Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Liberals and the Libertarian "Contagion"

by TREVOR HULTNER

It’s impossible to make this stuff up, folks.

Salon.com columnist Tom Watson, in an article on the upcoming “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, D.C., has excoriated all of his progressive friends for supporting something that libertarians — surprise! — also support.

He writes, “Some of the biggest names in civil liberties and digital freedom of information will be there, including the ACLU, Electronic Frontier Foundation, FreePress and FreedomWorks. […] Yet I cannot support this coalition or the rally. It is fatally compromised by the prominent leadership and participation of the Libertarian Party and other libertarian student groups; their hard-core ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.”

This is like a child on the playground refusing to play with the other kids because “cooties.” Also, isn’t FreedomWorks supposed to be a Tea Party organization?

His main ideological disagreement with the “ickier” sponsors of the Stop Watching Us rally? “…[opposition to] all gun control laws and public healthcare, [support of] the government shutdown, [dismissal of] public education, [opposition to] organized labor, [and] favors the end of Social Security as we know it.”

Remember, this is an anti-surveillance rally we’re talking about here. These other issues, while absolutely argument-worthy in a variety of other contexts, really have nothing to do with the focus of the rally at all. Of course …

@onekade: To my libertarian friends: when we win and demolish the surveillance/police/military state, I will fight you on social welfare SO HARD.

Right back at you. 😉

Anyway, Watson continues:

Going ‘all in’ with the libertarian purists is a fatal and unnecessary compromise; reform is clearly needed, but the presence of anti-government laissez-faire wingers at the beating heart of the privacy movement will surely sour the very political actors that movement desperately needs to make actual – and not symbolic, link bait – progress in its fight.

And to whom is he referring?

“I speak of the progressive movement and the Democratic Party, of course.”

Oh.

Perhaps, in other circles, Watson is currently being lauded for taking a fearless and surely unpopular stance against the evilest of evil Bad Guys in the land (yes, even more evil than the Republican Anarchists that definitely exist). Really, though, it just looks like he’s dueling with windmills.

At one point, Watson writes,

“Political change requires choices and compromise, as well as action. If too many young organizers focus entirely on privacy and security and abandon the front lines on crucial economic issues, civil rights and inequality, the rights of workers, criminal justice reform, environmental regulation, and the pursuit social justice, their gains will be too little and society’s loss too great.

“Or libertarianism itself will rise, and our loss of liberty will be greater still. That’s because libertarianism is a form of authoritarianism disguised in a narrow slice of civil liberties. In trumpeting the all-knowing, ever wise wonders of the totally free and unencumbered market, it bestows all the power on those with access to capital. You may say we’re there already, but under a pure libertarian system, things would get much worse.”

What? “Libertarianism is a form of authoritarianism disguised in a narrow slice of civil liberties?” That’s rich coming from a proud member of a party that aims to break our legs so it can provide the crutches.

What’s sad here is that Watson is so misinformed regarding libertarianism in general (we won’t even get into left- or thick libertarianism here) that he has no idea that there are in fact libertarian writers and thinkers and activists talking about the issues he mentions — people like Radley Balko, Stephan Kinsella, Kevin Carson, Cathy Reisenwitz, Anna Morgenstern and Angela Keaton.

And let’s not forget that many people connected to this event that Watson admires — such as Glenn Greenwald — have written for, say, the oft-maligned Cato Unbound, and have been asked to speak at libertarian events before. Needless to say, their standing in the broader progressive community, and even among the radical left, has not been tarnished. His concern, while touching, is probably pretty unfounded.

Watson is right, though, on at least one thing: The “I’ve got mine,” borderline-nihilist attitude he displays at any prospect of working with people he might dislike for six hours has no place in a burgeoning movement that aims — at the very least — to stop the government from using its power to spy on us.

Trevor Hultner is an independent journalist and Internet content creator. He is the host and producer of Smash Walls Radio, a weekly news and politics podcast, as well as the host of a YouTube series aimed at spreading Absurdist philosophy.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
David Swanson
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail