Tuesday, January 15, 2008
Ron, Lew, et al - apologize for old bigotries and move on!
In a day when any anonymous ass can start a blog and smear people as racists, nazis, pedophiles, democrats or republicans, it can be hard to take any exposes about alleged bigotry seriously. So it took reading The New Republic article “Angry White Man” for me to become convinced allegations against Ron Paul were not just another case of hysterical liberals, neo-liberals and neo-conservatives yelling bigotry over some minor politically incorrect mis-statement. The New Republic article also got into Paul’s views on secession and alleged ties to the League of the South network. (Later update: See my February 2008 Vermont Commons article on Secession and Sectarianism.) (Later Note: Reason magazine has a fairly balanced article with lots of good links on this topic here.)
Anyway, I discovered there was some real bigotry going on here. You know like all the smears, slurs, “Patriot Acts,” phony prosecutions and convictions, "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Acts," etc. directed at American Arabs and Muslims by neoconservatives, neo-liberals and congress and the White House. Not that you’ll probably read much about that in The New Republic or most of the blogs screaming for Ron Paul’s head. In fact a quick internet review of relevant terms shows some The New Republic contributors are neo-con and neo-liberals promoting just such bigotry.
You can read The New Republic’s listing of and links to 20 PDF’s of the extremely obnoxious pages from Ron Paul newsletters and fund raisers in the 1980s and 1990s. I agree the ten examples provided about blacks and gays range from macho flash, to extreme insensitivity to outright bigotry.
Ron Paul should apologize for writing these or, as he claims, letting such writings go out under his name. (I guess in Paul's case "taking moral responsibility" is about the same thing.) Those who have been accused of approving or really writing them (most prominently Lew Rockwell and Jeffrey Tucker - per The Economist) also should fess up - or get any other people who wrote them to fess up.
Confession is good for the soul. And it convinces people that you still do not hold or express such obnoxious views, that they are not central to your political philosophy and that you are not a raving lunatic. If they don’t confess and apologize, they will lose a lot of respect and credibility within the libertarian movement and the broader world. And they hurt all other libertarians via guilt by association.
I think. Actually it is surprising to me that in the last few days I’ve seen little real media concern about this issue - perhaps for the reason explained in the first sentence on this article. See the Wolf Blitzer CNN interview with Ron Paul on the newsletters.
While I didn’t look at the other ten PDFs as carefully, I get the impression that they are at worst macho flash political rants safely within libertarian, conservative and even left wing political non-bigoted political discourse. One link to a brief article about the Israel Lobby contains no slurs or any language more extreme than you’ll see in a lot criticism of the state of Israel now a days. In fact looking through my dozen copies of circa 1987-88 Ron Paul Political Reports, I see a relatively low key coverage of the topic and a lot of information that professors Walt and Mearsheimer could have used in their best seller The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, a big favorite among Paul supporters. So unless I missed something, in these ten examples there probably is nothing anyone has to apologize for substance, or perhaps even style wise
Another charge was wallowing in “conspiracy theories.” Talk about calling the kettle black! Isn’t it amazing the conspiracies government officials (and the neo-con/neo-liberal supporters’) fear the people are planning against them? Another reason they need their "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act."
In this blog post I wrote a bit about my experience with Dr. Ron Paul and friends during the 1987 Libertarian party nominating process for president and the 1988 campaign. (Paul ran against Russell Means, in 1987 photo with me at left.) My main memory was the fight over abortion. However, this latest revelation forced me to dig out a couple boxes from the back of a storage closet and remember and relive some rather heated days and debates of 20 years ago.
I found some other documents that reinforce the idea that whoever is responsible for offensive entries should make very public mea culpas. I also found my own writings alleging that Paul was pandering to right wingers for financial and political support. Specifically:
** There were a couple of long listings of all the non-libertarian bills Ron Paul had voted for during his time as a Republican congressman. Justin Raimondo and Eric Garris, now of AntiWar.Com, then were two very radical and counterculture guys organizing as the “Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee” (or LROC). They put out a four page piece criticizing Paul’s statist votes in congress on social security, the CIA, disarmament, NASA, welfare for veterans, and state assaults on womens and gay rights. They pointed out Paul had been on the board of “Christian Voice,” an “anti-civil liberties lobbing and campaign-fundraising organization,” a couple of whose newsletters I still have.
** There was the article in the March 1987 "The Ron Paul Investment Letter," for which Lew Rockwell was listed as a contributing editor, where Ron Paul announced he was running for president. In it someone wrote a hysterical article alleging AIDS can be transmitted through sweat, saliva and tears; mentioning “children shedding the viruses from every orifice”; and writing about the government forcing schools to take AIDS students or businesses to employ AIDS victims which in context sounded more anti-victim than anti-government. This entry was roundly criticized by Garris and Raimondo in a two sided leaflet reprinting the original article and including their piece comparing Ron Paul to Lyndon LaRouche. It attacked Paul’s “extremist rhetoric” and failure to bring up libertarian concerns about government intervention. However, in January 1988, after Ron Paul won the nomination, he held a press conference where he proved he could speak about libertarian solutions to the AIDS problem without sounding like a paranoid fool.
** There were the John Birch Society newsletters showing Paul as a contributing editor. In “Ron Paul and the John Birch Society” eight page expose Garris and Raimondo decried Paul’s being listed on the masthead of the Bircher’s “The New American” as a contributing editor; his obsession with the Trilateral Commission and the Council of Foreign Relations; his saying that South African apartheid wasn’t as bad as communist treatment of dissidents (which sounds like apologies for Israeli apartheid today, including by contributors to The New Republic). They declared “Rothbard & Company have decided to write off the vast majority of the American people, and instead focus on the fringe....the right wing fever swamp.” (“Mr. Libertarian” Murray Rothbard was returning to his old right roots by supporting Paul, Rockwell, etc.)
** There was a bunch of criticism of the state of Israel but even Jewish libertarians did not complain that Paul was anti-Semitic rather than anti-state terrorism. My main complaint was that Ron Paul refused to criticize Israel as harshly in public as he did in his newsletter, suggesting he was pandering to whatever percentage of his readership was anti-Semitic. Of course, currently he’s pandering to Israel supporters by claiming ending U.S. aid to Israel would be good for Israel, inferring it would let the nation fight all the wars and steal all the land it wants. (Name one other congressperson who doesn’t pander to Israel supporters in one way or another.) This belies his long time criticisms of Israel’s brutal treatment of the Palestinians. (Of course, savvy Americans know that ending aid and alliances with Israel means when it wars with its longtime enemy Russia and Russia's Arab allies, Israel can get in a nuclear war without the U.S. ending up a Russian nuclear target.)
** In March of 1988, just when we thought Ron Paul had gotten the right wing nuttiness out of his system, his campaign issued a press release denouncing “Jesse ‘Drug War’ Jackson” that included too many seemingly gratuitous attacks on Jackson’s alleged misuse of welfare money and socialist ideas. There was no real proof of the allegation Jackson supported tougher drug laws that hurt blacks. There was another brouhaha, doubtless followed by Ron Paul promises to Libertarian Party leaders to exercise more control of his staff writers. That was the last of the non-abortion related controversies during the campaign of which I found evidence in my files.
However, the battle in the Libertarian Party over attracting more “middle class Americans” (in truth right wing cultural conservatives) versus letting us hippy pot smokers with a variety of sexual peculiarities rule the Libertarian Party was just beginning. At the time the only bigotry I heard was against low income or intermittently employed libertarian activists who smoked pot or weren’t sexually straight as an arrow. How did Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, et al manage to make so many of us - including Garris and Raimondo - forget about past incidents and indiscretions? (And even ignore rumors about new indignities in his newsletters?) I’ll leave that story for another blog entry.