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Saturday, December 28, 2013

Libertarianism, conspiracism and fascism

In Salon, a former libertarian named Edwin Lyngar adds to the "Why I left the movement" literature. This bit, about the Rob Paul delegation to the 2008 Republican national Convention, is worth quoting:
And boy, was it a circus. Many members of the group were obsessed with the gold standard, the Kennedy assassination and the Fed. Although Libertarians believe government is incompetent, many of them subscribe to the most fringe conspiracy theories imaginable. Airplanes are poisoning America with chemicals (chemtrails) or the moon landings were faked. Nothing was too far out. A great many of them really think that 9-11 was an inside job. Even while basking in the electoral mainstream, the movement was overflowing with obvious hokum.

During the meeting, a Ron Paul staffer, a smart and charismatic young woman, gave a tip to the group for the upcoming convention.

“Dress normal,” she said. “Wear suits, and don’t bring signs or flags. Don’t talk about conspiracy theories. Just fit in.” Her advice was the kind you might hear given to an insane uncle at Thanksgiving.
The reference to the Kennedy assassination stings. Still, I know all too well that there are libertarian zealots who have latched onto that topic without understanding it or making any kind of scholarly contribution to the literature. These people usually fixate on the notion that JFK was killed because he was going to take action against the Federal Reserve -- a claim that isn't true.

So why do so many libertarians become conspiracy theorists? Because conspiracy theories -- whether worthwhile, worthless, or in the unproven-but-intriguing category -- all tend to alienate the citizen from the government, from the very idea of government.

Libertarians use JFK's death to drive home the idea that government is always malign. Of course, this idea goes against everything the Kennedy brothers stood for. The proposition of universal political corruption, taken to its logical conclusion, undermines all faith in democracy. From there, it is but a short step to Peter Thiel's formulation that freedom and democracy are incompatible.

We can go further. This antipathy for democracy links conspiracism, libertarianism and fascism.

Libertarians insist that they have no kinship to fascism -- that they are, in fact, the truest opponents of fascism. But the linkage between libertarianism and fascism became hard to deny when Milton Friedman went to work for Pinochet.

Even more revealing is the background of the Koch Brothers.
One big time Birch family, the Koch family, has spent (and continues to spend) huge sums to bankroll Birch ideas. David and Charles Koch, the sons of Fred Koch—one of the original founding members of the Birch Society and a friend of my father—have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in their favorite political causes.
The JBS offers a loving biography of Fred Koch on this page. You should also read Wikipedia's page on the Koch paterfamilias:
He claimed that the Democratic and Republican Parties were infiltrated by the Communist Party, and he supported Mussolini's suppression of communists. He wrote that "The colored man looms large in the Communist plan to take over America," and that public welfare was a secret plot to attract rural blacks and Puerto Ricans to Eastern cities to vote for Communist causes and "getting a vicious race war started."
The Birchers, fueled by Koch cash, were and are notorious for promoting "the paranoid style." Alas, the rewriters of history have largely managed to hide the links between the Society's founders and the American pro-fascist movements of the pre-war era.

One example should prove the point.

In the 1950s, Fred Koch's chief partner in establishing the JBS was J. Howard Pew, a personal friend to Robert Welch, the founder of the Society. A couple of decades earlier, Pew helped to establish a fascist group called the Sentinels of Liberty:
The second most important of the [American Liberty] League's auxiliaries was the Sentinels of the Republic, an anti-Semitic organization which constantly warned the country of "the Jewish-Communist" menace. In 1936 the Senate Lobbying Committee released Sentinels' files revealing fascist sympathies. "The Jewish threat is a real one... I believe our real opportunity lies in accomplishing the defeat of Roosevelt." wrote its president, Boston banker Alexander Lincoln to Cleveland Runyon, who replied that the people were crying for leadership: "The Sentinels should really lead on the outstanding issue. The old line Americans of $1,000 a year want a Hitler."
In public, the Sentinels did not extol the virtues of Hitler; instead, they opposed any attempt to regulate business, with a particular emphasis on repealing laws against child labor.  In other words, the movement was outwardly libertarian and inwardly totalitarian.

Tea Partiers, following the lead of Glenn Beck, have tried to rewrite this history, claiming that liberals were somehow allied with the fascist movement. This assertion makes sense only if you manage to ignore every piece of printed material from the 1930s.

From time to time, I am asked by what criteria do I differentiate the (relatively few) worthwhile conspiracy theories from the many that are rubbish. My quick-n-dirty solution will strike many people as unfair, yet it works for me. I ask: "Did a libertarian come up with this theory?" If the answer is "yes," then the assertions are probably worthless. 
So why do so many libertarians become conspiracy theorists?

I think there's some personal pathology at work, frankly - and a lot of it has to do with the lack of personal success in the lives of many Libertarian true believers. If your personal hero is John Galt, but you're stuck in a dead-end job with no prospects then you essentially have two alternatives:

1) You can accept that you're a talentless untermensch who will never amount to anything and will never be admitted to the Libertarian Valhalla, or

2) You can blame some vast, shadowy conspiracy for suppressing your obvious abilities, "enslaving" you, and depriving you of the tender ministrations of Dagny Taggart.

Fringe political groups thrive on the unsuccessful and insecure.

"Fringe political groups thrive on the unsuccessful and insecure."

Then such political groups have their aims set on populism because it should be admitted, readily and openly, that the vast majority of the 'people' (that is, the world's population) are unsuccessful and insecure. In fact, the vast majority of them are feudalistically impoverished and exist in, at best, around the poverty line, and worse, in absolute poverty. So such groups have it right to focus on the demographic of the unsuccessful, the insecure and those stuck in dead-end jobs with no prospects for advancing or flexibility. Because that makes up the overwhelming vast majority of the earth.
I have two more quick and dirty ways to eliminate worthless conspiracies instantly:

1. Does it involve "Jews ruling the world?" "British bankers" is code for Jews and "Zionists" = eyes glaze over and dismiss immediately because that means "no, no I don't hate Jews just the ones who rule the world"

2. Is it a you tube? If it involves an hour long (or longer!) you tube it's junk. If it's worth knowing, there is a text version somewhere.

zee...I've been thinking of making a long-form documentary about J.J. Angleton and his role in the JFK assassination. In fact, I already have the first minute put together. (Did some filming at the JFK gravesite. Weirdly, the eternal flame was malfunctioning and they had a substitute eternal flame going. Maybe I should redo it.)

Can I ask you to watch THAT movie, if ever it goes on YouTube?
Joseph...funny you should ask. I'm thinking that I saw ONE influential film debunking the 911 nonsense. But then again, it may have been a point by point debunking of a 911 memory is not as keen as the conclusions I draw from reading/viewing. The other funny thing is I intend to buy and read a book one of your commenters recommended on an odd angle of the JFK incident. I am woefully underread and underviewed on the entire JFK scenario. I would watch said documentary you propose, but I'd probably still need some reading to feel on par. I wish you'd met the federal agent I ran into during the Republican convention in NYC. I was good at picking these people out. But sadly, I was not able to match him in understanding. He was trying to explain to me how he chose his line of work after JFK was murdered.
"Because conspiracy theories -- whether worthwhile, worthless, or in the unproven-but-intriguing category -- all tend to alienate the citizen from the government, from the very idea of government."

Nailed it.
The author of 'Precariat: The New Dangerous Class'...

...sketches out "Libertarian Paternalism" coined in a book titled 'Nudge' co-authored by your boy "Sunny" Cass Sunstein. Apparently tied to Hitlers Kaiser Wilhelm Society, which was rebranded the Max Planck Society when the Third Reich went underground.

"Sunny boy" also became an Obama appointed regulatory czar, whom also advocated employing sock-puppet, metal gear PSYOP's, perception management, and/or other Information Operations outlined in some known, unkown military publication out their in the wild landscape of Stephen Grahams 'Cities Under Siege' or Mike Davis' 'Planet of Slums'.
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