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The Paranoid Style in American Politics:

Rocky Mountain News columnist (and University of Colorado law professor) Paul Campos used the famous essay by historian Richard Hofstadter as the template for a column last Wednesday, criticizing Republicans. In my media analysis column for the News on Saturday, I suggested that--at least based on the evidence within Campos's column--"the paranoid style" was more accurate as a description of Campos's own approach.

talboito (mail) (www):
We can all be grateful that you've taken the time to be such a wonderful exemplar of Campos' point.
10.20.2008 3:29am
Asher (mail):
Uh, you don't think that that fellow who said that Obama's memoir was really written by Ayers is a fantastic example of what Hofstadter was talking about? Or what about that loony-bin Hannity special that aired a week or so ago, where he had this nutty anti-Semite spilling the beans on how community organizing is really terrorist work and how an Obama administration will make America look a lot like Chavez's Venezuela? Campos's column isn't very good, but he is right.
10.20.2008 3:47am
Dan M.:
You mean it's paranoid to suspect that a politician might use a ghost writer to write a book for him to help further his political career? Gee, John Kennedy won a Pulitzer for a book that he didn't write, didn't he? I don't see what's so far-fetched about investigating whether or not Obama actually wrote his book. If he hadn't lied about his relationship with Ayers to begin with people wouldn't have to try to dig this stuff up.
10.20.2008 4:02am
A. Zarkov (mail):
The paranoid style.

Suppose someone said in early 2008 said that in the coming year the US would suffer a major financial crisis with more than a million mortgages in default? And he also predicted a major banking crisis with hundreds of banks and mortgage companies failing including almost all the major investment banks. He might also have said that the crisis would spread through the world, raising the specter of another Great Depression.

Just imagine the name calling: paranoid, scare monger, tinfoil hat, loony, nutty, off the wall, etc.

Careful guys reality has a way out running ahead of you.
10.20.2008 4:06am
Angus:
Dan M.,
It's one thing to speculate that Obama might have had a ghost writer. But the meme on right wing websites is that Obama definitely had a ghost writer, and that it was 100% certain that it was Ayers.
10.20.2008 6:18am
Michael B (mail):
Asher,

You're throwing out the baby with the bathwater. And if you'd like other examples, how's That Was Then, This is Now sound? Excerpt, emphases added:

"... Obama downplayed and seemed unconcerned with the less than legalistic protocols of ACORN, which he has helped in person and purse—surprised because in the 1996 state primary race in Illinois, Obama sued all of his Democratic rivals on allegations that their qualifying petitions were null and void due to faulty signups of mostly African-American voters. He succeeded then in throwing out all their petitions, eliminated all his rivals, and then ran unopposed on his way to an easy victory in the general election. In 2004, his Senate Democratic rival mysteriously had his sealed divorce records leaked ..."

There's an abundance of additional examples that can readily be offered. Or, there's another option. Like a mantra, repeat the following lines until all contrary thoughts are vanquished from your mind, eliminate any negatives, think only good and positive things and repeat as often as is necessary:

Hope
CBS
Change
NBC
O
ba
ma
Hope
CNN
Change
ABC
O
ba
ma
10.20.2008 7:28am
PersonFromPorlock:

...the meme on right wing websites is that Obama definitely had a ghost writer, and that it was 100% certain that it was Ayers.

I go to a lot of right-wing web sites, including FreeRepublic, and I haven't run across that one. Not saying it's not there, it may well be, but it's hardly ubiquitous.
10.20.2008 7:31am
paul lukasiak (mail):
Uh, you don't think that that fellow who said that Obama's memoir was really written by Ayers is a fantastic example of what Hofstadter was talking about?....

uh, the column was not a takedown of Hofstadter, it was a takedown of Campos, whose column suggested that the McCain campaign reflected Hofstadter's "paranoid style".

Does anyone else think that "The Paranoid Style of American Media" would make a good column? As DK notes, Campos is an exemplar of that style -- and the campaign coverage of both Clinton and McCain reflect aspects of paranoia (especially in the way the media hyper-scrutinized every word and action of the Clinton campaign for "hidden" motives and meanings.)

As to the whole "Obama is a radical" thing -- while its a possibility, a far more likely explanation of his early political career is that Obama has no political convictions whatsoever -- he's simply an opportunist. Associating with Wright gave Obama credibility among African Americans on Chicago's South Side, and his association with Ayres provided Obama access to the white power and money elite in Chicago and the Daley machine. (People forget that the whole Annenberg Challenge thing was about the struggle between the Daley machine and the Board of Education over control of the city's schools. Ayres backed Daley, and brought in Obama to help in the Daley machines effort to disempower the School Board.)
10.20.2008 7:49am
corneille1640 (mail):

-at least based on the evidence within Campos's column--"the paranoid style" was more accurate as a description of Campos's own approach.

Mr. Kopel: I realize you're basing your assertion on the evidence in Mr. Campos's column, but isn't it possible that both the right AND Campos succumb to a "paranoid style" now and then? It doesn't strike me as an "either/or" proposition; and yes, I realize Mr. Campos appears to make the same mistake.
10.20.2008 8:16am
Hoosier:
I've been touting Hofstadter's column for several years, including once or twice on VC. Hofstadter associated the "style" with the right. No surprise back then.

The real "paranoid style," at least the paranoia that is the most extreme and loopy, focuses on the old hobgoblin, "The International Conspiracy." It's Jews, Jesuits, bankers, and the CFR. Zionists all.

And they perpetrated 9/11!!!!

For good examples: Go to Youtube, and check out any of the 9/11 Kinspirasee Theoree videos. But be SURE to look at the comments. It's sick, sick, sick.

These people are on the far left and far right. Mostly, they are just creepy "populists" who think it's always "Us versus Them." ("Them" speaking, disproportionately, Hebrew, of course). Many are big-time Ron Paul supporters, wo seem to have missed the fact that Paul doesn't think 9/11 was a Guvmint Kinspirasee.

It isn't a right-left issue. It's a sane-insane issue.
10.20.2008 8:47am
Hoosier:
column=essay
10.20.2008 8:48am
corneille1640 (mail):

It isn't a right-left issue. It's a sane-insane issue.

I think Hofstadter would disagree with the sane-insane distinction. His premise is that sane people engage in this style of politics: they either know what they're doing, or they should know what they're doing and are purposely closing themselves to contrary explanations.
10.20.2008 8:52am
RPT (mail):
The best argument is that Obama is a radical because he conceals his radicalism and does not act or profess beliefs like one. It is irrefutable. Each act of non-radicalism is further proof.
10.20.2008 8:54am
Donny:
Both columns represent the very sick state of the nation's politics. The angry tone and oozing bias in your media criticism column is every bit as ironic as his paranoid column about paranoid politics.

Unlike Campos, your modus operandi is reflected in your candidate and your party's goals and methods. You desperately need a few years of self-reflection, though I doubt they will be used in that way.
10.20.2008 10:33am
Hoosier:
Donny: your modus operandi is reflected in your candidate and your party's goals and methods.

Do you mean to suggest that the other party and candidate are not equaly to blame?

(By the way, tell Marie I say "Hi".)
10.20.2008 10:51am
Sarcastro (www):
It's not me that's paranoid when I say if the other guy's elected it means the end of America because what I say is true!

It's the other guy's folks! They're stone crazy! And they may get elected! Auuugh!

*pant* *pant*
10.20.2008 10:59am
Donny:
If you're referring to the general state of political discourse, I agree that there's plenty of blame to go around. Indeed, we have ourselves (in the generic sense) to blame just as much as political elites.

But on this specific point, I was merely suggesting that while McCain tends to reflect Mr. Kopel's unfortunate style, Obama does not reflect Campos'.
10.20.2008 11:01am
Hoosier:
Sarcastro--Are you serious? 'Cause it seems like you might be being . . . what's the word? . . . "sardonic." Or something.
10.20.2008 11:51am
Sarcastro (www):
Hoosier Stop being paranoid! Of course, you have that luxury since the jack booted thugs won't be knocking on YOUR door when your guy gets elected.

But I can't afford that kind of craziness - I need all my energy to prepare my compound for the coming Muslim theocracy!
10.20.2008 11:57am
Sarcastro (www):
10.20.2008 11:59am
Hoosier:
Sarcastro--All of this is a distraction from the reall threat. You know, the one the government is trying to keep from us:

www.fvza.org/
10.20.2008 12:03pm
Sarcastro (www):
Hoosier Oh, I know all about those guys! They're in on it too!
10.20.2008 12:05pm
Al (mail):

But the meme on right wing websites is that Obama definitely had a ghost writer, and that it was 100% certain that it was Ayers.


Angus, you are simply making things up. The guy who first raised the issue of Ayers and Obama's book has gone to great lengths to repeatedly stress the speculative nature of his claims. I'm sure some random commenters might have stated this as fact, but it is certainly not "the meme" on right wing websites, as you surely know.
10.20.2008 12:08pm
MarkField (mail):

I go to a lot of right-wing web sites, including FreeRepublic, and I haven't run across that one. Not saying it's not there, it may well be, but it's hardly ubiquitous.


I've seen it asserted here as definitively true, though obviously not by anyone sane.
10.20.2008 12:13pm
PC:
I prefer Andy McCarthy's take about Ayers as Obama's ghostwriter.
10.20.2008 12:24pm
Angus:
The guy who first raised the issue of Ayers and Obama's book has gone to great lengths to repeatedly stress the speculative nature of his claims.
Actually, no he hasn't. He's written six articles on the subject and no longer raises any doubts about Ayers writing Obama's book. You can also find the same thing extensively in comments on Michelle Malkin, Hot Air, etc.
10.20.2008 12:34pm
Helene Edwards (mail):
@Asher

Just the other day Steve Sailer specifically said it was ridiculous to consider Ayers the author. You need to get around more.
10.20.2008 1:32pm
Helene Edwards (mail):
@Asher

Just the other day Steve Sailer specifically said it was ridiculous to consider Ayers the author. You need to get around more.
10.20.2008 1:32pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
There are plenty paranoid lefties, but they are not running the government--and never will. But the crazies far to the Right of Goldwater are now at the helm at the Republican Party. Anyone can accuse those who disagree with him of being paranoid--but is there a match for the likes of Michelle Bachmann? Or, perhaps, one can find a Democratic Senator or even a spokesperson who talks about John McCain being "un-American" or "anti-American", or proclaiming that parts of Virginia that don't vote reliably Democrat not to be "real Virginia", or stating that large-city dwellers are "patriotic Americans" and the rural voters are "un-American".

If the contrast is between Sharpton and Bachman, it's not even a close call--Sharpton is a buffoon and the fringe even in the Democratic Party (he is comparable to David Duke, perhaps), while Bachmann is not only a Republican Rep from Minnesota, but is a prominent McCain/Palin surrogate. The "real Virginia" comment was made on national TV by the official McCain campaign spokeswoman. This is not paranoia--they really made these comments.

I have never hidden my dislike of Kopel. Kopel is by far the least capable of the VC bloggers. But here he seems to outdo himself once again. In a case of pot calling the kettle black, he attempts to paint Campos with the very brush that Campos used. It doesn't work. For one, Kopel claims that the shouts of "kill him" at McCain rallies were a singular anecdotal occurrence, "debunked" by the Secret Service. That's ridiculous. The "terrorist", "kill him", "bomb Obama" and "He's an Arab" comments are all on tape. The Secret Service "debunking" referred to yet another case of alleged "kill him" shout that they interpreted as "tell him"--a nonsensical interpretation in the context in which it was uttered. To make matters worse, Secret Service has been preventing reporters from interviewing members of the audience at the rallies, preventing them from finding out exactly who said what and why.

But even if we skip the paranoid rants of this nature, there is still the overt racism of the Obama monkey, the "Obama buck" complete with a watermelon, Kool-Aid, ribs and fried chicken, the "Waterboard Obama" poster, and another poster with Obama and the noose. It's a bit harder to ignore that evidence--can't misread it as saying "tell him".
10.20.2008 3:35pm
Bruce Hayden (mail) (www):
Frankly, I think that Campos is an embarrassment to the CU law school, if that is possible from the university that granted Ward Churchill tenure. This is just the tip of the iceberg as to his reasoning ability. What scares me a bit is that he is actually paid by the state to teach legal reasoning to aspiring lawyers (as much as any law school prof does so).
10.20.2008 3:36pm
byomtov (mail):
Just the other day Steve Sailer specifically said it was ridiculous to consider Ayers the author. You need to get around more.

So because one guy says it's ridiculous, that absolves all the other nut cases pushing the idea?
10.20.2008 3:55pm
David Warner:
As for relative paranoia, consider for a minute who has all the guns.
10.20.2008 3:57pm
byomtov (mail):
But even if we skip the paranoid rants of this nature, there is still the overt racism of the Obama monkey, the "Obama buck" complete with a watermelon, Kool-Aid, ribs and fried chicken, the "Waterboard Obama" poster, and another poster with Obama and the noose. It's a bit harder to ignore that evidence--can't misread it as saying "tell him".

Let's not overlook tire-slashing at Obama rallies, and Fox News giving a platform to a lunatic who claims Obama had secret terrorist training.

The haters are out in force, and despite McCain's claims to the contrary, his campaign is not only not responding, it's stoking the flames, playing to anger and fear.
10.20.2008 4:24pm
Steven Maloney (mail) (www):
A case in point of the paranoid style on BOTH sides in American politics, I submit to you the post on this blog about the College Republicans Top 10 list. I am not a Republican, I favor gun control, but I fail to see how that story is anything but University Administrators overstepping their authority. And yet, the comments section is convinced that the actions of the Administrator's are just as ominous a sign of national ruin as the Administrators thought the top ten list was. Both are excessively paranoid. The only thing I'm puzzled over is how people could be at such a fever pitch that I have even heard of this story.
10.20.2008 4:31pm
Asher (mail):
You mean it's paranoid to suspect that a politician might use a ghost writer to write a book for him to help further his political career?

Very possible indeed, but to say that the ghostwriter could've been Ayers because both he and Obama use ship metaphors is beyond absurd.
10.20.2008 5:23pm
astrangerwithcandy (mail):

There are plenty paranoid lefties, but they are not running the government--and never will.



hmmm


as sarcastro says:

It's the other guy's folks! They're stone crazy! And they may get elected! Auuugh!

*pant* *pant*
10.20.2008 9:15pm
Buck Turgidson (mail):
astrangerwithcandy (sounds like a child-molesting pervert--was that a deliberate choice?):

If you think Biden is the "far Left", you must be an idiot. This is the same guy who is well greased by the credit-card industry, a lawyer from a state that is known for its corporate-law culture. He seems "liberal" by comparison simply because the Republicans we've become accustomed to are so far gone to the Right. Goldwater, who has been considered the most extremist right-wing presidential candidate for a long time would consider these guys radical kooks. Nixon, with all the red-scare paranoia, was moderate next to the Cheneys and Defending Civilization. Consider another thing--in the 1960s, the Republicans effectively banned the John Birch Society from the leadership because they were too extremist. Guess who used to be a member more recently! (Hint: She thinks non-Republicans are not Real Americans.)
10.21.2008 1:23am