Thursday, February 24, 2011

America's Far-Right Paranoia


Source: Political Left Blog City

We seem to be returning to the right-wing “paranoid style” in American politics. The generation and dissemination of these ideas and style is proceeding at a record pace thanks in great measure to the spectacular expansion of right-wing media.

Numerous deeply ignorant, conspiratorial, and paranoid ideas have buzzed around the margins of the American right for decades, of course, before and since the McCarthy era.

Such ideas have now have resurfaced and gained legitimacy in the dominant political culture like no time since the 1950s. There are at least four basic reasons for this.

First, the Republican Party continues to move rightward and no longer seems willing or able to reign in its more extreme elements.

In the early 1960s, Princeton historian Sean Willentz notes, “the [John] Birch [Society] …provoked deep anxiety among conservatives, who feared being perceived as paranoids and conspiracy-mongers.”

That fear has disappeared on the part of much of the current Republican elite, which rushes in many cases to align itself with “the Tea Party,” which, according to one poll in the fall of 2010, garnered support from more than 70 percent of Republicans.

Second, top Democrats seem unwilling or unable to denounce the authoritarian threat on the right. In a 1961 speech in Los Angeles, Democratic president John F. Kennedy clearly denounced those “discordant voices of extremism” that “equate[d] the Democratic Party with the welfare state, the welfare state with socialism, and socialism with Communism.

There has been no such clear and explicit denunciation of the new right paranoia from Obama or other top Democrats on the whole.

Obama’s White House [in October 2010] is still struggling to make sense of its enemies. In the absence of forthright leadership, on both the right and the left, the job of standing up to extremists appears to have been left to the electorate.

Third, a powerful right-wing communications empire arose in the late 1980s and now holds major propaganda strongholds operating from within the very heart of mainstream media.

Fox News and the vast talk radio network broadcast the delusions of hard-right propagandists and their false– and rancid-populist paranoia and rage.

With all due respect to the frothing reactionism of Father Coughlin in the 1930s, Joe McCarthy’ short-lived televised bully pulpit in the 1950s, and Mort Downey in the 1980s, there’s just never been anything like the current “right wing noise machine” in American media and politics culture.

Finally, late 20th and early 21st century America is dangerously bereft of a really existing relevant Left capable of countering right-wing stereotypes.

One that can push the Democrats to enact effective and progressive programs that might keep right-wing critiques at bay, and capturing legitimate popular anger that is dangerously captured and misdirected by right-wing activists and personalities.

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