Max Azzarello’s views include paranoid fantasies about both Trump and President Joe Biden.

Max Azzarello’s views include paranoid fantasies about both Trump and President Joe Biden.

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There is a paranoid disease uniting the far left and far right in the United States. The latest victim, identified by city officials as Florida resident Max Azzarello, set himself on fire in the pro-Donald Trump protest area outside the Manhattan courtroom where the former president is on trial.

Azzarello’s views include paranoid fantasies about both Trump and President Joe Biden. They’re both “in it,” he told reporters outside the trial, carrying a sign that read, “Trump supports Biden and they’re about to stage a fascist coup,” in capital letters.

Before “standing up” and pouring gasoline on himself while lighting a flame, Azzarello threw flyers filled with bipartisan conspiracy theories as onlookers screamed and ran, according to The New York Times. Such actions mark him as an outlier in American politics — someone willing to die for his beliefs, but the insane insistence on bipartisan conspiracies is far from marginal.

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Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a third-party candidate for president, is spreading conspiracy theories about vaccines but still received support of more than 20% last fall. In some swing states, his support, from both blue and red partisans, is enough to push the race toward Trump or Biden.

Moreover, the vaccine paranoia that once belonged to the granola-crunching, Birkenstock-wearing, flaky left has spread across the Trumpy right with enough adherents to cause outbreaks of diseases once thought to have been defeated.

Fatherly doctor Anthony Fauci is at the center of many conspiracies tracking US funding for a laboratory in Wuhan from which the COVID-19 virus escaped, leading to a pandemic that has killed millions of people. Presumably the motive was to impose a new level of government control on society.

The idea that our government would kill millions to achieve its goals has surprising supporters. Last week, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers claimed that AIDS was a government conspiracy from the 1980s. He is not the first to say that, but perhaps the most prominent.

And you don’t have to be a freak or a jerk to get sucked into this national disease. Rep. Paul Gosar was once a beloved dentist before running for Congress and then descending into paranoia as he was re-elected despite his irrational views.

Both Democrats and Republicans have partisan media ecosystems that regularly feature stories about the other, portraying them in the worst possible light: Democrats promote Marxism. Republicans want to throw wheelchair-bound, working-class grandmothers off a cliff.

Each party has a breed of politicians who cater to this angry and reality-challenged vision, while benefiting from the flow of fundraising it generates. On the left we have The Squad and on the right the Freedom Caucus. Each party has leaders who sometimes bow to pressure from these fringes, giving them the power and credibility to bring in new supporters.

Those who hold a hopeful, sometimes naive view of the United States are trying to unite Americans around a common-sense center where we all come together to get things done, but those centrist bonds have disintegrated and the politicians who try to build them have become increasingly rare. , still.

What unites America is the crazy left and the angry paranoid right, the most extreme elements of which merge seamlessly.

Max Azzarello is not a fringe player. He is a stark warning that the new center of American politics – a bipartisan disease of extremes – could consume us all.

David Mastio, a former editor and columnist for USA Today, is a regional editor for The Center Square and a regular correspondent for the Kansas City Star Opinion. Follow him on X: @DavidMastio or email him at [email protected]