Thursday, January 10, 2008

Ron Paul and the Bigots: Plain Talk or Plausible Deniability?

[Older Post Ported over from the Huffington Post/AOL Site
for Archival Purposes. Original Posting Date:


Ron Paul wants us to believe that he wasn't paying attention when the newsletters that went out under his name for twenty years carried articles that were racist, homophobic, and antisemitic.
This story has circulated before; however when The New Republic posted a story on Tuesday detailing some of the nastier morsels with extensive direct quotes, Ron Paul responded:

"The quotations in The New Republic article are not mine and do not represent what I believe or have ever believed. I have never uttered such words and denounce such small-minded thoughts....I have publicly taken moral responsibility for not paying closer attention to what went out under my name."

Well, no, Paul really hasn't taken any responsibility. Paul so far refuses to name the author of the turgid bigotry in his newsletter, and Paul's responses over the years are less apologetic than non-denial denials. He didn't write it. He didn't know. He wasn't paying attention. Don't blame him.

Who else is there to blame?

And what about the overall slant of Paul's newsletters and public pronouncements? For decades Ron Paul has been promoting bogus right-wing theories about a conspiracy to erode America's national sovereignty--a conspiracy supposedly involving the United Nations, the Council on Foreign Relations, and Trilateral Commission. These are the same allegations spread by the armed militia movement of the 1990s. Paul's current claims about a proposed North American Union and a so-called "NAFTA Superhighway" from Mexico to Canada echo pet conspiracy theories of dubious right-wing information sources such as World Net Daily and Human Events.

Paul denies he promotes these conspiracy theories, even though they are essentially identical to right-wing conspiracy theories circulated since the 1950s. In the 1960s the font of such New World Order conspiracy theories was the John Birch Society, an ultra-conservative organization who today still carries forward the proposition (first articulated in the late 1790s) that a secret society called the Illuminati are constructing a One World Government and manipulating elected officials in the United States.

Paul, no surprise, has become a hero to legions of conspiracy theorists, including some for whom White supremacy, homophobia, and antisemitism are as American as apple pie. Organized racist groups use generic conspiracy theories as an entry point for recruitment. Since the 1800s, claims of sinister plots for global subversion have been interwoven with lurid antisemitic stories of Jewish plots for global conquest.

It is not fair to suggest that Ron Paul is part of any of these bigoted movements, but it is more than fair to ask Paul why he lacks the common decency and common sense to quickly return a campaign donation from a notorious neonazi. It is also fair to ask Paul to explain in more detail how his views about the covert plans of global elites to destroy U.S. sovereignty differs from the generic or antisemitic New World Order conspiracy theories easily found on the Web. What are Paul's specific sources of information for his claims? When Paul provides his sources we can compare them to the theories promulgated by the John Birch Society--as well as groups with more bigoted baggage.

The rhetoric of Ron Paul over the past decade has been interpreted by some constituencies as coded support for bigoted ideas. This use of coded language in public debate is nothing new. As a Presidential candidate, George Wallace refined the art of coded White supremacist appeals to a high political art form. Wallace knew he was speaking in code, as did President Richard Nixon who adapted the Wallace rhetoric for the Republican's racist "Southern Strategy." Does Paul ever wonder why ultra-right crackpots, conspiracy theorists, bigots, and neonazis champion his cause? Does Paul not realize his rhetoric tends to support bigots unless it is clarified?

Why is it so hard for Paul to see that his name is being bandied about by bigots who suggest that Paul holds beliefs that he claims he does not hold? Why doesn't Paul realize he has an obligation to forcefully distance himself from such claims? This isn't about guilt by association; this is about a major political candidate standing up and setting the record straight using clear language. Otherwise it gives the appearance that Paul is seeking public plausible deniability, while continuing to court the very constituencies he suggests he rejects.

Read more on conspiracism and coded language here.