This week probably marks the moment that schadenfreude finally left the Ron Paul campaign.
There's always been a kind of awful element of fun to listening to rabid Paul defense, given that much of it was reality-optional. But, hey, at least his fans believed in something. And no true believer deserves this week. In the last seven days, some of Paul's former staffers admitted to deliberately courting racists, with his blessing. Then, adding insult to injury, Paul's current ties to American white supremacist groups surfaced courtesy of Anonymous.
As outlined before, there were only a limited number of explanations for Paul's racist, conspiracy-oriented newsletters, and none of them were good. Either he believed the things he printed, merely capitalized on the things he printed, or was unaware of the things he printed. It was a spectrum ranging from monstrous to cynical to incompetent.
Apparently, it's the second option, at least according to the Washington Post:
"[People] close to Paul’s operations said he was deeply involved in the company that produced the [racist] newsletters, Ron Paul & Associates, and closely monitored its operations, signing off on articles and speaking to staff members virtually every day.
"It was his newsletter, and it was under his name, so he always got to see the final product. . . . He would proof it,’’ said Renae Hathway, a former secretary in Paul’s company and a supporter of the Texas congressman.
"… A person involved in Paul’s businesses, who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid criticizing a former employer, said Paul and his associates decided in the late 1980s to try to increase sales by making the newsletters more provocative. They discussed adding controversial material, including racial statements, to help the business, the person said.
“It was playing on a growing racial tension, economic tension, fear of government,’’ said the person, who supports Paul’s economic policies but is not backing him for president. “I’m not saying Ron believed this stuff. It was good copy. Ron Paul is a shrewd businessman.’’
The story matches one broken by Julian Sanchez and David Weigel in 2008, in the libertarian magazine Reason. Not only was it an "open secret" in libertarian circles that Lew Rockwell ghost-wrote many of Paul's newsletters, but the racial and paranoid tone was part of his and Murray Rothbard's attempt to create a "paleo-libertarian" movement, which is basically libertarianism without all that fun stuff about legalizing drugs and prostitution. Rockwell was trying to court southern conservatives who thought the Civil Rights Act, the Great Society, and the Democratic Party were all enemy combatants in a Civil War that had just transitioned from active shooting to economics and "politically correct" social engineering.
All of this just confirms what strenuous opponents of the newsletters have been saying since their publication. And as much as it sucks for Ron Paul fans to confront staffers and aides confirming critics' arguments, it's tough not to say, "We told you so," because, well, practically everybody did.
The natural response to this news, if you’re still a true believer, is that it's from 16 years in the past. This is a newsletter operation divorced from the Ron Paul 2012 campaign. Unfortunately, that's not what the hacktivist group Anonymous discovered.
As part of an ongoing online effort against white supremacists, Anonymous hacked the website of the American Third Position (A3P), a white nationalist group tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Like the SPLC, Anonymous found ties to skinhead groups, Nazis and David Duke's flunkey Jamie Kelso. Unlike the SPLC, they also found significant ties to the Ron Paul 2012 campaign:
"In addition to finding the usual racist rants and interactions with other white power groups, we also found a disturbingly high amount of members who are also involved in campaigning for Ron Paul. According to these messages, Ron Paul has regularly met with many A3P members, even engaging in conference calls with their board of directors."
In addition, someone who appears to be close to Paul expressed dismay that Kelso was shut out of the Conservative Political Action Conference and said he would speak to Paul about Kelso's organizational value.
Of course, the quickest and easiest dismissal is that the A3P stuff comes from Anonymous, not exactly the most credible of sources. But they parade around in the same Guy Fawkes masks as Paul supporters, tend to skew libertarian, and in 2008 many of their members supported Paul's candidacy. At this point, there's too much stuff to try to handwave away. In addition to years of "we told you so!" material that mainstream outlets have urged Paul supporters to confront, there are now the words of his aides and managers, as well as his own appointment book.
And while "we told you so!" is tempting to say, it's just sad. It's sad to see people energized by politics being disappointed by the first thing they may have really believed in. It's sad to see tens of thousands of Americans donate millions of dollars to someone who hid such grossly prejudicial and politically fatal connections from them.
Really, the only amusing thing is that an independent group of political privateers took their own letters of marque to bring down a campaign. And they mostly came from a message board known for lolcats, camwhores, hentai, and decentralized anarchy. There's some cosmic justice in there, but even it's not all that funny.
Previously – Let Us Now Pity Famous Men
You should also read: I'm Not Mad at Ron Paul, Just Disappointed