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It attracted the support of several reputable statemen who had only mild sympathy with its fundamental bias, but who as politicians could not afford to ignore it. The corporation, however, intends to go ahead with the programs. Quite plausibly it was argued that the Masons had set up a jurisdiction of their own, with their own obligations and punishments, liable to enforcement even by the penalty of death.
Certain elements of truth and reality there may have been in these views of Masonry.
What must be emphasized here, however, is the apocalyptic and absolutistic framework in which this hostility was commonly expressed. It may truly be said to be The Jesuit Threat Fear of a Masonic plot had hardly been quieted when the rumors arose of a Catholic plot against American values.
merican politics has often been an arena for angry minds. Illuminism and Masonry I begin with a particularly revealing episode—the panic that broke out in some quarters at the end of the eighteenth century over the allegedly subversive activities of the Bavarian Illuminati.
In recent years we have seen angry minds at work mainly among extreme right-wingers, who have now demonstrated in the Goldwater movement how much political leverage can be got out of the animosities and passions of a small minority. These minions of the Pope are boldly insulting our Senators; reprimanding our Statesmen; propagating the adulterous union of Church and State; abusing with foul calumny all governments but Catholic, and spewing out the bitterest execrations on all Protestantism. This panic was a part of the general reaction to the French Revolution.
Timothy Dwight, the president of Yale, followed Morse’s sermon with a Fourth-of-July discourse on , in which he held forth against the Antichrist in his own glowing rhetoric.
Soon the pulpits of New England were ringing with denunciations of the Illuminati, as though the country were swarming with them. I do not propose to try to trace the variations of the paranoid style that can be found in all these movements, but will confine myself to a few leading episodes in our past history in which the style emerged in full and archetypal splendor. In the history of the United States one find it, for example, in the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, in certain spokesmen of abolitionism who regarded the United States as being in the grip of a slaveholders’ conspiracy, in many alarmists about the Mormons, in some Greenback and Populist writers who constructed a great conspiracy of international bankers, in the exposure of a munitions makers’ conspiracy of World War I, in the popular left-wing press, in the contemporary American right wing, and on both sides of the race controversy today, among White Citizens’ Councils and Black Muslims.In using the expression “paranoid style” I am not speaking in a clinical sense, but borrowing a clinical term for other purposes. It is a notorious fact that the Monarchs of Europe and the Pope of Rome are at this very moment plotting our destruction and threatening the extinction of our political, civil, and religious institutions. Its teachings today seem to be no more than another version of Enlightenment rationalism, spiced with the anticlerical atmosphere of eighteenth-century Bavaria.I have neither the competence nor the desire to classify any figures of the past or present as certifiable lunatics. We have the best reasons for believing that corruption has found its way into our Executive Chamber, and that our Executive head is tainted with the infectious venom of Catholicism. It was a somewhat naïve and utopian movement which aspired ultimately to bring the human race under the rules of reason.The Paranoid Style in Action The John Birch Society is attempting to suppress a television series about the United Nations by means of a mass letter-writing campaign to the sponsor, . Since Masons were pledged to come to each other’s aid under circumstances of distress, and to extend fraternal indulgence at all times, it was held that the order nullified the enforcement of regular law.Masonic constables, sheriffs, juries, and judges must all be in league with Masonic criminals and fugitives.The anti-Masonic movement of the late 1820s and the 1830s took up and extended the obsession with conspiracy.At first, this movement may seem to be no more than an extension or repetition of the anti-Masonic theme sounded in the outcry against the Bavarian Illuminati.In fact, the idea of the paranoid style as a force in politics would have little contemporary relevance or historical value if it were applied only to men with profoundly disturbed minds. Every device of treachery, every resource of statecraft, and every artifice known to the secret cabals of the international gold ring are being used to deal a blow to the prosperity of the people and the financial and commercial independence of the country. Its humanitarian rationalism appears to have acquired a fairly wide influence in Masonic lodges.It is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant. Americans first learned of Illuminism in 1797, from a volume published in Edinburgh (later reprinted in New York) under the title, .