Response to Thomas Frank: From John Birchers to Birthers

Posted by Jason | Posted in Economics, Government | Posted on 21-10-2009

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Today, the columnist Thomas Frank of the Wall Street Journal wrote a column in which he basically says modern day conservatives are bizarrely paranoid. From reading his article, he’s talking about those conservatives who believe in capitalism, are against government propaganda, and are against government social engineering. Here’s a snippet of his piece.

Back in Hofstadter’s day this sort of thinking at least had something supremely rational going for it: The existence of the Soviet Union and its desire to bring the West to its knees.

But take that away and the theories become something far more remarkable. Consider, by contrast, the widespread belief that President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was forged. What could have been his parents’ motives for committing such a bizarre deed, or his home state’s motive for colluding in it, or the courts’ motives for overlooking it?

Or consider the widespread conservative conviction that we are being marched secretly into communism or fascism. Why would someone bother? It seems equally likely, given today’s circumstances, that conspirators would trick us into becoming a colony of Belgium or the imperial seat of the Bonaparte family.

The paranoid pattern persists regardless. It is impervious to world events; a blurting of the American subconscious that has not changed since Hofstadter analyzed it 45 years ago. Consider the recent wave of fear that the hypnotic Mr. Obama was planning to indoctrinate schoolchildren. In “The Paranoid Style,” Hofstadter wrote, “Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; . . . he has a new secret for influencing the mind; . . . he is gaining a stranglehold on the educational system.”

via Thomas Frank: From John Birchers to Birthers – WSJ.com.

Let me start off by saying, I agree to some extent on the birth certificate issue. I don’t know whether the issue is valid or not, so I don’t claim that it is. It’s a distraction, and it let’s people like Mr. Frank lump all conservatives together and say they are nuts.

With that said, I do have a problem with the remaining arguments in Mr. Frank’s article. To say that conservatives are claiming we are marching secretly to communism or fascism, and that somehow that is nuts, should highlight how the intellectuals among us are so blinded by their supposed brilliance. Apparently, the government take over of our largest financial, automotive, and soon to be newspaper institutions is of no concern to Mr. Frank. That is just silly talk. So what if the government controls them, and they say what is going to happen in the market place. How is that communism or fascism?

In addition, I think Mr. Frank doesn’t realize that this isn’t a new march. Surely the government permanently impoverishing a large population with welfare and using Medicare and Social Security to induce fear when needed on another large segment of our population could be considered something other than just crazy, paranoia.

I guess, Alexander Hamilton was paranoid when he wrote in the Federalist Papers, “.. that a dangerous ambition more often lurks behind the specious mask of zeal for the rights of the people than under the forbidding appearance of zeal for the firmness and efficiency of goverment. History will teach us that the former has been found a much more certain road to the introduction of despotism than the latter, and that of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying an obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants” What kind of crazy is Alexander Hamilton warning us about those tenderhearted politicians?

We all know Jefferson was a loony, paranoid, nut case when he said, “A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government.” What a weirdo.

Don’t worry about the government trying to take over the 1/6th of our economy via health care. They would never use your health care to make you behave in a certain way. They would never hold it up at election time to scare people into voting for them. Why would you think that?

Surely, this “paranoia” that Mr. Frank so arrogantly puts down is nothing new. What most people would call skepticism has been with us since our founding. It is what led our country to revolution and then to form our union under a constitution.

As far as the school children, the media may have blew it out of proportion, but that was before the post speech exercise assignment was revised to not make it sound like the student had to do something that the President asked. I think it also went hand and hand with the video from Hollywood asking students to pledge allegiance to the President.  Surely, that’s just a little disturbing is it not? Surely, if this video and this homework assignment was from Bush, Democrats and the left would have rightfully went nuts. Oh wait, but that’s not paranoia. When Bush was in, he only purposefully let a couple thousand  New Orleanians die. Maybe I should go back and read Mr. Frank’s article on those crazy lefties.

Lastly, in part of the article that I don’t have sited here, you can read it at the Journal, Mr. Franks poo-poohs Glenn Beck as the master conspirator. Glenn Beck must be a lunatic questioning the Federal Reserve, oh along with all Austrian economists. Surely, the Federal Reserve had nothing to do with the tech bubble, followed by the housing bubble and who knows what bubble they are creating now.

Mr. Frank’s complete lack of historic and conceptional perspective is an embarrassment for my paper of choice. While, he’s entitled to his opinion, maybe he can keep his head in ground. We’ll pull him back out once we take our country back.

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