Charles M. Blow
Out-of-control federal government. An immediate and immense Muslim threat. Gun grabbing, national registries and eventual mass confiscations. Tyranny.
The politics of the political right have become the politics of paranoia.
According to too many of them, the country is collapsing, and the government is not to be trusted. The circle of safety is contracting. You must arm yourselves to defend your own.
It is no wonder, then, that in this environment, a Washington Post/Pew Research Center poll released Wednesday found that while 47 percent of Americans were angry or disappointed that new gun control legislation in the Senate (including the enormously popular background-checks provision) had failed to pass, 39 percent were very happy or relieved. Fifty-one percent of Republicans had those sentiments, compared with 22 percent of Democrats.
This underscores just how frightened of the government far-right Republicans are.
A Quinnipiac University poll this month found that 91 percent of Americans (including 88 percent of Republicans) said that they supported background checks for all gun buyers. But that same poll found that 61 percent of Republicans worried that if there were background checks for all gun purchases, the government would use that information in the future to confiscate legally owned guns.
Furthermore, a January Pew Research Center report found that for the first time since the question was asked in 1995, most Americans now believe that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms.
According to the report:
“The growing view that the federal government threatens personal rights and freedoms has been led by conservative Republicans. Currently 76 percent of conservative Republicans say that the federal government threatens their personal rights and freedoms and 54 percent describe the government as a ‘major’ threat.”
The report continued:
“By comparison, there has been little change in opinions among Democrats; 38 percent say the government poses a threat to personal rights and freedoms and just 16 percent view it as a major threat.”
Incidentally, 62 percent of those who had a gun in their home thought the government posed a threat, as opposed to 45 percent of those without a gun in the home.
In January, the right-wing Web site World Net Daily, writing about a poll the site conducted with the consulting firm Wenzel Strategies, bemoaned:
“The seeds of a tyrannical government are present in the United States, with a citizenry happy with a heavily armed law enforcement presence and a disbelief that their government could do anything that would make them want to revolt, according to a new poll.” The poll revealed “widespread belief” that the Second Amendment “really is for self-protection and hunting, not for ‘fighting back against a tyrannical government.’”
Fritz Wenzel of the consulting firm is quoted as saying that the poll’s finding “demonstrates the downside of more than 230 years of government stability. This survey shows it is hard for many Americans to think of a situation in which their government would need to be overthrown. Of course, the last time there was a serious fight for the future of the federal government, in the Civil War, Washington won.”
And that’s just the tip of it. Last month, Glenn Beck described the makeup of what he believed was the coming “New World Order.” It did not bode well for America.
“I think you might even have some Nazi influence in the United States, unfortunately, because we’ve had it before. And it will happen there and there, I think,” Beck said, placing dots over the Northwest and the Northeast on a map.
Discussing the Muslim Brotherhood’s “influence,” Beck said:
“I think there’s going to be a slight influence in South America and Mexico and in the United States. I think it is going to be more significant than anyone imagines, and I believe that you are also then going to be co-ruled by a thug-ocracy of this part of the world. And I think it’s going to be, at least in our case, I think it’s going to be China. China will be the balance of our power. They will use Muslim, um, Islam as the real enforcers that they will then help us and whoever is in power in our country. We will be ruled by an American, but it will be a technocrat that will answer to China. And, they will stomp things out and use Islam as much as they have to, to get rid of anyone who’s standing up, I think.”
And Beck delivered this prattle in a suit jacket, not a straitjacket.
This is the constant stream of desperate drivel that has fostered a climate of fear on the far right that makes common-sense consensus nearly impossible.
(This column originally appeared in the April 24, 2013 New York Times under the title “Politics of Paranoia”)
Charles M. Blow is a New York Times Columnist and nationally-known commentator: “I invite you to visit my blog By The Numbers, join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter, or e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.”