Published July 31 1996
University of Southern Mississippi
Hattiesburg, MS USA
You must know by now that the Information Age has reached saturation, and we’re all going to die or upgrade sometimes very, very soon. In celebration, I hereby blow all of my column ideas for the summer term. Y’all are welcome to use any of these as your own ideas. After all, this is the Information Age. Everyone of you must have your own ideas by now, right?
1. Paranoia is an obligation. We live in a “free-market” economy. The freedoms of this market include the freedom of the government and corporate powers to set a target level for the number of people who, no matter how hard they try, will not be able to find work. This number – usually 6 percent of the population – is not a secret passed around by bitter Marxists in dingy bookstores, but rather is openly debated in the opinion-editorial pages of the Wall Street Journal. In a world where the government exhorts the people to work and insures that they cannot, “freedom” comes with some shadowy friends.
2. Terrorism in the United States and abroad has prompted many national leaders to publicly decry the “climate of violence” which has been spawned by the less-than-civil rants of talk-show hosts and other ideologues. “Climate of violence” arguments are so absurdly obvious that it has taken six months of national commentary to render them as obtuse as they have become. Tim McVeigh learned to play with guns in that state-sanctioned ass-kicking known as the Gulf War, and then he blew up a building in Oklahoma City. Of course there’s a climate of violence. Israel was created in response to a Holocaust and only exists by virtue of the perpetual ethnic cleansing of its previous landholders. Did it take reactionary ideology to put a bullet in the prime minister? Of course, there’s a climate of violence.
3. A few thoughts about the pope: “They” never slam the pope. What do the quotes printed around the word “they” mean in that last sentence? They exude paranoia. You might have thought we were dealing with a secret cabal of white guys in Masonic robes, controlling the thoughts of a newspaper-reading public. Actually, the word “they” just referred to “newspaper editors.” In fact, I didn’t originally write the sentence with scare quotes. A newspaper editor put them in. I am not a deluded paranoid. I am very informed paranoid.
4. This is only a partial list. Noam Chomsky has pointed out that the American media isn’t necessarily biased, but that it simply operates in increments tiny enough to render impossible discussion of any but the most established ideas. And Chomsky, the single most quoted scholar in the world, can’t get on the air in the U.S. A. This is only a partial list.
5. In the recent Congressional debate over late-term abortions, the press did not hesitate to quote verbatim the gory placards displayed on the floor – as in “the doctor” punctures the baby’s skull with scissors, etc. Excuse me? Last I heard, “babies” lived inside cribs, not women, and were pink-blue coded for easy reference. When the press doesn’t correctly supply the terms for the debate, paranoia encourages folks to begin poking at the newsprint curtains, attempting to glimpse and the men working the pedals and levers.
6. G. Gordon Liddy has had a commendably consistent career undermining the American People’s faith in their own government. He started out as a jackbooted thug for the FBI in the sixties, busting up Dr. Timothy Leary’s LSD-addled parties. He moved on to work security for Nixon, and as one of the Watergate plumbers he led the strong arm of the most obnoxious presidential crime rings in modern history. Now he’s a talk-show host who encourages listeners to “aim for the head” when Kevlar-protected federal agents bust up their Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm-addled parties. That’s a man who sticks by his principles. (Corollary: In the 1960s, leftists were paranoid and thought that the FBI had infiltrated their meetings. Then the details were leaked of the federal operation called COINTELPRO, and it turned out they were right. In the 1990’s, rightist’s were paranoid, and thought that the FBI was trying to kill them and take away their guns. Then Ruby Ridge got on TV, and they found out that the FBI was trying to kill their dogs, too. Paranoia against the government is usually well-founded but never sufficient, because the two-party system ensures that it’s always somebody’s turn to be paranoid. Really worthwhile paranoia aims at corporate wealth and mainstream media.)
A final warning: The biggest problem with paranoia is that it takes religion. Severe paranoiacs imagine an ordered cosmos, like the angry inhabited concentric spheres of pre-Copernican days. Those who imagine a perfect conspiracy of two polls – the world conspired against the individual – fail to see two things. First, that the conspirators do not care about the individual. secondly, that the world could be run differently. Heck, better.