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Richard Hofstadter's The Paranoid Style In American Politics offers a beautiful analysis of cold war right wing "angry minds." The paranoid style is fundamentally affective: it is the style of angry minds of a class that imagined itself sovereign but sees threat everywhere, the threat of THEM.

Paranoid stylists create situations of revenge against THEM, enacting a revenge of the dispossessed. Rather than feel their mourning for their lost status, or adapt to the changing terms of power and social belonging, they pretend it's the second to last act, rather than the last one, and perform a grandiose sovereignty in the style of outraged righteousness. For that act to take hold in the public imaginary, the THEM against which it is uttered has to be cast as enigmatic, shifty, skilled at camouflage, indirect; the more hazy the enemy, the most hyperbolic the paranoia can be.

In short, a disinvestment in knowledge serves the legitimacy of the paranoid. Hyperbolized anxiety can feel like sovereignty all over again, if its decibel count can drown out how inaccurate the us/them split is in any serious description of power.

Hofstadter's amazing last line: "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."

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