Caught this article by Jerry Salcido over on Campaign for Liberty's site. In light of the points he raises, I'd like to relate a few anecdotes of my own on the issue.
At the fall semester activities fair this year, some of the local LP guys showed up. This was good, they should be helping us with recruitment. What was not good was that they were also handing out 9/11 conspiracy theory DVDs and pamphlets as well as copies of America: Freedom to Fascism, a movie which holds that the income tax is a massive fraud perpetrated by big financial sector interests on the American people. I'm pretty sure The Obama Deception was in there too.
We were next to a student anti-genocide club. One of the conspiracy theorist pamphleteers gets drawn into a discussion. Upon hearing that they're an anti-genocide group, what do you imagine is the first thing he says? Not, "I think genocide is one of the worst consequences of totalitarianism; we should fight genocide at the source." Not, "I think you'll find a lot of similar-minded people in the libertarian movement, although some of them may have different ideas about how to solve the problem than you might."
The first thing the guy says is:
"Did you know that the AIDS virus was created by the government to wipe out the black population in Africa?"
I paraphrase, of course.
What did this guy think he was accomplishing? Have enough people, upon hearing him say this, all of a sudden said, "Wow, I had never heard that, tell me more!" that he's come to think that leading with that line is the way to go?
Or maybe, as was the case this time, did the person he was talking to usually just start smiling and nodding for the rest of the conversation?
I sort of collect conspiracy theories, the way some people collect the pamphlets that some evangelicals hand out on street corners.
I was reminded of one of my favorites at the End the Fed rally I documented a few blog posts ago. One of the fellows on the megaphone relates how the Federal Reserve literally deals in blood. At the beginning he talks about how by enabling deficit spending, the Fed finances America's unending global war on everything. Fair enough. Then he explains how our debt to China is secured in human lives, and if you want proof, just put your Social Security number into the New York Stock Exchange.
My friend tried this later and did not report success. I suspect it was because he didn't make the correct Bilderberg-Illuminati gang sign when he hit the enter key. He didn't have a webcam running, but they know anyway.
I think that's enough for now. Let's suppose, then, that every single conspiracy theory is true. Ok. What now?
Do we seek to expose the conspiracy to the light of day? Won't this more likely have the effect of, I don't know, getting us unceremoniously killed, than, say, ending mankind's suffering at the hands of tyrants? Let's say that by some miracle, our efforts to throw open the curtains succeed, and every television in America shows irrefutable proof that an international banking cabal controls world politics. What then? The citizens take to the streets, and throw the bastards out? The bastards hiding behind tanks and missiles? Are the world's soldiers going to stop obeying orders because of a TV show?
What happens when the whole thing gets retconned by the corporate media as just a joke made in poor taste, or an accidentally leaked trailer from a new movie?
Libertarians of all stripes are fond of saying that truth is power, that truth will set us free.
Power is power. We will set us free.
Power is power. But libertarians don't want power--a trait that makes them unique among all political factions. They don't want it, but they sure as hell need it. To dismantle the apparatus of oppression, we need to be in the driver's seat. Because that's where the kill switch is.
Whether you're a gradualist or a revolutionary, before anything can happen, the libertarian movement needs power. It needs resources and legitimacy and reach and so on.
So what? For starters:
- No matter how right you are, you had better be prepared to spend as much on hair care as Mitt Romney and John Edwards. Combined.
- For most people, radicalism is not a conversation-starter. It is a conversation-ender. Our core message is simple and relatable. Freedom is more ethical than tyranny, freedom is more effective than tyranny. Put that in your own words, and repeat it to people. A lot.
- We are weird. Most people know very, very little about economics of any kind, and nothing at all about Austrian economics (or whatever freedom-oriented flavor of economics you like). Most people would prefer to maintain this state of affairs. Monday Night Football is on in ten minutes, and they don't want to miss kickoff listening to you explain capital consumption.
- Again, we are weird. Politics is boring. Political theory is even more boring. Jefferson is an old dead guy. Locke is an older, deader guy. Megan Fox is a young, living woman, and therefore automatically less boring. Also, you can see her on the same screen as giant robots which occasionally turn into giant explosions. There is a reason you spent your weekend at a tea party and your neighbor spent his or her weekend at Transformers 2.
- Well, I'm not sure I can top that last image. But I have to press on anyway.
- Talk to people about things they care about. People don't care about monetary policy. They do care about accountability. This is why Dr. Paul's Audit-the-Fed bill has about one billion cosponsors and his End-the-Fed bill...yeah.
- Anarchism is a nuanced and coherent political philosophy. It is also what the protesters at the G20 in Pittsburgh who broke the window of Pamela's Diner claimed to believe in. Barack Obama likes Pamela's, because the hotcakes have crispy edges. The point is buried in here somewhere.
- Power doesn't mean force. There is a world of literature on how to get your way without holding a gun to anyone's head. I, and you, should read more of it.
- The Republican party is ours for the taking. The neocons are on the defensive and the theocrats aren't what they once were. The teapartiers are willing to listen to what we have to say, and many of them are with us already.
- Education is important. It is not more important than getting people elected.
In any case, it is my hope that by the time I run for office, libertarianism will be mainstream enough that I won't have to answer any questions about electability or how my supporters are all insane. Because, you know, Obama's supporters are all completely stable, and Minnesota didn't elect a professional wrestler Governor. A professional wrestler who is currently the host of a television show about conspiracy theories.