Tuesday, October 20, 2015
The History and Beliefs of American Populist Libertarianism (Part 3)
(For Part 1, go here.)
(For Part 2, go here.)
As the 2016 presidential election creeps closer, what differentiates the 21st century American libertarian movement from the John Birch Society inspired paranoia of the late fifties? In terms of ideas, nothing; the main change is the normalisation of libertarian rhetoric. At this point websites with comment sections show not only the popularity and appeal of the libertarian outlook, but also the absolutely limited worldview its adherents espouse. While libertarianism, in general, promotes intellectual curiosity and the free flow of ideas, American libertarianism is, in contrast, rigid and almost completely bereft of debate. Instead, a uniformity of thought and language has emerged which bypasses logic when faced with opposition. What then are the hallmarks of American libertarianism?
Libertarian Language: American libertarian language is peppered with words and phrases which imply that anybody who disagrees has been brainwashed. “Drinking the kool-aid”, “sheeple”, and “libtard” are remarkably popular. Using the acronym MSM when referring to the dreaded mainstream media is essential for showing libertarian credentials. When faced with the MSM reporting on a mass shooting, libertarians will dismiss it as a “false flag” operation designed by the government to take people’s guns away. When the issue of race emerges, libertarians will accuse others of being “race-baiters”, and the names Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson will almost certainly be invoked. The enemy is always “big government” and the “elites”. Anything which is not based on unregulated free-market principles is “socialism”. Obama is “Obummer” or “Odumber”. Then there are the libertarian men’s rights activists who, inspired by The Matrix, throw around the labels “redpill” (enlightened male) and “bluepill” (dupe who doesn’t understand women or the feminist agenda) as if those terms represent some undisputed truth. Essentially, anybody who is not a libertarian is a kool-aid drinking sheeple who loves Obummer and has been brainwashed by the race-baiters and the MSM, and who is no doubt a bluepill male.
Libertarian Beliefs: American populist libertarianism is riddled with contradictions. It has a strong Christian puritan element that supports family values, yet it worships at the altar of Ayn Rand, a Russian atheist who promoted selfish self-interest, laissez-faire capitalism, and who used her fame to enhance her love life. None of these contradictions are explored. Her atheism, her anti-Christian belief in egotistical greed, and her non-monogamous sexual behaviour is of no concern to Christian libertarians. Her belief in unregulated capitalism is enough to make her a patron saint. The Christian element has also bred a disturbing undercurrent that venerates purity, nobility, nationalism, and militarism. Gun-wielding patriots who go by the name of Oath Keepers are seen with frightening regularity on the streets of America, promising to uphold the sacred words of the Constitution. The Promise Keepers is a Christian organisation for young men which, amongst other things, promotes the need for sexual purity. Many Christian fathers and daughters attend purity balls where the daughters publicly pledge their virginity to their fathers.
There is a similarity in spirit between the Oath Keepers of America and the post-WW I Freikorps of the German Weimar Republic. Freikorps were paramilitary groups that consisted primarily of ex-soldiers who sought structure in civilian life by maintaining the military values of honour and nationalism, and who defended Germany against communist uprisings, from both within and without her borders. Their devotion to German romantic nationalistic principles and their sense of bitterness and betrayal after Germany’s WW I defeat made them easy prey for Nazi Party recruiters. The Nazi Party built up a following by appealing to those who felt that Germany had been defeated by internal enemies (as opposed to superior military power), the November Criminals, whose actions led to the weakening of the German state and the German spirit. From this came the stab-in-the-back myth, which processed Germany’s WW I defeat as being the result of weak leadership, corrupted German values, and infiltration from Jews and communists. Germany was seen as a great and noble nation which had been humiliated and defiled by liberal Jewish values. The Nazis liked to portray themselves as rebellious heroes who proudly took a stand against the tyrannical Jewish/socialist/liberal elite who controlled the country. To his followers, Hitler was the true voice of the German people, and his rise was depicted as the reemergence of the mighty German spirit, forever throwing off the shackles of oppression.
When it comes to race, anti-Semitism is a vital aspect of American libertarianism. While there are many within the libertarian/Tea Party movement who align themselves with the extremist elements of the state of Israel at all times (these tend to be the older, evangelical types who indulge in End Times fantasies as often as possible), talk of Jewish bankers manipulating the masses is still a regular occurrence in libertarian circles. Anti-Semitism appeals to the conspiracy theory mindset, as it did in the Weimar Republic, fueling the idea of shadowy elites controlling and manipulating the lives of good, honest, hardworking people. Those who count themselves as Latino, and who are not white, are also subject to much anger and resentment in libertarian circles. Brown-skinned Latinos are more often than not viewed with suspicion in terms of their legal status as American residents/citizens. The fact that a presidential candidate can talk of building a wall between America and Mexico and accuse Mexican immigrants of being rapists and murderers but still see a surge in popularity as a result, tells us a lot about the levels of intolerance that exist in libertarian circles. Libertarian attitudes to Muslims are also extremely intolerant. Despite claiming to uphold religious liberty, libertarians tend to view Muslims, and indeed all people of Middle Eastern descent, as being potential terrorists. Libertarian groups promote hate speech against Muslims in the name of freedom and are happy to attack any sacred images that aren’t Christian. The Republican/libertarian axis promotes the idea of a War on Christmas and a War on Christians whenever Christian imagery is removed from a public space, yet sees intolerance toward Muslims as being an essential element of liberty.
With black Americans, American libertarianism is pathologically suspicious and antagonistic. Despite libertarianism being founded on distrust of authority and the championing of individual rights, when it comes to police brutality and the American criminal justice system, the vast majority of libertarian/Tea Party supporters defend the right of the state to use deadly force and draconian punishment for even the slightest infringements. The fact that the vast majority of those who suffer and die under such a system are black Americans gives a clear indication of the people whose freedoms the libertarian party wishes to defend. From its beginnings in John Birch-esque paranoia, modern American libertarianism has opposed the empowerment of black Americans. The John Birch Society stood in opposition to black Civil Rights on the spurious logic that the entire movement was controlled by communists who wished to undermine American society. As the Democratic Party emerged as the most sympathetic to the problems of black America (which is not to say that they were likely to do anything about it), most black voters chose to support the Democrats. Republicans, in turn, accused Democrats of using race to manipulate black voters, with race issues constantly dismissed by the right-wing as manipulation on the part of liberal elites. Even though black Americans were and are hyper-aware of their race due to centuries of ingrained white supremacy, to this day right-wing thinkers still promote the idea that race is a myth peddled by Democrats/communists/liberals in order to keep black Americans on the welfare plantation. The deaths of Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Sean Bell, Trayvon Martin, John Crawford, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Renisha McBride, Sandra Bland, Natasha McKenna, Victor White, Jonathan Sanders, Samuel DuBose, Jonathan Ferrell, etc, could have been avoided had they personally not thought of themselves as black. The fact that the people doing the killing thought of the victims as black is apparently of no consequence. Speeches by Republican politicians, made in reaction to each death, repeatedly blamed the victim and gave unqualified support to law enforcement officials. Many avowed libertarians feel that black people merely need to trust the justice system implicitly and do as they are told at all times when in the presence of an armed government agent. To most white Americans, even on the left, race is never the most important issue (the bumper sticker stating “No War But Class War” neatly encapsulates this very idea). Race is always a tool to divide rather than something which impacts the lives of millions of Americans on a daily basis. It is a concept that “we” must get over, “we” being all Americans, not just the white Americans who have consistently imposed the notion of race on black Americans.
The recent controversy over the Confederate Flag also shows the white supremacist roots of modern American libertarianism. Libertarians will talk incessantly about their patriotism yet in the same breath they defend the flag of an enemy state which sought to destroy the United States of America. Not only do they defend it, but they claim it to be a symbol of virtue, nobility, and Southern pride. Only in a staunchly white supremacist country could the flag of an enemy state become a cherished symbol of goodness, given that the enemy state in question fought for the right to retain the institution of slavery and to enforce the white supremacist philosophy that black people are inferior as living creatures to white people. Confederacy Vice President Alexander Stephens said in his famous Cornerstone Speech:
“The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution African slavery as it exists amongst us the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization. This was the immediate cause of the late rupture and present revolution. Jefferson in his forecast, had anticipated this, as the ‘rock upon which the old Union would split.’ He was right. What was conjecture with him, is now a realized fact. But whether he fully comprehended the great truth upon which that rock stood and stands, may be doubted. The prevailing ideas entertained by him and most of the leading statesmen at the time of the formation of the old constitution, were that the enslavement of the African was in violation of the laws of nature; that it was wrong in principle, socially, morally, and politically. It was an evil they knew not well how to deal with, but the general opinion of the men of that day was that, somehow or other in the order of Providence, the institution would be evanescent and pass away. This idea, though not incorporated in the constitution, was the prevailing idea at that time. The constitution, it is true, secured every essential guarantee to the institution while it should last, and hence no argument can be justly urged against the constitutional guarantees thus secured, because of the common sentiment of the day. Those ideas, however, were fundamentally wrong. They rested upon the assumption of the equality of races. This was an error. It was a sandy foundation, and the government built upon it fell when the ‘storm came and the wind blew.’
Our new government is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth. This truth has been slow in the process of its development, like all other truths in the various departments of science. It has been so even amongst us. Many who hear me, perhaps, can recollect well, that this truth was not generally admitted, even within their day. The errors of the past generation still clung to many as late as twenty years ago. Those at the North, who still cling to these errors, with a zeal above knowledge, we justly denominate fanatics. All fanaticism springs from an aberration of the mind from a defect in reasoning. It is a species of insanity. One of the most striking characteristics of insanity, in many instances, is forming correct conclusions from fancied or erroneous premises; so with the anti-slavery fanatics. Their conclusions are right if their premises were. They assume that the negro is equal, and hence conclude that he is entitled to equal privileges and rights with the white man. If their premises were correct, their conclusions would be logical and just but their premise being wrong, their whole argument fails. I recollect once of having heard a gentleman from one of the northern States, of great power and ability, announce in the House of Representatives, with imposing effect, that we of the South would be compelled, ultimately, to yield upon this subject of slavery, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics, as it was in physics or mechanics. That the principle would ultimately prevail. That we, in maintaining slavery as it exists with us, were warring against a principle, a principle founded in nature, the principle of the equality of men. The reply I made to him was, that upon his own grounds, we should, ultimately, succeed, and that he and his associates, in this crusade against our institutions, would ultimately fail. The truth announced, that it was as impossible to war successfully against a principle in politics as it was in physics and mechanics, I admitted; but told him that it was he, and those acting with him, who were warring against a principle. They were attempting to make things equal which the Creator had made unequal.”
“Many governments have been founded upon the principle of the subordination and serfdom of certain classes of the same race; such were and are in violation of the laws of nature. Our system commits no such violation of nature’s laws. With us, all of the white race, however high or low, rich or poor, are equal in the eye of the law. Not so with the negro. Subordination is his place. He, by nature, or by the curse against Canaan, is fitted for that condition which he occupies in our system. The architect, in the construction of buildings, lays the foundation with the proper material-the granite; then comes the brick or the marble. The substratum of our society is made of the material fitted by nature for it, and by experience we know that it is best, not only for the superior, but for the inferior race, that it should be so. It is, indeed, in conformity with the ordinance of the Creator. It is not for us to inquire into the wisdom of His ordinances, or to question them.”
Despite the fact that many other quotes and speeches of a similar nature can be produced which show, quite unequivocally, what the Confederacy believed in and fought for and also that, as a result of the Civil War 4 million human beings were released from slavery, there is still debate in America as to the origins of the Civil War and whether the North had a legitimate cause. While debates about the Civil War are still a regular occurrence, no debate of a similar nature exists over America’s decision to drop two atomic bombs on Japan, at least not in libertarian or right-wing circles. Those who sympathise with the South tend to focus on the North’s motivation for war and, in doing so, they deliberately downplay the race-based rationale which fueled the Confederacy and what the end result would have been had the South won. Many of the North’s motives may have indeed been flawed but that does not legitimise the unparalleled evil of the South’s agenda. Any flag or symbol which emerged from this agenda would, under normal circumstances, be seen as a symbol of hatred, domination, and tyranny. Not in America. The Confederate Flag, as it is now called, was originally part of the second national flag of the Confederacy. The thirteen stars within the cross represented the thirteen states of the Confederacy while the rest of the flag was white to represent the superiority of the white race. We are now told by many people that the Confederate Flag has nothing to do with slavery, white supremacy, or tyranny, that racists who have adopted it as their symbol have twisted its original meaning, and that the flag represents heritage not hate. These same people refuse to acknowledge that the very heritage that is celebrated by the Confederate Flag is one of slavery, brutality, black codes, lynching, white supremacy, Jim Crow, segregation, and the KKK. Denying the racism of the Confederate Flag goes hand in hand with a general denial about the prevalence of racism in the history of America.
After the Civil War ended, the Lost Cause philosophy emerged in the South to legitimise the aims of the Confederacy. It painted the North as a tyrant, wreaking havoc in the gentlemanly land of the South where master and slave coexisted in harmony. This ahistorical piece of fiction became a living, breathing way of life for many in the South. Many white Southerners adopted the white supremacist symbols of the Confederacy as a way to show disdain and contempt for black people living in the South, while at the same time mythologising the pre-Civil War South as a peaceful and chaste world, viciously destroyed by the marauding Yankee. The South managed to keep suppressing the black population in cruel and despotic ways and when the Civil Rights movement began to gain traction in the 1950s, the Confederate Flag reappeared all over the South as a mark of defiance against the American government’s attempts to desegregate the Southern population. When white supremacist Dylann Roof shot dead nine black Americans in June of 2015 a fierce debate erupted about the nature of the Confederate Flag. A mere 150 years after the end of the Civil War, and prompted by Roof’s racially-motivated killing spree, some Americans finally thought it was time to stop the flying of the Confederate Flag on government property. Despite the occasional voice of dissent, the libertarian/Tea Party movement instead chose to adopt the Confederate Flag as another cause, framing its removal as an example of political correctness gone mad and a sign that Obama was out to eradicate Southern culture. In choosing to defend a symbol of slavery, libertarians once again have shown how little they care for the dignity of Americans who aren’t white, and by continuing to whitewash the brutality of slavery and its legacy, they actually side with a cause committed to the negation of universal liberty.