The Ron Paul Newsletters: A Ghost Writer's Perspective and Open Letter to James KirchickSubmitted by Kathleen Gee on Sun, 12/18/2011 - 15:45
Mr. Kirchick, this is in response to your politically timed "expose" on the thirty-year-old Ron Paul newsletters, "The Company Ron Paul Keeps." (Though, technically, to qualify as an "expose," your piece would have to include something new, which it does not.)
Not knowing your background as a writer, I'm not sure if you're familiar with ghost writing, how prevalent it is, or how to works. So following is my professional take on the Ron Paul Newsletters issue, as a professional ghost writer and marketing expert with over 20 years of experience.
How does ghost writing work?
I've been a direct marketing copywriter for nearly twenty-five years now, and 99% of that writing work was never attributed to me. I've ghost-written for CEOs of Fortune 1000 companies, as well as executive vice presidents, chief
operating officers, chief marketing officers, chief financial officers, and various other c-suite executives; presidents, publishers, partners, principals, owners...well, you get the picture.
Very, very few top-level executives ever do their own writing. Armies of people like me are hired to create content behind the scenes. And it's extremely rare for a ghostwriter like myself to have any direct contact with the person for whom I'm ghost-writing. Generally, I'm hired and managed--and the work is reviewed and approved--by someone several steps below that executive on the food chain. My sense is that very few of the people I write for ultimately read what goes out over their names.
The Ron Paul brand
Brand management is a relatively new concept in marketing, and I doubt that managing the "Ron Paul" brand was much of a concern among anyone working on the newsletters, nor for Dr. Paul, who had returned to private practice after what was to be his first stint in Congress. When these newsletters were published, Dr. Paul may not have had any intention of running for office again, and thus may not have given the content of the newsletters much, if any, thought, as long as they were a good source of passive income.
But by the time Ron Paul returned to Congress, "Ron Paul" had become a brand, separate and distinct from Dr. Ron Paul, the physician who was running a busy private medical practice. "Ron Paul" had become a brand in the same way that "Martha Stewart" has become a brand. The Ron Paul newsletters had become something like Forbes Magazine—a publication that made money for its namesake and founder without his hands-on involvement. (Frankly, this is the optimal outcome in the publishing world—the outcome I have sometimes been hired to create for clients. This is the definition of success!)
How publications make money
The purpose of any for-profit publication is to make money by giving certain audiences the kind of content they prefer…because by doing this, the publication becomes a platform for advertisers to reach a desired demographic. The purpose of its content is to attract or serve a lucrative readership—period.
And back in the 1980s through the 1990s, there was increasing dismay over the lawless actions of federal law enforcement agencies against innocent Americans—demonstrated at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and the Waco siege in 1993. There was a market for commentary on these events and issues like gun rights, the Constitution, preparedness, home schooling, and self-sufficiency, and the Ron Paul newsletter capitalized on that market. That's what any successful publishing company does—identify a market and then create a product that market wants to buy.
I'm sure you've heard the phrase, "the views expressed on this program are not necessarily the views of staff, advertisers and/or management of this media outlet."
It's a fallacy to assume that all of the employees of the Martha Stewart brand were aware of—much less, guilty of—lying to investigators and deserved to be jailed like the publication's namesake, Martha Stewart. It's just as wrong to assume that the actions or opinions of every employee were endorsed by Martha. That's just not how these things work. And the same can be said for any publisher.
Thirty years ago, as today, the revenue stream from a newsletter often doesn't come from the newsletter itself (for example, through print ad sales or subscriptions.) The value is often in the mailing list, which can be rented to many other organizations, individuals, companies, causes, etc. Oftentimes, the content of the publication can become something of an afterthought, as long as the list still performs well, and subscription sales remain steady.
Pre-Internet niche communications
In the pre-Internet days of the 1980s and up through the mid-1990s, people in special interest groups (stamp collectors, survivalists, classic car buffs, investors, libertarians), communicated via newsletters, which were often promptly thrown away after being read.
I've never seen a copy of a Ron Paul newsletter, and it appears surviving copies are rare—judging by the amount of effort it took for you to assemble a collection of them. That would seem to indicate that they weren't taken very seriously by the recipients. It may also indicate that as commentary on current events, the content quickly became dated.
The character of the content
I read an article about the Los Angeles riots online which purports to be from a Ron Paul newsletter; however, I have no way of confirming it. (The newsletters would have been copyrighted material, so whoever posted it has violated the copyright in doing so. I imagine that the owner of the copyright would have worked to have any authentic materials removed from the Internet.)
But for the sake of argument, let's pretend that the article I read (which I no longer have a link to) was from an issue of a Ron Paul newsletter. It was allegedly written soon after the LA race riots—and is an understandably emotional reaction to the deaths of 53 innocent people and the injury of thousands, not to mention the $1 billion in property damage from over a thousand arson fires and countless lootings. For six days, crowds of criminals shut down south central Los Angeles, committing arson, assault, battery, vandalism and murder, often in front of law enforcement agents who were specifically told not to intervene. The perpetrators were frequently black; the targets were mainly non-blacks (Asians, Hispanics and whites.)
This article—several thousand words long—chronicles some of the worst incidents and touches on a laundry list of conservative and libertarian issues, including (if I remember correctly) gun control, racism, political correctness, law enforcement, the dangers of inter-generational welfare dependency, personal responsibility, and morality. One of the most frequently reproduced "smoking gun" quotes that purports to "prove" bias on the part of Ron Paul is from this article.
I read the article, expecting the worst, and was…puzzled. There's nothing racist about it (if you define "racism" as the belief that all members of one race are inherently inferior to all members of another race--typically, the one the racist belongs to.)
At worst, some passages can be described as very "politically incorrect" (which is not the same as "racist," nor is it the same as "untrue.") None of the passages struck me as being very far outside standard conservative thought—then, as now—that welfare is destructive to the recipients and an armed society is a polite (and looting-free) society.
Changing definitions of racism
The Ron Paul newsletters were limited-circulation niche publications that never had a general readership. The LA Riots article has the kind of non-PC tone one would take among like-minded friends around the dinner table, out of earshot of the PC police. Nowadays, these politically incorrect conversations take place under cover of anonymity on the Internet. In the 1980s and 1990s, they took place in ephemera like the Ron Paul newsletters.
And the "smoking gun" sentences simply aren't racist, though they certainly sound bad, removed from the context of historical events, and removed from the context of the article itself.
In fact, these sentiments were ultimately proven to have a lot of validity a decade later, when thousands of residents of New Orleans—many of them multi-generational welfare recipients—died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as a result of decades of learned helplessness and government dependency. They didn't die because they were black; they died because they had lost all sense of personal responsibility and self-preservation, believing the government to be completely responsible for their welfare. This is the kind of tragedy Dr. Paul has warned about for 35 years.
To judge this article as "racist," you have to use today's definition of racism—which, according to collectivists on the Left, can only be perpetrated by whites—and can consist solely of disagreeing with the opinion of a black person, or saying something negative about a black person, no matter how factual the statement is. (So, Mr. Kirchick, by your standards, the previous paragraph was most certainly "racist.")
How can you tell Ron Paul didn't write it?
As a writer and editor, it's simple for me to notice stylistic differences in the way other writers express themselves. In fact, as a ghost writer, I'm hired to create content in someone else's "voice," so I have to be aware of these things—it's my job.
The ghost writer of the LA Riots article may have done an excellent job of appealing to the target market's preferences, but he certainly didn't do a good job of mimicking Ron Paul's writing style, nor his views (which, in fact, may often have been counter to the readership's views.)
However, if this was the kind of content the readership wanted, it would have served the editor's purpose of maintaining and/or increasing circulation.
I haven't read any other material purported to be from a Ron Paul newsletter from the period between his Congressional terms. I have, however, read several of Dr. Paul's books, and watched hours of his testimony before Congress (having been elected and re-elected to twelve terms, there is no shortage of public statements from Dr. Paul.)
The one article I read that is alleged to have come from a Ron Paul newsletter simply was not written by Ron Paul. Both the style and the content are markedly different from anything else I've read or heard from Ron Paul.
In this wealth of material written by Dr. Paul, or spoken by Dr. Paul, I have never—not even once—seen or read anything that contradicts his belief in the value of the individual. In fact, his entire career has demonstrated his commitment to fight groupthink, bias and prejudice based on race, religion or any other form of group identity.
So why doesn't the ghost writer come forward?
When I'm hired to ghost-write for a client, both parties sign an extensive non-disclosure contract that governs my work. Not only am I barred from claiming authorship of the work I create for hire, I'm typically barred from even acknowledging the business relationship between my client and myself. These agreements sometimes contain clauses that specify "liquidated damages" I would have to pay for breaking the agreement. So "outing" myself as a ghost writer could be financial suicide. What's more, it would be extremely hard for me land future ghost-writing jobs, having betrayed a confidence.
Why doesn't Dr. Paul "out" the ghost writer?
The newsletters were published by a corporation, not Dr. Paul personally, so any contracts would have been drawn up in the corporation's name. If there was a contract between the company that owned the newsletter and its ghostwriter(s)—which would have been standard—only a court order could induce Dr. Paul, as an officer of the corporation, to break that non-disclosure contract if the other party didn't agree to it. And why would the ghost writer agree, knowing he or she is certain to be labeled a racist and anti-Semite by the mud-slingers in the agenda-driven media? And there's no legal reason for either party to go to court to seek such an order.
Given Dr. Paul's personal integrity and belief in the sanctity of contracts, I can't imagine his ever breaking a non-disclosure agreement, even to refute allegations like yours, Mr. Kirchick. Not only would it be a violation of his principles, it could open him up to legal action for breach of contract.
As I've said before, I take Dr. Paul's word for it that he had little or no hands-on involvement in the operations or content of the newsletter after returning to his medical practice. He appears to have handed it off to a group of people to run on his behalf (people whose only goal seems to have been making as much money as possible, not preserving the value of the Ron Paul "brand" for political purposes). I believe him when he says he doesn't know who wrote all the content in that publication.
Who's the real danger?
In summary, Mr. Kirchick, I have worked as a ghost writer for over twenty years, and having worked on dozens of projects that are similar to the Ron Paul newsletter. I find it not just plausible, but likely, that Dr. Paul had no knowledge of the content of the articles published in the newsletters that had his name in the title.
The "damning quotes" I have read that were purported to be from an article in a Ron Paul newsletter were not racist. At worst, they were politically incorrect—by today's standards, removed from historical context and removed from the context of the lengthy articles in which they appeared.
Nothing in any of Dr. Paul's public statements—or the books he has written himself—nor his behavior, nor his voting record—indicates any bias or bigotry on his part. The opposite is true, in fact.
Ron Paul's personal integrity is widely acknowledged, even by his opponents, as is his dedication to individualism and the principles espoused by one of his heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
And here's the real issue, Mr. Kirchick. The gist of your argument is that Ron Paul is too dangerous a bigot to be elected to public office.
Had Dr. Paul not already been elected to high office numerous times—and had he not already demonstrated a total lack of bigotry in his words or deeds during two decades of service as a United States Representative—your argument may have held some water.
But unfortunately for you, Mr. Kirchick, the entire weight of Dr. Paul's public record goes against your conclusion.
What's more, even if he were the bigot you claim him to be (which he, demonstrably, is not), what kind of racist policy could he possibly implement, as president of the United States? Discrimination on the basis of race or religion is already a violation of federal law.
And should President Paul attempt to implement policies that reflect the imaginary racism with which you charge him, do you not think there would be a media firestorm from the likes of people like you?
Your article, far from being an attempt to protect America from the make-believe dangers of a Ron Paul presidency, is instead a rather transparent attempt to inject yourself into the GOP nominating process.
Destroying a good man's reputation to advance your own political agenda is despicable. But you know what's even worse than that? In rehashing this non-controversy for your own purposes, you may have helped create racial animosity that didn't exist before.
And that is simply inexcusable.