The story is told of the man who went to his psychiatrist complaining of the feeling that people were after him and wanting to know what could be done about it. After a one-hour session, the psychiatrist told the patient, "You aren't paranoid. They really are after you."
At one time or another, many of us have felt a tinge of paranoia when we thought the world was picking on us. Sometimes, it made us feel we could do nothing right, and we almost convinced ourselves that there was no use in even trying. (Kids especially react this way to demanding parents.) That, however, generally is a passing phase of life. True paranoia involves "delusions of persecution which are strenuously defended with apparent logic and reason."
The charge of conspiracy, defined as "an agreement to perform together an illegal or treacherous act," usually goes hand in glove with paranoia. Virtually every conservative president has felt that the liberal press conspired against him. Richard Nixon was particularly afflicted with this suspicion, and Watergate was the result, ironically forcing his resignation from office.
It isn't only conservative politicians who claim persecution. The investigation of Pres. Clinton's sexual peccadillos even brought his wife to make the charge that the investigation had no basis. She told a national TV audience that it simply was a "right-wing conspiracy." It is instructive that, despite the President's bumbling half-apology for his "mistakes," we have heard no retraction from the First Lady for what has proved to be a clear misstatement. Despite its heavy-handedness in many areas, the Kenneth Start probe would seem to merit an apology for Hillary Rodham Clinton's charges.
Jews long have been scapegoats, being charged with conspiracy by paranoids of various stripes. During the 1930s, "radio priest" Father Charles Coughlin, speaking before a crowd of 100,000 people in Yankee Stadium, condemned the Jews for how they supposedly controlled America for their own purposes. Moreover, his hatred of Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt caused Coughlin to insinuate a Jewish ancestry to FDR.
Conspiracy to involve the U.S. in World War II was charged when it was revealed that, despite clear indications known by Washington of Japan's impending attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, this was not passed on until it was too late. To this day, Roosevelt and the State Department have never been fully exonerated.
Today, many African-Americans genuinely believe that the...