Friday, December 23, 2011

Ron Paul: The "Just Don't Look" Candidate - Part 2

With Ron Paul facing a firestorm of criticism over the overtly racist newsletter he published in his name for decades, it is necessary to understand that it is Paul’s ideas and worldview that are abhorrent, not simply a few racist statements. The paleo-right Ron Paul comes from and that he helped cultivated for decades is as ugly and reprehensible as it once was; its advocates have simply found more acceptable ways to transmit the same old conspiratorial and anti-internationalist nonsense. 

Yesterday, I posted the first part in this series directed at Paul’s domestic policies. I argued that while advocating a libertarian free-market, free of government intrusion and regulation is not racist, it ends up working towards the ends advocated by the powerful, as well as racist organizations. I respect a number of libertarians and often appreciate the libertarian impulse for greater individual control of one’s body, time, and resources. Having said that, I have seen how the old-right has adopted a libertarian exterior to pursue their true goals: maintaining the class and power status quo by undermining policies which redistribute opportunity and access to resources to the poor or downtrodden. It is no surprise that racist organizations routinely trumpet the “less government” and “state’s rights” appeals commonly echoed in the Ron Paul camp; if they can’t control the federal government and its national instruments, they can fall back into communities they dominate and avoid contributing towards the “greater good” they loathe. 

Ron Paul has garnered a great deal of support from self professed liberals and lefties, generally due to his anti-interventionist foreign affairs position. With the United States having achieved little in the way of political success in its most recent wars (Iraq and Afghanistan), it is easy to see how Paul’s brand of anti-interventionism would be popular with those who may also find his domestic laissez-faire policies reprehensible. I will get into the realities of a Ron Paul foreign policy later, and its lack of historical context. What first needs to be discussed is the role racist and anti-Semitic notions play in formulating Paul’s policy recommendations, and how Paul’s foreign policy is rooted in the same conspiratorial worldview that dictates his domestic program. His ideology cannot be divorced from the policies he advocates, and liberal and leftist supporters should be wary of supporting the man. 

Mr. Destructo has scanned and posted a number of Ron Paul’s newsletters, and for those of us that follow the radical right, there really isn’t anything new here. A distrust and distaste for minorities in the United States, as well as a heightened sense of superiority over colored people living in other nations. The “New World Order” (NWO) conspiracy has been eluded to by Paul for years, and is a requiring point of contention in his speeches and statements. Just a few years back, while on the Alex Jones radio show, had this to say:

“The new world order people see it as an opportunity to move one step forward.” Paul stated, alluding to an infamous description of the current US led international coalition of powers.
“Bush senior bragged about that, remember he didn’t want to go to Congress, he came and got a token approval in 1990/91 for the Persian Gulf war, but he got his orders from the UN, he didn’t need to go to Congress… That was the first time I heard a president use the words ‘new world order’, anyone who used that had to be a conspiracy nut, but Bush was saying this is what we need to do for the ‘new world order’.” Paul explained.
 In 2003, Ron Paul said we should renounce the UN for the following reason:
“Those bureaucrats are not satisfied by meddling only in international disputes, however. The UN increasingly wants to influence our domestic environmental, trade, labor, tax, and gun laws. Its global planners fully intend to expand the UN into a true world government, complete with taxes, courts, and a standing army. This is not an alarmist statement; these facts are readily promoted on the UN's own website. UN planners do not care about national sovereignty; in fact they are actively hostile to it. They correctly view it as an obstacle to their plans. They simply aren't interested in our Constitution and republican form of government.” (Emphasis mine)
 For those unfamiliar with the New World Order, it’s a conspiracy that has its roots in the far right in the 19th century as a reaction to liberalism and modernity among some Christian groups, but became more popular in the 1990s, and worked its way into other political persuasions and movements. The NWO is conceived as an un-elected, totalitarian, and often anti-Christian world government that will subvert all nations and people to its will. Many of the early supporters of the theory believed that the NWO would be controlled by the anti-Christ, and would bring about the end of days. William Guy Carr was a formative conspiracist who infused the religious and anti-Semitic overtones of the existing NWO theories to post-war anti-communism popular in the 40s and 50s. Public Eye detailed the outlook that followed Carr’s work:
“Anticommunism became a broad umbrella under which those with a wide variety of views as to "who is really behind the conspiracy" could find common ground. Was the plot run by Moscow Reds, Wall Street Plutocrats, British Bankers, or the Jews? Issues could have multiple subtexts. For instance there was concern over the erosion of national sovereignty by the United Nations because it was seen as favoring communist-style collectivism. Right-wing conspiracists expressed the conviction that the United Nations would erode nation-state sovereignty, and facilitate intrusive federal intervention on the local level. The concern over federal violations of states' rights was promoted in some cases by libertarians, such as the publishers of the periodical The Freeman, but "states' rights" often provided a veneer that masked underlying segregationist and white supremacist sentiments, even if they were unconscious. 

Anti-Jewish allegations could easily be added to anticommunism. In the mid-1950s William G. Carr promoted the anti-Semitic variant on conspiracism with books such as Pawns in the Game and Red Fog over America. According to Carr, an age-old Jewish Illuminati banking conspiracy used radio-transmitted mind control on behalf of Lucifer to construct a one world government. The secret nexus of the plot was supposedly the international Bilderberger meetings on banking policy. The anti-Semitic Noontide Press distributed Pawns in the Game for many years.”
Whether Paul believes some of the crazier positions Carr argued or not is irrelevant. Paul’s insistence on a NWO controlled through the UN, and meant to undermine American sovereignty and values, is simply a new branding of an old and sinister conspiracy. One can argue that international aid doesn’t help the people it is intended to support (a position I will challenge in the next piece), but one cannot also say that Ron Paul’s self professed ideology does not contribute or dictate his policy positions. Believing that only 5% of “blacks” have “sensible political opinions,” and that “internationalists” are trying to control American foreign policy for their own nefarious ends surely influences who you believe should receive international assistance and aid. If foreign, colored, and non-Christian peoples are not seen as capable of formulating rational thought, and the UN is the vehicle in which the American character is being undermined and destroyed, then you should avoid contributing to them.

Ron Paul may argue that he is merely advocating a “realistic” approach to foreign affairs, but his ideological footing says otherwise.

Part 3 this weekend.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Ron Paul: The "Just Don’t Look” Candidate - Part 1

Up until a few days ago, I figured Ron Paul was enjoying his apparent “front runner” status following his strong polling in Iowa. His message and persona had been picking up traction for years, and having a fanatical base of support across the country has helped spread his message significantly. That was, until people started to pay attention to the things Ron Paul says and believes. I don’t know how the racist newsletters ordeal is going to affect his chances in Iowa, but it has shaken a number of his supporters.  Some have acknowledged that the things printed in the Ron Paul newsletter were reprehensible, but have argued that his message is still one that needs to be included in the national debate, and thus still deserving of support.  However, the problem with Ron Paul goes beyond some terribly racist comments made in his newsletter 20 years ago. It is the entire worldview and ideological perspective that informs Paul’s policy prescriptions and that of the paleo-right in general.

Ron Paul isn’t
objectionable because some racist diatribes were published in his name, but because he wants to undermine the very norms of international and domestic solidarity with a libertarian pipe dream that will never be, and great harm can come from attempting it. 

The fact that Ron Paul has swam about in the conspiratorial and racist right for years is nothing new. But public notice is a double edged sword for Paul and his obsessive followers: once you begin receiving the mainstream media’s attention, people are going to start taking seriously the things you say and believe, and the old defensive positions will not be strong enough to deflect scrutiny. 

A few years back, David Neiwert posted an extensive review of Paul’s ideological foundation and its manifestations. David was surprised (as I was at the time) that Paul was picking up so much support on the Left regarding his isolationist stance. However, many of those supporters ignored or were unaware of Paul’s larger philosophical underpinning. David wrote:
A more important point, though, that's overlooked in all this is that Ron Paul has made a career out of transmitting extremist beliefs, particularly far-right conspiracy theories about a looming "New World Order," into the mainstream of public discourse by reframing and repackaging them for wider consumption, mostly by studiously avoiding the more noxious and often racist elements of those beliefs. Along the way, he has built a long record of appearing before and lending the credibility of his office to a whole array of truly noxious organizations, and has a loyal following built in no small part on members of those groups.

And it's equally important to understand that he hasn't changed his beliefs appreciably in the interim. Most of his positions today -- including his opposition to the Iraq war -- are built on this same shoddy foundation of far-right conspiracism and extremist belief systems, particularly long-debunked theories about the "New World Order," the Federal Reserve and our monetary system, the IRS, and the education system.”
Those who have not been involved with radical politics may not grasp how old Paul’s positions are, and while he has altered the messages advanced by the likes of Alex Jones and the John Birch Society,  he continues to further their causes nonetheless. 

Nor should the racist newsletters ordeal be a simplistic and one dimensional pile-on. Paul and his fans claim that this is just a diversion from the larger issues “neocons” and the like want to undermine. So let’s forget for a moment that Ron Paul has habitually supported the worst fringe figures and groups on the right for decades. Let’s also forget that his policy prescriptions are superficially different from these various conspiratorial and racist organizations. Discussing and debating the justifications for military intervention and the role of government in our society are some of the most pressing and necessary questions of our day. If we removed Ron Paul from the equation and were left with a more acceptable vessel for this message, would these positions be more palatable? Perhaps, but you can’t escape what libertarians and paleo-cons actually envision for the U.S. and the world at large. 

Ron Paul made the following argument concerning racism, one that is often argued by like-minded individuals.

"Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individual who share superficial physical characteristics are alike; as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups.

Conservatives and libertarians should fight back and challenge the myth that collectivist liberals care more about racism. Modern liberalism, however well intentioned, is a byproduct of the same collectivist thinking that characterizes racism. The continued insistence on group thinking only inflames racial tensions.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity. In a free market, businesses that discriminate lose customers, goodwill, and valuable employees – while rational businesses flourish by choosing the most qualified employees and selling to all willing buyers. More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct what is essentially a sin of the heart, we should understand that reducing racism requires a shift from group thinking to an emphasis on individualism."
David Neiwert keenly recognized in the aforementioned piece that this is just a repacking of old-right tropes. Libertarians argue that they simply want to live in a society that only recognizes the individual, and that the free market and a small state will create the conditions that will undermine and remove racism. David writes:

“This is, in fact, just a repackaging of a libertarian argument that multiculturalism is the "new racism" -- part of a larger right-wing attack on multiculturalism. This is, of course, sheer Newspeak: depicting a social milieu that simultaneously respects everyone's heritage -- that is to say, the antithesis of racism -- as racist is simply up-is-down, Bizarro Universe thinking.”
It isn’t racist to believe an unrestricted free market would produce an individualist society free from racial strife and class preference, but it is highly naive and ahistorical to argue that the creation of this libertarian dream world will alleviate past prejudices and inequalities. While I respect the desire for personal freedom many libertarians advocate, the state and its redistributive attributes can (and have) helped mend past wrongs and made more just societies. There is no doubt that individuals who belong to a previously discriminated group or class can achieve success in this libertarian pipe-dream, but many will not, and it will not be because they were stupid or lazy. When you lack access to resources or capital, your chances of success are limited, while those who have said access and resources have a drastically better chance at achieving success.  Antidotal observations should demonstrate this sufficiently, but statistical studies also verify this point. The Urban Institute, found that:

“Being poor at birth strongly predicts future poverty status. Using the PSID, this study finds that 49 percent of children who are poor at birth go on to spend at least half their childhoods living in poverty. In addition, children who are born into poverty and spend multiple years living in poor families have worse adult outcomes than their counterparts in higher-income families.”
In creating an economic system that allows history’s winners to avoid paying for the corrections needed to remedy past inequalities would be class war repackaged under the guise of “liberty.” Such a system would not ease class or racial divisions, it would solidify them, keeping the old racial and class order in place. Paul and his libertarian brethren may claim to be blind to race, but in avoiding the deal with these past discrepancies, reveal that they are blind to history as well.