Ron Paul Isn’t a Truther–It’s Worse.

Rare has a new piece rationalizing Ron Paul’s recent comments suggesting he had gone over to 9/11 Trutherism. It recounts Paul’s many denials of his belief in the “inside job” conspiracy theory, and, for good measure, provides another one direct from Paul himself.

In an email to Rare, Paul said: “I have never changed my position on 9/11, and I do not accuse the government of planning or knowing about 9/11 beforehand.”

But just two weeks ago, he told Charles Goyette: “I believe that if we ever get the full truth [about 9/11], we’ll find out that our government had it in the records exactly what the plans were, or at least close to it.”

There are plausible ways to square these two statements–maybe Paul meant that various agencies had all the necessary pieces of information required to preempt the attacks, but failed to put them together in time. This is, in fact, “the official story” about intelligence failures prior to 9/11.

Maybe he was just confused and inarticulate, but in the context of Paul’s history and associations–most notably, Lew Rockwell and some of the people at the “Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity”–the comments look like calculated ambiguity, using deniable rhetoric that nonetheless signals his friendliness to conspiratorial thinking: “Not saying what they are [wink, nod], but… there are things we don’t know about 9/11! ”

(His infamous newsletters employed this sort of strategy, recruiting from Holocaust denial mailing lists, using racially charged rhetoric, and giving space to “survivalists” preparing for race war. Most of Paul’s appearances on Alex Jones also fall along these lines.)

Is Ron Paul a 9/11 Truther? No, his many denials of the conspiracy theory certify that. It’s actually more serious than that: Paul doesn’t think the government was behind 9/11, but he’s glad that other people do.

Paul believes that the 9/11 Truth movement is all lies, but they’re useful lies, and he will help promote them if he thinks it tangentially helps his antiwar goals.

When Kmele Foster asked him about the Ron Paul Institute publishing 9/11 conspiracy theories, Paul explained: “I think that’s a little bit overkill with political correctness. People know my position, I’ve stated [it] on national television enough times. But Paul Craig Roberts has some very good views on war and civil liberties, and he shouldn’t be excluded because he takes this particular position. … I think that, to me, the people who overly criticize something like that probably are the ones who have the problem.”

There you have it. Truthers oppose American imperialism. If you promote Trutherism, you’re a good guy, because your policy preferences are likely to align with his. If you criticize conspiracy theories, you’re a bad guy because you’re “dividing the movement” by attacking his Truther allies.

As a supporter of Ron Paul as far back as 2006, I’ve learned to recognize this pattern. Ron Paul refuses to be held accountable for his associations. He states his own opposition to homophobia, racism, and conspiracy theories–sincerely, I believe–but he refuses to disassociate from those who use his name and network to promote them. Paul thinks private denials are good enough to give him moral teflon against the foul shit being spread by his associates. But at some point, this excuse wears thin, especially when he says that the people who criticize that stuff are “probably the ones who have the problem.”

But reality has to matter. “9/11 Truth” is not just bad for branding–not just “politically incorrect,” as Paul says–it is utterly incompatible with his own “blowback” theory of US foreign policy: the US meddles abroad, stirs up hatred, and gets attacked in consequence. Whatever one thinks of this theory, it all falls apart if the US doesn’t actually get attacked by foreign terrorists, since terrorism is actually all a big hoax by the government.

The continuing prominence of 9/11 conspiracy theories around the “liberty movement” is a problem because it signals a willingness on the part of influential leaders to ignore egregious dishonesty, and to give cover to vile and idiotic beliefs, as long as they also happen to think the US government is bad. Marxists think the US government is awful too–is Ron Paul going to give them column space on his website to promote socialism and class warfare, just because they are also against the war in Iraq?

Believing that the government today is doing a lot of things wrong is obligatory for any libertarian worth their salt–but what those things are and why matters more. That idea by itself is not a philosophy, nor a litmus test for who should get to hold the megaphone in our “big tent” libertarian movement. Unfortunately, Ron Paul doesn’t agree.

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