Richard Hofstadter
Caught in a paranoid conspiracy grip
Caught in a paranoid conspiracy grip

Along the stretch of U.S. highway where I live, there is a small sign announcing that the road has been "adopted" by the John Birch Society. This fringe group of yesteryear -- whose Dallas members distributed commie-baiting "Wanted for Treason" leaflets of President Kennedy prior to his visit and assassination there -- now sponsors litter removal like any other proper civic-minded organization. The Red-under-every-bed zealotry that Richard Hofstadter dissected in "The Paranoid Style in American Politics" and Bob Dylan satirized in "Talkin' John Birch Paranoid Blues" has been rehabilitated. Or maybe it's just been coyly rebranded, given a...