Archive for February, 2014

The Trap of Politics

Barack Obama spoke of teachable moments. Libertarians who imagine their beliefs can gain political traction have just had a teachable moment. It remains to be seen whether the lesson will be learned.

Jan Brewer Vetoes
Arizona Governor Jan Brewer Vetoes SB 1062

Arizona Senate Bill 1062 that Governor Brewer just vetoed purported to reverse that aspect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which outlawed discrimination against persons a commercial business — such as for example, a lunch counter in a Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina — did not want to serve. The newer reasoning — this time not with blacks in its sights — was that if the Bible labelled homosexuality an abomination a believing Christian operating such a lunch counter could invoke religious belief as a legal excuse not to serve a same-sex couple.

This controversy comes up in weeks following the legal case of a wedding cake designer in Colorado who refused to craft a wedding cake for a same-sex couple — declining on religious grounds — who has now been court-ordered to make wedding cakes for all comers.

On the pages of The Libertarian Enterprise L. Neil Smith has written in an article titled The Auction Block Comes to Colorado that “It is precisely as if some judge tried to force me, a lifelong libertarian, to write essays in support of gun control or Marxism.”

Neil is correct. Once legal compulsion is established in principle to be used in compelling a private business to serve any customer regardless of the proprietor’s beliefs, ethics, or esthetics — any request for service where there is no right of refusal makes the proprietor a slave to the customer.

But here’s the other thing. Decent people who object to the right of refusal being invoked on the basis of various bigotries — skin color, ethnic origin, religion, or sexual preference — would rather live in a legal and political system that outlaws certain rights of refusal rather than working against such bigotry relying completely on the tortoise-slow uphill climb of argument, picketing, boycott, and writing novels, plays, and movies that combat bigotry with mind and heart.

Political involvement on behalf of an abstract principle of protecting a private right is a trap for libertarians, because when we invoke our standards on behalf of the scum of the earth we make ourselves the targets of decent outrage — and discredit our principles among those who see only short-term gain and not the long-term loss that undercutting principle enables.

The grandstanding statist always wins these arguments because principles are invisible and have no sex appeal.

If there’s a lesson here for the libertarian, it’s that principle is a black-market commodity. The State’s ripping away the right of discrimination makes discrimination piratical — but we must remember also to discriminate against scumbags — kick their miserable asses back to the State — when we practice our liberty in our clandestine agoras.

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Who’s Not Behind Alongside Night?

Since I got my Netflix subscription two months ago I’ve been immersing myself in documentaries. I’ve watched documentaries suggesting a partisan Republican agenda Rupert Murdoch allegedly has for Fox News (Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism), two documentaries on Sarah Palin — one pro, one con (The Undefeated, Sarah Palin: You Betcha!)– one looking at the late Andrew Breitbart (Hating Breitbart), one on Wikileaks (We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks), and — right now — one called The Billionaires’ Tea Party, suggesting that the Tea Party movement is “Astroturf” — recruiting dupes unknowingly to support the financial interests of the billionaire Koch brothers, Charles and David.

Charles and David Koch
Charles and David Koch

My old friend and mentor, Samuel Edward Konkin III, was hostile to the Koch brothers because they promoted the Libertarian Party, which Sam — an anti-political movementist — opposed. He invented the term “Kochtopus” to attack the Kochs for what he saw as their politicization of the anti-political libertarian movement, decades before segments of the American left decided on the Koch brothers as their nemesis.

I appreciate Sam’s reasons for purist anti-politics, but I never agreed with him that participation in politics as a form of harm-minimization is always counter-productive. I often cited Lysander Spooner’s arguments in No Treason: The Constitution of No Authority that participation in politics could be a form of self-defense, and later reversed the anti-political argument that ballots were just another form of bullets to argue that if I could carry a gun in self defense I could mark a ballot in self defense.

Sam and I used to have long discussions in which he would invoke the strategy of encouraging crisis as a form of catalyzing revolution, and Taylor Caldwell’s 1952 novel, The Devil’s Advocate, often came up in these discussions, since in that novel conscious acceleration of totalitarian controls beyond the rate a public could be convinced to accept is a conscious strategy of fomenting rebellion. I guess, compared to my old friend, I’m just a wuss when it comes to revolution. I want merely to convince people using sweet reason and exposing villainy, not manipulate people by fomenting outrage and fear. I want to shock the conscience, not the adrenal glands.

The Billionaires’ Tea Party, if accurate at all, shows Koch money being invested in many foundations, think tanks, and political action groups that would not have thrived or been as effective without their money. I can’t see how this is evil. I have never received a dime of Koch money yet I agree with them that the so-called scientific “consensus” that anthropogenic global warming is a worldwide crisis-in-making is a politically-cobbled megafraud at the level of Soviet Lamarckism or Nazi racial theories. So if Koch Oil is funding political opposition to this fraud because policies based on this horseshit impacts their business negatively, I agree with the Kochs not because they’re paying me to agree but because this poor artist thinks the oil billionaires are correct.

I wrote my novel, Alongside Night, in the 1970’s and it was published in 1979. The only financing I got from anyone other than my parents was a $300 gift from family friends, Herman and Molly Geller, which paid my Long Beach, California rent for the three months I needed to complete my first-draft manuscript. To the best of my knowledge the Gellers were communists — whether or not “card carrying” I never knew. But I do know that historically communists have supported novelists, musicians, and filmmakers a lot more than conservatives and libertarians. David Koch, who provided millions of dollars to refurbish New York City’s performing-arts mecca, Lincoln Center, is a high-profile exception.

Over the past three years I wrote, produced, and directed my feature-film adaptation of my novel Alongside Night and it’s now available for play in American movie theaters. The movie was mostly financed by Patrick A. Heller, an ideological libertarian who heads up Liberty Coin Service.

Before I ran into Pat Heller I separately asked both of the Koch brothers, Charles and David, for financing to make the movie; Charles ignored my email and David turned me down.

Neither has any of the institutions shown in a chart in The Billionaires’ Tea Party supported the production or so-far the distribution of my movie. I’ve sent out emails to Matt Kibbe at FreedomWorks and Joel Cheatwood at Glenn-Beck’s TheBlaze asking for strategic marketing partnerships between their organizations and my pro-liberty movie and I’ve been ignored. I’ve gotten nowhere with the Campaign for Liberty and its youth wing, Young Americans for Liberty; nor with Students for Liberty. I thought — and still think — that Alongside Night is uniquely focused in dramatizing a pro-freedom worldview that these organizations say they also hold, so the empty echoes of my own voice asking to join forces is surprising to me.

But then why do I also have to listen to voices to my left that class me with a right-wing that evidently wants nothing to do with me either?

Is being a truly anti-political libertarian so far off out of the Talking Points War between conservatives and liberals that there’s no place for my voice?

This is not a theoretical question for me. It’s a pressing matter of whether there is any organization out there that will embrace Alongside Night as a means of coalescing a vibrant libertarian movement in the future.

But in the meantime, at least know that if you think I made Alongside Night to advance a profit agenda of some oil billionaires, the oil billionaires aren’t having any of it.

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The Leno Factor

My fellow libertarian friend, the multi-talented Brad Linaweaver, called me up today more upset than usual with one of his favorite pin cushions, Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, which — as Fox endlessly tells us — has dominated its time slot now for 14 years. On today’s show O’Reilly, a drug warrior nonpareil — managed to shock even fellow drug warrior Charles Krauthammer with his suggestions that if he, O’Reilly, were the Drug Czar there would be drug dealers hanging in the United States and drug addicts would be doing multi-year rehabs in Singapore style concentration camps.

I’ve written about O’Reilly before, in an article first published in the July 15, 2009 issue of The New Gun Week, and reprinted here, titled “A Shadow on the Second Amendment.”

In that article I wrote:

The Second Amendment movement just can’t tolerate a Bill O’Reilly who – knowing that Dr. Tiller had previously been shot at and his clinic bombed — repeatedly and editorially called George Tiller a “baby killer.” O’Reilly boasts The O’Reilly Factor has the highest ratings in cable/satellite television news. O’Reilly knew there are always psychotics waiting for a justification to commit mad violence and it was as foreseeable endlessly repeating “Tiller the Baby Killer” was inviting murder as it was for King Henry II’s infamous remark that led to the assassination of Thomas à Becket: “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?”

Brad and I agree that a homicidal habit of fantasizing or even encouraging people’s deaths should be a deal killer for a responsible network, regardless of how high Better Dead Lists drive a show’s ratings.

Nevertheless ratings are what drives commercial television so if Fox were finally to get weary of their high-rated sociopath, maybe there’s a TV star who just lost his job that might be a high-ratings replacement, himself. I wrote about this star in my previous article here.

Jay LenoBill O'Reilly
Jay Leno / Bill O’Reilly

Last Thursday, February 6th, NBC’s number-one-late-night star — Tonight Show host Jay Leno — did his last show. As I previously wrote, with rare exception The Tonight Show with Jay Leno held first place in the 11:35 PM ET/PT late-night time slot ratings since 1995, winning the late-night war for NBC against competition such as David Letterman on CBS, Jimmy Kimmel on ABC, and currently syndicated reruns on Fox. At the time of his last Tonight Show Jay Leno was considered one of the top-five most popular TV stars.

A lot of people have speculated that after it sinks in with Jay that he’s not going to be happy tinkering around with his cars, and that club and Vegas gigs won’t satisfy his addiction to being a comedy star, he’s going to want a new TV show. They’ve suggested that Fox might be a new home for Leno.

They’re right, but it’s the wrong Fox.

Jay Leno has all the qualifications — plus a massive existing fan base who already miss him — to take over Bill O’Reilly’s time slot on the Fox News Channel.

Jay Leno is wittier than Bill O’Reilly. He’s as used to interviewing presidents, experts, and celebrities as Bill O’Reilly. He’s been a ratings king even longer than Bill O’Reilly. He’s a conservative populist like Bill O’Reilly acceptable to the Fox News older demographic. And — best of all — Jay’s not a bullying fascist like Bill O’Reilly, whom I’ve felt for a long time is Burt Lancaster’s J.J. Hunsecker in 1957’s The Sweet Smell of Success or Andy Griffith’s ‘Lonesome’ Rhodes in that same year’s A Face in the Crowd.

Roger Ailes — I got your Bill O’Reilly problem solved right here. You might want to make the call fast, though, before CNN grabs Jay and puts O’Reilly’s ratings into the Tail Spin Zone.

Addendum, February 12th: On today’s O’Reilly Factor during the mail segment O’Reilly managed to come down on both sides of the death penalty for drug dealers. First he responded to a viewer letter asking if he favored the death penalty for drug dealers by saying he opposed the death penalty but favored harsh prison sentences. Then afterwards he read a reader letter: “Having been to Singapore where drug smuggling brings a death sentence, I can tell you that it works” — O’Reilly said nothing. This juxtaposition of letters in which O’Reilly’s final word is quoted from a viewer without objection — with the preplanned backstop that, “Well, I’d just said I was opposed to the death penalty for drug dealers” — is the sort of rhetorical loop-de-loop that is the hallmark of a master propagandist who admires the unfettered efficiency of homicidal totalitarians but hides behind ambiguity because unambiguous clarity would end him.

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