The Washington Post’s Gross Mischaracterization of Ron Paul’s Message

by | Feb 23, 2015


Irrespective of the commonly held view that the Washington Post is the newspaper of record of America or at least of United States politics, David A. Fahrenthold’s January 25 Washington Post article purporting to report on Ron Paul’s participation the previous day at a Ludwig von Mises Institute event provides anything but an accurate record. Instead, Fahrenthold’s article presents a gross mischaracterization of Paul’s message.

Before the widespread use of the Internet, people could be more easily hoodwinked by distortions such as those in the Washington Post article. Unless other major media contested the hogwash, there would be little chance that many people would encounter a response that sets the record straight. In contrast, today people can often protect themselves from such disinformation by viewing on the Internet material that discloses the truth — in this case the video of Paul’s speech posted on the Mises Institute website and the January 8 editorial by Paul quoted in the Post article.

If you were to rely on the Washington Post for your understanding of Paul’s message and his Mises Institute speech, here is some of the impression you would be given. First, should you search for “Ron Paul” on the Washington Post website, you will see that the brief promotion for the article declares Paul’s “gloom and doom.” Next, when you click through the link to the article, you will see at the top of the article a photograph of Paul with a caption proclaiming “Ron Paul’s pessimistic attitudes.” Then, reading Fahrenthold’s article, you will come across Fahrenthold’s claim that Paul “has embraced a role as libertarianism’s prophet of doom.”

Fahrenthold later in the article attributes to Paul, the founder and chairman of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, the following:

Ron Paul’s solution, it appears, is to invite more calamity so that Americans are forced realize [sic] that the system is broken.

It would be interesting to see Fahrenthold try to back this assertion. Instead he just immediately follows the assertion with listing some predictions in Paul’s January 8 editorial and relating two quotes from the editorial: “Sanity will not return to US leaders until our financial system collapses — an event for which they are feverishly working,” and “Before we can actually restore our liberties, we most likely will have to become a lot less free and much poorer.”

Someone reading through the Washington Post article quickly without the great skepticism merited would assume that these Paul quotes back Fahrenthold’s bold assertion that Paul’s solution is “to invite more calamity” and that the calamity Paul wants to make happen includes the financial system collapsing and people becoming “a lot less free and much poorer.” The quotes, however, show in no way that Paul is advocating making any of these problems occur. Instead, Paul is explaining that the course is set for these problems to occur. Regarding the financial system collapse, Paul even says in the brief Post article quotes that it is other people, not Paul, who are “feverishly working” toward that eventuality.

No evidence is presented to back the Washington Post article’s assertion that Paul’s message is defined by doom, gloom, and pessimism. Neither is any evidence offered to back the article’s assertion that Paul either invites “more calamity” nor the assertion that Paul “has embraced a role as libertarianism’s prophet of doom.”

Paul does discuss in his January 8 editorial disturbing and dangerous conditions, but he does so in an effort to turn those conditions around. Indeed, Paul regularly expresses optimism in his writings, speeches, and interviews that the trend will be reversed so that in the future there will be more peace, prosperity, and liberty.

The Washington Post’s twisting of Paul’s message is like portraying the weatherman as the creator and controller of a hurricane because he warns it is coming.

It is as if Fahrenthold and the Washington Post believe they can in the Internet age get away with putting out any claptrap smears they can concoct and have the smears accepted by the public. To some extent that belief is right. Fahrenthold’s article was widely circulated on the Internet. But, also, the Internet makes it easier to fact-check the media and to disseminate fact-checking material that can be used to erode the influence of deceptive media stories.

Looking at Paul’s January 8 editorial, which is quoted in — but not linked from — the Washington Post article, the Post’s deception is quickly apparent. The first clue is the title of the Paul’s editorial: “Inner City Turmoil and Other Crises: My Predictions for 2015.” True to the title, Paul proceeds in the editorial to present some of his predictions regarding various crises in the new year. Paul’s editorial clearly communicates Paul’s desire that these crises not continue, grow, or arise in 2015. Paul, though, believes that they will.

Paul explores in his editorial, as Paul does in many other writings, speeches, and interviews, the reality that there are many problems in America and the world, and that government actions often contribute significantly to the creation, continuation, and growth of problems. Paul, as usual, also explains that he opposes these harmful government actions. Conflating a person’s description of problems with the assertion that the person supports the problems, as the Washington Post article does, demonstrates a severe lack of something, be it logical reasoning, reading skills, or fealty to truth.

Paul makes crystal-clear in his editorial’s concluding paragraphs — about which Fahrenthold is silent — that Paul’s outlook is very optimistic. Did Fahrenthold make it this far in his reading or just copy and paste into his article a couple quotes that sounded particularly alarming and call it a day?

Here is Paul speaking for himself in the last two paragraphs of his editorial:

The real problem of course is that too many “stupid people” are IN our government and have high visibility on the major TV networks. There will be plenty of people, not officially associated with government, who will rebel against various governments around the world. The sentiments supporting secession, jury nullification, nullification of federal laws by state legislatures, and a drive for more independence from larger governments will continue.

We should not be discouraged. Enlightenment is not nearly as difficult to achieve as it was before the breakthrough with Internet communications occurred. Besides we must remember that “an idea whose time has come” cannot be stopped by armies, demagogues, politicians, or even Fox News or MSNBC. The time has come for the ideas of liberty to prevail. I smell progress. Let’s make 2015 a fun year for LIBERTY.

Paul’s editorial unmistakably demonstrates that the characterization of Paul in the Washington Post article is rubbish. Thus, it comes as little surprise that the Post article provides no link when it briefly quotes the editorial.

In addition to reading — instead of just quoting — Paul’s editorial, Fahrenthold had a second opportunity to learn firsthand Paul’s views. As Fahrenthold reports in his Washington Post article, Fahrenthold attended the Mises Institute’s January 24 conference in Houston, Texas at which Paul spoke. In fact the conference plays a central role in Fahrenthold’s article.

Anyone watching Paul’s speech at the Mises Institute conference, can easily discern that Paul explains his message as being very different from the message Fahrenthold attributes to Paul. As Paul tends to do in his writings, speeches, and interviews, Paul explains in the speech that he is describing current and future crises that are caused in large part by Paul’s political opponents who are advancing the growth of government power at the expense of peace, prosperity, and liberty. Paul also explains in the speech, as he does regularly in presentations of various forms, that Paul is optimistic that a peaceful revolution is building that will counter the crises and implement changes benefiting liberty and bringing about much more peace and prosperity.

In short, Paul explains in his speech, which Fahrenthold had the opportunity to hear at the Houston conference, that Paul opposes the doom, gloom, and calamity Fahrenthold suggests Paul supports.

Is it possible Fahrenthold skipped out on Paul’s speech without even disclosing this in the Washington Post article? That would be an incredibly misleading omission given the clear impression conveyed in the article that Fahrenthold was at the conference to report on Paul. (The Post article does include a paragraph describing Paul’s speech.) Such a failure to disclose would be consistent with the overall deceptive nature of the article.

Let’s suppose Fahrenthold was present for Paul’s speech. In that case, Fahrenthold would have had numerous opportunities to hear Paul explain Paul’s optimistic attitude and opposition to crises and suffering facing Americans and people around the word. Yet, Fahrenthold neglected reporting the message Paul actually delivered at the conference, choosing instead to label Paul as communicating the opposite message.

Gone are the days when untrustworthy reporting in the Washington Post was the only ready way to obtain information about what is said in many speeches. Now you often can just watch a speech on your computer, tablet, or phone. If you do so with Paul’s Mises Institute speech, you will witness Paul delivering a message totally at odds with the impression Fahrenthold presents. Rather than speaking like someone who Fahrenthold says “has embraced a role as libertarianism’s prophet of doom,” Paul indisputably communicates a message of hope in the speech.

In contrast to Fahrenthold’s sour distortion of Paul’s message, Paul starts his speech off gleefully pronouncing “good news.” Here is how Paul begins his presentation:

Thank you very much everybody. So, I would like to start off by talking about the subject, and the subject of course is secession and nullification, the breaking up of government. And the good news is it’s gonna happen, it’s happening.

The remainder of the first three minutes of Paul’s speech further gives the lie to the Washington Post’s characterization of Paul. Paul, in the first minute, discusses the “total failure” of communism, Nazism, and fascism in the 20th century. Paul notes Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises, for whom Paul has great respect, predicted in 1912 that communism would fail. In the second minute of his speech, Paul comments that the failure of these authoritarian systems is “very, very good news.” Instead of prophesying doom, Paul proceeds in the remainder of the second minute to state that he believes “we live in an age, which I consider an end of an era, an end of an era that has made all these trials and tribulations.” In his third minute. Paul explains that advocates of liberty, such as Paul, want to progress beyond tyranny that “has been around for a long time.” Regarding tyranny, Paul says he thinks that it is “over and done with.”

Maybe Fahrenthold did not hear the first three minutes of Paul’s speech. But, Paul’s speech continued for another 31 minutes. If Fahrenthold could manage to listen for just a few of those minutes, he could hear Paul make clear that Paul seeks to end the crises Paul describes and that Paul is optimistic about the future. In short, Fahrenthold would have heard Paul contradict entirely the gross mischaracterization Fahrenthold made of Paul’s message in the Washington Post article.

Supposing that by 12 minutes into Paul’s speech Fahrenthold was paying attention, shouldn’t Fahrenthold have thrown out the distorted representation of Paul planned for the Washington Post article after hearing Paul then discuss war? Paul states:

Unfortunately, all this mess depends on the propagandists, and that’s where it is very, very tough. But, it is also the place where we are making inroads because there’s more than three major networks on television. There are a lot of people outside of the three majors that are available — whether it’s the Internet or whatever — that a lot of people are waking up, especially the young people of this country, that this is enough of this killing, it’s time that we change our foreign policy.

If Fahrenthold were daydreaming during that part of the speech, maybe he heard Paul saying the following a few minutes later:

But, you know, I have argued the case that there is no reason we can’t move in a better direction. The failure of the economic system. The failure of the foreign policy. Why can’t civilization advance — advance in the understanding of peace?

You say, “Well, there’s going to be wars and rumors of wars for ever and ever, and that’s the way it’s been.” But why is it that it has to be that way? I mean … recorded history isn’t all that old. And, if you look at the history of freedom, it’s just hundreds of years old. We have our ups and downs, but generally it’s better understood now than it was thousands of years ago.

So there’s this effort to understand and move in this direction. But, so many people don’t quite understand the importance of what we do. I believe if you took technology and, instead of using it to advance the weapons of war, take technology and advance the ability to promote peace and understanding, that is what we really need. And I think the tools are there. I think the Internet and technology is there to spread a different message.

If those comments flew by Fahrenthold unnoticed, maybe he was jarred to attention when Paul then proceeded to say that “we can change the human condition” and advance peace. As support for this proposition, Paul then related inspirational stories of troops in World War I and World War II resisting the charge to kill and following instead what Paul terms “the natural tendency … for the soldiers not to fight.”

Giving Fahrenthold yet more reason to refrain from his deceptive caricaturing of Paul, Paul then explains that evil motivation, as well as ignorance buttressed by propaganda, supports the “war is the answer” view that causes “harm and injury.” To anyone paying attention, this statement, like so many others in the speech, makes clear that Paul opposes the troubles about which he talks. Paul makes those observations 24 minutes into his speech, but maybe Fahrenthold had not settled in to listen yet.

Having clearly stated he believes that other people have created the problems of which he talks in his speech, Paul proceeds to offer a solution. Regarding war in particular, Paul says “a few individuals can’t do it; you have to have a whole understanding by a people that we reject the notion of war.” Speaking about solving a broader array of problems, Paul says:

Our concern of course is based on our concept of liberty. I’m convinced that we can solve so many of our problems, whether economics or foreign policy, by just a better understanding of liberty. I believe our Founders understood this.

Paul then notes that he is “hopeful” because he sees “a lot of enthusiasm” among young people at college campuses where he speaks. Paul suggests that the young people need to “hear there is enough support” so they will feel they can resist policies — including policies related to the Federal Reserve and foreign intervention — that are creating problems.

Later in Paul’s Mises Institute speech, Fahrenthold was given yet another chance to realize the absurdness of the picture the Washington Post article Fahrenthold was planning would paint of Paul. Paul enters the concluding portion of his Mises Institute speech with a discussion of how the ideas of liberty can overcome the problems created by the promotion of war and oppression. This powerful analysis is very similar to comments Paul made in a speech two months earlier at a Mises Institute event in Costa Mesa, California.

Maybe Fahrenthold zoned out for, or just skipped out on, the speech he presented himself as reporting on for the Washington Post. Maybe Fahrenthold also failed to read the Paul editorial he quoted in the Post article. In any case, it would take “giving the benefit of the doubt” to preposterous length to excuse the gross mischaracterization of Paul’s message in the supposed paper of record.

photo: Sirkon Ash


  • Adam Dick

    Adam worked from 2003 through 2013 as a legislative aide for Rep. Ron Paul. Previously, he was a member of the Wisconsin State Board of Elections, a co-manager of Ed Thompson's 2002 Wisconsin governor campaign, and a lawyer in New York and Connecticut.

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