It turns out, according to British researchers at King's College in London, that 40 percent of us are likely to have exaggerated thoughts about perfect strangers or others being "out to get us" at one time or another.
And those strangers are, it turns out, perfect.
Using virtual reality headsets, the King's College researchers led participants through computer-generated London subway setting, filled with imitation people programmed to be neutral.
The study's participants then reacted to these neutral avatars as they looked around the subway car.
Turns out 4 in 10 thought they saw something sinister in their fellow passengers.
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"People walk around with odd thoughts all the time," David Penn, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina, told The Associated Press.
"The question is if that translates into real behavior."
King's College says the study found that:
* More than 40 percent of people regularly worry that negative comments are being made about them.
* 27 percent think people deliberately try to irritate them.
* 20 percent worry about being observed or followed.
* 10 percent think someone has it in for them.
* 5 percent worry that there's a conspiracy to harm them.
According to the AP, surveys of several thousands of people in Britain, the United States and elsewhere have found that rates of paranoia are slowly rising.
A British survey found 21 percent of people thought there had been times when others were acting against them, and another survey of 1,000 adults in New York found that 11 percent thought other people were following or spying on them.
Elderly people are also susceptible to the condition as those who are partially deaf may feel people are hiding things from them, according to Mind.
Those who are wealthy may also suffer from paranoia because they are wary of the reasons people want to be friends with them.
Alison Kerry, a spokesperson for Mind, said paranoia is common in older people who feel they are becoming a burden to friends and relatives.
"Self-esteem, or lack of it, is important. If a child is being bullied or is not shown affection by their family they may become more suspicious or mistrustful," she added.
According to a report published by Mental Health Care, ten to 20 per cent of students taking part in the survey have paranoid thoughts.
The people questioned revealed not talking about paranoia led to them having a greater number of these thoughts which caused significant distress.
What the world needs now is a darn good laugh.
I put it to you that now, more than ever, it's time for comedy. Drama is done. Bring back the sitcom, the satiric comedy, the savage wit.
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In the United States, there's a new optimism built around the incoming Obama administration. Simultaneously, there's a deep and abiding fear that the U.S. economy is in serious decline. It's a time when comedy works, not serious, long-form storytelling.
Besides, if an era is being left behind - the Bush era, the old economy - comedy and satire are the natural, organic reactions.
It's not simply a matter of comedy serving as escapism. The United States and, indeed, most of the world are just emerging from an era of tension and paranoia about terrorists, a period in which all manner of knee-jerk, right-wing attitudes were allowed to solidify on the basis that old-fashioned values were the best defence against any assault on the country and the culture. Satire, laughter and scorn are the instinctive reactions when the culture shifts away from all that paranoia and brooding...
...Everyone might have been acting rationally, given the small slice of the world they were working within, but it added up to a pretty substantial meltdown. All this rationality has two implications.
First, rationality won't save us -- precisely because everyone is working within only a tiny piece of the whole puzzle. That's where regulators are supposed to step in, allowing people and institutions to do the 920,321 things that won't destroy our economic system, but stopping them from doing the 97 things that can. But try telling that to Mr. Greenspan.
Second, we as shareholders are dependent on management acting with prudence and integrity -- and not just taking the easier and more rational path of making risky bets to achieve short-term profit goals. And that means being paranoid about the management of the companies you're investing in.
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It might seem counter-intuitive in this volatile market, but the market crash means there are many stocks selling with wide margins of safety -- and some of them have the kind of management you want in your corner. But it pays to be paranoid...
14 Nov, 2008
Well, whaddaya know? The very same week that Nature journal revealed that we are all going to die from a Global Ice Age -- pay attention out there, kids, it's not Global Warming after all -- the "experts" on paranoia are telling us that, Yes, we are surrounded by a fast-growing paranoia epidemic!
It's enough to make a person feel very, very suspicious.
Personally I'm all in favor of a Paranoia Epidemic, just because it would cut out the middle man. Right now the Global Warming Industry is being stoked by an endless series of paranoid stories in the media. A whole pseudo-science of climate modeling, the New Astrology, is getting the big bucks to make up scare stories. The UN is tumbling all over itself trying to "solve" Global Warming. And yes, Barack Obama is a True Believer in all that farcical pseudo-science -- or at least in the political juice you can squeeze out of it.
Watch for the Feds to put a lot more junk scientists on the payroll in the Obama years, who will justify their money by rolling out more horror stories, which will take more experts to study, and so on, ad infinitum. OK, that's all good clean graft. The trouble is that Global Warming is really expensive paranoia. Everybody is getting money out of it except the people who pay taxes.
But today, science brings you paranoia on the cheap! All we need is to get very, very worried about the Paranoia Epidemic. No middle man, no parasitical U-N-ocrats to ride the gravy train. Eh, voila! As Hercule Poirot would say. If you get bored with that one, we have the answer --- It's a Paranoia Paranoia Epidemic. You don't need to be just plain paranoid anymore. All you need is to get really paranoid about the growing paranoia pandemic.
Glorious tales of PPE will keep the media agog for years.
Yes, you can make fear, ignorance and superstition pay. All you do is major in Communications, and if you look cute enough on TV you can be doing the local news right out of college. There you will learn to make your audience feel just as paranoid as possible -- because fear -- or even the fear of fear -- or maybe the fear of fear of fear -- keeps those suckers glued to the tube. Don't know much about history? Don't know much about geography? No problem! You, too, can make the big bucks selling the screaming meemies to the masses.
In due course Barack Obama is bound for a Nobel Peace Prize -- not for spreading fear about Planetary Doom 'midst Fire and Ice, like Al Go re, but for calling the world's attention to a new pandemic, a newly discovered Planetary Mental Disorder of Paranoia Paranoia Paranoia. Yes, folks, it's the fear of the fear of fear itself. Fear Cubed. Experts are even now rushing to study this new threat to your life, and will soon be supplying more hair-raising tales to the mentally challenged.
There's a stellar political career looking for a new Prophet of Doom. Do we have any takers? Does John Edwards need a new schtick? Do you need any highly trained experts to testify at the forthcoming Congressional Hearings on the PPP Pandemic? Hurry, hurry, hear all about it.
The real Nixon exuded a trapped, shifty-eyed paranoia. He was so tense that he notoriously walked the beach of his California home in a three-piece suit and tie. He seems always to be torn between the conflicting impulses of rounding on his tormentors like a caged animal with teeth bared, or jumping out of his own skin.
Some might dismiss Shiv Chopra as paranoid for seeing carcinogens in every mouthful.
As the Health Canada whistleblower whose testimony led to the agency's banning bovine growth hormone as an additive to increase milk yields in cows, Chopra puts little faith in regulatory bodies and food safety standards.
"There's the tainted blood inquiry, mad cow disease, silicone breast implants ... there's a whole series of things that government says it knows better," said Chopra, who will be in Montreal tonight to launch his book, Corrupt to the Core: Memoirs of a Health Canada Whistleblower.
The agency fired Chopra, a microbiologist, and fellow scientists Gérard Lambert and Margaret Haydon in 2004, six years after they testified before the Canadian Senate about their concerns surrounding bovine growth hormone. (The dismissal is under appeal.)...
...For that and other reasons, the Fairness Doctrine was abandoned more than 20 years ago, a change that in turn opened the door to creation of right-wing talk radio.
However, with Democrats in control of Congress and Barack Obama about to become president, the maestros of talk radio see an opportunity. They know that the more threatened their audience feels, the higher their ratings get. And what better way to rile up their listeners than to claim that the Democrats are out to silence talk radio itself, the medium that brings conservatives the truth as they want to know it.
So for months, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and others have been warning their audiences that once in power, the Democrats plan to bring back the Fairness Doctrine. Politicians such as Newt Gingrich have joined the chorus, and right-wing pundits insist the issue will be part of Obama's agenda in his first 100 days in office.
But it's all nonsense. Obama, for example, is on the record as very clearly opposing a new Fairness Doctrine. The most recent bill calling for reinstatement of the doctrine was introduced back in 2005 and it went nowhere. In the current Congress, controlled by Democrats in both chambers, no such bills have been introduced and no Democrats have announced or even suggested an effort to resurrect the policy.
With no justification for their paranoia, right-wing media outlets have gone seeking it out, asking individual Democrats whether they think that restoring the doctrine might be a good idea. When they get a yes, it sets off a whole new round of bemoaning. You get the sense that the Democrats are amusing themselves, much as you'd toss a hunk of meat into a tank of piranhas just to watch them go into a frenzy.
The bottom line is that there is no chance whatsoever of the Fairness Doctrine coming back, as those on the right will no doubt learn in the months to come. But it won't matter, because just as quickly as one justification for paranoia disappears, another is certain to emerge. Among a certain crowd, paranoia is a steady state that continues independent of evidence or proof.
In a famous essay written in 1964, historian Richard Hofstadter traced the evolution of what he called "the paranoid style in American politics," and his description remains as fresh and accurate as the day it was written:
"But the modern right wing … feels dispossessed," Hofstadter wrote. "America has been largely taken away from them and their kind, though they are determined to try to repossess it and to prevent the final destructive act of subversion. The old American virtues have already been eaten away by cosmopolitans and intellectuals; the old competitive capitalism has been gradually undermined by socialistic and communistic schemers."
It all sounds so familiar, doesn't it? The passage of more than 40 years has confirmed Hofstadter's observation that the paranoid style is enduring. All that has changed is the degree of influence that the paranoid style has achieved through talk radio, and the grip it now holds on the Republican Party...