Hofstadter - Paranoid Style American Politics

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    The Paranoid Style in

    American Politicsby Richard Hoistadter

    It had been around a long time beforethe Radical Right discovered it-and its targets have ranged from "the in-

    ternational bankers" to Masons, J esu-its, and munitions makers.

    A merican politics has often been an arena for"angry minds: In recent years we have seen angryminds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in theGoldwater movement how much political leveragecan be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. But behind this I believe thereis a style of mind that is far from new andthat is not necessarily right-wing. I call it theparanoid style simply because no other wordadequately evokes the sense of heated exagger-ation, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasythat I have in mind. In using the expression"paranoid style" I am not speaking in a clinicalsense, but borrowing a clinical term for otherpurposes. I have neither the competence nor thedesire to classify any figures of the past orpresent as certifiable lunatics. In fact, the ideaof the paranoid style as a force in politics would

    have little contemporary relevance or historicalvalue if it were applied only to men with pro-foundly disturbed minds. It is the use of par-anoid 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 greateraffinity for bad causes than good. But nothing

    really prevents a sound program or demand frombeing advocated in the paranoid style. Style hasmore to do with the way in which ideas arebelieved and advocated than with the truth orfalsity of their content. I am interested herein getting at our political psychology throughour political rhetoric. The paranoid style is anold and recurrent phenomenon in our public lifewhich has been frequently linked with movementsof suspicious discontent.

    Here is Senator McCarthy, speaking in June1951 about the parlous situation of the UnitedStates:

    How can we account for our present situ-ation unless we believe that men high in thisgovernment are concerting to deliver us todisaster? This must be the product of a greatconspiracy 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 shallbe forever deserving of the maledictions of all honest men:' ... What can be made of thisunbroken series of decisions and acts con-

    tributing to the strategy of defeat? Theycannot be attributed to incompetence .... Thelaws of probability would dictate that partof ... [the] decisions would serve the coun-try's interest.

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    Now turn back fifty years to a manifestosigned in 1895 by a number of leaders of thePopulist party:

    As early as 1865-66 a conspiracy was enteredinto between the gold gamblers of Europe andAmerica .... For nearly thirty years these

    conspirators have kept the people quarrelingover less important matters while they havepursued with unrelenting zeal their one centralpurpose .... Every device of treachery, everyresource of statecraft, and every artifice knownto the secret cabals of the international goldring are being used to deal a blow to the pros-perity of the people and the financial and com-mercial independence of the country.

    Next, a Texas newspaper article of 1855:

    ... It is a notorious fact that the Monarchsof Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this

    very moment plotting our destruction andthreatening the extinction of our political, civil,and religious institutions. We have the bestreasons for believing that corruption has foundits way into our Executive Chamber, and thatour Executive head is tainted with the infec-tious venom of Catholicism .... The Pope hasrecently sent his ambassador of state to thiscountry on a secret commission, the effect of which is an extraordinary boldness of the Cath-olic Church throughout the United States.. . . These minions of the Pope are boldlyinsulting our Senators; reprimanding ourStatesmen; propagating the adulterous union

    of Church and State; abusing with foulcalumny all governments but Catholic; andspewing out the bitterest execrations on allProtestantism. The Catholics in the UnitedStates receive from abroad more than $200,000annually for the propagation of their creed.Add to this the vast revenue collected here. . ..

    These quotations give the keynote of the style.In the history of the United States one findsit, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement,the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in cer-tain spokesmen of abolitionism who regardedthe United States as being in the grip of aslaveholders' conspiracy, in many alarmists aboutthe Mormons, in some Greenback and Populistwriters who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of amunitions makers' conspiracy of 'World War I, inthe popular left-wing press, in the contemporary

    Richard Hoistadter is DeWitt Clinton Professor of American History at Columbia University. Hislatest book, "Anti-intellectualism in American Life," was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction earlier this yea,'. This essay is adapted [rom. the Herbert Spencer Lecture delivered at Oxford University in November 1963.

    American right wing, and on both sides of therace controversy today, among White Citizens'Councils and Black Muslims. I do not propose totry to trace the variations of the paranoid stylethat can be found in all these movements, butwill confine myself to a few leading episodes in

    our past history in which the style emerged infull and archetypal splendor.

    Illuminism and Masonry

    I begin with a particularly revealing episode-the panic that broke out in some quarters atthe end of the eighteenth century over theallegedly subversive activities of the BavarianIlluminati. This panic was a part of the generalreaction to the French Revolution. In the UnitedStates it was heightened by the response of certain men, mostly in New England and amongthe established clergy, to the rise of Jeffersoniandemocracy. Illuminism had been started in 1776by Adam Weishaupt, a professor of law at theUniversity of Ingolstadt .. Its teachings todayseem to be no more than another version of En-lightenment rationalism, spiced with the anticler-ical atmosphere of eighteenth-century Bavaria.It was a somewhat naive and utopian movementwhich aspired ultimately to bring the human race

    under the rules of reason. Its humanitarian ra-tionalism appears to have acquired a fairly wideinfluence in Masonic lodges.

    Americans first learned of Illuminism in 1797,from a volume published in Edinburgh (later re-printed in New York) under the title, Proojs of a Conspiracy Against All the Religions and Gov-ernments of Europe, Carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free Masons, Illuminati, and Read-ing Societies. Its author was a well-knownScottish scientist, John Robison, who had him-self been a somewhat casual adherent of Masonryin Britain, but whose imagination had been in-flamed by what he considered to be the far lessinnocent Masonic movement on the Continent.Robison seems to have made his work as factualas he could, but when he came to estimating themoral character and the political influence of Illuminism, he made the characteristic paranoidleap into fantasy. The association, he thought,was formed "for the express purpose of ROOTINGOUT ALL RELIGIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS, AND OVER-


    EUROPE." It had become "one great and wickedproject fermenting and working all over Europe,"and to it he attributed a central role in bringingabout the French Revolution. He saw it as a

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    libertine, anti-Christian movement, given to thecorruption of women, the cultivation of sensualpleasures, and the violation of property rights.Its members had plans for making a tea thatcaused abortion-a secret substance that "blindsor kills when spurted in the face," and a device

    that sounds like a stench bomb-a "method forfilling a bedchamber with pestilential vapours."

    These notions were quick to make themselvesfelt in America. In May 1798, a minister of theMassachusetts Congregational establishment inBoston, Jedidiah Morse, delivered a timely sermonto the young country, which was then sharplydivided between Jeffersonians and Federalists,Francophiles and Anglomen. Having read Robi-son, Morse was convinced that the United Statestoo was the victim of a Jacobinical plot touchedoff by Illuminism, and that the country should berallied to defend itself. His warnings wereheeded throughout New England wherever Fed-eralists brooded about the rising tide of religiousinfidelity or Jeffersonian democracy. TimothyDwight, the president of Yale, followed Morse'ssermon with a Fourth-of-July discourse on The Duty of Americans in the Present Crisis, in whichhe held forth against the Antichrist in his ownglowing rhetoric. Soon the pulpits of New Eng-land were ringing with denunciations of theIlluminati, as though the country were swarming

    with them.The anti-Masonic movement of the late 1820s

    and the 1830s took up and extended the obsessionwith conspiracy. At first, this movement mayseem to be no more than an extension or repeti-tion of the anti-Masonic theme sounded in the out-cry against the Bavarian Illuminati. But whereasthe panic of the 1790s was confined mainly toNew England and linked to an ultraconservativepoint of view, the later anti-Masonic movementaffected many parts of the northern UnitedStates, and was intimately linked with populardemocracy and rural egalitarianism. Althoughanti-Masonry happened to be anti-Jacksonian(Jackson was a Mason), it manifested the same

    animus against the closure of opportunity for thecommon man and against aristocratic institutionsthat one finds in the Jacksonian crusade againstthe Bank of the United States.

    The anti-Masonic movement was a product notmerely of natural enthusiasm but also of thevicissitudes of party politics. It was joined andused by a great many men who did not fully

    share its original anti-Masonic feelings. It at-tracted the support of several reputable states-men who had only mild sympathy with itsfundamental bias, but who as politicians could not

    by Richard Hofstadter 79

    afford to ignore it. Still, it was a folk movementof considerable power, and the rural enthusiastswho provided its real impetus believed in itwholeheartedly.

    As a secret society, Masonry was considered tobe a standing conspiracy against republican

    government. It was held to be particularly liableto treason-for example, Aaron Burr's famousconspiracy was alleged to have been conductedby Masons. Masonry was accused of constitutinga separate system of loyalty, a separate imperiumwithin the framework of federal and state govern-ments, which was inconsistent with loyalty tothem. Quite plausibly it was argued that theMasons 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 betweensecrecy and democracy that other, more innocentsocieties such as Phi Beta Kappa came underattack.

    Since Masons were pledged to come to eachother's aid under circumstances of distress, andto extend fraternal indulgence at all times, it washeld that the order nullified the enforcement of regular law. Masonic constables, sheriffs, juries,and judges must all be in league with Masoniccriminals and fugitives. The press was believedto have been so "muzzled" by Masonic editors

    and proprietors that news of Masonic malfeasancecould be suppressed. At a moment when almostevery alleged citadel of privilege in America wasunder democratic assault, Masonry was attackedas a fraternity of the privileged, closing businessopportunities and nearly monopolizing politicaloffices.

    Certain elements of truth and reality there mayhave been in these views of Masonry. What mustbe emphasized here, however, is the apocalypticand absolutistic framework in which this hostilitywas commonly expressed. Anti-Masons were notcontent simply to say that secret societies wererather a bad idea. The author of the standardexposition of anti-Masonry declared that Free-masonry was "not only the most abominable butalso the most dangerous institution that ever wasimposed on man .... It may truly be said to beHELL'S MASTER PIECE."

    The Jesuit Threat

    F ear of a Masonic plot had hardly been quietedwhen the rumors arose of a Catholic plot againstAmerican values. One meets here again the sameframe of mind, but a different villain. The anti-

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    The Paranoid Style in Action

    The John Birch Society is attemptingto suppress a television series about theUnited Nations by means of a massletter-writing campaign to the spon-

    sor, ... The Xerox Corporation. Thecorporation, however, intends to goahead with the programs. . . .

    The July issue of the John Birch So-ciety Bulletin ... said an "avalancheof mail ought to convince them of theunwisdom of their proposed aetion- just as United Air Lines was persuadedto back down and take the U.N. in-signia off their planes." (A United AirLines spokesman confirmed that theU.N. emblem was removed from itsplanes, following "considerable publicreaction against it.")

    Birch official John Rousselot said,... "We hate to see a corporation of this country promote the U.N. whenwe know that it is an instrument of theSoviet Communist conspiracy."

    -San Francisco Chronicle, July 31,1964

    Catholic movement converged with a growingnativism, and while they were not identical, to-gether they cut such a wide swath in Americanlife that they were bound to embrace manymoderates to whom the paranoid style, in its fullglory, did not appeal. Moreover, we need not dis-miss out of hand as totally parochial or mean-spirited the desire of Yankee Americans to main-tain an ethnically and religiously homogeneoussociety nor the particular Protestant commit-ments to individualism and freedom that werebrought into play. But the movement had a largeparanoid infusion, and the most influential anti-Catholic militants certainly had a strong affinityfor the paranoid style.

    Two books which appeared in 1835 describedthe new danger to the American way of life andmay be taken as expressions of the anti-Catholicmentality. One, Foreign Conspimcies against the Liberties of the United States, was from the handof the celebrated painter and inventor of thetelegraph, S. F. B. Morse. "A co'nspiracy exists,"

    Morse proclaimed, and "its plans are already inoperation . . . we are attacked in a vulnerablequarter which cannot be defended by our ships,our forts, or our armies." The main source of the

    conspiracy Morse found in Metternich's govern-ment: "Austria is now acting in this countrlJ. Shehas devised a grand scheme. She has organized agreat plan for doing something here .... She hasher Jesuit missionaries traveling through theland; she has supplied them with money, and

    has furnished a fountain for a regular supply."Were the plot successful, Morse said, some scionof the House of Hapsburg would soon be installedas Emperor of the United States.

    "It is an ascertained fact," wrote anotherProtestant militant,

    that Jesuits are prowling about all parts of theUnited States in every possible disguise, ex-pressly to ascertain the advantageous situationsand modes to disseminate Popery. A ministerof the Gospel from Ohio has informed us thathe discovered one carrying on his devices in

    his congregation; and he says that the westerncountry swarms with them under the name of puppet show men, dancing masters, musicteachers, peddlers of images and ornaments,barrel organ players, and similar practitioners.

    Lyman Beecher, the elder of a famous familyand the father of Harriet Beecher Stowe, wrotein the same year his Plea for the West, in whichhe considered the possibility that the Christianmillennium might come in the American states.Everything depended, in his judgment, uponwhat influences dominated the great West, where

    the future of the country lay. There Protestant-ism was engaged in a life-or-death struggle withCatholicism. "Whatever we do, it must be donequickly .... " A great tide of immigration, hostileto free institutions, was sweeping in upon thecountry, subsidized and sent by "the potentatesof Europe," multiplying tumult and violence,filling jails, crowding poorhouses, quadruplingtaxation, and sending increasing thousands of

    . voters to "lay their inexperienced hand upon thehelm of our power."

    Anti-Catholicism has always been the pornog-raphy of the Puritan. Whereas the anti-Masonshad envisaged drinking bouts and had entertainedthemselves with sado-masochistic fantasies aboutthe actual enforcement of grisly Masonic oaths,"the anti-Catholics invented an immense loreabout libertine priests, the confessional as anopportunity for seduction, licentious convents andmonasteries. Probably the most widely read con-temporary book in the United States before Uncle

    "Many anti-Masons had been fascinated by thepenalties invoked if Masons failed to live up totheir obligations. My own favorite is the oathattributed to a royal archmason who invited "havingmy skull smote off, and my brains exposed to thescorching rays of the sun."

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    Tom's Cabin was a work supposedly written byone Maria Monk, entitled Awful Disclosures,which appeared in 1836. The author, who pur-ported to have escaped from the Hotel Dieununnery in Montreal after five years there asnovice and nun, reported her convent life in elab-orate and circumstantial detail. She reportedhaving been told by the Mother Superior that shemust "obey the priests in all things"; to her"utter astonishment and horror," she soon foundwhat the nature of such obedience was. Infantsborn of convent liaisons were baptized and thenkilled, she said, so that they might ascend at onceto heaven. Her book, hotly attacked and defended,continued to be read and believed even after hermother gave testimony that Maria had been some-what addled ever since childhood after she had

    rammed a pencil into her head. Maria died inprison in 1849, after having been arrested in abrothel as a pickpocket.

    Anti-Catholicism, like anti-Masonry, mixed itsfortunes with American party politics, and itbecame an enduring factor in American politics.The American Protective Association of the 1890srevived it with ideological variations more suit-able to the times-the depression of 1893, forexample, was alleged to be an intentional creationof the Catholics who began it by starting a run

    on the banks. Some spokesmen of the movementcirculated a bogus encyclical attributed to LeoXIII instructing American Catholics on a certaindate in 1893 to exterminate all heretics, and agreat many anti-Catholics daily expected anationwide uprising. The myth of an impendingCatholic war of mutilation and extermination of heretics persisted into the twentieth century.

    Why They Feel Dispossessed

    I f, after our historically discontinuous ex-amples of the paranoid style, we now take thelong jump to the contemporary right wing, wefind some rather important differences from thenineteenth-century movements. The spokesmen of those earlier ovements felt that they stood forcauses and personal types that were still inpossession of t eir country-that they were fend-ing off threats to a still established way of life.But the modern right wing, as Daniel Bell hasput it, feels dispossessed: America has been

    largely taken away from them and their kind,though they are determined to try to repossessit and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have al-ready been eaten away by cosmopolitans and.


    by Richard Hojstadter 81intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism hasbeen gradually undermined .by socialist andcommunist schemers; the old national securityand independence have been destroyed by trea-sonous plots, having as their most powerfulagents not merely outsiders and foreigners as of

    old but major statesmen who are at the verycenters of American power. Their predecessorshad discovered conspiracies; the modern radicalright finds conspiracy to be betrayal from onhigh.

    Important changes may also be traced to theeffects of the mass media. The villains of themodern right 'are much more vivid than those of their paranoid predecessors, much better knownto the public; the literature of the paranoidstyle is by the same token richer and more cir-

    cumstantial in personal description and personalinvective. For the vaguely delineated villains of the anti-Masons, for the obscure and disguisedJesuit agents, the little-known papal delegatesof the anti-Catholics, for the shadowy interna-tional bankers of the monetary conspiracies, wemay now substitute eminent public figures likePresidents Roosevelt, Truman, and Eisenhower,Secretaries of State like Marshall, Acheson, andDulles, Justices of the Supreme Court like Frank-furter and Warren, and the whole battery of lesser but still famous and vivid alleged conspira-tors headed by Alger Hiss.

    Events since 1939 have given the contemporaryright-wing paranoid a vast theatre for his imagi-nation, full of rich and proliferating detail, repletewith realistic cues and undeniable proofs of thevalidity of his suspicions. The theatre of actionis now the entire world, and he can draw not onlyon the events of World War II, but also on thoseof the KoreahWar and the Cold War. Any his-torian of warfare knows it is in good part acomedy of errors and a museum of incompetence;

    but if for every error and every act of incom-petence one can substitute an act of treason,many points of fascinating interpretation areopen to the paranoid imagination. In the end,the real mystery, for one who reads the primaryworks of paranoid scholarship, is not how theUnited States has been brought to its presentdangerous position but how it has managed to

    survive at all.The basic elements of contemporary right-wing

    thought can be reduced to three: First, there

    has been the now-familiar sustained conspiracy,running over more than a generation, and reach-ing its climax in Roosevelt's New Deal, to under-mine"free capitalism, to bring the economy underthe direction of the federal government, and to

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    pave the way for socialism or communism. A greatmany right-wingers would agree with Frank Chodorov, the author of The Income Tax: TheRoot of All Evil, that this campaign began withthe passage of the income-tax amendment to theConstitution in 1913.

    The second contention is that top governmentofficialdom has been so infiltrated by Communiststhat American policy, at least since the daysleading up to Pearl Harbor, has been dominatedby men who were shrewdly and consistently sell-ing out American national interests.

    Finally, the country is infused with a network of Communist agents, just as in the old days itwas infiltrated by Jesuit agents, so that the wholeapparatus of education, religion, the press, andthe mass media is engaged in a common effort toparalyze the resistance of loyal Americans.

    Perhaps the most representative document of the McCarthyist phase was a long indictment of Secretary of State George C. Marshall, deliveredin 1951 in the Senate by Senator McCarthy, andlater published in a somewhat different form.McCarthy pictured Marshall as the focal figure ina betrayal of American interests stretching intime from the strategic plans for World War IIto the formulation of the Marshall Plan. Marshallwas associated with practically every Americanfailure or defeat, McCarthy insisted, and none

    of this was either accident or incompetence.There was a "baffling pattern" of Marshall's in-terventions in the war, which always conduced tothe well-being of the Kremlin. The sharp declinein America's relative strength from 1945 to 1951did not "just happen"; it was "brought about,step by step, by will and intention," the con-sequence not of mistakes but of a treasonousconspiracy, "a conspiracy on a scale so immenseas to dwarf any previous such venture in thehistory of man."

    Today, the mantle of McCarthy has fallen on

    a retired candy manufacturer, Robert H. Welch,Jr., who is less strategically placed and has amuch smaller but better organized following thanthe Senator. A few years ago Welch proclaimedthat "Communist influences are now in almostcomplete control of our government"-note thecare and scrupulousness of that "almost." He hasoffered a full scale interpretation of our recenthistory in which Communists figure at everyturn: They started a run on American banks in1933 that forced their closure; they contrived the

    recognition of the Soviet Union by the UnitedStates in the same year, just in time to save theSoviets from economic collapse; they have stirredup the fuss over segregation in the South; they

    have taken over the Supreme Court and made it"one of the most important agencies of Com-munism."

    Close attention to history wins for Mr. Welchan insight into affairs that is given to few of us. "For many reasons and after a lot of study,"

    he wrote some years ago, "I personally believe[John Foster] Dulles to be a Communist agent."The job of Professor Arthur F. Burns as head of Eisenhower's Council of Economic Advisers was"merely a cover-up for Burns's liaison work be-

    o tween Eisenhower and some of his Communistbosses." Eisenhower's brother Milton was "actu-ally [his] superior and boss within the Commu-nist party." As for Eisenhower himself, Welchcharacterized him, in words that have made thecandy manufacturer famous, as "a dedicated,conscious agent of the Communist conspiracy"-a

    conclusion, he added, "based on an accumulationof detailed evidence so extensive and so palpablethat it seems to put this conviction beyond anyreasonable doubt."

    Emulating the Enemy

    T he paranoid spokesman sees the fate of con-spiracy in apocalyptic terms-he traffics in thebirth and death of whole worlds, whole political

    orders, whole systems of human values. He isalways manning the barricades of civilization.He constantly lives at a turning point. Likereligious millennialists he expresses the anxietyof those who are living through the last daysand he is sometimes disposed to set a date forthe apocalypse. ("Time is running out," saidWelch in 1951. "Evidence is piling up on manysides and from many sources that October 1952 isthe fatal month when Stalin will attack.")

    As a member of the avant-garde who is capableof perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully

    obvious to an as yet unaroused public, the para-noid is a militant leader. He does not see socialconflict as something to be mediated and com-promised. in the manner of the working politician.Since what is at stake is always a conflict be-tween absolute good and absolute evil, what isnecessary is not compromise but the will to fightthings out to a finish. Since the enemy is thoughtof as being totally evil and totally unappeasable,he must be totally eliminated-if not from theworld, at least from the theatre of operations to

    which the paranoid directs his attention. Thisdemand for total triumph leads to the formulationof hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since thesegoals are not even remotely attainable, failure

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    constantly heightens the paranoid's sense of frustration. Even partial success leaves him withthe same feeling of powerlessness with which hebegan, and this in turn only strengthens hisawareness of the vast and terrifying' quality of the enemy he opposes.

    This enemy is clearly delineated: he is aperfect model of malice, a kind of amoral super-man-sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sen-sual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, theenemy is not caught in the toils of the vastmechanism of history, himself a victim of hispast, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeedhe manufactures, the mechanism of history, ortries to deflect the normal course of history in anevil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks,causes depressions, manufactures disasters, andthen enjoys and profits from the misery hehas produced. The paranoid's interpretation of history is distinctly personal: decisive events arenot taken as part of the stream of history, but asthe consequences of someone's will. Very often theenemy is held to possess some especially effectivesource of power: he controls the press; he hasunlimited funds; he has a new secret for influ-encing the mind (brainwashing) ; he has a specialtechnique for seduction (the Catholic confes-sional) .

    It is hard to resist the conclusion that this

    enemy is on many counts a projection of the self;both the ideal and the unacceptable aspects of theself are attributed to him. The enemy may be thecosmopolitan intellectual, but the paranoid willoutdo him in the apparatus of scholarship, evenof pedantry. Secret organizations set up to com-bat secret organizations give the same flattery.The Ku Klux Klan imitated Catholicism to thepoint of donning priestly vestments, developingan elaborate ritual and an equally elaborate hier-archy. The John Birch Society emulates Commu-nist cells and quasi-secret operation through"front" groups, and preaches a ruthless prosecu-tion of the ideological war along lines very similarto those it finds in the Communist enemy.*Spokesmen of the various fundamentalist anti-Communist "crusades" openly express their ad-

    .In his recent book, How to Win an Election,Stephen C. Shadegg cites a statement attributed toMao Tse-tung: "Give me just two or three menin a village and I will take the village." Shadeggcomments: "In the Goldwater campaigns of 1952and 1958 and in all other campaigns where I haveserved as a consultant I have followed the adviceof Mao Tse-tung." "I would suggest," writes Sen-ator Goldwater in Why Not Victory? "that we ana-lyze and copy the strategy of the enemy; theirs hasworked and ours has not."

    by Richard Hofstadter 85miration for the dedication and discipline theCommunist cause calls forth.

    On the other hand, the sexual freedom oftenattributed to the enemy, his lack of moral inhibi-tion, his possession of especially effective tech-niques for fulfilling his desires, give exponents of

    the paranoid style an opportunity to project andexpress unacknowledgeable aspects of their ownpsychological concerns. Catholics and Mormons-later, Negroes and Jews-have lent themselves t~a preoccupation with illicit sex. Very often thefantasies of true believers reveal strong sado-masochistic outlets, vividly expressed, for ex-ample, in the delight of anti-Masons with thecruelty of Masonic punishments.

    Renegades and Pedants

    A special significance attaches to the figure of the renegade from the enemy cause. The anti-Masonic movement seemed at times to be thecreation of ex-Masons; certainly the highestsignificance was attributed to their revelations,and every word they said was believed. Anti-Catholicism used the runaway nun and theapostate priest; the place of ex-Communists inthe avant-garde anti-Communist movements of our time is well known. In some part, the special

    authority accorded the renegade derives from theobsession with secrecy so characteristic of suchmovements: the renegade is the man or womanwho has been in the arcanum, and brings forthwith him or her the final verification of suspicionswhich might otherwise have been doubted by askeptical world. But I think there is a deepereschatological significance that attaches to theperson of the renegade: in the spiritual wrestlingmatch between good and evil which is the para-noid's archetypal model of the world, the renegadeis living proof that all the conversions are notmade by the wrong side. He brings with him thepromise of redemption and victory.

    A final characteristic of the paranoid style isrelated to the quality of its pedantry. One of theimpressive things about paranoid literature is thecontrast between its fantasied conclusions andthe almost touching concern with far ~uality itinvariably shows. It produces heroic strivings forevidence to prove that the unbelievable is the onlything that can be believed. Of course, there arehighbrow, lowbrow, and middlebrow paranoids,

    as there are likely to be in any political tendency.But respectable paranoid literature not onlystarts from certain moral commitments that canindeed be justified but also carefully and all but

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    obsessively accumulates "evidence." The differ-ence between this "evidence" and that commonlyemployed by others is that it seems less a meansof entering into normal political controversy thana means of warding off the profane intrusions of the secular political world. The paranoid seems

    to have little expectation of actually convincinga hostile world, but he can accumulate evidencein order to protect his cherished convictionsfrom it.

    Paranoid writing begins with certain broad de-fensible judgments. There was something to besaid for the anti-Masons. After all, a secret so-ciety composed of influential men bound byspecial obligations could conceivably pose somekind of threat to the civil order in which theywere suspended. There was also something to be

    said for the Protestant principles of individualityand freedom, as well as for the nativist desire todevelop in North America a homogeneous civiliza-tion. Again, in our time an actual laxity in se-curity allowed some Communists to find a placein governmental circles, and innumerable de-cisions of World War II and the Cold War couldbe faulted.

    The higher paranoid scholarship is nothing if not coherent-in fact the paranoid mind is farmore coherent than the real world. It is nothingif not scholarly in technique. McCarthy's 96-pagepamphlet, McCarthyism, contains no less than313 footnote references, and Mr. Welch's incredi-ble assault on Eisenhower, The Politician, has onehundred pages of bibliography and notes. Theentire right-wing movement of our time is aparade of experts, study groups, monographs,footnotes, and bibliographies. Sometimes theright-wing striving for scholarly depth and aninclusive world view has startling consequences:Mr. Welch, for example, has charged that thepopularity of Arnold Toynbee's historical work is

    the consequence of a plot on the part of Fabians,"Labour party bosses in England," and variousmembers of the Anglo-American "liberal estab-lishment" to overshadow the much more truthfuland illuminating work of Oswald Spengler.

    The Double Sufferer

    T he paranoid style is not confined to our owncountry and time; it is an international phenom-

    enon. Studying the millennial sects of Europefrom the eleventh to the sixteenth century,Norman Cohn believed he found a persistent psy-chic complex that corresponds broadly with whatI have been considering-a style made up of cer-

    tain preoccupations and fantasies: "the megalo-maniac view of oneself as the Elect, wholly good,abominably persecuted, yet assured of ultimatetriumph; the attribution of gigantic and demonicpowers to the adversary; the refusal to acceptthe ineluctable limitations and imperfections of

    human existence, such as transience, dissention,conflict, fallibility whether intellectual or moral;the obsession with inerrable prophecies . , . sys-tematized misinterpretations, always gross andoften grotesque."

    This glimpse across a long span of time em-boldens me to make the conjecture-it is no morethan that-that a mentality disposed to see theworld in this way may be a persistent psychicphenomenon, more or less constantly affecting amodest minority of the population. But certain

    religious traditions, certain social structures andnational inheritances, certain historical catastro-phes or frustrations may be conducive to therelease of such psychic energies, and to situationsin which they can more readily be built into massmovements or political parties. In American ex-perience ethnic and religious conflict have plainlybeen a major focus for militant and suspiciousminds of this sort, but class conflicts also canmobilize such energies. Perhaps the central situa-tion conducive to the diffusion of the paranoidtendency is a confrontation of opposed interestswhich are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcila-ble, and thus by nature not susceptible to thenormal political processes of bargain and com-promise. The situation becomes worse when therepresentatives of a particular social interest-perhaps because of the very unrealistic and un-realizable nature of its demands-are shut out of the political process. Having no access to politicalbargaining or the making of decisions, they findtheir original conception that the world of poweris sinister and malicious fully confirmed. They

    see only the consequences of power-and thisthrough distorting lenses-and have no chance toobserve its actual machinery. A distinguishedhistorian has said that one of the most valuablethings about history is that it teaches us howthings do not happen. It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. Hehas a special resistance of his own, of course, todeveloping such awareness, but circumstancesoften deprive him of exposure to events thatmight enlighten him-and in any case he resists

    enlightenment.We are all sufferers from history, but the para-noid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted notonly by the real world, with the rest of us, butby his fantasies as well.

    Harper's Magazine, November 1964