“The Paranoid Style in American Politics” has its 50th Anniversary

[One of my few blog entries on politics, and how it relates to psychology, sociology, and modern apocalyptic eschatology. Here is a full pdf version: Paranoid Style Turns 50_Shogren]

Because of his ability to describe and predict American political behavior, Richard Hofstadter’s “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” should be required reading for the citizen. And except for Sacred Scriptures and the US Constitution, I never say any text should be mandatory. “Paranoid Style” was a short, dynamite article in the November 1964 issue of Harper’s, and is still available on their website archive. [1] We will look at some of its insights for today, and in particular, its implications for the evangelical church.

His immediate interest was the conservative movement that backed Barry Goldwater for president in the 1964 election. As a confirmed liberal of the old style, that is, to the left of typical Democrats of today, Hofstadter argued that he was not simply being anti-conservative – and that he was! – but rather: “I believe there is a style of mind that is far from new and that is not necessarily right-wing.”

I offer my own summary of the script of the “paranoid style”:

Nothing is what it seems to be: there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public;

I and a small group of whistle-blowers are even now revealing this hidden reality;

the proofs are extraordinarily complex and interwoven, but the central truth is simple and can be explained in a few sentences;

we who are “in the know” are continually hampered or even checkmated due to powerful enemies and widespread public apathy and gullibility.

“Nothing is what it seems to be – there are evil forces at work, carrying out their treacherous actions and shielding themselves from the attention of the general public”

conspiracy-theory-top-secretExamples from recent decades would have to include Senator Joe McCarthy, who argued that the loss of Eastern Europe and China to the Reds could not reasonably have happened by accident, or by normal political (more…)

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Published in: on December 19, 2014 at 7:29 pm  Comments (17)  
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Why I left party politics and never looked back

One of my infrequent thoughts on politics, written in 2013 and revised in September 2018 in the run-up to the midterm elections.

2003 blog

It was March 20, 2003. I took a deep breath to steady my nerves. Then I walked out on my political party, the Republicans. I did so principally in protest against President Bush’s attack on Iraq that week, which was the culmination of months of insistence that we must rout out their weapons of mass destruction and chase out Al Qaida. With many others, I saw no serious evidence of either claim. I believe there was no conscious deception, but a severe case of cognitive bias on the part of the administration: it saw what it wanted to see. And here in 2018, there is still no trace of a single WMD ever, and overwhelming evidence that Al Qaida was not in Iraq, that is, until after we invaded and opened the door to them. All this cost the US 2.4 trillion dollars, which the government had to borrow.

I also had to conclude that two Americans whom before that point I admired, Colin Powell and Condi Rice, had been co-opted to make the case for war in Iraq, when there was no case to be made.

In the run-up to Iraq, many evangelical leaders urged caution. Others signed the Land Letter (October 2002), which tried to put together a theological justification for a military strike: claiming that a pre-emptive strike was in fact “defensive” in nature; that it was a truly “last resort”, due to their WMDs and harboring Al-Qaida; and because the US would try to not harm non-combatants. It will repay Christians of later generations to read the Land Letter and at the same time examine the actual results of the Iraq war to demonstrate how wildly – and if it were not for the massive death toll, hilariously – off-target such sentiments can be. (more…)

Martyrdom Fantasy Camp

Additional note on 6/27/15 – with the Supreme Court decision that gay marriage is a constitutional right, some believe that Christians will face direct persecution by standing against same-sex marriage. This may be, or it may not be, but my point in this article still stands – that the church in the US is today facing little to no persecution.

A Christian Pakistani woman named Asia Bibi was beaten and arrested in June, 2009. Her crime consisted of stating that Jesus was the resurrected savior, and that Mohammed could not save.  She was convicted of blasphemy on Nov 8, 2010 and sentenced to the death penalty. Asia is 44, and has a husband and two young children. She is being kept in prison while her attorney appeals the case. [Note: her death sentence was temporarily halted in July 2015 but she was still on death row as of April 2016].

On New Year’s, a bomb went off at a church in Egypt as worshipers were leaving a midnight service. It killed 21 and wounded 79.

Since the overthrow of Hussein, Iraqi Muslim extremists have begun open violent persecution against the church. On Oct 31, 2010, terrorists entered a church with automatic weapons, killing 59 and injuring 80 others. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country. (more…)