Richard Hofstadter, who wrote The Paranoid Style in American Politics: and Other Essays, might have liked this quote a buddy of mine recently shared with me:
“Before the Internet, every village had an idiot. After the Internet, the idiots have their own village.”
The quotation especially fits those paranoiac bloggers – most of them anonymous -- of the “Obama-is-the-Kenyan-born-anti-Christ-Islamo-Socialist-who-aims-to-enslave-the-white-folks-in-the-New-World-Order” persuasion.
Such conspiratorial flights of fancy are nothing new – hence the title of Hofstadter’s famous book. But pre-Internet, village idiots must have wondered if there were other idiots out there.
Anyway, Damien Thompson wrote that “one of the legacies of the European Enlightenment is a scientific methodology that allows us to make increasingly accurate observations about the world around us.”
The Scientific Revolution sparked the Enlightenment, which was also called the Age of Reason. Hence, Thompson sees a ton of irony in the Internet, also a product of science, as a threat to the Enlightenment’s legacy.
“Paradoxically…science has given us almost unlimited access to fake information," he added in his book, Counterknowledge: How We Surrendered to Conspiracy Theories, Quack Medicine, Bogus Science, and Fake History.
Fake history is the jet fuel of most conspiracies. The Internet has made malarkey accessible to millions.
I’m a history teacher, not a shrink. So I don’t get why so many people – including these bloggers who see themselves as brave patriots revealing “truth” -- buy into conspiracies, no matter how far-fetched.
Another one of my buddies is a shrink, sort of. He is a psychologist and textbook author who teaches at my community college.
“Most if not all fear can be classified into two forms -- fear of losing what one has or fear of not getting what one wants,” Dr. Doug Pruitt says. “For a person to subscribe to paranoid beliefs I believe the former would have to be in force. It would seem that the conspiratorial-minded blogger is concerned that somehow his or her possessions or rights are at risk of being compromised.”
Doug adds: “The most obvious target of such unfounded fear is a ubiquitous governmental entity.”
That’s “ubiquitous governmental entitity” as in the “Kenyan Overlord” and his “New World Order.”
Today’s political paranoiacs are heirs to a long line of wacko fantasy islanders. When I was a kid, the John Birch Society said Ike was a commie dupe and that the commies were putting fluoride in our drinking water to subvert us. (GOP presidential hopeful Michelle Bachmann, a darling to neo-Bircher, tea party-types suggested HPV vaccine might cause “mental retardation.”)
Anyway, right-wing wackadoodles were in full cry in 1964, when Hofstadter wrote “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” a Harper’s magazine article that was the basis of his book.
A bunch of Birchers, Rebel flag waving Southern white folks who weren’t cool with federal civil rights laws, the nuke-the-Russians-back-to-the stone-age crowd and assorted other we-never-met-a-commie-conspiracy-we-didn’t-believe uber-conservatives were rallying around Republican Barry Goldwater for president.
Wrote Hofstadter: “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.”
The paranoiac in politics, Hofstadter explained, sees himself “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.”
In other words, if you can’t make out the bogeyman, you’re just plain dumb. Or worse, you’re might be playing dumb because you’re a conspirator yourself.
Anyway, compromise equals surrender to the political paranoiac, according to Hofstadter.
“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.”
The old-fashioned Birchers hated the fact that most people -- including a lot of Republicans – thought they were a brick or two shy of a load. Their meetings were partly group hug sessions.
The Internet is a cyber support group. Paranoiacs can commiserate globally while ��exposing” all the machinations of the N.W.O. guy in the White House.
My guess is anonymous bloggers are so paranoid they really do fear retribution from Obama and his “stooges,” including this union-card carrying Democratic history teacher.
They also fret that most people are ignoring them. Most people are.
Surfing the net the other day, I saw where an anonymous right-wing critic of a left-leaning blog -- whose writers are all by-lined -- said he wouldn’t comment any more because his views had been “suppressed.”
I can almost hear the snickering and collective “awwwww!” from the objects of the blogger’s disaffection -- provided they even bothered to read his post, which they probably didn't.
"Writing a letter to the editor is like taking a leak in a dark blue suit," my old newspaper editorial page editor mused. "It makes you feel warm inside, but nobody notices."
That goes double for no-name bloggers.
No doubt, anonymous bloggers with paranoic predilictions see themselves as heroes, blowing the cover off “Comrade” Obama’s “secret FEMA concentration camps” and his “clandestine UN armies” – mostly troops from Islamic and African countries, of course – hidden within our borders.
In their minds, they are patriots like Paul Revere in ’75. Oh, wait, he didn’t hide his identity. Mother Britain’s Redcoat minions knew who he was and he didn’t care that they knew.
And the British really were coming.
Meanwhile, “The N.W.O. is coming! The N.W.O. is coming!” anonymous bloggers bleat in cyberspace.
Anyway, I have suggested more than once that Profiles in Cowardice would be a good title for a book about all bloggers who hide behind pseudyomns. A good title for a volume about the nameless N.W.O. nut jobs and their kooky cyber soul mates might be Profiles in Paranoia: the Internet Age of Unreason.