Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Anti-black, anti-gay, and conspiracy rhetoric in Ron Paul newsletters

James Kirchick of The New Republic has gone back and reviewed the content of Ron Paul's newsletters published prior to 1998, and the results are not at all pretty. They contain repeated anti-black and anti-gay bigotry and conspiracy theory rhetoric, much of it under Ron Paul's byline. And the Paul campaign's explanation is weak:

When I asked Jesse Benton, Paul's campaign spokesman, about the newsletters, he said that, over the years, Paul had granted "various levels of approval" to what appeared in his publications--ranging from "no approval" to instances where he "actually wrote it himself." After I read Benton some of the more offensive passages, he said, "A lot of [the newsletters] he did not see. Most of the incendiary stuff, no." He added that he was surprised to hear about the insults hurled at Martin Luther King, because "Ron thinks Martin Luther King is a hero."

In other words, Paul's campaign wants to depict its candidate as a naïve, absentee overseer, with minimal knowledge of what his underlings were doing on his behalf. This portrayal might be more believable if extremist views had cropped up in the newsletters only sporadically--or if the newsletters had just been published for a short time. But it 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.

You can find numerous excerpts from Ron Paul's past publications here.


olvlzl said...

What is it with Republican doctors and gay sex? I've got to think that most of them seem to think about it more than any gay man I've known.

Scratch a libertarian, find a fascist. One who is afraid of being caught doing something kinky.

Hume's Ghost said...

My question is what's with Texas and nutty Republicans?

Einzige said...

Ludwig von Mises must be spinning in his grave.

Victor said...


Jim Lippard said...

Victor: I have to agree with Time Lee that Ron Paul's response is unpersuasive: "He says 'I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts.' Which is the right thing to say. But where are the details that would make this credible? When was the author of those articles hired and how long did he work for Paul? If it was multiple bigoted individuals, how did Paul manage to make so many poor personnel decisions? If he really finds those words worthy of denunciation, shouldn’t there be an issue of his newsletter from the late 1990s in which he apologizes to his readers for inadvertently sending them bigoted articles under his name?

It’s quite possible that Paul does not, personally, harbor racist or anti-gay beliefs. But it appears that at the very least, he doesn’t seem to find such beliefs especially objectionable. He doesn’t appear to have made any special effort to avoid associating with hateful people."

And with Will Wilkinson: "To my mind, the people who are trying to salvage something of Paul’s reputation are just making themselves look bad. No matter how much money, time, and devotion you’ve given to someone, sometimes the only right thing to do is spit on the ground and walk away, hurting. If it wasn’t before, it is now clear that this just isn’t a man who deserves decent people’s support.

I had hoped Paul would do more good than harm for libertarianism, inspiring lots of college kids to get interested in the ideas of liberty. But now I’m pretty certain that he’s done a lot of harm, causing many people to associate libertarianism with racist cranks. I think it’s pretty important then to publicize the fact that there are genuinely liberal versions of libertarianism out there. The young people who got interested in libertarian ideas through Paul need to be able to find Cato, Reason, the IHS, and other places where one can learn about classical liberalism, which isn’t about keeping the Mexicans out, deploring the abolition of slavery, or hoarding gold."

I also recommend Arnold Kling's recent article on politics and cults, that also addresses Ron Paul, and concludes:

"For libertarians, I recommend focusing on institutions that compete with government: families, private schools, charities, and religious organizations (short of becoming cult-like in your devotion). I recommend developing your logical reasoning skills and applying those skills to questioning what politicians say. But I do not recommend joining mass political movements. Instead, treat them as cults."

Jim Lippard said...

Doh, that was supposed to say Tim Lee, not Time Lee.

Jim Lippard said...

Also note the comments at Tim Lee's blog post, where commenter David points to an article from 2001 by Virginia Postrel in the Texas Monthly that points out that Paul's initial response to criticism about some of these remarks was to defend them as his own remarks, and then second to deny having written them himself.

Hume's Ghost said...

Reason's Hit and Run blog had some good posts on Paul, also.

Here's one from Radley Balko

A big reason why is the latent sentiment at every level of the criminal justice system—from cops to prosecutors to jurors—that black people are inherently more prone to criminality than white people. It's sort of the opposite of "group rights." It's "group wrongs"—or punishing black people on a individual basis for perceived transgressions by black people as a group. It's also a form of collectivist thinking—the antithesis of libertarianism.

I have no idea if Paul is a racist. I suspect that he isn't, at least today. But he's certainly had no problem benefiting from the support of people who are. It's more than a little disingenuous for him to now defend himself by invoking what the criminal justice system has done to the black community when for fifteen years a newsletter bearing his name, and the profits from which went into his bank account, celebrated and encouraged the black-people-are-savage-criminals lie in particularly vile and perverse ways.

The newsletter defended the Rodney King beating, for God's sake, on the bullshit argument that King was part of a criminal class of people. The implication is that some people deserve substandard treatment under the rule of law because of the color of their skin. There's nothing remotely libertarian about that.

Whether he was active or passive in the newsletters doesn't matter. Paul perpetuated that way of thinking for more than a decade in a newsletter he published. He did it during the 1980s and 1990s, the very period over which the drug laws exacerbated the white-black disparity in America's prisons. He can't now use the "blacks are treated poorly by our criminal justice system" defense to distance himself from those very newsletters.

Hume's Ghost said...

I see that Kling article mentions that Fair Tax advocates come across as cultish. That sounds about right, given that it takes a cult mentality not to see what a flaming idiot Neal Boortz is.

I'm not sure that he isn't significantly worse for libertarianism that Paul. Every year come election time Boortz starts opining about how we should take away the vote of people who don't vote his way (i.e. minorities, women, and the poor.)

Jim Lippard said...

The cavalcade of Ron Paul criticism continues:

The Volokh Conspiracy has assembled a list of stupid things Ron Paul believes.

David Boaz has criticized Paul in depth for his ties to Lew Rockwell.

Tim Lee points out Paul's newsletter references to race and racism.

And Matt Welch finds that in 1996 Paul defended his newsletter comments on the grounds of being taken out of context, not his current story that he didn't write them or know about them.

I think the Ron Paul presidential campaign is near its end.

Hume's Ghost said...

That's the thing about the Paul cultists that really drives me nuts, how they keep saying "he didn't write them blah blah". I mean, c'mon! One newsletter and I would understand and accept that excuse, but this went on for years!

One of those letters called Israel a Nazi state, which is Newspeak to the extreme.

Jim Lippard said...

The author of the Ron Paul newsletter articles has been outed as Lew Rockwell.