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The “Battle of Berkeley” Is a Bad Sign for Liberty – Article by Dan Sanchez

The “Battle of Berkeley” Is a Bad Sign for Liberty – Article by Dan Sanchez

The New Renaissance Hat
Dan Sanchez
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Just how close are we to repeating the political violence of interwar Germany? How bad is it, and how bad can it get?

Populist-right demonstrators and radical-left protesters clashed in Berkeley, California, on April 16, 2017. The belligerents used such weapons as fists, feet, rocks, pepper spray, smoke bombs, barricades, and a trash dumpster/battering ram. There was one reported non-lethal stabbing.

At one point, the left-radicals ill-advisedly threw a smoke bomb while they themselves were standing downwind. The smoke wafted back in their faces causing them to flee. Today, right-populists are crowing online about having “won the Battle of Berkeley,” because, after a concerted charge, they managed to seize and hold a major downtown street.

Berkeley has become a favorite battleground for these budding political street warriors. Two months ago, a scheduled speech at UC Berkeley by Alt-Right darling Milo Yiannopoulos speech was canceled due to riots, arson, and assaults on Milo-supporters. Weeks later, a “March 4 Trump” was held off-campus in Berkeley, and this too was attacked by militant leftists, using metal pipes, baseball bats, two-by-fours, and bricks.

Yesterday, the occasion was another pro-Trump rally in Berkeley celebrating “Patriot’s Day.” As usual, it was the leftists who were the main instigators. That doesn’t alter the fact that these gradually-escalating street conflicts signal a two-pronged threat to liberty.

Nationalists Versus Communists

The brawls seem like a half-hearted, semi-play-acting reenactment of the street fights of Germany’s Spartacist uprising of 1919. The “Spartacists” were Marxist insurgents who sought to overthrow the new Weimar government, take power themselves, and expropriate the bourgeoisie. The government, which itself was made up of milder Marxists, relied on nationalist militias called Freikorps to crush the uprising. Then, as yesterday, nationalists trounced communists in the streets. Yet this did not yield a happy ending.

As Ludwig von Mises points out in Omnipotent Government, when the Freikorps first arose, they were modeled after the armed bands of communist revolutionaries that they would later suppress.

“The November Revolution brought a resurgence of a phenomenon that had long before disappeared from German history. Military adventurers formed armed bands or Freikorps and acted on their own behalf. The communist revolutionaries had inaugurated this method, but soon the nationalists adopted and perfected it. Dismissed officers of the old army called together demobilized soldiers and maladjusted boys and offered their protection to the peasants menaced by raids of starving townsfolk and to the population of the eastern frontiers suffering from Polish and Lithuanian guerrilla invasions. The landlords and the farmers provided them in return for their services with food and shelter.”

The Freikorps, like today’s budding right-wing street militias, arose in response to leftist aggression. That didn’t make them any less dangerous. Mises continued:

“When the condition which had made their interference appear useful changed these gangs began to blackmail and to extort money from landowners, businessmen, and other wealthy people. They became a public calamity. The government did not dare to dissolve them. Some of the bands had fought bravely against the communists. Others had successfully defended the eastern provinces against the Poles and Lithuanians. They boasted of these achievements, and the nationalist youth did not conceal their sympathy for them.”

The Road to Nuremberg

These Freikorps were then integrated into the army, and the problem of rival armed bands subsided for a while, although it did not disappear. As Mises wrote:

“War and civil war, and the revolutionary mentality of the Marxians and of the nationalists, had created such a spirit of brutality that the political parties gave their organizations a military character. Both the nationalist Right and the Marxian Left had their armed forces. These party troops were, of course, entirely different “from the free corps formed by nationalist hotspurs and by communist radicals. Their members were people who had their regular jobs and were busy from Monday to Saturday noon. On weekends they would don their uniforms and parade with brass bands, flags, and often with their firearms. They were proud of their membership in these associations but they were not eager to fight; they were not animated by a spirit of aggression. Their existence, their parades, their boasting, and the challenging speeches of their chiefs were a nuisance but not a serious menace to domestic peace.

After the failure of the revolutionary attempts of Kapp in March, 1920, that of Hitler and Ludendorff in November, 1923, and of various communist uprisings, of which the most important was the Holz riot in March, 1921, Germany was on the way back to normal conditions. The free corps and the communist gangs began slowly to disappear from the political stage. They still waged some guerrilla warfare with each other and against the police. But these fights degenerated more and more into gangsterism and rowdyism. Such riots and the plots of a few adventurers could not endanger the stability of the social order.” [Emphasis added.]

But then, feeling threatened by the continued existence and activity of nationalist armed bands, the embattled socialist government created a new armed force consisting of loyal Marxists. As Mises explains, this caused many in the public to throw their support behind Adolf Hitler’s personal militia, the Nazi Storm Troopers.

“But these Storm Troopers were very different from the other armed party forces both of the Left and of the Right. Their members were not elderly men who had fought in the first World War and who now were eager to hold their jobs in order to support their families. The Nazi Storm Troopers were, as the free corps had been, jobless boys who made a living from their fighting. They were available at every hour of every day, not merely on weekends and holidays. It was doubtful whether the party forces—either of the Left or the Right—would be ready to fight when seriously attacked. It was certain that they would never be ready to wage a campaign of aggression. But Hitler’s troops were pugnacious; they were professional brawlers. They would have fought for their Führer in a bloody civil war if the opponents of Nazism had not yielded without resistance in 1933.” [Emphasis added.]

And the rest is History Channel programming. Once in power, the nationalist brawlers proved to be just as deadly foes to liberty as the communists they trounced in the streets and drove from power.

It’s Never Too Early to De-Escalate

We’re a long way from Weimar. The Alt-Knight and his merry band are a far cry from the brutal Storm Troopers. And the black-clad waifs of Antifa are a pale shadow of the homicidal Spartacists. In fact, there is distinctly ridiculous and even comical vibe to the scuffles, which the late, great Will Grigg aptly described as “political cosplay.” But these things have a way of escalating. The foot soldiers of the Spartacists and Storm Troopers may have gone through a harmless, posturing early phase as well. As Grigg wrote:

“…through political cosplay people can become habituated into thinking in eliminationist terms: The “other side” is not merely gravely mistaken, but irreducibly evil, and since reason is unavailing the only option that remains is slaughter.”

He also warned:

Unlike the wholesale violence that our country saw in the late 1960s and early 1970s, contemporary street-level political conflict is heavy on posturing and pretense and light on actual bloodshed – but it does whet degenerate appetites that will grow to dangerous proportions as times get leaner and meaner.

Just as the right-populists were not content to accept their “defeat” in the First Battle of Berkeley, the left-radicals will not just lick their wounds after the Third Battle of Berkeley. The right is reporting chatter among the left of bringing firearms next time. Such militarization will only breed more polarization and radicalization on the left and the right, both which are driven by a desire to wield state power. And it will provide the police state with a welcome excuse to further assault our already-decimated liberties.

The left-wing combatants claim to be anarchists, and yet are furthering centralized power. The right-wing combatants claim to be for liberty, and yet are putting liberty in danger. If these conflicts continue to escalate, no matter which side “wins,” liberty will lose.

EDIT (4/18/17): Some of the interesting responses to this article made me realize one of the key problems. Too many people are more anti-leftists and anti-communists than they are anti-leftism and anti-communism. For them, it’s more about the enemy tribes that hold pernicious ideas than the pernicious ideas themselves. This breeds a tribal warfare mentality that will only make things worse.

dan-sanchez

Dan Sanchez

Dan Sanchez is Managing Editor of FEE.org. His writings are collected at DanSanchez.me.

This article was originally published on FEE.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Why Iceland Doesn’t Have an Alt-Right Problem – Article by Camilo Gómez

Why Iceland Doesn’t Have an Alt-Right Problem – Article by Camilo Gómez

The New Renaissance HatCamilo Gómez
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With the recent rise to prominence of right-wing populist parties across Europe, it’s refreshing that Iceland has remained largely immune to such nationalistic rhetoric. On the continent, figures like Marine Le Pen in France and Geert Wilders in the Netherlands are capitalizing on what political scientists are calling a third wave of European populism that began after the international financial crisis of 2008. These parties are characterized by their anti-immigrant, and specifically, anti-Muslim sentiments. They fashion themselves the “protectors” of their homelands’ traditional culture against cosmopolitan globalism.

Yet, tiny Iceland has resisted this dirty brand of politics because of the rise of social movements that challenged the power structure of the Icelandic political establishment after the financial crisis of 2008. Unlike in other European countries, these social movements transformed themselves into a political movements, filling the vacuum of traditional center-right and center-left political parties, while also preventing far-right political projects from succeeding.

For starters, Iceland is a relatively young country that only became independent in 1944. It is a parliamentary democracy, based on coalitions because the Althing (parliament) has 63 members but a single party rarely has a clear majority. Unlike other Nordic countries, Iceland has been governed by the right for most of its history, either from the liberal conservative Independence Party or the center-right agrarian Progressive Party.

This changed after the international financial crisis of 2008, which led all three Icelandic commercial banks to default. The crisis generated massive anger as Icelanders didn’t know what was going to happen with their savings. This led to massive protests that culminated in the resignation of the Prime Minister who was a member of the Independence Party.  Consequently, in April 2009, a left-wing coalition by the Social Democratic Alliance and the Left-Green Movement formed a government together for the first time in the country’s history.

This grassroots activism led to the appearance of outsider political projects like the now defunct Best Party, which started as political satire but ended with its leader Jón Gnarr winning the mayoral election in Reykjavík in 2010. More importantly, grassroots activism was further encouraged by the Panama Papers, which revealed that the Prime Minister of Iceland, Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson of the Progressive Party and his wife, had an undisclosed account in an offshore tax haven. The ensuing protests became the largest in Iceland’s history, and made the Prime Minister resign. This led the way for the Pirate Party — a loose collection of anarchists, hackers and libertarians — to rise in prominence. Because of the Pirates, the national discussion shifted to a more socially tolerant narrative of a society willing to be open to the world.

Thus, Iceland’s 2016 elections presented very different options from the relatively traditional Independence Party and Progressive Party or the Social Democratic Alliance and Left-Green Movement. In addition to the Pirate Party,  voters could also choose from the Bright Party, an eclectic socially liberal party, and the Reform Party, a new liberal party formed by defectors of the Independence Party. The elections led to a center-right coalition between the Independence Party, the Reform Party and the Bright Party.

Rather than blaming immigrants for their problems, Icelanders confronted the political class and created new parties that didn’t resemble the wave of far-right populism. Now even the government realizes that Iceland needs immigrants, skilled and unskilled, to fulfill the demand in different aspects of the Icelandic economy. Contrary to other countries in Europe, and despite its size, Iceland had been willing to receive refugees, and the number of immigrants in Iceland keeps growing year by year. In times of demagoguery, Iceland remains friendly to foreigners. One can only hope that the world learn from this small country that foreigners bring prosperity.

Camilo Gómez is a blogger at The Mitrailleuse and the host of Late Night Anarchy podcast. He can be found in Twitter at @camilomgn. He is a Young Voices Advocate.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Jews As the Enemies of the Enemies of Liberty – Article by Steven Horwitz

Jews As the Enemies of the Enemies of Liberty – Article by Steven Horwitz

The New Renaissance HatSteven Horwitz
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Anti-Semitism, it’s often said, is the oldest prejudice. The hatred of Jews has waxed and waned over the centuries, but appears to be back with something of a vengeance over the last few years, and especially the last few months.

For example, on Monday, February 27, over two dozen Jewish institutions across the country received bomb threats by anonymous phone calls. These included Jewish Community Centers, synagogues, retirement homes, day care centers, and Jewish educational institutions. These threats are part of a pattern of such threats, including multiple cemetery desecrations, that has been ongoing over the last few months. There have been 100 such threats to Jewish institutions just since the beginning of 2017.

Every time such a threat is called in, these institutions have to clear the building to determine if it is just a hoax. This means rounding up children, infants, the elderly, the infirm, and the developmentally disabled, getting them out of the building and, often, out in the cold, for the hour or two it takes to confirm all is clear. Although, thankfully, these have all turned out to be hoaxes, they still are taking a real toll on the Jewish community and the non-Jews who make use of these institutions. They are, I would argue, a form of terrorism.

The Why of Anti-Semitism

There has been much debate over why these threats have increased in recent months, and it seems plausible that the increased brazenness of the “politically incorrect,” including the rise of the alt-right, in the wake of the Trump campaign is probably one key factor. But anti-Semitism is not solely a problem on the Right. The political Left has had its own history of hatred for Jews, manifested in the present by the increased anti-Semitism of the radical Left in the context of criticism of Israel, especially through the Boycott, Divestments, and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

The sources of anti-Semitism on both Right and Left are complicated, but one element on both sides is that Jews have historically been associated with important liberal ideas such as capitalism, entrepreneurship, cosmopolitanism, and free migration. These institutions have enabled massive social, cultural, and economic change, empowering the previously powerless all over the world, and threatening the old order.

The enemies of liberalism have problems with all of these, though the Right and Left differ on which bothers them the most. But for both, Jews can be easily seen as the enemies of those who find deep flaws with the classical liberal social order. When Jews are being threatened, it is usually a good sign that the foundations of liberalism are as well.

Jewish Anti-Capitalism

One point to note up front is that Jews themselves have a history of opposition to classical liberalism. Jewish intellectuals have had a long-standing attraction to socialism, starting of course with Marx himself. In particular, a number of the architects of the Russian Revolution were Jews or of Jewish heritage.

I raise this because I am not arguing that Jews were somehow reliably classically liberal over the last few centuries. And the fact that a good number of Jews were socialist, or that a good number of socialists were Jews, certainly doesn’t justify anti-Semitism by critics of socialism.

I do think that part of the attraction of socialism to Jews was its universalist aspiration in the form of the trans-national cosmopolitan vision of classical socialism along with its desire to “heal the world” and its strong ethic of concern for the least well-off. Those aspirations were shared by 19th-century classical liberals and were also part of Jewish practice. This universalism made Jews the target of the critics of classical liberalism from the Right, as well as the right-wing critics of socialism.

Jewish Pro-Capitalism

The association of Jews with capitalism, trade, and entrepreneurship is well known. The negative stereotypes of acquisitiveness, materialism, and selfishness that have long been part of anti-Semitism grew out of the truth that Jews were more likely to be traders and financiers than were other groups. Part of this was that as a nomadic people, Jews invested in their human capital rather than the physical capital they would have had to schlep around while getting kicked out of country after country.

(This might also explain why Jews have also been disproportionately entertainers and intellectuals. The skills for telling jokes, writing stories, making music, or working in the realm of ideas are ones that don’t require much in the way of physical capital in order to be successful.)

Jews were also often middlemen as a result of their nomadic existence and familiarity with so many parts of the world. Middlemen have always been suspect to the economically ignorant as far back as Aristotle, as they appear to profit by creating nothing tangible. This is particularly true when the middlemen are in financial markets, where they are not even trading something physical.

It’s no surprise, therefore, that hatred of capitalism has been accompanied by hatred of the Jews

Right-wing anti-Semitism, however, often draws upon these capitalist tropes as part of its hatred. But in this context, Jews are not so much seen as representative of capitalist exploitation that can be ended by socialism, but rather as an example of people who place love of money and their universalist aspirations above the love of their country and its citizens.

German anti-Semitism in the 20th century had roots in the argument that Jews had been “war profiteers” in World War I and had benefitted from the economic destruction that characterized the Weimar Republic period leading up to Hitler’s ascension to power. The Nazis, and other fascist movements, saw the Jews as the sort of rootless cosmopolitans who were unable to grasp the importance of blood and soil.

The modern version of this point, and one that is also found on the Left, is the “dual loyalty” charge laid upon pro-Israel Jews: they are beholden to Israel in ways that cause them to work against the interests of the United States.

The Why of Nationalism

One way to see the “national socialism” of various fascist movements is that they objected not to socialism per se, but to socialism’s attempt to put class ahead of race or ethnicity or nationality. To the fascists, German or Italian workers shared much more with German or Italian capitalists than they did with Russian or American workers. Marxian socialism drew the wrong battle lines.

And so it is today, as “economic nationalism” is on the rise globally and Jews have again become the most obvious target for an invigorated Right. Jews have always been the symbol of the cosmopolitan, the migrant, and the “rootless” trader. If you reject market-driven globalization, whether because you dislike markets or because you are a nationalist, you are going to have reasons to see Jews as symbols of what you reject. That opposition to immigration and global trade, and the market system that is at the root of both, would go hand-in-hand with anti-Semitism is hardly surprising.

The economic nationalism of Trump and a variety of European leaders is not inherently anti-Semitic, nor does it require that the leaders of such movements be anti-Semites, but the arguments of economic nationalism can easily empower the anti-Semitism of both the Right and Left. The leaders build in plausible deniability, knowing full well the nature of the forces they are unleashing but in ways that avoid direct responsibility.

How could they not know? We have centuries of experience to draw on, back to the ancient world through the Middle Ages all the way to the ghastly slaughter of the 20th century during which anti-Semitism nearly destroyed the whole of Europe itself. The costs have been unspeakable, and hence the vow to never forget. And yet, despite this history, the tendency to forget remains. To remember would require that we think more clearly about ideology and philosophy, human rights and dignity. Many people do not want to do that. It remains easier to scapegoat than to remember.

Admittedly, we liberals have a special grudge against anti-Semitism. It broke up the greatest intellectual society of the 20th century, shattering Viennese intellectual life, flinging even Ludwig von Mises out of his home and into the abyss. His books were banned, and those of many others too. He and so many fled for their lives but bravely rebuilt them in the new world that offered protection.

A Warning Sign

It has been said that Jews are the canaries in the coal mine of a liberal society: when they are under threat, it is a warning sign. The ongoing and increasing threats to Jewish communities here in the US, as well as similar trends across Europe, should have all of us worried. A world where Jews sing out in joy together and are unafraid to fly free is one far more safe from tyranny than one in which we Jews worry about dying in our own cages, as many of us are doing as the threats to our institutions have become more frequent and more brazen in recent months.

Watch how a society treats Jews and you’ll have an indicator of its degree of openness and respect for liberty. When Jews are being threatened, so are the deepest of our liberal values. The poisonous air from coal mining that killed canaries was invisible. The threats to Jews and to liberalism are not. Citizens of liberal societies dismiss or downplay those threats at our own peril.

Steven Horwitz is the Charles A. Dana Professor of Economics at St. Lawrence University and the author of Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions. He is spending the 2016-17 academic year as a Visiting Scholar at the John H. Schnatter Institute for Entrepreneurship and Free Enterprise at Ball State University.

He is a member of the FEE Faculty Network.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

Playing Politics Can Be Fun until It Unleashes Hell – Article by Joey Clark

Playing Politics Can Be Fun until It Unleashes Hell – Article by Joey Clark

The New Renaissance HatJoey Clark
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Most politicians and their followers are not cynical enough about politics. They hate the players but not the game. Unlike me, they are cynical sentimentalists, i.e. they idealize politics yet are cynical towards any suggestion human beings should be set free from political control.

Though it may smack of paradox, I consider myself a hopeful cynic – hopeful in man’s spirit but not his politics. Accordingly, my political cynicism flows from my disappointed sentimentality.

Most politicians are not cynical enough about politics. They hate the players but not the game. As Oscar Wilde wrote in Lady Windermere’s Fan, a cynic is “a man who knows the price of everything, and the value of nothing” and a sentimentalist “is a man who sees an absurd value in everything and doesn’t know the market price of any single thing.” Together the two bring harmony.

Torn apart, they are blind in their own unique way, and in this way, the 2016 political season has rendered much of the American populace sightless. Some wish to present this presidential election as a clear-cut contest between cynical pachyderms and sentimental jackasses, but the truth, to steal another line from Wilde, is rarely so pure and never so simple.

As much as they will deny it, political factions are motivated by a mix of cynicism and sentimentality, sometimes within the very same individuals.

Even the most sentimental nincompoops – those who shed tears or fall into fits of hosannas upon hearing the most platitudinous political speech – turn cynical and stone-faced when confronted by their political opponents.

Even the most cynical demagogues – those who spit piss and vinegar in response to the most innocuous statements from their enemies – turn sentimental and misty-eyed in the presence of a president they love.

It seems one politico’s hopes are another politico’s fears. They appraise their enemy’s price as too high yet see absurd value in their champions.

The Donald’s Sentimentality

For example, even Donald Trump is not cynical enough about politics. Trump may very well be cynical and downright churlish towards, well, almost anyone (even babies) on any given day, but he is certainly a believer in the need for strong government leadership. Trump has, indeed, boosted his popularity by stoking the flames of resentment, but the essence of this resentment is the betrayed sentimentality of “the people.”

Trump and his supporters idealize America just as much as the next group. Holding true to a golden age image of the country, they are disappointed by an ever-changing world that continually shatters their “perfect” picture of the nation. They are cynical of what they see as “un-American,” and they have hitched their hopes to Trump’s politics to save their culture as they see it.

Thus, Trump’s slogan may not be “Burn America Down” as Democrats would have you believe, but he is certainly a flaming nationalist. His program may not be great for many people living in America, but “America” is, indeed, the ultimate standard of good and evil on the Trump train. One cannot be cynical about politics qua politics and a nationalist at the same time. No, nationalism is for the teary-eyed evangelicals and patriotic bomb throwers, Trump being the latter. But how about the former?

Enter Hillary Clinton.

Hillary’s Cynicism

Hillary Clinton, like most progressives, prides herself on her forward-looking and optimistic approach. She and her ilk apparently claim to loathe cynicism. As Senator Cory Booker said at the Democratic National Convention surrounded by a friendly mob of fellow sentimentalists, “Cynicism is a refuge for cowards.” Of course, by “cynicism” Cory, Hillary, and their do-gooder cronies mean anyone who does not wish to consent to their progressive plans to save the world. To hear them speak about peace, love, and community one would think such things were impossible without the imposition of the state.

What makes progressives so sentimental about people using state power yet cynical towards people acting voluntarily, I will never truly know.What makes progressives so sentimental about people using state power yet cynical towards people acting voluntarily, I will never truly know, but I suspect they do not trust the motives of many of their fellow men, especially not Donald Trump. Their assessment of Trump may be correct, but their appraisal of their own sentiments is utterly lacking. Their worship at the altar of state power seems to have turned them blind to the ironies of the “progressive” history and project.

For instance, of all the ways Hillary could take down Trump’s fear-mongering, she chose to say this in her acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention:“Well, a great Democratic President, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, came up with the perfect rebuke to Trump more than eighty years ago, during a much more perilous time. ’The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.’”

Yes, Hillary, how wise of you to quote a man who brought us Japanese internment camps, turned away Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany, and set the price of gold based on “lucky numbers.” But, I suppose, since FDR is a demigod in the progressive civic religion, his cynicism and quackery can be overlooked, as can the ugly, cynical history of progressive policies such as the minimum wage.

Again, if only Hillary, Donald and their respective acolytes were more cynical about politics qua politics, we would all be better off. But what about the most cynical bunch in American politics today, the alt-right meme team?  How could a group of folks who “pretend” to be Nazis ever be helped by more political cynicism?

And why would one ever want to pretend to be a Nazi anyway?

Pretend Nazis Need Cynicism Too

Enter Charles Bukowski:

“At L.A. City College just before World War II, I posed as a Nazi. I hardly knew Hitler from Hercules and cared less. It was just that sitting in class and hearing all the patriots preach how we should go over and do the beast in, I grew bored. I decided to become the opposition. I didn’t even bother to read up on Adolf, I simply spouted anything that I felt was evil or maniacal.

However, I really didn’t have any political beliefs. It was a way of floating free.”

This is how Bukowski’s short story, “Politics”, begins, and his reasons for his posing as a Nazi – ”boredom” and “floating free” – sound quite similar to those prescribed to the alt-right “meme team” by that frivolous troll, Milo Yiannopoulos, and his colleague, Allum Bokhari, in their crash course on the alt-right:

These young rebels, a subset of the alt-right, aren’t drawn to it because of an intellectual awakening, or because they’re instinctively conservative. Ironically, they’re drawn to the alt-right for the same reason that young Baby Boomers were drawn to the New Left in the 1960s: because it promises fun, transgression, and a challenge to social norms they just don’t understand.

If this parallel continues into the future, things will probably not end well, at least not with mere lulz.

As Bukowski later relays in the story, his Nazi antics earned him disciples, but his acolytes took the whole charade much more seriously than he. After stumbling upon a Communist speaker outside of campus, one of his followers approached him with a bag of rotten tomatoes. Upon being told to put the tomatoes away, his follower said, “I wish they were hand grenades.”

“It occurred to me suddenly that my disciples hadn’t been listening to the speaker, or even if they had been, nothing he had said would matter,” writes Bukowski, “Their minds were made up. Most of the world was like that… I lost control of my disciples that day, and walked away as they started hurling their rotten tomatoes.”

The alt-right don’t want to get rid of the establishment; they want to replace it.I must hand it to the alt-right trolls – they are quite creative and prolific and, at times, hilarious in their cynical pose – but there is a difference between political cynicism and a general cynicism about the culture at large. One must be careful not to let those rotten tomatoes turn into hand grenades. Sadly, the alt-right purveyors of “ironic bigotry” may think they are simply having a little cynical fun, but their actions seem directed only towards the political establishment without rejecting the whole paradigm of political action.

They don’t want to get rid of the establishment; they want to replace it. In particular, if one is to fight, say, the excesses of political correctness for the sake of liberty (a worthy endeavor in my opinion,) the focus should be on neutering the “political” aspects of that equation rather than letting basic human decency fall into the abyss of reactionary nonsense or a babyish nihilism, all the while serving the ends of just another political faction.

Politics Pollutes Culture

Yes, politics may often be downstream from culture as Andrew Breitbart said, but it can also pollute the river of culture if allowed to become too permeating. Once politics comes to define a people, all that is left is an impending battle over whose culture will be imposed through the power of the state. In the face of such a looming war, it is understandable that people often despair only to hurl invective and material threats towards “the others” seen as the source of their angst. In such a world dominated by political power, it is understandable that politicos see anyone who is cynical about their projects as a threat to human solidarity.

But the true root of the problem is not the other nor political cynicism; it is the lust to dominate and control others within each of us. The tyrant in you is the tyrant in me, and if we are not careful, even our so-called reactions against tyranny can mutate into movements to destroy something beautiful for destruction’s sake.

What if we all become hopeful cynics – cynical of man’s lust to dominate his fellows, yet lovers of man all the same? That said, we should recognize even our enemies’ capacity for creative action and fellowship in their darkest hours. If such qualities can provide solace, even in sardonic and sadistic forms, to a select few in their most despairing moments, what can creative action and fellowship provide when we direct our cynical pose toward politics in general instead of just our opponents? What if we all become hopeful cynics – cynical of man’s lust to dominate his fellows, yet lovers of man all the same?

If I am being honest, I do not know what this pose would bring about, but this is exactly why hope is a virtue. Bukowski might disagree; he wrote in his short story, “I promise you, this will hardly be the last war. As soon as one enemy is eliminated somehow another is found. It’s endless and meaningless. There’s no such thing as a good war or a bad war.” Maybe he’s right, and the war of all against all is inevitable, but I hope not. Nor do I wish to save the world. That is much too idealistic. As our dirty old man poet says elsewhere in his novel Women, “You begin saving the world by saving one man at a time; all else is grandiose romanticism or politics.”

Maybe, just maybe, each of us can first save ourselves and then others, one by one, with a hope in the uncertain beyond for man’s society if not his politics.

Joey ClarkJoey Clark

Joey Clark is a budding wordsmith and liberty lover. He blogs under the heading “The Libertarian Fool” at joeyclark.liberty.me. Follow him on Facebook.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

Nazis on Twitter? That’s What Blocking Is For – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

Nazis on Twitter? That’s What Blocking Is For – Article by Jeffrey A. Tucker

The New Renaissance HatJeffrey A. Tucker
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I’ve followed the fascinating case of Jonathan Weisman, The New York Times’s deputy Washington editor, and his conflagration with the legions of Nazis on Twitter. After he tweeted an essay about the rise of fascism in the U.S. — an essay not unlike the one I wrote this time last year — he was dogpiled by a variety of crazy alt-right accounts, and bombarded by some deeply malicious messaging.

You wake in the morning and find 100 notifications from people calling you a tool of the Jews.It might have been new to him, but for most curious Internet users of a certain generation, this is nothing new. For Weisman, it came as a shock, and understandably. The tweets featured photoshopped images of Weisman being marched to the gas chambers, for example. They threatened him with vile anti-Semitic and hard-core racist rhetoric.

He knew that if he merely claimed that this happened, he would be met with incredulity by a mainstream audience. To make sure that people believed him, he spent the day retweeting the vile messages to his followers, as if to say: “this stuff really does exist.”

I know exactly what he means. After my first critical article on Trump last year, one in which I reported on an early campaign speech I watched, I was trolled hard too. You wake in the morning and find 100 notifications from people calling you a tool of the Jews, slamming you with racist cartoons, telling you that you have sold out the white race, and even calling for your death.

These are people who perhaps begin their trajectory with some harmless anti-PC racial banter, but it escalates to become a full-scale political ideology, one that eventually crowds out all concern for human rights and decency. What they have joined isn’t a real army with guns, but when you are targeted it is still emotionally draining and politically frightening to say the least.

It’s supposed to be. That’s why they do it. The point is to shake you up, and make you feel like you are being bombarded.

When I told people about it, they didn’t believe it, or didn’t want to believe it. I too ended up screenshotting and posting in private messages, just to make the point that these vile movements do indeed exist. Even then, people doubt, probably because the sheer aggressiveness of this crowd is rather new in public life, at least in the US.

Hatred, Left and Right

For most of my writing career, I’ve been called a corporate shill by the left, a puppet of the Kochtopus, an apologist for capitalist exploitation and frankenfood. None of the attacks from the left have matched the sheer vitriol of those from the supposed opposite side. These days, though I hold the same libertarian perspective I always have, I’m being denounced as a witting dupe of the rootless commercial class, a shill for the global banksters and usurers, a cuckservative (look it up), and probably a secret Jew myself.

Welcome to Twitter in 2016.

The world truly does seem to be dividing between authoritarians of the right and left, and the rest of us. At some point in last year, hundreds of bitter people left their 4chan caves and became Twitter mavens. It became the choice venue for the far right, which has developed its own internal signaling systems such as putting the signs ((( ))) around ostensibly “known Jews.” They use swastikas as avatars. They post Nazi-era caricatures of Jews. And the rhetoric is a revival of interwar hate that most people believe was vanquished from the earth with the defeat of the Nazis 70 years ago.

Not all the accounts are so blatant. Some prefer the dog-whistle approach in their own posting and merely retweet the more hard-core material. After a while, you can become very talented at spotting the members of this internet junta, and have it confirmed with only one or two degrees of separation from the more overt deniers and/or celebrators of the actual Holocaust (strange how deniers and celebrators hang out together).

Just as left socialism never seems to go away, no matter how many economic disasters it brings about, so it is with national socialism with a rightest tinge. In fact, it seems to be growing, both in Europe and the US, posing a serious challenge to those of us who consider ourselves classical liberals: hard opposition to the left and to the right. As I’ve written elsewhere, the world truly does seem to be dividing between authoritarians of the right and left, opposed consistently by a small but growing group of genuine liberals all over the world.

Terms of Use

Now, to be sure, Jonathan Weisman was exactly right to wonder why Twitter puts up with this stuff. As he points out, banning such accounts is not censorship; this is a private venue that can set its own rules, same as a restaurant or movie theater. And Twitter does indeed have rules against “hateful conduct” that threatens people based on religion and ethnicity, as well as a policy on harassment that prohibits targeting people and inciting others to do the same. There’s no question that these accounts are in violation.

Why doesn’t Twitter act? Well, it sometimes does. After the Weisman articles, Twitter banned some 30 or so accounts. What happened to them? It’s pretty easy: they can easily come back again with another user name. In this sense, Twitter is, by design, much easier to game than Google or Facebook, both of which have much stricter policies. Sockpuppeting is a way of life here.

How does a digital venue decide how strict to be on these matters? It is all about the value of the platform for users. Sometimes tighter is better and other times it is not. In the case of Twitter, a main contribution it makes to global culture is its openness to all. You can find and see and hear just about anything. You can curate your feed. You can include or exclude. Sure, that takes a bit of work, but it is more than worth it.

For Facebook and LinkedIn, matters are very different. Permitting hate, harassment, sex solicitation, porn, and so on, is a problem for the kind of culture they want to create for members. And so it is more carefully policed. Again, this is not censorship anymore than a restaurant that demands shoes is violating human rights. You have the human right to be a Nazi all you want on your own property, but you don’t have the right to do so on property that belongs to others.

What To Do?

As it turns out, the nasty junta of hate-spewing freaks is not an army after all.When this started happening to me, I was initially disoriented and, I admit, a bit shaken. But then it struck me that Twitter surely has permitted a way to deal with this. Sure enough, there is a little gear that allows you to select a pretty little option: block. With the block, that account can no longer contact you or post among your notifications. Quite simply, you stop hearing from them.

I spent about a month doing this to trolls. Oddly, it is very satisfying. Someone tags you in a hate-filled post. With one click, you can blast them out of your curated universe. Once I got the hang of it, it became a game. Instead of getting mad, you just get even. Well, not really. But it sort of feels like it.

You know what? It works. After blocking about 100 accounts over the course of the fall, the problem almost entirely vanished. As it turns out, the nasty junta of hate-spewing freaks is not an army after all. In the end, we might in fact be talking about a few hundred accounts. Maybe it is more. And maybe after this article, they will all be back.

It might not be possible to make them all go away, but there is a way to reduce the influx and almost eliminate the stress. That’s not to minimize the alarming rise of fascism in politics here and abroad, but only to say that we are wise to distinguish between reality and digital illusion.

Blocking Is Betting than Beatings

And this is a much better option than leaning hard on Twitter to do more enforcement of its own terms of use. As much as these people disgust me, I would actually prefer to live in a world in which even deranged Nazis have access to widely available communication channels. I won’t invoke the right of free speech here because that’s not what this is about.

I will, however, say a good word for openness to all – and I mean all – points of view, access to media by all the world’s people (this is a wonderful miracle), and, above all else, the right of individuals to exclude through blocking. This is the way the opinion market should work. This is how we curate our own intellectual lives.

What we absolutely do not need – which Europe has tried to do – are government controls on what types of opinions one is allowed to hold and what books one is allowed to read. If you want violent extremism to grow, this is a great path towards guaranteeing that it will. Shutting people up by force is not the solution. The block button is far more effective than any censor.

Jeffrey Tucker is Director of Digital Development at FEE, CLO of the startup Liberty.me, and editor at Laissez Faire Books. Author of five books, he speaks at FEE summer seminars and other events. His latest book is Bit by Bit: How P2P Is Freeing the World.  Follow on Twitter and Like on Facebook. 

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

 

Donald Trump and Obi-Wan’s Gambit – Article by Daniel Bier

Donald Trump and Obi-Wan’s Gambit – Article by Daniel Bier

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier

You Cannot Win By Losing

In Star Wars: A New Hope, the last Jedi Knight, Obi-Wan Kenobi, is confronted by his former pupil, Darth Vader, as he races to escape the Death Star. The two draw their lightsabers and pace warily around each other. After deflecting some heavy blows from Vader, Obi-Wan’s lightsaber flickers, and he appears tired and strained.

Vader gloats, “Your powers are weak, old man.”

The hard-put Obi-Wan replies, “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine.”

Obi-Wan backs away from Vader but finds his escape cut off by storm troopers. He is trapped. He gives a mysterious smile, raises his lightsaber, and allows Vader to cut him in half.

This is Obi-Wan’s gambit, or the “win by losing” strategy. Lately, it has emerged as a distinct genre of commentary about Donald Trump.

Take, for example, “The Article About Trump That Nobody Will Publish,” which promotes itself as having been rejected by 45 publications. That’s a credit to America’s editors, because the article is an industrial strength brew of wishful thinking, a flavor that is already becoming standard fare as a Trump presidency looms.

The authors give a boilerplate denunciation of Trump (he’s monstrous, authoritarian, unqualified, etc.), but then propose:

What would happen should Trump get elected? On the Right, President Trump would force the GOP to completely reorganize — and fast. It would compel them to abandon their devastating pitch to the extreme right. …

On the Left, the existence of the greatest impossible dread imaginable, of President Trump, would rouse sleepy mainline liberals from their dogmatic slumber. It would force them to turn sharply away from the excesses of its screeching, reality-denying, uncompromising and authoritarian fringe that provided much of Trump’s thrust in the first place.

Our daring contrarians predict, Trump “may actually represent an unpalatable but real chance at destroying these two political cancers of our time and thus remedying our insanity-inflicted democracy.”

You can’t win, Donald! Strike me down and I shall be… forced to completely reorganize and/or roused from dogmatic slumber!

The authors assert these claims as though they were self-evident, but they’re totally baffling. Why would a Trump win force the GOP to abandon the voters and rhetoric that drove it to victory? Why would it reorganize against its successful new leader? Why would a Hillary Clinton loss empower moderate liberals over the “reality-defying fringe”? Why would the left turn away from the progressives who warned against nominating her all along?

This is pure, unadulterated wishful thinking. There is no reason to believe these rosy forecasts would materialize under President Trump. That is not how partisan politics tends to work. Parties rally to their nominee, and electoral success translates into influence, influence into power, power into friends and support.

We’ve already seen one iteration of this “win by losing” fantasy come and go among the Never Trump crowd: the idea that Trump’s mere nomination would be a good thing, because (depending on your politics) it would (1) compel Democrats to nominate Bernie Sanders, (2) propel Clinton to a landslide general election victory, or (3) destroy the GOP and (a) force it to rebuild as a small-government party, (b) split it in two, or (c) bring down the two-party system.

But, of course, none of those things happened. Clinton has clinched the nomination over Sanders (his frantic protests notwithstanding). Meanwhile, Clinton’s double digit lead over Trump has evaporated, and the race has narrowed to a virtual tie. Far from “destroying the GOP,” Trump has consolidated the support of the base and racked up the endorsements of dozens of prominent Republicans who had previously blasted him, including Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan.

The GOP is not being destroyed — it is being gradually remade in Trump’s image, perhaps into his dream of a populist “workers’ party,” heavy on the protectionism, nativism, and authoritarianism. Meanwhile, knee-jerk partisanship and fear of Clinton are reconciling the center-right to Trump.

Moderates win by defeating the fringe, not by losing to it. Yet, for some reason, conservatives, liberals, and libertarians all like to fantasize that the worst case scenario would actually fulfill their fondest wishes, driving the nation into their losing arms — as though their failure would force the party or the public do what they wanted all along. This is the bad-breakup theory of politics: Once they get a taste of Trump, they’ll realize how great we were and love us again.

But the public doesn’t love losers. (Trump gets this and has based his whole campaign around his relentless self-promotion as a winner.) Trump’s inauguration would indeed be a victory for him and for his “alt-right” personality cult, and a sign of defeat for limited-government conservatives and classical liberals — not because our ideology was on the ballot, but because all our efforts did not prevent such a ballot.

Trump embodies an ideology that is anathema to classical liberalism, and if he is successful at propelling it into power, we cannot and should not see it as anything less than a failure to persuade the public on the value of liberty, tolerance, and limited government. Nobody who is worried about extreme nationalism and strong man politics should be taken in by the idea that their rapid advance somehow secretly proves their weakness and liberalism’s strength.

This does not mean that we’re all screwed, or that a Trump administration will be the end of the world — apocalyptic thinking is just another kind of dark fantasy. As horrible as Trumpism may be, it cannot succeed without help. And here’s the good news: Most Americans aren’t really enamored with Trump’s policies. The bad news is that they could still become policy.

Classical liberals who oppose Trump should realize that things aren’t going to magically get better on their own. We cannot try to Obi-Wan our way out of this. We will have to actually make progress — in education, academia, journalism, policy, activism, and, yes, even electoral politics.

If this seems like an impossible task at the moment, just remember that the long-sweep of history and many trends in recent decades show the public moving in a more libertarian direction. It can be done, and there’s fertile ground for it. We have to make the argument for tolerance and freedom against xenophobia and authoritarianism — and we have to win it. The triumph of illiberalism will not win it for us.

Daniel Bier is the site editor of FEE.org He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.