Well, I’m more than ready to move on from the topic of Ron Paul and old newsletters, but I suppose I ought to say something about this bit of flailing from Justin Raimondo. Perhaps I shouldn’t, because obviously some folks have decided to try very, very hard to frame our article, and the newsletter kerfuffle more generally, as just more of that wacky libertarian infighting, decades old grudges, nothing to see here, move along, and so on. (There’s even a song!) So if I respond, then of course I’m just “fighting back,” and God knows there’s nothing more boring than some internecine squabble between fringe ideologues.
Which is exceedingly convenient, because the alternative frame is “Reporters investigated a story of interest to libertarians, and wrote up what they found.” Within that frame, you might be more prone to stay attentive to niggling questions like: Why have the people named as authors of the newsletters been so conspicuously silent about the substantive claims made in that piece? What do all the wild speculations about the motives of people at Reason have to do with the basic question of whether we got the story right or not?
Raimondo’s piece starts with a look at our article, and a long quotation from it, preparing us for what we can only assume will be a devastating refutation. But then a funny thing happens: He just changes the subject. To Nick Gillespie’s leather jackets. To some tangent about Reason editors working for the now-defunct webzine Suck. To Raimondo’s deep psychological insights into why the people at Reason hate Ron Paul so much they made a sympathetic profile of Paul their cover story. To a truly malicious fabrication about Brian Doherty’s job being threatened because he’s too “pro-Paul.” To the odd allegation that several hours is too short a time to read a handful of one- and two-page newsletter scans, which is hard to imagine being the case for anyone whose lips don’t move while they read.
Abandoned, never to be heard from again, is the main upshot of the piece: We wondered who wrote those newsletters, if Ron Paul didn’t. We did some investigation and found that it was Lew Rockwell and various members of his staff. We also found that, at the time, the people working on the newsletters were openly advocating a strategy of channeling resentment against the “parasitic Underclass” for political benefit, which seemed to explain why anyone would think it a good idea to fill a political newsletter with such material. This was the “smear.” We didn’t tell anyone not to vote for Ron Paul because of this. We didn’t say anyone should be “purged” from the “movement.” We laid out the facts we’d come up with, and suggested the Paul campaign should offer a more full account. And nobody seems eager to talk about any of that.
I, for my part, don’t feel much need to talk about the bulk of Raimondo’s piece. I don’t think it’s my job to defend Kirchick’s article: It was a hit piece, it did sometimes stretch to put things in their worst light, and it did make a fuss about some passages that weren’t really offensive at all. (I would have called Jeane Kirkpatrick an “enemy” too…) But that’s neither here nor there, really. The newsletters are online, it doesn’t take any embellishment to make them look bad, and addressing that seems more important than parsing out the exact percentage of some New Republic article one agrees with. For the same reason, I don’t think it’s necessary to review the contortions Raimondo puts himself through in an attempt to excuse what appeared in those newsletters. (Though some stuff is so beyond defending that it’s simply ignored.) Anyone who actually cares can simply look at the original documents for themselves and see how preposterously strained is the attempt to minimize their awfulness.
I do, however, want to close by noting a little incongruity. You see, Ron Paul does not appear to agree with Justin Raimondo about these newsletters. Ron Paul says that they’re “small minded,” they they don’t reflect his thinking, that he condemns and repudiates them. He has pushed this message aggressively whenever the topic has come up.
Raimondo is pushing precisely the opposite message: That Paul fans should defend these newsletters. That really, they just state some hard truths. If your goal is to protect and defend Ron Paul, all this contradicts and undermines the line the campaign is trying to emphasize, which seems pretty counterproductive. Perhaps that’s just a sign of Raimondo’s intellectual independence, but something to think about.
And on that note, it will be enormously gratifying to get back to writing about more cheerful topics, like the runaway expansion of the surveillance state.