The masses weeping over the death of Kim Jong Il and the frantic online defenders of Ron Paul have something in common, it isn't the man they care about. It's what he represents.
Cults of personality are not about the man, but about the need that he fills in his followers. There is a point at which every dictator, rock star and celebrity realizes that it is the people who adore him that are in charge and all he can do is ride the wave of adulation. The men don't matter, the reasons why people seize on them do matter.
Why Ron Paul? Because like so many at the center of a cult of personality, he is everything to everyone. The big tent he presides over is full of people who don't agree on very much. They are a nexus of opposition to 'everything', but they're also a collection of groups that splinter faster than old wood in a thunderstorm.
Ron Paul's program which is big on ambitious assaults on the government, but short on the details, finesses many of those disagreements. Gay rights? Abortion? Immigration? If you squint and only pay attention to the right statements, then Ron Paul is for you. Like Santa's little elves, his followers spread his selective word by focusing in on target demographics and barraging them with talking points that make it seem like Ron Paul is on their side. Whose side is Ron Paul on? Most likely his own.
The simplest reason why Ron Paul has become the perennial candidate of the Ringling Bros circus is a combination of two things. A past in which he marketed himself heavily to conspiracy theorists as a former member of Congress and a present in which he is a member of Congress.
The left has no shortage of Ron Pauls in Congress, cranks and loons like Shirley Jackson Lee and Pete Stark. When they want to run the chief loon of their side who thinks that the government is beaming radio waves into their brain at the behest of the military industrial complex, they have Cynthia McKinney, the presidential candidate for the Green Party in 2008, who was endorsed by Ron Paul. But their pickings on the Republican side are slimmer. It's Ron Paul or it's nobody.
When Ted Rall was recently dreaming of a left-right revolution against the government, the Paul Pot have been openly talking about it. Rand Paul discussed a left-right coalition for rolling back the "American Empire". That sort of crossover is what makes Ron Paul valuable. The media championed him as an Anti-War Republican because he offered a left-right coalition against the War on Terror.
For all that the wonks insist on viewing America as a red and blue state lineup, there are a lot of other colors in the mix. More than the libertarians, most of whom have a limited comfort level with Paul, there are various flavors of anarchists, white supremacists, conspiracy theorists, and people who are even further off the map. They are a politically underserved demographic and while they won't win elections, they have the obsessive nature and the time to make a difference.
Ron Paul's broad appeal is that he promises to reduce the power of government and American power in general, and that's something everyone from Communists to Nazis, anarchists to monarchists can get behind. Revolutions begin with a broad front assault on the system and Ron Paul has ended up as the symbol of a broad front of those who see some political, financial or other benefit from taking down the system.
That's why Ron Paul's generic policy positions, which aside from drabs of paranoia are not all that distinguishable from many of his opponents, are not really the issue. His pet obsessions even less so except that they allow him to speak the language of his supporters and they make him completely irrelevant on most other issues.
Ron Paul can't speak intelligently on immigration because he's too busy preparing for the day when Americans start seeking refuge in Mexico. Addressing Islamic terrorism is out of the question for the same reason. The knee jerk reflex to weaken even legitimate areas of government responsibility isn't just destructive, it puts Paul in the position of denying that the problems even exist in order to justify resistance to government solutions.
Liberals decided that rather than dealing with the fact that a left-wing radical shot and killed JFK, they would build up elaborate conspiracy theories blaming the killing on the right. Everyone who found the idea of Muslim terrorists massacring thousands of Americans to be an uncomfortable fit with their ideology began finding ways to blame it on America. That's where Paul's left-right coalition against the war comes from. The New Left and Paleoconservatives came together to deny reality and found a common cause in maintaining a delusional worldview.
The marked difference between the European far right and the American far right is that the former have come face to face with the cold hard facts, while the latter are still acting as if the 21st century is an outgrowth of the early 20th and 19th centuries and must be fought on the same terms. That is another asset for Ron Paul who is in some ways a 19th century candidate still busy refighting the political wars of the past. A man who is too busy rebutting Alexander Hamilton doesn't have much to talk about anything truly dangerous.
Like a broken clock, Ron Paul is right about the unrestricted growth of Federal power, but for the wrong reasons. The United States isn't on a path to becoming the Fourth Reich, the time when that was at all possible is long gone. It is on a path to national dissolution, which happens to be Paul's program and makes his candidacy irrelevant. Centralization and spending aren't the problem, they're the symptoms of the problem which is a corrupt technocratic political culture that he is completely unequipped to address, not least because his own nose has been caught in the trough, but mostly because he isn't a leader.
Ron Paul is an ideologue who has made a career out of his ideology, whether it was in Congress or through his newsletters. Ideologues don't have a history of fixing systems, they have a history of breaking them in a different way. For all his talk of the Founders, they were men who weren't rooted to a single way of doing things. Hamilton, Jefferson and Madison had their fundamental differences, but none of them were so rooted in their way of thinking that they were unable to deal with reality. The closest period analogue to Paul is Thomas Paine, an English radical who was unable to accept the practical outcome of the American Revolution, and instead went seeking new revolutions in England and France. Ironically common sense is the one thing that Paine didn't have. It's the one thing that Paul badly lacks.
If there was a time for Ron Paul it would be now, in an election against a Democratic administration that has dramatically extended Federal power and created its own mini-tyranny. The problem is that Paul is just as unqualified and broken as Obama. Both men are products of rigid ideology who insist that applying it will fix all problems. They are both surrounded by cults of personality that elevate ordinary mediocre men into the avatars of hope and change.
No sooner does Ron Paul mumble a sentence in a debate then his followers plaster a dozen clips of it on YouTube under titles asserting that he "0WNED" Romney, Gingrich, Santorum or the solar system. The sad truth is that Ron Paul has never won a debate or made an articulate argument for anything. He's a shambling ideologue who has shot up only because every other Republican candidate except Huntsman and Santorum have had their moment in the sun. Paul isn't anyone's first choice, he's the fifth choice who isn't likely to win Iowa, let alone the nomination.
Paul's supporters have bought his son a senate seat and given papa a proper sendoff as the bugbear of the Republican Party. The level of devotion is completely detached from any actual accomplishment in the field of politics. But the same was true of Obama.
The chief beneficiaries of Obama's cult of personality were not the young people or minorities who streamed out to vote for him. As always they were the Obama clan and their close supporters. The same is true of Ron Paul who has sucked up a great deal of money that could have been better spent on a more articulate and promising spokesman for their cause. But just as the nature of what Obama really stood for began to disintegrate the moment he took office, so too the question of what Paul really stands for remains open.
The newsletters, which were an open book in the last election but which few of the panicked outlets now reporting on them as if they were fresh news chose to focus on, are the least of it. They represent one aspect of Ron Paul, the one that won him some of his hard core following, and his disavowal of them represents another, that of the politician who knows how to play different constituencies and show a difference face to different groups.
Who is the real Ron Paul? Like the real Obama it doesn't really matter. It's the people who have gathered behind him that are interesting. Their politics are primarily negative. They share a common paranoia and ruthlessness with Obama's supporters, but while Obama's supporters wanted power, they claim not to want it. And yet their campaigns have been exercises in seizing power, in media manipulation, intimidation and deception. There is no real difference between their tactics and those of their far-left, but we are to believe that there is a difference in goals.
That is what defines the Ron Paul campaign more than the slight mumbling figure at the center of it. They are Ron Paul more than he is. In a sense Ron Paul is telling the truth when he says that he didn't write the newsletters. Even if he did write them in part or in whole, which is entirely possible, they were the ones that he was writing them for. That angry mass on the side eager to believe the worst and send out money to anyone who affirms their views. They are the same people with their crazy-quilt patchwork of ideologies that he is speaking to now. Their views may be internally irreconcilable, but as long as they have a common enemy in the system, they can overlook the differences and the inconsistencies and push forward without ever realizing that they are going nowhere because there is nowhere to go.
I don't think paleoconservatives in any putative left-right coalition against the war delude themselves about Muslim terrorists massacring thousands of Americans. A desire to see America withdraw from mindless adventures overseas is more like it.ReplyDelete
If the Muslim attack on America on 9/11 is the question, paleos correctly ask, Why are ruinously expensive exercises in military nation-building the answer.
I may understand ticks and mosquitoes very well and despise them for what they are and yet still refrain from killing every one within 100 yards of my house. Delusional v-a-v jihadis is when you are trying to extricate yourself from two expensive wars when you are in a severe economic and fiscal crisis and yet you simply can NOT resist becoming involved in new military operations in Libya.
If Rep. Paul finds "the idea of Muslim terrorists massacring thousands of Americans to be an uncomfortable fit with [his] ideology," he's the one who has to take the heat for his delusions.
Quite a few do. Thus the big Blowback theory that Muslims attack us only in retaliation and that the attacks will end if our foreign policy changes.ReplyDelete
Nation building exercises are less than ideal, but Libya had nothing to do with fighting terrorism.
Thank you for this terrific essay, Daniel. In my experience, many of Ron Paul's patronizing pothead minions are monumentally ignorant of history, prone to oversimplifying the world's problems, shockingly anti-Semitic, and crippled by the need for predictability in their troubled lives.ReplyDelete
Over and over, young Libertarians tell me that Ron Paul NEVER changes his mind, and by extension, would never go back on a promise. A common theme in discussions with Libertarians is that civilizational collapse will naturally lead to a bright future chock full of Liberty sans social ills, if only President Paul is in charge.
For once, I'm glad for the MSM's tactics, which are bund to highlight the more zany followers.
I'll defer to you on the affinity of paleos with the blowback theory of Islamic aggression. I take "Chronicles" as the bible of paleoconservativism and the blowback theory isn't favored there TTBOMR.ReplyDelete
I don't think it's a question of whether nation building is less than ideal to paleos. Ok, less than ideal to paleos like me. They're a pure waste of time. Period.
Whether or not a military intervention is to kill terrorists is also irrelevant. An impulsive, mindless lurch into any kind of a military operation abroad is bad. What exactly was our dog in the fight between Russia and Georgia? Nothing to do with terrorism but objectionable for the seeming casualness of it all. Thankfully, we didn't get too involved but we sure had a military presence.
I'm far from an isolationist but it does drive me up the wall that we spend more than $10 on stationing troops in Europe. Or within 500 miles of Bosnia.
I'm glad Paul also supports drastically reduced foreign involvement but I pray that he never becomes Commander in Chief with that load of delusion, ignorance, and naivete. Arrogance too.
Melissa, the classic "when it all crashes down we can build our wonderful society on the ruins".ReplyDelete
A favorite of the left.
Well Blowback is heavily favored in paleo anti-war circles, and obviously on the left.ReplyDelete
Nation building of this kind is pointless. It made a certain amount of sense in a global struggle with Communism, but it's not a workable response to Islam. It's one thing to try and reconstruct Europe, another to try and do it in the Muslim world.
Russia and George was the old commitments made to keep Russia from taking back the Republics. Whether we should be doing that with a post-USSR Russia is open to debate, but we didn't use troops, we did the usual stick shaking.
The larger question of whether we should still be in NATO or how we can get Europe to cover its own security is tied up with the whole dysfunctional post WW2 setup.
With NATO now an excuse for R2P exercises like Yugoslavia and Libya, we should long ago have moved on.
Ron Paul just doesn't do it for me.ReplyDelete
Simply the best essay on "the slight mumbling figure at the center" of this mass psychosis.ReplyDelete
I read on Pamela Geller's blog that this man is one of those self-hating Jews (obviously not very cognisant of Jewish tradition in that he calls himself "half Jew on the maternal side". He apparently hates Israel and is one of herd who protest ever so sincerely as in "I dont mind Jews but I hate Israel".ReplyDelete
Shouldn't he be a running MATE of Obama?
Here is an example of why Ron Paul will attract some attention and agreement and votes. The act he proposes, “The American Travelers Dignity Act,” is ludicrous, because the TSA ought to be abolished and its employees furloughed without perks or pension.ReplyDelete
But one is left wondering why he would propose the abolition of the TSA. Is it because he doesn’t think Muslims should be screened? Is it because he’s against “unreasonable searches and seizures”? You really don’t know what’s going through his head or what’s on his mind, because his statements on related issues are so disparate one can’t nail him down to a fundamental premise.
He’s the Ross Perot of our time who threatens to split the vote in 2012 and give us four more years of Obama – with whom he actually agrees when it comes to formulating a Mideast policy. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Obama picked him as a running mate, he’s so anti-Israel. As Daniel pointed out in a past column, the U.S. is and always has been a target of supremacists of one kind or another, so the whole “Blowback” premise is resoundingly hollow.
@Col. B. BunnyReplyDelete
Ron Paul never adressed the issue of islamic emigration. Many european countries followed Paul's advise, (due to fear of Islam, not due to isolationism) and became more hostile to Israel, rejected the Iraq war, blocked sanctions against Iran (Germany for example), etc. Yet this did not save them from the issue of Islam simply because they allowed islamic emigration.
Thus today we have specific domestic islamic terrorism in Europe that has nothing to do with foreign policy and attacks even "neutral" states like Sweden. The aim of this islamic terrorism is to eliminate free speech and critisism of Islam. European embassies were targeted across the Islamic world because of the Muhammad cartoons.
Edward, the act isn't really intended to pass, it's intended to get Paul some attention from the right circles and donations. That's pretty much his whole legislative history in a nutshell.ReplyDelete
He opposes the TSA because he thinks or because he panders to those who think that any government authority is a precursor to us turning into the fourth reich
Certainly Paul is Obama's best hope
Andrew Sullivan endorsed Luap Nor - I was not surprised.ReplyDelete
Sullivan might want to triple check Paul's position on gay marriage, since it seems to be all he cares about. That and bashing Israel.ReplyDelete
I didn't think Paul's TSA bill was serious or intended to pass, either. I just thought that Paul knew Congress would NEVER EVER express a desire to abolish a useless but costly bureaucracy, never mind act on it. Frankly, I think Paul is a first-grade nihilist. He must know that everything he touches -- even legitimate issues -- turns from gold to lead. That also must explain his legislative record.ReplyDelete
Yes. I think that like Alex Jones and some others Paul built his activism into a brand, but he would have very little idea what to do if he actually got to be in power.ReplyDelete
This was a brilliant article - sometimes you outdo ever your own ability to weave words together.
I'm surprised there isn't the usual flooding of Paulsters here, or do you keep their rants in the bin, where they belong?
I was expecting them, but their "50 cent party" seems to have taken an extended weekend.ReplyDelete
Daniel, I'm a law abiding American who has done both elected public service and his military service. I could go on with my strengths and weaknesses, but why bother. My only point here is this: I don't like you.ReplyDelete
From a comment on the same article at another site.ReplyDelete
"Daniel Greenfield /Grunfeld - We The Goyim American Veterans are sick of Jewish Media Propaganda ,Florida is occupied with 750,000 Jews,and millions of illegal immigrants. We are sending them, and all the corporate AIPAC FED Bankers all to Canada,one way or another in 2012 . Ron Paul 2012 !"
I guess the guy who wants to send all the Jews and illegal immigrants to Canada, also wants to start a war with Canada. Ron Paul would be the one to do it, too. Perhaps Anonymous and the quoted person on Daniel's last remark would sympathize with Anna von Hagen, the actress in "Fatherland." She certainly knew what to do with the "Chews."ReplyDelete
I have read much of your publications for a long time. I have much respect for your observations and turn to your blog for current events and observation temperature so to speak.
I spoke a couple of years ago as to when you would address people like Soros. You Did, Thanks.
I think Now is time to address the enemy within that is entrenched in Washington since the Sixties.
But more importantly, would be the moral decay that has lead to a "Time Such as This", a situation that does not lend itself to a Republic of Men with A Moral Compass.
Our Leadership have become spineless self serving Bastards,They now believe they have reached the threshold of "You Can't Stop Us".
The problem is, These are not true Americans, they have no idea of the resolve inherant in real Americans, there will be Blood in the streets, it will not be pretty, there will not be MSM, they will be targeted as well.
Liberal Progressivism has brought us to "A Time Such As This".
The Three B'S, Bandaids, Beans and Bullets.
So very sad, In a Nation Blessed By G_D.
LOL @anonymous who came all the way over here just to say that he or she doesn't like you. As if he or she were being forced to visit your blog.ReplyDelete
Great article, Daniel, you really nailed it about Ron Paul's fanatical supporters, as crazy as RP is, it is his lunatic spamming trolling fans who are the biggest turnoff - they are some of the nastiest most hateful and unhinged people I have ever had the misfortune to encounter.
From what I've read, it appears that no one really knows what Ron Paul advocates. All I read is speculation and outright falsehood.ReplyDelete
Take this statement for example:
"The sad truth is that Ron Paul has never won a debate or made an articulate argument for anything."
Won a debate on what terms? The TV debates where there are no winners?
I find him very articulate, far more articulate than others who speak on the issues. And unlike the others, consistent in argument.
I disagree with him on foreign affairs, but on economics, he gets my vote 100%.
Regarding accusing him of recommending sending Jews to Canada and such statements, this just sounds like nonsense.
Thank you, thank you , thank you thank you......This really hits the point. I have a friend who is a Ron Paul supporter and I have nooooo clue why. I was thinking though, Daniel and correct me if I'm wrong. If someone- in this case Ron Paul says he is not an anti- semite yet says hes anti Israel and supports the arab Palestinian cause then isn't that the same as saying he is an anti- semite? Meaning, it's like saying I am not anti- Daniel Greenfield, just anti Daniel having the rights to his own home and I support anyone who tries to take it away, but gee I'm not anti-Daniel or anything. in fact, some of my best friend's are Daniels....ok, silly example, yet you here what I am saying....Is this the same?ReplyDelete
Zilla, yes, they are his best press corpsReplyDelete
Joe, it's his supporters who make the claim. The quoted comment was from one of them. I didn't claim it was from Paul himself.
Leah, the distinction is minor, yes. And I imagine that he is anyway based on some of the newsletters.
This post is beneath you. Have you heard what Ron Paul has to say about Israel? Read this: http://www.newsmax.com/InsideCover/paul-israel-support-wead/2011/12/07/id/420247ReplyDelete
I don't know of any other politician who will say that Israel has the right to decide her own fate. How is it anti-Israel to stop funding her enemies?
I agree that many of his followers are extreme, and that some of his policies are simplistic. But I'd rather have a President who honors the Constitution than one who doesn't.
1. This post isn't about Israel. I've covered that elsewhere.ReplyDelete
2. Ron Paul supports the terrorists and opposes Israel. Videos like this make it quite clear
and repeating the same generic talking points won't fly.
3. Ron Paul supports his own interpretation of the Constitution, not the Constitution.
Daniel: I'm betting that you thought this column wouldn't rub any fur the wrong way and you could just sit back and read some agreeable responses. And, you're right: Paul supports his own interpretation of the Constitution, not the Constitution qua Constitution. And the subject of your piece here is Paul's eclectic politics, not Israel.ReplyDelete
It's the canned robotic talking points that are irritating. They rarely bother reading the articles, they just trot out Programmed Response #3.ReplyDelete
Excellent article, Daniel!ReplyDelete
Unless you want some serious blowback yourself on the scale of the "Mars Landing," the war on the racists in the department of the that only permits "lily-white hurricane names," and the supernatural force that is unleashed when one of her "too tight" braids comes undone, you had better correct Congresswoman Jackson-Lee's first name to "Sheila."
If you don't get the references:
If you don't mind, I am going to post your article on my blog with attribution of course.
Have you read about "Paulsamic Vinegar" Mom? I saw this last night and laughed so hard at this nut!
I count at least 6 in this (s)hit piece.ReplyDelete
Daniel: To whom is Anonymous referring to about the “at least six” fallacies in this “hit piece”? You, or Ron Paul? It really isn’t clear what he’s talking about. The Wiki link is all about argumentative fallacies. If he’s referring to your piece, he doesn’t cite examples of the fallacies. If it’s Paul, he doesn’t cite examples. I noted no fallacies in your piece, so if he’s referring to your piece, he’s giving you the Bronx cheer while pretending to be an expert on fallacies. Is this just a Paulist troll committing hit-and-run?ReplyDelete
It's drive by trolling. Paul fanatics have a lot of comments to leave what with all the negative stories on Paul and only so much time to dedicate to it.ReplyDelete
Sadly unlike the 50 cent party in China they aren't even even getting paid for the privilege.
Or maybe they are as they didn't really show up yesterday so maybe they have time off.
Maybe they were too busy flocking to this article on Frontpage, like a horde of orcs:ReplyDelete
I've never seen so many at one place (except, of course, during the siege of Minas Tirith).
Now for some common sense:ReplyDelete
John Bolton: If you're thinking of voting for Ron Paul, think again!
Excellent analysis, Daniel. You have outdone yourself. I found this statement especially interesting: "Centralization and spending aren't the problem, they're the symptoms of the problem which is a corrupt technocratic political culture . . ."ReplyDelete
I had not thought about it this way, and I don't think many others had either. Most pundits and personalities deal with centralization and spending as the problem. However, by tracing those characteristics to our present predicament back one step to the culture that created it, you have provided food for thought concerning solutions that can at least mitigate the financial difficulties we are currently facing. Although I would agree that we a pretty far along the road to financial ruin, unlike Paul's supporters, I am not eager to see the system collapse. Preparation for difficulty is prudent even in good times, but that is completely different from wishing for and actively creating collapse. I don't think the Ron Paulistas quite know what they are wishing for.
Unfortunately there's a strong apocalyptic strain which says that the only way to rebuild is to tear everything down.ReplyDelete
Quite a few of those who wish for that sort of thing are a bit too optimistic as to how they would fare in that event.
Hey Sultan Knish, I thought you were also a critic of big government like Ron Paul.ReplyDelete
Aside from his cult of personality and his followers, what is it that you find about Ron Paul that is so objectionable?
Ron Paul doesn't pretend to be a humanitarian but he is consistent as a fiscal conservative, a libertarian and a constitutionalist.
He will cut all foreign aid, including to muslim countries such as Egpyt and Saudi Arabia.
He won't use military action to allow islamists to overthrow the dictators that oppose terrorism.
Ron Paul won't support the ridiculous attacks on freedom of speech by the OIC.
All these things that the Obama administration has partaken in or continues to do.