September 03, 2009

Imagining the enemy

Source: Sam Keen's Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination. View slides here.

Goat Rope has been looking at political paranoia this week, past and present, with a special focus on historian Richard Hofstadter's classic essay The Paranoid Style in American Politics. This series was inspired in no small measure by the current political climate and the debate over health care reform.

If this is your first visit, it might help if you clicked on earlier posts, starting with Monday's.

According to Hofstadter, in the paranoid view, the enemy

“is a perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman—sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving. Unlike the rest of us, the enemy is not caught in the toils of the vast mechanism of history, himself a victim of his past, his desires, his limitations. He wills, indeed he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way. He makes crises, starts runs on banks, causes depressions, manufactures disasters, and then enjoys and profits from the misery he has produced."

There are no accidents in this view of the world. Everything that happens is the result of someone’s malevolent will. The enemy is seen to hold vast sources of power, whether through mass media, educational institutions, or financial resources. The enemy is always a master of mind manipulation.

Hofstadter believed that there was also an element of psychological projection involved in this worldview, where all the unsavory traits or desires of the elect are attributed to the enemy.

As psychologist Philip Zimbardo pointed out, this view of the enemy leads to dehumanization, which can in turn lead to all kinds of nasty stuff.

TWICE ROBBED. Low wage workers are often cheated out of overtime and minimum wages according to a new report.

WHAT'S NEXT WITH HEALTH CARE might become clearer after next week.

HAPPY LABOR DAY? Wage growth continues to erode in the wake of the recession, according to this snapshot from the Economic Policy Institute. Meanwhile, bailed out CEOs are doing pretty good.

NATION AS VILLAGE. A children's book examines what America would look like if it was a village with 100 people.


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