Richard Hofstadter Would Recognize Today’s Right-Wing-Nuttery as Part of the “Paranoid Style” in American Politics

I hear that the dominant force driving the recent surge in gun sales is the widespread fear that Obama plans to take away all our guns, as part of his overall socialist agenda.

Such right-wingnut ideas are not new.

Sean Wilentz, in his 2007 Introduction to the Vintage edition of Richard Hofstadter’s 1965 book, “The Paranoid Style in American Politics,” says that he [Wilentz] spent some time going through Hofstadter’s research notes for that book:

Hofstadter spread his net widely, gathering in everything from newspaper articles to official campaign bulletins from the Goldwater-dominated Republican National Committee. There is a press report about a professor’s claim that Soviet taskmasters had assassinated President Kennedy, because he was too slow in effecting a communist takeover of the United States. Another report includes a description of federal gun control laws as “a further attempt by a subversive power to make us part of one world socialistic government.”

The Agenda 21 paranoia fits right in here as well, with its obsession with the U.N. as a ginormous socialist threat to our property rights and other freedoms.

But that’s a story for another day.

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