killadotcom asked: What do you think about Rand Paul's pro-secessionist staffer ?
For those who don’t know, the Washington Free Beacon — which is “the neoconservative answer to the Daily Caller” — published an attack piece on Jack Hunter, a pundit/former radio host known as the “Southern Avenger” who now serves as Sen. Rand Paul’s social media director. As much as I hate to give such an outlet more pageviews, you can read the article here.
Now, before I begin: I know Jack personally. We’ve worked together. I’ve always found him to be humble, very focused on building the liberty movement rather than his own success, an excellent writer, and a highly principled opinionist. He is most definitely southern — his heavy accent won’t let you miss that fact — but neither I nor anyone in my acquaintance has heard him say anything remotely racist. He’s also obsessed with the tackiest, WWF-type wrestling ever (a fact which will prove relevant below).
Next, let’s consider what kind of website the Washington Free Beacon is, and what kind of ideological ax it might have to grind:
- This is a website which publishes claims that the threat of al-Qaeda is growing despite the fact that we’ve known for years that there are like 50 guys left in all of Afghanistan.
- This is a website which talks about visits to prostitutes by the American who, along with his innocent 16-year-old son, was assassinated without trial by drone strike — as if his sex habits should somehow make a difference in the fact that he was totally stripped of his constitutional rights to due process.
- This is a website which gives favorable coverage to a congressman calling for Gitmo to stay open, and in the process grossly misrepresents the status and innocence of at least 86 of the current inmates.
- And, perhaps most damning, this is a website which favorably quotes Sen. Lindsey Graham on matters of foreign policy.
The Washington Free Beacon: Neoconservative and strongly anti-liberty on all matters related to defense and civil liberties? Check and check and triple check.
Now, given that Graham and his ilk have set themselves up as the primary opposition to Rand Paul — especially where foreign policy and civil liberties are concerned — it’s not too surprising that we should see a hit piece like this published by such an outlet.
Because it is, ultimately, a hit piece. Even if you still aren’t a fan of Jack Hunter, this article is about smearing character, not fair journalism.
Personally, I’d say that any article which uses quotes and activities decade-old quotes and activities while deliberately excluding more recent material which contradicts their narrative is a hit piece. As I’ve written before, it’s not legitimate to play gotcha with really old information.
If it comes out that someone you disagree with did or wrote something stupid back in college, cut them some slack. I’m sure there’s stuff I wrote in college which I wouldn’t agree with today, and I only graduated four years ago. Everyone’s views evolve, and that’s a good thing — and it’s also not always possible to get all the stuff you no longer agree with off the internet, especially if you’re as prolific a writer as Jack Hunter.
Indeed, “Anyone can cheaply, and a lot of times falsely, hang someone with their own words” — especially if those words or actions are a decade old.
Now, let’s get to the meat of the accusations. As Dan McCarthy at The American Conservative neatly summarizes, the attack “involves cherry-picking quotes, many over a decade old, and referencing his career as the ‘Southern Avenger,’ a pro-wrestling persona, complete with luchador mask, that Hunter adopted as an on-air radio personality and as a columnist for the Charleston City Paper.”
Now, I’ll be the first to say that the luchador mask — drawn from his love of “wrestling” and a desire to remain anonymous behind an over-the-top radio character — was a bad idea. Wearing a confederate flag on your face is just not a good way to go.
Beyond that long-abandoned sartorial choice, however, much of what Hunter espoused is not really that out there. Some of what the Free Beacon critiques are merely hardcore noninterventionist foreign policy positions which I myself would support…and the Beacon’s attacks are what would be expected from an outlet which is hawkish to the extreme.
With others, as McCarthy commented, “Hunter’s columns were provocative and conservative, but anyone who reads them, while finding plenty to disagree with — he’s an independent thinker — will not find hate. Naïveté, yes, and a certain obtuseness about minorities that’s long been characteristic of the right.”
And as for what I would consider the “worse” stuff of Hunter’s older writing, those are no longer positions he advocates (as even a casual glance at his more recent material will reveal). In April of this year, months before the Free Beacon story, Jack wrote:
The 20-something me would consider the 30-something me a bleeding-heart liberal. Though I still hate political correctness, I no longer find it valuable to attack PC by charging off in the opposite direction, making insensitive remarks that even if right in fact were so wrong in form. I’m not the first political pundit to use excessive hyperbole. I might be one of the few to admit being embarrassed about it.
This embarrassment is particularly true concerning my own region, the South, where slavery, segregation, and institutional racism left a heavy mark. I still detest those on the left and right who exploit racial tension for their own purposes. But I detest even more the inhumanity suffered by African-Americans in our early and later history.
In the Washington Free Beacon article itself, Jack comments on his past concerns about growing Hispanic influence in American culture: “The difference between now and then is I saw that as a serious problem then. I don’t think I see that as a serious problem now…Hearing you even read [those older writings] to me, because I just don’t speak like that, sort of bothers me.”
Does he still support the idea of secession without war? Yeah, though I’d suggest that’s more a philosophical interest (we all have them), not a practical political priority. And, honestly, if you aren’t at least somewhat comfortable with secession, what were you celebrating on the 4th of July last week?
Everything that was “broken” in the “news” story in the Free Beacon has been public information for a long time. It was not hidden. And it was not news. Some of it was youthful hyperbole, and all of it was sliced and diced out of context.
TL;DR: I know Jack. Jack’s not racist. And this article is not really about the positions he did or didn’t hold ten years ago; it’s about taking cheap shots at political enemies over disagreements about foreign policy and civil liberties in which Jack is the one in the right.