Sunday, October 7, 2007

A few guidelines for Ron Paul supporters

Since I threw a bone to other Ron Paul supporters earlier this evening, it's time to stir the pot a little bit with a post I meant to make a few days ago:

Now that Ron Paul is getting his moment in the sun thanks to his Q3 fundraising, his campaign has an opportunity to start making an impact on the nomination race. However, that impact will be limited if a large number of outsiders continue to perceive him and his supporters as "kooks."

A couple of recent articles and discussions on other sites have discussed the need for Ron Paul supporters to be less agressive or risk losing coverage entirely. These discussions were not the result of some hatchet-job on Ron Paul, but were instead moderated by sites that have gone out of their way to be fair to him; their reward has been personal attacks, incoherent rants, spamming on unrelated topics, and more. Plenty of mainstream Republican sites have obviously been less friendly to Ron Paul; however, the treatment of these sites by some Ron Paul supporters has been responsible for a hardening of attitudes against Ron Paul and all of his supporters. Indeed, there are plenty of people on those sites who would have been potential supporters who were permanently turned off by the invective, spamming, and ranting. Part of me wonders if the silliness over the fundraising letter wasn't the end result of rants by supporters. In other words, the incoherence and nuisance factor of the ranting led to a perception that only incoherent crackpots would possibly support Ron Paul.

So, with that in mind, I would like to propose some guidelines for Ron Paul supporters to follow. I believe these guidelines, if followed, improve perceptions of Ron Paul and his supporters and stop the process of making enemies out of potential allies.

1. Spamming: If you are posting a bunch of slogans without any substantive, logical arguments, then you are spamming. If you are cutting and pasting the same comment to multiple sites, you are spamming. If the article/post in question is not about Ron Paul and your post does not draw a logical connection to the subject of the article/post, you are spamming. This type of advocacy does not provide people with a logical reason to support Ron Paul, and creates the impression that Ron Paul supporters are automatons unable to make a logical argument of their own. If you don't agree with this definition of "spamming", then insert the word "trespassing" for "spamming" - the effect is the same: you are hurting Ron Paul's image and the image of other supporters.

2. Invective: Calling writers, columnists, bloggers, and commenters names, using terms like "fascist", "Brownshirt Republic," or accusing them of having a vendetta against Ron Paul for even the smallest perceived slight does nothing to advance the cause, and is a huge factor in discouraging additional coverage of Rep. Paul. The fact is that reasonable people can disagree with Rep. Paul on just about any issue; additionally, a reasonable person can discuss the nomination race without mentioning Ron Paul in every single article. When someone gets personally attacked for simply disagreeing with Ron Paul or not thinking Ron Paul is likely to be the nominee, they aren't going to be inclined to mention Ron Paul in a positive light (if at all) in the future.

3. Conspiracy theories: Whenever you make an argument about Ron Paul, you are associating the substance of that argument with Ron Paul- even if it is not his actual position. Worse, conspiracy theories come off as kookiness- if you really believe there is a conspiracy, the burden is on you to prove it, not on everyone else to disprove it. Examples of frequently stated conspiracy theories that are now being associated with Rep. Paul:

a. "9/11 was an inside job": the use of this theory by some supporters forces Rep. Paul to constantly waste valuable camera and press time on distancing himself from it. I also wish I didn't have to explain why this is one of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories in history.

b. "the polls are being manipulated to make Ron Paul's support seem smaller than it is": at most, there may be some unintentional undersampling. Yes, I'm aware that Rasmussen doesn't include Ron in its surveys- but no one of importance relies on Rasmussen.

c. "the media is trying to ignore Ron Paul": the media, like any other business, has finite resources. They will therefore only cover that which they think will be appealing to a large audience, and until Rep. Paul can show by traditional means that he has a deep level of support, the media is being rational by covering him less than others. The Q3 fundraising was a big step in the right direction, and has resulted in a lot of coverage from most outlets (with one obvious and notable exception).

4. Emotional responses to accusations. When someone actually does make a personal attack on Ron Paul, responding with a personal attack of your own does no one any good. Ron Paul is supposed to be the "peace candidate"- I don't see how you can advocate for peace while adopting a militant mentality; the two are a little contradictory. Emotional responses do nothing to persuade people. Think about it this way: if the original accusation against Ron Paul just made you angry and more passionate about Ron Paul, then what makes you think that a similar accusation by you will have a different effect? As for the argument personal attacks are justified as a response to personal attacks, and are really just self-defense: this is the same type of logic the President uses to justify torture- in other words, we're allowed to torture them because they have no qualms about torturing us. The problem with this logic, of course, is that it undermines your claim of moral superiority- you can't claim to be more morally just than your opponent while also claiming that your moral justness entitles you to act in the same way as your morally unjust opponent. This is what you would call doublethink.


1. Relevance: If you wish to talk about Ron Paul, then keep your comments relevant to the topic at hand. If the discussion only has to do with policy, then keep your comments limited to the policy at issue.

2. Grammar: If you want respect for your comments, then write in grammatically correct English. Writing in some bastardized pidgeon English with no capitals, no punctuation, and misspellings all over the place doesn't exactly give the impression you are worth listening to. If you have never learned proper writing skills due to the dumbing down of the English language through informal e-mail and text messaging.....then get a book on grammar.

3. Logic: If you want to write persuasively, then you must make a logical connection between your solution and the problem. For instance, simply shouting "Abolish the Fed, Restore the Republic, Vote 4 Ron Paul!" gives the reader no reason to vote for Ron Paul, and gives no explanation as to why the Fed should be abolished, why freedom must be restored, or how Ron Paul will accomplish either end. If you cannot fully explain the connection between the problem and the solution, then don't bother entering the discussion- you will just sound like an idiot. As a minimum baseline for commenting on policy questions generally, I would strongly recommend you take the American Civic Literacy Test. If you cannot score above 70% (and I'm being generous here), then you should not be discussing Constitutional issues or the free market economy with anyone- believe me, you will sound like an idiot if you do. For the record, I scored a 97%, so I'm not being remotely hypocritical here.

4. Calmness: Address arguments, not people. This makes what you have to say relevant to a much wider audience than just getting into a war of words with one or two people. It has the added benefit of making you sound like a rational human being.

In conclusion, there are plenty of rational Ron Paul supporters out there. Hopefully, some of the people who have frequently appeared irrational are even rational and just needed a little bit of guidance. But if you don't want to be labeled as crazy then don't give people a reason to think you're crazy.