Monday, January 9, 2012

Ron Paul and His Personality Cultists

In the past few days, we have seen another go around with the Ron Paul Cultists at a New Mexico FB page for libertarian discussion. On this page as elsewhere, posts and discussions about Ron Paul’s candidacy for the GOP nomination, and the recently rediscovered baggage he has have been topics for discussion. There are those libertarians who have decided to support Ron Paul despite the anti-libertarian claims made by a ghostwriter in his newsletters and reports, because of his libertarian stance on economic issues. Others won’t touch him with a ten-foot pole because they don’t like the moral and character implications of the openly anti-Semitic and racist rhetoric of some of his followers, as well as the weak excuses given for the newsletter debacle.

For the record, I do not and will never support a candidate who tolerates the kind of ubiquitous and open anti-Semitism that can be found on every Ron Paul chat, discussion board and forum that I have seen. The ideology to be found there is profoundly anti-libertarian in its nature, and reveals a darkness that surrounds the Ron Paul Campaign. That Ron Paul has not had the political acumen nor the moral decency to confront the vocal anti-Semites and racists among his followers does not speak well for his leadership ability and makes me wonder about what he really believes. Since he has been recorded saying that “Israel is more trouble than it is worth” and that Gaza is one big “concentration camp”, I have good reason to suspect that Ron Paul agrees with his followers’ anti-Semitic ideology in substance, even if he does not match them in meanness of spirit.

For these reasons, I dropped any support of Ron Paul and any organization—such as Campaign for Liberty—as soon as I became concerned about what I was reading and found the newsletter story and other corroborating evidence both on and off the internet. My letter withdrawing from Campaign for Liberty can be found here. In it, I detail my concern about the anti-Semitism, the fallacies of thinking that it reveals, and the fact that Ron Paul has never meaningfully addressed the issue with his supporters and followers or those of us who had supported him until we found this darkness in the middle of his campaign.

Since that day in 2010 when I formally renounced any connection to Ron Paul and his associates, I have also stated my concerns about his Presidential Campaign, because I don’t think that a man who cannot—at minimum—confront the brownshirts among his followers should be elected President of the United States. That certain of his followers behave like brownshirts is painfully obvious to anyone who frequents Ron Paul Meet-Ups, message boards and chatrooms. For those who do not, the C-PAC 2011 conference was a major wake-up call. Although Ron Paul did not participate in the thuggery that included shouting down scheduled speakers and the anti-Semitic harassment of David Horowitz’s Freedom Center displays, neither did he censure the behavior or admonish those over whom he has a tremendous amount of influence for their behavior.

Yesterday, in response to a post at the libertarian FB site by a conservative who is equally dismayed by the tactics of these Ron Paul followers, I posted a short essay explaining the reasons that I do not think Ron Paul will win the GOP nomination. Those reasons include the way the GOP establishment has worked to disenfranchise the conservatives and tea-party voters, as well as the fact that the largest opposition block to the GOP establishment are conservatives who do not like Ron Paul’s foreign policy stands and his abandonment of Israel. The whole post with comments can be found here, for those who wish to see the whole argument.

Although my post dealt with a political argument, and only mentioned the issue of the newsletters and the rampant anti-Semitism of many Paul followers in that context, I was immediately called a “bigot” by another commenter who is a Ron Paul follower, and has made outright anti-Semitic claims on the same forum. This man, who writes on this public forum as Gene Crouch (which I believe is his real name) has stated that he believes that “the Jews control the media” in the US, and that “the Jews” control the banks. When challenged on this, he maintained his statement, claiming that his “research” had shown this to be true, although he provided no evidence at all. Gene almost immediately altered his comment, taking out the line “bigot” and replacing it with “negative and close-minded (sic)”, which does not substantially change anything.

What I find most interesting about Gene’s approach is that it is similar in both form and substance to the way that a great number of Ron Paul fans respond to any criticism of their hero. Whether on an internet forum or chat, or calling in to a live radio talk show, certain phrases and accusations have become so common as to identify the source as a Ron Paul follower (Listen, for example, to this caller accusing Glenn Beck of being in the pay of Israel). It is almost as if, when they hear or read a certain phrase opposing Ron Paul, they immediately stop thinking and pull out Talking Point No. 3. Or No. 5 or No.7.

Further, few of them know or understand anything about the origin of the ideologies they are espousing, and insist on calling themselves ‘libertarians’ while spouting on cue extremely anti-libertarian positions. To state that “the Jews” control the banks and the media is not only anti-Semitic, but it is deeply anti-Capitalist, indicating that the intellectual fathers of what many have taken to calling the “Paul-bots”, are not particularly libertarian in their thought. Capitalism demands that individuals be treated as individuals, relying as it does on the Enlightenment values of individual rights and personal responsibility.

This ideology that “the Jews” want to control the world is the classic European anti-Semitic trope, straight out of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a Russian forgery that was extensively used by the Nazis. (Show me your intellectual roots and I will show you your future). The Nazis were, in turn, the intellectual mentors to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, and these libels and their unforgettably anti-Capitalist images spread into and were then fused with a more traditional Islamic Jew-hate taught in the Koran and Hadiths. Further, the use of collective language (esp.'the Jews') by Paul followers like Gene, also demonstrates a collectivist world-view in which individuals are characterized and made responsible for the purported actions of others who happen to share the same religion or race.

Modern anti-Semitism is itself racist, implying that all Jews have certain ethical and moral characteristics that are unique to them as a group, a "taint in the blood" as it were. This predates the Nazis, but not by much, and does come out of a peculiar race theory that has no scientific basis. (The genetic differences among the so-called “races” are miniscule and the phenotypes vary as much, if not more, within each population as they do across them). We are seeing similar attacks on the religion of the Catholic Rick Santorum and the Mormon Mitt Romney. Both are accused of belonging to religious organizations that are claimed to have conspired to achieve world domination. However, there is no racist implication in these religious prejudices. (That anti-Semitism, among all of the hatreds based on religion, is uniquely based on racist ideology may be because there is no central Jewish organization that can be pointed to in the way that the Catholic and Mormon churches have been. So for the tin-foil-hat and black-helicopter set, it’s got to be “them Joos” who aspire to dominate them, because they certainly cannot be responsible for their own predicaments). Regardless, both ideologies— whether race or religious affiliation based—are nefarious, focusing as they do on collectives and prejudging individuals based on the standard creed (and often a twisted version thereof) of their religion and on family histories instead of on their ideas and positions. And religious anti-Catholicism/anti-Mormonism, and racist anti-Semitism are often found espoused by the same people.

What is really indicative that Ron Paul has inspired a personality cult, however, is the knee-jerk response of personal attack against anyone who puts out an argument about the political fortunes and future of their hero. Such an argument is not a personal attack, and in fact, invites a discussion of argument/counter-argument. Such a discussion can result in winning friends and influencing people to vote for one’s chosen candidate. But that does not seem to be the desire of the Ron Paul true-believers: their first response is almost always a personal attack, which will do the opposite, whether that is their calculated intent or not.

In this example, by putting forth a strictly political argument, which is well in the mainstream of normal discourse and was not in any way an attack, I was called a bigot. My guess is that if I had put forth that same argument about one of the other GOP candidates, Paul-bots would not protest, and would in fact pile-on, reviling those candidates beyond what is necessary in a political discussion. In fact, I have seen Ron Paul followers do exactly that. But in any discussion in which someone does indicate a shared true-believer-in-Ron-Paul status, they revel in baseless conspiracy theories used to demonize Ron Paul's political opponents. At the same time, though, they ignore and/or excuse any flaw in Ron Paul himself.

Rational Ron Paul supporters do not act this way. Rather, they indicate by their arguments that they recognize Ron Paul as a human being who is not the perfect answer to their concerns, but who addresses the majority of them or the most important among them. They do notice the areas where they do not agree, but they do not think they are as important as those with which they do agree.

Unfortunately, the number of rational Ron Paul supporters that I know and have experienced is small. In my circles, it appears to be growing smaller as more and more people discover for themselves how ubiquitous and nasty the racist/anti-Semitic rhetoric in the Paul movement has become, and how divorced from reality the conspiracy mongering is. The intellectual bankruptcy of the Ron Paul Cult makes it difficult to have any honest discussion about Ron Paul’s qualifications to be President of the United States, and still come away differing on the issues, but with a sense of perspective and respect. (I find this similar to the rhetoric among certain left-leaning Democrats, but they elevate the whole socialist/collectivist ideology to messiah status, rather than a person).

I think Ron Paul’s unwillingness to address his cultists and their libels is the greatest reason why, in the end, there can be no discussion or dialogue. I cannot respect or tolerate the kind of discourse that is common in the Paul camp, and my respect for those who continue to support him is diminishing rapidly, as I watch them excuse outright racism and anti-Semitism, twisting their own values into pretzels in order to refrain from directly confronting it. I cannot understand it. Rational people ought to be able to disagree, and Americans who want to restore our liberty ought to put values and principles above personalities.

Ron Paul could have chosen to nip this all in the bud without making any excuses, by simply disavowing the ideologies and confronting his personality cultist followers. But he did not.

That Ron Paul has not done so is a massive character flaw. Apparently, he likes the role of "messiah." That he excuses such behavior rather than calling it into account indicates a lack of leadership ability, if not something worse. After four years of a personality-cultist Chief Executive who is long on rhetoric and short on the ability to execute, I think the last thing the United States needs is another of the same from a different party.