Determining Authorship of Ron Paul Newsletters Through Text Analysis: Part 3

I have written two posts attempting to use textual analysis to determine whether Ron Paul did or did not write the inflammatory newsletters that have gotten so much press recently. The first post failed miserably. I used four articles from the “Ron Paul Report” of which authorship was in question. I compare these with more than 30 articles and books know to be written by Paul. The particular methodologies I employed there were able to determine that Paul was likely not the author of two (of four) newsletter articles. The authorship of the other two was left to speculation.

In part 2, I included text from other authors including myself (as a control) and authors known to collaborate with Paul, namely Lew Rockwell (from whose site I was able to obtain many of Paul’s articles), Jack Kerwick and Michael S. Rozeff. I concluded that Paul may or may not have been the author of the articles, but much of the evidence in that analysis pointed to one Lew Rockwell. In the end, though, I presonally concluded that the establishment of authorship through quantitative means is a difficult venture.

Recently, a FOX News affiliate “uncovered” the “true” author of the more incendiary portions of the Ron Paul Report. Ben Swann of FOX believes that one James B Powell wrote the newsletters. He concludes this based not on the signed confession of Mr. Powell, but on his own subjective comparison of James Powell’s “How to Survive Urban Violence” with the disputed texts of Ron Paul’s newsletters.

Of course Ron Paul supporters and the conservative blogosphere hae chosen to merely believe Mr. Swann, seemingly without taking the extra of effort of either asking Mr. Powell or by digging into the text for some more rigorous analysis. Naturally, we are just supposed to believe it, too.

I found the text for Powell’s “How to Survive Urban Violence” along with a single copy of the “Powell Report,” a newsletter that Powell produces to provide investment advice to paying subscribers. Other than those two, I was unable to find any other text by Powell.

I included these two texts in my collections of texts and set about attempting to determine the authorship of the four disputed articles. Again, I will use a principal component analysis (PCA) methodology, though this time I will use the excellent R package BiplotGUI. I will find the first two PC’s of word length, sentence length, and punctuation. I will then graph the first two PC’s against one anaother and determine if there is evidence for clusters of texts, which should correspond to distinct authors. If we can determine that the four texts are placed in some reasonable vicinity of one (or no) authors, then we might be able to infer who actually wrote (or did not write) these texts.

I extracted the data for word length, sentence length and punctuation using the Signature software package.

PCA of Word Length

Word Length

As we hoped, texts cluster in areas corresponding to different writers. I have noted Paul’s cluster in blue using a 90% alpha bag. Mr. Rockwell’s work cluster (in green) to the left of Paul’s, indicating that word length is distinct between the two. The newsletters appear to lie closer to Mr. Rockwell’s cluster, though there is some cross over between the two. Note that the article on car jacking (the worst of the bunch) seems to cluster with a chapter from “End the Fed” and an article from Rockwell on Bethlehem. I will point out that the particular chapter of “End the Fed” that sits in this cluster is quite distinct in tone from the other chapter. Upon reading them both, I felt that two different people wrote the two chapters.

Point Predictives for Sentence Length

Sentence Length

The point predictive plot was more interesting that the plot of the first two PC’s. Again, even when looking at sentence length, the article on carjacking clusters with two of Mr. Rockwell’s articles and the odd chapter from “End the Fed,” suggesting that they *might* all come from the same author. Most of Paul’s articles are clustered by themselves, though this should not be surprising, as we already know that they were written by the same person!

Punctuation

Punctuation

This one is perhaps the most compelling of all of the analyses that I have run. The newsletters, Lew Rockwell’s articles and one of the Powell articles cross over one another. Paul’s articles nearly all occupy their own cluster. The only newsletter article that lies anywhere near Paul’s works is the article on reelection. Again, Rockwell’s articles cluster near the chapter from “End the Fed.” Powell’s “Urban Violence” article sits in Paul’s cluster (though near the Re-election article, though his other article lies far away.

Conclusions

At this point, I’m willing to accept that Paul probably didn’t write at least three of the four newsletter articles, though I would have preferred to see otherwise. Paul’s works appear to have some commonalities that indicate that if, in fact, he did write these articles, we would expect to see them appear within his cluster. Outside of the fairly standard and non-offensive re-election article, the three do not. Interestingly, the previous analysis pointed to Lew Rockwell as the author of the re-election article.

As for determining authorship, we don’t have enough texts from the other authors to draw any reasonable conclusions as to who was responsible. I say that Lew Rockwell may have written the article on car-jacking. Authorship of the articles on AIDS and the coming race war is more difficult to establish. We only have two articles from James Powell. Personally, I do not believe that Mr. Powell wrote any of these articles, though, again, having more texts would greatly help the analysis.

While I may be willing to accept that Paul is being truthful when he says that he did not author the articles, I cannot believe that he didn’t know about them. Paul is still accountable for pandering to racists for profit and political support though getting politicians to admit to their past indiscretions is as difficult as determining authorship of mystery texts.

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About Pete Larson

Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the Nagasaki University Institute for Tropical Medicine

3 responses to “Determining Authorship of Ron Paul Newsletters Through Text Analysis: Part 3”

  1. Johnny B says :

    great objective analysis !!

  2. icanhasbailout says :

    If I may suggest a good reason why he may not have been aware of the content of newsletters in that date range, it is because he left Congress to go back to being an OB/GYN. If you are familiar with doctors, you know it is extremely common for them to be occupied double time and then some in the practice of medicine. If the newsletter was something where the management and editorial control was delegated, he may well just not have found time to read them.

  3. Pete Larson says :

    Honestly, if Ron Paul can’t be expected to take enough time out on the toilet to read a short newsletter that bears his own name, then I don’t think he has sufficient capability to serve as the President of the United States.

    I find that excuse pretty weak.

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