Saturday, September 30, 2006


A generation ago, Richard Hofstadter wrote compellingly about The Paranoid Style in American Politics; and he was primarily concerned with the conspiratorial fantasies of the Right side of the political spectrum. Our present political climate however, offers much support for those who suspect that paranoid strain now infects the left side with virulent case of the same illness.

Psychologically, it is very difficult to abandon paranoia once it is taken on by a particular group, since it--and the accompanying delusions that it generates-- serves the purpose of accounting for an unacceptable status quo. Without a scapegoat who is considered to be racially, sexually, physically, or intellectually inferior, onto which your own fears can be projected; it would be horrifying and untenable to look inside one's own heart and soul for the source of the fear.

This is the nature of projection and paranoia. The unacceptable thoughts or feelings are denied ("not owned") by the person experiencing them, and instead are projected onto another individual or--as in this case--a group. Thus, the person who originally had the offensive thought or feeling becomes the helpless victim of the evil "other" and they do not have to cope with the fact that the evil lies within themselves. This is the origin of almost all acts of racism, sexism, anti-semitism, etc. It is the source of most prejudice in the world; and certain prejudices that become socially acceptable--like the casual anti-semitism of the Middle East; or the causal anti-Republicanism adopted by the intellectual "elite" of this country.

Projection is never a good long-term psychological strategy--nor is it healthy--in an adult; and using such a defense mechanism represents a primitive attempt to shirk the responsibility for one's own feelings, thoughts, and actions. It causes and has caused much human misery, death, destruction and some of the most horrific acts that humans are capable of. When entire countries subscribe to a projected delusion (e.g., the "Jews" are to blame; the "Blacks" are the cause of all of our problems; "Republicans" are evil; Bush=Hitler) it can lead to genocide and other behaviors that are paranoid and psychotically delusional. Full-blown paranoia occurs when one's mind severs the connection with reality entirely.

In the most recent example of this sort of thinking on the left, the American public has been subjected to the wild ravings of pundits and politicians who compare Bush's actions to protect American citizens after 9/11 and during what many consider to be WWIV to the actions of a Hitler; calling him a fascist or hysterically moaning because the rights of terrorists --who do not subscribe to the Geneva Convention in the first place--may be violated. And, when the enemy speaks his usual propaganda, we can hear uttering almost word for word Democratic party talking points.

America has always had discussions about the balance of power within the three branches of government and always will. It is reasonable to have checks and balances; it is even reasonable and normal to expect that the balance will sometimes shift to the executive (in times of war, perhaps) or to the legislative (in times of peace) and even sometimes to the judiciary. This is a dynamic balance that is able to adjust to the historical circumstances and national requirements.

The hysteria and paranoia generated by the deeply hostile and inaccurate journalism of the NY Times and other media outlets--in addition to the possible leaking of national security information that is helpful to the enemy in a time of war--is deeply troubling, because it represents a newer, more lethal expression of paranoia in American politics by the Democrats and the left.

Let us hope that the disease is not terminal--either for them, or for the rest of us.

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