Gregory P. Williams | American Political Thought
For many commentators, the present age reminds them of Richard Hofstadter’s writings on the paranoid style. Proliferation of references, however, does not mean consistency of terminology. How did Hofstadter conceive of Far Right rhetoric? This article is an interpretive analysis, focusing first on his account of how pseudoconservatives effectively utilized paranoid rhetoric. Next, I explore Hofstadter’s view of mass politics, showing a connection between promoters of political paranoia and consumers of paranoid ideas: crucially, he saw the paranoid style as requiring resentful masses to be effective. Finally, I point out some differences between Hofstadter’s time and today through an interpretation of a May 2017 White House document, “POTUS & Political Warfare.” I conclude that even though many of Hofstadter’s terms are applicable for the twenty-first century, some of the conditions for mass social resentment have shifted.