The Myth of ‘The Other’
[He] sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms—he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. Like religious millennialists he expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse. … As a member of the avant-garde who is capable of perceiving the conspiracy before it is fully obvious to an as yet unaroused public, [he] is a militant leader. He does not see social conflict as something to be mediated and compromised, in the manner of the working politician. Since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to a finish.—Richard Hofstadter, Harper’s Magazine
The above passage was not written recently. It does not describe anyone in the news right now. It was written in 1964 and published the month of the Presidential election that year. Its title is “The Paranoid Style in American Politics.” Hofstadter was an historian who found himself concerned with the angry political rhetoric that was emerging that year and re-discovered that there was little new to it, that in fact a “style” of rhetoric could be identified that regularly emerged and re-emerged in our history.
The “paranoid style” is back this year in America.