By Luke Brinker
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul continues to distance himself from bigoted, conspiracy-minded newsletters released under his name until the mid-1990s, but in an appearance in Sioux Center, Iowa, yesterday, he spouted much the same rhetoric as can be found in the newsletters.
As Talking Points Memo reports, Paul accused the United Nations of planning to seize Americans’ property, echoing theanti-globalist conspiracy theories published in Paul’s newsletters dating back to 1978:
If you want to use your property, you have to get a lot of permits. If you’re in the development business, from the low-level all the way to the top, you have to get permission from the federal government…I’m fearful because some people would like us to go all the way to the UN and have the UN controlling our lands, too.
Paul didn’t stop there. Months before anti-government extremist Timothy McVeigh bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Paul’s Survival Report warned that government encroachment on Americans’ rights would inevitably spark violence. In Sioux Center speech yesterday, Paul sounded a similar note:
Freedom has been tested just rather rarely in all of history. In most of history, 90-99 percent of the time, people have had to live under dictatorships. And as our government gets bigger, and violates our civil liberties with laws like the Patriot Act that invade our privacy they become more dictatorial. … We are losing those liberties.
Our system was the greatest and I fear that we’re going to give it up. And as it’s given up, if we don’t deal with these problems, I am afraid that there will be more violence. People will get angry because they’re not going to get what they believe they have a right to. So if you’ve been providing for something else that other people are providing they get angry.
We already see this in Europe, we already see some of it in our own streets where people get angry and upset, where people get angry and upset and if we don’t understand these issues to change the policy it’s going to get a lot worse and then there will be chaos and people will be even more willing to give up their liberties.
There’s also reason to believe that Paul subscribes to 9/11 conspiracy theories. When confronted by a 9/11 truther, Paul did not refute her belief that the US government was complicit in the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. Paul’s response was essentially that he was too busy promoting other crank theories, and that he was afraid of courting controversy:
Perhaps this level of conspiracy-mindedness is to be expected from a proud John Bircher. It was John Birch Society founder Joseph Welch who accused Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower of being a “dedicated agent of the international communist conspiracy.” To be fair, libertarian journalist Conor Friedersdorf notes, Paul’s conspiracy thinking is hardly foreign to the American right. (Birtherism, creeping shariah, and stealth Obama socialism, anyone?) Richard Hofstadter’s seminal The Paranoid Style in American Politics remains the definitive source for understanding the far right’s proclivity for conspiracy theorizing. For an especially illuminating study of the origins of conspiracy thinking in American history, read Gordon S. Wood’s “Conspiracy and the Paranoid Style: Causality and Deceit in the Eighteenth Century” (JSTOR subscription required). Wood argues that Enlightenment-era ideas about human agency led the nation’s founders – hardly a lunatic fringe – to identify human designs as responsible for even the most complex social and political phenomena. Wood and Hofstadter demonstrate that while Paul’s theories may be quite marginal, his general cast of mind is not original.