The Ron Paul newsletters, in the news — again! So I’ve un-archived the following.


The following appeared on Wirkman Netizen, on August 8, 2008:

The New Republic once again brought up Ron Paul’s strange career as figurehead for a series of newsletters, complete with racially insensitive statements and provocative rhetoric.

As a writer and editor working in the libertarian movement at the time of these “Ron Paul” newsletters, I have vague recollection of “common knowledge”: it was known who wrote these newsletters, and why. It was money for Ron. It was money for the writers. And it was a way of keeping Ron’s name in the minds of right wingers with money . . . future donors.

It was designed to be entertaining writing. Provocative. It flirted with racism, like Mencken’s did, and Mencken was indeed the model of the style. But these “Ron Paul” writings went further than Mencken’s usually did (at least for publication) along the lines of annoying the racially sensitive; and they sometimes did veer into outright racism.

I was embarrassed by the implied racial hatred, rather disgusted by the general level of hate regardlesss of race. I was also a bit shocked by the writing because the style was so obviously not Ron’s, and so obviously the product of the actual writers, with whom I had tangential relations — is my editor’s* writer my writer?

And yet some bits of this writing, held up for inspection by TNR — for example, the bit about Salman Rushdie — seem interesting and worth discussing, not worth quickly relegating to the trash file. The author of the Rushdie/Zundel “comparison” was primarilly attacking the hypocrisy of the mainstream “liberals” regarding free speech. To characterize this as a simple comparison (and thus to suggest a “moral equation”) is to miss a very big point. I figure that if I read more of this stuff, I’d find more missed points. The provocation is obvious. But there’s intellectual content behind the provocation, and the content is worth considering without the bad connotations elicited by the rhetoric.

Most of us “old-time” libertarians have known about this sad period of Ron Paul’s career from the get-go. We know that it was a lapse on his part. But we who opposed it (and not all of us did) put much of the blame on the writers involved, not on Paul, who was, after all, juggling family, medicine, politics, and continued study of actual economics. That Paul didn’t realize what he was doing to his own moral stance is amazing. His style is one of earnest moralizing. That fits his character. The ugliness of this career move speaks a sad story.

It also indicates the most thing about Ron Paul as presidential timber: he let himself be so easily used and influenced.

But then, so has nearly every president in American history, our current president most of all.

Oh, so who wrote Ron Paul’s newsletter? I have only hearsay and memory to go on. But really, most of us in the libertarian “industry” just “knew” who. I have four names in mind, I think all contributed at one point or another. But maybe it was only a subset of those names, maybe it was just one or two. One of the names is pretty damn obvious. And one of the names is not obvious at all; the style was abandoned for better things, later on.

Like Rodney King, one might prefer we all just get along, move along, and forget about this sorry story. But it is worth exploring. Racism is still a live issue in America. And, apparently, in libertarianism.

* Were R.W. Bradford still alive, I am sure he would be happy to verify what he had heard from the writers themselves. The authorship of the Ron Paul newsletters was, truly, an open secret. Or at least open to those of us at Liberty.