Friday, December 22, 2006

12.22.06 - Past Time to Abandon the Word 'Libertarian' Too, Says Ms. Maravillosa

“Regular readers have probably noticed that for some time now,” says Sunni Maravillosa, “I’ve been using the term pro-freedom instead of the more common libertarian. It was a deliberate shift, as I saw while working at Free-Market.Net (and continuing since then) that some individuals and groups that self-identify as libertarian didn't consistently uphold freedom-friendly values, or offer solutions to problems that were freedom enhancing. They ranged from seemingly small things, like libertarian think tanks offering studies and opinions that further entrench state boondoggles like mass transit, to fundamentals such as supporting various flavors of victim disarmament or more restrictive abortion laws. And, of course, in the past few years the shift has escalated, to the point where libertarian can mean anything from a thoroughgoing love of liberty to a republicanesque façade that distills to Freedom for me, but not for thee at its best and quickly tails off.”

As one responder to my blog post about the alleged “need” to change from calling ourselves anarchists to calling ourselves abolitionists [sic] noted that in the public mind and in mainstream political culture, “libertarian” is conflated to refer to a meaner nastier breed of plutarchy-loving Republican with a taste for Social Darwinism. The lackluster ex-talk show host Bill Mahr (formerly of ABC’s Politically Incorrect with Bill Mahr, and a self-proclaimed libertarian himself), said that libertarians, “[A]re just Republicans who like to smoke dope and party, look at porn, and blow off going to church”. So much for the term libertarian in pop culture today, eh folks?

"However,” Maravillosa goes on to say”, I'm not calling for us to completely abandon the term [libertarian]. It seems to me that, by choosing to identify ourselves as pro-freedom or some other, equally precise descriptor [NAPper? ZAPper? ZAPA?], we can accomplish two things: 1] We offer an unequivocal statement of our position on what freedom is, our valuing of it, and how it is to be applied; and 2] we offer a channel for identifying the muddled state of the libertarian concept, and educating those who are interested as to its real meaning and history. Without that kind of conversation, the word is going to remain hopelessly unclear, and useless to those of us who remember what it once stood for."

Okay, but I am still a little confused here. If whole point of this exercise in re-branding the freedom movement in such a way as to be more palatable to the sheep and more self-defined, so as to take away the tendency of the mainstream media, academics, the punditry, and the Hollywood, pop-culture, late-night comedian types to define us wrongly, what is to stop them from doing it again? What’s the point?

If you are against rule by states, you are an anarchist by definition, whether that makes some 10th grade civics teacher blanche with outrage, or whether political cartoonists show us as bomb throwers and rioters, or if Jay Leno, George Carlin, Bill Mahr, and Stephen Colbert continue to mock and misrepresent us. The point is that these pricks will do all this anyway, for their own unique reasons of course, but they will do it all the same, whatever label some would have us adopt.

Maybe Allport and Maravillosa would have us bring in some high-tech, new-age marketing types who could set up some focus groups of soccer moms, NASCAR dads, gen-X’ers, or who-ever-the hell-all else their target audience is, and find some name for this movement that sells easier and goes down smoother?

The two main points that I want to make regarding the issue of re-branding libertarians and anarchists are these.

First, as Ayn Rand famously noted, “A, is A.”, AKA Aristotle’s law of identity: (i.e. A thing is what it is; or a as the Bard of Avon noted, “[A] rose by any other name would smell just as sweet.”) If you oppose the existence of state entities and the practice of statism, you are by definition an anarchist. So fookin’ what if the sheep, media poobahs, professors, pundits and TV funnymen can’t handle it? They can’t handle any other form of accurate philosophical or political nomenclature either. Calling “gun control” [sic] “victim disarmament” [sic] hasn’t changed the views of the anti-gun soccer moms, the NY Times editorial board, or David Letterman either, so what the hell good does it do? You tell me cuz I don’t see any gain from it at all. People that aren’t willing to dig a little deeper into the causes and meanings of things aren’t gonna start doing so now because of a name change or re-branding effort. Those sorts are never gonna be part of us because they don’t really desire freedom or liberty at all; Just a cushy, comfortable life paid for or subsidized by the theft by proxy of the thugs they elect or support.

Second, as A.J. Nock noted we are the “remnant.” And we always will be unless we set up deliberate communities to change that status. We aren’t a race or ethnicity but persons who share a more or less congruent core set of principles (i.e. no initiation of force, any state entities, and truly free markets and enterprise). The sheep want health care, police protection [sic], tax breaks, affirmative action, public education, public morals, and all the rest of their wish list, codified into law, enforced by armies, police, courts and prisons, and paid for or heavily subsidized by taxes on others. The political culture in America today amounts to; “Why should I vote for you? What’s in it for me?” And so I don’t see calling myself a “freedom-lover,” “abolitionist”, or whatever the hell else they come up with, changing a damn thing.

But hey you guys go for it with my best wishes, and prove me wrong.


Brad Spangler said...

You're very "on target" here. If we don't call ourselves anarchists, then the logical question from someone new to the ideas is "How do you distinguish this from anarchism". I expect the various ways activists answer that question to each be a mini-fiasco if they are running away from the A-word.

Note also the lesson from advertising that repetition/exposure is the key to acceptance. Read up on the Overton Window.

It's imperative that we call ourselves anarchists if we want a stateless society. We need to grow up as a movement, quit pussyfooting around and just buckle down and accept the early negative associations if our movement is ever going to win at all. With time and effort, that will fade. Damn straight I'm an anarchist.

The Anarchist Flamethrower said...

Yeah, I agree Brad. As much as I respect Maravillosa and Allport personally, I'm not sure we can gain anything by re-branding ourselves with new nomenclature. All the ex-Communist Parties in Eastern Europe have re-branded themselves with new names too, but everybody knows who and what they are. Arthur Anderson, Inc., the accounting firm caught up in the Enron scandal, changed their name too, for all the good it did them.

The bad rap on anarchism comes from assassinations and terrorism perpetrated by anarchists in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some examples: Sacco & Vanzetti (bank robbery and murder), Joe Hill (ditto), the Haymarket bombing that killed seven Chicago cops, and President McKinley’s murder, just name a few. After all this, the anarchist movement was tainted permanently in the modern American political milieu as violence prone.

Not mentioned much if at all was the heroic actions of the CNT anarcho-syndicalist parties in the Spanish Civil War. They set up the most viable of polities (Catalonia and Aragon) in the Spanish Republic, and which were much freer than the Communist dominated areas or the chaotic areas dominated by the Social Democrats (Madrid). The CNT militias did well in the defense of their areas even against the better equipped and trained professional Nazi, Italian, and Franco-ist militaries. They'd have probably won too, if the Soviets hadn't cut off their military supplies at the request of the Spanish CP. Ironic that these instances of successful establishment of anarchist polities their vigorous defense are largely ignored in modern political history. Go figure.