Paranoia Runs Deeper Than I Thought
And I don't hesitate one second to call it psychopathology, any more than I would hesitate to call racism or any other kind of hate-filled paranoia a form of psychopathology. Among other things, such beliefs are fixed and unalterable. They are not prehensions of reality, but projections upon reality. They are not about trying to understand the world, but about managing the disturbing content of one's own psyche. And they are always accompanied by a cluster of defenses centering around smugness, contempt, triumph and control--again, not toward the external world, but toward one's projections onto the external world. These projections reveal nothing about the world, but much about the minds of those who do the projecting.
This one is by Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Jane Smiley, who, in classic paranoid fashion, suddenly had an all-explaining "revelation" that makes sense of her frightening world. That's right: it turns out that President Bush is not a dry drunk, not a drunk-drunk, not a narcissist, not a madman, and not even an idiot! No! His countless mistakes--which are contemptuously and peremptorily dismissed as mistakes--are all intentional! They're all part of a big design, a master plan to destroy the country!
As she warms to her conspiracy theory, she feverishly contemplates all the quote-unquote mistakes that the Bush administration has supposedly made such as,
"1. Hobbling the government with debt by combining an expensive, prolonged war with perennial rounds of tax cuts.
2. Destroying the bureaucracy by making it impossible for neutral, expert, or objective bureaucrats to keep their jobs, replacing them with incompetents.
3. Destroying the integrity of the election system, state by state, beginning with Florida and Ohio.
4. Defanging the media by paying fake reporters, co-opting members of the MSM (why did the New York Times refrain from publishing stories unfavorable to the Bush administration before the 2004 election?)
5. Destroying the middle class by changing the bankruptcy laws and the tax laws.
6. Destroying the National Guard and the Army by deploying them over and over in a futile war, while at the same time failing to provide them with armor and equipment.
7. Precipitating Iraq into a civil war by invading it.
8. Accelerating the effects of global warming by putting roadblocks in the way of mitigating its effects.
9. Denying healthcare and prescription medication to an increasing number of Americans, most specifically by ramming the prescription drug legislation through Congress, but also by manipulating Medicare and Medicaid so that fewer and fewer citizens are covered.
10. Encouraging the people in the rest of the world to associate the US with torture, military incursion, and fear, by a preemptive attack on a sovereign nation, by vociferously maintaining the right of the US to do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and by refusing to accept international laws."
Ah ha! It all makes sense! Bush wants to destroy the government, dismantle the bureaucracy, ruin the electoral system, bring the media to its knees, lay waste to the middle class, wreck the military, create a civil war in Iraq, devastate the environment, make people get sick and die, and cause the world to hate us!
Don't you see?! It all a big conspiracy! Even the New York Times is in on it!
Smiley knowingly asks, "How else are we going to interpret the satisfaction the President continually expresses in the results of his policies so far?" How else, I ask you? Hmm?
You see, "When the government has been shrunk to nothing and drowned in the bathtub, the citizenry will be entirely powerless--that is the real goal, not an unintended consequence."
(Now panting and perspiring): Yes, yes! "The outcome of such policies will be a dictatorship or a tyranny.... Bush is about enhancing the power of himself and his cronies and dismantling any countervailing entity. The Bushies are not shy about acting on their craving for power or about talking about it.... [T]he ruthless drive for power of Bush and his cronies is really not about ideas, and in fact views ideas as a kind of trash, even, according to witnesses, the ideas expressed in the Constitution."
Smiley is not being polemical or metaphorical, much less hysterical. No people, this is REAL: "Do they actually plan to disenfranchise everyone but their reliable base? Well, yes they do.... If they have control of the electronic voting machines, they can. Do they actually plan for their associates and cronies to skim off vast quantities of the taxpayers’ money? Well, yes they do.... Do they actually plan to let New Orleans, that blue spot in a red state, slip away? Looks like it. Do they actually plan to destroy the middle class? They are making good progress--poverty was up twelve percent last year, and the “booming economy” is strangely low on job growth... "
There is simply no way this kind of thinking can be taken at face value. I am actually somewhat hesitant to psychoanalyze those with whom I disagree, as it's too easy to simply use that as a way to avoid debate. But what's to debate here? You can't argue with such a person. It would be idiotic. This kind of thinking demands psychoanalytic interpretation. It cannot be explained in any other way.
It is also amazing to me that the left routinely dismisses conservative thought as "simplistic." What could be more simplistic than an all-encompassing, overarching paranoid theory that explains everything?
What is perhaps even more disturbing is all of the enthusiastic agreement in the posts that follow Smiley's piece. Paranoia on the left runs much deeper than even I had thought. They fervently, and apparently routinely, believe things that would have to possess much more reality and logic to even be considered implausible.