Information Landmine

"The Americans keep telling us how successful their system is. Then they remind us not to stray too far from our hotel at night." - An un-named EU trade representative quoted during international trade talks in Denver, Colorado, 1997.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Oh dear.

The blogosphere (or at least the parts of it that bother themselves with the US Primaries) has recently been set alight by this story about Ron Paul and his (offensive) newsletters. Other stories about his support amongst white supremacists had surfaced before, but had usually been dismissed by the line that all campaigns, especially anti-government and anti-surveillance ones, tended to attract cranks, and that this didn't necessarily say much about the people running them (a line I always felt was pretty reasonable).

This is a little different. James Kirchik bothered to dig up many of Ron Paul's old newsletters:

Of course, with few bylines, it is difficult to know whether any particular article was written by Paul himself. Some of the earlier newsletters are signed by him, though the vast majority of the editions I saw contain no bylines at all. Complicating matters, many of the unbylined newsletters were written in the first person, implying that Paul was the author.

But, whoever actually wrote them, the newsletters I saw all had one thing in common: They were published under a banner containing Paul's name, and the articles (except for one special edition of a newsletter that contained the byline of another writer) seem designed to create the impression that they were written by him--and reflected his views. What they reveal are decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays. In short, they suggest that Ron Paul is not the plain-speaking antiwar activist his supporters believe they are backing--but rather a member in good standing of some of the oldest and ugliest traditions in American politics.

Whilst I'd always considered the fact that Ron Paul and pals "are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute" to be something of an asset, this stuff is really pretty unpleasant. As Kirchik mentions, its impossible to know how much of this stuff was written by Paul as opposed to ghostwriters, but the fact that it was going out regularly under his name seems pretty damning: is difficult to imagine how Paul could allow material consistently saturated in racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and conspiracy-mongering to be printed under his name for so long if he did not share these views. In that respect, whether or not Paul personally wrote the most offensive passages is almost beside the point. If he disagreed with what was being written under his name, you would think that at some point--over the course of decades--he would have done something about it.

This of course doesn't make him that much more objectionable than the rest of the Republican crowd (albeit somewhat less sophisticated), and he's not going to win the nomination anyway, but I am feeling a little silly for getting so worked up.

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Blogger Steve said...


12 January, 2008 15:01  

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