Today's main American paranoid rants: Obama will take away your guns and enslave you! Christians will be persecuted to extinction. Of course, they're without merit, but tell that to the ranters: those Rabid Religious Right First Amendment freaks out to kill everyone who isn't Christian.
OK, paranoia is contagious, no matter which side of the political aisle you're on. The liberal obsession with the Koch brothers certainly matched Glenn Beck's obsession with George Soros. And it's easy to develop a paranoia about paranoia. Yet it does seem that the Right has taken paranoia to its outer limits, depending on God to support it, and making sure that people are uneducated enough to embrace it.
Headlines and quotes coming from the Right are more WTF? than OMG! For example, World Net Daily headlined:
And get this:
They're All Coming To Get You!
Does anyone remember the paranoid cold war spoof The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming!? Transport some of the film's dimwitted characters to the present and it's reasonable to assume that they would fit right in to today's paranoid groups.
In the movie, however, the idiocy was shelved and the paranoia was removed once the villagers discovered the Russians to be ... humans just like them. Unfortunately, today's paranoids are not prone to discovery.
Or education. They enjoy their paranoia too much to ever realize that their paranoia might be groundless, or at least a lot less threatening than they thought.
Richard Hofstadter, in his seminal work, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, wrote( three years before The Russians Are Coming!) about a phenomenon that crept into the American political psyche:
Although American political life has rarely been touched by the most acute varieties of class conflict, it has served again and again as an arena for uncommonly angry minds. Today this fact is most evident on the extreme right, which has shown, particularly in the Goldwater movement, how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. Behind such movements there is a style of mind, not always right-wing in its affiliations, that has long and varied history. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the qualities of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.
In a sense, that style is being utilized by the NRA, the Christian Right and the Tea Party. Notice how Salon's Alan Berlow, when writing about the Sandy Hook Massacre and the NRA (Held Hostage by NRA Paranoia), makes a statement akin to Hofstadter's about the acute paranoia of the NRA:
Whether or not the uniquely horrifying details of this latest massacre will be enough to break the National Rifle Association’s suffocating muzzle on any rational discussion about guns remains to be seen. And that, as much as the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary School, speaks volumes about the perverse state of our national debate about guns.The operative words here are "suffocating muzzle" - creating a state of suspicion where education about gun violence in this country is out of the question.
Of course, gun control is perhaps the most rabid of recent U.S. paranoias and serves to encapsulate just how far paranoia can go - and how much political clout it can obtain.
“A heinous act of mass murder—either by terrorists or by some psychotic who should have been locked up long ago—will be the pretext to unleash a tsunami of gun control.”
"Responsible Americans realize that the world as we know it has changed," he wrote. "After Hurricane Sandy, we saw the hellish world that the gun prohibitionists see as their utopia. Looters ran wild in south Brooklyn. There was no food, water or electricity. And if you wanted to walk several miles to get supplies, you better get back before dark, or you might not get home at all."
“With four more years of Obama, your firearms freedoms are gone. And we’ll spend the rest of our lives mourning the freedoms we’ve lost… Every freedom we cherish as Americans is endangered by Obama. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”And while LaPierre has been roundly criticized for his stance that more guns should be on the streets and in the hands of Americans, the paranoia he feeds upon has escalated, not abated. In sense, it has been fed and continues to be fed by all forms of right-wing media and even pulpits: Pastor Gary Cass jumped into the fray with his statement, "You can't be a Christian and not own a gun."
A Compilation Of The Paranoid Style
U.S. paranoia has reached its zenith with the Christian Right against so many things: from Obama being the Anti-Christ to Pokemon. Yes, Pokemon.
To gain the competitive edge, a trainer must use magic potions to heal and strengthen his Pokmon, and wear magic badges to control the stronger Pokmon. In addition, the really powerful Pokmon have psychic powers and can throw curses. This bears disturbing similarities to witchcraft.Robert Jeffess:
“President Obama is not the Antichrist. But what I am saying is this: the course he is choosing to lead our nation is paving the way for the future reign of the Antichrist.”Chuck Norris and Pat Robertson:
“...a legion of demons would be unleashed to wreak havoc on society and help enact his evil socialist agenda, destroying all that is good and free.”Of course, no set of Christian Right paranoia would be complete without fear of other religions and persecution:
The war against yoga:
A small but vocal group of parents, spurred on by the head of a local conservative advocacy group, has likened these 30-minute yoga classes to religious indoctrination. They say the classes — part of a comprehensive program offered to all public school students in this affluent suburb north of San Diego — represent a violation of the First Amendment."Bishop" Harry Jackson
After the classes prompted discussion in local evangelical churches, parents said they were concerned that the exercises might nudge their children closer to ancient Hindu beliefs.
"I think we're being set up -- for people of living faith who believe in a born-again experience who follow the Bible -- to be seen as knuckle-dragging Neanderthals who need to come into the 21st century," Jackson said.Actually, this may not be far from the truth, for stupidity and lack of education are enablers of paranoia. Then again, since preachers like Jackson don't believe in evolution, they may not have bothered to evolve. The Gospel for Christians; Fear and Insecurity in Theology21 is a good treatise on the paranoia promulgated by today's right wing Christian leaders and it points out the blatant irrationality of most claims. It also pointed out that Pat Robertson's book, The New World Order was reviewed as a "catch all for conspiracy theories."
Paranoia regarding Sharia law inculcated into the American landscape is field worthy of volumes, but perhaps the best example of Hofstadter's "paranoid style in American politics" lies with the witchhunt spawned by Michele Bachmann:
“The events in Benghazi have proved that the United States remains under attack, both in the Middle East, and here in the United States,” she continued last night. When the moderator noted that there’s no proof that the Muslim Brotherhood was involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. diplomats in the Libyan city, Bachmann replied that “we are only just beginning” to investigate and suggested that all radical Islamists groups are tied to the Brotherhood.
And, Of Course, Gays Will Eat Your Children
7. “The overt homosexual participation in Obama’s presidential inaugural events by ‘Bishop’ Vickie Eugene Robinson, the Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, D.C., and a homosexual marching band.”Whither Paranoia?
Whether it involves indoctrination of children by homosexuals, Obama's "Islamification" of America, or the demons hiding in Halloween candy* the country seems to be getting more paranoid by the minute, the momentum greater than ever before. There are a multitude of panaceas and remedies for such a condition, but they may all boil down to: education.
And there are people who are paranoid of education. Perhaps we should treat those first.
* Pat Robertson, of course.