One hallmark of paranoia is attributing evil motives to good people. However, we do live in a world where people with radical agendas seek power so as to implement those agendas, and in the process of obtaining power, they have to deceive. They have to convince us that they are “moderates”.
A good example of this was Fidel Castro. In 1959, he came to the U.S. and laid a wreath on the grave of the unknown soldier in Washington DC. My parents, who read the New York Times which whitewashed him, thought of him as a good and competent person. Then once in power, he implemented Communism and his firing squads worked overtime killing opponents and dissidents. Once he showed what he really stood for, his sister said “He fooled all of us.”
Another example was Adolf Hitler. He made speeches about peace, and once firmly in power, launched World War II. He fooled many people, but by no means all. One person who was not fooled was A.H. Rowse. Rowse doesn’t just blame the leaders for stupidity. He talks of running for election in Cornwall, trying in vain to open the eyes of his own people, in his own home-town.
They never would listen, any more than they would listen to Churchill, or anybody else who told them the truth.
(I have a whole blog post on Rowse’s scathing book here) . But the main point here is that ruthless men with an ideology will not see it as a big problem to present themselves as moderates, in the process of gaining power.
Another example is current Prime Minister of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He is an Islamist.
Back on June 10, 2005, in New York, he accepted an award from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) on behalf of Turkish diplomats who had saved Jews during World War II. Erdogan had been elected two years earlier as head of the Islamist AKP Party, at a time when the Turkish-Israeli strategic alliance and trade relations were thriving.
Although antisemitism ran deep in the AKP and in the Turkish Islamist camp generally, Erdogan’s words at the award ceremony sounded reassuring. “Antisemitism has no place in Turkey,” he said.
Just a month earlier Erdogan had visited Israel with a large group of businessmen, held talks with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, laid a wreath at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem, and said Iran’s nuclear program was a threat not just to Israel but to the whole world.
Today the small Turkish Jewish community of about 20,000 (some put the figure lower) has been subjected to terror attacks and vilification and largely lives in fear. The same ADL has denounced Erdogan’s “vitriolic condemnation of Israel and unqualified embrace of Hamas.” Bloomberg columnist Jeffrey Goldberg has called him “a semi-unhinged bigot.”
Erdogan had not changed, he had just engaged in tactical deception. He was able to say all the right things, while thinking all the wrong things.
David Horowitz grew up in a Communist family and had a misspent youth as a Marxist leader of the New Left in the 1960s. He says his parents told people they were “progressives”, but they were Communists. But here comes the shocker: “The president (Obama), his chief operative Valerie Jarrett and his chief political strategist David Axelrod all came out of the same Communist left and the same radical new left as I did…As someone who turned his back on that destructive movement, I can say with confidence that they have not.”
Now certainly most Americans would not believe what Horowitz says here. As Horowitz himself points out: two successive Republican presidential candidates, McCain and Romney, running against Obama, described him as a “good man.”
I’ll talk about paranoia (justified or not), anomalies, and Obama below, but first there is another organization to mention, and that is the Tea Party. Walter Russell Mead spent two weeks recently traveling across Europe, and he says that: ” In country after country we are seeing steady gains by political movements that bear a superficial resemblance to the American Tea Party, but in fact flirt much more with the kind of dangerous nationalist and chauvinist ideas that have proven so destructive in Europe’s past.” He also says that one of the reasons Europeans are so fearful of the Tea Party is that they assume that because it is right-wing and populist it is like the National Front in France or Golden Dawn in Greece.
The Tea Party, in my view, is attempting to restrain a government that has burst its restraints. To want a small government, that is reined in by a constitution, and whose designers divided its powers to prevent a demagogue from arising is not radical. To be opposed to bailouts for banks, or multi-trillion dollar deficits, or to government-run health care, is actually a good thing. A leader who wants to “transform America” (as Obama said he wants to do) and disdains the constitution (see article at Forbes magazine) is radical. The tea-party is not.
Interestingly, Kathleen Sebelius, Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human services, says that opponents of “Obamacare” (the national health plan that has gone so badly wrong), are racists. Recently Democrat Congressman Alan Grayson said the Tea Party was just like the Ku Klux Klan. In a fund-raising e-mail, he linked the grass-roots organization to violent racists, complete with a burning cross.
Lets take rival interpretations of events, ranging from “sane” to “paranoid”, and see if we find a pattern. I’ll use both Obama and the Tea Party as characters here.
Event: On July 2, 2008, Barack Obama announced: “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.”
So lets take the sane and moderate interpretation of this:
Obama feels that we need to protect ourselves against the threat of terrorism whatever its source, and is just exaggerating a little here as to the requirements of a civil defense force.
Lets take the insane, extreme, and paranoid interpretation of this:
Obama distrusts the military for not being left-wing enough, so he wants an alternate force.
Or this event:
Law enforcement throughout the U.S. has been receiving armored vehicles, grenade launchers, helicopters, assault rifles, night-vision goggles, etc. – some even tanks (Obama DHS Purchases 2,700 Light-Armored Tanks to Go With Their 1.6 Billion Bullet Stockpile). In addition, Janet Levy (writer for the American Thinker) claims that: “In violation of the Constitution, Obama has “acquired” the authority to deploy American war fighters within U.S. borders in the advent of an “insurrection.””
Sane and moderate interpretation:
We have surplus military hardware anyway, and policemen need to be equipped to fight modern threats like terrorism or drug Cartels. And maybe Obama has nothing to do with this.
Paranoid and extreme interpretation:
Obama expects economic collapse and social unrest, and needs to have a strong civil defense force to contend with this. He also fears violent opposition from the Tea Party and militia types.
Or this event:
On October 17, 2013: “soldiers attending a pre-deployment briefing at Fort Hood say they were told that evangelical Christians and members of the Tea Party were a threat to the nation and that any soldier donating to those groups would be subjected to punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.” and “on August 7, 2012, The Washington Times ran an editorial entitled, “The Civil War of 2016.” It begins, “Imagine Tea Party extremists seizing control of a South Carolina town and the Army being sent in to crush the rebellion. This farcical vision is now part of the discussion in professional military circles.” (one ironic aspect of this is that the Obama administration has also portrayed returning soldiers as potential violent extremists)
Sane and moderate interpretation:
Some official got carried away, but he is not representative of thinking in government circles, and we have to remember that we have had anti-government terrorism in this country from Timothy McVeigh, who blew up a federal building full of people in the name of liberty, and we do have Nazis, white supremacist churches, etc.
Paranoid and extreme interpretation:
An intolerant radical government sees any opposition to its dreams of a transformed America as unreasonable and dangerous. Therefore, it is preparing its military and police for a possible confrontation with the opposition.
Reports of Obama removing 197 military officers (including 4-star generals) over the past five years have fueled a lot of discussion this week.
Sane and moderate interpretation:
Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal was rightfully fired for criticizing presidential officials. This is appropriate, since the military is subordinate to the executive. Also if a military man is involved in an adulterous affair he should be fired, and some were. Obama is simply firing people who deserve to be fired, and maybe Obama is not behind this at all. And where was this reported anyway? In World Net Daily? That is an right-wing website. Don’t trust it.
Paranoid and extreme interpretation:
Retired Army Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin, who was with Delta Force and later Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence under President George W. Bush, says “it is unprecedented for the number of four-star generals to be relieved of duty, and not necessarily relieved for cause,” and “I believe there is a purging of the military,”
Boykin referred to recent reports that Obama has purged some 197 officers in the past five years.
These reports suggest these officers were suspected of disloyalty or disagreed with the Obama administration on policy or force-structure issues. As Boykin pointed out, a number of them have been relieved of duty for no given reason.
The motive? If you are paranoid, you can speculate that Obama just doesn’t like the military, or even fears it would interfere with his plans for the country, or as some have suggested he thinks a weaker America will do less harm abroad.
Now what do we notice about the sane and moderate interpretation? It minimizes implications of an event, and assumes the best of Obama. What do we notice about the paranoid and extreme interpretation? It assumes the worst of Obama. It also assumes he is capable of unrestrained action in service of a detrimental agenda. It also sounds like a ‘conspiracy theory’ which is usually a tipoff to paranoia. And only a minority of people believe that Obama has tyrannical tendencies, which also usually fits paranoia – one way we know how to stay away from paranoid ideas is that only a minority holds on to them. Also, to most of us, the motivation doesn’t really make sense. Obama may be a “progressive”, but so was Theodore Roosevelt (or at least they shared some of same ideas). A man committed to a big paternal government may be mistaken, but he cares about us, and he is proud to be an American.
But David Horowitz, who came out of a radical world, says that modern day progressives are like a species of religious fundamentalists planning a redemption. He goes into how they think and why they can be so alienated from the country they were brought up in, in his Frontpage article The Threat We Face (see sources). If he is right, then the paranoid interpretation of events becomes more likely.
There is a book called Seeing What Others Don’t, by Gary Klein, on the remarkable ways we gain insights. One of the ways is by noticing an anomaly, or contradiction. While others may minimize it, explain it away, or just accept it as a minor point that can’t be true due to all the other assumptions they have, some people can create a whole new science based on the anomaly.
For instance, Albert Einstein didn’t explain away the contradiction that if you were moving at the speed of light, a light beam would travel away from you (if you were holding a flashlight) at the speed of light, instead he made that observation an anchor, and got rid of other taken-for-granted assumptions. These taken-for-granted assumptions were that space and time look the same to all observers, no matter if some observers are traveling much faster than others.
It was an anomaly that started David Horowitz on his path away from Marxism – the anomaly of the radical leftist black group the Black Panthers murdering a woman, Betty Van Patter, who he had recommended to them as a bookkeeper. It was an anomaly that started a Syrian Muslim woman, Wafa Sultan, on her path away from Islam – she witnessed the machine-gun assassination of her professor at medical school. “They shot hundreds of bullets into him, shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar!'” she said. “At that point, I lost my trust in their god and began to question all our teachings. It was the turning point of my life, and it has led me to this present point.”
Insightful people are more likely to be able to do “what if” thought experiments. And so I would think they are more open-minded. Gary Klein thinks an insight is often a swapping of a new story for an old. In some cases, it can even lead to former “good guys” being now seen as “bad guys” and vice versa.
Postscript: Senator McCain now sees Obama as quite radical. Also, the Tea Party, like many movements, has different threads, and Congressman Ron Paul, who attracts the admiration of some members, put out an investment newsletter that had anti-black and anti-Semitic statements for years. One of his newsletters quoted a “Jewish friend” who said the 1993 World Trade Center bombing was a “setup by the Israeli Mossad”. However, in the Tea Party rally that I attended, there was a black speaker, and a Jewish speaker, and in general, nothing I’ve seen of Tea Party materials has a hint of racism in it.
But I would also say this, if a group of citizens really believes that Obama wants to destroy Democracy, then they might believe it their duty to revolt against him. Not only has there been talk of secession, after he was re-elected, but in that WorldNetDaily article I mentioned, Boykin says that “People I’ve spoken to would like to see the military ‘fulfill their constitutional duty and take out the president.’” Boykin points out that this request for a coup is not at all constitutional.
But the point is, such people do exist. In a comment on a thread in a conservative article, I’ve seen the quote: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants” (it was Thomas Jefferson who said this originally). If you, whether you are left leaning or right leaning, feel your country is taken over by a tyrant, and all avenues to stop him are closed, you may feel it proper to revolt. Or you may just leave. Some people (usually wealthy) are leaving the United States because they foresee economic collapse and riots in the streets, and some officers are leaving the military, because their morale has plummeted.
Just in case the NSA is reading my blog, I should say that I do not advocate violent overthrow of Obama. Seriously though, we have a democracy where leaders are replaced by ballots, not bullets and we should keep it that way. I do believe almost all his policies are to our detriment, and that he has an agenda that he hasn’t been totally up-front about. And I do not believe we can gloss over the anomalies listed above, though it is valid to question whether a particular anomaly is something that should overthrow our day-to-day assumptions, or when the assumptions should win out.
http://frontpagemag.com/2013/david-horowitz/the-threat-we-face-2 – David Horowitz: The Threat We Face
http://www.the-american-interest.com October 15, 2013 – Europe Is Burning, Slowly – Walter Russell Mead
http://unheededwarnings.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/hello-world/ A.H. Rowse in “Britain’s Blindness To The Nazis (or why Hitler called Chamberlain ‘Der Arschloch’)”
Does Army consider Christians, Tea Party, a terror threat? – By Todd Starnes – Todd’s American Dispatch – Published October 23, 2013 FoxNews.com
Report: Feds and some states are militarizing American policing By NWV News Writer Jim Kouri © 2013 NewsWithViews.com
The purging of the military: http://www.wnd.com/2013/10/top-generals-obama-is-purging-the-military/#5XLIrg8ARClAIeeX.99
Obama’s disdain for the constitution (by M. Northrup Buechner, who isAssociate Professor of Economics at St. John’s University, New York):