No, This Podcast is Not About You: David Laporte on the Proliferation of Paranoia

November 23, 2015

You don’t have to be paranoid to recognize that privacy isn’t what it used to be. The government can get access to our phone calls and emails, video surveillance is becoming a norm in public places, and nearly everyone has the ability to record at will, discreetly from their cellphones. It’s no wonder that paranoia is becoming a common phenomenon. But at what point does a healthy suspicion become delusional denial?

Today’s guest is clinical psychologist David Laporte, a professor of psychology at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and author of the new book, Paranoid: Exploring Suspicion from the Dubious to the Delusional. Laporte considers paranoia a defining affliction of the modern age, as the paranoid mindset becomes ever more legitimized by the media and political figures. Research suggests that one need not be schizophrenic to suffer from a paranoia disorder, as many people may fall within a spectrum of varying gravities of paranoia, much of which is just beginning to be understood in clinical psychology.

This is point of inquiry for Monday, November twenty third. Twenty fifteen. 

Hello and welcome to a point of inquiry. A production of the Center for Inquiry. I’m your host, Lindsay Beyerstein. And my guest today is Dave Report, a clinical psychologist and professor at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. He’s the author of the new book Paranoid. Exploring Suspicion from the dubious to the delusional. Paranoia can be a personality trait, a psychiatric symptom or even a medical issue. But increasingly, paranoia is also an organizing principle of politics. As a friend of mine likes to say about the U.S. political spectrum. There’s left wing, right wing and paranoid whole movements and communities have sprung up to validate their members fears that 9/11 was an inside job, that FEMA puts people in concentration camps, that fluoride is a communist plot. Whether it’s shapeshifting, reptilians hold high political office. The port argues that rather than providing reassurance, pervasive security theater, maybe pushing her whole society towards ever greater levels of paranoia, they welcome to the program. 

Thanks for having me. It seems like paranoia might almost be the signature of conviction of our era. 

That’s one of the points I think I’m try to make in my book is I agree. I think that our present era, especially our present electronic era, is ripe for increasing levels of suspiciousness and all of us. And I think surveys have documented that. And we are when you start to float suspiciousness up sooner or later, some people who are already at pretty high levels, they’re going to cross the line into true paranoia. So I think that you’re absolutely right that this is the golden era of paranoia. 

How did you become interested in this topic? 

Well, I think my career is taking various turns. I started off working with eating disorders or with substance abusers and then eating disorders and schizophrenia and dementia. And no matter what disorder I was dealing with, I found paranoia. So it is an extraordinarily interesting psychological phenomenon that you find just about everywhere. But it was really major events that I was seeing, things like John du Pont when he shot the wrestler Dave Schultz or Timothy McVeigh or Cho at Virginia Tech, that when you when you looked at these individuals, you saw classic signs of paranoia. And that fascinated me. And then no one else seemed to be connecting the dots here. And then so I decided I you know, I needed to study this more and write a book about it. 

I mean, it’s kind of interesting when you hear media coverage about a mass shooting, it seems like often people’s interest in our attempt to explain ends when they find out that somebody had paranoid delusions, he would just shrug our shoulders and dismiss that as impenetrable. 

Exactly. And obviously, those events are very, very rare. So we don’t know if they seem that haven’t. You look great regularity. But, you know, ultimately, they are very rare event. But you. So if you look at lower level than of crimes and murders, what you find is the paranoia is often often present and unfortunately, it’s often not reported as such. So you don’t have police reports that have a box that the policeman checks for. Paterno corporate was paranoid. You might find it if you read the narrative. You know, the police officer interviewed others and the others indicate that he believed that people were out to get him and so forth. But generally speaking, that information is lost. And so we don’t even have good statistics about how many crimes were committed in which the person was at some level paranoid. 

Beyond these sensational mass shootings, do you really drive a line clinically or theoretically between well-founded suspicion and paranoia? 

And that’s the classic. You know, even paranoids have enemies. And that’s very, very difficult because, you know, we have to understand that suspiciousness is a normal human trait. And so in measured amounts, it is it is very adaptive. You know, you should be very suspicious if you’re going to buy a product on a street corner that claims to be the genuine article. But it is cheaper than the real thing. You know, you should be suspicious and that sort of circumstance so suspicious. This is normal and it should go up and down depending on the circumstances you find yourself in. So when does it crossed the line? And we’re going to call it a pattern, a paranoia, a pathological condition? Well, I think a couple of things. One is when when it becomes really extreme, when there’s a sense that the person becomes rigid, that they can not entertain alternative possibilities. No, it can’t be that. It has to be that the person is out to get me. So at that level, secondly, when it really causes the person distress. So if you are paranoid, if you believe that people were out to get to talk behind your back, trying to undermine you, it would cause you a lot of emotional distress to think that. And I think finally is when it starts to interfere with your interpersonal relationships so that when those thoughts about people out to get you talk behind your back, start to make you less willing to put yourself in social circumstances, less pleasant to be around. I think under those circumstances, that’s what we’re going to say. Was the line then become paranoia? 

It seems like paranoia has a kind of totalizing aspect to it, too. I mean, the fact that you’re suspicious of one guy who’s selling you something on a used car lot. It doesn’t normally generalize to all people. 

Yeah. Although very frequently with paranoia, you will find that the person will have a general inclination in pretty much all situations to assume the negative, to assume that the person is not being honest, to be wary about what the person says, to look for hidden signs that the person is being deceptive and so forth. But certainly they can also focus in on some very specific kinds of things and be really paranoid about very specific events. And everything else seems to be just fine. But the more common form of paranoia really is one that involves kind of a pervasive distrust of others. 

And what are some of the more common causes of paranoia that we see in society and at a clinical level, a clinical level? 

I think most often we think in terms of paranoid schizophrenia, that ultimately is going to be a relatively rare condition. So the number of people that develop schizophrenia is not that not that secure about that one percent of the population is going to develop schizophrenia. I think the problem, of course, is that they don’t get better from it. So it will be long lasting as opposed to something like depression where where people might get it, but they might actually get better. There are even rarer conditions, such as a delusional disorder, and that’s where a person just has one very narrow delusion, paranoid delusions about things. 

That’s pretty rare. What would be an example of a focused delusion? 

Like I give you a good example, though. A related one is erotomania. And that’s where a person believes that somebody like George Clooney is or Angelina Jolie is absolutely madly in love with me. And she, you know, she loves me. And that that wink in that one movie that was directed just towards me and in all other aspects, I’m perfectly normal, except that I believe that Angelina Jolie is absolutely in love with me. And you’ll find a similar kind of thing with paranoia that the belief that you know, that the U.S. government is. Well, that’s probably a bad example because the U.S. government is spying on us. But let’s say the Martians are silent. And that’s probably pretty extreme. 

But the Reptilians. Now, that’s a solid middle ground. 

There you go. In here. 

Well, I think that, you know, the neighbors, the neighbors are are tapping into my phone line and they are stealing my, you know, my cable. You know, something like that with when there’s no evidence for that. And that’s all they believe in all other respects. They get along with their coworkers, with their spouse, with all the other neighbors. It’s just that one fixed delusion regarding a particular neighbor. And then there are personality disturbances, paranoid personality disorder. And these are individuals who are or aren’t just sort of paranoid by nature. Now, that being said, there are other things that will make you paranoid. For example, amphetamine abuse will make you paranoid. People that develop Alzheimer’s become paranoid. But one of the more pernicious ones that I think is of interest is that marijuana will often increase levels of paranoia. And given the rates at which states are approving marijuana legally, I think that you’re you’re going to see increase in hospitalizations, emergency room visits for people who are paranoid as a result. 

How do things like conspiracy theories and political paranoia mesh with the sort of more common or garden paranoia that you see at a clinical level? 

Yeah, and there’s a great deal of overlap for sure. So when you look at a conspiracy, you know, folks, they resemble classic patients with paranoia in a number respects. One is that they often take, you know, my new pieces of details and they build great theories out of them. So a mountains out of molehills kinds of things. And that’s typically what you also will see with paranoid individuals, is that they will often take very small events and they’ll put it within the context of a larger, greater conspiracy of people out to get them. 

It’s interesting how in paranoid thinking thing, everything becomes weighted with significance when it ordinarily wouldn’t be like all kinds of extraneous data suddenly take on this heightened emotional tone. Does that tell us something interesting about the way the brain works? 

Absolutely. Absolutely. And in fact, we know that the chemical dopamine, which is an excess in people that, for example, to suffer from schizophrenia, one of the things that dopamine does is it increases the salience of the things that we find in the environment. So if I leave a pen pointed in the particular direction on my desktop, under normal circumstances, normal amounts of dopamine, that’s simply a pen late on a desktop, but increased levels of dopamine. And now the brain is primed to take in information from the environment. 

And it increases the importance of that information. So now that pen becomes much more suspicious that it’s put in that position for a particular reason. So, yes, brain changes and chemistry. And but surprisingly, when we take so much amphetamines, that’s exactly what happens, is the levels of that chemical in our brain go up. 

The phenomenology of paranoia is almost like a rabbit duck illusion, where the suspicious system, you’re seeing it one way and then all of a sudden it flips over into the opposite interpretation. It’s very difficult to see it the other way when you’re in one schema. 

Yeah, I just wonder what the real problems with paranoia is that for whatever reason, people that suffer from this do not seem to be able to to come up with alternative explanations for things that I think are treatments for this need to aim at just that. But they seem unable to to think that it might be something other than the way that they that they see it and they become absolutely convinced of that. Now, part of the problem, of course, is that when you start to argue with people about it and you say, well, you know, it’s not that they’re not doing that well, then you become part of the paranoia because it’s so clear to them that if you don’t see it, then you must be part of it. 

So it just kind of reinforces sort of the very people that may try to help the person see the other side or perhaps even contributing to the feeling of paranoia to feel like our political climate socially legitimizes paranoid thinking and provides support and collaboration for paranoid beliefs for people who might not otherwise be so into them. 

Absolutely. So when the governor of Texas calls out the National Guard because of the possibility that the president, the United States is going to declare martial law guised as a military maneuver, as happened during this past summer, you know, it can’t help because some people that, you know, here’s here’s an elected official who is raising alarms based on some, you know, pretty, pretty paranoid theories about, you know, again, the president taking away everybody’s guns and taxes and imposing martial law. Yeah, it’s I think it’s going to increase people’s levels of people that are probably normal to begin with if they see the National Guard marching down the street and find out why it’s going to increase their level of concern. So I would I would agree that, unfortunately, our political system right now, the polarization of particular, lends itself to this. 

Could it be argued that sort of our surveillance society, that this is a cost to our mental health that’s accruing, that we’re getting into this self reinforcing cycle of surveillance and paranoia? 

Yeah, you know, it’s ironic because, you know, why do we put up security cameras everywhere? Well, that’s the to catch people that are doing bad things that should make us all safer when, in fact, there’s no evidence that it’s doing that is perhaps making us all more or more paranoid to go. So, yeah, there is a I think there’s any number of things in our current environment that are doing that that are contributing to that unwittingly. You know, I think they don’t know that people put up security cameras to make people more suspicious. They are putting off to make them feel safer at some level, in some sense. 

But I think also they put up cameras to make people feel like they need to be on their best behavior to comply. 

Yeah. You know, think about if you’re if you’re sitting in a room or outdoors and you see a security camera looking at you, your behavior is going to change. You know, you’re going to sort of like driving down the road and you see a cop on the side of the road. You’re going to change your driving behavior. You’re going to slow down a little bit. You’re gonna make sure you use the term cycles, whereas you might not do that if you’re not being. Observed. 

But again, I think the cost of all this is that our brains take this stuff in, it notices the security cameras and notices the paper shredders. It notices the idea of the X-ray machines at airports and so forth. It notice all these things. Each one of which at some level signal that it is not a safe place. There aren’t that there’s dangers out there. And I think that, again, increases our level of suspiciousness. 

Even when our suspicions systems are functioning normally, it’s rational and well-founded. If somebody is signaling their distrust of you like every valuable and the place is locked down in their cameras everywhere, it’s rational for you to therefore be more suspicious of their motives, too. 

Yes, absolutely. Yes. Yes. I agree that those engineers just just couple of days ago, the latest issue of the Atlantic magazine came out and the lead article was written by Walter Current, who’s actually a novelist. It’s titled If You’re Not Paranoid, You’re Crazy. And what he basically argues, very much like I did in my book, is that that there are so many threats to our sense of security and safety that, you know, at some level, you know, you should be paranoid. And if you’re not, there’s something wrong with you, given everything that’s happening. 

What are the solutions on a cultural level to kind of bring ourselves back to a more trusting society? Is there any way out of this vicious cycle? 

It’s tough. It’s tough. And the polls indicate that, quite frankly, the direction that we’re moving is making things worse. So if you have all these electronics, you know, the security cameras and that hackers everywhere and so forth, they should probably impact those that grew up, the millennials, because they’re the ones who grew up with all this technology and so forth. And indeed, when the polls of pulled poll in 2014 that looked at levels of trust and what they found was that the millennials, only 19 percent of millennials reported they felt that people could be trusted. You go to the Gen Xers and you found that 31 percent of them felt that people could be trusted. And then you go to the baby boomers and 40 percent of those individuals thought that people could be trusted. Now, first of all, for all, for everybody, it’s the majority of people don’t feel that people can be trusted. But you do see this generational effect so that those who are who grew up with all this technology are the least trusting in a sense, the world has from the very beginning of their life, signal to them that it is not a safe place. They grew up with the security cameras, the hackers, et cetera. 

Is there any correlation between gun ownership and paranoia? 

We don’t have any evidence of that. Paranoia in general is not a very well studied psychological phenomena. Now, that being said, it would be reasonable to suppose that they might be. Yeah. 

You know, if you’re a personal individual, if you believe that people are out to get you out, to break into your house and to steal your property and undermine you and so forth, then you might reasonably buy a far firearm to protect yourself against the assault when it finally does come. But that that being said, I live in a rural area in Pennsylvania. Lots of hunters and, you know, hunters like, you know, they like to buy guns. And I’m not sure that any of them are necessarily any more paranoid than anybody else. So it’s kind of an open question. 

But it seems like some of the major gun organizations are in flirting with paranoid rhetoric, telling people, oh, no, guns are guns are primarily things that you buy to protect yourselves from other people. Yeah. Paul Fidalgo tools that you used to go out and do sports. 

Yep. Yep. And if you go a gun shows, what you find is that that it’s not just people selling guns, but what they’re selling. The fear that goes around the guns that, as you just pointed out, the need to have guns and they are also selling survival kinds of things and so forth. So you’re actually right there kind of embedding the need for a gun within the context of reason for you to be afraid and suspicious. And so you need to have a gun to protect yourself. 

It’s this really facilitative nexus between the personal and political work, the conspiracy ideology peddlers have just positioned themselves in exactly the place where people are feeling vulnerable and try to protect themselves and might be amenable to buying into a larger conspiratorial way of thinking. 

Yeah. And what that’s going to do is, you know, again, I view this as kind of suspiciousness on a continuum. And at some point, you put suspiciousness up far enough and you end up at the doorstep of paranoia. And so what all of this is doing is it’s increasing the levels of suspiciousness kind of overall. And for those that are already starting higher or at the fringes, yep. They’re going to cross the line and interface with the government. The idea has nobody to blame but themselves. You know, you look at the NSA spying program. So if 25, 30 years ago I said to you, you don’t want government spying on you, they’re listening all your phone calls and they’re tapping into your emails and they’re monitoring your text messages and so forth and so on. 

And it’s not just you. It’s everyone in the whole country right now. You would have gone pretty crazy. Yeah, exactly right. 

You would have been labeled crazy 30 years ago. And now you it’s like. That’s what happened, indeed. So, you know, those kinds of revelations come out. Who do you who do you end up trusting that, you know, it’s it’s pretty bad. 

Do you think that greater transparency and good government could set us on a more positive cycle and get out? The government acted more trustworthy and more transparent itself. Do you think that gradually we could begin to heal from this? This chasing our tails of paranoia that we’re experiencing in society? 

It certainly would hurt. I mean, it’s really wouldn’t hurt it. It would help. So if everything was more trans parent and so the people who are sort of at normal levels, suspiciousness would feel like, OK, now I see what’s going on. I’m sure. Unfortunately, I think that people that are paranoid that you can do everything you want and it’s not going to satisfy them. So there will always be an explanation of all that hearing was open and we saw the videotape. But you don’t know what went on behind the closed doors before the meeting of, you know, things along those lines. So paranoid individuals are always going to kind of remain that way. But I think you’re right. Overall, would it probably help to restore some of the trust that we used to have in the government, but which because we don’t now. 

So in terms of helping people who can’t be helped by rational argument or social support, what tools do clinicians have to help the actual people who have actual paranoia related mental illnesses? 

The problem is that, course, we have not studied paranoia in general very much. And so we do not have the kinds of studies of treatment that we might have for depression or obsessive compulsive disorder or even things like autism. So that being said, there are some studies that have looked at it and it appears that some forms of psychotherapy can be effective with low levels of paranoia. They don’t necessarily get rid of all the paranoid feelings and thoughts, but what they do is they help the person better examine those thoughts and feelings and also not get emotionally upset by the worry and fear that they have. So psychotherapy can work again at low level kind of paranoia and more extreme forms than the more delusional forms. Then you’re probably looking at something like medications to help reduce paranoia. So as I said before, we know that the chemical dopamine is important in the formation of paranoia and the major drugs that are often used to treat things like schizophrenia can help in reducing those levels of dopamine and therefore in levels of paranoia. And very frequently, of course, there is a combination of both psychotherapy and the use of medications. 

Is there a heritable component to paranoid personalities or susceptibility to things like schizophrenia that have paranoid traits? 

Yeah, I think I mean, just about everything in life, as is it here. Know it has a genetic component to it. So, yes, there is a significant part of that as well. There is also not an unimportant aspect, of course, which is if you’re if you’re raised in a family. So imagine you’re raising a family of survivalists who believe that, you know, at any moment the government’s going to take away your guns are going to come after you and you’ve got to protect us. So if all you ever heard from your parents was you can’t trust your neighbors, you can’t trust I mean, you can’t trust the government, you can’t trust this person. Not surprisingly, you’re going to grow up with that kind of attitude. And so now you’ve got a double whammy. You’ve got perhaps the genetic component, because this is your family. You’re wearing their genes and you’ve got the environment. The family is telling you the same thing over and over again. And then, of course, you have a greater environmental you know that we’ve been talking about the security cameras and the NSA certainly spying on you and so forth. 

It was a fascinating factoid in the book. And I’m wondering if you could tell us more about it. You mentioned that your paranoia is frequently accompanies a big part of delirium and that both adults and children can become delirious because of, say, high fevers or things like that. But interestingly, adults tend to get paranoid and children don’t want what’s behind that. 

Yeah, and it’s probably related to the maturation of the brain so that even, you know, even a condition like schizophrenia is very, very rare in children, in part because their brain has perhaps not matured at a level where you start to see the kinds of problems like paranoia emerge. Now, that being said, there are lots of holes. Have studies actually shown that that kids are capable of expressing things like they’re suspicious about others? They may not voice the classic paranoid thoughts that you might get in an adult. Vast conspiracy is out to get me and so forth. But they will express concerns about others that others are talking behind their back and things along those lines. 

And certainly fear and avoidance develop very early in young children. I mean, toddlers get scared of strangers as almost a developmental rite of passage. 

Exactly. Yeah. And that’s somewhat normal so that when kids learn to toddle around, what goes along with that is the normal stranger anxiety. So that so as not to be sort of swept away by a stranger. They start to develop a kind of a fear of strangers that passes quite normally, unless the family, of course, kind of fans the flames and teaches the kid never to go to strangers. Strangers are all bad and so forth. So, again, a paranoid family is likely to raise paranoid childrens of like, you know, Republican families, groups, Republicans and Democratic families raised Democrats. 

So it’s it’s that sort of transmission of a way of viewing the world with aged children typically become capable of having a sufficiently sophisticated theory of mind that they can entertain paranoid thoughts because you have to be able to really model other people’s thinking in pretty good detail to think, you know, I think this he thinks that he has intentions against me, that he is then trying to conceal so that nobody else knows. I mean, that’s a pretty complicated thing. How old do kids have to get before they master that developmental? 

And it emerges to varying degrees. I think the short answer is going to be sometime probably in adolescence. But the part of the brain that is largely responsible for the development of that, as you point out, that sort of theory of mind, the ability to be able to understand what someone else might be thinking and feeling. That part of the brain that develops, that is the frontal cortex of the brain, the front, very front part of the brain. And that is one of the last parts of the brain to fully evolve. So that brain does not finish developing until your early 20s. Now, obviously, some kids, by virtue of genetics as well as environment, will develop the frontal lobes faster than other kids and will develop those abilities faster than others. So starting somewhere in adolescence and extending through young adulthood is when you start to see these emerging. And not surprisingly, when you start looking at things like schizophrenia, paranoid schizophrenia. That’s when it emerges that emerges. And in the adolescent teens and early, you know, early adulthood years. 

It’s part of personality disorders are defined as persistent, longstanding patterns of behavior that go back to childhood. And there is a paranoid personality disorder. What a young paranoid personality disorder people look like as they grow up. 

Probably. Again, we don’t have good, real, real good studies on these. But what they’re probably looking like is just kids that are just not as social as other kids, just less trusting, less willing to join the group to share information with others. And the willingness to you know, you carry my backpack for me, kind of, you know, no, I won’t because I don’t trust you kind of thing. So I think that probably it’s in their interactions with others where they just become they’re just not quite as as social in the trusting sense that that normal individuals are. 

And social isolation tends to feed paranoia in and of itself. Right. 

Yes, absolutely. So. So you see this vicious cycle developing. You could get a kid who at some level doesn’t trust other kids, doesn’t play well with others, doesn’t get along. So needless to say, they’re going to be kind of shunned by others, which is going to increase their social isolation. And again, as you point out, the social isolation does, in fact, lead to paranoia. And so now they’re not getting the corrective feedback from others about their behavior. They’re becoming more socially isolated. 

And the paranoia can simply be reinforced as it goes along, because we’re all constantly using other people in our normal social interactions to test our theories of reality. Yeah, and we’re not without that sort of social level where you have entire political movements you can self select. So that to the extent that you interact with anyone, they will validate your paranoid beliefs. 

Yes. And of course, we the prime of all that is that we tend to surround ourselves with people who are like minded. So if I am of the kind that is more suspicious about the nature of others, you know, I can go to, you know, perhaps militia movements. We’re not sure about that, but perhaps the militia, you know, meetings or gun shows. And I’ll find lots of other people who are similar in their distrust of others in the government. And that will kind of reinforce that. And so now what we’ve done and this is a phenomenon, psychology called group think now you’ve got people that all think the same way. 

And no one ever raises an alternative viewpoint at all that they all tend to come up with the same points of view that simply reinforce each other and therefore, thinking continues. 

And you have this kind of interesting thing where you’ve got your group think that everyone’s thinking the same. But then also, even if somebody does present countervailing evidence, it can easily and seamlessly be incorporated into the larger theory of paranoia. 

Yeah. Since you’ve inoculated itself against any kind of, like, epistemic help. 

Yes. Yes. And it’s and it’s very hard to to uproot that because, again, there is that tendency for the people that are paranoid for their minds to lock on to something and not be open to change the view. And of course, the more that you try to push it, the more likely you are going to become part of what they are paranoid about. 

What implications does that have for someone who maybe has a friend or a loved one or a neighbor that seems to be going in that direction? 

I think of the concerns that I have overall regarding paranoia is that that that violence is not an infrequent. So the violence is frequently the end of the line of paranoia. And anger is really the big issue that you want to look for so that when a paranoid individual becomes more and more angry as a result of the persecution they feel that they’ve experienced frequently, violence results. Best example of that is Cho at Virginia Tech. If you listen to his the videotape that he left behind, it is this angry rant about all of the injustices he is that he has befall him over the course of his life and now he’s going to kind of get back at you. And that’s typically what you see with the mass killing types. Is this is retribution for all of the slights and insults that others have given them in their in their view. 

And, of course, it’s not always possible to identify real slights, given that they’re paranoid. It seems like Cho. Never shared his or rarely shared any thoughts with anybody, and it wasn’t clear that he actually was being persecuted. 

Yes, that’s right. And, you know, it is possible that he’s been because it just as much as anybody else. Now, I think one of the problems that you throw into all this is that when you start throwing in race, it becomes an issue. Yeah. 

So you live in a world of systemic racism? Yes, exactly. 

You know, African-Americans have been saying for decades, look, we’re being picked on by the police. We are being singled out. We are being harassed and so forth. And the general, the larger culture was gone. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, now we’re not saying that anymore, are we? 

Thanks to The New York Times front page two days ago. I mean, if anybody had any doubts, I don’t think reasonable people should have had doubts even before. I mean, you know, in the Jim Crow era, the NAACP published a book called The Green Book of Places that black people could go if they were driving across the country so that they wouldn’t be harassed. Yeah. And then I don’t think that really changed it. 

So you’re right. You’re absolutely right. And I think a lot of people have recognized this all along. I think what has changed is hybrid. People are fortunately no longer willing to accept this continual continuing, which is good. I think it’s a good thing. And ironically enough, I think one of the things that has contributed to this have been cell phone cameras, so that now, you know, as we were talking about earlier, now the police, you know, they’re they’re not going to get away with things. There was just the one this morning about the the guy that threw that kid across the room at a great school, I think it was down in South Carolina, caught on a cell phone. 

So these kinds of things which have been going on for certainly decades under the radar, they’re no longer under the radar. I think that’s maybe one of the good things about it. And I, of course, lost your question somewhere along the line and all of that. But hopefully it’s related. 

Yeah, I mean, it’s kind of interesting how really mutual suspiciousness is bringing some of this back into check that, you know, because we can all monitor authority figures as easily or almost as easily as they can monitor us. It’s kind of empowering people. You think maybe that would ultimately lead to lower levels of paranoia. If people feel like they have the technological tools and the social capital to expose things that authority figures and oppressor’s might do to them. 

And that’s that’s a very good point. So if we look at African-Americans who who are perhaps appropriately mistrusting of police, that’s now it’s so much easier to document police abuses. Perhaps they’re going to be a little bit more relaxed about it, not worrying that the know that the police perhaps are going to have to start comporting their behavior more appropriately since they’re more likely to be caught and the police might actually start acting better and therefore people would be reasonable becoming less suspicious. 

Yes, I might hope I got all of all this, of course, is that the police realize that that previous tactics probably were never appropriate, but there are certainly no longer appropriate and hopefully police training and will change. 

That’s all the time we have. Thank you so much for coming on the show. 

Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed. 

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein

Lindsay Beyerstein is an award-winning investigative journalist and In These Times staff writer who writes the blog Duly Noted. Her stories have appeared in Newsweek, Salon, Slate, The NationMs. Magazine, and other publications. Her photographs have been published in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times’ City Room. She also blogs at The Hillman Blog (, a publication of the Sidney Hillman Foundation, a non-profit that honors journalism in the public interest.