THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 447, December 9, 2007
"People get used to the idea that they
are ruled by liars and thieves"
Tom Knapp and the "Cult" of Ron Paul
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
I was was surprised to read Tom Knapp's. . . shall we say rather "sinuous" hit-piece on the Ron Paul campaign in last weekend's The Libertarian Enterprise. My old and respected friend is usually more direct.
And yet my old friend begins by listing for us what "The Problem with Ron Paul" is not, smearing the candidate just as badlyand, I might add, a great deal more disingenuouslythan if he'd made his damning assertions directly. For example, in his very best FBI Hostage Rescue Team "This is not an assault!" manner, friend Tom accuses the maverick Texas congressman of being "the Houston area's most assiduous pork-barreler".
Now I don't know what that means, and neither do you, although you probably thought you did when you read it. If, as one assumes, Ron is the Houston area's only Congressman, then he is, at once, its most assiduous pork-barreler and its least assiduous pork-barreler. He's also the Houston area's most average pork-barreler. So I think it's incumbent upon friend Tom to make his non-accusations a little more specific.
If that's logically possible.
Next, friend Tom informs us that "The Problem with Ron Paul" is not his "longstanding associations with racists, of both subtle and not-so-subtle varieties", and then skittles off to hide behind some other unsubstantiated non-accusation without so much as an asterisk or a footnote to explain precisely what he intends by saying such a thing.
I don't know Ron Paul personally, although I've met him a couple of times. I'm willing to betand have been told by countless individuals who do know himthat there isn't a racist corpuscle in his bloodstream. To attack a man for what some of his acquaintances may or may not think (especially when the fellow's a celebritylike a congressman, movie star, or, ahem, a novelistwith thousands and thousands of them) is a particularly nasty little liberal habit, entirely unworthy of the principled individual I know my old friend to be.
Therefore, I think it's absolutely obligatory that he name some names and supply some information about the nature of Paul's relations with these alleged racistsunless he'd like a banner at the top of the page like the one I've given the Democrats: " Days Since Tom Knapp Accused Ron Paul of Associating with Racists Without Backing It Up".
Or, I suppose, he could apologize.
Next, Tom brings up the congressman's "anti-libertarian positions on issues like immigration and same-sex marriage" while maintaining that even these pecadillos are not "The Problem with Ron Paul". One might wonder why Tom failed to mention the good doctor's most anti-libertarian position, his opposition to a woman's control over her own reproductive system. That is, one might wonder if one didn't already know that Mr. Knapp suffers from exactly the same affliction himself.
"The problem with Ron Paul," Tom finally says, "is the uncritical cultism which so quickly took root in the rich soil of a maverick campaign and has since overgrown that campaign like a cross between kudzu and poison ivy. . . proceed[ing] from dismissive shrugs. . . to shrill denials and cries of 'smear!' in reaction to any mention of the. . . smaller problems. . . to excommunicative declarations on the part of some cultists: 'Anyone who claims that they are against Ron Paul and are also 'libertarian' are not libertarians.'. . .I'm saddened to see this same cult mentality taking root [in] The Libertarian Enterprise."
I would be saddened by that, myself, if there were anything to it. But it turns out that the burr under Mr. Tom's saddle consists of an article we published by another old and good friend, Alan Weiss, an individual whose personal experiences with the Libertarian Party have deeply disgusted him and led him to abandon it for other libertarian undertakings. If there were some kind of "cult mentality" operating within The Libertarian Enterprise, we would hardly have published Tom's article, ironically enough, in the same issue as Christine Smith's uncompromisingly lyrical expression of her hopes for that organization.
Tom, my old friend, please pay attention. Listen closely. The name for what's going on in the freedom movement right now isn't "cultism". It's HOPE, back again for the first time in over thirty yearsback "again" for the very first time in the lives of many a younger libertarian.
Allow me to reiterate what I have said so many times before about the basis of my endorsement of Ron Paul, because I suspect it's the same thing that many other libertarians are thinking, as well. When Ron ran for president as the Libertarian Party's nominee, I opposed him because, although he leans very hard in the libertarian direction on many of the issues we're most deeply concerned with, he is not a libertarian.
At the time, I said that, while Ron made a rather poor libertarian candidatenot just because of the unlibertarian stances he took on some issues, but because of the underlying philosophical assumptions that led to his taking those stanceshe would make an excellent Republican candidate I would even consider voting for under certain circumstances.
Well, folks, these are those circumstances. We have two ugly, stupid, unneccesary, and destructive wars that we need to put an immediate stop to, and a fascist regime, complete with Big Brother- like surveillance, media control, disappearances, and torture, to roll back before it rolls over us. At this pivotal point in history, there isn't a single solitary Libertarian Party candidatenot oneno matter how decent, worthy, or commendable, who is going to be able to do anything at all about any of that. Whereas the right Republican or Democratic candidate could, without even getting elected or even nominated.
I haven't exactly been uncritical about Dr. Paul in the past. There's an entire chapter in the novel Hope (did I mention its URL?), which I wrote a few years ago with my friend Aaron Zelman, in which we take on the totalitarian fallout that would inevitably issue from a national ban on abortion. There's even a character based on Paul. (Tom called the argument we made a "red herring", but that's a different kettle of fish.)
As far as I'm concerned, the Congressman's deepest, most grievous error is that, when I met him for the second time (the first time was in San Francisco, in 1977, before I was first published), he hadn't read a thing I's written, and didn't have the faintest glimmer who I am.
Unforgivablebut that's probably just me.
I agree with Tom (and disagree with Alan) that it isn't really the Libertarian Party's place to promote the Congressman's candidacyat least not yet it isn't. For the time being that's up to the conscience and perspicacity of the individual libertarian, within the LP and without. Apparently 70% of party libertarians have made their choice already.
On the other hand, I disagree that the LP has gone "way too far, way too fast, in supporting Paul". This culture doesn't have much time left, before it gets sucked down forever into the black hole of totalitarianism. Tom almost impresses me as being more concerned with parliamentary niceties than with defending and expanding freedom. And referring to spontaneous enthusiasm for an unexpected opportunity to do that as a "supercharged cult atmosphere" does little to change that impression.
It does have to be "NOW NOW NOW" because otherwise it'll likely be never. "To the extent that Paul succeeds," Tom warns, "he identifies libertarianism with xenophobia, with homophobia, with the racist agendas of some of his less savory supporters whom he declines to disavaow, and with the Republican Party. Those associations will linger in the public mind long after America has elected its next president."
To which I say, here we go with sinuous non-accusations again, and they are nonsense. Unlike wishy-washy douchebag politicos on both sides of the largely non-existent divide, Paul's campaign refuses to dance to the music creatures like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton choose for it.
And to any extent that any of it may be even microscopically true, that's what you're for, Tom. That's what I'm for. You and I and a small handful of others are the conscience of the movement. If Paul succeeds, we'll have lots of work to do. At least we'll be alive to do it.
On the other hand, is waiting for an absolutely perfect candidate to come along (you certainly wouldn't regard me as such, would you, baby-killer that I am?) worth having these two insane wars continue, worth having more and more Patriot Acts rammed through Congress, worth feeling more ashamed every day by what's being done in our names in terror-filled hellholes like Guantanamo, worth filling concentration camps that have already been built here, for dissenters like you and me?
Or is that just another red herring?
I don't want to feud with you, Tom. You really are my friend, whom I respect and admire for many reasons. I only want to keep you honest the same way you've helped to keep me honest on occasions previous to this. But I've said many times that libertarians are better than anybody else at thinking up perfectly rational-sounding reasons to do nothing.
We have to overcome that suicidal tendencynow, now, nowor prepare to watch our loved ones die with slave collars around their necks.
And to die that way ourselves.