We've heard a lot of warnings about extremist paranoia in the months since Barack Obama became president. We've heard much less about the paranoia of the centrists; indeed, the very idea that the sober center could be paranoid sounds bizarre. But when mainstream columnists treat a small group of unconnected crimes as a "pattern" of "rising right-wing violence," their thesis bears more than a little resemblance to the conspiracy theories of the fringe figures they oppose. In both cases, the stories being told reflect the anxieties of the people discerning the patterns much more than any order actually emerging in the outside world.
This isn't the first time the establishment has been overrun with paranoia about the paranoiacs.
The discussion stretches from Richard Hofstadter to Camille Paglia and from Timothy McVeigh to the Reuther brothers. If I ever write that book on American conspiracy folklore, this is one of the essays I'll chop up and recycle.