Ron Paul has a real chance of winning next week’s Iowa caucuses. And not surprisingly “the Smearbund” (as Murray Rothbard termed it) has returned—along with discussion of those newsletters, which have haunted the Congressman for 15 years.
The GOP establishment will tolerate Paul so long as he remains a folksy and charming long-shot. (He’s even useful in that he keeps Constitution-thumping die-hards within the Republican fold.) But the second it looks like the man might actually win, the gloves come off.
To be sure, most of the smears of Paul’s brand of Old-Right libertarianism are unfair and ungrounded; and they usually amount to a variation on theme—“You don’t want to invade [Insert Middle Eastern Country], ergo you endorse [Insert cruel dictator]! Such logic is invariably accompanied by allusions to Hitler, “the lessons of Munich,” yadayadayada. (This past week Dorothy Rabinowitz shrieked that Paul is a “propagandist for our enemies.”)
That being said, the claim that Paul’s newsletters from the ‘90s are “racist” (at least as that word is commonly defined) is, in fact, quite fair.
One can defend most of what is written on libertarian, non-racial grounds, as Justin Raimondo did in his powerful 2008 piece from Takimag. But the fact remains that the newsletters were “racist” in the sense that race is real—it has a remarkable analytic and predictive capacity—and the newsletter authors (whoever they might be) were willing to “go there.”
As Steve Sailer put it during the last iteration of this controversy, the main thing the newsletters exposé proves is that “Dr. Paul's newsletters weren't as boring as the Main Stream Media.” (In turn, the scandal reminds us of just how boring Beltway journalism remains: four years on, the same people on both sides of the debate are saying the same damn thing over and over again.)
It’s convenient for the mainline media to brand the newsletters—as well as all race-thinking—as the equivalent of a rube dropping the N-bomb at the dinner table, that is, as crude, irrational, and superstitious. But in reality, race-thinking is dangerous heresy—and this is why any serious discussion of racial differences is stamped out so swiftly, ruthlessly, and self-righteously.
In this line, Paul’s critics like to point and stutter at various sentences from the newsletters taken out of context.
“[O]ur country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists—and they can be identified by the color of their skin.”
But when such shockers are put back in context—the aftermath of the LA riots—they are revealed to be quite reasoned and potent...if still racist:
Regardless of what the media tell us, most white Americans are not going to believe that they are at fault for what blacks have done to cities across America. The professional blacks may have cowed the elites, but good sense survives at the grass roots. Many more are going to have difficulty avoiding the belief that our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists—and they can be identified by the color of their skin. This conclusion may not be entirely fair, but it is, for many, entirely unavoidable.
The newsletter’s discussion of David Duke’s ’91 gubernatorial campaign is equally perceptive. As the authors note, White Louisianans—a majority of whom backed Duke—didn’t do so out of love for Holocaust revisionism or Duke’s past with the Klan. Duke struck a nerve because he ran a “Majority Strategy” campaign, promising to end affirmative action and slash the welfare state that funds Black social dysfunction. That is, Duke was attacking the political engine of White dispossession in places that it hurt.
Needless to say, such points get lost as Beltway journalists “grapple” with Paul’s insensitivity.
The Washington Examiner’sPhilip Klein, a representative “movement conservative” publicist, is horrified by the newsletters’ “racism” and lack of unconditional support for Israel. He writes,
Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have both attacked each other for what was written in their respective books. If either of those books had included a number of overtly racist statements, their candidacies would be over before they started.
The point, of course, is that Romney and Perry are allowed to have tiffs over healthcare policy because it ultimately doesn’t matter much (outside of the scoring of “gotcha” points.)
Race, on the other hand—along with enthusiastic Zionism—is the central shibboleth for who gets purged and who gets promoted in American conservatism.
One particularly loathsome Republican, for instance, is allowed to cheat on successive wives while they are deathly ill—and then make a career out lecturing conservatives on “Rediscovering God in America” with his former mistress. If the aptly named “Newt” Gingrich had, however, quoted approvingly from the scientific writings of Richard Lynn or J.P. Rushton at any point in his career, he would swiftly be run out of the Party on a rail.
Race is a shibboleth even on the anarcho-capitalist “fringe.” John Robbins, Paul’s chief of staff during the early ‘80s, is calling on Lew Rockwell to ‘fess up to being the newsletters’ author, and cleanse the Paul movement of Hate. Apparently, Robbins and his ilk are quite willing to combat the trillion-dollar forces of finance capital; they shutter, however, at the thought of associating with a racist.
The Business Insider’s Michael Brendan Doughterty is another who expresses outrage at the newsletters. His political analysis of the situation is, generally speaking, accurate; he is wrong, however, when he suggests,
Rothbard and Rockwell never stuck with their alliances with angry white men on the far right. They have been willing to shift alliances from left to right and back again. Before this "outreach" to racists, Rothbard aligned himself with anti-Vietnam war protestors in the 1960s. In the 2000s, after the "outreach" had failed, Rockwell complained bitterly about "Red-State fascists" who supported George Bush and his war. So much for the "Rednecks." The anti-government theories stay the same, the political strategy shifts in odd and extreme directions.
As crazy as it sounds, Ron Paul's newsletter writers may not have been sincerely racist at all. They actually thought appearing to be racist was a good political strategy in the 1990s. After that strategy yielded almost nothing—it was abandoned by Paul's admirers. [emphasis in the original]
The ‘90s were hardly some unreconstructed age when racism was acceptable. Indeed, nothing much has changed in terms of the dominance of PC in major institutions, and conservatives’ total inability to confront it.
More important, though I’m far from certain Lew Rockwell was the author of the newsletters, the fact is, the libertarians surrounding Paul—including Rockwell and Rothbard—had a sincere and serious interest in race, and felt that it was the basis of the identity of traditional Americans (“rednecks”). And though Rothbard and Rockwell have often flirted (unsuccessfully) with the anti-war Left; as biographical accounts suggest, their “paleo” strategy was a return home.)
So much is made clear by the Rothbard-Rockwell Report (happily available at Unz.org), which was not a cynical “outreach” ploy but a high-level organ for initiates. Sam Francis, Michael Levin, as well as undecided discussion of The Bell Curve appear in its pages.
In many ways, the RRR (as well as the more rough-and-tumble newsletters) represent a moment when race-realism could be productively integrated with Austrian economics, as well as a quintessentially American anti-Establishment, populist spirit. It was an “alternative Right” (though one with different concerns than this website.)
It’s worth returning to Rothbard’s stirring “Right-Wing Populist Program” from January 1992:
Slash welfare. Get rid of underclass rule [“BRA”?] by abolishing the welfare system…
Abolish Racial or Group Privileges.
Take Back the Streets: Get Rid of the Bums.
Abolish the Fed; Attack the Banksters.
Defend Family Values.
One reason why I have a soft spot for Ron Paul is not only because he is a recognizable human in a sea of sociopaths but because I can imagine him approving of Rothbard’s program, as well as the sentiments expressed in the newsletters.
Unfortunately, the Paul of 2012 seems to have gone quite wobbly on the immigration issue. And whether out of a desire to please donors or resignation at White American’s apparent demographic destiny, Lew Rockwell has totally abandoned the National Question at the RRR’s successor, LewRockwell.com—and even promoted anarcho-capitalist multi-culti.
I don’t think the newsletters controversy will stick (it certainly didn’t last time around). And I don’t think it will mark a ceiling on the Ron Paul movement at large (as Doughterty suggest); there is an inherent democratic ceiling for the movement due to the fact that large portions of the voting population love war, federal handouts, affirmative action, healthcare entitlements, and much else. (The Kali Yuga is popular.)
I find it sad, however, how quickly the libertarians’ “right-wing” moment has been flushed down the memory hole.