The song was originally about the enforcement of curfew while the Buffalo Springfield was the house band of a popular club in Los Angeles, which attracted a protest of young people. The idea that "step out of line, The Man come and take you away" was the classic performative paranoia of the time. There were actually riots on the Sunset Strip, and I'm not sure what they expected the police to do in response to that other than move people away - some arrested, some merely warned. If they really thought that they were going to be taken away (with the implication of being disappeared indefinitely rather than processed through usual actions and likely home that night or possibly the next), they would have been heading for another jurisdiction, up to and including going to Canada. Note that while the Flying Burrito Brothers talked about moving to Canada, singing Steve Earle's "My Uncle" - long after the draft was over - none of them actually did. So paranoia strikes shallow. And there are a few rhymes for that, so that excuse won't fly.
The celebrities who swear they are going to move to Canada "if (insert this year's Republican) is elected" - they never do.
Which brings me to today. I had a followup commenter to one of my comments over at another site. He assured me that requiring masks was indeed a very big deal, because it was an introduction to making us do anything, to making women wear the hijab, and to send us to camps if we refused. If he really believed this he would be gone, probably to another country, but at minimum to some remote location to go off grid. (Yeah, I know, any day now, just one more thing, that will push him over the line.) He certainly wouldn't be publishing comments where "they" could track him on a public site. It is a performative paranoia.
I don't think it is quite the same as getting away to another state or county where you don't think you will be interfered with so much, or taking care to protect your online privacy. Maybe it is just a more intense version of those and I am just making excuses for those others because I understand that better. Yet I did work with paranoia for decades and have written about it and thought about it a fair bit in my life, about the now-discarded psychoanalytic theories and the difference between those whose perceptions or physical interpretations are unwired for medical reasons. The demented can become paranoid, as events happen around them that they do not understand and cannot explain, like people taking food out of their refrigerator or moving important items from where they carefully put them. That is more gradual than the psychotic varieties, and maybe this rampant shallow paranoia that people cannot possibly believe but keep saying anyway is something like that. They do not understand what is happening around them and begin to make up stories about what is happening, because the brain needs explanations or it cannot rest.
But I don't think that's it either. It is ultimately cynicism swollen out of proportion, and of course an immense arrogance that they are among the few who somehow see the handwriting on the wall that the rest of us sheeple are oblivious to. They know (tapping temple). You can't fool them. They've seen through their little games. Then they bind themselves into this escalating pattern of increasing the level of warning if people don't believe them. "They" are not just going to tell you you're wrong, they're going to take down your name...they are going to keep you from getting a promotion...don't believe me? Well, my brother was in line for a promotion but...still don't believe me? They are going to take your wife. They are going to make you disappear. The intensity of the thing that will supposedly happen to you increases, but what they really mean is that they are increasing their volume. They are already at three flags warning with no way of going to four, so they find a different set of intensifiers. They want to show that they are really worried and angry. No really, really worried and angry. Pay attention here I am really, really, really - what do I have to do to get your attention?
As James quoted from CS Lewis about two weeks ago "The problem with trying to make yourself stupider than you really are is that you so very often succeed." (The Magician's Nephew)