The politics professor Matthew Goodwin made an interesting comment on Twitter earlier this week. He pointed out that many of the elements of the ‘paranoid style’ in politics – a phrase coined by Richard Hofstadter in a famous essay to describe right-wing populist movements – are now as common on the Left as they are on the Right. Goodwin mentioned ‘Remainia’ as being particularly susceptible to the paranoid style, which is characterized by ‘heated exaggeration, suspiciousness and conspiratorial fantasy’, according to Hofstadter. That struck me as an astute observation and I’ve tried to flesh out the idea in my Spectator column today. If you allow for the fact that some Remainers have become infected by this virus it helps explain why they’re so convinced that the 2016 referendum result was due to sinister foreign influences – data mining companies, Kremlin bot factories, the Koch brothers, Vladimir Putin, and so on – rather than widespread skepticism about the EU among the British electorate.
Hofstadter was a history professor at Columbia, as well as a public intellectual, and his essay, which was published in 1964, proved highly influential. (There is even a garage band named after it called The Paranoid Style.) The reason it has endured is because the right-wing movements he analyzed haven’t disappeared from American politics. In 2018, for instance, Paul Krugman wrote a column for the New York Times entitled ‘The Paranoid Style in G.O.P. Politics’. However, until now no one has sought to apply Hofstadter’s analysis to the anti-Brexit campaign. (To read more, click here.)