Ron Paul is a passionate and outspoken freethinker -- that's part of his charm. Ron Paul's a principled man, and he stands by those principles. (Imagine if we could say that about all politicians!) Ron Paul is also a doctor, and doctors save peoples' lives. (He should fight crime!) Ron Paul is a strong debater, and he won much praise about how he stayed on message, spoke powerfully and made clear points in the GOP primary debates. (He should have his own show!) And as we've seen over the course of the past few weeks, for whatever reason, Ron Paul has become a very popular, very public and very serious contender in the race to the White House.
But let's take a moment to talk about his supporters. Here at The Atlantic Wire, we're big fans of open public debate and work hard to engage with readers -- we invite everyone to tell us anything in the Open Wire and love sourcing stories there. We've noticed an interesting trend in what happens when we write Ron Paul stories. We hear many many impassioned thoughts from our readers, some via email, some in the comments, some positive feedback and some negative feedback. This is great because we welcome feedback and work hard to respond well to it. Not all of them but some of Ron Paul's supporters have been pretty rough on our writers (this one included). This is fine, because we're journalists and accustomed to people yelling at us. Sometimes, the language is particularly vitriolic. But we appreciate the comments. In the seven or so hours since we posted a brief story about Ron Paul's airplane seat preferences, we've received 50 comments on a post with only 722 views. That's great news for us, since we like reading comments and some of them were very thoughtful and positive:
Some were ad hominem attacks on the post's writer:
We learned over the weekend that we're not the only ones reading these kinds of comments comments and receiving impassioned emails. CNN's Dana Bash received got "snowballed" (see above) at one of Dr. Paul's events in Hollis, New Hampshire, the weekend before the primary. Paul supporters didn't appreciate her sometimes critical tone of Paul telling her husband, "I'm sure you talk to Republicans who are worried as well, just like I am, that Ron Paul will continue on long into the spring and summer." She responded reasonably well to the attacks from Ron Paul's fans spoke their mind about her reporting and objectivity. Towards the end of the clip we saw on YouTube you can hear her tell one woman, "You should see the emails. It's actually, like, a little scary. There's probably nobody as fair as I am. I actually say it's like the Arab-Israeli conflict. They don't see anything else."
This type of thing appears to becoming a serious political liability for Paul, a man that values freedom of speech and liberty. Watching the Dana Bash, after YouTube user RonPaulFilms uploaded it on Saturday sent us digging in our inbox for some reader feedback we received after covering another run-in between CNN and Ron Paul. In the story's caption, CNN described the event as "PAUL GETS TESTY IN CNN INTERVIEW," and of the 336 comments we've received since the story was posted, one pointed us to an unedited version of the CNN interview that provided more context and, as the commenters had suggested, showed that CNN did spin the story a bit. For the media nerds out there, it was a great example of how digital journalism in the 21st-century can be a dynamic experience for readers and writers alike! However, some of the emails were a little bit gritty. "I hope you get killed by a fucking semi truck you piece of shit," one reader said in a particularly memorable email. We replied with a very brief message, and the Paul supporter, perhaps realizing that a human was on the other end of the wire quickly wrote back, apologizing "for all the insults and obscenities. "I hope a truck never does actually run you over… sorry for saying that…" the reader said.
Well we hope a truck never runs over one of our readers, for any reason. That would be awful. We also hope that Dana Bash continues to strive towards not injecting her opinions into her reports about Ron Paul, although based on what she said in New Hampshire, comparing covering Ron Paul's campaign to the Israel-Palestine conflict isn't a promising sign. Ron Paul, nice a guy as he seems, is also a politician. As we've seen from the likes of Paul's former competitors in the race -- Jon Huntsman being a particularly good example -- being a nice guy isn't necessarily enough to get you elected president. Inevitably, you need the support of a lot of voters. And as controversial as this topic is, Barack Obama showed us in 2008 that having the support of the press can be a big boon to winning the hearts of those voters.
We're not in the business of endorsing or even voicing support of any candidates here at The Atlantic Wire. We're in the news business, hungry to learn information about what's happening now and sharing it with our readers. But even if we don't write a single word about it -- and we're not -- it's hard to look at a photo like the one here and not think that even smiling supporters can be a real political liability in Ron Paul's quest to become our next president. We're not positive, but we're pretty sure they're not referring to Paul from The Wonder Years.