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One Last Word

January 20th, 2008 · 14 Comments

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.

Tags: Journalism & the Media


       

 

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Northern Observer // Jan 21, 2008 at 11:23 am

    It would be nice if the people who vilified Dave Neiwert would now see him in a different light.
    You know Liberal and Libertarian both start the same…

  • 2 Jon // Jan 21, 2008 at 12:40 pm

    Really, nothing about this affair is more salient to a “movement” libertarian worrying about “movement” affairs than this watershed revelation:

    Justin Raimondo is a huge douchebag. Never met him, not looking forward to. But he sounds like a big fucking prick.

  • 3 Gee // Jan 22, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    This is gorgeous.

    Julian makes a last, best effort (“though some stuff is so beyond defending that it’s simply ignored”) to portray the newletters as something they’re not, and falls flat on his face.

    When actually reading “some stuff”, we find nothing more than a blunt shot at New York (circa 1990). Nothing “racist” to find there at all.

    And we find some physician’s advice (again, circa 1990…remember the hysteria surrounding Magic Johnson at that time?) about how best to carefully handle AIDS patients. Giving the material the benefit of the doubt, it raised (particularly in light of the times) fair concerns about AIDS virus transmission. At worst, the stuff is simply ignorant.

    But this is the best that Julian and his fellow alarmist muckrakers can come up with? And not one mention throughout the whole affair of Kirchick’s too-many-to-count instances of despicably leaving out the context (sometimes snipping out relevant language mid-sentence) of other “racist” or “anti-gay” comments?

    This is why any level-headed observer would conclude that Julian and his ilk have, at best, made an enormous mountain out of a molehill, and why, at worst, he’s guilty of lending credibility to a pathetic, transparent attempt by Kirchick.

    Julian, the lack of judgement displayed by you and Reason is incredible, and very surprising.

  • 4 Lee // Jan 22, 2008 at 2:27 pm

    Julian, I think it’s a dodge to suggest that your opponents should be attending to “the basic question of whether we got the story right.”

    In very many cases the “basic question” is rightfully whether an article should have been written at all. Think, for example, of a recent investigative piece on whether Bill and Hillary share a bed.

    I think we should recognize that a piece of journalism is not beyond criticism simply because it has not run afoul of the facts. The way you have defended your piece skirts this possibility, I think.

    (By the way, I thought your Reason piece was very good.)

  • 5 Julian Sanchez // Jan 22, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Well, I think I cover that to some extent in the post below. I think it’s clear in itself why people generally sympathetic to Ron Paul might have a legitimate interest in knowing more about how his name ended up on a bunch of vile screeds, and whether the people responsible, supposing Paul didn’t write them, continue to influence him. The case for basic newsworthiness seems pretty easy to me. At that point, the question is: Do we ignore an otherwise viable story because we shouldn’t say anything unflattering about people on Our Team? And that, I think, I do deal with below.

  • 6 wnb // Jan 23, 2008 at 2:52 am

    Ever since Mr. Raimondo was selling his services as the “Italian Stallion” he has had a clear problem with telling the truth. Now that he’s tied in to the Rockwell crowd he’s very pro Paul and excusing the newsletters. Yet in 1988 Raimondo was screaming how Ron Paul exemplified the radical right taking over the Libertarian Party. Apparently the money is better where he’s at now. Apparently some people never change professions.

  • 7 dhmqaz // Jan 23, 2008 at 7:44 am

    Julian,

    I’m afraid you don’t get it.

    My wife and I both have Ph.Ds from Stanford. She’s the daughter of Chinese immigrants, and the kids and I are learning Chinese. We’re not religious believers. We’ve traveled to various different countries and continents. I hold several patents on various high-tech inventions.

    We’re the very model of a modern, multicultural, highly-educated, cosmopolitan, tech-savvy family.

    We’re also happy Ron Paul supporters.

    Let me put this as clearly as I can: I like the quips about New York City: they’re funny and on-target. Best of all, they irritate the devil out of all you PC folks.

    I wish that Congressman Paul would say more stuff like this on the campaign trail.

    Think about it. We Paulistas are now the overwhelmingly dominant wing of the libertarian movement, in numbers, in organization, and in the view of the news media. For the rest of your life, if you call yourself a “libertarian,” people will associate you with us Paulistas.

    Reason, Cato, et al. are the libertarian movement of the past, of the twentieth century. We are the libertarians of the twenty-first century.

    The future of libertarianism belongs to us.

    Get used to it.

    PhysicistDave

  • 8 Julian Sanchez // Jan 23, 2008 at 9:18 am

    Eh. Well, perhaps I’ll have to call myself something else, then. I’ll live.

  • 9 Tony // Jan 23, 2008 at 2:02 pm

    Julian, I agree. Precisely why I’m calling myself a liberal now and reclaiming the title of classical liberal. The term liberal may have its baggage…but nothing like this.

  • 10 PhysicistDave // Jan 23, 2008 at 6:45 pm

    Julian and Tony,

    I’m truly glad to see we’re on the same wavelength here — I’ve nothing against you guys, at least nothing more than I have against your political pals like McCain, Giuliani, Thompson, Hillary, etc.

    But surely it is more healthy all around to just recognize that we cosmopolitan Paulistas and you provincial, backward-looking, politically-correct, twentieth-century “libertarians” are just not part of the same political movement.

    We’re political opponents, just as much as Mike Huckabee and Barack Obama are political opponents.

    I hope you guys lose politically, and if you ever manage to actually run any candidates for office, I’ll oppose them and vote against them. Of course, you’d lose anyway — you’ve never actually won an election, but I’d have some fun.

    Clarity is a good thing.

    PhysicistDave

  • 11 Tim Starr // Jan 23, 2008 at 7:05 pm

    To “PhysicistDave”: Good for you that your family is so cosmopolitan. However, I’ve personally witnessed top Rockwellians like Hoppe & Raico saying that only Northern Asians ought to be permitted into America, because they allegedly have high IQ scores, while southeast Asians – like your family members – ought to be kept out because of their allegedly low IQ scores.

    I also know someone who witnessed Burt Blumert saying that Chinese people should only be allowed into America so they could open Chinese restaurants. Too bad for your family if any of them are Chinese & don’t want to make their livings serving food to the like of Blumert.

    How does that make you feel about the Rockwellians?

  • 12 Travis // Jan 23, 2008 at 7:37 pm

    Dave,

    None of what you said makes any sense, which makes it all the more bizarre that you concluded your last comment with the call for clarity.

    Maybe you would benefit from reading Reason and the various Cato publications so that you actually know what they stand for before you start attacking them as the enemy.

  • 13 Julian Sanchez // Jan 24, 2008 at 1:29 am

    Oh c’mon, he’s precious, leave him be.

  • 14 Anonymous // Jan 25, 2008 at 12:07 am

    Sorry, Tim — Chinese are considered northern Asians by everyone. And, Tim, we’ve just establsiehd over at Dave Freidman’s blog that you are a pathological liar ( https://www.blogger.com/comment.g?blogID=19727420&postID=982240221334824072 ): I’m of course referring to yur blood libel “Paleos are ex-Fascists, or neo-Fascists.” I believe nothing you say — we know you lie.

    Travis, I had a subscription to Reason from about 1974 through the early ’80s.

    Then I grew up.

    Someday, you will too.

    Dave

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