Frum on Conservative Paranoia

David Frum’s Spectator article on the political challenges facing the modern Republican Party has a nice ditty on the tide of extreme paranoia sweeping the conservative mediaverse:

Yet to listen to Fox News and other conservative media, you’d think we were living in Czechoslovakia in the final hours before the 1948 communist coup. Anchors end interviews by solemnly pledging to defend liberty and oppose tyranny. The network’s rising star Glenn Beck has mused about the coming turn to totalitarianism — and warned his audience that he has not been able to ‘debunk’ fears that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is constructing an archipelago of concentration camps for political opponents of the Obama administration.

Now to be fair, during the Bush years more than one person passed me this “14 Characteristics of Fascism” document in order to prove that under George W. Bush the United States had become a fascist regime. Overreaction to policies you don’t like is a pretty understandable human impulse. The difference is that mainstream, prominent outlets usually try to restrain that kind of impulse. But this sort of over-the-top rhetoric isn’t burbling from the grassroots up, it’s being driven the very most prominent figures in conservative media and also by a large number of members of congress.

Here, for example, is Representative Michael McCaul who appears to be calling on the crowd to shed the blood of the tyrannical Obama administration:


It’s about our founding fathers who in 1773 threw a little party called the Boston tea party. And fought against tyranny and oppressive taxes, does that sound familiar? We’re continuing that revolution right here in Austin, TX today. Thomas Jefferson once said that the tree of liberty will be fed with the blood of tyrants and patriots. You are the patriots.

I’m sure that 99.9 percent of the people listening to Rep. McCaul understand that this is just hot air and BS. They understand that he doesn’t really mean what he says, and doesn’t really think that what patriots should do is risk their lives in an effort to kill authority figures. But suppose 5,000 people are conservatives and fans of Michael McCaul and 99.9 percent of them remember not to take him seriously. What do the other five people do? Shoot an IRS agent? Try to kill the President? There’s a real need for people in positions of authority to act more responsibly than this.