You may have heard (as I have) that people who write for the New York Review of Books are very smart. Apparently that's true. This new article by Mark Lilla called "The Tea Party Jacobins" is the smartest piece I've read on what's really behind the latest right-wing paranoid styles -- bar none. It's largely a radical quest for individual freedom taken to its extreme, which is where the usual suspects (see "News, Fox") enter the picture to some degree. But it's better that you read the whole thing than I explain it.
Here's a short excerpt:
Historically, populist movements use the rhetoric of class solidarity to seize political power so that “the people” can exercise it for their common benefit. American populist rhetoric does something altogether different today. It fires up emotions by appealing to individual opinion, individual autonomy, and individual choice, all in the service of neutralizing, not using, political power. It gives voice to those who feel they are being bullied, but this voice has only one, Garbo-like thing to say: I want to be left alone.
A new strain of populism is metastasizing before our eyes, nourished by the same libertarian impulses that have unsettled American society for half a century now. Anarchistic like the Sixties, selfish like the Eighties, contradicting neither, it is estranged, aimless, and as juvenile as our new century. It appeals to petulant individuals convinced that they can do everything themselves if they are only left alone, and that others are conspiring to keep them from doing just that. This is the one threat that will bring Americans into the streets.
Welcome to the politics of the libertarian mob.