Ron Paul and DePauw: Guilty by association
Rep. Ron Paul is well known for his laissez-faire governmental stance as a Libertarian. He has served 11 terms in Congress dating back to 1976 and he has run for president three times. Supporters applaud his individualist views on the importance of liberty, low taxes and a limited constitutional government. However, Paul is known for more than just these beliefs.
Throughout his political career, Paul has long been affiliated with extremist and largely countercultural ideas. During the 2008 presidential elections, newsletters from Ron Paul Political Report, published in the 1990s, surfaced. The letters, although published to offer political news and investment advice, also contain passages that are homophobic, racist, anti-Semitic and anti-government.
An October 1990 newsletter slams black activists, saying that their next demonstration should be held "at a food stamp bureau or a crack house." In June 1990 the Ron Paul Political Report said, "I miss the closet. Homosexuals, not to speak of the rest of society, were far better off when social pressure forced them to hide their activities." The newsletters' statements range from making the claim that AIDS is a "deliberately engineered hybrid" to defending chess champion and Holocaust denier Bobby Fischer.
While Paul has denied responsibility for these articles, he was president of the company that published the newsletter and his name appeared in the masthead. The letters are words of the past, but Paul continues to associate with groups that hold these views.
The day after he speaks at DePauw, Paul will be giving a keynote address at the Fatima Center's "Path to Peace" conference. The group is notorious for its published writing suggesting that Jewish people should be stripped of certain civil rights and was recently called "perhaps the single largest group of hardcore anti-Semites in North America" by the publication Salon.
Paul will be speaking alongside Holocaust deniers, geocentrists, who reject the widely accepted heliocentric model of the solar system, as well as individuals who claim that global climate change is a hoax to justify a Jewish and Israeli-led genocide. Many invited guest speakers declined the offer, citing their discomfort and unhappiness with the group's radical, anti-humanitarian beliefs. Paul accepted.
This critique of Paul is neither a reflection of the editorial board's political views nor a refusal to be open minded about the freedom of speech and thought. This is not a political attack. Rather, this is a question of the boundaries of whom DePauw deems legitimate and appropriate to invite to campus and to endorse as a notable speaker.
As a liberal arts university, DePauw should be inviting a diverse group of speakers to the university to open a dialogue amongst students and broaden our minds to new ideas. However, in an educational environment, Paul's toxic anti-humanitarian associations should not be tolerated nor given a platform of legitimization.
Even Paul's fellow conservatives have derided the ideas that he supports. William F. Buckley, founder of the conservative political magazine, the National Review, said of neoconservative ideologies, "It has been by no means unanimous in the belief that conservatism consists in that kind of evangelistic extreme." In other words, critiquing these ideologies is not synonymous with critiquing conservatism.
Although Paul has not directly stated that he yields these views, according to the First Amendment law of the freedom of speech, one's association can be considered just as accountable as saying something oneself. Paul's consistent and continual participation in radical groups shows his symbolic belief and support for these ideas.
His compelling background and experiences as well as his discussion of the NSA will likely be engaging and well informed. The insights that he can share on one topic, however, does not change the fact that he has allied himself with openly bigoted groups. By paying Paul to speak at DePauw and treating him as a guest, the university and the Ubbens are associating themselves with the anti-humanitarian beliefs with which Paul associates himself.
As a campus we should be open-minded about ideas. We should appreciate intellectual diversity. But, there are some mindsets that are harmful. If the university was searching for a speaker to diversify the palette, there are hundreds of credible messengers of conservative principles that could have been chosen. In an educational environment, there are standards that have to be set.
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