Paranoid Nation: Conspiracy in American Politics

History 301-58

Jeff Roche

Kauke 036

Tuesday 7:00 p.m.

“When matters of the highest public interest are susceptible to judgement only by specialists [and] in a populistic culture which has always set a premium on government by the common man and through the common judgement and which believes deeply in the sacred character of publicity, the politician expresses a large part of what the public feels. The citizen cannot cease to need or to be at the mercy of experts, but he can achieve a kind of revenge by ridiculing the wild-eyed professor, the irresponsible brain truster, or the mad scientist, and by applauding the politicians as they pursue the subversive teacher, the suspect scientist, or the allegedly treacherous foreign-policy adviser. There has always been in our national experience a type of mind which elevates hatred to a kind of creed; for this mind, group hatreds take a place in politics similar to the class struggle in some other modern societies. Filled with obscure and ill-directed grievances and frustrations, with elaborate hallucinations about secrets and conspiracies, groups of malcontents have found scapegoats at various times in Masons, or abolitionists, Catholics, Mormons, or Jews, Negroes or immigrants, the liquor interests or the international bankers.”

Richard Hofstadter, 1962