The new paranoid style
IN HIS CLASSIC 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," the late Richard Hofstadter noted: "One of the impressive things about paranoid literature is the contrast between its fantasied conclusions and the almost touching concern with factuality that it invariably shows. It produces heroic strivings for evidence to prove that the unbelievable is the only thing that can be believed." As examples, he cited a 96-page pamphlet by Joseph McCarthy that contained "no less than 313 footnote references" and a book by John Birch Society founder Robert Welch that employed "one hundred pages of bibliography and notes" to show that President Eisenhower was a communist.
For a more recent instance of the paranoid style, a modern-day Hofstadter could consult "The Israel Lobby and American Foreign Policy," a "working paper" by John J. Mearsheimer of the University of Chicago and Stephen M. Walt of Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. With 83 pages of text and 211 footnotes, the Mearsheimer-Walt essay (part of which appeared in the London Review of Books) is as scholarly as those of Welch and McCarthy — and just as nutty.
Mearsheimer and Walt are out to prove that the "Israel Lobby" has seized control of U.S. foreign policy and thereby "jeopardized not only U.S. security but that of much of the rest of the world."
After finishing their magnum opus, I was left with just one question: Why would the omnipotent Israel lobby (which, they claim, works so successfully "to stifle criticism of Israel") allow such a scurrilous piece of pseudo-scholarship to be published? Then I noticed that Walt occupies a professorship endowed by Robert and Renee Belfer, Jewish philanthropists who are also supporters of Israel. The only explanation, I surmise, is that Walt must himself be an agent of those crafty Israelites, employed to make the anti-Israel case so unconvincingly that he discredits it. "The Lobby" works in mysterious ways.