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.

Weekend Edition
February 12-14, 2016
Andrew Levine
What Next in the War on Clintonism?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Comedy of Terrors: When in Doubt, Bomb Syria
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh – Anthony A. Gabb
Financial Oligarchy vs. Feudal Aristocracy
Paul Street
When Plan A Meets Plan B: Talking Politics and Revolution with the Green Party’s Jill Stein
Rob Urie
The (Political) Season of Our Discontent
Pepe Escobar
It Takes a Greek to Save Europa
Gerald Sussman
Why Hillary Clinton Spells Democratic Party Defeat
Carol Norris
What Do Hillary’s Women Want? A Psychologist on the Clinton Campaign’s Women’s Club Strategy
Robert Fantina
The U.S. Election: Any Good News for Palestine?
Linda Pentz Gunter
Radioactive Handouts: the Nuclear Subsidies Buried Inside Obama’s “Clean” Energy Budget
Michael Welton
Lenin, Putin and Me
Manuel García, Jr.
Fire in the Hole: Bernie and the Cracks in the Neo-Liberal Lid
Thomas Stephens
The Flint River Lead Poisoning Catastrophe in Historical Perspective
David Rosen
When Trump Confronted a Transgender Beauty
Will Parrish
Cap and Clear-Cut
Victor Grossman
Coming Cutthroats and Parting Pirates
Ben Terrall
Raw Deals: Challenging the Sharing Economy
David Yearsley
Beyoncé’s Super Bowl Formation: Form-Fitting Uniforms of Revolution and Commerce
David Mattson
Divvying Up the Dead: Grizzly Bears in a Post-ESA World
Matthew Stevenson
Confessions of a Primary Insider
Jeff Mackler
Friedrichs v. U.S. Public Employee Unions
Franklin Lamb
Notes From Tehran: Trump, the Iranian Elections and the End of Sanctions
Pete Dolack
More Unemployment and Less Security
Christopher Brauchli
The Cruzifiction of Michael Wayne Haley
Bill Quigley
Law on the Margins: a Profile of Social Justice Lawyer Chaumtoli Huq
Uri Avnery
A Lady With a Smile
Katja Kipping
The Opposite of Transparency: What I Didn’t Read in the TIPP Reading Room
B. R. Gowani
Hellish Woman: ISIS’s Granny Endorses Hillary
Kent Paterson
The Futures of Whales and Humans in Mexico
James Heddle
Why the Current Nuclear Showdown in California Should Matter to You
Michael Howard
Hollywood’s Grotesque Animal Abuse
Steven Gorelick
Branding Tradition: a Bittersweet Tale of Capitalism at Work
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s UN Victory and Redemption of the West
Patrick Bond
World Bank Punches South Africa’s Poor, by Ignoring the Rich
Mel Gurtov
Is US-Russia Engagement Still Possible?
Dan Bacher
Governor Jerry Brown Receives Cold, Dead Fish Award Four Years In A Row
Wolfgang Lieberknecht
Fighting and Protecting Refugees
Jennifer Matsui
Doglegs, An Unforgettable Film
Soud Sharabani
Israeli Myths: An Interview with Ramzy Baroud
Terry Simons
Bernie? Why Not?
Missy Comley Beattie
When Thoughtful People Think Illogically
Christy Rodgers
Everywhere is War: Luke Mogelson’s These Heroic, Happy Dead: Stories
Ron Jacobs
Springsteen: Rockin’ the House in Albany, NY
Barbara Nimri Aziz
“The Martian”: This Heroism is for Chinese Viewers Too
Charles R. Larson
No Brainers: When Hitler Took Cocaine and Lenin Lost His Brain
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail