Redstate has made a mistake in dealing with the Ron Paul Internet phenomenon. Instead of dealing quietly with trolls, the excellent conservative blog has announced a blanket policy banning supporting diaries and comments for Ron Paul from the site. Leon Wolf, who had worked for Sam Brownback for a while, announced it on the site today:
Effective immediately, new users may *not* shill for Ron Paul in any way shape, form or fashion. Not in comments, not in diaries, nada. If your account is less than 6 months old, you can talk about something else, you can participate in the other threads and be your zany libertarian self all you want, but you cannot pimp Ron Paul. Those with accounts more than six months old may proceed as normal.
Now, I could offer a long-winded explanation for *why* this new policy is being instituted, but I'm guessing that most of you can probably guess. Unless you lack the self-awareness to understand just how annoying, time-consuming, and bandwidth-wasting responding to the same idiotic arguments from a bunch of liberals pretending to be Republicans can be. Which, judging by your comment history, you really don't understand, so allow me to offer an alternate explanation: we are a bunch of fascists and we're upset that you've discovered where we keep the black helicopters, so we're silencing you in an attempt to keep you from warning the rest of your brethren so we can round you all up and send you to re-education camps all at once.
It's their community, of course, and they set the rules. However, this doesn't hurt Paul's credibility as much as it does Redstate's. While Paul's supporters tend towards the annoying and repetitive, they have less impact because we can easily engage them and counter their arguments. Banning them simply for their support for a candidate seems more like an admission that Redstate lacks that ability.
I'm no Paul supporter by any means. However, Paul's statements can be addressed and rebutted fairly easily, at least those with which I strongly disagree. I don't fear the commenters nor the debate, even if it does grow tiresome at times. It certainly can't be any more tiresome than the S-CHIP debate, or the Iraq War debate, or the FISA debate -- and I'd have less sympathy for opponents on those issues than the people who support Ron Paul.
Having been to the CLC, I disagree with Leon's assumption that these Paul supporters are all or mostly cryptoliberals. Plenty of libertarian-leaning Republicans exist in the party, along with the former Buchananites and isolationists of the GOP. Instead of cutting these people off, it might be better for Redstate to keep engaging them. After all, Paul will not be in the race all that much longer, and we need those voters to stay in the GOP when Paul disappears. There are worse impulses than libertarianism.
Heck, I'd even interview Ron Paul, just to get a chance to challenge him (respectfully) on some of his positions and see how he responds. I put in a request yesterday to do just that, and if we can make it work, we'll have Rep. Paul on the Heading Right Radio show, where listeners can ask their own questions and continue engaging the Paulites. Engagement can be understandably frustrating, but in the end, it forces us to sharpen our own arguments and challenge our own assumptions -- and both are good processes.
UPDATE: Michael van der Galien understands the impulse to ban the Paulites, but won't do it:
We have written about Ron Paul on several occasions, and although there certainly are / were some Paul supporters who added a lot to the comment sections at this blog, there were sadly also quite some who spammed our comment sections with “go ron go” and that was it. Such commenters add nothing, and I mean nothing, to the debate, which is why I understand Red State’s decision to ban all of them. Having said that, we won’t change this into a ‘no Paul-zone.’ Paul is a phenomenon and to ignore this phenomenon is silly. Furthermore, as said, quite some of the commenters do add something and do have something to interesting to say.
It's better to stay engaged than willfully disengage.
UPDATE: Redstate responds, and in the same friendly manner in which I intended this post. I count Moe, Leon, and Eric among my friends in the blogosphere, and I hope they feel the same way. And they spelled my name correctly, too, which I appreciate...