A Special Message to My Special Friend Marcus

I made a new friend recently!  He goes by the screen name “Marcus Brutus,” and attended my school, Hillsdale College, some time ago.  Unfortunately, thanks to our disagreements about Ron Paul and the War on Terror, we didn’t exactly hit it off.

“Marcus” wants me to know that he fared much better academically than he supposes I did: “I’ll ask [Hillsdale President] Dr. [Larry P.] Arnn at the next fundraiser if you’ve had a chance to examine that desk of his yetmy name is on plaques at Hillsdale, and yours isn’t.” He doesn’t think I have much “intellectual cultivation,” or that I’d make it “as a secretary for any office in any level of the federalist society in [his] chapter.”  Why, my heart positively shatters! (I don’t presume to be some great scholar, and I confess that I haven’t a single plaque to my name, but in my defense, I’m not exactly dead weight.)

His intellect, by contrast, is highly cultivated, and it’s very, very important for him that his readers know just how much, via seemingly-endless references to Scripture, English history, ancient Athens, and such.  Since graduating, he professes to have had quite the accomplished career—Marine Corps, Iraq, application to the bar, even some time spent in Israel.

Unfortunately, I don’t think “Marcus’s” way of going about things is doing him any favors.  In the spirit of friendship, allow me to humbly offer my fellow Hillsdalian some helpful advice.

1.) Honesty is the Best Policy

If you’re telling the truth about your post-graduate accomplishments, you are to be commended for them, especially your service to our country.  For that, we are all in your debt, sir.

However, I say “if” because, in your defense of Ron Paul, arguably the least substantive or honorable Republican alive today, you were presented with two specific instances of Ron Paul engaging in dishonesty—the first concerning Paul falsely attributing the Christmas Day terror attempt to US counterterror operations in Yemen, the second concerning Paul’s involvement with a series of bigoted, conspiratorial newsletters, and Paul’s unconvincing & inconsistent spin rationalizing them.

You ignored the first one entirely, opting instead to falsely accuse me of holding myself up as a “terrorism expert,” when in fact all I really said was that Paul cannot seem to grasp the most elementary facts about terrorism from readily-available news reports (evidently you have a much lower standard for the concept of an “expert” than I do).  You dismissed the charge as “scurrilous” despite the glaring inadequacy of your response.

You dismissed the second too, stating “If anything, Dr. Paul was simply guilty of not providing sufficient oversight for that newsletter,” and offering a convenient excuse to ignore Reason’s findings on the controversy: “Everyone knows about the famous feud between the two schools of libertarian thought. It’s no surprise whatsoever the beltway crowd came up with that piece.”

“Marcus,” my man, you’re right: there are two schools of libertarian thought.  There are respectable, sane libertarians, like Reason and my buddy David Swindle, and then there are the intellectual con men willing to whore themselves out to whatever incompetent demagogue comes along to affirm their ideology (hint: you’re in the group that isn’t the first one).

Upon learning that a US Congressman had been allowing newsletters to be published under his name over a twenty-year period—newsletters from which he gained a nice profit, as we’ll see below—and paid so little attention to the content, or the people responsible for the content, that they became vehicles for racism and insane conspiracy mongering (and with praise for David Duke, hatred of Martin Luther King, and theorizing that Israeli carried out the Oklahoma City bombing, they’re quite insane), I suspect most folks would likely question whether or not he’s competent enough to make decisions for himself, much less a congressional district.  But your impeccable standards magically disappear where Paul is concerned.

The best-case scenario for Paul is that he’s a moron. However, Reason’s Matt Welch performed an extensive search of newspaper records for Paul’s various reactions to the scandal in past campaigns, finding numerous instances of Paul both admitting to writing some of the newsletters and defending their content.  Among the confirmed Paul commentaries:

“If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet of foot they can be […] Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

It may be argued that this example is not intrinsically racist per se, but it clearly appeals to anti-black prejudice, and is consistent with the rest of the newsletters’ overall theme of cultivating suspicion towards minorities.

Also, it clearly shows that just how much Paul really knew about or participated in the newsletters remains an open question, made all the more questionable given Reason’s credible suspicion that longtime Paul ally Lew Rockwell might have authored the letters Paul didn’t.  Reason also notes:

A tax document from June 1993—wrapping up the year in which the Political Report had published the “welfare checks” comment on the L.A. riots—reported an annual income of $940,000 for Ron Paul & Associates, listing four employees in Texas (Paul’s family and Rockwell) and seven more employees around the country. If Paul didn’t know who was writing his newsletters, he knew they were a crucial source of income and a successful tool for building his fundraising base for a political comeback.

All Americans of conscience and goodwill ought to demand real answers as to any politician’s cozy relationship with the crazed, bigoted fringes of American politics—none more so than those who brag about their principles.  Such Americans should also scrutinize Paul’s friendship with Rockwell, his CIA conspiracy-mongering, his cordiality to Stormfront & other anti-Semites, his flirtations with 9/11 Trutherism, and his near-hallucinatory claim that even Barack Obama is a war-monger. (And that’s just off the top of my head!)

Another example of dishonesty:

You should ponder reading Frederic von Hayek’s the Road to Serfdom describing this process. How one can advocated complete centralized control abroad, and advocate individual liberty and the maintenance of the free market domestically is mind-boggling…Is that a ‘no’ regarding Reagan’s favorite economist?”

First, it’s manifestly dishonest to suggest that any of us advocate “complete centralized control abroad.”  Of what?  The region?  The world? And, your “What do you think the military is son?” rejoinder only reinforces the fact that you did a crappy job of making clear what the heck you were talking about the first time.

Second, as you’re well aware, I acknowledged that war is expensive, which is one of the many reasons it should be avoided if at all possible.  But the relevance of general “war is bad!” arguments only goes so far, because sometimes even war is better than the alternative.  You may argue that, in the case of Iraq, war wasn’t better than the alternative, but just because I disagree, don’t dishonestly suggest that I’m rejecting Hayek’s premise.  Assuming you’ve got the big brain you boast about, you know full well I wasn’t.

Third, you insist that I’m “lying about the evidence in existence regarding Iraq. That’s all there is to it. It’s not leftist drivel sadly, it’s a fact: there were no WMDs there.”  Sorry, but the evidence, which I’ve directed people to elsewhere, says otherwise. Curious that somebody who cares so much about “his Marines” so aggressively disseminates false information about their mission…

One more example:

I’ll leave readers to ponder whether or not to take the word of a boy who does not volunteer to serve himself, but who is content to send others on Syracusean expeditions.”

Ah, the old leftist “chickenhawk” meme! Men of honor, it seems to me, argue an issue based on the merits.  They don’t try to find reasons to automatically disqualify their opponents’ opinion from consideration.

Simply put, “Marcus,” you aren’t honest.  You ignore facts that reflect poorly on people with whom you agree, and deny facts that don’t fit your worldview.  By contrast, when honest men are presented with evidence not to their liking, they either offer valid reasons to doubt that evidence (not meaningless sneering about “the beltway crowd”), or they reassess their prior opinion.  And because you aren’t honest, that calls into question everything else you say, including your personal achievements.  You might have gleaned this lesson some time ago from “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.”  (Granted, I realize that piece of literature doesn’t quite have the same pedigree as Cicero or Aristotle…)

2.) If You’re Gonna Claim the Intellectual High Ground…

…don’t toss out logical fallacies and petty gripes unbecoming of a Dixie Chick. They make you look either like a careless fool (also calling into question your intellectual credentials), or somebody so consumed by ideology that truth becomes an afterthought (but then, we’ve already well established the latter). This is especially important advice for those who complain about “poor reading comprehension and listening capacities.”  The aforementioned dust-up about whether I presented myself as a “terrorism expert” is an obvious example, but allow me to draw your attention to a few others:

“…neither Dr. Paul has ever said that ‘America’ is responsible for the terrorist attacks against us. He has stated that the United States federal government has engaged in policies that have stirred up animosity, and which have given additional incentives to those who wish us ill, a fact you ignore and refuse to address. You seem to be under the impression that ‘America’ is the United States government.”

Inasmuch as I myself have made the point that the government and the country aren’t synonymous before, I’m clearly under no such impression.  The most I might be guilty of is rhetorical sloppiness, but since the Paul quote that sparked this dispute, “they’re terrorists because we’re occupiers,” is similarly vague, one wonders why you don’t chastise him (reviewing Paul’s speeches will likely reveal numerous times where Paul tells his audience blowback is caused by what “we’ve” done).  Besides, in a country where people routinely refer to the exploits of their local football team with “we” and “us,” I trust most non-Paulite readers are smart enough not to make the assumption you have (perhaps your went straight to an ivory tower upon your return to the states?).  Griping over semantics makes you look childish, not clever.

Threaten our interests? Woah now, that is a far far different thing from posing a threat to the United States which would justify a preemptive attack. Nice bait and switch, almost slipped that one past!”

A bait and switch?  No, I think the prevention of a dirty bomb going off in a major American city counts as one of our “interests.”  This shoddy attempt to find some imaginary inconsistency in my words only reflects poorly on you.

For this you smear him, displaying only your own arrogance and concern, not for the good and preservation of our free society domestically, but instead, the Straussian’s ‘national greatness’… “Only someone concerned more with ‘national greatness’ than with defending and preserving our constitutional republic domestically would place more emphasis on apparent victory through conventional pacification instead of true victory.”

I claimed three things: 1.) Ron Paul’s a liar, 2.) going into Iraq was the right thing to do, based on the evidence, and 3.) reducing US “blowback” would not make us safer to the degree Paul believes it would.  I fail to see how any of these positions are contingent upon agreement with Leo Strauss (whom, truth be told, I’ve barely read a dozen pages of, at most) or how they make any claim about “national greatness.” A wee bit of an obsession with Mr. Strauss, mayhap?  This too makes you look either foolish or deceptive.

“…it is odd to hear an admission from a ‘golden souled’ Straussian that he is not actually booted and spurred, ready to ride upon the backs of the silver-souled in order to keep the common-folk in line.”

Hey, it’s Leo again! I have absolutely no idea what point you think you’re making, but this too seems like a good example of the folly of trying to infer some broader political philosophy from what in reality are narrower, relatively straightforward judgment calls.

3.) How to Win Friends and Influence People

Trust me, the way you’re going about this ain’t working.  Even if you are the enlightened, accomplished, intellectual giant you claim to be, incessantly bragging about it doesn’t give your arguments added validity among most readers.  I hate to break it to ya, but it mostly just makes you look like an obnoxious, egotistical prick who either looks down on everybody else, or is so insecure that he needs to pad his remarks to give them artificial substance (interpretations that are bolstered further still by your aforementioned dishonesty, pettiness, and logical fallacies).

In other words, I’m afraid you’re going to alienate more people than you convince.  Now, if self-gratification is your only reason for wading into comment threads, then by all means, stay the course. But if you fancy yourself as being of any actual use to the ideas you espouse, well, then I regret to inform you that you’re in something of a quagmire, and you desperately need an exit strategy. Failing to heed such advice would be suicidal, sir.

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