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The ecumenicism of hatred is a great breaker-down of intellectual discrimination. –Richard Hofstadter

What are some of the historical manifestations of this ‘Style’?

Consider the anti-Masonic movement of the 1820’s and 1830’s.  This movement took up and extended the obsession with conspiracy.  This later anti-Masonic movement washed over many parts of the northern United States [you might recall, Gentle Reader, that the first anit-Masonic movement occurred during the 1790s and took place mainly in ‘the land of the Puritans’].  The movement attracted the support of a number of ‘reputable’ statesmen who had only mild sympathy with its fundamental bias, BUT who, as politicians, could not afford to ignore it. Sound Familiar?  This anti-Masonic movement was a folk movement of considerable influence and the rural folks provided its primary driving force.

As a secret society, Masonry was considered to be a standing conspiracy against republican government.  It was believed to be particularly susceptible to treason.  For example, Aaron Burr’s famous conspiracy was alleged to have been conducted by Masons.

Masonry was also accused of constituting a separate system of loyalty; a system at odds with the framework of our government (local, state and national).  Masons had, for example, set up a jurisdiction of their own, with their own obligations and punishments, liable to enforcement even by the penalty of death.

Anti-Masons were fascinated by the oaths that Masons were said to take, invoking terrible reprisals upon themselves if they should fail in their Masonic obligations and were, hence, deemed to be dis-loyal.

The conflict between secrecy and democracy was felt to be so basic that other, more guilt-free societies, such as Phi Beta Kappa, also became suspect (folks believed that ‘democracy’ should be ‘open and transparent’).

Masons were also charged with coming to one another’s aid under circumstances of distress and to extend ‘friend-indulgence’ at all times.  Some believed that the Masonic Law trumped the Nation’s laws (no pun intended but accepted).  Many agreed that Masonic officials of all types would choose a Masonic criminal over the victim.  The ‘free-press’s voice’ was controlled by Masonic editors.  News became ‘fake-news’ for many who believed that the press was controlled by the Masons.

There was some truth in all of this.  However, what must be noted is the absolutist framework in which this hostility to Masonry was expressed.  Anti-Masons were not content simply to say that secret societies were rather a bad idea.  A number of anti-Mason folks declared that Freemasonry was the most dangerous institution that ever was imposed upon a free people, it was ‘an engine of Satan. . .dark, unfruitful, selfish, demoralizing, blasphemous, murderous, anti-republican and anti-Christian.’

Eventually the fuel that fed the flame of anti-Masonry was used up; the fire of anti-Masonry became a flicker.  But, fear not, Gentle Reader.

The great fear of the Masons was replaced with the great fear of Roman Catholics and their plot against American values.  We will explore the paranoia that fueled this fire next time.

We become our thoughts and behaviors. –Aristotle

 

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…don’t over-estimate your own merits; don’t expect others to take as much interest in you as you do yourself; don’t imagine that most people give enough thought to you to have any special desire to persecute you. –Bertrand Russell

In May, 1798, Jedidiah Morse delivered a powerful sermon that grabbed the attention of our young country.  At that time, you might remember, our nation was divided between Jeffersonians-Francophiles and Federalists-Anglophiles [the Federalists, mostly, prevailed – Gentle Reader, if you want to educate yourself a bit read and study the ‘Federalist’ and ‘Anti-Federalist’ Papers].

Morse had been smitten by Paranoia and was convinced that the United States, too, was a victim of a Jacobinical plot rooted in Illuminism.  He called for the Nation to be rallied to defend herself against this great international conspiracy.  Morse’s warnings did take root in New England, the hot-bed of Federalism.  The Federalists not only felt threatened by Jeffersonian Democracy but were also threatened by what they perceived as the rising tide of religious infidelity [their ‘view’ of what religious fidelity looked like was being threatened].

Morse’s message was picked up by Timothy Dwight, the President of Yale.  Timothy held forth against this ‘Anti-Christ’ during an address he gave in New Haven in 1798: ‘The sins of these enemies of Christ and Christians, are of numbers and degrees which mock account and description…  Shall we, my brethren, become partakers of these sins?  Shall we introduce them into our government, our schools, our families?  Shall our sons become the disciples of Voltaire or our daughters the concubines of the Illuminati?’

Morse’s and Dwight’s messages were taken up by others and quickly the pulpits of New England were passionately denouncing the ‘big threat’ that was about to cover them like a great tsunami.  [AN ASIDE: These denunciations become more intelligible if we remember that there were a number of Democratic-Republican societies which folks believed to be Jacobinical and were also the fomenters of the ‘Whiskey Rebellion.’]  It was now generally believed, in New England at least, that the present day is unfolding a design the most extensive, flagitious, and diabolical, that human art and malice have ever invented.  Its object is the total destruction of all religion and civil order…

These writers and ‘spreaders-of-the-message’ illustrate the major tap root of ‘Paranoia as a Style’ – the existence of a vast, insidious, effective conspiratorial network designed to perpetrate acts of the most diabolical character [Sound Familiar?].

Given this, let us briefly explore a few more historical manifestations of this Style.  I continue our history exploration for I believe it is crucial for us to understand the staying power of this Style.  It is also crucial for us to understand that this powerful tap root has endured for hundreds of years and that it should be no surprise that, given the right climate and attention, it surfaced again – a garden of wild-flowers, full of seeds and fruit distributed by the winds and hands of fear.

‘Who’s they?’ He wanted to know. ‘Who, specifically, do you think is trying to murder you?’  ‘Every one of them,’ Yossarian told him.  ‘Every one of whom?’ …Yossarian had proof, because strangers he didn’t know shot at him with cannons every time he flew up into the air to drop bombs on them… –Joseph Heller, ‘Catch-22’ [I first read ‘Catch-22’ in 1964.  Gentle Reader, if you have not read it I invite you to do so; like ‘Mash’ – the novel – a great anti-war novel.]

 

Paranoia reduces anxiety and guilt by transferring to the other all the characteristics one does not want to recognize in oneself.  It is maintained by selective perception and recall.  We only see and acknowledge those negative aspects of the enemy that support the stereotype we have already created. –Sam Keen

The United States was affected by a panic that ran amok in Europe at the end of the 18th Century.  The panic was connected to, and fed by, the allegedly subversive activities of the Bavarian Illuminati [no, Gentle Reader, I am not referring to the Tom Hanks movie].  It appears that the panic was also fed by the anxiety that accompanied the French Revolution.

Some of the reactionaries in the United States that were caught up in this panic mostly lived in New England and the panic also infected the established clergy.  The French Revolution and the Illuminati also fed the fear of the Anti-Jeffersonian folk.

Today, ‘Illuminism’s’ teachings are viewed by scholars as another version of Enlightenment’s rationalism.  Illuminism was spiced up with a powerful anticlerical fear that, with hindsight, seems an inevitable response to the reactionary-clerical atmosphere that was blanketing Europe and that was seeking a home in the United States.

Illuminism was a naïve and utopian movement.  It was crushed by persecution but it did not die; for example, Illuminism’s humanitarian rationalism obtained a wide influence in Masonic lodges.

Americans first learned of Illuminism in 1797 via a work published in England.  The author was a well-known Scottish scientist, John Robinson.  His imagination was fueled by the Masonic movement in Europe.  For the most part, Robinson sought to make 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 non-reality.

Illuminism, Robinson believed, was formed, ‘for the express purpose of rooting out all the religious establishments, and overturning all the existing governments of Europe.’  Robinson believed that the most active members of the French Revolution were members of the Illuminati.  He believed that Illuminism had become ‘one great and wicked project fermenting and working all over Europe.’  To up the ante, Robinson believed that the Illuminati played a primary role in fomenting the French Revolution.

Robinson viewed Illuminism as a libertine, anti-Christian movement, given to the corruption of women and the violation of property rights.  He believed that its members had plans for making a tea that caused abortion and they had a device (think: Stench Bomb), a ‘method for filling a bed-chamber with pestilential vapors’ [this is one of my favorite paranoid ideas; it was not clear ‘why’ the bed-chamber].  Paradoxically, Robinson believed that the Illuminati were anti-Christian and at the same time were heavily infiltrated by the Jesuits [many good Christians then, and some today, believed/believe that Roman Catholics were/are not Christians].

Although running amok in Europe these notions were quick to take root in the United States – even though it is not clear whether any member of the Illuminati ever came to the United States.

Here is one example.  You might remember, Gentle Reader, that in a previous post I quoted Jedidiah Morse.  Well, he appears again in May, 1798.

It’s amazing where the paranoid mind can take you. –Bill Ayers

 

If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about answers. –Thomas Pynchon, ‘Gravity’s Rainbow’

Good morning, Gentle Reader.  This morning I will continue with two more examples of paranoia as a style in political life.  As you might recall, the first came from our Congressional Record; Senator Joe McCarthy uttered these words in June, 1951.  The second came from the leaders of the Populist Party and is contained within the 1895 ‘Manifesto’ that the leaders signed.  The next one appeared in the 15 September, 1855 issues of the ‘Texas State Times.’

 From the Texas State Times newspaper, 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.  [No evidence was ever provided or found to support this conspiracy. Recently our President claimed that many people voted more than once in our recent mid-term elections; they simply went home and changed clothes and returned and voted again.  Again, no evidence has been provided AND I was not aware that one could vote again simply by changing one’s clothes!]

A Jedidiah Morse Sermon, 1798 (Massachusetts).   Secret and systematic means have been adopted and pursued, with zeal and activity, by wicked and artful men, in foreign countries, to undermine the foundations of this Religion (Christianity), and to overthrow its Altars, and thus to deprive the world of its benign influence on society…  These impious conspirators and philosophers have completely effected their purposes in a large portion of Europe, and boast of their means of accomplishing their plans in all parts of Christendom, glory in the certainty of their success, and set opposition at defiance…  [Morse was referring to the movement that we have come to call, ‘The Enlightenment’ a ‘movement’ that, among other things stressed the importance that each person learn to think for him and herself.  This, alone, was a threat to many religionists.]

These four quotations, taken from intervals of half century, provide us with the tap root of the style of thought.  I love history and in the history of the United States one finds the paranoia-style in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in the words of certain abolitionists who believed that the United States was in the grip of a slaveholders’ conspiracy, in a variety of writers who were fear-full of Mormonism, and in the words of those who were fear-full, prior to our entering into World War I, of the munitions’ makers conspiracy to bring us into the ‘War’ in order to line their pockets with our money.  Today this style is a favorite of the ‘Nationalists’ who seek to fill us with fear each day – fear of the ‘other’ and particularly fear of the immigrant and refugee.

These past 60+ years we can hear it in the words of both those who speak for the far-left and the far-right (the far-right has embraced this style more powerfully than the far-left – thus far, at any rate).  We have finally elected a President who openly supports and nurtures this style.  The question remains whether this style will create more powerful tap roots and become more openly embraced by ‘We the People’.

Next time, Gentle Reader, I will continue with more examples.  Remember, those who do not learn from their history will be damned to repeat it.  I am concerned that ‘WE THE PEOPLE’ are ‘history-blind’ and ‘history-deaf’ and this concern fuels my desire to provide us an opportunity to learn more about ‘Paranoia as a Style’.  This is my rationale for adding more postings focusing on this topic and our history.

Among the internet’s many gains for humanity, decreasing paranoia has not been one of them. –John Niven

 

 

 

Strange how paranoia can hook up with reality now and then. –Philip K. Dick

Good morning Gentle Reader.  As I noted in my last paragraph in PART II: ‘…it does not matter the country… For example…

Actually, two brief examples.  Thus far, paranoia as a style in politics has two great national examples: Fascism in Germany (think: frustrated Nationalism) and Stalin’s purge trials, which occurred within the boundaries of the law.  Both continue to be the symbols of paranoia in politics.

Thus, far, in the United States this style continues to be the style of a minority; although with the advent of technology and the expansion of social media the ‘voices’ of the minority are blasting us off of our comfort zones like never before.

My intention is to invite you to consider the reality of the style that is ever present today and to illustrate its frequent historical recurrence in the United States.  To begin with, I am going to provide four examples.  I will begin with an example from the middle of the 20th Century and end up with one from the late 18th Century.

I will use quotations as these are, it seems to me, most revealing.  They are taken from intervals of half a century, and provide us with the keynote of the style of thought.  I will offer us two examples this morning and continue with the other two next time.  The paranoia style that has flowered during the 21st Century in our Nation is easily discovered by a committed searcher-seeker.

June 1, 1951.  Here is Senator Joe McCarthy revealing to us his paranoia as a style (or was he also truly paranoid).  The following comes from the Congressional Record: ‘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, a 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, when 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 this country’s interests.’

McCarthy was never able to present ‘facts’ to us or ‘evidence’ that this ‘deep state’ existed.  He simply fed the flames of fear, suspicion, rage/anger and hate.  Sound Familiar?

The Populist Party, 1895.  The leaders of this party signed a manifesto; here is an excerpt: ‘As early as 1865-1866 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 made use of to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country.’

This is another example of the fear of the ‘deep state’ that has been revived these past few years.  There were never any facts uncovered that supported the paranoia of the Populist Leaders.  But as we know, it is important to never let facts side-track a good story or belief.  The ‘fear of the deep state’ is another recurring theme of those who embrace paranoia as a style.  Sound Familiar?

From a Texas newspaper, 1855.  [To be continued…]

This is a do it yourself test for paranoia: you know you’ve got it when you can’t think of anything that’s your fault. –Robert M. Hutchins

Paranoia is just another name for ignorance. –Hunter S. Thompson

Good morning Gentle Reader.  I concluded PART I with a commitment to provide two examples of the ‘Style.’  I find them to be, mostly, non-controversial.  I am not sure, of course, how you will find them.

Example #1: Shortly after President Kennedy’s assassination Senator Dodd sponsored a bill that would tighten federal controls over the sale of firearms through the mail (the key word: tighten not eliminate).  Sound familiar?  Dodd’s committee held hearings in Washington, D.C.

Three men drove 2,500 miles to testify against it.  Now there were both rational and irrational arguments for and against Dodd’s Bill.  A number of arguments against support our topic; here is one of them.  One of the Arizonians opposed the Bill with what is representative of paranoid arguments.  This man insisted that the Bill was ‘a further attempt by a subversive power to make us part of one world socialistic government’ and that it threatened to ‘create chaos’ that would help ‘our enemies to seize power.’  Sound Familiar?

Example #2: This is an oldie but goodie.  There was – and at times continues to be – a movement against the fluoridation of municipal water supplies.  This has been a stimulant for all types of anit-fluoridians (there are, of course, other types of Anti-Floridians but this is not the forum for that topic).  This topic deeply touches those who have a fear-paranoia of being poisoned.  Now it is possible that at some point scientific research might find that fluoridation is harmful; but that day has not yet arrived.

In characteristic paranoid fashion the paranoids charged that fluoridation was an attempt to advance socialism (why is it always ‘socialism’ that is the demon) under the cloak of public health or fluoridation will rot out the brains of a community by introducing specific (yet unnamed) chemicals in the water supply in order to make people vulnerable to the socialist ideology.  Sound Familiar?

Consider then, Gentle Reader, that a distorted style is a tap root that feeds and nurtures and sustains distorted judgment.

I am interested in how we use political rhetoric to both support and uncover political pathology.  ‘Paranoia as a Style’ enables me to explore both.

One of the most impressive facts about this style is that it represents an old and recurrent mode of expression in our public life which continues to be linked to movements of suspicious ‘Be Afraid’ positions.  What intrigues me is that the content remains much the same even when it is adopted/adapted by people of distinctly different purposes.  Historically, this style came – and comes – in waves of different intensity and it appears (again given our history as a Nation) to be all but ineradicable.

I choose our history to illustrate this style in our politics because I was born into our history and because I continue to live in our history.  However, this style is not limited to our Nation.

Notions about an all-embracing conspiracy on the part of Jesuits or Freemasons, internationalists, Jews, Communists, Jihadists, and ‘immigrants’ are familiar phenomena in many countries of all types.

This style, however, has had – continues to have – great staying power in the modern and post-modern eras.  Again, it does not matter the country.  Even so, I will focus on our Nation (in this sense, Gentle Reader, I am a ‘Nationalist’ not an ‘Internationalist’).

For example…

As long as paranoia drives our political debate, there are unhinged souls who will feel justified in turning to violent remedies for imagined results. –David Horsey

 

A waning United States would likely be more nationalistic, more defensive about its national identity, more paranoid about its homeland security, and less willing to sacrifice resources for the sake of others’ development. –Zbigniew Brzezinski

Gentle reader, I have spent the past several months reflecting upon this topic.  I have decided this morning to put finger to key and write about what has emerged, and continues to emerge for me, as I hold and reflect upon this topic.  As I sit here this morning it feels as if it will take many posts in order to capture all that has emerged for me.  On the other hand. . .

Historically, American political life has been – and continues to be – an arena for angry and fear-full folks (at minimum these folks ‘act’ as if they are angry and ‘sell’ fear as a reality).  For the past 3+ years both of these have become most evident for the extreme right-wing.  The far-right has shown, particularly in the ‘Trump Movement,’ how much political leverage can become the fruit of the anger and fear of a minority.

Consider that within this movement there is a ‘style’ of mind that feeds, nurtures and sustains the anger and fear (by the by, Gentle Reader, historically, this has not always been the province of the far-right).  Consider that the ‘style’ is one of ‘paranoia.’

‘Paranoia.’  No other word adequately evokes the qualities of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasies that are the tap roots of ‘Trumpism.’  Before we continue, here are two definitions that I invite us to keep in mind during our exploration of ‘Paranoia as a Style.’

 Style: a particular, distinctive, or characteristic mode of action or manner of acting.  ‘Style’ has to do with the way in which ideas are communicated, advanced and believed rather than with the truth or falsity of the content.

Paranoia: a chronic mental disorder characterized by systematized delusions of persecution and one’s own greatness.

I am not writing about the clinical diagnosis called ‘Paranoia.’  I am borrowing the clinical term for it is the best term that describes the ‘style.’  The importance and power of the term, ‘Paranoia,’ is enhanced because it has become the ‘style’ of, more or less, normal people (professional clinicians will have to determine whether ‘Paranoia’ is a ‘style’ or a ‘syndrome’ when it comes to some of the folks who have embraced ‘Paranoia’).

Consider that ‘Paranoia as a Style’ involves a way of seeing the world and of expressing one’s self in the world.  In this ‘Style’ the feeling of being persecuted is central and it is captured in grandiose theories of conspiracy.

There is a vital difference between Paranoia as a ‘Style’ and as a ‘Symptom of a dis-ease’ – between the paranoid spokesperson in politics and the clinical paranoiac.  The clinical paranoid sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he/she is living as directed specifically against him/her.  The spokesperson who embraces paranoia as a style finds it directed against a ‘culture,’ a ‘way of life,’ and ‘our’ nation.

The person, or group, who embraces paranoia as a style wants us to believe that his/her/their political passions are, at minimum, unselfish and are rooted in deep patriotism.  This helps feed the fires of their intensity when it comes to feeling ‘self-righteous’ and when it comes to fueling their moral indignation.

I am well aware that my use of ‘paranoia as a style’ is, itself, inflammatory.  I mean it to be so for this style has a greater affinity for ensuring bad things will happen rather than that good things will happen (think: Today we are more divided as a nation than ever before and those who embrace this style continue to stokes the fires of anger (if not rage), fear and conflict).

An example or two – hopefully they are non-controversial – may make this a bit clearer (then again…).

It’s amazing where the paranoid mind can take you. –Bill Ayers