So Ron Paul made the bigtime today: a feature in the New York Times. What about? Those little newsletters that came out in his name a couple of decades back. You know, the ones that (among other things) predicted an upcoming race war and "contain[ed] bigotry against black, Jews, and gays and an obsession with conspiracies."
Perhaps the only surprise is that it took this long for the big guys to notice: plenty of people have known about the more controversial parts of the Paul oeuvre forever (Dave Weigel notes that he wrote about the newsletters four years ago). But the interesting part from an online politics point of view is that this is a classic example of the Internet's double-edged nature.
Paul's message has long resonated on the Internet, and in the 2008 cycle his supporters were everywhere online, even helping him top all other Republicans in fundraising in the last quarter of '07. This time around, he's running perhaps a more balanced campaign, with a strong grassroots structure married to social media buzz (tops on Twitter!) and a digital fundraising machine that's paying for a wave of television ads. Online/offline integration indeed!
But if you live by the 'net, you can die by it, too: the Internet gives old, old documents a new shot at prominence, including those newsletters apparently aimed at winning at least a few of the white supremacist crowd over to the Libertarian creed. Just as Romney's flip-flops are lovingly preserved on video on sites like WhichMitt.com, the words that went out in Paul's name in the early 90's can spread infinitely farther in digital form than they did on paper, and in the process potentially convince a lot of people who might have given an iconoclastic candidate like him a chance to stay the hell away instead. Consistency is Paul's main virtue, and a rare one in a politician. But consistency with these words? Political doom -- and rightly so.
Thanks to long-time friend and Epolitics.com reader Burt Edwards for suggesting that a Ron Paul piece would be a good idea right about now.
Originally published on Epolitics.com on December 26, 2011