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Money talks - in ALL CAPS on the Internet

Money talks - in ALL CAPS on the Internet
By: Connor Mendenhall
Issue date: 11/20/07

On Nov. 5, maverick libertarian Ron Paul raised a staggering $4.2 million, shattering the one-day fundraising record for current Republican presidential candidates. Similar outpourings of support are often churned out by well-oiled political machines. But Ron Paul's "money bomb" is remarkable, since the contributions he received weren't solicited by his campaign - they were the result of a loosely-structured online donation drive unrelated to Ron Paul's official run.

Paul's contribution coup is a striking example of the strength of his grassroots support, especially on the Internet. It's also a powerful affirmation of the libertarian principles Paul promotes. The foundation of libertarian thought is the concept of spontaneous order - the belief that the actions of many self-interested individuals can create order without organization.

Paul supporters are well-known for enthusiastically crashing online polls, exhaustively blogging and leaving thousands of online comments in the wake of any article posted about him. But the donations prove that Ron Paul fans are willing to chip in cash - and their size suggests that he may have more support than anyone expected.

Paul himself is a principled advocate for individual liberty (except, of course, when it comes to abortion and immigration). He's also a savvy politician. Unlike minor candidates on the left (see Dodd, Gravel and Kucinich), he has avoided being marginalized by his own party - even despite his unorthodox views. Paul's supporters, however, are another story.

I have no doubt that the majority of Paul's supporters are rational, well-meaning people, but his online presence is so dominated by a faction of rude and aggressive blowhards - dealing mostly in logical fallacies, conspiracy theories and ALL CAPS - that it's hard to avoid them anywhere on the Internet. It's easy to get arrogant and angry when one sees the scope of government intervention in our daily lives, but many Ron Paul supporters overstep the boundaries of common courtesy with their zealotry.

In return for their incessantly annoying online behavior, they've earned the nickname "Paultards" across the Web.

For years, libertarian thinkers have been written off as wacky, government-hating kooks. And although Paul himself makes compelling intellectual arguments, his rude and kooky followers do little to dispel the myth - and that's too bad, because true classical liberalism is a philosophy steeped in reason and common sense.

As a moderate libertarian myself, I'm glad to see a candidate championing the merits of individual liberty and the perils of big government. But while Paul's campaign has called attention to libertarianism, so many of his supporters damage its credibility.

It's tough to determine exactly how popular Paul is. His fans regularly organize to vote in interactive polls, swamping them with calls, clicks and text messages until Paul is declared the winner. Their tenacity is an impressive sign of dedication - but it makes already unscientific polling even less credible, and has annoyed more than a few media outlets accusing the zealots of spamming polls and clogging comment systems.

However, Paulites have a point when they argue that they aren't reflected in traditional polls. Strong support from young people is ignored, since many don't own land-line phones, and the numbers are further downplayed, as many opinion polls for the Republicans survey voters in the 2004 election - far from a libertarian bunch.

A clearer answer about Ron Paul's candidacy comes from ignoring polls altogether. Although polls may be the best-known indicators of political success, they're far from the most accurate. Instead, the prices in prediction markets, where online traders swap contracts speculating on future events, are far better predictors of things like elections. More important, it's much harder to tamper with their results.

As of yesterday, a contract predicting a Ron Paul GOP nomination on Intrade, a popular online market, traded at $5.8, implying that the betting markets believe there's about a 5.8 percent chance Ron Paul will win the ticket. That's a far cry from Giuliani's hefty $43 contract, or Romney's $29.80 price - but it puts Paul in fourth place among Republicans, ahead of John McCain and tied with Fred Thompson. Further, save for a downturn this week, that price has been steadily rising since Paul entered the campaign.

That implies that Paul has a shot at a primary win - but the constant messianic affirmations that Paul is destined to be the next president are likely no more than the audacity of hope. His more deluded followers will no doubt cry foul when he loses, but although he may not have a shot at the presidency, the Ron Paul campaign will certainly influence politics in the same way Dean, Nader, Buchanan and Perot each have to varying degrees over the past two decades.

That's a good thing. Ron Paul is a bellwether candidate, who proves that the American people are ready to seriously consider the political alternatives of libertarianism. But if the aggressive, obnoxious "Paultard" faction doesn't take it easy, they could easily shout this opportunity for liberty's cause to death.

Ref:
Connor Mendenhall, the opinions editor of the Arizona Daily Wildcat, is a sophomore majoring in economics and international studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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Name: Ben Franklin
posted 11/20/07 @ 1:11 AM MST
Thank you for this article. It states very clearly what many Ron Paul supporters like myself have been saying for a long time. If people are being insulting and vulgar towards people with dissenting views, its a shame. And in the long run, will hurt the guy we like the most.

That being said I would like offer some "defense" for some my occasionally overzealous fellow Paulites. First, to many the "internet" is a new fangled contraption filled with exciting things to look at and do. To others (especially young people) the internet is an old friend that allows them to have passionate and anonymous conservations with others using whatever kinds colorful language they like. For those well versed in "internet ethics" we know it can be a rude and vulgar place, and we acknowledge and accept that fact. To the people who are just beginning to use the internet as a tool for debate and discussion are probably shocked by the strong language etc. and may be over whelmed and intimidated.

So what we have here is most likely the result of a tech gap related misunderstanding. The real world, civil conversationalists are meeting the not so civil, no so subtle online folks. There is confusion as to what "rude" and "mean" behavior really is.

I would like to finish by saying that as much as the mainstream media dislikes being inundated with emails and comments, I would ask them the simple question "Why do you put your email address out for millions of people to see?" You are breaking rule number one of online anonymity. Are viewers with opinions not supposed to share them? If Rudy, Mitt, or Hillary had as much support online as Ron Paul had, would they be upset with receiving those emails?

And in regards to the after debate polls, if they didn't want the people watching the debate to vote for who they really though won the debate, why do they even bother? Shouldn't they be excited about a new fresh market of people to cater their news to? As far as I know it was impossible for any voter in any of the online text polls to vote more than once from any given cell phone. Furthermore, how many 60 year old women who love Mitt Romney are going to break out their new iPhone and text to Fox News or CNN post debate. What type of result were they expecting when they feature a candidate with strong online, tech savvy support and tell those people to text in a vote? If any other candidate had as much youth support, we would see the same thing, because that is the type of demographic a "text poll" caters to.


RP 2008

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EF http://www.fejta.com/record
posted 11/20/07 @ 2:48 AM MST
I have noticed that as Paul's campaign has matured, so has his message. I am confident that the same will be observed about his following as more and more people like yourself begin to see Paul's appeal.

The US constitution has an impressive and devot following. And the core of the Constitution is very Libertarian.

With the US dollar and our economy under such intense pressure, the time is ripe for true Conservatism and classic Liberalism to return to the forefront of the American political stage.

There is no reason Americans should be forced to suffer to poverty created by paying for half of the world's security bill.

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Juan Schoch http://eeng.net, http://tekgnosis.typepad.com
posted 11/20/07 @ 2:57 AM MST
It must be very hip, in the Ron Paul hater (or baiter?) incrowd, to jump on the "Paultard" wagon but it's a lame excuse really to try to hate/bait/insult people, a diversity of which, support the Champion of the Constitution wouldn't you agree? ;-) In the meantime the number of people who support Ron Paul continues to grow based on the very cogent, trenchant,. freedom message. For the most part thinking people can see right through the "Paultard" card. Ref: Google teaparty teknosis

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NHGOP
posted 11/20/07 @ 2:58 AM MST
And who is being obnoxious and rude, calling elderly mainstream GOPers like myself 'Paultards'? Ron Paul and his supporters deserve more respect than that... he has earned it and so have we. For you to focus on a few people you have clashed with is well, frankly, retarded in itself.

You are just a teenage kid with no couth.

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Leonardo
posted 11/20/07 @ 3:18 AM MST
"Individual Responsibility"
Many people, especially freedom lovers, wonder what is the greatest right that people possess. They wonder what is the ultimate right that enables them to enjoy freedom. Many will argue that the right of self-defense is the greatest enabler of freedom. Others will argue for the right of self expression, or some other right. But the greatest enabler of rights and freedom is (Individual Responsibility.) Without personal responsibility, rights are meaningless.
http://www.strike-the-root.com/4/weebies/weebies6.html

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sillywilly
posted 11/20/07 @ 3:54 AM MST
I was in college when Al Gore invented the Internet, and was surfing before Netscape and IE were invented, and never in the history of my web experiences have I met a more tolerant, civil, or intelligence group of folks than those who label themselves Ron Paul supporters. Sure, that's anecdotal evidence, but it is more than your article deigns to offer in support of a contrary position. From my view it appears you really did not investigate the topic about which you chose to write, which is more or less just as silly as the topic itself posing as something newsworthy or important to a president's candidacy or voters.

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Jim
posted 11/20/07 @ 4:11 AM MST
Connor, Connor, Connor
I almost got mad.
Then, I realized that you're still a kid.

Just another "I almost support Ron Paul, but" Article.
Admit it my friend. You're a closet Paul supporter.
I can sense it.
Don't worry about the Paultards. There are 'tards in every campaign. Hillarytards, Obamatards, Giulianitards (Rudy likes to call them leotards, for some reason).

It's a diverse group, and it's grassroots. So yes, there will be some amateurs. There is no well oiled media machine running this thing. We're doing the best we can.

I hope everyone takes a closer look, and figures this out for themselves. We need to press the RESET BUTTON, on Wasahington politics.

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David Monk
posted 11/20/07 @ 4:57 AM MST
I have this friend who keeps telling me he can't find a good girl anywhere. I asked him where he goes to meet girls and he said clubs and the bar. I have found most Dr. Paul supporters to be very nice and even soft spoken especially in the meetups groups. The one I am in has had two food drives already. So I would argue you meet the type of people who go to that type of site. Change your venue and it might change your opinion.

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Suzy
posted 11/20/07 @ 5:00 AM MST
I can certainly understand why a selection of Ron Paul supporters respond with hostility to some of the awful garbage written about them and their preferred candidate.

I've read countless articles that do nothing more than insult and belittle these people. Journalists who dismiss them as idiots or mockingly refer to them as 'Paultards,' 'lunatics,' 'conspiracy theorists,' 'spammers,' etc. are not exactly being civil; they're insulting people and inevitably provoking anger. I mean, goodness, where are the articles that decry the immaturity and name-calling of the many who mock Ron Paul and his supporters? I've certainly never found any.

Again and again, meanwhile, I come across pundits and journalists who attack and ridicule a principled man admired and respected by Americans from all walks of life; writers who use their position to dismiss Ron Paul as a 'kook,' or deem him 'stupid,' 'naive,' 'racist' or any other label they can think up; anything to smear him and sully his reputation. Of course a selection of his supporters will respond with hostility.

What I rarely see are respectful, well-written articles that counter Ron Paul's ideas, point-by-point, and thus invite reasoned, civil debate. Until articles of that nature are being written on a consistent basis, the response from some Ron Paul supporters will invite criticism; it's to expected.

In my humble opinion, the belligerence and hypocrisy of those who provoke and then decry the response is worse than anything I've seen from Ron Paul's supporters.

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truthseeker
posted 11/20/07 @ 6:45 AM MST
As a 50 year old father of 3 kids, and an old conservative fed up with the Republican party, I do get ticked off to see the MSM try to portray all Paul supporters as some sort of weirdo young fringe group. The media should not be out picking winners a year out from the general election .

November 20, 2007 in Current Affairs | Permalink

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