Tuesday Reads: Liberals, Libertarians, and Concern TrollsPosted: October 29, 2013 | |
Between the Red Sox being in the World Series and having to have a root canal on Saturday, I’ve been a little bit disconnected from politics. The Sox won again last night in St. Louis, and they’ll be coming back home to Fenway Park leading the series 3 games to 2; so they could end it tomorrow night. If this post is a little late, my aching jaw and baseball are the reasons why.
We’ve been talking a lot about libertarians lately, because so-called progressives have been aligning with those Ayn Rand fans since libertarian Edward Snowden began leaking top secret documents about the NSA and libertarian Glenn Greenwald began lecturing the world about what a great hero Snowden is for defecting to Russia and revealing the most secret counterintelligence methods of the U.S. and U.K.
The latest shameful episode was Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally in Washington, at which supposedly “progressive” groups joined with anti-woman right-wingers like Justin Amash and neo-confederates like Ron and Rand Paul to protest the NSA doing its job of collecting foreign intelligence.
Before the rally took place, Tom Watson wrote a heartfelt column warning “progressives” that libertarians don’t make good bedfellows. Watson wrote that while he dislikes mass surveillance,
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 hardcore ideology stands in direct opposition to almost everything I believe in as a social democrat.
The Libertarian Party itself — inaccurately described by Stop Watching Us as a “public advocacy organization” — is a right-wing political party that opposes all gun control lawsand public healthcare, supported the government shutdown, dismisses public education,opposes organized labor, favors the end of Social Security as we know it, and argues in its formal political manifesto that “we should eliminate the entire social welfare system” while supporting “unrestricted competition among banks and depository institutions of all types.”
Yet my progressive friends would take the stage with the representatives of this political movement? Why? The loss is much greater than the gain. Organizers trade their own good names and reputations to stand alongside — and convey legitimacy to — a party that opposes communitarian participation in liberal society, and rejects the very role of government itself. And their own argument for privacy is weakened by the pollution of an ideology that uses its few positive civil liberties positions as a predator uses candy with a child.
This is an abandonment of core principles, in my view, out of anger over Edward Snowden’s still-recent revelations about the National Security Agency and its spying activity, particularly domestic access to telephone and online networks and metadata. It represents trading long-held beliefs in social and economic justice for a current hot-button issue that — while clearly of concern to all Americans — doesn’t come close to trumping a host of other issues areas that require “the long game” of electoral politics and organizing. 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.
But it was to no avail. Watson was attacked for his argument that the anti-surveillance fever is distracting from other important issues. People like Greenwald and Snowden couldn’t possibly care less about alleviating poverty, protecting women’s rights or the right to vote. They’d have no problem with Social Security and Medicare being eliminated, and as for voting, they’re anti-government anyway. Glenn Greenwald–whom some uninformed people believe is a “progressive,” saves his worst attacks for Democrats and in the past has supported Ron Paul and Gary Johnson for president. To Greenwald, sacrificing the entire legacy of FDR and the civil rights and women’s movements is no big deal. Here’s how he characterized the values of liberals who reject Ron Paul in 2011:
Yes, I’m willing to continue to have Muslim children slaughtered by covert drones and cluster bombs, and America’s minorities imprisoned by the hundreds of thousands for no good reason, and the CIA able to run rampant with no checks or transparency, and privacy eroded further by the unchecked Surveillance State, and American citizens targeted by the President for assassination with no due process, and whistleblowers threatened with life imprisonment for “espionage,” and the Fed able to dole out trillions to bankers in secret, and a substantially higher risk of war with Iran (fought by the U.S. or by Israel with U.S. support) in exchange for less severe cuts to Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the preservation of the Education and Energy Departments, more stringent environmental regulations, broader health care coverage, defense of reproductive rights for women, stronger enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities, a President with no associations with racist views in a newsletter, and a more progressive Supreme Court.
Of course, Greenwald is admitting that he’d sacrifice the social safety net and the rights of millions of Americans in a hopeless effort to defeat the military-industrial complex and its technologies. If you can stand to read the whole piece, you’ll also learn that Greenwald thinks Matt Stoller is a “brilliant” writer. Greenwald is a libertarian purist, with no understanding of how politics actually works. This is the pied piper that many “progressives” are following these days.
I guess I’m getting a little carried away here, so I’ll stop ranting and offer some pertinent links.
I’ll begin with this piece by Mark Ames on how libertarians pull the wool over liberals’ eyes. Ames opens by discussing Saturday’s “Stop Watching Us” rally and the alliance of so-called progressives and anti-government neo-confederates. And then he reveals the history of “libertarians lying to liberals.” It’s a long article, and I’m going to provide a longer than usual excerpt; but I hope you’ll go read the whole thing.
What hasn’t been revealed until now, however, is how the libertarians got so good at fooling their lefty marks. For that you have to look back 35 years, to an amazing series of articles in the Koch brothers’ REASON magazine in which prominent libertarians lay out to a new generation of followers a playbook of “tricks” to fool earnest leftists, liberals and hippies into supporting their cause.
If you really believe that these events are about promoting freedom and humanitarianism, you’re going to be even more disturbed by what libertarians had to say about conning liberals in their more unguarded moments, before their “tricks” worked and they were able to pull off these big DC “strange bedfellows” events like clockwork.
One of the most shocking strategy articles comes in a REASON article headlined “Marketing Libertarianism” written by Moshe Kroy, and published in the February 1977 issue. The article begins by acknowledging libertarians’ frustrations:
A paradox most libertarians (if not all) are acutely aware of is the gap between the self-evidence of libertarianism, on the one hand, and the difficulty of communicating it to nonlibertarians on the other hand. The fact that the free market is the only economic-political system which makes human existence possible—as human existence—seems to be very easily demonstrable.
But alas, the sheeple are too thick to grasp what a wonderfully liberating experience the free market offers to non-millionaires. Here’s where the marketing expert lays it all out on the table, reminding his libertarian followers that by its definition, libertarian politics will never catch on with a public brought up on majority rule—not unless you trick them:
This article may seem somewhat cynical and opportunistic—but if you read it closely you will see that it involves no falsity or deception. The point is that you can use tricks—and you’d better, if you really want libertarianism to have a fighting chance.
In a sense the author is right: the article is honest in assessing libertarianism as a marketing ploy rather than political idealism, and the only way to con customers into buying a product that’ll likely do them harm is the same way you sell them Florida real estate: by tricking them.
Here’s a little more insight on how Greenwald thinks about surveillance and the NSA, from an interview he did with Christiane Amampour yesterday.
Spying by America’s National Security Agency does not have “anything to do with terrorism,” Glenn Greenwald, the activist journalist who broke the story, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.
“Is Angela Merkel a terrorist? Are sixty or seventy million Spanish or French citizens terrorists? Are there terrorists at Petrobras?” he asked rhetorically. “This is clearly about political power and economic espionage, and the claim that this is all about terrorism is seen around the world as what it is, which is pure deceit.”
Because in Greenwald’s one-track mind, if the NSA does other kinds of intelligence collection, that means nothing it collects is related to terrorism. I really believe ex-patriot Greenwald believes terrorism doesn’t matter because it isn’t going to affect him in Brazil where he is guarded by agents of the Brazilian government. More from yesterday’s interview:
“It is not true that every country intercepts the personal communications of their democratically elected allies,” Greenwald told Amanpour, referring to the oft-repeated criticism put forward by true believers that “everyone does it.”
“And it’s definitely not the case that every country mass, bulk collects the communications of millions of innocent people in virtually every country in the world.”
Really? I wonder how he knows that? It’s not what real ex-NSA people say. And as for Angela Merkel’s precious cell phone, it turns out that Merkel’s “real” cellphone is secure, according to John Schindler, intelligence historian and former NSA analyst. Apparently Merkel has been careless about using a non-secure personal cell phone to conduct government business. But she had an alternative.
While Merkel has indeed had a quite vulnerable cellphone, her “real” Chancellor-Phone, as the Germans call it, is quite secure from interception.
As reported in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, the manufacturer of Merkel’s “real” phone, a Düsseldorf firm called Secusmart, is the provider of choice to the German government as well as some private firms who worry about data security (at a cost of 2,500 Euros per handset, there aren’t many private buyers). Secusmart supplied Merkel with a voice encryption solution four years ago, based on software and a cryptographic chip, which was updated this year and works on all new BlackBerry handsets. Secusmart’s CEO, Hans-Christoph Quelle, maintains that Merkel’s calls using his firm’s phone are quite secure, even against NSA.
Back to the topic of libertarians who try to fool liberals, one of my favorite *fake liberal* libertarians, Conor Friedersdorf, has been at it again. Here’s his latest piece at the Atlantic: Will the Left Turn on President Obama Like the Tea Party Did on President Bush?
During President George W. Bush’s tenure, most Republicans felt that criticizing him would just help Democrats. Only the end of his presidency freed them to see its flaws clearly. Staunch conservatives who voted for him twice suddenly found themselves swept up in a Tea Party rebellion against his team’s approach to governing. They felt chagrin at the ways he had transgressed against their values, and they resolved to change the GOP so that the same mistakes would never recur.
Will some Democrats behave similarly when President Obama leaves office? Right now, most feel that criticizing the White House can only help House Republicans. But one day soon they’ll be able to look back at Obama’s two terms with clearer eyes. How many will feel chagrin at policies that transgressed against their values? How many will pressure their party’s establishment to change?
We may start finding out during the Election 2016 primaries.
Friedersdorf’s concerns are the same as Greenwald’s–drones, surveillance, “whistleblowers,” etc., and his target is the candidacy of “candidate of continuity” Hillary Clinton.
Fortunately T-Bogg is back: Concern troll is very concerned so maybe you should be too.
Rand Paul fanboy and holder of the Megan McArdle Memorial ‘Seemingly Reasonable If You Aren’t Hung Up On Facts’ Chair at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf is having trouble sleeping at night because he is way stressed out about Dronebama’s legacy and whether it will drone kill the shit out of Hillary Clinton’s chances to be the
first womansecond Clinton to be elected President….
Before we dive in, I’d like to point out that the photo accompanying Young Conor’s article is from this weekends #StopWatchingUs rally that drew a small libertarian-heavy crowd whose size would be embarrassing for a small town Friday night high school football game but would be a stunning haul for a Reason magazine subscription drive.
Note that T-Bogg also mentions a recent post by another libertarian (who also doesn’t live in the U.S.) angry young man, Ian Welsh, who recently explained to us “why the progressive blog movement failed.” (He might try looking in the mirror, actually.)
The actual election is three years hence, and in those three years anything can happen: a domestic terrorist attack, economic collapse, a war in Middle East, a space alien invasion, the Cubs could make it to the World Series (hah! not that one, no way) so I’m pretty sure that something will fill the Big Policy Difference Void when the pols get to palaverin’. But it’s not going to be the topics listed above by Young Conor because we’ve already saw that movie last year and the reviews were “meh”. Going forward, Obamacare will be growing and changing thing as long as the Smart Young Things manage to calm the fuck down and quit predicting DOOMDEATHSPIRALARMAGEDDONKABLOOEY because it doesn’t downloaded as fast as the latest Arcade Fire, so it will be in play. Gay marriage is a downhill-bound snowball picking up speed as it races through the states, so everyone will probably stay the hell out of the way, although we still have much to do when it comes to gay rights. It’s possible marijuana legalization/the failed drug war reform will be a thing (Libertarian boner time!), but the meat and potatoes of the campaign will be what they always are; jobs, the economy, the high cost of living, education, the middle class, choice, the social safety net, infrastructure and immigration reform. These are the topics that actually affect voters in their pockets and in their lives on a daily basis, not whether there is a “secret kill list for Americans” which is Sarah Palin’s “death panels” for Progressives. Yes, I know there is a list/disposition matrix which I don’t find unreasonable, but it’s not like we’re talking about putting the Kardashians on it … even though a case could be made.
The fact of that matter is that the average American voter doesn’t spend their day on the internet reading what Matt Yglesias has to say about something that Megan McArdle wrote which Andrew Sullivan linked to after Julian Sanchez commented on it in a Twitter discussion with Dave Weigel and the entire staff at Think Progress. Sorry, you guys.
Which gets us back to Ian Welsh’s post about blogs and progressives and where I part company with him. Because when the primaries roll into town, most democrats/liberals/progressives are going to look at the candidates – if there are any besides Hillary because Democrats aren’t quite as into vanity campaigns like Republicans are – and they are going to vote for the one who is most likely to win in the general election. That’s because, while idealism is wonderful and morally bracing, it’s not going to feed your kids, keep a roof over your head, and, now, ensure access to medical care without blowing your whole world up.
And we’ll let the Bright Young Things and Internet Chin Strokers and the Libertarian Concern Trolls keep eating moral dilemma cake…
I wish I had written that!
This is post is way too long and I don’t even know if it makes sense. But, as I said at the beginning, I’m a little discombobulated this morning.
So now it’s your turn. What are you reading and blogging about today? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.