“That is often the point when Tea Party supporters say they began listening to Glenn Beck. With his guidance, they explored the Federalist Papers, exposés on the Federal Reserve, the work of Ayn Rand and George Orwell. Some went to constitutional seminars. Online, they discovered radical critiques of Washington on Web sites like ResistNet.com (‘Home of the Patriotic Resistance’) and Infowars.com (‘Because there is a war on for your mind.’).

“Many describe emerging from their research as if reborn to a new reality. Some have gone so far as to stock up on ammunition, gold and survival food in anticipation of the worst. For others, though, transformation seems to amount to trying on a new ideological outfit — embracing the rhetoric and buying the books…

“[Mack] said he has found audiences everywhere struggling to make sense of why they were wiped out last year. These audiences, he said, are far more receptive to critiques once dismissed as paranoia. It is no longer considered all that radical, he said, to portray the Federal Reserve as a plaything of the big banks — a point the Birch Society, among others, has argued for decades.

“People are more willing, he said, to imagine a government that would lock up political opponents, or ration health care with ‘death panels,’ or fake global warming. And if global warming is a fraud, is it so crazy to wonder about a president’s birth certificate?

“‘People just do not trust any of this,’ Mr. Mack said.”

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