Opinion: Paranoia helps fuel current politics

April 24, 2013


There’s this 1997 Mel Gibson-Julia Roberts movie called “Conspiracy Theory,” where Mel is a wacko cab driver who spouts ludicrous theories to Julia, who is a Justice Department attorney. Then one day, pow! One of Mel’s theories turns out to be true.

In an attempt to understand the U.S. Senate’s gun vote last week and the goings-on in the Missouri Legislature, I re-watched this movie the other night. I also revisited the historian Richard Hofstadter’s classic 1963 essay, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” which I first read in college and which 50 years later, is still spot-on.

“American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” Hofstadter wrote, at a time when Sen. Barry Goldwater of Arizona was ascendant in the national Republican Party. “In recent years, we have seen angry minds at work, mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated, in the Goldwater movement, how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But, behind this, I believe, there is a style of mind that is far from new, and that is not necessarily right-wing. I call it the paranoid style, simply because no other word adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.”

Last week the far fringes of the gun lobby, not the mainstream membership of the National Rifle Association much less the majority of the American public, managed to beat back a modest expansion of background checks on gun buyers. In Hofstadter’s phrase, the “political leverage” of the “animosities and passions of a small minority” of the public won the day.

Missouri may not be ground zero for the paranoid style of American politics, but it’s well within the blast zone. Like Mel Gibson’s wacko cab driver, legislators spout all manner of conspiracy theories, and, worse, the Republican majority acts on them. For these theories to be true, something like this would have to happen:

It’s 0400 when the first black helicopters — rotors muffled like the ones the SEALs used in the attack on Osama bin Laden — come over the horizon. They’ll have to come over the horizon wherever Missourians own guns and/or farms, which means a lot of horizons and helicopters.

The U.N. doesn’t really own many helicopters and most of the ones it has are the tame kind, the ones that fly humanitarian missions. But never mind!

The U.S. military had 6,600 helicopters at last count, including a bunch in Afghanistan and elsewhere overseas, but when Barack Hussein Obama (we right-wing paranoids always use his middle name) decides to take away our farms and guns, he’ll declare martial law and turn them against us.

Sixty-six hundred helicopters sounds like a lot, but it’s only 132 per state, even assuming we bring them all back from overseas and strip the ones from ships at sea. The ones that attack Missouri probably will come from Fort Campbell, Ky., where the 101st Airborne has 281 very nasty helicopters, including three battalions of Apache gunships.

This could be a problem for Missouri’s gun owners, because Apaches can engage from far away with Hellfire missiles, Hydra rockets and chain guns that fire 625 rounds a minute. If a squad of airborne troops lands in the yard — tipped off by information passed on to the feds by the Department of Revenue — even the most patriotic gun owners in Missouri, the ones who own dozens of semi-automatic weapons, are going to be seriously outgunned.

As the Apaches are hosing down our gun owners, thousands of stock trucks will be arriving at Missouri’s 107,000 farms to free all of our animals. Well, “free” isn’t exactly right, because these trucks will be loaded with animal rights activists who will want to provide 10 million or so cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, goats and chickens with good no-kill homes. This might take a while.

The Air Force or the CIA or maybe PETA will be launching drones to spy on our farms to make sure nobody sneaks any animals back in.

Meanwhile, down in the Ozarks, more helicopters are landing to enforce the U.N.’s Agenda 21 by taking land out of private ownership to make sure it’s being managed “sustainably.” Amazingly, even though the United States has never signed onto this advisory referendum and even though the Legislature has passed legislation banning it just in case, the U.N. sustainability Nazis don’t care!

Worst of all, thousands of Muslim lawyers and judges are parachuting onto courthouse lawns to impose Sharia law on Missourians. The Legislature banned it, but the Sharia guys don’t care! The good news, Sharia law imposes capital punishment for drug trafficking, so meth labs could be less of a problem.

Sure, the numbers don’t work and the facts don’t hold up, but never mind! It could happen! Mel Gibson would be the first to tell you, even paranoids have enemies.

— Kevin Horrigan is a columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. His email address is khorrigan@post-dispatch.com.


Paul R Getto 5 years ago

The paranoids are out to get us. AND we keep electing them. Go figure.

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