How can one not think of conspiracy theories having just observed an improbably simultaneous media attack on Ron Paul the day of the New Hampshire primary? A remarkably successful attack that made him plunge from 14% in the polls to an 8% actual vote? After weeks where we heard little about Paul from the mass media and beltway “libertarian” bloggers? TNR from the left, Fox News and talk radio from the right, and piling on from beltway “libertarians” who made a point of loudly repeating the TNR smears and dumping Ron Paul on the day of the primary. Your eyes and ears did not deceive you, all this happened. It is not the result of a criminal conspiracy, but if one uses “conspiracy” as a metaphor for social networks and economic incentives, there is a strong sense in which conspiracy theories accurately, if metaphorically, explain what happened.
The reality behind the conspiratorial metaphor is the social networking between denizens of the Beltway, who sport a wide variety of political labels but are, relative to the rest of the country, a monoculture. I lived there. I went to these parties. These denizens range from the journalists who report the mass media news to various think tank and university scholars at the Cato Institute, George Mason University, and so on. They study Ayn Rand, then marry Andrea Mitchell and testify against tax cuts. Vast amounts of federal money, that stuff that is taken out of your paycheck with such automatic ease, flow into the Beltway area. Directly and indirectly, almost every person who lives in or near the Beltway depends on the very income tax that Ron Paul declared he would abolish — with no replacement!
Many of these paycheck vampires call themselves “libertarians” and inspire us with their libertarian rhetoric to support them with our attention, our blog hits, and our tuition money as well as the tax money that already funds them or their friends. But at the first sign of political incorrectness, all these below-the-Beltway “libertarians” have dumped Ron Paul like yesterday’s garbage. Now they can rest easy that they will still be invited to the parties thrown by their lobbyist and government employee and contractor friends, who for a second or two got worried by all those Google searches that Ron Paul might have some influence, resulting in some of them losing their jobs (end the income tax with no replacement?! The guy is obvioiusly a kook, and we don’t invite the supporters of kooks to our parties!). Now everybody around the Beltway can go back to partying at the taxpayer’s expense. All the money will keep flowing in, hooray!
The lesson millions of young libertarians have now learned from our mass media and our beltway “libertarians”? Libertarian electioneering is futile. Voting is futile. Democracy is futile. It’s hip to be “libertarian.” But anybody who actually wants liberty is a kook, as can be proven by their association with kooks. Beltway wonks posing as “libertarians” are happy to write things to inflame your hopes for liberty that they don’t really mean. Then they make sure that we elect the politicians their friends want — the ones that will enslave your future to pay for full social security for Baby Boomers. The ones that will send you off to foreign lands to kill and die. Not only the journalists who hang out with the government bureaucrats and lobbyists, and not only the politicians who talk sweet while they drain your paycheck and kill your fellow human beings, but even the beltway “libertarians” are happy to let a whole new generation of libertarians go down the tubes in order to keep their Beltway friends happy.