Thursday, January 10, 2008

Double Standards?

I finally had a chance to read James Kirchick piece in the New Republic about a few racist, homophobic and what is described as "Israel-obssesed" (like the New York Times is not "Israel-obsessed?") quotes from newsletters published once- unon-a-time by Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ron Paul about whom I had written here and I've been following the debate over the issue, including Dr. Paul's interview on CNN (via Whoever had written these comments should not be regarded as a libertarian but as a small-time bigot. I do believe Dr. Paul who maintains that he didn't author the material in the newsletters. And I totally agree with the point he made in CNN that racism, homophbia, and anti-Semitism are collectivist ideologies that run contrary to the basic principles of libertarianism. For the sake of transparency, I think that it would be a good idea for Dr. Paul to let us know who did author these ugly comments and then he will be able to close the chapter on this issue and focus the issues of the campaign. But let me add one point to this debate: I don't remember the leading Democrats or the media making a very big fuss of all the racism and the hate-mongering of the 2000 Democratic presidential candidate Rev. Al Sharpton which reminds me of another phoney religious leader, the Republican presidential candidate Pat Robertson. Homophobia? Anti-Semitism? Nutty conspiracy theories? Where do we start when it comes to Pat. How many of you recall his 1991 non-fiction book New World Order? This is from a review in the Christian Century:
IN HIS PUBLISHED WRITINGS, especially his 1991 book The New World Order, Pat Robertson has propagated theories about a worldwide Jewish conspiracy. Michael Land raised the issue in February in the New York Times Book Review, and in April Jacob Heilbrun, writing in the New York Review of Books, cited chapter and verse of Robertson's borrowings from well-known anti-Semitic works. After the New York Ti s and the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith called attention to the matter, Robertson issued a statement denying any anti-Semitic intent, affirming his alliance with the Jews and his support for Israel, and saying he "regretted" any offense his writings may have caused. Ralph Reed, executive director of the Christian Coalition, which Robertson founded, also spoke to the question, firmly disavowing anti-Semitism within the ranks of the coalition.

Yet neither Robertson nor Reed has confronted the substantive criticisms that have been made about Robertson's writings. The charge of anti-Semitism needs to be examined. At the same time, the entire thrust of Robertson's thought needs to be considered in order to grasp the place anti-Semitic themes play within it, Robertson seems most animated by fears of a financial conspiracy that is rendering individual Americans and the nation itself powerless. Accompanying and complicating this conspiracy theory is Robertson's abhorrence of the Enlightenment (though this does not prevent him from embracing that Enlightenment economic thinker Adam Smith). An investigation of Robertson's worldview opens an intriguing, if frightening, window on a portion of the American religious mind.

The New World Order was written principally to condemn the United Nations' command authority during the gulf war. Robertson presents a sweeping warning about an age-old conspiracy designed to control world politics and economics. In Robertson's view, the conspirators belong to a secret "society" led by satanic atheists and financial "money barons." According to the evidence he marshals, these conspirators have taken over international banking and American academic and cultural institutions, and have carefully planned to use the UN and Federal Reserve Bank to impose upon the globe a "one-world" government. The real purpose of the conspiracy, however, is the destruction of American Christian culture and of Christianity itself.

ROBERTSON TRACES the historical progress of this conspiracy, back to Lucifer and his machinations in antiquity. In the modem era the conspiracy has been promoted through a small secret society founded in late 18th-century, Bavaria called the Illuminati, whose members purportedly infiltrated Freemasonry, organized the French Revolution, recruited Friedrick Engels and other communists to their cause and orchestrated the Bolshexik takeover of Russia. Through their control of international banking, the Illuminati-dominated servants of Satan, according to Robertson, have imposed a system of national and private credit and interest that has saddled the nation with debilitating and enslaving debt, robbing the American people at once of their independence and their control over their religious life.

While the Illuminati conspiracy theory waned for a century or so after its heyday in the late 18th and 19th centuries, it revived when shifting economic and cultural pressures led to the scapegoating of certain groups such as the Freemasojis and the Jews. Robertson's critics rightly focus on the connection the theory has had with aggressively anti-Semitic propaganda. Anti-Semitic versions of the Illuminati conspiracy were developed and promoted in the U.S. in this century a number of extremist political organizations, notably the John Birch Society.

To point only to the, anti-Semitic aspect of this material hardly tells the whole story. George Johnson, a student of modern American conspiracy theory, associates three elements with the recurrent revival of the Illuminati thesis--populism, isolationism and anti-intellectualism. These features are prominent in Robertson's resurrection of the thesis. In the New World Order concerns over "one-worldism" joined to an increasing racialistic xenophobia speak to popular fears about America's loss of control over its own affairs, national and international. Xenophobic isolationism is clearly evident when Robertson approvingly quotes his wife as saying, "I don't trust anyone running the foreign affairs of America who speaks with a foreign accent." He also depicts the communal outlooks of common people in the perilously besieged "real" America as antithetical to "internationalist" (immigrant?) Americans. "How," Robertson asks, "can anyone who spent most of his life in Germany or Poland fully understand the family life, the shared values, the history of free enterprise and free speech, and the intense patriotism of people in Columbus, Ohio?" Leading the mad rush to embrace a self-destructive internationalism that subverts real American values are academics, whose work emanates from an "ivory tower" of "scholastic globalism" and "revolution." With such anti-intellectualism undergirding his theory, scholarly scruples concerning the historical basis of such a theory, are not likely to carry weight with Robertson.

BENEATH THESE extremist views lies an even more basic anxiety about declining economic fortunes. This is the missing link between Robertson's jeremiad against a "new world order" and his employment of anti-Semitic rhetoric. In his attack on a central banking system that can control the money supply by manipulating interest rates, Robertson identifies two main problems: the practice of "fractionl reserve banking," by which large sums of money are loaned out on the basis of small reserves, and the imposition of "compound interest," which he explicitly identifies as "Baron Rothschild's eighth wonder of the world."

"If it is possible to create money out of nothing," Robertson portrays Rothschild as reasoning, "then loan it at interest. Think how much more wealth can be created if the money is not repaid but allowed to compound year after year." Robertson then outlines how the Rothschilds and other (Jewish) bankers such as Paul Warburg and Jacob Schiff managed to bring "the power of the New World into their orbit." To what end? To saddle individuals, companies and finally the American government with so much debt as to render them tools of an evil power.

Now... the man who had bombarded us with these and other anti-Semitic Deep Thoughts - in major newspapers, magazines, television, lectures, etc. -- not newsletters from 1980's -- has been embraced by many Israeli and American-Jewish politicians (because of his support for the most radical Zionist ideas) and has endorsed the presidential candidacy of Rudy Giuliani, the necon's favrite successor to W. So give me a break, guys!
You have to judge a man by his character and world-view and his entire life-story and career. And based on my personal judgement, Dr. Paul rises above many of the moral dwarfs that dominate our public life these days.