Paranoia Crept into American Political Life a Long Time Ago

Roundup




Lewis Beale is a former enterntainment writer for the New York Daily News

Political paranoia. It’s everywhere.

Dr. Ben Carson, the Fox News contributor and Tea Party favorite, thinks America will be in such a state of anarchy by 2016 that the Presidential election might actually be cancelled.

Phyllis Schlafly, the long-time right-wing activist, believes President Obama is deliberately introducing Ebola into America, to make it more like Africa.

And Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) claims at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught at the Mexican border (A charge refuted by the Department of Homeland Security).

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” wrote historian Richard Hofstadter in his groundbreaking essay, “The Paranoid Style In American Politics.” “In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers. … It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”

Contemporary as it might sound, that quote is from a 50-year-old essay published in Harper’s Magazine November 1964 issue.

Hofstadter’s classic piece was a reaction to the anti-Communist hysteria and nativist sentiments expressed by Sen. Joseph McCarthy, the John Birch Society, and some supporters of Republican Presidential candidate Barry Goldwater—the Tea Party crowd of its day. And thanks to birthers, truthers, climate change deniers, and other crackpots, it remains staggeringly relevant....




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