Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Drinking along to paranoia

Matt Welch has a hilarious post on what he calls the "Richard Hofstadter Drinking Game." The reference is to the 20th century historian who achieved everlasting fame among liberals by writing about "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" which he found in 19th century populist movements as well among conservatives of the Cold War era.
"[T]he G.O.P. has been taken over by the people it used to exploit," Paul Krugman warns today:

The state of mind visible at recent right-wing demonstrations is nothing new. Back in 1964 the historian Richard Hofstadter published an essay–


You didn't think those cheeks got red all by themselves, did ya?Actually, you could develop a whole multi-trigger drinking game based on anti-Tea Party columns, though it may prove as potentially deadly as the Century Club. In addition to the obligatory Hofstadter reference, tip your glass whenever you read that...

2) Not only are things just like Hofstadter wrote back when interracial marriage was widely outlawed, they're actually worse. (Krugman variation: "But while the paranoid style isn't new, its role within the G.O.P. is.")

3) The real leader of the modern GOP is fill-in-the-blank non-office-holding bogeyman/woman. (Krugman's completism: "Real power in the party rests, instead, with the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin.")
Read the rest, but pour yourself a long, cool one first. You'll need it every time you read Paul Krugman and Frank Rich.

Then follow the link over to Jesse Walker's essay on "The Paranoid Center:How the panic over right-wing violence is being used to marginalize peaceful dissent."
We've heard ample warnings about extremist paranoia in the months since Barack Obama became president, and we're sure to hear many more throughout his term. But we've heard almost nothing about the paranoia of the political center. When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers' anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world.

When such a story is directed at those who oppose the politicians in power, it has an additional effect. The list of dangerous forces that need to be marginalized inevitably expands to include peaceful, legitimate critics.
Read the whole thing.