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

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.

Continue reading at the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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