The Paranoid Style in American Politics

Excerpts from The Paranoid Style in American Politics:

As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the paranoid is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish. Since the enemy is thought of as being totally evil and totally unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated–if not from the world, at least from the theatre of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.

[For paranoids,] America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion.

The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms–he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse.

The enemy is clearly delineated: he is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman–sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving.

He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced.

Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds…

The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent–in fact the paranoid mind is far more coherent than the real world. It is nothing if not scholarly in technique.

Posted: October 16th, 2011 | Excerpts 1 Comment »

One Comment on “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”

  1. 1 crow said at 4:41 am on October 23rd, 2011:

    The paranoid good guy, then, is a lot like a Hollywood Superhero, and the bad guy, well, just like a Hollywood Antihero.
    Good is SuperGood, and bad, SuperBad.
    Good always triumphs, though, as we all know. Even when the bad guy has a kryptonite stripmine, wholly owned by Monsanto, and staffed by dubious illegals.

    Your weirdness may even exceed mine.
    Strangely, I find that comforting.