Man, a lot of liberal readers didn’t like my earlier post about liberalism and the paranoid style. Most aren’t being jerks about it, but they simply have a really hard time coming to grips with the fact that the paranoid style isn’t necessarily a right-wing phenomenon. Among the complaints: They nitpick my examples, as if I was trying to be exhaustive. They say Republicans have conspiracy theorists as public officials while my examples of liberals are simply activists and celebrities. They say that conservative conspiracy-nuts are embraced by Republican officials, but no Democrat embraces paranoid style types of the Left.
It’s all a bit exhausting. But here’s the problem. I conceded up front that conservatives can be conspiracy theorists and paranoid. So about 85% of this tu quoque stuff is gratuitous. The point wasn’t that the Right is immune to this stuff, it was that liberals are blind from similar — and often more prevalent — stuff on their own side. So they end up, like Packer, thumbsucking about the supposedly scary paranoia of the Right while ignoring the paranoia of their own side.
But if it’s examples you people want, I was barely scratching the surface. Cynthia McKinney? Does no one remember her? It’s worth noting that she recently said — as a matter of fact — that the National Guard rounded up blacks in New Orleans and massacred them in the woods. In fairness, she’s not in office anymore, but she wasn’t much less of a whackjob when she was in Congress. Meanwhile, Maxine Waters is still in Congress and she’s hardly immune to the paranoid style. If my interlocutors do not want to stipulate this point, I could have a grand time entering exhibits AAA through ZZZ to butress the assertion. Michael Moore? He thought OJ was innocent and that George Bush was keeping Osama Bin Laden on ice for an October surprise or something. He sat in Jimmy Carter’s box at the 2004 Democratic Convention and was wildly embraced by the Democratic leadership when his Fahrenheit 9/11 movie came out. Jim Moran? I suppose his blame-the-Jews stuff would have been just as quickly forgiven from a Republican. Don’t even get me started on Walt and Meersheimer. Charles Rangel and Major Owens routinely said Newt Gingrich was “worse than Hitler” (Owens’s words) and that the Contract with America was part of a “genocidal” campaign.
Meanwhile, a huge swath of economic liberalism for decades has been dedicated to the idea that a coalition of cartoonish big businessmen — Mr. Monopoly, Mr. Peanut, Thurston Howell III, Col. Sanders and the rest of the Pentavirate, Joe the Camel — conspire to ruin the environment, poison food, and exploit the downtrodden. Then there’s the whole phrase “the vast right-wing conspiracy” which was not coined with a sense of playful irony. Al Gore’s “people vs. the powerful” spiel crossed the line more than once into populist nonsense, if you ask me. And are people really going to make me look up every nutcase theory about Karl Rove, Dick Cheney, Haliburton, and the rest? I mean do I really have to keep going? Because I can. I mean we can rev-up the Way Back machine and start talking about what the Kennedy Assassination did to liberalism, for starters.
The point is that when liberals and leftists spout conspiracy theories and paranoid delusions — as they have for generations now — it’s written off by the liberal establishment as either an isolated incident, or an understandable exaggeration or, simply, the truth and therefore not a conspiracy theory. And: It Is Annoying.