Episode 005: Jared was a guest on the Everything Voluntary podcast in May 2018. With host Skyler Collins, they discussed the following topics: the Pacific northwest, career electrician, second marriage and dating, his political journey, Jack Spirko, Stefan Molyneux, Austrian economics, Lysander Spooner, challenging jurisdiction, Larken Rose, cognitive dissonance, outgroup bigotry, and more.Open This Content
Back when I was a follower of a religion which condemned homosexuality, I went along and believed it was wrong, just like I was told to believe. Still, I could never really figure out how it was supposed to be a threat to me. I didn’t give it that much thought.
During my teenage years I had begun to realize my youngest sister was probably a lesbian, although I never said anything to her about it. It wasn’t an issue and was none of my business until she chose to make it my business.
In my early 20s I got “hit on” by an older guy at a park while I was taking my lunch break away from work. I wasn’t rude– I just mentioned my wife and hinted I wasn’t interested. There was no problem; the guy just went on his way.
Years later, a gay friend hit on me at karaoke one night. Again I just said I wasn’t interested in guys and let it drop. We remained friends.
I’ve been propositioned online several times over the years, especially during the chat room days. There was no need for me to be rude about it. I can’t blame someone for taking a chance.
As the years passed I became more and more libertarian (even before I knew what to call it). This powered up my inability to be offended over such things. I came to see that all humans have equal and identical rights, and that’s that. No one has “extra” rights; no one has “limited” rights. Your sexuality doesn’t even figure in. I see this more clearly every passing day.
Which brings us to now. There is one apparently homosexual person who is offending me, and some are trying to twist my offense into being about homosexuality. I don’t think it is.
My 11-year-old daughter has a “frienemy” who has been trying to bully her– with the encouragement of the girl’s parents– into a lesbian relationship. It has been going on for a year and a half now. This girl acts like a friend until she draws my daughter in, and then she does the nastiest, meanest things I have ever seen a kid do– totally crushing my daughter with her backstabbing. This drives my daughter away from her. As soon as she realizes my daughter is out of her control, she acts sweet and reels her in again– and convinces her that she’s my daughter’s only “real friend” and that her parents can’t be trusted. This repeats endlessly. This has led to some difficult and uncomfortable parenting decisions on my part.
The other girl’s parents have even tried to talk my daughter into leaving home and moving in with their family so the girls can be together. They are all trying to make this into an issue of anti-gay bigotry, when it is nothing of the sort. You abuse and backstab my daughter, and manipulate her to try to drive a wedge between us, and I don’t care who or what you are. I’ll hope for your destruction. My older daughter was trapped in an abusive heterosexual relationship for 7 of the last 8 years of her life. This is a line you don’t want to cross with me. My tolerance for such things has been used up.
“Mad” doesn’t begin to cover it.
My daughter can choose to be in a developmentally appropriate relationship with whoever she chooses, but I will do what I can to protect her from an abuser. And this girl is quite definitely an abuser and a bully, even if my daughter refuses to see it.
And, by the way, my (lesbian) sister agrees with me.
Interesting times.Open This Content
Editor’s Break 107 has Skyler giving his commentary on the following topics: the value in granting birthright citizenship in order to reduce the amount of coercion leveled at people by governments; the challenge in tailoring your rhetoric, written or spoken, for a broader audience; what libertarianism has to say about bigotry, such as racism and sexism; and more. (Apologies for the audio quality.)
Subscribe via RSS here, or in any podcast app by searching for “everything voluntary”.Open This Content
One runs a risk whenever one cites the 20th century’s great terror states while discussing current ominous developments in the western democracies. Apparent comparisons of the United States or western and central European countries to Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia will inevitably be hooted down with accusations of alarmist conspiracy-mongering and worse, shameful ahistoricity. Nevertheless, that must not keep us from noticing and pointing to contemporary events that bear an eerie resemblance, however slight, to things that went on in those totalitarian terror states. Such regimes don’t spring up overnight. They emerge, and looking at history, we can see that their more or less gradual emergence have telltale signs that we would do well to keep an eye out for. We can’t rest comfortably with the cliche that “it can’t happen here.” Yes, we run the risk of overinterpreting events, but perhaps that is better than underinterpreting them.
America today (though this is not new) is a place where the embers of fear of the outsider are being vigorously fanned from the very top of the political system. This is too clear to need substantiation. Just reread Donald Trump’s announcement of his candidacy for president three years ago, then observe his subsequent speeches, tweets, and actions. How revealing is his opportunism in seizing on any act of violence by an immigrant — “legal” or “illegal” — as though it were the rule rather than an anomaly! His not-so-subtle message is that all outsiders, and not just actual proven perpetrators, are by nature capable of atrocities against Americans and that those who have abstained until now can’t be trusted to continue their nonviolent ways. It’s not that they have the burden of proving their peaceful intentions; rather, it’s that they can never prove themselves trustworthy and thus eligible to live among us.
To what purpose does Trump communicate this message? It would be a mistake to to reply that it is only to advance his agenda of cutting — for cultural as well as economic reasons — even “legal” immigration and the admittance of refugees. It goes deeper than that. It is plainly to reinforce his “America First” nationalist religion with which he seeks permanently to transform — Trumpize, we may say — America. (His economic nationalist drive against global trade, the wealth-enhancing division of labor, is part of this program. In his eyes, it is ipso facto patriotic to “hire American and buy American” and therefore disloyal to think or do otherwise.) For Trump, the purity of America has been compromised long enough by the venal leaders of the past. Time to undo the damage. Step one: reduce, on the way the eliminating, the inflow of even more outsiders. And we can see the signs of step two: ridding America of “outsiders” who are already here, indeed, who have been living here peacefully for decades, including adults who were brought here “illegally” as children (so-called Dreamers) and who know no other society, and adults who are suspected, without hard evidence or due process, of having been granted U.S. citizenship only because of allegedly fraudulent documents.
Such measures, supported by ranting tweets and ominously familiar rally harangues, communicate one thing: the targeted groups consist of lesser persons if they are persons at all. Thus their children may be seized and held in camps, and parents deported without knowing the fate of their children. Unaccompanied children seeking refuge from violence are shut away in overstretched detention facilities and “tent cities,” left in the charge of quintessential bureaucrats. (See “Detention of Migrant Children Has Skyrocketed to Highest Levels Ever.”) Trump partisans, who scream whenever local Child Protective Services takes Americans’ children away, are unmoved when the parents Trump targets are outsiders, or “aliens.” “It’s the law” is an entirely satisfactory explanation for those partisans in the latter case, but not in the former. Victimless technical violations committed by an American parent are rejected as grounds for such a drastic measure as family separation, but an equally victimless technical violation (“illegal entry,” failure to have government papers) is regarded as something approaching a capital offense. What does that tell us?
It tells us that outsiders are not only unwanted; they are intrinsically unworthy of being wanted because, as outsiders, they are less than human. So why care that many of the “illegals” seek asylum from inhuman conditions in their home countries? Send them back where they belong! They don’t belong here! So they are stateless, countryless, superfluous, rightless, which how Hannah Arendt described refugees, having been one herself.
It would be terrifying enough if what we are seeing in the Trump administration were novel. But it is not. We see it in other places, and we’ve seen it before in the not-too-distant past. In America, the novelty is that Trump’s recent predecessors, however ruthless their deportation programs, did not engage in Trump-style dehumanizing rhetoric. But, then, Trump wants to do more than just enforce bad “law”: through actions and words, he aims to brand the outsider as threatening to national security. (A similar tone can be heard in defenses of earlier American anti-immigrant statutes.)
Stripping human beings of their personhood as well as their natural rights should make us all recoil. It is not only immoral in its own right; it is corrosive to our society because it encourages people to emote (I hesitate to say think) and act in immoral and self-destructive ways. Consider the fact that the Trump administration has no trouble finding men and women who are willing to seize children from their mothers and fathers and place them in strange facilities; to capture people who are trying only to escape violence and tyranny; and cage people who are simply looking for work and a better life in a freer land. Those government agents are not conscripts. They can quit their jobs. Why don’t they? Is this Hannah Arendt’s “banality of evil”: unexceptional people just “doing their jobs” in order feed their own children, advance in their careers, and someday retire in modest comfort? (See her Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil.) Do they sleep well at night? Can they look at themselves in the mirror? Why wouldn’t they be able to do those things? They are being good citizens, serving their country, following lawful orders. Indeed, they are involved in something greater than themselves, which happens also to relieve them of personal responsibility, or at least they might think so. (In this connection, I recommend Leonard E. Read’s important essays “On That Day Began Lies” and “Conscience on the Battlefield.”)
Are there parallels in the past? We need only consult Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism. Note carefully the full title. Horrors can begin small, putting good people off-guard perhaps until it’s too late.
Discussing the prelude to the horror that was Nazi Germany, Arendt wrote:
In comparison with the insane end-result — concentration-camp society — the process by which men are prepared for this end, and the methods by which individuals are adapted to these conditions, are transparent and logical. The insane mass manufacture of corpses is preceded by the historically and politically intelligible preparation of living corpses. The impetus and what is more important, the silent consent to such unprecedented conditions are the products of those events which in a period of political disintegration suddenly and unexpectedly made hundreds of thousands of human beings homeless, stateless, outlawed and unwanted, while millions of human beings were made economically superfluous and socially burdensome by unemployment. This in turn could only happen because the Rights of Man, which had never been philosophically established but merely formulated, which had never been politically secured but merely proclaimed, have, in their traditional form, lost all validity.
The first essential step on the road to total domination is to kill the juridical person in man. This was done … by putting certain categories of people outside the protection of the law….
The road to domination requires the extinguishing of individuality, Arendt wrote, which represents “spontaneity,” subversive thought, and perhaps resistance. In Trump’s rants do we find any clue that the people he targets are individuals, each with his or her own story and aspirations? If we were to think about the victims that way, we — I include in the “we the border agents and detention officers — would be less likely to acquiesce, much less participate, in their mistreatment.
If “illegals” can be dehumanized, can we be so sure that groups of “legals” and even certain citizens won’t be subjected to the same sort of process? Arendt warned that “the politically most important yardstick for judging events in our time [is] whether they serve totalitarian domination or not.”
I am not saying that immigrant-detention facilities resemble the concentration camps that Arendt spent so much time examining. We are fortunate that traditional hard-fought minimum legal protections and the constellation of civil-liberties organizations that stand ready to pounce on as-yet illegal mistreatment certainly pose obstacles to any significant advance toward the terror state. But who can rest comfortably with just that?
We need something more. We need a broad-based and vigorous moral campaign to trumpet the humanity of detainees and those seeking entry, whether as immigrants or refugees. The public must be reminded that these are persons with names and loved one, and not merely numbers in a cold bureaucracy’s database.
Further, those who know better must work overtime to cultivate not only a love of the “Rights of Man” but a love of individuality, that is, diversity and pluralism. Ultimately, as Arendt suggested, it’s the only insurance policy against dehumanization, oppression, and its ultimate consequence: genocide.
This humanitarian campaign ought to include lessons in basic economics. Recession, depression, and unemployment breed superfluousness, despair, intolerance, bigotry, resentment — and, finally, the scapegoating of the outsider. We’ve seen this happen when the “outsiders” were Americans with darker skin. In contrast, people who have a sense of economic security and optimism have one less pretext for eying the outsider with suspicion. So we must preach that widespread and chronic economic distress has only one source: the state, with its manipulation, monetary and otherwise, of our economic relations. A freed economy — freed of trade and other restrictions — is thus another insurance policy against dehumanization and genocide. (For this reason, Albert Jay Nock, for example, worried in 1941 that economic upheaval spawned by the U.S. government’s profligacy endangered Jewish Americans. Similarly, in 1922 H. L. Mencken expressed this fear regarding the Jews of Germany.)
Waging this campaign would not be mere altruism. It would also be self-regarding in the noble sense of the Socrates, Aristotle, Benedict Spinoza, Frédéric Bastiat, John Stuart Mill, Herbert Spencer, Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, etc. By being good to others we are also being good to ourselves. Pluralism enables us to extend ourselves by giving us access to more knowledge, goods, and experiences than we as limited beings could ever acquire alone. In the Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle said that a “friend is another self.” Thus a freed and open society is like a super-self. Spencer and Menger analogized society to an organism, not to diminish the individual but to emphasize how a pluralist society augments each individual. Indeed, it maximizes each person’s power in Spinoza’s sense of the capacity to move toward excellence as rational social beings in the vast and infinite world.
To repeat, I am not saying Trump’s rants and policies constitute an inevitable prelude to a totalitarian nightmare. I am saying the nightmare could not befall us if dehumanization never took place.
“Totalitarian solutions,” Arendt wrote, “may well survive the fall of totalitarian regimes in the form of strong temptations which will come up whenever it seems impossible to alleviate political, social, or economic misery in a manner worthy of man.” Decency, then, depends on widespread understanding that a worthy remedy is indeed available: freedom, pluralism, and social cooperation.Open This Content
I and others have warned that enactment of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act now before Congress would threaten free speech and free inquiry on America’s college campuses and beyond. As I’ve explained, this bill incorporates a conception — a “definition” plus potential examples — of anti-Semitism that conflates criticism of Israel’s founding and continuing abuse of the Palestinians with anti-Semitism for the purpose inoculating Israel from such criticism. Anti-Zionist Jews and others have objected to this conflation for over 70 years.
What makes us so confident in predicting a threat to free speech?
We are confident in part because Donald Trump’s assistant secretary of education for civil rights, who would enforce the legislation, is Kenneth L. Marcus, whose record makes him the poster boy for the invidious conflation.
If this definition [of anti-Semitism] were adopted and implemented as Marcus would like, the DOE would be empowered to conclude that universities nurture hostile, anti-Semitic environments by allowing the screening of a documentary critical of Israel’s 50-year military occupation of Palestinian lands such as Occupation 101, a talk critical of Israeli policy by a Holocaust survivor, a mock checkpoint enacted by students to show their peers what Palestinian life under a military occupation is like, a talk on BDS [boycott-divestment-sanctions] campaigns for Palestinian rights, or student resolutions to divest from companies complicit in Israel’s human-rights abuses.
These aren’t hypotheticals. These speech activities were the subject of real legal complaints, filed or promoted by Marcus and his Brandeis Center against Brooklyn College (2013), University of California Berkeley (2012), and University of California Santa Cruz (2009). The complaints were filed to the same DOE office which Marcus has been nominated to head [and to which he has since been confirmed].
Crucially, all of these complaints were dismissed. Both a federal court and the DOE made clear that the activities at issue were not harassment against a protected group but constituted speech on matters of public concern, and therefore were protected by the First Amendment.
Marcus founded and ran the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law (not affiliated with Brandeis University), which declares on its website, “In the Twenty-first Century, the leading civil and human rights challenge facing North American Jewry is the resurgent problem of anti-Semitism and anti-Israelism on university campuses. This social problem requires an immediate, effective, and coordinated legal response” (emphasis added).
Note the conflation. How could anti-Israelism on campus or anywhere else pose a “civil and human rights challenge to North American Jewry”? If Judaism values universal justice, which the great prophets admonished the ancient Hebrews to honor, attention to the systematic injustice that Israel inflicts on the Palestinians qua non-Jews should be welcomed rather than feared by all, including Jews. As I’ve argued, there is no reason to view even foundational criticism of Israel through a presumption of anti-Semitism. Indeed, the Center itself claims that “the civil and human rights of the Jewish people are inextricably bound to the pursuit of justice for all peoples.” Unfortunately, that sentiment turns out to be mere lip service; it is not reflected in its actions — unless Palestinians are to be regarded as non-people. Alas, that seems to be the case.
The Center is not alone in this belief or activity. Similar programs are carried out by the Canary Mission (an anonymous website), which “documents people and groups that promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews on North American college campuses,” and the David Horowitz Freedom Center, the self-identified “school of political warfare,” which through its Israel Security Center headed by Caroline Glick stigmatizes criticism of Israel as the “mainstreaming of anti-Semitism” and smears professors who are Palestinian or who express sympathy for the Palestinians’ plight. An assortment of other individuals, such as former student activist Bari Weiss, now a New York Times writer and editor feted for her courageous advocacy of free speech on campus, have also made it their mission to smear Palestinian sympathizers as Jew-haters.
Marcus previously worked in the George W. Bush administration’s Education Department, Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and the U.S. Civil Rights Commission.
As assistant secretary of education, he would have the power to move against colleges and universities that in his view failed to discipline pro-Palestinian student activists and professors on grounds that their statements and activities create a hostile climate for Jewish students and thereby violate their rights under Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
However, even the lead author of the notion of anti-Semitism embodied in the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act has bridled at its use to police debate on campus. Kenneth Stern has written articles and given testimony in Congress warning against such use. As Stern wrote to the House Judiciary Committee in 2016, when a similar bill was under consideration and was eventually killed because of First Amendment concerns:
I write as the lead author of the … “Working Definition on Antisemitism,” to encourage you not to move “The Anti-Semitism Awareness Act of 2016,” which essentially incorporates that definition into law for a purpose that is both unconstitutional and unwise. If the definition is so enshrined, it will actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy….
Antisemitism – like all forms of bigotry – has an impact on some campuses. The worst way to address it is to create a de facto hate speech code, which is what this bill proposes to do.
In years past various Title VI cases were brought asserting that a hostile environment was created in substantial part by anti-Israel speech. All of them lost….
Students should not be harassed and intimidated and threatened. But a campus must be a place where students are challenged by difficult – and yes, disturbing and even hateful – ideas.
In testimony before the committee, Stern said it is not true that “antisemitism on campus is an epidemic. Far from it. There are thousands of campuses in the United States, and in very few is antisemitism – or anti-Israel animus – an issue.”
At the Mondoweiss website, civil-rights advocates Abed A. Ayoub, Phillip Agnew, and Harper Jean Tobin write that, while at the Brandeis Center, Marcus “abused the OCR complaint process by pushing frivolous protests that only serve to harass and stifle the speech of students he disagrees with.”
Losing cases did not deter him, however. As he wrote in the Jerusalem Post in 2013, “These cases – even when rejected – expose administrators to bad publicity.”
Harassment is a nice word for that kind of behavior. Why aren’t such activities called racism? (Marcus suggests that his complaints were exclusively against assault, physical intimidation, and the like, but the OCR dismissals say otherwise.)
Marcus continued, “Just last week, I heard from a university chancellor who is eager to work with the Schusterman Center for Israel studies at Brandeis University to avert the possibility of a civil rights complaint.” In light of the threat from the Brandeis Center, I doubt the chancellor was likely to err on the side of free speech and free inquiry. What one perceives as a hostile environment is highly subjective, but some believe that the mere perception of something as anti-Semitic is sufficient to make it anti-Semitic. Intentions and truth are irrelevant.
“As Assistant Secretary,” Ayoub, Agnew, and Tobin write, Marcus will “be able to wield the threat of bad publicity in an attempt to force universities to restrict the rights of groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine.”
That’s a good reason to favor defeat of the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: it would enable Marcus, in Khalidi’s words, to “try to do from the inside of the DOE what he has failed to do from the outside.”Open This Content
Language in a vacuum is meaningless. It is contextless sounds or scribbles.
We use complex words with varied definitions to attempt to communicate with one another. Every word has a slightly different meaning to people, but often enough we are able to share approximate enough definitions in order productively communicate with one another.
Meaning is derived from language at two points, delivery and reception. When a sentence is delivered, a person has an intended thought to communicate. He uses the words he finds most accurate to communicate that thought. When a sentence is received, a person attempts to interpret the meaning delivered by the sentence.
I just heard Penn Jillette say something linguistically lame. It is a sentiment I’ve heard portrayed by many on the culturally left, and I believe it is inspired by feelings of white guilt. He said he can’t really comment on racism and I believe the inference he was trying to communicate was that only his perception of victims of racism could discuss the topic accurately. I could be wrong on what I heard from Penn, but even so, it is a common sentiment portrayed and I can speak to that.
Racism/sexism/bigotry are allegations of intent. If a strong wind blows and sticks align to spell “Cunt,” we wouldn’t think the wind is sexist because the wind holds no intent. If a woman were offended, we would properly say that she is attributing false intent to random events. We would say that there was no intended delivery, and what she believed she received was inaccurate. What this lady observed was random circumstance and interpreting anything further would be an issue on her behalf.
What this shows is that bigotry is best known by people who intend to portray bigotry not by the people who perceive to have received it. The people who have received their perception of bigotry are only knowledgeable in their own subjective experience of being the target of it, not in understanding bigotry in general.
Many people in our society don’t have a problem with every step of what I said, but they dislike the conclusion. This is because it doesn’t empower perceived victims with a weapon to attack people with. We feel uncomfortable that weasels can be deceptive about their intent, and we much prefer to be able to bash them over the head with attacks and call them out for their poor intent. I have no cure-all for that distaste, except to say that you have incredible power over your associations with weasels and you are free to vocalize your perception of someone’s intent … it just doesn’t innately make it true. The allegation of bigotry can’t be proven since it is an allegation of intent, and you can’t know another person’s intent unless they opt to tell you (but honestly, it is unlikely they really know).
Michael Richards famously spouted “nigger” at a black guy at one of his performances. Was this racist, or was he trying to find any word to use to hurt this guy? I don’t know. I can imagine a person who loves black people knowing the power it holds and opting to use it merely as a weapon to hurt one individual. The implications of this mean that we can’t conclusively call the most bigoted sounding rhetoric bigoted.
Everyone have experienced a person’s desire to alienate and hurt them. It sucks. It is through this negative experience that we are able to empathize with people who are attacked and it is the reason why our society is sensitive to bigotry. However, this doesn’t give us carte blanche to play loose with logic in an effort to alienate and attack a perceived bigot. What this trend will do is further incentivize people to play the victim in any interaction in order to demonize and control their opponents/enemies.
Is this post bigoted? Is my intent to disempower victims by limiting their weapons? Why would I choose to make a post about this out of all the things I could possibly post?
I believe that claims of bigotry frame cultural and political landscapes in our modern society. I believe some people peddle very bad ideas through the ambiguity of bigotry. This makes it an interesting topic for me. However, I am in a nice position in life where I can be indifferent towards people’s perception of my intersectional sensibilities.Open This Content