Thursday, January 24, 2008

Macho Sectarianism in the Libertarian Movement

As you might guess from reading the description of this blog, I consider macho sectarianism a big problem, and certainly NOT the solution! It is as ridiculously silly to me as these two male hamsters going at it! (See the video.)

This entry continues the one below entitled: “Ron, Lew, et al - apologize for old bigotries and move on!” about 10 racist and anti-gay comments discovered in Ron Paul newsletters from 1987-1994. In a frothing New Republic article 20 news letter entries were attacked; a Reason article debunked most of those attacks, focusing on the most obnoxious statements about gays and blacks. Paul and other's responses are described in more detail below.

Anyway, what is interesting to me is that the problems doubtless arose from efforts twenty years ago by one group of ideological males (who included the now deceased Murray Rothbard and the still active Lew Rockwell and Burt Blumert) to take power in an organization (the Libertarian Party) run by another, more disparate group of ideological males. In the 1987-89 period Rothbard/Rockwell/Blumert used Ron Paul and his large conservative following as their intended route to power, and doubtless pandered to some bigots using inflammatory language. However, as libertarians especially are supposed to know: power - and the seeking of power - corrupt.

Specifically:
* There was anger that the coronation of Ron Paul as the 1988 presidential candidate was replaced by a desperate battle against the infamous Russell Means who was supported by radicals, angry pro-choicers, pot smokers, and even sexual libertines.

* There was the incisive nitpicking by Eric Garris and Justin Raimondo, then running the “Libertarian Republican Organizing Committee”described in my first blog entry on this topic.

* There was Carol Moore and her allies in Pro-Choice Libertarians threatening to organize a “strip in” if Ron Paul didn’t promise NOT to use the campaign to promote outlawing abortion. (Which he did eventually promise, a promise he largely kept.)

* There was the group of middle and lower middle class party leaders who were ever so fair and respectful to Means, Garris, Raimondo, Moore, et al.

* Right after the 1988 election, there was the embarrassment of having to admit (or try to cover up?) that Ron Paul’s chief aide Nadia Hayes, who also ran the cash-flush national Ballot Access drive, had been stealing money from Paul for years.

* There was the rage after the 1989 LP national convention when the Rothbard/Rockwell/Blumert candidate for chair of the party was trounced on the first ballot by just one vote, in large part because of distrust of the handling of the “Nadia Hayes” affair. (That that single decisive vote came from ME! when I panicked and switched my promised first ballot vote from a buddy to the winner, must have been galling.)

* There was Murray Rothbard's 1989 heated denunciation of "The Revenge of the Luftmenschen” (“air people” or impoverished ideologues) in an “American Libertarian” article. He bemoaned his faction’s failure to "transform the LP from a tiny social club for juvenile misfits and losers into a growing mass party of adults with regular jobs in the real world." He mostly blamed Nadia Hayes for the failure as Rothbard, Rockwell and friends angrily left the party.

* There was the declaration of a new variation of libertarianism published in 1990 by Lew Rockwell in "The Case for Paleolibertarianism." A furious Lew wrote that conservatives only could be attracted when “libertarianism is deloused” of those who believe in “freedom from cultural norms, religion, bourgeois morality, and social authority.” He assailed the “hatred of western culture,” he asserted that “pornographic photography, ‘free’-thinking, chaotic painting, atonal music, deconstructionist literature, Bauhaus architecture, and modernist films have nothing in common with the libertarian political agenda” and asserted “we obey, and we ought to obey, traditions of manners and taste.” And he denounced the Libertarian Party, “which as been their diabolic pulpit.” (Rockwell talks about those days here. And admitted in 2007 he no longer calls himself a paleolibertarian.)

Given the above political struggles as a context, attempts to pander to any well-heeled bigots on Paul's mailing lists by feeding them outrageous attacks on blacks and gays - not to mention pot smokers and free thinkers - makes more sense, not that it excuses it. It was macho sectarian power struggle at its worst.

Besides fading memories, why did so many libertarians, including Justin Raimondo, Eric Garris and me, forget these nasty battles over the years? Mostly it was due to the depredations of the state bringing libertarians together. There was the first Gulf War in 1991, which many thought Bush Senior had provoked; the massacre of 82 Branch Davidians at Waco in 1993 (I wrote a book about it); Ron Paul’s re-election to the U.S. House as its most libertarian member by far; Clinton’s various statist machinations, including his starving of the Iraqi people and his war against Serbia, which perhaps only libertarians noticed resulted in the exchange of nuclear threats between the U.S. and Russia. And since the September 11 there was the rise to the pinnacles of power of the neoconservatives and their wars on terror - not to mention Iraq, Afghanistan, and Americans' civil liberties.

Ron Paul’s success as a presidential candidate has been an increasing irritant to both neoliberals and neocons. It might have been the issue of secession that helped bring it all to a head. The blood pressure of statists left and right must have shot to the moon when Ron Paul said during a December 23, 2007 “Meet the Press” interview that he opposed Lincoln’s war against Southern Secessionists, that it would have been cheaper to buy the slaves than wage a war that killed 600,000 people, did massive economic damage and caused a century of bitterness that southern whites took out on blacks. On December 24th a New York Times blog published a charge about Paul’s alleged racist ties by an unreliable source, which they had to retract the very next day.

The January 8, 2008 New Republic expose made a big deal of Paul’s connection to Lew Rockwell’s Ludwig Von Mises Institute and its connections to the League of the South founders. The Southern Poverty Law Center has written several long screeds filled with 10 and 20 year old accusations against the League of the South, its founders and members that they rarely bother to document.

Of course, a few of the more believable accusations against the League of the South are worrisome. Not to mention current activities like the South Carolina group plan to protest Martin Luther King day activities because of the insults to their heritage. See Harold Thomas in his Ohio Republic blog’s balanced discussion of the issue - and some interesting replies from League of South members, opponents and me. A welcome relief from anonymous asses with blogs that merely smear people as racists, nazis, etc.

The New Republic attack on Ron Paul for “bigotry” was meant to destroy Ron Paul, Lew Rockwell, the Ludwig Von Mises Institute and as many other libertarian organizations as they could bring down with them. So “TNR” itself was just engaging in the kind of macho sectarianism that got Rockwell and crew in trouble in the first place; "TNR" is quite willing to instigate their own “civil war.” Of course, they’ll never admit that another reason they hate Paul, Rockwell at al is because real libertarians are hold outs unwilling to join the bigoted anti-Arab and anti-Muslim war on terror which “TNR” supports. See my recent examples of this and some other mainstream bigoted statements.

Unfortunately, neither Paul nor Rockwell nor supporters reacted very well to the "TNR" attacks and libertarians’ concerns. Paul had hemmed and hawed for months before on January 8 issuing a statement of moral responsibility which did not name the actual editors. A few days later his chief of staff wrote an open letter to Lew Rockwell asking him to confess.

Rockwell denied to The New Republic that he wrote the statements and called the discussions "hysterical smears." Angry LewRockwell.Com writers’ and allies’ focused their anger on "Beltway libertarians" (Reason Magazine and its writers, Cato people, and others), for expressing legitimate concerns about some of the statements. This smacked of the same old sectarian power struggles.

Old nemesis, now good friend, Justin Raimondo in “Why the Beltway Libertarians are Trying to Smear Ron Paul” accuses the Reason crowd of making the same accusations about pandering that Raimondo himself made 20 years ago. But he also points out how some were too quick to condemn Paul for politically defendable statements. Still his obnoxious statements about their disliking Paul and middle and working class Americans because they are too hip, and obsessed by drugs and big tax breaks, sounds like the bad old days of paleo-libertarianism. LewRockwell.Com writer Thomas DiLorenzo actually attacked “‘cosmopolitan,’ libertine libertarians.”

Considering the Libertarian National Committee recently decided in a secret meeting to ask Ron Paul to be the LP presidential candidate in 2008, I had to wonder for a few minutes if Lew Rockwell and Burt Blumert are seeking their final revenge - taking back the Libertarian Party. If so, they might face some resistance - started by the North Carolina party. I certainly hope Paul et al have larger ambitions - like taking Paul and his delegates all the way to the Republican convention, nominating him and having Paul give a speech from the podium that will excoriate Republican warmongers, big spenders and civil liberties abusers.

Bigotry, hate, sectarianism and machismo are problems that crop up in too many secessionist movements worldwide. I certainly hope that culturally conservative and culturally liberal secessionists are not going to either condone bigotry and hate, or to be drawn into any such silly power struggles and sectarian battles.

4 comments:

Mark said...

Carol:
Thank you for your insight and history of this whole feud. I've been pretty vocal for awhile about my concerns about Paul, but as a new-ish libertarian, your history and background is invaluable in learning about this pivotal era in the movement's history.

Many, many thanks.

Anonymous said...

Carol, just wondering if you ever had the misfortune of living in a racially mixed neighborhood? Perhaps if you had, you wouldn't carry on about hate and bigotry as much as you do. Secession is also about freedom of association. That's what we lost thanks to the so-called Civil Rights Act of 1964. That's what we want back. And that's why we'll secede from the tyranny.

Carol Moore Report said...

Actually, over the last 35 years, I've lived 32 in neighborhoods in Detroit, Manhattan, Los Angeles and Washington DC that were less than 1/2 white; in last 13 years in a neighborhood only 2% white, though the number growing. They were all areas of relative racial harmony and I would feel uncomfortable living in an overwhelmingly white neighborhood. If crime is the issue, I've experienced one nonviolent mugging and two purse snatching and one robbery (when I wasn't at home), two by latinos, one by a black transvestite, the last by unknown. But most of the emotional grief -- and massive monetary theft -- I've known in life was perpetrated by white guys. Yes, people should have a choice of where to live and who to associate with. But it doesn't have to be expressed in a bigoted way but whites, blacks, latinos, asians or anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Carol, I'm glad there are still some of us around with "insitutional" memories. I did some rooting around in my closet and found "Shootout at OKC" the videotape of the OKC post '88 election LNC meeting where Lew, Burt and Murry orchistrated the removal of Jim Turney then LNC Chair, who, as you may recall, was asking too many questions about Nadia. Great footage of Lew and a record of the vote stopping any LNC investigation of the embezelment.

Also deserving credit for stopping a Rockwell/Rothbard takeover of the LP at the '89 convention is Robert Murphy, who ran for Chair on a "get the facts" platform.

Regards. PK