The first concerns Cindy Sheehan and her band of merry maniacs as they shouted down the Democrats at a news conference, chanting their latest cutesy slogan: ""De-escalate! Investigate! Troops home now!"
Sheehan, you might recall, is the person along with Harry Belafonte and Hugo Chavez who describes the President of the United States as "the world's greatest terrorist."
The second is this news story about a whacked-out group of fanatical religious protestors who believe the US is being punished by God for supporting homosexuality, so they wage violent protests at the funerals of soldiers killed in Iraq. The leader of the group says that America is "feeling the sword of God" because it is pro-gay. A disapproving God "has become America's terrorist" and is sending soldiers home in body bags as proof.
The two articles demonstrate nicely how the extrreme platitudes, self-righteousness, and paranoid obsessions of the antiwar left dovetail nicely with those of the paleo-right. As Victor Davis Hanson once noted:
"Both see the Iraqi war through the same lenses: the American effort is bound to fail and is a deep reflection of American pathology."
Her antiwar venom could easily come right out of the mouth of a more calculating David Duke. Perhaps that's why he lauded her anti-Semitism: "Courageously she has gone to Texas near the ranch of President Bush and braved the elements and a hostile Jewish supremacist media."
This odd symbiosis began right after 9/11. Then the lunatic Left mused about the "pure chaos" of the falling "two huge buck teeth" twin towers, lamented that they were more full of Democrats than Republicans, and saw the strike as righteous payback from third-world victims.
The mirror-imaging fundamentalists and censors in turn saw the attack as an angry God's retribution either for an array of our mortal sins or America's tilting toward Israel.
In Iraq, the Left thinks we are unfairly destroying others; the ultra-Right that we are being destroyed ourselves. The former alleges that we are bullying in our global influence, the latter that we are collapsing from our decadence.
But both, in their exasperation at George Bush's insistence on seeing Iraq emerge from the Hussein nightmare years with some sort of constitutional government, have embraced the paranoid style of personal invective.
They employ half-truths and spin conspiracy theories to argue that the war was unjust, impossible to win, and hatched through the result of a brainwashing of a devious few neocons.
The unlikely coalition between the paranoid left and the paranoid right since 9/11 is held together by what Richard Hofstadter described in the 1950's as The Paranoid Style in American Politics.
At the time he wrote the essay, Hofstadter 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 also infects the left side with a virulent case of the same illness.
As to which side exhibits more pathology, you can decide for yourself. Both are severely toxic in their own right; but together, they represent a mix that is absolutely lethal.
Psychologically, it is very difficult to abandon paranoia and psychological projection once they are taken on by a particular group, since both--along with the delusions and distortions that they generate-- serve 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. Those horrifying and unacceptable thoughts or feelings are denied ("not owned") by the person experiencing them, and instead are projected onto another individual or 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 ubiquitous in the Middle East; or the causal anti-Republican, anti-conservative rhetoric adopted by the intellectual "elite" of this country.
Suffering from severe cases of envy and rage, both extremes of the political spectrum blame America (and Israel) for all the ills of the world. Both couch their own unacceptable feelings in "noble" or "godly" garments and claim they speak to a "higher truth." But the one truth they avoid is the reality of their own emotional chaos.
Both projection and paranoia are psychological traits which sense danger and exist with the human species in order to protect the ego. Their use is common in children and early in life; and is appropriately balanced in a mature adult by the development of the rational faculty--the intellect. As that capability develops during maturation, the ego mostly abandons paranoia and projection simply because they are both extremely maladaptive in the long run for any adult trying to cope with reality.
The tools of the politically paranoid--i.e., the paranoid style of the extreme right or left -- are denial, distortion, and projection. These psychological tools are almost always pathological when used to cope with the real world. For the user these three primitive psychological defenses permit a rearrangement of external reality (so that actual reality may be avoided); for the beholder, the users of these mechanisms frequently appear crazy or insane. These are known as the "psychotic" defenses, common in overt psychosis, in dreams, and throughout childhood.
These immature psychological manipulations work together to keep a person or a group insulated from reality. And it is reality that always has the ultimate say. Transiently avoiding reality may work for a time, but eventually, objective reality will defeat any attempt to pretend it doesn't exist.
One of the most common psychological defenses we have been witnessing over the last four years since 9/11 is psychological projection.
Projection is never a good long-term 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; homosexuals are evil--especially Republican homosexuals) 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. Paranoia is a symptom of mental illness. Projection is only a symptom of severe mental dysfunction, as the psyche attempts to cope with a threatening world.
The motivations of the antiwar left are a conglomeration of desperate psychological strategies to deny the reality of Islamofascist terror; distort the struggle to eliminate it and to blame America for its very existence. It is safe to blame America, Israel and the West because (to paraphrase the wise words of Han Solo, speaking of Wookies) they don't cut off your head with a dull blade when they lose.
Let's be honest. Sheehan's people are not really "antiwar". They do not stage protests about the killing of innocent people by Al Qaeda's or Hamas or Hezbollah. They never demonstrated against the 100 million or more people murdered by communism in the last century--they cozy up to 21st century communists. They do not express their rage at the mass graves of Saddam, instead, they reserve that rage for Saddam's execution, which they can blame on the US.
As for the religiously "righteous" protestors at soldier's funeral or the anti-semitism of a David Duke; or any of those who feel their belief in God--or Allah for that matter-- justifies uncivilized and even barbaric behavior on their part. Let us be equally honest about this variation of the paranoid style: their behavior serves to camouflage the unacceptable feelings within that must be externalized to keep their own souls "holy" and "pure". You will notice that they also reserve their rage for America and its values and ideals.
And that summarizes the "root cause" underlying the behaviors of the two supposedly politically opposite groups. Both are rabidly, vehemently and unapologetically anti-American, and believe that America and its values are the source of all evil in the world.
But if they really wanted to understand the origins of human evil, all they need to do is look within; an extremely frightening proposition, requiring a degree of self-awareness, courage and honesty that is unlikely to be found in any who embrace the paranoid style.