Friday, January 11, 2008

The Kirchicking of Berin Szoka

I shouldn't be surprised that the Kirchick smear campaign against Ron Paul has turned its sights on me after I made public my email exchange with Jamie Kirchick, in which he frankly acknowledged on December 18, "I don’t think Ron Paul is a homophobe; I’m just cynical and enjoy getting supporters of political candidates riled up."

Nor should I be surprised that the attack came from the National Review--which so proudly "stands athwart history yelling, 'Attack!'" and applauds the growth and violent outbursts of our national security state. (This, instead of "Stop!," as Buckley declared in 1955 would be his new magazine's noble cry.)

But I was surprised to realize that the National Review piece was written by my old friend Noah Pollak. Indeed, I noticed the byline only after reading the piece--which refers to me in the distant third person. Noah, just as you were so cautious about assuming that the "Berin Szoka" referenced by Andrew Sullivan was, indeed, the Ron Paul-supporting gay Berin Szoka you know, perhaps I should pause before assuming that the "Noah Pollak" who attacked me is indeed the Noah Pollak I know--the one who seems unable to have a conversation without joking about killing either an Arab, a Muslim or a German (another Munich, 1938 lurking around every corner for any good neo-con).

Pollak attacks Andrew Sullivan for linking to my post about my email exchange with Kirchick:
Sullivan obviously didn't like what he had learned, and so engaged in a bit of sly messenger-killing. He innocuously linked to a post by a guy named Berin Szoka, a foot soldier in Paul's army of fervent acolytes, as a way, said Sullivan, of showing that we need not believe that Paul is a homophobe, because even Kirchick, the author of the expose, doesn't seem to believe so — as evidenced by Szoka's posting of an email Kirchick had sent him weeks ago saying as much.
Pollak questions Sullivan's journalistic ethics and asks, "Does anyone actually believe that Sullivan himself wouldn't have liked to write such words [as mine]?"

Pollak then attacks me for "post[ing an] email ... that was neither intended for publication nor given approval by its author for public disclosure." Well, Noah, old friend, do you suppose the noble Kirchick called Dr. Paul to ask him for a response before publishing his smear piece? Certainly we should expect nothing less from an upstanding journalist like Kirchick and a highly respected publication like The New Republic.

And, Noah, how do you know that I didn't check first with Kirchick? (Indeed, I did not.) Did you check with me before attacking me for not checking with Jamie? No, of course not. I emailed you 21 hours before posting this response to see if we could have a civilized conversation by phone--but have received no response. So much for our eight (nine?) years of friendship. As Dorothy Parker said (actually said, unlike 90% of what she is credited for saying):
My land is bare of chattering folk;
The clouds are low along the ridges,
And sweet's the air with curly smoke
From all my burning bridges.
Pollak's silly double-standard aside, his suggestion that publishing personal correspondence without the permission of both parties is a grievous sin of journalistic ethics is ridiculous--as he knows full well. If I have committed the journalistic equivalent of character-assassination, Jamie Kirchick is the Josef Stalin of the low art.

I have thus far refrained from publishing the full text of my exchange with Kirchick in order to keep both of our email addresses off of the internet. I have forwarded the exchange only to a few persons (Andrew Sullivan included) who can therefore attest to its authenticity. Although neither Kirchick nor Pollak have questioned whether the email exchange took place as I've said (as indeed Kirchick knows it did), other readers quite reasonably have wondered. Unless Kirchick objects, I plan to post here soon a scanned PDF of the exchange with the email addresses removed.

Pollak's Attack. Now, to the substance of Pollak's piece:

... the email that Szoka posted on his blog had been sent before Kirchick had discovered the homophobic content of Paul's newsletters, thus rendering moot Sullivan's judgment that Kirchick does not believe Paul to be a homophobe.

Pollak (and Kirchick) would have us believe that the intrepid young Kirchick spent the holidays finally uncovering dusty old newsletters associated with Paul and only came to realize after our exchange on December 18 that Paul really was a hardened bigot after all--just in time for Kirchick to get his piece released on the very day of the New Hampshire primary (in which Ron Paul had been polling at 14% and which was widely recognized as his opportunity to "break out" of the pack).

An old Hungarian expression used by my grandfather comes to mind: "Bullszhit!" (The 'z' is silent, as I frequently must tell those who mispronounce my last name.)

At the Reason happy hour on December 17, Kirchick boasted of all the anti-semitic, racist and homophobic material he had read and that he attributed to Dr. Paul. Yet the very next day, Kirchick acknowledged frankly to me that he didn't actually believe Dr. Paul to be a homophobe. When I pressed him further, he simply ended our exchange:

Me: I'm glad to hear that you don't actually think Ron Paul is a homophobe but you seemed pretty upset last night about whatever homophobic/racist/anti-semitic remarks you've found that you attribute to him. Will I have to wait to read your TNR piece on Ron to see what you're talking about?

Kirchick: Patience, my friend :-)

Me: Well, we'll have to continue this conversation after the piece comes out, then--just in time for Iowa & NH, eh?

Kirchick never responded. (I was, of course, crushed when he recently removed me as a Facebook friend.)

So, did Kirchick genuinely change his mind about whether was a bigot? Judge for yourself (and whether I am indeed a "fanatic," as Pollak labels me) as I reveal "Ron Paul's Dirty Secret: What Kirchick Missed."

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