Thursday, January 10, 2008

Speaking of smears ...

Over the months, I've tried to write off the stormtrooper-like, bullying attitude of some Ron Paul cultists. You know the ones I'm talking about:

Commenter: Ron Paul puts his pants on one leg at a time like everyone else.

Cultist: Why do you want to SMEAR Ron Paul?

Commenter: I'm not trying to smear him, I'm just saying he wasn't born of a virgin or anything like that.

Cultist: SMEAR! SMEAR! That's all you're doing? How dare you imply that Ron Paul's mother ever had sex? Why, you goddamn godless socialist, I oughtta ...

At first, most of the worst of that kind of thing came from people I either didn't know at all, or already knew from prior experience to be marginal in the sanity department. My more sane acquaintances in the Ron Paul camp didn't go that far. Yeah, they twisted themselves into pretzels trying to make the real-life Ron Paul jibe with the uber-libertarian image of Ron Paul in their heads and hearts, but they didn't get all wild-eyed and frothy and hateful.

I sensed things were really going downhill a couple of weeks ago -- December 27th, as a matter of fact -- when an author whom I don't know well, but have always considered a reasonable guy and a fine libertarian writer, whipped out this bit of nonsense. Money quote:

In my view, the "Ron Paul question" constitutes a litmus test for libertarians. Simply put, the "Ron Paul question" consists of determining whether or not a person supports Dr. Paul. If so, as I see matters, he passes this test and can be constituted a libertarian; if not, his credentials are to that extent suspect.

After that eye-opener, I guess I shouldn't have been shocked by the reaction at the LewRockwell.Com blog to The New Republic's expose on Paul and accompanying newsletter excerpts.

But I was.

Substantive criticism of, or response to, the content? Nowhere to be found. Nothing but the cry of "SMEAR!" (the only time I checked, it appeared on the front page of the blog seven times) accompanied by some pretty vicious personal attacks on the TNR article's author. He's a pimply-faced youth. He's a Giuliani supporter. His education was financed by some commiesymp outfit. The rag he writes for has a sordid history. [1]

I have a feeling that much of this has to do with not wanting to answer what is quickly becoming the $64,000 question among libertarians: Who is the anonymous ghostwriter credited with the racist and homophobic vomit that went out under Paul's name?

Wendy McElroy has asked him to identify himself. Kevin Rollins and Robert Capozzi have asked Lew Rockwell to confirm or deny that he's the writer in question. [2] For which, of course, all three have been denounced for, you guessed it, "smearing" Paul, Rockwell or both.

Why is the question important? Two reasons:

First, Paul has been evasive on the subject. "Ghostwriter" and "former aide" are, I believe, the terms he's used. Those terms imply -- and no doubt intentionally so -- a long-severed relationship. If the ghostwriter is found among Paul's long-time friends and current advisors, the newsletters take on a whole new relevance vis a vis Paul's campaign, because now there's a live wire connecting that past to this present (actually, there's already one -- the lightbulb went on in Jim Henley's head before it did in mine).

Secondly, if Rockwell or another writer or writers associated with LewRockwell.Com and the Ludwig von Mises Institute wrote that trash, it casts the allegations of a racist orientation -- allegations which have been leveled at those institutions for years by folks like the Cato Institute's Tom G. Palmer -- in a whole new light. As someone who defended LRC/LvMI from those allegations for a long time, I'm mortified to discover that I may have been very, very wrong.

Speaking of which, this shitstorm represents a real problem for radical libertarians. The Mises Institute and LRC have, for all intents and purposes, been Radical Libertarian Central since the Internet came of age, and they've been damn good at it. If they've also been effectively a racist front organization, what we're looking at is the ideological equivalent of 9/11, with the planes bearing down on us piloted by those we thought were our own. It won't be a question of rescuing our betrayers, but rather of rescuing the principles those betrayers have besmirched.

There is, I suspect, little joy in Auburn right now. That the crew at LRC is responding to these events in much the same way that they've always mocked the Randroids for acting is telling. Hopefully that behavior is driven by genuine shock and confusion rather than by knowledge of their own culpability in what's fast turning into a combination black eye, broken jaw and diagnosis of venereal disease for the libertarian movement.

1. And yes, The New Republic does, in fact, have a sordid history. But last time I noticed, the owner of the publication hadn't publicly blamed that sordid history on unnamed ghost writers when confronted with it.

2. My guess -- and it's only a guest -- is that Rockwell edited the newsletters, and that the most offensive excerpts were authored by Gary North. But I repeat, that's just a guess.

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