Posts Tagged ‘Freedom movement’

NEWSPEAK BULLIES LIBERTY

January 16, 2011
[Authors note:  This column was originally published in the Michigan Libertarian.  Several readers have commented that I needed to share these thoughts with a larger readership.  Recent inappropriate reactions to the events in Arizona (which attempt to link a killers tragic behavior to non-violent expression) highlight the need for more people to read this.]
 

Freedom is the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. – George Orwell –

 

There is a stealth attack on our liberties and most people don’t even recognize it.  Before people are conquered by coercion and force, they must be disarmed philosophically.  Once people accept a false premise, exalted opinion makers can use that premise to promote their agenda. 

A consistent philosophy is like a sophisticated piece of architecture or a machine; without structural integrity it will collapse or fail.  Sometimes there are specific elements of a structure that are needed to support the rest.  In a building it may be a cornerstone, keystone or column.  In a machine it may be a simple pin, filter, or chip.

The distinction between violence and communication is critical to liberty and civil society.  Without it there can be no principled defense of free speech, nor can there be principled objection to violence being used in response to speech.  The statist agenda has been well served by the recent MSM fixation on so-called “cyber-bullying.”  The phrase is such a clear example of Orwellian newspeak that I would expect this to be nothing more than hyperbolae or a metaphor.  “Bullying” is a phrase that has been associated with violence.  The use of “Cyber” as a prefix is consistent with the use of certain technology.  If the terminator starts making threats and beating people up, that’s cyber-bullying, but that is not how the phrase is being used.

People are being called cyber-bullies for making unwelcome remarks about peers and colleagues on the Internet.  This wouldn’t be a matter of concern, if the word-use were understood to be metaphorical.  For example, politicians will refer to “attack ads,” with full understanding that they need not draw a gun to defend themselves.  But talk show hosts, law enforcement officials, and politicians actually believe that verbal and electronic taunting is an act of violence.

The lack of publicized dissension to this doublethink is mind numbing.  Most pre-schoolers of the prior generation had superior intellectual integrity to the opinion leaders of today.  They had a simple, though accurate phrase, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  The degree to which a person believed the phrase was the degree to which the outcome would support it; the words may be harmless, but the response one has to them may not be.

It has now become politically correct to disarm those who are most vulnerable, and convince them that they are emotionally defenseless, against criticism.  As a teacher, I have seen the so-called “anti-bullying” hype that gives the impression that the way to address criticism is to silence the critic.  Rather than learning that ideas are to be fought with better ideas, youth are learning that unwelcome criticism must be fought by silencing the critic.  Civil liberty considerations not withstanding, this is a terrible disservice to young people.  So long as someone takes ownership of his or her responses, he or she has a way to preserve his or her self-esteem amidst a surge of insults.  Without these coping tools, the object of the taunts is helplessly waiting for help from others.

This leads me to the next critical piece of the philosophy that is in danger.  The distinction between one person’s actions and those of another.  Once again, the intellectual integrity of most pre-millennial preschoolers towers above the philosophical cesspit of contemporary pundits.  The childhood wisdom would be encapsulated in a rhetorical question: “If someone dared you to jump off the bridge would you do that too?”  Back in the day this would prompt a person to reflect on the stupidity of blaming his or her actions on the fact that someone else dared him or her to do it.  These days it could be cause for prosecution. 

Nowadays, pundits will say that unwelcome words or online postings “cause” a suicide.  Remarkably, this double-think goes unchallenged.  This is one of those cases where the truth is so self-evident that explaining it becomes difficult.  The word “suicide” is reserved for killing one’s self.  By definition the killer and the victim are the same person.  To say someone else caused a suicide is to say that the act is not what it is.  This is not just a matter of minutia.  People are often put in prison or executed for killing other people.  By definition the victim causes the suicide.

The reader may choose to respond with anger and disbelief, but the fact of the matter is that suicide victims cause their own deaths.  Putting the truth plainly is not the most sensitive thing to do, but often it is the kindest thing to do.  Tragically, statists exploit the grief of suicide victims families.  Rather than guiding them to acceptance and helping them move on, suicide victims are used as poster children for laws that squelch discourse, and empower bureaucrats.  Personal tragedies, childhood crushes, and teachable moments become part of a media circus, with children playing the Orwellian character, “Boxer” in the center ring.

The immediate outcomes are personal, but the paradigm shift this facilitates is even more abominable.  If a writer is responsible for the way readers respond, then all writers are potential unwitting murderers.  This not only has the effect of incriminating the innocent, but also absolving the guilty; if the author of an email or posting can “cause” a person to kill him or her self, the author could also “cause” a person to kill someone else.  Thus a killer could use the “somebody dared me to do it” defense!

Some readers may think I am being alarmist, and that these semantic sins won’t have legal consequences.  Unfortunately, the tree of irrationality is already bearing tyrannical fruits:

  • I attended a school assembly where an FBI agent told children that he has had to arrest kids for sending unwelcome emails, and they have been taken from their parents and put in juvenile detention. Missouri has made “cyber-harassment” a Class D felony.
  • State Representative Lisa Brown supports similar legislation in the Michigan Legislature.  She supports fines for adults who make unwelcome remarks about other adults in blogs.

I have made a distinction here between words and violence, but I don’t wish to say words are of no consequence…. Just the opposite.  Words communicate ideas.  Belief in certain ideas can be lethal.  The philosophy we have, guides our response to the words we hear.

When one’s philosophy equates words with violence, one is inclined to respond with violence.  Not only does this bring greater tragedy, but it does nothing to defeat the depraved ideas.  Brute force is impotent against flawed beliefs.  The best way to defeat false beliefs is with the truth.  This is much easier said than done, but that doesn’t make it less true.  The ultimate alternative is the draconian approach of criminalizing ideas and executing heretics.  In the battle of ideas there is no substitute for philosophy.

[Republication of the unabridged article with credit to Scotty Boman is welcome]

Vultures Hatched by Conservative Inconsistency Have Come Home to Roost

November 16, 2008

 

While I have frequently identified with conservatives and conservative causes, I am not a conservative.  I am a libertarian.  I use the small case “l” to distinguish my party from my philosophy.  There are many libertarian-Republicans, for instance, who have no affiliation with the Libertarian Party.  True conservatives are much more libertarian than what is commonly referred to as neo-conservatives, but there are still some critical differences.

 

Ideological conservatives place a great deal of emphasis on principals such as individual liberty, personal responsibility, private property, and limited government.  These are also libertarian principals.  The difference involves the scope of application.  Libertarians are inclined to apply this to as many issues as possible; conservatives apply theses ideas to a limited range of issues.  This has been a source of confusion for people who have been programmed to think in terms of a one-dimensional left-right spectrum.  If you are among them, I suggest looking over a Nolan chart or taking the smallest political quiz.

 

Libertarians have frequently come under fire for supporting peoples right to act offensively or amorally so long as the behavior did not violate the natural rights of others. This recognition of a person’s rights has often been misconstrued to be acceptance or approval.  This is not the case.  Libertarians have long argued that we must tolerate individual differences, if we expect to be tolerated.  Stated another way, a threat to one person’s rights is a threat to all rights.  The reason for this linkage is the power of philosophical consistency.

 

Giving in to the idea that the government could censor radio content was like letting the camel’s nose in the tent.  The right of broadcasters to control the content of their programming is thereby forfeited. What remains is an illusion of liberty granted at the whims of those in control.  So it is with all sacrifices of principal.  The specifics that were derived from the forfeited principal are only vestigial remnants.  Bending to whims may be expedient and gain one favor in the short run, but consistency wins in the long run.  No social movement has been able to grow and prevail, if it discarded its integrity for short-term gain.  Conversely, worldviews that offer clear-cut answers and absolute principals survive.

 

The human mind requires some semblance of consistency to work, so it is that luke-warm conservatism is on the decline, but even conservatism is luke warm when it comes to liberty.  Objectivist philosopher Ayn Rand saw this in April of 1964 when she wrote:

 

It was the so-called “conservatives” — including some of the pioneers, some of the broadcasting industry’s executives who, today, are complaining and protesting — who ran to the government for regulations and controls, who cheered the notion of “public property” and service to the “public interest,” and thus planted the seeds of which Mr. Minow and Mr. Henry are merely the logical, consistent flowers. The broadcasting industry was enslaved with the sanction of the victims — but they were not fully innocent victims.

 

So it is that today’s conservative radio pundits are not fully innocent either.  They have conceded the need to have government control over the content of radio broadcasts, by either approving censorship, or mocking liberals who disapproved.  The fact of the matter is that Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer made an insightful point when he told a Fox news reporter:

 

The very same people who don’t want the fairness doctrine, want the FCC to limit pornography on the air.  I am for that; I think pornography should be limited.  But you can’t say ‘Government hands off!’ in one commercial enterprise but the government intervenes in another.  That’s not consistent.

 

He’s right:  It isn’t consistent. 

 

Ironically, his so-called “Fairness Doctrine” would only call for fairness between inconsistent “liberal” and “conservative” speech.  Even if it included equal time for libertarians, it would still be just as wrong, and I would oppose it.  The first amendment made no exceptions.

 

For those who fear hard-core porn on prime-time TV, consider the content of basic cable programming.  It is immune to the restrictions placed on broadcast TV.  Sure “adult programming” is there for those who subscribe to it, but commercial standards for family viewing exceed the standards set by the FCC.  If this isn’t good enough, parents can fire the TV from baby-sitting duty (mine did).  The market works if we let it.*  This is another mantra recited by self-described conservatives.  The difference is that libertarians actually believe it.

 

When a person goes against one’s principal, he or she gets a funny feeling.  It’s called “guilt.”  Those who fail to form principals are confused.  People who look to government or the collective to solve their problems are called “statists” those who trust individuals over governments are libertarians.

 

I’m not guilty, statist, or confused; I trust you to run your life.

 

 

 

 

* Here I am referring to a free market in which peoples rights are protected.  Marketing in abuse is not a free market principal.  That would be a contradiction.  Individual rights cannot include the right to enslave.

Thank you Ron!

September 13, 2008

 

Dear Ron Paul:

 

I hope this message reaches you.  I know what it is like to get more mail than one has time to read.  Clearly you are blessed with an even larger volume of mail than I.

 

As a candidate and an activist in a third party, I wish to express my deepest gratitude for your September 10th press conference.  I was especially impressed with the respectful manner in which you handled unexpected surprises.

 

By resisting the demands of the Republican Leadership and giving a forum to their opposition, you have put your own re-election to Congress at risk.  We are blessed to have such a courageous person in Congress.

 

In Michigan, I had the fortune of being the Libertarian representative at the first meeting of the Michigan Third Parties Coalition (MTPC).  One thing I learned through this experience, is the value of respecting people who hold to beliefs that conflict with my own.  The formation of the MTPC was initiated in a letter sent out by a socialist, Matt Erard.  He understood the need to form a group that was non-ideological. 

 

Ideology is more than symbolic for people in the freedom movement, but there is a need for Detente in cases where people with irreconcilable differences face a common threat.  Clearly you get that.  I only wish everyone in our movement were so enlightened, but I have no right to apologize for the short-comings of others.

 

Without honest elections, the hope for peacefully bringing about a free society is dashed.  Those who honestly believe in the correctness of their beliefs have nothing to fear from an unfettered candid discussion of the transcendental challenges of our time.

 

When the debate process and other parts of our broken election system are remedied, it will be much easier to bring about liberty in our time and resuscitate our constitutionally limited republic. 

 

Thank you for bringing us one step closer to that day.  Libertarians everywhere owe you a great debt of gratitude.

 

Scotty Boman

Libertarian for United States Senate