Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Will the real paranoid stylists please stand up

The WSJ claims that it's the Left that houses the real Paranoid Stylists. This isn't a case of the pot calling the kettle black; this is the pot calling the glass of milk black.

What we see here exemplifies a characteristic tactic on the part of the contemporary Right: accuse the Left of something you are blatantly yourself guilty of, not so much to convince people, as to muddy the waters about the difference between the left and right, thus creating a sense of false equivalence among the bovine masses, e.g. "Yeah, well, they're all like that, so what's the difference?"

The real point about paranoid stylists is that they don't just think that conspiracies exist in history (this is clearly a fact), but that they think that history itself (History with a big H, if you will) is a conspiracy. No doubt there are people on the left who subscribe to such beliefs (people in the anti-globalization crowd, for example, who see "capitalism" as such a conspiratorial force). But there are just way, way, WAY more people on the right who subscribe to this pattern of belief: eschatologists, antifluoridationists, antiworldgovernment (or anti-U.N. wingjobs), anti-Catholics, ultrazionists, anti-Masons, and so on. All these people think there is some sinister conspiracy of shadowy but nearly all-powerful individuals and organizations who secretly are trying to manipulate the course of history. People who ascribe almost supernatural powers to Al Qaeda are victims of this thoughtway.

But it's a completely different thing to think that Karl Rove is engaged in a secret plot to try to manipulate the course of history. First of all, that's his job! Second, you don't have to consider him all-powerful, sinister, sensual, cruel, and luxury-loving to think that he's trying to manipulate the political situation in this country. I for one don't consider him all-powerful. Yes, he's very powerful, he's very smart, and he's got odious policies; but he's hardly the fulcrum of history, and neither is his boss. They're just a couple of middlingly evil caesarists. (Think Tiberius, not Caligula.)

Anyway, it's probably stupid of me to represent the Wall Street Journal's op-ed pages as a source of ideas (though frighteningly many mouth-breathers do). Rather, it's a place that issues rightwing smears in the form of easily-digested talking points, without any regard for intellectual coherence or integrity.

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