In 1964, historian Richard Hofstadter published an influential essay in Harper's Magazine titled "The Paranoid Style in American Politics." It came to mind recently in the context of the hysteria and hyperbole of the health care debate. Parts could have been written today.
Hofstadter observed that "American politics has often been an arena for angry minds." Recurring throughout the nation's history he found a style of mind that was paranoid not necessarily in the clinical sense but nevertheless characterized by a "sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy. ..."
Holy granny-whacking, Batman! This same style of mind has shown itself to be alive and well in the bizarre rumors of death panels, mandatory abortions, euthanasia, government takeovers, Sovietized health care, etc. - sometimes seasoned with a dash or two of speculations about the Kenyan birth of a certain elected official.