Back in the day, Richard Hofstadter wrote "The Paranoid Style in American
Politics." His takeoff point was Birchers and Goldwaterites, but he tried to
argue it was a recurring theme in history:
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. … [T]he idea of the
paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary
relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with
profoundly disturbed minds. It is the use of paranoid modes of
expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon
And today's more or less normal example is Jim Lampley, writing in
the Huffington Post. You may not have heard, but he's got
a bit of a … thing about the 2004 Presidential election.
Mainly, he knows that Kerry won. And why don't you know that?
Well, because dark and sinister forces are keeping the truth
His latest post on the topic is here. Let's begin:
More than two weeks have passed since I first
that a mountain of evidence suggests the 2004 Presidential election was
decisively tampered with and general media are doing nothing about it.
Needless to say, the response, pro
Lampley, of course, "established" nothing, and his "mountain of
evidence" was fact-free. He pointed with utmost confidence
to exit polls that purported
to show a Kerry win; when confronted with the fact the exit polling
themselves admitted there were dreadful problems with the data,
he waved that away. (The exit pollers are assumed to
be unerring wizards when they give
results in harmony with what Lampley "knows"; the same people are
obvious fools when they try to describe what they did wrong.)
Among the most interesting observations were those of the large number
of conservative critics who defined my position as "liberal". One
website headquartered in Philadelphia called me "somewhere to the left
of Leon Trotsky". That's fascinating. I had never realized the belief in
free, full and fair elections was a socialist or communist tenet. I had
thought it was a fundamental element of democracy.
Disingenuous drivel. If Lampley had merely said "I believe in free, full
and fair elections," would anyone care? His position on the political
spectrum is both obvious and irrelevant.
Some of you are sympathetic, but feel like this is too long a shot. I'll
remind you again that the truth of Watergate was still well-submerged at
this point in 1973. But the New York Times and the Washington Post
ultimately did their jobs back then.
Moron. At this point in 1973, there had been actual arrests based on an actual
crime, court procedings, convictions, and high-level resignations.
And actual evidence. (Almost) needless to say, that's not the case here.
The Post showed
its colors yesterday, moving a story about the vast disparity
between pre-Iraq war military assessments and what the Bush
Administration chose to tell the public from its original placing on
page one to a main edition spot on page twenty-six. I don't think we can
count on Katherine Graham to shepherd the truth anymore, and Ben
Well, Katherine Graham is dead, actually. Didn't anyone tell Lampley?
Does the Post moving stories around say anything
about whether the election was fixed? No, of course not. This
is the kind of thing you talk about when you don't have any
evidence for your actual hypothesis.
As for the Times, it is of course the constant target
of the right-wing media conspiracy which labors so hard to cover the
crimes of this Administration up.
Damn! It's a conspiracy! Here's 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.
Bullseye, Prof Hofstadter. Lampley is a lonely figure
manning the barricades, and he calls us to action:
The Times will try, but it needs our help.
Help? We should close our eyes and wish real hard, maybe? Is Lampley
trying to imply that the Times is working on a story about this?
I hope he realizes that Jayson Blair and Walter Duranty don't
actually work there any
So here's another reading list for those of you who are willing to fight
for democracy in America. You need to read Bob Koehler's work, which is
suppressed by the editorial page of the Chicago Tribune. His seminal
piece is "The
Silent Scream of Numbers", which clearly makes the statistical case.
His commentary on media silence is "Citizens in the
Rain", which ponders whether media reform is a necessary corollary
to election reform. His scariest observations are in "Democracy's Abu
Ghraib", which asks the question, "if they can disable an election,
what's next?". You need to know.
Dude, you need to know.
Quick check: any actual evidence there? No. Plenty of
additional innuendo and
fact-free speculation, though. Hofstadter again:
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.
cause, of course, is nothng less than "democracy in America",
which is opposed by, er, "they." He continues:
There are articles which go further toward establishing that
actually won [bogus link]
the election. There are articles on the converse, on
what kind of
mental gymnastics [bogus link]
it takes to actually believe Bush won despite what
time-honored research techniques proved. There are the hard numbers from
exit polls [bogus link], which didn't lie. The lie was the "official" result.
Let's see… first link is to an amateurish page last updated
the day before the election, full of
handwaving and ALL CAPS TEXT.
Remaining links are invalid (both at the
HuffPost and here), but
two seem to kind of point to the fevery
swamps of Democratic Underground, and the other to CNN. Not really
convincing, Jim, sorry.
Lampley winds up:
The cretins in the Bush Administration are no doubt thrilled to have
made Amnesty International's select list of human rights abusers.
They're actually being cited there for some of their smaller crimes. The
biggest one was domestic, not international. It's the one you are
reading about, if you care. I pray to all the traditions of democracy
that you do.
Perhaps the central situation conducive to the diffusion of the paranoid
tendency is a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt
to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the
normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation
becomes worse when the representatives of a particular social
interest—perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature
of its demands—are shut out of the political process. Having no access
to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their
original conception that the world of power is sinister and malicious
fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power—and this
through distorting lenses—and have no chance to observe its actual
machinery. A distinguished historian has said that one of the most
valuable things about history is that it teaches us how things do not
happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails
to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to
developing such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of
exposure to events that might enlighten him—and in any case he resists
We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double
sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the
rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.
Lampley has no new evidence, and he pays no attention to the debunking
of his previous pseudo-evidence. He resists enlightenment.
[Hofstadter's essay is on the web here.]