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March 29, 2018
Paranoid style in the political Opposition in SVG

by Frank E da Silva


In November 1964, Harper’s magazine in the United States of America published an insightful essay entitled “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” authored by a distinguished Professor of American History, Richard Hofstadter. This essay was adapted from the Herbert Spencer Lecture, delivered at Oxford University in November, 1963.

On re-reading this publication recently online, I was struck by the similarities between the manifestation, historically, of the “paranoid style” in American politics and that of the current political opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines, inclusive of its allies at home, fellow-travellers abroad, and an assortment of “Internet crazies”, to use Comrade Ralph’s telling formulation. The similarities, both specific and general, bear intellectual interrogation.


Professor Hofstadter does not utilize the term “paranoid style” in any clinical or medical sense, but borrows it for more general analytic purposes. Indeed, the exponents of the “paranoid style” are not only persons who possess profoundly disturbed minds. Hofstadter asserts that “it is the use of paranoid modes of expression by more or less normal people that makes the phenomenon significant.”

The “paranoid style” originates in angry minds which are connected to animosities, a condition of permanent dissatisfaction or discontent with life as it exists and the way governance is conducted, and passionate intensities not of the best, but of the worst, of particularly those who have had to endure a minority political status for a prolonged period of time. The “paranoid style” is so labelled because “no other formulation adequately evokes the sense of heated exaggeration, suspiciousness, and conspiratorial fantasy.”

In the USA, historically, Professor Hofstadter finds the “paranoid style” in the Illuminati constellations, the anti-Masonic movement, the nativist and anti-Catholic movement, the alarmist outbursts against Mormonism, the populism against international bankers, extreme left-wing and right-wing circles, the anti-communist conspiracy theorists, the conspiracies advanced by racists, and the proponents of anti-Semitism. To this one would no doubt add the “American First” and “Make America Great Again” movements of the contemporary period, and extremists in certain “same sex” and “feminist” advocacy groups.

Paranoid style

The “paranoid style” exhibited by the current political opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines has the Unity Labour Party (ULP) government in a conspiracy with Cuba, Venezuela, ALBA, the Non-Aligned Movement and various other nationalist and/or socialist-oriented political forces to establish a Godless, amoral Communism under a dictatorship of a corrupt dynasty, led by Ralph Gonsalves in concert with other family members and assorted courtiers at the Court of King Ralph and Prince Camillo.

It matters not to the “paranoid” the established fact that St Vincent and the Grenadines is a free society with a competitive political democracy which has been accorded high rankings, regionally and globally, for its individual freedoms, economic freedom, openness and transparency, political hygiene, and political democracy. The opposition activists, steeped in their “paranoid style”, proceed as though the actual truth of the condition of our political economy is a matter of inconvenience to them; they instead parade the big lies until they actually believe them and, in the process, mislead their dwindling group of hardcore supporters.

As to the “dynasty thesis”, the paranoid stylists among the political opposition ignore the fact that Camillo Gonsalves, son of the Prime Minister, as a first-time electoral candidate, actually defeated in the 2015 general elections, in the East St George constituency, a strong four-time candidate. Prior to the general elections the opposition mantra was: “Camillo was being sent to East St George as a sacrificial lamb to the slaughter.” In the event, Camillo won the contest handsomely! The “paranoid style” of the opposition partisans insists on painting Camillo as a person without merit, or commitment to St Vincent and the Grenadines. The established fact that Camillo has three university degrees, including a Masters, and professional law qualifications in the Caribbean and the USA, matters not at all to the paranoid stylists. So, too, the fact that Camillo has made a success of all the jobs he has had thus far: Senior Crown Counsel, United Nations Ambassador, Foreign Minister, Minister of Finance and Economic Planning. Similarly, too, Camillo’s commitment to St Vincent and the Grenadines, manifested in part by his renunciation of his American-by-birth citizenship, means nothing to those gripped by a political “paranoid style”; the renunciation was not constitutionally required for him to sit in the Parliament of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Has Lorraine Friday, the Opposition Leader, yet renounced his Canadian citizenship acquired voluntarily?

Some other recurring theses of falsehood by the exponents of the “paranoid style” among the political opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines include:

  • Ralph and the supervisor of elections conspired fraudulently to steal the 2015 general elections;
  • Ralph conspired with the police, the prosecution service, two magistrates and three medical doctors (including two psychiatrists) to incarcerate, unlawfully and without cause, a young woman in the Mental Health Rehabilitation Centre simply because she made salacious allegations against Camillo and cursed his wife;
  • Ralph manipulates, and conspires with the Public Service Commission, the Tenders Board, and the senior public servants to discriminate against opposition persons in employment and the award of contracts;
  •  Ralph is a demon; a corrupt, venal, self-serving person, who is also a repeat sex offender, who gets away with everything because he is a master manipulator of power and people; he conspires with others to do his dastardly deeds.

These falsehoods, among others, are purveyed daily in every medium of commercialization, including by way of the Internet. Occasionally, when Ralph addresses these untruths factually, the opposition paranoid stylists run for cover, regroup, and come again with the same or similar untruths. They are relentless and dishonest; that is at the core of their paranoid style; and they are absolutely hypocritical, without shame. Indeed, if Ralph ignores their hysterical lies, the paranoid opposition propagandists assert shamelessly that he must be guilty of some malfeasance or the other because he would not be silent.

That is why we, the seekers of truth and progress must battle with them all the time for the sake of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Paranoia Elaborated

Professor Hofstadter aptly observes that:

“The paranoid spokesman sees the fate of conspiracy in apocalyptic terms ___ he traffics in the birth and death of whole worlds, whole political orders, whole systems of human values. He is always manning the barricades of civilization. He constantly lives at a turning point. — He expresses the anxiety of those who are living through the last days and he is sometimes disposed to set a date for the apocalypse.”

So we get from the “paranoid stylists” in the political opposition in St Vincent and the Grenadines repeated formulations like: “Time is running out on the ULP”; “Ralph is a one-term Papa”; “Elections coming in six months time”; “ULP can’t rule with a one-seat majority;” “It’s not nature that brings natural disasters; God is punishing SVG because of Ralph and the ULP.”

The paranoid set is both within and outside the formal ranks of the opposition NDP. Indeed, the weak leaders within the NDP take their cue from the paranoid leaders outside the formal organs of the NDP. One paranoid leader outside called for a crusade against the Argyle International Airport; she even expressed the wish for a tsunami to wash it away. Others overseas on social media invent stories, proclaim them as facts, propose forms of action and then secure compliance from the official NDP. They fail and fail again; they go on to other things in a similar vein; and they inevitably lose credibility.

These paranoid types outside the NDP who drive the NDP do not see social conflict to be mediated and compromised; they do not see challenges to be addressed in the real world of limited resources of all kinds. These practical considerations of life and living do not detain them. Astutely, and relevantly, Professor Hofstadter observes that “since what is at stake is always a conflict between absolute good and absolute evil, what is necessary is not compromise but the will to fight things out to the finish.”

Professor Hofstadter is clearly speaking of the “Internet crazies” associated with the NDP when he states:

“Since the enemy [in SVG’s case, Ralph] is thought of as being totally evil and total unappeasable, he must be totally eliminated — if not from this world at least from the theater of operations to which the paranoid directs his attention. This demand for total triumph leads to the formulation of hopelessly unrealistic goals, and since these goals are not even remotely attainable, failure constantly heightens the paranoid’s sense of

frustration. Even partial success leaves him with the same feeling of powerlessness with which he began, and this in turn only strengthens his awareness of the vast and terrifying quality of the enemy he opposes.”

Inadvertently, the paranoid political operatives in the opposition paint the picture of the enemy as being so powerful and fearsome that even the opposition supporters themselves begin to think of Ralph as being a larger-than-life superman and the ULP as unbeatable. Again Professor Hofstadter tells it well:

“The enemy [of the paranoid opposition minority] is clearly delineated: he is the perfect model of malice, a kind of amoral superman ___ sinister, ubiquitous, powerful, cruel, sensual, luxury-loving.— He wills, indeed, he manufactures, the mechanism of history, or tries to deflect the normal course of history in an evil way —. Very often the enemy is held to possess some especially effective source of power: he controls the press; he has unlimited funds; he has a new secret for influencing the mind (brainwashing); he has a special technique for seduction (the Catholic confessional.)”

One notes that the paranoid, repeatedly and falsely, accuses Ralph of working obeah, taking “bush baths” from Spiritual Baptists, using Catholic and Biblical tricks of the trade, and making people believe he was chosen especially by God to lead.

Interestingly, the paranoid within the NDP and the internet crazies outside seek themselves to embrace all that which they falsely accuse Ralph of pursuing. They hold a false, outrageous view of him; and then want to imitate him. But their imitation is ludicrous because it is based on an abominable falsity.

Of special significance in respect of those with the “paranoid style” are persons who are renegades, traitors, or castaways to the cause of their enemy. Several of these “renegades” were once in the bosom of the ULP and Ralph. This list includes: Junior Bacchus, Matthew Thomas, Colin Graham, Otto Sam, Clive Bishop, Luzette King, Rolin Stapleton, Ivan O’Neil and Jomo, The Speaker, Thomas. They insist that their alleged credibility hinges on inside knowledge of Ralph and the ULP; their currency of relevance to an opportunistic NDP is that their former allegiances give them special authority. The truth, though, is that each of them has nursed a personal grievance on this or that matter in relation to Ralph and the ULP. Each has tried to turn his personal grievance into a national agenda item when in fact it is a purely selfish agenda that is being pursued.

The renegade paranoids bring to their political polemics a particularly pompous and pedantic style masquerading as thoughtfulness. Sometimes, they take a small truth to construct upon it a mountain of falsehoods and the Big Lies!

All the paranoid stylists within, and in association with, the opposition NDP live in two worlds, the virtual and the real, but they are unable to discern the difference. It is true as Professor Hofstadter asserts that all human beings are sufferers from history; but the paranoid is a double sufferer; he is not afflicted only by the real world but by his outlandish fantasies as well. That is the basic reason why they fail so miserably! Still, they are a grave and present danger to St Vincent and the Grenadines and must be resisted. The paranoid in, and around, the NDP cannot be allowed ever to hold the reigns of government. A fifth consecutive electoral deal is required to knock sense into them and force them to act responsibly and honestly.