You can always judge a politician by their followers. Mitt Romney attracts the committed, Ron Paul the committable.
Grassroots campaigners are essential in American politics, in those states with lengthy caucus and primary processes, and even elsewhere thanks to the Internet’s empowerment of the ideologically energised. Politicians must rely on these people to get their message out and get the voters into the booths come election day. Smart politicos, however, understand how to give just enough without being compromised by the ideological fervour and fringe obsessions that mark grassroots networks.
Ron Paul supporters – imagine Justin Bieber fans in ‘End the Fed’ T-shirts – are unlike any other grassroots political movement America has seen in the last 25 years. They are remarkably motivated and insistently loyal. They are also generally fanatical, politically immature, intellectually underdeveloped, and paranoid. They blog, tweet, and upload videos about the Texas Congressman at a rate that dwarves the social media activism of, say, Bachmann supporters or Perry fans.
And they’re vicious. A mildly critical remark about Paul will earn the writer a barrage of hysterically hostile feedback, ranging from personal insults to accusations of involvement in sinister plots. Critics of Paul are termed ‘sheeple’ (think about it) and accused of betraying the Founding Fathers and the Constitution. Only Paul – and by extension, his demented followers – understand how the world works and how it’s supposed to work. They are the real Americans, the real patriots, the real conservatives. Everyone else is a cog or a plotter.
This isn’t a political movement. It’s a religious cult, and a particularly sinister one at that.
I spent an hour searching one of the leading Ron Paul supporters websites. DailyPaul.com is not affiliated to Ron Paul or his campaign but it is a hub dedicated to all things Paul where enthusiasts can come and discuss their hero and his challenge for the White House. (A disclaimer in the interest of fairness: I don’t think these people are quite all there, so perhaps we should be gentle in our remonstrations.)
Amidst paranoid ranting about black helicopters and plaintive cries to ‘free the weed’, there is a seeming obsession with Jews, Israel and Zionism. Hardly scientific, I know, but I searched the site for a series of keywords to record the number of times they appeared. ‘Weed’ got 542,000 mentions, ‘9/11’ 150,000, ‘CIA’ 80,600, ‘Jews’ 18,300, ‘false flag’ 17,700, ‘Rothschild’ 7,390, ‘Zionism’ 6,070, ‘UFO’ 5,600, and ‘implant’ 3,100.
That pretty much reflects the division of craziness on this forum. The inordinate attention paid to all things Jewish is most striking, for two reasons. One, because a charge often levelled at Paul supporters, and one they bristle at sharply, is that of antisemitism. Two, because even the most charitable reading of the discussions of Jews and Israel on these forums reveal a pervasiveness of and tolerance towards antisemitism unseen amongst supporters of any other major political candidate in the United States.
Here is a rundown of ten of the more reproducible antisemitic ravings posted on the site. (I’ve left the spelling and grammatical errors in tact on instruction from my paymasters in Jerusalem and because I’m lazy.)
National homeland of the Jewish people. Tiny embattled democracy surrounded by hostile regimes. Not perfect. Gets some things wrong – but on the whole, one of the good guys. Right?
Not so much.
A nation that has been tied to white slavery, organ harvesting black market, 9/11, drug runners, kidnapping, murder, torture, criminal organizations, crimes against humanity, land grabbing, porn rings, child prostitution, and more.
Who keeps the metric system down?
‘Jews,’ one commenter tells us, ‘control our monetary system, our media, and our goverment. There is no escaping that fact.’
This is absurd. Everyone knows the Canadians run everything. (One day soon, Monsieur Harper, your nefarious ways will be discovered.)
The six million
They’re definitely not Holocaust deniers, these Ron Paul fans. They’re just ‘questioning the official story’ about ‘what the heck really happened’. Well, gee whiz, who could be against that?
I am NOT a “Holocaust denier.” I am one who has a simple question that never gets answered, but is sure to get me flamed. How is it that the 6 million number did not get revised when the Auschwitz number got revised? I question the official story, and the media and much of the population gets REALLY uptight about questioning the official story… Methinks they protesteth too much, but to get to the bottom of this, how about we have a really exhaustive, wide open investigation and figure out what the heck really happened? In remembrance of the very real victims who deserve to have the truth exposed.
While we’re at it, we could have an investigation into how isolationism in American foreign policy helped created the functional circumstances for the Holocaust to take place. Ron Paul might not come out of that one looking very good.
The new Shoah
Okay, so maybe the Holocaust did happen but it ain’t nothing compared to what’s going on in Germany today. A post decrying the country’s Holocaust denial laws, entitled ‘Upside Down: Jews Were Persecuted by Germans, So Now Germans are Persecuted’, thinks it’s all eerily familiar.
Wait a second, weren’t Jews rounded up and sent to prison because of their beliefs? How is searching half a dozen homes and rounding up others for their beliefs, or arresting people for making websites and cakes any different?
If you need it explained to you why that statement is repugnant, you might just be a Ron Paul supporter.
Up to no good
One commenter warns that ‘rabid socialist zionist Jewish Neocons are working against freedom’ and that ‘[t]hey are the enemy within’.
Memo to DailyPaul.com: David Duke called. He’s suing you for copyright infringement.
The puppet masters
Anyone concerned that Western leaders are failing to stand with Israel needn’t fear. The ‘Zionists’ are on it already.
Politicians in the United States and Britain are made to pass under the yoke of the Zionist masters who control our leading political parties. By forcing our political leaders to accept the Zionist yoke our nations become subjugated and the pro-Israel agenda is forced upon the entire population.
What they’re buying
Baffled by President Obama’s super pro-Israel foreign policy? (Yeah, me too.) The Paulites have the answer:
[T]he Jewish billionaires can keep Neocon Obama in office to bomb the middle east some more.
Guess who was really behind 9/11:
The agenda of these hardcore Zionists is to become an empire. Many U.S. Senators and Congressman have secured lucrative contracts and fat retirements in helping Israel achieve it’s aims – as well as never criticizing it publicly. Cunning politicians to say the least, as they’ve been selling out America for decades with nobody really noticing. 9/11 is just the next phase in their quest for empire.
It turns out that notorious antisemitic forgery, the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion, was bang on after all:
All of what is happening in our world and what has happened last century was all spelled out very precicely in ” The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion ” the House of Rothschild is behind all of this madness. World war three has already begun. It started on 9/11/01 and will not stop untill all nations are brought to their knees from exhaustion of war. Then they”House of Rothschild ” will offer up their solution. A one world currency and a one world government to be led by the Anti-Christ.
And since 2012 will be won or lost on the economy, the Paulites have their own monetary and fiscal philosophy:
If we get rid of the Federal Reserve and military industrial complex, the zionist global conspiracy is utterly crippled. It dies shortly after that just by phasing out the IRS & all the Banking Complex’s fraudulent laws.
Liberals believe in higher taxes. Conservatives believe in lower taxes. Ron Paul supporters believe all the tax collectors are Jews.
All politicians have crazy fringe supporters who can be cited to discredit them but with Ron Paul, the crazies are the mainstream. They do not go unrewarded by the candidate. Paul is an expert at sounding dogwhistles that might be overlooked by the media but are easily understood by his target listeners. See my discussion of his remarks about Israel, African-Americans, and gays in an earlier post.
The last time America saw anything like this was the movement that sprung up around Pat Buchanan during the pre-1992 Republican primary season. It was a revolt of the Rolling Rock drinkers. Three years into George H W Bush’s presidency, with a sluggish economy and a stop-gap ceasefire to the bombing of Saddam, those Middle Americans who gave Reagan his two terms and only gave Bush his first on the understanding that it was really Reagan’s third finally lost their patience with the consensus-loving aristo in the White House. Preppie made all the right noises but when it came down to it, he never delivered for conservatives. On the economy, on taxes, on social issues, he epitomised the Country Club Republican who measures political success by the number of approving nods he receives from the New York Times editorial board.
The blue collar base seized the opportunity of the GOP primary season to send Bush a message, something along the lines of: Read our lips, no new Rockefellers. The Republican Party, hitherto the political equivalent of soft jazz and tan loafers, became a battlefield on which a bloody contest for the heart and soul of American conservatism would be fought. The winners still aren’t clear but one of the combatants, and the beneficiary of all the fury flying around, saw his star rise as disenchanted right-wingers rallied to his ramshackle campaign.
Pat Buchanan, a gnarly paleo-reactionary and former aide to Nixon and Reagan, had left government service for a career in politics, which is to say he went to work in the media. As a duelling pundit on CNN, he fired out barbs at liberals and squish Republicans alike, delighting viewers who shared his middle class background and middle century values. He figured this popularity could sweep him into the White House and announced his decision to challenge Bush in the primaries. Buchanan’s campaign would stand up for hard-pressed Americans done down by big government, overtaxed to fund lavish welfare payments for ‘urban’ families, discriminated against by affirmative action programs, made redundant by the job-outsourcing brought by free trade and the cheap labour of illegal immigrants, and ignored by politicians who served the interests of sectional groups within the nation and foreign governments outside its borders.
Although Buchanan, like almost all populist political leaders, would go on to flame out, he attracted a contingent of dedicated and determined activists of a kind alien to traditional Republican politics. The ‘Buchananites’, as the media named them, were not the traditional GOP industrialists and lunching ladies but steel workers and typists and insurance salesmen. Most of all, they were mad as hell and they weren’t going to take it anymore. Buchanan played on this anger, whipped it up to greater heights, and found himself with an army of supporters matched in their vociferousness on his behalf by a viciousness towards his opponents.
Like Ron Paul, Buchanan was expert at issuing dogwhistles to target audiences. An infamous instance sought to draw an ethnic hierarchy in American foreign policy between those who advocate war and those who fight it. The warmongers were men with names like Abe Rosenthal, Richard Perle, Charles Krauthammer, and Henry Kissinger whereas the cannon-fodder were ‘American kids with names like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales, and Leroy Brown’. One hardly needed to be a codebreaker to grasp what he was getting at.
Whereas Buchanan’s pitch was to Middle Americans angry at rising prices and withering pension schemes and looking for someone to blame, Paul speaks to the young and disaffected, college students who have reached adulthood at a time of conflict and economic strife that demands sacrifice at home and increased (and expensive) activity overseas. Paul tells them that, far from a necessary response to a dangerous world, this is a grand lie maintained by sinister groups within the government who are plotting to steal the liberties of the individual and perpetuate a global governing class that will establish a ‘new world order’.
We live in an age of demagogues and seekers after demagoguery. An age where significant segments of public opinion believe 9/11 was an ‘inside job’, that Princess Diana was offed at the order of the Duke of Edinburgh, and that the Vatican is concealing the truth about the bloodline of the Christian Saviour. There is a gap in the market for a conspiracist presidential candidate. Paul, like a good free-marketeer, is supplying the demand. His appeal is anti-politics. He’s the candidate of people who are so uninformed about politics that they mistake their stupidity for alienation.
American libertarianism, a vulgarisation of European classical liberalism, has become a movement for cranks, weirdos, conspiracists, antisemites, and people who think the CIA has implanted tracking devices in their dental fillings. Austrian economics takes second place to obscure fixations and cultish behaviour. Where the classical liberals of yesteryear looked to Hayek, Mises, Bastiat, Friedman and Thatcher, today’s US libertarians make icons of Alex Jones, Lyndon LaRouche, Lew Rockwell and a Texas Congressman who advocates returning to the Gold Standard, opposes the Civil Rights Act, and champions a foreign policy that would make Charles Lindberg blanch.
Paulitics is an ideology of contradictions: the attitudes of the Old South meet fashionable anti-establishment vexations about American military power and foreign alliances. It panders to the right on welfare, abortion and race while playing to the left on drug legalisation, Israel and the ‘military-industrial complex’. And that’s the Congressman’s appeal. He can be everything to everybody, offering a reactionary politics that progressives can finally embrace. Ron Paul is the pothead’s Pat Buchanan.
Feature image © Gage Skidmore by Creative Commons 2.0.