Friday, November 2, 2007

Ron Paul and the Fringe of American Politics

My recent post on Ron Paul's prospects in New Hampshire attracted a lot of attention from the "Paulites," the extremely vocal online activists committed to defending Paul with denunciations and threats. The exchange in the comment thread was colorful, and prompted Patrick at Driving out the Snakes to write a follow-up post suggesting I had a "bee in my bonnet."

Thankfully, Rick Moran at the
American Thinker sheds some perspective on the unhinged masses attracted to the Paul campaign. Here's the introduction:

What is it about the candidacy of Ron Paul that has attracted the paranoid fringe of American politics?

Clearly, there are Ron Paul supporters who are rational and grounded, not given to spouting conspiracies or blaming "neocons" for everything bad that happens in the world (neocons being a blind for anti-Semitism). For all we know, they may be the majority of his supporters.

But just as clearly, there is a dark underbelly to the Paul campaign -- a ruthless, mob of internet ruffians who seek to intimidate those who would dare criticize them, the Paul candidacy, or most especially, one of their pet conspiracy theories about 9/11, the "New World Order" (an amorphous term that generally means the imposition of a one world government), or something as mundane and silly as planting a computer chip in every new born in America.

The question isn't whether Ron Paul believes in any of these conspiracy theories, although he has said on at least two occasions that he believes the investigation into 9/11 must be reopened to explore "unanswered questions" about the tragedy. It is his apparent pandering to this lunatic fringe that must be explored and reasons for it demanded from the campaign.

I say "apparent" pandering because there is the possibility that Paul is completely clueless that his anti-government rants (a subjective word but apt if you listen to his speeches or watch him in the debates) full of dark hints of conspiracy and wrongdoing by the highest officials in the land, actually ring a Pavlovian bell for the paranoid conspiracy freaks causing them to flock to his banner.
The article includes excerpts from Paul's statements suggesting that he's not completely oblivious to the ideology and interests of the lunatic hordes flocking to his side. Moran offers this passage too, which applies in my case:

Constant attention is paid [by the Paulites] to Technorati and other blog search engines so that the most minute negative mention of Paul will bring several commenters rushing to his defense. Some are indeed polite and accommodating. Most are not. Personal attacks are common as are charges that the blogger is part of a conspiracy against the candidate.
Such attacks prompted Red State to ban the Paulites from its comment section, a move that raises touchy questions of free speech. Captain Ed Morrissey disagreed with Red State's decision, but he then makes this rather naive statement on the relative repulsiveness of the Paulites versus the far-left antiwar, multiculturalists:

I'm no Paul supporter by any means. However, Paul's statements can be addressed and rebutted fairly easily, at least those with which I strongly disagree. I don't fear the commenters nor the debate, even if it does grow tiresome at times. It certainly can't be any more tiresome than the S-CHIP debate, or the Iraq War debate, or the FISA debate -- and I'd have less sympathy for opponents on those issues than the people who support Ron Paul.
Captain Ed's known for his cool-headed political commentary, but on this issue he's out of his depth. Ideologically, the extreme fanatics on both the left and the right have joined together in common cause against the Bush administration and Iraq. In this sense, the traditional left-right ideological continuum is being pulled up, like a string, to square the circle among the most implacable foes of the American democracy.

I pointed out in
my post, for example, that Adam Kokesh, an activist in the Stalinist group International ANSWER, proclaims himself a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party. Moreover, Paul's campaign is attracting the most vile contingents of America's neo-nazi movement. Indeed, this grassroots fringe mobilization represents the latest iteration in the long tradition of apocalyptic extremism in American politics.

Moran's piece provides a nice conclusion to this theme:

Is Paul pandering to the conspiracy nuts in America, knowing their enthusiastic support for him will assist his campaign? Or is he unaware that by appealing to the basest emotions brought to the surface by his dark hints involving dark forces carrying out a campaign to take away our freedoms, he is giving the paranoid, the fearful, and the ignorant haters a standard to rally around?

He is a foolish man if he believes he can control these forces. In the end, they can only destroy him.
That's a lesson otherwise anchored Paul supporters might do well to digest.