Special Feature: Paranoia on Parade

For the last several months, I’ve been working on a story for publication in the Washington Spectator about the history of the “goldbug” movement in the United States from the New Deal to today. That story, “Paranoia on Parade: How Goldbugs, Libertarians and Religious Extremists Brought America to the Brink” was published this week as a lead feature, along with a 3-part podcast series that features the story along with extra commentary.

In the words of Washington Spectator editor Hamilton Fish:

Dave Troy’s masterful essay Paranoia on Parade highlights our May-June issue. Against the backdrop of the January 6 Committee hearings, Troy traces the roots of the insurrection to the wealthy industrialists, oil barons and tech entrepreneurs and whose century-long crusade to dismantle the government and assert control over the currency wound up on the Capitol steps.

Opponents of the New Deal and leaders of the American business community looked to European fascism for models that would enable them to thwart social democracy and the democratization of America. They recruited aggrieved veterans, conservative Christians, anti-communists, anti-Semites and white nationalists to their cause, one that ultimately failed to excite a nation in thrall to Roosevelt’s program.

After WW I, industrialists called for the gold standard, which would protect their wealth from the corrosive effects of inflation and prevent governmental expansion at a time of national economic crisis; right-wing business and political interests aligned in the John Birch Society; in Texas the Hunt family hoarded silver, and later assorted ex-military and extreme right-wing fortune hunters chased rumors of Filipino gold; and the allure of the new world of crypto caused a stir in a culture gone mad for anything digital. The protagonists all shared the goal of easing the currency out from under government oversight and control, and the whole paranoid circus, their disciples, descendants and derivatives, in one guise or another, converged on Washington on January 6.

This longform piece is, I think, the most important thing I’ve ever written. It is my attempt to make sense of what’s gotten us here, through the lens of paranoid politics — in the sense of the term coined by Richard Hofstadter in his landmark 1964 essay “The Paranoid Style in American Politics”—covering 1933–2022.

It’s a wild story, covering everything from goldbugs, the “I AM” cult, to Birchers, QAnon, cryptocurrency, and January 6th — and importantly, asserts they are all expressions of a single unified reactionary phenomenon.

Since it’s a long piece (~12,000 words) I spent last week recording an audio version, with commentary, with my friend Jack Bryan. Jack is the director of the film “Active Measures” so we recorded a kind of “director’s cut” commentary on the article. You can listen to that here:

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this piece and the extensive original research that went into it, with over 260 citations.

Thanks to Anne Nelson (Shadow Network, 2019) for encouraging me to write it, and to Hamilton Fish at Washington Spectator for sound guidance and counsel as we navigated this terrain and the story unfolded. As it turned out, I knew maybe 80% of the story when I began writing. The other 20% was learned along the way, and it fit together like a jigsaw puzzle.

There is a lot more to dig into here… energy, eugenics, traditionalism, race, religion, nationalism, military, and psyops. Maybe a book one day? But for now, enjoy!

Feel free to email me with your comments. Lastly, thanks to all of my research pals and online correspondents who helped piece this all together. You know who you are.

We’re interested in the major historical trends that shape current events. Tips? Ideas? Drop us a line via email or Twitter DM. If you enjoy my work, please consider making a donation to World Central Kitchen, to support their work feeding people in times of need.

For an even deeper dive, check out my other writing here on Medium, and my podcast series, “Dave Troy Presents,” wherever you get your podcasts.

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Dave Troy

Dave Troy

8.5K Followers

Investigative journalist addressing threats to democracy. Public speaker, writer, podcaster. @davetroy on Twitter. See davetroy.com for contact info.