Who are the doomsayers? ""They are the crushed idealists who have never found success in impressing society with their own personal goals."" They are hardened revolutionaries, liberals or conservatives, relics of the ancien regime, fanatics, and you may know them by their paranoia and exaggerated rhetoric. Hicken studies the recent past and its prophets of political, social and ecological doom, from the canting New York Times to the ranting East Village Other. He finds the Times' Op-Ed page so ""loaded with so many predictions of gloom for the future that one must feel, as Keats put it, 'half in love with easeful death'."" He surveys two centuries of American doomsayers, from Jonathan Edwards to Sinclair Lewis, before settling on post-WW II cloudgath-erers with their thousand real or imagined disasters. He quotes student publications and underground and establishment papers, all with their solemn witlessness, and finds ""an astounding similarity in language from medium to medium,"" a kind of they're-out-to-get-us verbiage. He holds up Richard Hofstadter's 1963 essay ""The Paranoid Style in American Politics"" as a classically well-balanced insight into arguments based on ""absence of verifiable facts,"" curious leaps of imagination and ""the continued presence of the notion that there is, somewhere, an evil and malignant power which manipulates events and people."" He shows the New Left's wildly dreadful depiction of each president as a tool of various power-mafias to be nonsense. Irreverent? Not very. Nor even much fun -- merely an unmissable barn-door target.