Thursday, September 24, 2009
The Paranoid Style (Still) In American Politics
I've finally read Richard Hofstadter classic essay from the November 1964 edition of Harper’s Magazine - the Paranoid Style in American Politics. It's one of those pieces of journalism/scholarship that I've heard about over the years (most recently in the Economist's Lexington column) but never actually got a round to looking up. I should have done so earlier because it is remarkable. Hofstadter was writing in the early 60s about the supposed plots by communists, catholics and Masons. It is a world I've only read about in James Ellroy novels, but replace the paranoia aimed at those groups with a fear of, well, socialists (still), Muslims in general and a certain "Kenyan Muslim" in particular and you have a perfect description of much of the American fringe right of today. Hofstadter was 45 years early but describes perfectly the type of thinking behind those who have been marching outside the "townhall meetings" with AR-15s over their shoulders, calling the president a communist AND a fascist for trying some healthcare reform.