A common weapon for bludgeoning a ‘‘crazy’’ is to insinuate paranoia by consigning them to ‘‘the black-helicopter crowd.’’ The term implies a taste for conspiracy theories, especially those tied to powerful institutions (i.e., the U.S. government) against targeted civilians (i.e., them). The image of black helicopters gained currency among antigovernment and militia enthusiasts in the mid-1990s. The Republican congresswoman Helen Chenoweth said in 1995 that federal agents had been seen landing black helicopters in her rural Idaho district.
Black helicopters have become a proxy for dismissing as delusional anyone, usually on the right, who is hostile to any kind of government action. In 2013, Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. said that a suggestion that guns need to be registered ‘‘raises all the black-helicopter-crowd notion that what this is all about is identifying who has a gun so that one day the government can get up and go to the house and arrest everyone who has a gun.’’
Mark Leibovich, “Wacko Attack”, The New York Times Magazine (2 August 2015), 12.