When it comes to race, life in America resembles nothing so much as a reenactment of Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery.”  That story, you’ll recall, depicted a town that seemed normal—except that, once every year, there would be a lottery, and if you picked the one black stone among so many white ones, the townsfolk (your neighbors, friends, and family) proceeded to stone you to death.  For a few minutes, there would be an explosion of bloody violence, and then the town would revert back to its sleepy, rural routine, as if nothing untoward had occurred.

This is what happened to Paula Deen, a hapless 60-something Southern lady who was a star on the Food Network, whose only sin seems to have been a wide-eyed honesty.  In a court deposition, she admitted to using the N-word, albeit “not in a mean way.”  She also had plans to throw a “Southern-style” wedding, complete with black waiters in full dress uniform, for her brother.  She tried to apologize.  She tried to explain.  All to no avail.  Within days of the stories appearing in the media, she had lost her job, her sponsorships, and her book-publishing deal, and had become an object of national opprobrium.

The Deen lynching was barely concluded when the “antiracist” mob descended on a fresh victim: Jack Hunter, a.k.a. the one-time “Southern Avenger,” a writer, blogger, former radio talk-show host, and a top aide to Sen. Rand Paul.  Hunter’s sin?  Well, he was the “Southern Avenger,” wasn’t he?  That alone is enough to condemn him in the present atmosphere.  One gets the feeling that if the neo-Jacobins had their way they’d outlaw the southern point on your compass.

Hunter once said he raises a glass to John Wilkes Booth on the birthday of the famous assassin—a bit of hyperbole that is peculiarly offensive to our modern-day Jacobins, who have deified the Great Emancipator, the banner of newspapers and jailer of his political opponents.  Hunter also was a member of (gasp!) the League of the South, an organization that decries racism, and—more importantly—has at no time ever showed any serious intention of actually taking action to achieve its stated aim of setting up an independent Southern republic.

Upon publication of the indictment against Hunter in the Washington Free Beacon—a neocon rag, of course—the Twitterverse was alight with expressions of outrage.  If only Hunter had belonged to a group more conducive to liberal sensibilities—say, the Church of Satan—all might have been forgiven.  But the League of the South?  You’d have thought the League was Al Qaeda in Southern drag.

Not a single one of Hunter’s detractors actually believed Hunter holds racist views—this was stated quite explicitly.  But that didn’t matter.  Indeed, the instant pundits made the case that this actually made the situation worse.  You see, Hunter (and, by implication, Senator Paul) was legitimizing racism without actually being racist.

If you can’t quite follow that “argument,” you’re not alone.

I have always opposed “white nationalism” for the simple reason that, as Ayn Rand put it, racism is the lowest form of collectivism, and yet the issue in dispute has nothing to do with that arid determinist dogma.  The clear implication of the Hunter brouhaha is that anyone who believes Lincoln was a tyrant, that slavery could and should have been ended without the blood and horror of the Civil War, and that states have a right to secede from the Union is, by definition, a “white nationalist,” a racist, and an ideological reprobate.

To make matters worse, all of this was happening as the trial of poor little George Zimmerman was reaching its climax.  The cable news channels were busy revving up the racial hate day after day—combing over the details of a random tragedy that had no larger significance, and that had been ginned up into a racial incident for pure political gain.  When the jury finally delivered its verdict, the chorus of sanctimonious wailing was loud enough to scare the horses.  A night of rioting and vandalism in Oakland, California, was minimized by the “mainstream” media, as MSNBC—the station of choice for the country’s cultural Marxists—incited its audience to go out into the streets.

Nobody rioted when O.J. Simpson got away with murder, but that is something we aren’t supposed to notice.  Indeed, it may very well be a hate crime to do so.  For all I know, I’m the next Paula Deen, the next Jack Hunter, the next ideological reprobate to be made an example of and shamed in the public square.

The whole point of the Jack Hunter controversy was to connect the idea of limited government with racist ideology—to link the two in the public mind inextricably, so that anyone who wants to cut, let alone abolish, the welfare state is characterized as a cross-burning bigot.  Liberals have an interest in promoting this view, for reasons that should be obvious.  Less obvious is the intention of those neoconservatives who authored and published the Hunter smear: While their ostensible opposition to the welfare state would seem to rule out any ideological motive in promoting this witch-hunt, the reality is that Senator Paul is a target of the neocons because of his anti-interventionist foreign-policy views, and they are more than willing to go along with this version of “The Lottery” if it helps eliminate someone who challenges their hegemony over the GOP.

Senator Paul, to his credit, refused to kowtow to the lynch mob and fire Hunter.  (Hunter resigned voluntarily, two weeks after the controversy began.)  It was a test of Paul’s character, and he passed with flying colors.  There will be many more such tests in the course of the senator’s career, but for the moment, at least, he’s shown that his presidential ambitions do not trump his loyalty to a friend and supporter who has done nothing wrong.