The Paranoid Style in Trump Supporters

Richard HofstadterIn American experience, ethnic and religious conflicts, with their threat of the submergence of whole systems of values, have plainly been the major focus for militant and suspicious minds of this sort, but elsewhere class conflicts have also mobilized such energies. The paranoid tendency is aroused by a confrontation of opposed interests which are (or are felt to be) totally irreconcilable, and thus by nature not susceptible to the normal political processes of bargain and compromise. The situation becomes worse when the representatives of a particular political interest — perhaps because of the very unrealistic and unrealizable nature of their demands — cannot make themselves felt in the political process. Feeling that they have no access to political bargaining or the making of decisions, they find their original conception of the world of power as omnipotent, sinister, and malicious fully confirmed. They see only the consequences of power — and this through distorting lenses — and have little chance to observe its actual machinery. L B Namier once said that “the crowning attainment of historical study” is to achieve “an intuitive sense of how things do not happen.” It is precisely this kind of awareness that the paranoid fails to develop. He has a special resistance of his own, of course, to such awareness, but circumstances often deprive him of exposure to events that might enlighten him. We are all sufferers from history, but the paranoid is a double sufferer, since he is afflicted not only by the real world, with the rest of us, but by his fantasies as well.

—Richard Hofstadter
The Paranoid Style in American Politics
H/T: Understanding Society.

2 thoughts on “The Paranoid Style in Trump Supporters

  1. Hofstadter was ahead of his time.

    Here’s an acronym I learned today: “SJW.” I saw it in the comment thread of a Taibbi article several times by Trump supporters and was curious what it meant. It means “social justice warrior,” with the same derisive sarcasm Sarah Palin used at the 2008 GOP convention with her biggest applause line, about how Obama was a “community organizer.” It’s not just ineffective (many people throughout their lives support charities/causes/politicos that fail) but ridiculous on its face; helping the weak is a draw for bleeding-heart saps who don’t realize that less powerful people suck and that’s why they deservedly get the “incentive” to work harder.

    Apparently many Trump supporters are annoyed that other people online have called them bigots, so they’re on a mission to deride anyone accusing them of bigotry as a member in good standing of the Thought Police. Free speech, you know — except when free speech criticizes Duck Dynasty. Naturally, it’s free speech to call your critic a host of vituperous slurs, but if you say “that bothers me and I find it morally ugly” you are stifling expression.

    Ah, the Internet. Place of endless wonders and delights.

    • I’ve actually seen more liberal-ish people use SJW — people like Jonathan Chait. And, of course, the MRAs love to use the term. The right still prefers PC. Of course, these terms mean nothing. All they mean is that some other person doesn’t share their particular prejudices. If I made a video taking a crap on the American flag, you can depend upon all these people complaining about PC going crazy. Because everyone has a sense of what is and is not acceptable behavior. That’s one of things I don’t understand about Chait: he is clearly smart enough to realize this.

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