Were You Taken In by the 'Ron Paul' Hoax?
by Mark Sunwall
out Monday …showed that nearly a quarter [of Britons] think Winston
Churchill was a myth while the majority reckon Sherlock Holmes
was real. ~ AFP
Feb. 3, 2008
you were one of the thousands taken in by the "Ron Paul"
hoax, possibly maxing out your campaign contributions, don’t get
angry, get happy…because there’s a silver lining to this cause without
a rebel. Just in case you haven’t heard, our favorite urban myth
was exploded yesterday in a terse press release from Rationalization:
The official magazine of Beltway Libertarianism. To follow up
on the story Rationalization has tracked down Don Tazmibro,
putative campaign manager for America’s most famous fictional candidate.
Whether you’re in a state of denial, or just think that you’ve denied
the state it’s monopoly on absurdity, what he told our reporter
should be of interest.
I’m sure a lot of people are surprised and upset to learn that Ron
Paul doesn’t exist. Don’t you think you owe his supporters an apology?
Tazmibro: Upset…yes, I think I can understand that. But I don’t
think anyone could really be surprised. Ron Paul has always been
a non-person in Washington and the national media…when, on top of
that, he turned out to be a mythical as well, it shouldn’t be particularly
As you know there are still some people who claim that Ron Paul
exists…how are you going to deal with that?
I don’t see that there is a problem there. It’s like Elvis sightings,
people see him because they want to…that’s all there is to it.
So he gives people hope…like Superman.
Something like that.
What’s surprising to me is how long you got away with it…especially
in today’s age of the internet when there are all sorts of skeptic
groups, you know, the ones who go after false claims and hoaxes…they
should have been on to "Ron Paul" as soon as you can say
Tazmibro: It’s a little unfair to say they were asleep at the wheel,
since we were aided by an unusual set of circumstances, all of which
conspired to give "Ron Paul" the benefit of the doubt,
even among professional doubters. These things work like stage magic,
you have to have some sort distraction, something which puts the
skeptics off on the wrong tack.
I see, and what would that have been?
Well, remember in the early days of the campaign, when the "Ron
Paul" phenomenon really started to get off the ground. Of course
there were all these blogs and youtubes and whatnot…and suspicious
minds being what they are…they could figure out that something was
going on. But they took the bait, and pretty much said something
like the following: "Look, there can’t be so many Ron Paul
supporters out there, it must be done with mirrors." They thought
there was a candidate with no supporters.
When in fact there were supporters without a candidate!
Precisely! That was the misdirection, and you know, the skeptics
could never extract themselves from that obsession once they had
taken the bait…it was all about "Ron Paul’s" support in
this or that demographic…nobody ever thought of reversing the telescope
and taking a hard look at whether someone so remarkably like one
of the founding fathers could really exist in today’s political
world. It was an illusion which only became more efficacious with
the exponential increase of "Ron Paul’s" following…the
supporters tended to give the candidate credibility…or at least
I’d like to talk a little bit about how you conjured up the candidate.
Tazmibro: Well, there’s nothing to that! Anybody who, say, had been
a subcontractor with a Disney firm and had access to the internet
could have done it. Naturally we didn’t want anyone who looked like
a modern politician…so we settled on an avuncular septiginarian
country doctor type. And we had wonderful actors…especially the
people who played his family. That and the computer graphics…
No I don’t mean his physical appearances so much as…how did you
give his character the kind of weighty substance which made him
seem authentic…actually much more of a credible person than most
people in the public eye?
Tazmibro: Yes, that was the real trick…and I don’t mind saying that
it took an enormous amount of research to get everything just right.
What we were aiming for was a persona which resonated with all which
was good but had been lost in the original Republic. We wanted a
kind of synthesis of Jefferson and other of the more radical founders,
but on top of that the kind of orator who could have held his own
in, say, the tariff debates in the US Senate during the 1820s.
So "Ron Paul" is really a kind of composite?
Very much so…but as they say, the devil is in the details, and we
really had to work like devils to develop a bio to match a contemporary
person with those kinds of vanished pristine attributes. For example,
where on Earth is he supposed to come from? Pennsylvania of course!
Why? Well, it just has to be that way…but then to get a little southern
and western sympathy we have him moving to Texas in mid-life.
I notice he’s supposed to have graduated from "Gettysburg College."
Yes, we went all out to fit in as many of those historical resonances
as possible. Actually I think we overdid it…and somebody could have
called us on something as simple as that right from the beginning.
But you see what we were aiming at…the crucible of the American
spirit, the oratorical tradition of the 19th century…and
Speaking of orations…there has been a lot of criticism directed
at the mainstream media for minimizing and trivializing the input
of "Ron Paul" during the debates. I suppose these revelations
put everything in a new light.
Tazmibro: I hope so. It really makes me sad to think that hard feelings
have been created over this. The truth of the matter is that the
"Ron Paul" campaign has had wonderful relations with the
media. They were very tolerant and understanding of the fact that
Ron Paul didn’t exist, and gave him the appropriate coverage. After
all, considering that, by all rights, we could demand only zero
coverage…their policy of zero plus coverage of "Ron Paul"
was extremely generous and more than fair.
That should restore our confidence in the system.
Well, it ought to. But I’m a little bit disturbed that there will
always be people who won’t acknowledge the fact that "Ron Paul"
is a mythical character.
What would you say to someone like that?
don’t really know. I suppose "get a grip" would be a little
harsh. After all, that’s why we created "Ron Paul" to
begin with…to give people a sense of hope. And there is a kind of
earnest, trusting person for whom it really doesn’t matter if "Ron
Paul" exists or not. I’m comfortable with that. On the other
hand, there is kind of person who has an inquiring mind and always
wants to get to the bottom of things. For this kind of person, believing
in "Ron Paul" would constitute what, I think it was Ayn
Rand, called "epistemological treason." Such a person
would never rest until they had determined whether "Ron Paul"
was real or not.
Then it would be fair game to ask what you would tell that kind
of person specifically.
I would tell them that a "Ron Paul" is an impossibility
in this or any other time or place. You don’t need to go hunting
down his resume or his acquaintances, all you need is a little deduction.
Politicians are motivated by the accumulation of power…but in our
story line about "Ron Paul" we have a man who has stood
many times for public office and has tried to divest the political
system of power. That was the glaring flaw in our hoax…yet nobody
called us on it!
A psychological impossibility!
Call it what you will…I rest my case! One way or the other, you
can’t violate the laws of human motivation and have a believable
character…yet we did it all over the place with "Ron Paul"
and nobody caught us!
I guess today, for once, the skeptics lose!
Sunwall [send him email]
studied Austrian economics at George Mason University and now teaches
Rhetoric and Social Science at the University of Hyogo. He is an
Adjunct Scholar of the Ludwig von
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