Are these new wingnuts really just like the old wingnuts?

“His paranoid style has been bandied about lately,” the Columbia University historian Eric Foner said of Mr. Hofstadter’s famous essay, “and if he were alive I’m sure he would apply it to the Tea Party and other things.”

David S. Brown, a professor of history at Elizabethtown College and author of the book “Richard Hofstadter: An Intellectual Biography,” said, “He would have a strong feeling of déjà vu.”

And, to be sure, there is no shortage of the sort of indignantly unfactual commentary in the air these days that seems to substantiate Mr. Hofstadter’s notions of the paranoid style — all those comments, for example, that the president and his attorney general, Eric H. Holder Jr., are coddling terrorists by wanting to hold civilian trials for them…

And yet, while instances of what Mr. Hofstadter would have seen as exaggerated, suspicious, and full of conspiratorial fantasy are legion, it’s not so clear that all those references to Mr. Hofstadter these days are entirely on the mark. Some of his colleagues feel that his evocation of a paranoid style hasn’t actually withstood the test of time…

“He became more and more nervous over what he saw as the dangers of grass-roots politics,” Mr. Foner continued. “There was a perfectly good reason for that, but today scholars tend to think that his paranoid style was a little unfair to various social movements.”

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