In the new introduction to the latest edition of his brilliant 2007 book Camelot and the Cultural Revolution, James Piereson writes:
The late Richard Hofstadter, writing about the Kennedy assassination in 1964, coined the term “the paranoid style in American politics” [much more on that here -- Ed] to describe a mind-set prone to concocting conspiracies and to connecting events by tenuous threads of logic and evidence. Hofstadter was thinking primarily of the far right, mostly anti-communists, when he developed this insight, though he cited applications to the far left as well. In retrospect, the Kennedy assassination was an event through which the paranoid style was grafted onto modern liberalism, thereby giving it a conspiratorial and somewhat irrational outlook, particularly where “the right” is concerned…
It was wrong for national leaders in 1963 to fabricate a tale of President Kennedy’s assassination that deflected responsibility from the real assassin to a group of Americans who had nothing to do with the event and who played no role in the president’s death. In concocting a story that fit comfortably with the assumptions of the time, even though it was at variance with the facts, they sowed the seeds for distrust and division in the body politic that are still with us today.
And how. And any discussion of paranoia must inevitably lead us to Alec Baldwin, who has seemingly never met a cameraman or airline stewardess or Republican has has wished to attack.
In contrast, and as proof of how strange new media has upended the world of legacy journalism, as Kathy Shaidle once wrote, “It’s come to this: Cracked.com is the ‘paper’ of record.” But that’s only because the editors and producers of the original news sources of record long ago such as NBC abrogated their jobs, not the least of which, by allowing men such as Baldwin and Al Sharpton to become television “journalists” for a network once known, in the Jurassic era of television, for such distinguished anchors as John Cameron Swayze, Chet Huntley, and David Brinkley.
This parody tweet mocking the imagined halftime antics of another employee of the Narcissists Broadcasting Company reminds me that I could be wrong, however:
In any case, if only Baldwin had an entire news department at his beck and call just dying to blow the lid off the secrets of the biggest murder mystery of the 20th century…
(Or the lack thereof.)
It’s an interesting exercise to think how MSNBC would have covered the Kennedy assassination; but simply reviewing their meltdowns over Gabrielle Giffords, the Newtown and Navy Yard shootings, Trayvon Martin and other recent events should provide anyone with sufficient alternate-reality shudders. On the other hand, while Baldwin may not believe in the single bullet theory, he’s definitely warming up to the single-viewer theory, as his new show quickly plummets to a new low in the ratings. How long before Baldwin unleashes another homophobic rant or beats up one of his fellow journalists — or both?