The Facts of Life: let’s discuss paranoia

Now what brought this up? Today’s New York Times editorial on the end of Trump’s fake voter fraud commission.

Because I think at least one of the “experts” the commission, um, commissioned to dig heavily into the central topic — those 3 million fake voters who gave Hillary Clinton a majority — is a Class A paranoid.

Here’s how the Times drops it in:

The commission’s only real accomplishment was to give a national platform to the nation’s most dogged vote deniers — men like J. Christian Adams, who has produced reports on noncitizen voting titled “Alien Invasion,” helpfully illustrated with pictures of U.F.O.s…

Now that is paranoia.

But (I hear you muttering) given the recent info about the Pentagon studies on UFO’s, isn’t it possible J. Christian Adams is not a paranoid?


So aren’t we all lucky I still have a psychiatric dictionary — the one I bought back in the days of yore when I was reading about psychopathology.

Let’s look it up. Oh, my. There are three and a half pages devoted to paranoia. So we’ll take the first one (which has some remarkable cultural and deeply historical references to Aeschylus, Euripides, Orestes [I thought he was a mythological character], Plato  “and elsewhere”…)

Passing over a reference to the psychiatrists who first defined it, we see this:

…gradually developing, systematized delusional states, without hallucinations but with preservation of intelligence, and with emotional responses and behavior and remain congruous with an appropriate to the persecutory of grandiose delusions…frequently of a grandiose nature, and typically isolated from the rest of the personality and intellect…

The key points here are (1) there are no hallucinations (i.e., obviously crazy productions); (2) the intelligence is intact, i.e., a paranoid person does not sound unintelligibly nuts but can express himself in ways that sound logical, and even persuasive. And the (3) grandiosity.

There’s more in the paragraphs defining the paranoid personality:

…the affected person is hypersensitive, rigid, and unwarrantedly suspicious, jealous and envious. He often has an exaggerated sense of self-importance, must always be right and/or prove others to be in the wrong, and has a tendency to blame others and to ascribe evil motives to them.

Hm. Who does this sound like? Your cousin-by-marriage, maybe? Or…

Anyhow, what I want to emphasize is that paranoia is an illness, a syndrome that distorts thinking. Back in the 1960s there was a mistaken (but cute) idea going around which expressed itself sort of like this: “Just because he sounds paranoid doesn’t mean that what he fears isn’t real.”

Back then I think it referred to believing oneself to be on the deep state enemies list and that, in turn, meant that government forces (is this sounding familiar?) would break down your door at any minute, confiscate your jar of pot, grab your laminated membership card to whichever Trotskyist splinter group you currently belonged to, and make you disappear.

I’m sure you picked up that this kind of paranoia has barely mutated over the decades, although I sense it’s traveled from one side of the political spectrum to the other.

But here’s the fact. Even if some agent does break down the door and take someone away, it doesn’t mean that person isn’t paranoid. Indeed, the agent may have been led to break down the door by the paranoid himself: paranoia is notorious for being a self-fulfilling prophecy.

So if a paranoid believes something is true and it turns out to be, it still does not erase the paranoia, which is a disease of the mind and probably relates to genetics and biochemistry — although I haven’t really kept up with the science.

Here’s what the Times has noted in reviewing the mighty work performed by Kris Kobach, propellant of the fraud commission:

And then there is Kris Kobach, the commission’s vice chairman and guiding light, the man more responsible than perhaps anyone else for keeping alive the bogus specter of voting fraud in America. Mr. Kobach is the secretary of state of Kansas, where he has worked tirelessly for years to smoke out illegal voting by noncitizens, dead voters and other malefactors. In place of actual evidence, he relies on an antifraud data collection program with a 99-percent error rate. His results? Nine convictions, mostly of older white Republican men who voted twice.

Mr. Kobach’s failures have not induced in him any apparent humility.

Lack of humility and its hand-in-glove component, grandiosity, are hallmarks of paranoia.

As is a non-shattered mind, i.e., a schizophrenic mind. Because paranoids who are not also schizophrenic have a sort of integrity of the intellect, i.e., the ability to produce rational-sounding and even complex claims. Ergo, they are the most dangerous people on earth. They are tyrants and despots. They are Hitler, Stalin, Idi Amin.

Especially when they’re preaching to people who’d rather believe the crazy than the facts.

That’s what I think, anyway.


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