Section 802 of PATRIOT Act and “Domestic Terrorism”
Radicalization via “conspiracy theories” have inevitably led to violence and signal potential acts of domestic terrorism. This is how Google, Interpol and the Las Vegas police have interpreted the social media activities of 24-year-old Bryce Cuellar.
“Extremists have taken over and they’re the ones who run the foreign policy and have convinced us to go along with all these wars.”—Congressman Ron Paul
The alleged bogey of “extremism” has become a prominent element of public discourse particularly since the mid-1990s. The assumed terroristic tendencies of ordinary Americans is a preoccupation of many mainstream and liberal intellectuals apparently more concerned with moral guardianship than the growing police state and continued wartime economy. These conditions underline a campaign to promote paranoia that only intensified following September 11, 2001. As the specter of deviant commoners helps validate accelerated repressive measures, the state’s genuine extremism of illegal wars and evisceration of most civil liberties falls from public purview.
In 1964 Harper‘s magazine published the now famous essay, “The Paranoid Style of American Politics,” by historian and public intellectual Richard Hofstadter. Appearing in the wake of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination and Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater’s Republican presidential nomination, the tract remains emblematic of liberal anxiety toward serious and in many cases unresolved questions regarding the forces behind American governance. “The Paranoid Style” overall helped establish the term “conspiracy theory” as perhaps the most powerful epithet in the American political lexicon. “American politics has often been an arena for angry minds,” Hofstadter wrote.