Secular Right | Reality & Reason

Feb/10

12

Guilt by Association?

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TPMMuckraker sinks into the well, muck, with this story headlined “Man Charged With Stockpiling Weapons Was Tea Partier, Palin Fan”:

The Massachusetts man charged this week with stockpiling weapons after saying he feared an imminent “Armageddon” appears to have been active in the Tea Party movement, and saw Sarah Palin, who he said is on a “righteous ‘Mission from God,'” as the only figure capable of averting the destruction of society….Girard’s wife said her husband had recently told her: “Don’t talk to people, shoot them instead,” and “it’s fine to shoot people in the head because traitors deserve it.” But it appears that Girard had lately found a community with which to share some of his growing fears. A “Greg Girard,” listing his location as Manchester, Mass., has a personal page on the “Patriots of America” online network, a popular site affiliated with the Tea Party movement.

Mr. Girard is entitled to a presumption of innocence, and we’ll have to see what emerges at any trial, but a commonsense interpretation of this story would suggest that the real issues are┬álikely more psychiatric than political.

On a not entirely unconnected topic, Jesse Walker’s 2009 Reason piece on the “paranoid center” is well worth reading. Here’s an extract:

We’ve heard ample warnings about extremist paranoia in the months since Barack Obama became president, and we’re sure to hear many more throughout his term. But we’ve heard almost nothing about the paranoia of the political center. When mainstream commentators treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a grand, malevolent movement, they unwittingly echo the very conspiracy theories they denounce. Both brands of connect-the-dots fantasy reflect the tellers’ anxieties much more than any order actually emerging in the world.

When such a story is directed at those who oppose the politicians in power, it has an additional effect. The list of dangerous forces that need to be marginalized inevitably expands to include peaceful, legitimate critics.

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1 comment

  • AMcguinn · February 14, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I’m beginning to think that going through a list of opinions and defining one group as “political views” and another as “psychiatric symptoms” is an impossible task. The categories are so nearly equivalent…

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