Avoid and scurry: FactChecker's Ron Paul smear distracts from the real issues

The February 12, 2008 FactCheck.org article on Ron Paul by Joe Miller, entitled "Wrong Paul," given prominent link placement on Newsweek online, demonstrates the extent to which the mainstream media is desperate to avoid any discussion of Paul's actual message. Miller felt compelled to write an article on Paul, but in doing so, apparently had to struggle valiantly to find evidence of concepts and claims he thought suitable for belittling, while ignoring entirely the core messages of the campaign, along with most of the details behind the core messages. Avoid and scurry.

Whatever the validity of the claims in the article, it misses the entire forest and most of the trees to examine bug legs on the forest floor for signs of dirt. This calls into question for me the level of intellectual honesty involved in the creation of such a piece of writing.

I have yet to investigate some of the claims, though regarding the most substantive-looking one, I read some time ago the original article by Robert Higgs restating the actual annual impact of total defense spending upward to nearly $1trn, and found it convincing. For an excellent case study, read Higg's article, and then read Miller's account of it, and see which you find more informative.

Interestingly enough, Higgs is an economist and historian who is the leading expert on the history and mechanisms of government growth through crises, including wars. I suppose Miller did not realize this when he failed to mention even the name of Robert Higgs, let alone his expertise on the topic at hand. An odd move indeed for a "fact-checker."

While Miller discounts the idea of including, for example, the Department of Homeland Security, under "defense" spending, Higgs writes, "Since the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, many observers probably would agree that its budget ought to be included in any complete accounting of defense costs. After all, the homeland is what most of us want the government to defend in the first place."

And of course a share of interest on the national debt proportional to historical spending on "defense" versus other government spending should be included in the total cost of "defense" spending. What's the alternative to that? Imagine a company that claims to be doing well, but conveniently omits from its accounts the impact of massive amounts of money it borrowed to set up and run its business. Or imagine a guy who claims to have a healthy net worth, but who conveniently fails to include his massive credit card debts on his self-deceptive balance sheet, and the associated interest payments. That's fraud.

Miller's article with its prominent Newsweek placement, symbolizes for me a lack of willingness in the mainstream media to engage in or report on content-based discussion of the real issues, and a strong preference for anything that can distract from the content. Could the author instead dare to actually state the main issues Paul's campaign represents, the claims he makes about war, fiat money, bloated taxation, and the mechanisms by which the state expands and intrudes by amplifying and leveraging fear in the populace? If countering and critique are the author's aim, could he try to counter core claims rather than peripheral claims? Counter them with better content, by locating and reporting on better understandings of the core issues? Those core issues are barely acknowledged, let alone addressed.

Judging from comparisons such as between Higg's original article and the quality of Miller's take on it, perhaps such content-based capabilities are lacking. That would explain why one might resort to raising as many distractions as possible to the content with which one is unable to deal, to ignore and deflect the real issues the Paul campaign raises. These ignored issues are the same ones that are not supposed to be raised too clearly into public awareness (such as by gracing the pages of Newsweek in an honest, recognizable form), else too many people might start thinking about them, investigating, learning, and finally...understanding.

That is scary stuff for entrenched special interests of all kinds. Watch them scurry.