January 12, 2011
hysteria“conduct or an outbreak of conduct exhibiting unmanageable fear or emotional excess in individuals or groups [fr. Gk. hystera womb]
“Webster’s Third New International Dictionary
There’s a lot of it about. The January 8th shootings in Tucson set off extraordinary shrieking and projectile vomiting on the political left. You are familiar by now with the stories: Paul Krugman castigating tad-to-the-right-of-center political mediocrities and media blowhards as “purveyors of hate,” that dimwit sheriff gibbering about “vitriolic rhetoric,” Daily Kos blaming Sarah Palin, some semiliterate Arizona Counter Terrorism Information Center agent fingering American Renaissance for the crime, and Hillary Clinton telling Arab students that the Tucson killer was our equivalent of their jihadist terrorists.
How on Earth did the left get this way? Hysteria in politics is not a new thing, and the USA has been especially susceptible. Historian Paul Johnson in his book Modern Times: “America seems particularly prone to these spasms of self-righteous political emotion in which all sense of perspective and the national interest is lost.” (He was writing about the Watergate frenzy of 1973-74.)
Current leftist hysteria, though, has some characteristics that link it to larger social and intellectual trends.
Since we are discussing a lunatic’s actions, let’s start with the issue of madness. I’ve been thinking about this a lot these past few months, since well before the Tucson shootings, as a friend of mine recently went mad.
I live on the East Coast and my friend lives on the West Coast, so there wasn’t much I could do, but his wife called to ask for my advice. Not having a clue, I consulted an acquaintance whose family member went mad. He: “Every time there’s an episode that might in any way be construed as threatening, call 911. They won’t do anything in response to any one call, but the calls are all logged. With all those calls you’re making a paper trail, and when the paper trail’s long enough, you can make a case for institutionalization.”
It needs to be some darn good case, as institutionalization of the mad is deeply unfashionable nowadays. This attitude came in with the biophobia that swept the Western world’s educated classes from the 1960s onward”a peculiar, almost religious hostility to any discussion of Homo sap. as belonging to the natural world and subject to the laws thereof. Carleton Coon“out; Stephen Jay Gould“in.
The latest milestone on this march away from reality came last month with the announcement that the American Anthropological Association has dropped the word “science” from its mission statements. The AAA has long been under the control of the postmodernist far left, so the announcement was no great surprise.
The proper study of mankind may still be man, but that study now belongs not to science but to the humanities, along with Chicana Studies, Queer Literary Theory, and Post-Colonial Discourse.
The bio-con blogger OneSTDV makes the Tucson connection:
Why can’t we characterize this man for what he is? And then why don’t we, as a society, have any measures in place to act on what we know about this crazy person?
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