Sunday, November 01, 2009

'Uncommonly angry minds'

Not to run the whole War On Fox thing into the ground or anything, but -- if Fox News Senior Vice President Michael Clemente is so amazed that people can't tell opinion programs from news programs, it may be because he hasn't noticed how big a news story a lone interview with Rush Limbaugh is over at Fox.

At right, you'll find its play from this evening, followed by early afternoon, then Sunday morning and Saturday. You'd think we could be forgiven for assuming that unhinged commentary is more or less indistinguishable from news on Planet Fox.

Which brings us to this weekend's version of Stuff I Should Have Read 30 Years Ago But Am Just Now Getting To: Richard Hofstadter's essay "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." A couple of choice excerpts:

Although American political life has rarely been touched by the most acute varieties of class conflict, it has served again and again as an arena for uncommonly angry minds. Today this fact is most evident on the extreme right wing, which has shown, particularly in the Goldwater movement, how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. Behind such movements there is a style of mind, not always right-wing in its affiliations, that has a long and varied history. I call it the paranoid style simply because no other word adequately evokes the qualities of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy that I have in mind.

... There is a vital difference between the paranoid spokesman in politics and the clinical paranoiac: although they both tend to be overheated, oversuspicious, overaggressive, grandiose, and apocalyptic in expression, the clinical paranoid sees the hostile and conspiratorial world in which he feels himself to be living as directed specifically against him, whereas the spokesman of the paranoid style finds it directed against a nation, a culture, a way of life whose fate affects not himself alone but millions of others.

More later. Time to go wish suffering and woe on the Yankees, which isn't working out too well so far.


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