Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Paranoid Style

Quoth Richard Hofstadter, in The Paranoid Style in American Politics - 43 years ago -
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. . . .

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.

Glenn Greenwald does a great job of connecting this to both Cheney, and Osama bin Laden. It's been great lunchtime reading. I Just added him to my Google Reader. I hope he isn't as prolific a writer as Andrew Leonard - I only have so many hours in a day.
As always, it is the warped, delusional and paranoid rhetoric of Osama bin Laden which shapes our foreign policy and molds (and mirrors) the thinking of our highest government officials. Osama bin Laden, from the remote Pakistani cave in which we are told he is forced to hide, has proclaimed an apocalyptic theological battle, and therefore, that is how we must approach the world. After all, Bin Laden says so, and -- as always -- he's right.

Perhaps most amazingly, Cheney continues to pay lip service to this notion: "The war on terror is more than a contest of arms and more than a test of will, it is also a battle of ideas. We know now to a certainty that when people across the Middle East are denied freedom, that is a direct strategic concern of all free nations."

But no rational person can dispute that we are losing that "front" of the "war" as completely as is possible.

No comments: