us to the design the concept of Blood- and Soil-connected gardens." So, that quote is exactly what you were talking about.
KIRACOFE: Yes, indeed. It's completely anti-science and irrational.
SCHLANGER: Paul, what can you tell us from your look at this book The Green and Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany. From what Cliff said, this is bizarre, but it's a real precedent for this Gore operation, isn't it?
PAUL MOURINO: Yes, absolutely. What I began to learn from the book, is that there was a cultural shift under way in Germany, way before the Nazi period where they began to exert direct political power. And it was a cultural social movement to romanticize native scenes, anti-technology, very nationalistic, and a very Romantic view of where Germanness comes from in the culture. Like the idea of being German comes from the blood and soil of where you're born.
So, this was brewing up in the culture, and being promoted from various factions from within Germany and also without: You mentioned Darwin and Huxley earlier, they had a major role to play here as well. And as the economic and political conditions were shifting in the '20s and '30s, this social formation was used to ensure Hitler's rise to power. And when he was then secured in power, the green environmentalist view colored a lot of what he did. For example, going East: As new territory was taken in by the Nazi machine, they had to cleanse the soil and purify it for Germanness, or the development of German civilization. So, they really perverted the idea of building and developing the Biosphere.
Also, it was very much anti-technology, which is kind of funny, when you think about it: There were a number of activists who are running around, kind of like the Bill McKibben of today, trying to organize the German state to end, in this case the book gives an example of quarrying in the Hohenstauffen Mountain. The basic gist was, this quarrying is destroying the beauty of the scene. Now, the quarrying was not stopped until 1939, but what happened first, is, '35 occurred, and there was legislation passed to make sure that every piece of legislation that would go through the Reich government would have to be environmentally friendly. And that went through Goering's Department of the Forestry.
SCHLANGER: So, Goering was the Minister of Forestry, wasn't he?
MOURINO: That was one of his many hats, yes.
SCHLANGER: Hermann Goering, who was one of the right-hand men of Hitler.
MOURINO: Exactly, exactly. But, even with that stipulation, it wasn't enough to stop the quarrying in the mountain, and it was only an appeal to the Nordic and Volkisch backwardness of Himmler that stopped the quarrying. Basically, Ludwig Fink, this McKibben type, convinced Himmler, that there was an ancient German fortress that was going to be destabilized by further excavation, so that was when the quarrying was stopped.
And the author does a fairly good job of presenting to you the back and forth. He tries to distinguish between the Green and Brown of the elites of the party, but he also makes it clear that, really, it's the same thing, just different sides of the coin.
SCHLANGER: Now, the author, whose name is Frank Uekötter, has a quote near the beginning that you use in your article, where he says, the Green and the Brown were not two separate camps. The Green were Brown. And I'd like to throw open to either you or Leandra, the discussion of the environmentalists of their day, the Wandervoegel, the youth, who after the horrible developments of World War I, decided to reject industrial society and return to nature. Many of them ended up recruited into the Nazi Party, weren't they?
Either of you can take that up.
MOURINO: Yes. That is the case. The youth were untrained, and had no real skill or orientation towards Classical culture, were directed to both the Nazi Party and Socialist Party organizations. And this enabled Hitler to secure power. When he was elected, and then had his way with the whole country, many of the Wandervoegel groups and also the Heimaten and the Naturschutzen, or the nature appreciation clubs, joined in celebration with the Nazi Party, and then would direct their campaigns directly through Himmler's operation.
And Leandra, your article drew on this book How Green Were the Nazis? and in it you wrote about the 1935 Reich Nature Protection Laws. What were these?
LEANDRA BERNSTEIN: Well, the Reich Nature Protection Laws, basically, with the environmentalist movement in Germany, there was a big call for protection of very large tracts of land. But because of the way Germany was set out under the Weimar Constitution, there were federalist provisions, so you couldn't legislate for different regions, you couldn't have these overarching land-protection laws. So these groups that Paul referred to the Heimatschutz groups, natural protection organizations, what they had been pressuring the Weimar parliament for, is these kinds of overarching land-protection laws, which, under Hitler, they got.
So, in 1935, one of the more progressive—I guess you could call it—one of the more progressive regions of Prussia, environmentally, they were just elevated to a national level, and their standards for Prussia were more or less made the standards for the whole of Germany.
So, Hitler, through this organization, and with a lot of help from Goering, set aside massive tracts of land, and said, "Oh, we're going to protect the little birdies. We're going to protect small game animals. We're going to protect the beauty of nature."
SCHLANGER: Let me interrupt you, because this is actually a really important point, for people who may be listening and thinking, "Well, isn't this...?" As Clifford said, it's bizarre when you first see it. And yet, when most people think of the Nazis, the last thing they think about, is someone sitting there looking at a little bird, or someone "kveling" over some plants. And here's an interesting point that you brought up, Paul, in your article: That the same Siefert, who was the state attorney for landscape design, who insisted on blood-and-soil connected gardens, he opposed the development of dams! He also demand that Germany switch its food production over to organic farming, and, of course, as people probably know, Hitler was somewhat of a radical vegan, himself.
So, when you started this research, did this give you new insights into the perversion that took over in Germany in the '30s?
MOURINO: Yeah, it was particularly shocking, particularly shocking to see that these nature preservation groups had these strange views, and while Hitler was rising to power, they were complaining about how campaign posters were cluttering up their mountain hiking trails.
So the paradoxes are so great: It's kind of like today, you think about the political scene in the United States. We've lost the auto sector, we have a very weak debate amongst the leadership of the Democratic Party, and here it is, we're talking about burning cow feces and grass and so on, to run whatever cars we still have left. So the ironies are extraordinary. It's also extraordinary to see that so much of the top leadership was so Green.
SCHLANGER: And it also is extraordinary, when you listen to Gore and he tries to come across as a rational guy who's concerned about people, and then you look at the effect of his policies. Leandra, we've been reporting that Gore has a particular hatred for Africa. And you've written an article for the next EIR [Issue #17, April 27, 2007] on "The Decline and Fall of Al Gore." Is this getting across to people who otherwise might be innocently recruited into the environmentalist movement?
BERNSTEIN: Well, it really only gets across to them, when the paradox is posed. Otherwise, they're just kind of swept up in the Romanticism of the culture. Just back to the Romanticism and the anti-industrialism, anti-modernity of the Nazi period, what you saw was the inability to distinguish man from animal, the way that Lyn says. So, this notion of Blood and Soil, that you go out and you look at a nature scene, and you say, "Ah! This is beautiful, this is where I locate my identity. I am of this scene of nature." And you look at a dam down the way, and you say, "Argh! That's terrible, that's an abomination to nature."
So, essentially what you've done, you've said that mankind is an unnatural occurrence in nature. And once you've said that and you hold onto it, then you see the effects of the kind of brainwashing, where some of these youth whom we were fortunate enough—fortunate enough for them—that we talked to them, who were advocating 80% cuts in carbon dioxide by 2050. So, what our LaRouche Youth Movement organizers are saying to these kids, is, "Do you understand what the effects of that policy is going to be? Do you know what happens when you remove industry, with a population of 6-1/2 billion people?
SCHLANGER: Or, if we turn food production and take the food production away from people eating it, and burn it, so that people can drive cars while countries that produce food, will starve to death. [station break]
We're going to come back now to the discussion we're having about the Nazi roots about today's environmentalism, and in 10 or so minutes, we're going to take up the question of the Virginia Tech shooting with Dr. Kiracofe, who has some special insights on this.
Just to go back to the discussion on the parallels and the implications: Leandra, you were talking about the effect of the LaRouche Youth Movement interventions have been having. There was a hearing in the Congress, this last week, which the LYM intervened on, that included IPCC figures. I'd like to ask you about that in a second. But I think it's noteworthy to point out that one of the senior vice chairmen of the IPCC, from Russia, a member of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Dr. Yuri Izrael, came out this week highly critical of what Gore is doing. He said, that there's panic-mongering, it's not justified, there's no evidence that man is responsible for what is being called "climate change."
Now, in the Congressional, they did not allow any critics of Gore to speak. But from what I understand, the promoters of the panic didn't get too far, largely because of what the LYM did. Do either of you want to tell us what happened there?
BERNSTEIN: Yeah, it was really great. 'Cause, while you didn't have any critics on the panel, you did have a critic in the Congress. And what the LYM did in preparation for this IPCC hearing, was target all of the Congressmen on the Science & Technology Committee; and we got them literature, in some cases we had meetings with them, so we could really discuss the Gore hoax. So, when the hearing happened, one of these Congressmen, a Republican from California, stood up and asked one of the IPCC panelists, "in seven years, according to your data, can you tell me, if the planet is getting warmer or colder?" And the guy couldn't answer. So, two of our LYM organizers were about two feet behind the IPCC panelist, and the whole time, when the panelist couldn't answer the question, they broke out laughing. And so this encouraged the Congressman, who was grilling the panelists, and it was a very good intervention on both sides.
SCHLANGER: So this has not just happened with the lower-level spokesmen for Gore's argument, whom we've been demolishing in debate all over country, but it's happening with key spokesmen for IPCC.
BERNSTEIN: Yeah, they actually have a set of criteria, that someone on the EIR Intelligence staff sent out, and it basically lists off how they should respond to critics and different types of criticism.
SCHLANGER: And their main response is, "we have the consensus, we don't have to answer your criticisms."
BERNSTEIN: And then they stick their tongue out. [laughter]
MOURINO: Harley, all the scientists there, as they were sitting down, one of the youth put a leaflet in front of each one of six, and the title of the leaflet which had all our material, the Channel 4 documentation, the citation of the 17,000-scientist petition, was titled something to the effect of "Is There Really Consensus on Global Warming, Global Climate Change?" So, they were getting the upfront challenge by us. All the staffers who were in attendance got the leaflet, and got to talk to us. And to boot, all the Democrats we could talk to got it on their way in. A Democrat from California looked as if she had bitten into a sour lemon, as she read it and sat down, knowing that we were there to challenge her not to go with the sophistry that the party line has been pushing.
SCHLANGER: Well, of course, there is now a big debate in California, in the Democratic Party that was initiated by the LaRouche Youth Movement, which will come up this next weekend at the Democratic Convention in San Diego.
Paul, let me just wrap up this section of our discussion today, by asking you to comment on a concluding quote from Uekötter, the author of The Green and the Brown: A History of Conservation in Nazi Germany, and I assume from reading this, that he considers himself somewhat of an environmentalist. He writes: "Chances are that a number of environmentalists, and in any case, too many of them, would have behaved just as thoughtlessly as did so many German conservationists," who, he said, became Nazis. He said that, "their guiding thought would have been that the protection of nature requires the use of every lever that one could seize. And that one should take quick advantage of one's opportunities. Learning from the Nazi experience may be more difficult and more painful than many conservationists have thought." And he finished by saying, "Seeing a cause dear to one's heart," that is, climate change or environmentalism, "aligned with such a regime is painful, and many readers will have read this book with a sentiment of Never Again. But understandable as this may be, it is also clear that it calls for specification. What precisely has to be done to prevent a repetition of this story? What are the lessons of the current environmental movement, or other social movements for that matter, should learn from the Nazi experience?"
How do you answer his questions, Paul?
MOURINO: The answer is simple and hard at the same time: It is to follow your nose and fight for the truth of what's going on around you, to understand it. Uekötter and a couple of others, who are a little older than myself, they discovered that one of their professors was Alwin Siefert—I don't know if it was him directly, or a bunch of his colleagues. And Alwin Siefert survived the Nuremberg Tribunal and was given a teaching position in Hannover after the war, and began to spread these things. And it was only a bunch of students began to ask about some of these strange things, that would be mentioned in their classroom, about the "pureness of native soil." And a number of these brave souls decided to go a little bit beyond the syllabus and figure out what the story was. And lo and behold, they discovered Alwin Siefert's true Nazi roots. And sadly, the book Uekötter published is only published in the United States and not in Germany, because the political implications are quite loud.
SCHLANGER: Although it is the case that there is now a split occurring in the Green Party on precisely this basis.
MOURINO: Absolutely. So the lessons are many. But especially to young people who are in the colleges today: You obviously run into various things that are questionable, whether it's in your economics class or your history class, or maybe even your horticulture class. Well, it's up to you, the student, the individual, to follow through on where these questions lead you. And if you find injustice, well, you have to rise to the occasion to rectify it. Otherwise, what you will see happening around you is the whole society going into a dark age, which leads us into this tragedy.
SCHLANGER: Absolutely. So, let's bring Dr. Kiracofe back in. this is interesting discussion, isn't it Cliff?
KIRACOFE: Indeed. I would just comment on the earlier themes that we were working on, the contrast between German horticulture and its love for science and beauty under someone like Alexander von Humboldt, and contrast that to some of the German authorities you mentioned, Mr. Siefert or some of these latter day types in the Nazi period, just 180 degrees opposite.
SCHLANGER: So, it's not racially determined!
KIRACOFE: It's just this love of Classical culture and also Renaissance culture, and the whole joy of discovery and exploration of science, that was embodied for example by Humboldt! And then people who followed his lead on exploring in horticulture, and plant geography, and the wonders of the Earth, etc. And then, that would be the early 1800s, and then 100 years later, we have this person you mentioned, Siefert or some of these other people that have been mentioned in Germany: It's just inconceivable, such a cultural reversal. It's incredible, to me.
SCHLANGER: And as you know, Cliff, Lyndon LaRouche has been warning that unless we get back to that real process of discovery, and have our schools and our universities take that up, then what we are heading toward is a dark age. And of course, what we saw happen at Virginia Tech this last week, is just one indication of that. You're a professor of a university in Virginia—
KIRACOFE: Actually I teach it, too!
SCHLANGER: Well, this obviously hit closer to home to you.
KIRACOFE: Yes, it did, indeed, not only for our fellow colleagues, teachers, but also to the families... it was shock. Both schools that I teach at had moments of silence. And student bodies, I talked to some other colleagues at the University of Virginia and some other schools, and just a general feeling of shock and sadness permeating things.
And another thing I must say, though, on some campuses, a feeling of fear.
SCHLANGER: Well, I think that was a universal experience among people in the United States, who live in a culture which is becoming increasingly nihilistic. And yet, even in a culture that's becoming that, becoming inured to war, to violence, something like this stands out.
You had mentioned that you had attended a conference within a week or so before this, on the question of violence: Why don't you tell us about that?
KIRACOFE: Well, that's one reason why this event came as such a shock. On April 7th, I was at a law-enforcement workshop down in Roanoke, Virginia, and we were going through various aspects of... well, actually, there's been a rise, as you may know, in violent crime across the United States. It had gone down in the 1990s, but the Bush Administration and the politicians aren't going to tell you, but the police and law-enforcement folks will, that there's been a general rise in violent crimes, robberies, and also murders in the last several years. So nationwide, there's a rise in violent crime.
Our workshop looked at that issue in general. We looked at the problem of gangs, so-called youth gangs, particularly the Hispanic gangs that originated in Los Angeles. Now, they're permeating the entire country, including here in the Virginia countryside, the so-called maras from El Salvador, or the Mexicans, and all. So we have a nationwide phenomenon of gang violence and narcotics abuse. So, I think the public has been so fixed, quite rightly, on the Iraq disaster, that we tend to forget, here at home, this rise nationwide in violence.
And not only gang violence, but also we worked on the theme of school violence. And we looked at school violence from the elementary school level, the middle school level, the high school, and the college and university level. And so there's been quite a high, completely unacceptable, level of school violence, defined as all those different grades, in the United States as well in the recent years.
SCHLANGER: And then, on top of that, within a week or so, you had the shooting at Virginia Tech.
KIRACOFE: Well, the thing that was most interesting, that kind of shocked me the most, was that in our workshops, we went through professional law-enforcement assessments of various former school-shooter events. And you may recall the Columbine event, and there are other events, too, Paducah, Kentucky; there's a whole list of these school-shooter events.
Now, our instructors, briefers, were putting it in context that our children are threatened in school, two ways: By our own domestic school-shooters, like Mr. Cho was at Tech, but also by international terrorism. Schools are a target of terrorism, like Beslan in Russia for example. So, law-enforcement researchers around the world have pooled their resources, and with the view of researching school violence, either through aberrant pathological/psychological cases, like we had with Mr. Cho, or, organized terrorist violence that wishes to use children as hostages, or murder teachers and children. So the issue of homeland security in our country, naturally, has to be expanded a bit, I think, and a bit of more concentration on security of school systems.
SCHLANGER: Now, you mentioned the case of Paducah and Columbine. There's another similar case in Erfurt, Germany, where I think 16 students were killed by a shooter, and there's something in common in those three cases, with the case at Virginia Tech, which unfortunately is generally being not just ignored, but blacked out of the press: And that is the role of video-games, the addiction to violent, or obsession with violent video-games. We have on our website, the actual text of a Washington Post article, which mentioned that several of Cho's friends said that he had been obsessed with the game "Counter Strike" which is a point-and-shoot video-game, in which a Glock 9 automatic is one of the weapons of choice. That was taken off the website, never appeared again. And when an attorney called them, to ask them why, they said, it "wasn't important to the story."
At your workshop, was there discussion of the games?
KIRACOFE: Oh, absolutely. As a political scientist, I'm studying not only foreign affairs, but also domestic politics. I'm interested in the criminal justice issues, and obviously school security and school safety ties into the criminal justice system.
Now, law enforcement, as well as professional forensic psychologists and others know, and have the evidence that, videogames do create the mental impairment, and do inspire, and also deform, children's judgment. So, the videogame issue was very prominent in the briefings, as we were working through various cases—you know, how you do in the law, different cases. As we were looking through different cases, Paducah, Springfield, Oregon, and others, linking to this videogame issue. And also violent movies, like so-called "Matrix" affected, it is said, the Columbine kids, as the way they dressed and styled themselves. It's also said that Cho was affected by a violent South Korean film and imitated some imagery in the film.
SCHLANGER: Well, we also saw him in his rambling videotape, pay homage to, and identify with, the shooters at Columbine.
KIRACOFE: Yes, that was particularly stunning, because, as I said, I took this workshop on April 7th, and a week or so later, we have this situation down at Tech. And Cho, if you look carefully, there's also elements, of course, we could say cultic, or Satanic, or unusual, or strange, his use of numbers, the number 88; his use of colors, the color red, as he was writing things; his black cross with two black eyes in front of it, surrounded by a red heart. I mean, he's obviously into some sort of visual code, some cultic code—I'm not sure anybody's decoded it yet, but I'm sure law enforcement's going to be on it very carefully.
But at any rate, the issue of videogames I think is central. A fellow by the name of David Grossman, a retired military man in the United States, David Grossman works closely with law enforcement. He has a website himself, and I was just refreshing my mind with some of these concepts the other night, because David Grossman was pointed out in one of our workshops as one of the key experts on this videogame/school violence thing.
The problem with the videogames, is, they do induce skills in point and shoot. Actually, videogames are used by law enforcement and by the military for combat training. So what these things amount to, for professional use, is combatting crime. Now, for the young people, it's basically creating mass murderers.
SCHLANGER: Now, are you at all surprised by the fact that the Washington Post, which had reporters who had this story, decided to cover it up?
KIRACOFE: Not at all. I think it's a nationwide trend, in the media. Where was the media when we were going into the Iraq war? Nowhere. They were cheerleading the President. So, I think the news media have completely failed, the major media, the corporate media, have completely failed the citizens of this republic. And in this case, I was doing my searched for the newspaper coverage of this tragic event down at Tech, and if you try to punch in Cho and videogames, you get very, very few hits. There are very, very few articles that went into the issue of the videogames and the videogame culture. And also the fact that, even some of his fellow South Korean high schoolmates, were quoted saying: Yeah, when he was in high school in Northern Virginia, he was addicted to these things, particularly Counter Strike, but others, too.
And so, that was stripped out of the news reports I saw. I saw a law-enforcement official in San Bernardino, I believe it was, quoted, and I saw a few college counseling service workers quoted, with respect to videogames. But there are professionals all over the country that could be giving quotes on this, but they seem to be completely eliminated from national discussion at the moment.
SCHLANGER: Well, there was a psychiatrist on CNN last night who mentioned it, and they didn't go back to her.
KIRACOFE: It's inconceivable to me, that in a tragedy like this, or in the other tragedies, that we're not getting to the bottom of this problem.
SCHLANGER: Well, we're getting to the bottom of it, so I just wanted to use this as an opportunity to remind the listeners, to go to the http://www.larouchepac.com, and what you'll see is not merely this story that was cut out of the Washington Post, but the history of the LaRouche movement documenting this case, going back to speeches and articles by Helga Zepp-LaRouche in 1999 and 2000, using the material of Colonel Grossman. And also some studies that have been done in Germany on the effect of violent videogames. Also Lyndon LaRouche has called for an immediate action to ban the violent videogames, and what he points to, is an obvious fact, which is that Microsoft and other computer companies make a huge amount of money from these kinds of videogames.
MOURINO: Harley, I have a point I'd like to add.
MOURINO: There's a couple of things which Grossman points out, which are key in this whole investigation there, and in his book, it's called "On Killing." One, is that coming out of the military himself, he discovered that he saw the same protocols that he used to train Marines on the firing range, embedded in the videogames themselves. Particularly, the training of the muscles and just repeat the same process without thinking. He goes further, and that provoked him when he saw that in his kids, to get political and try and spread this understanding more broadly.
He also then added to this study, that the U.S. military, coming out of World War II, saw that in their studies, and analyses, and debriefings of troops after a battle, that only 15% of the military person on the battlefield, could shoot to kill at the moment of truth. And some of the policy wonks decided this was a "bad idea" and so went about designing protocols that could be used to overcome this process.
SCHLANGER: Overcome the fear of shooting at someone.
MOURINO: Exactly. It's as simple, on the one hand, of changing a target from a bulls-eye to a silhouette, or to renaming the target something else, like "Charlie," or the ammunition from "the ammunition" to "the package." And so on.
Now, another element that's really frightening about this whole event, is that when people look at it, and think about it seriously, there are thousands of kids just like this. And what's to say that there won't be another one tomorrow and the day beyond, it's just part of the culture.
So, it brings up the question of how you solve it. And you really have to go beyond the culture, and go back to what we were hinting at, with this idea of what Classical culture really is, in terms of Bach and Beethoven, with the musical works, and the theatrical dramas. People need access to that, to begin to resolve these types of things that are just commonplace now in the culture—it's no longer the counterculture.
SCHLANGER: Well, Paul, I think also one of the points Dr. Kiracofe was making earlier, is the actual joy of discovery in science, as opposed to just merely preparing to pass a test. Cliff, don't you see that as a way of addressing this question of nihilism? That you can find joy in something other than a videogame?
KIRACOFE: And yes, indeed, and I certainly agree with Paul's comment, that there's a deep cultural problem, and we need to address it. And an emphasis on Classical culture, which is our roots anyway, as a nation, as a culture, is the way to go. And certainly, inspiring a sense of joy and discovery, and exploration and is a central and important pedagogical theme.
SCHLANGER: I think it's also identifying with all of humanity, and let me just throw this out to Leandra: Part of what you see with the difficulty in selling this environmental movement, the difficulty Gore's having, is his main respondents are basically people who are Baby-Boomers who are relatively well off. And Leandra, you were saying, that it's not selling too well among the youth. I'd like you to just pick that up again.
BERNSTEIN: Well, it's not, for a lot of the reasons that we addressed in what you said about the joy of making a discovery. What that is is, it's not just in making the discovery, but it's in realizing what a human being is: That a human being is not just some monkey that's going to do tricks, and ooh, the trick happens to be in the field of science.
But, to actually be human—the youth generation hasn't been indoctrinated in the same way that the Baby-Boomers have, where they've rejected the idea of scientific progress, as it's reflected in agriculture, and increased levels of technological development, as a way to increase man's power over nature. Now, our generation, the youth generation is in a unique position, and ironically, it has to do with the nihilism, that there's not a lot that our generation is terribly committed to, as far as beliefs that they were taught in school by Baby-Boomers and Tweeners. So we have a unique advantage, that our openness to receiving ideas on the nature of man, and the universe, and man's role in the universe, we're open for it.
You see it when contacts come in and work on Johannes Kepler, in the different youth offices. There's a certain... they can access that notion of being human, by participating in something that's not just a phenomenon.
SCHLANGER: Cliff, let me ask you then: Given what's happened, the shock is going to wear off in a certain period of time. Of course, the sorrow for the friends and family members of the people killed will never go away. But, what is the prospect that this question that you brought up, that was discussed at your workshop, that seems to have been forgotten or blacked out, do you think there's a chance to get the discussion going in the right direction, following the horrible events of last week?
KIRACOFE: Well, yes, I'm certainly an optimist on that. Obviously, the entire country—if not the world, actually, 'cause this was reported all over the world—has gone through a very traumatic experience, and I think people are going to support, strongly, investigations and commissions to really get to the bottom of these issues and work toward solutions.
Now, our governor of Virginia, it has been announced, is going to undertake a major effort to set up a commission to study the situation. And I am hopeful that perhaps the governor and his team will take a hard look at the gun-violence-via-violent-video theme or element, is worked into the comprehensive report that the governor is going to do. So, my wish is that the governor's team, really, really look into, in a professional way, this violent video angle, that affected not only the Virginia Tech tragedy, but unfortunately, so many others in our country so far. And I must say, unfortunately, we have to look toward the future, there may be a few more.
SCHLANGER: Well, I would urge any of our listeners in Virginia to contact the governor's office and in fact insist that the commission take up that question. Because otherwise, the chances are that it may not be brought up.
Let me just quickly throw out one other thing, we're almost out of time: But the Vermont Senate voted up a resolution to impeach Dick Cheney. There's talk that Dennis Kucinich is going to bring a resolution for impeachment to the floor of the House. Cliff, in your view, is it time to get of Cheney?
KIRACOFE: Well, I think it's critical. I think frankly, I think Cheney has been—I don't know how you want to phrase it—the Rasputin, or whatever kind of bad influence you think of! Has been the main, central bad influence on the White House for the last seven years almost. So I think getting rid of Cheney, putting some new players in, or getting a new policy direction would be possible. I think without eliminating Mr. Cheney, it's very, very difficult to undertake a fresh start. And really, we're in a national catastrophic situation with respect to the Iraq war and the Middle East, and we need a policy change, a dramatic policy change.
SCHLANGER: I think on all of these topics we've taken up today, the issue is leadership. And Lyndon LaRouche has recently discussed the idea of a new generation of leadership. I want to remind our listeners: May 1st, at 1 p.m. Eastern Time, Lyndon LaRouche will be giving a webcast to discuss these matters.
Dr. Clifford Kiracofe, thank you very much for joining us today.
KIRACOFE: Thank you, Harley, I enjoyed it very much.
SCHLANGER: And Paul and Leandra thank you.
This has been The LaRouche Show, thanks for joining us today.