Friday, September 27, 2013

The Paranoid Style In American Politics


In Wikipedia's entry on The Political Acitivities of The Koch Brothers, it starts: "Charles G. and David H. Koch are the sons of Fred C. Koch, who founded the second-largest privately held company in the United States, Koch Industries. After buying out two other brothers' interests, they remain in control of the family business and fortune which they inherited from their father, as well as the Koch Family Foundations."


Few Low Informed Voters realize that "The phrase "Koch brothers" generally refers to the sons of Fred C. Koch.[3][4][5][6] The most political sons are Charles Koch and David H. Koch who bought out their brothers Frederick and Bill in 1983.[7]

"David H. Koch was a Libertarian Vice-Presidential candidate in 1980. He advocated the abolition of Social Security, the FBI, the CIA, and public schools.[8][9] Koch put $500,000 of his own money into the race,[9] and he and Ed Clark, his presidential running mate, won 1.1% of the vote – the best Libertarian showing in a U.S. presidential race to date.[10] But the experience caused David Koch to change course: "I had enough ... [W]e are not a nation that debates issues. We vote on candidates' personalities." By 1984, David had parted company with the Libertarian Party, because, he said, "they nominated a ticket I wasn't happy with" and "so many of the hard-core Libertarian ideas are unrealistic."[9] Since then, Charles and David Koch have adopted a much less visible strategy toward advancing their libertarian positions. Interested in maintaining their privacy, they prefer to spend on donations to non-profit groups who do not disclose donors.[11]

"Charles Koch funds and supports libertarian and free-market organizations such as the Cato Institute,[12] which he co-founded with Edward H. Crane and Murray Rothbard in 1977,[13] and is a board member at the Mercatus Center, a market-oriented research think tank at George Mason University. David Koch supported his brother's candidacy for Vice President on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1980.[1] After the bid, Charles told a reporter that conventional politics "tends to be a nasty, corrupting business ... I'm interested in advancing libertarian ideas".[1] In addition to funding think tanks, the brothers support libertarian academics;[14] since 1992, Charles has funded the Charles G. Koch Summer Fellow Program through the Institute for Humane Studies, which mentors young, self-described libertarians.[15] Charles also organizes twice yearly meetings[16] with Republican donors.[12]

"The brothers contribute to a variety of conservative, libertarian, and free-market individuals and organizations.[1] They have donated more than $196 million to dozens of free-market and advocacy organizations.[1] Tax records indicate that, in 2008, the three main Koch family foundations contributed to 34 political and policy organizations, three of which they founded, and several of which they direct.[1][2]


As we noted in yesterday's post, "... our article, "Conservatism Is Radical Extremism," "Historian Richard Hofstadter wrote an analysis in his influential 1964 essay 'The Paranoid Style In American Politics,' Hofstader sought to identify the characteristics of the groups. Hofstadter defined politically paranoid individuals as feeling persecuted, fearing conspiracy, and acting over-aggressive yet socialized. Hofstadter and other scholars in the 1950s argued that the major left-wing movement of the 1890s, the Populists, showed what Hofstadter said was 'paranoid delusions of conspiracy by the Money Power.'

We begin "The Paranoid Style In American Politics" by Richard Hofstadter:


"It had been around a long time before the Radical Right discovered it—and its targets have ranged from 'the international bankers' to Masons, Jesuits, and munitions makers.

"American politics has often been an arena for angry minds. 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. In using the expression 'paranoid style' I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the 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 significant.

"Of course this term is pejorative, and it is meant to be; the paranoid style has a greater affinity for bad causes than good. But nothing really prevents a sound program or demand from being advocated in the paranoid style. Style has more to do with the way in which ideas are believed than with the truth or falsity of their content. I am interested here in getting at our political psychology through our political rhetoric. The paranoid style is an old and recurrent phenomenon in our public life which has been frequently linked with movements of suspicious discontent.

"Here is Senator McCarthy, speaking in June 1951 about the parlous situation of the United States:
"'How can we account for our present situation unless we believe that men high in this government are concerting to deliver us to disaster? This must be the product of a great conspiracy on a scale so immense as to dwarf any previous such venture in the history of man. A conspiracy of infamy so black that, which it is finally exposed, its principals shall be forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men. . . . What can be made of this unbroken series of decisions and acts contributing to the strategy of defeat? They cannot be attributed to incompetence. . . . The laws of probability would dictate that part of . . . [the] decisions would serve the country’s interest.'
"Now turn back fifty years to a manifesto signed in 1895 by a number of leaders of the Populist party:
"'As early as 1865–66 a conspiracy was entered into between the gold gamblers of Europe and America. . . . For nearly thirty years these conspirators have kept the people quarreling over less important matters while they have pursued with unrelenting zeal their one central purpose. . . . Every device of treachery, every resource of statecraft, and every artifice known to the secret cabals of the international gold ring are being used to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country.'
Next, a Texas newspaper article of 1855:
"'. . . It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. We have the best reasons for believing that corruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism. . . . The Pope has recently sent his ambassador of state to this country on a secret commission, the effect of which is an extraordinary boldness of the Catholic church throughout the United States. . . . These minions of the Pope are boldly insulting our Senators; reprimanding our Statesmen; propagating the adulterous union of Church and State; abusing with foul calumny all governments but Catholic, and spewing out the bitterest execrations on all Protestantism. The Catholics in the United States receive from abroad more than $200,000 annually for the propagation of their creed. Add to this the vast revenues collected here. . . .'
"These quotations give the keynote of the style. In the history of the United States one find it, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in certain spokesmen of abolitionism who regarded the United States as being in the grip of a slaveholders’ conspiracy, in many alarmists about the Mormons, in some Greenback and Populist writers who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of a munitions makers’ conspiracy of World War I, in the popular left-wing press, in the contemporary American right wing, and on both sides of the race controversy today, among White Citizens’ Councils and Black Muslims. I do not propose to try to trace the variations of the paranoid style that can be found in all these movements, but will confine myself to a few leading episodes in our past history in which the style emerged in full and archetypal splendor.

"Illuminism and Masonry


"I begin with a particularly revealing episode—the panic that broke out in some quarters at the end of the eighteenth century over the allegedly subversive activities of the Bavarian Illuminati. This panic was a part of the general reaction to the French Revolution. In the United States it was heightened by the response of certain men, mostly in New England and among the established clergy, to the rise of Jeffersonian democracy. Illuminism had been started in 1776 by Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at the University of Ingolstadt. Its teachings today seem to be no more than another version of Enlightenment rationalism, spiced with the anticlerical atmosphere of eighteenth-century Bavaria. It was a somewhat na├»ve and utopian movement which aspired ultimately to bring the human race under the rules of reason. Its humanitarian rationalism appears to have acquired a fairly wide influence in Masonic lodges.

"Americans first learned of Illuminism in 1797, from a volume published in Edinburgh (later reprinted in New York) under the title, Proofs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Governments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Reading Societies. Its author was a well-known Scottish scientist, John Robison, who had himself been a somewhat casual adherent of Masonry in Britain, but whose imagination had been inflamed by what he considered to be the far less innocent Masonic movement on the Continent. Robison seems to have made his work as factual as he could, but when he came to estimating the moral character and the political influence of Illuminism, he made the characteristic paranoid leap into fantasy. The association, he thought, was formed “for the express purpose of rooting out all religious establishments, and overturning all the existing governments of Europe.” It had become “one great and wicked project fermenting and working all over Europe.” And to it he attributed a central role in bringing about the French Revolution. He saw it as a libertine, anti-Christian movement, given to the corruption of women, the cultivation of sensual pleasures, and the violation of property rights. Its members had plans for making a tea that caused abortion—a secret substance that “blinds or kills when spurted in the face,” and a device that sounds like a stench bomb—a “method for filling a bedchamber with pestilential vapours.”

"These notions were quick to make themselves felt in America. In May 1798, a minister of the Massachusetts Congregational establishment in Boston, Jedidiah Morse, delivered a timely sermon to the young country, which was then sharply divided between Jeffersonians and Federalists, Francophiles and Anglomen. Having read Robison, Morse was convinced of a Jacobinical plot touched off by Illuminism, and that the country should be rallied to defend itself. His warnings were heeded throughout New England wherever Federalists brooded about the rising tide of religious infidelity or Jeffersonian democracy. Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, followed Morse’s sermon with a Fourth-of-July discourse on The Duty of Americans in the Present Crisis, in which he held forth against the Antichrist in his own glowing rhetoric. Soon the pulpits of New England were ringing with denunciations of the Illuminati, as though the country were swarming with them.

"The anti-Masonic movement of the late 1820s and the 1830s took up and extended the obsession with conspiracy. At first, this movement may seem to be no more than an extension or repetition of the anti-Masonic theme sounded in the outcry against the Bavarian Illuminati. But whereas the panic of the 1790s was confined mainly to New England and linked to an ultraconservative point of view, the later anti-Masonic movement affected many parts of the northern United States, and was intimately linked with popular democracy and rural egalitarianism. Although anti-Masonry happened to be anti-Jacksonian (Jackson was a Mason), it manifested the same animus against the closure of opportunity for the common man and against aristocratic institutions that one finds in the Jacksonian crusade against the Bank of the United States.

"The anti-Masonic movement was a product not merely of natural enthusiasm but also of the vicissitudes of party politics. It was joined and used by a great many men who did not fully share its original anti-Masonic feelings. It attracted the support of several reputable statemen who had only mild sympathy with its fundamental bias, but who as politicians could not afford to ignore it. Still, it was a folk movement of considerable power, and the rural enthusiasts who provided its real impetus believed in it wholeheartedly.
"As a secret society, Masonry was considered to be a standing conspiracy against republican government. It was held to be particularly liable to treason—for example, Aaron Burr’s famous conspiracy was alleged to have been conducted by Masons. Masonry was accused of constituting a separate system of loyalty, a separate imperium within the framework of federal and state governments, which was inconsistent with loyalty to them. Quite plausibly it was argued that the Masons had set up a jurisdiction of their own, with their own obligations and punishments, liable to enforcement even by the penalty of death. So basic was the conflict felt to be between secrecy and democracy that other, more innocent societies such as Phi Beta Kappa came under attack.

"Since Masons were pledged to come to each other’s aid under circumstances of distress, and to extend fraternal indulgence at all times, it was held that the order nullified the enforcement of regular law. Masonic constables, sheriffs, juries, and judges must all be in league with Masonic criminals and fugitives. The press was believed to have been so 'muzzled' by Masonic editors and proprietors that news of Masonic malfeasance could be suppressed. At a moment when almost every alleged citadel of privilege in America was under democratic assault, Masonry was attacked as a fraternity of the privileged, closing business opportunities and nearly monopolizing political offices.


"Certain elements of truth and reality there may have been in these views of Masonry. What must be emphasized here, however, is the apocalyptic and absolutistic framework in which this hostility was commonly expressed. Anti-Masons were not content simply to say that secret societies were rather a bad idea. The author of the standard exposition of anti-Masonry declared that Freemasonry was 'not only the most abominable but also the most dangerous institution that ever was imposed on man. . . . It may truly be said to be Hell’s master piece.'
"The Paranoid Style in Action
The John Birch Society is attempting to suppress a television series about the United Nations by means of a mass letter-writing campaign to the sponsor, . . . The Xerox Corporation. The corporation, however, intends to go ahead with the programs. . . . 
The July issue of the John Birch Society Bulletin . . . said an 'avalanche of mail ought to convince them of the unwisdom of their proposed action—just as United Air Lines was persuaded to back down and take the U.N. insignia off their planes.' (A United Air Lines spokesman confirmed that the U.N. emblem was removed from its planes, following 'considerable public reaction against it.') 
Birch official John Rousselot said, 'We hate to see a corporation of this country promote the U.N. when we know that it is an instrument of the Soviet Communist conspiracy.'
—San Francisco Chronicle, July 31, 1964.
"The Jesuit Threat

"Fear of a Masonic plot had hardly been quieted when the rumors arose of a Catholic plot against American values. One meets here again the same frame of mind, but a different villain. The anti-Catholic movement converged with a growing nativism, and while they were not identical, together they cut such a wide swath in American life that they were bound to embrace many moderates to whom the paranoid style, in its full glory, did not appeal. Moreover, we need not dismiss out of hand as totally parochial or mean-spirited the desire of Yankee Americans to maintain an ethnically and religiously homogeneous society nor the particular Protestant commitments to individualism and freedom that were brought into play. But the movement had a large paranoid infusion, and the most influential anti-Catholic militants certainly had a strong affinity for the paranoid style.

"Two books which appeared in 1835 described the new danger to the American way of life and may be taken as expressions of the anti-Catholic mentality. One, Foreign Conspiracies against the Liberties of the United States, was from the hand of the celebrated painter and inventor of the telegraph, S.F.B. Morse. 'A conspiracy exists,' Morse proclaimed , and 'its plans are already in operation . . . we are attacked in a vulnerable quarter which cannot be defended by our ships, our forts, or our armies.' The main source of the conspiracy Morse found in Metternich’s government: 'Austria is now acting in this country. She has devised a grand scheme. She has organized a great plan for doing something here. . . . She has her Jesuit missionaries traveling through the land; she has supplied them with money, and has furnished a fountain for a regular supply.' Were the plot successful, Morse said, some scion of the House of Hapsburg would soon be installed as Emperor of the United States.

“'It is an ascertained fact,' wrote another Protestant militant,
"'that Jesuits are prowling about all parts of the United States in every possible disguise, expressly to ascertain the advantageous situations and modes to disseminate Popery. A minister of the Gospel from Ohio has informed us that he discovered one carrying on his devices in his congregation; and he says that the western country swarms with them under the name of puppet show men, dancing masters, music teachers, peddlers of images and ornaments, barrel organ players, and similar practitioners.'
"Lyman Beecher, the elder of a famous family and the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrote in the same year his Plea for the West, in which he considered the possibility that the Christian millennium might come in the American states. Everything depended, in his judgment, upon what influences dominated the great West, where the future of the country lay. There Protestantism was engaged in a life-or-death struggle with Catholicism. 'Whatever we do, it must be done quickly. . . . ' A great tide of immigration, hostile to free institutions, was sweeping in upon the country, subsidized and sent by 'the potentates of Europe,' multiplying tumult and violence, filling jails, crowding poorhouses, quadrupling taxation, and sending increasing thousands of voters to 'lay their inexperienced hand upon the helm of our power.'
"[1] Many anti-Masons had been fascinated by the penalties involved if Masons failed to live up to their obligations. My own favorite is the oath attributed to a royal archmason who invited 'having my skull smote off and my brains exposed to the scorching rays of the sun.'
"Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornography of the Puritan. Whereas the anti-Masons had envisaged drinking bouts and had entertained themselves with sado-masochistic fantasies about the actual enforcement of grisly Masonic oaths,[1] the anti-Catholics invented an immense lore about libertine priests, the confessional as an opportunity for seduction, licentious convents and monasteries. Probably the most widely read contemporary book in the United States before Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a work supposedly written by one Maria Monk, entitled Awful Disclosures, which appeared in 1836. The author, who purported to have escaped from the Hotel Dieu nunnery in Montreal after five years there as novice and nun, reported her convent life in elaborate and circumstantial detail. She reported having been told by the Mother Superior that she must 'obey the priests in all things'; to her 'utter astonishment and horror,' she soon found what the nature of such obedience was. Infants born of convent liaisons were baptized and then killed, she said, so that they might ascend at once to heaven. Her book, hotly attacked and defended , continued to be read and believed even after her mother gave testimony that Maria had been somewhat addled ever since childhood after she had rammed a pencil into her head. Maria died in prison in 1849, after having been arrested in a brothel as a pickpocket.


"Anti-Catholicism, like anti-Masonry, mixed its fortunes with American party politics, and it became an enduring factor in American politics. The American Protective Association of the 1890s revived it with ideological variations more suitable to the times—the depression of 1893, for example, was alleged to be an international creation of the Catholics who began it by starting a run on the banks. Some spokesmen of the movement circulated a bogus encyclical attributed to Leo XIII instructing American Catholics on a certain date in 1893 to exterminate all heretics, and a great many anti-Catholics daily expected a nationwide uprising. The myth of an impending Catholic war of mutilation and extermination of heretics persisted into the twentieth century."


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Unless you're from an older generation, the once-discredited John Birch Society, brought back to life by the Koch brothers, may not mean much to you.  Wikepedia's entry:


"The John Birch Society is an American political advocacy group that supports anti-communism, limited government, a constitutional republic[1][2]and personal freedom.[3][4][5] It has been described as radical right-wing.[6][7]

"Founder Robert W. Welch Jr. (1899–1985) developed an elaborate organizational infrastructure in 1958 that enabled him to keep a very tight rein on the chapters.[8] Its main activity in the 1960s, says Rick Perlstein, "comprised monthly meetings to watch a film by Welch, followed by writing postcards or letters to government officials linking specific policies to the Communist menace."[9] After an early rise in membership and influence, efforts by people like conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. and the National Review led the JBS to be identified as a fringe element of the conservative movement.[10][11]

"Originally based in Belmont, Massachusetts, it is now headquartered in Grand Chute, Wisconsin,[12] with local chapters in all 50 states. The organization owns American Opinion Publishing, which publishes the journal The New American.[13]"


"Origins

The society was established in Indianapolis, Indiana, on December 9, 1958, by a group of 12 led by Robert Welch, Jr., a retired candy manufacturer from Belmont, Massachusetts. Welch named the new organization after John Birch, an American Baptist missionary and United States military intelligence officer who had been shot by communist forces in China in August 1945, shortly after the conclusion of World War II. Welch claimed that Birch was an unknown but dedicated anti-communist,[8] and the first American casualty of the Cold War.


Fred Koch, founder of Koch Industries, was one of the founding members.[26][27][28][29]


Tomorrow: The Paranoid Style In American Politics, "Why They Feel Dispossessed."




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“If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk
a sign?”

Albert Einstein.


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