For most of the past century, left-wing fringe nuttery in American politics came in one color: red. Say what you will about Communism — and go ahead and start with 100 million murders, the Gulag, the Cultural Revolution, the permanent intellectual and moral scars inflicted on much of Europe and Asia — Marxism-Leninism had a conveniently centralizing effect. From union goons to environmental radicals to Occupy Wall Street, even today it’s still pretty much one dinky degree of separation between the mainstream Left and the wretched remains of the Communist Party USA and other historical appendages of the Kremlin, a more or less unbroken chain of Rosenbergs and Alger Hisses and Harry Dexter Whites. On the other hand, right-wing fringe nuttery, which never attached itself to a European totalitarian movement, is one big bag of political Skittles: a rainbow of fruit flavors, a fair sampling of which can be found floating around the Ron Paul movement, thanks in no small part to two of the Right’s great confectioners of kookery — Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell.
Ron Paul’s less-pathetic-than-expected presidential campaign has brought fresh attention to his newsletters and the occasionally odious sentiments expressed therein, which were first brought to general public attention by the journalist James Kirchick, writing in The New Republic in 2008. Kirchick’s report inspired two distinct responses. The first can be summarized: “Eek! A Jew!” Save your crayons, kids, unless you can account for such verbatim sentiments as “Gay, Zionist Jew James Kirchick bashes Dr. Ron Paul” and “The people that hate Ron Paul are the same people that hate Jesus. They are New World Order/Illuminati/Zionists/Satanists.” I’ve been around the far right and far left long enough to know that “neocon” and “Zionist” are how well-schooled kooks pronounce “dirty Jew.” And that was the response of the great Paulite unwashed.