Monday, January 27, 1997

Week of 01/27/1997

On Bashing Libertarianism..
It’s open season on libertarians - so what else is new?
- by David Matthews 2

MSNBC, the television and online network created by NBC and Microsoft, has a nightly show dedicated to computers, technology, and the Internet called "The Site." You would expect that such a show would be open-minded on many issues involving the new technology and the changes going on in society.

So when The Site announced that it was participating in an online debate about libertarianism, I was hoping to finally find someplace where the concepts of libertarianism would be at least welcomed. Boy was I in for a surprise! Oh, it got welcomed, much like the women cadets of VMI got welcomed - with a critical eye layered in bias and ready to pounce on the slightest hint of imperfection.

The Site gave preference to those who were critical of libertarianism by placing their articles on the forefront for users to access. They did make mention of those who supported libertarianism - but you had to dig for those references past a ton of criticism under the guise of journalistic impartiality. Whatever reservations that I had about the bias of the media were quickly removed by watching this online version of the Spanish Inquisition take place.

Of course, there were plenty of libertarians who came to the defense of this ever-growing philosophy. I myself even made my displeasure known of the situation. And yet the volume of criticism continued unabated.

Then came word that MSNBC will be conducting an interview with Charles Murray about his new book about libertarianism. Now the news would be considered optimistic, except that the author’s last book was "The Bell Curve" - a publication which was to racists what a book burning is to religious activists. It would be naïve of me to assume that the position of MSNBC would be anything but a modern-day witch-hunt, with them as Roy Cohn.

So why is it that libertarianism has become the new punching bag for members of the media? Perhaps part of that reason came from the 1996 presidential campaign when Harry Browne, candidate for the Libertarian Party, decided to get the attention of the media by focusing radio commercials in Washington DC. It resulted in more press-time, but now it also meant that it was something for the more liberal and conservative members to target. And the liberal members of the media are reviling in being able to finally take pot-shots at another movement, especially after the grilling they have been getting from conservatives. It’s the case of the big bully picking on the little bully who then picks on his little brother.

Let me be the first to say that libertarianism is not for everyone, even though the philosophy is designed for everyone. It’s strange to see that a philosophy that adopts the good points of both liberalism and conservatism is yet ruthlessly despised by both. Yet it also adopts points that both factions despise, namely personal responsibility and tolerance. Liberals seem to define personal responsibility as being able to blame everyone excepts other liberals. And conservatives seem to have about as much tolerance for opposing viewpoints as Archie Bunker did for his son-in-law.

And perhaps we should consider that for too many years liberals and conservatives have been able to enjoy the pleasure of a black-and-white, one-or-the-other mentality. Yes or no. That’s it, take it or leave it. Centrists or moderates were forced to chose between liberals and conservatives, or else stay on the sidelines and do nothing. Now along comes a new option - libertarianism - and it threatens to disturb that twisted balance we call the political spectrum. Looking it at that perspective, it’s no wonder why these groups hate libertarianism. Libertarianism is to traditional politics what CNN was to the nightly news.

Yet at the same time something good can come from this media inquisition. Namely it will have the same effect as banning books did - it’ll get more people to look at it. But it won’t happen as long as the media continue their criticisms unanswered. Libertarians and those leaning towards libertarianism need to call the bluff of these critics and reply with as much vigor as possible. Go to The Site and post your response. Watch MSNBC and e-mail them when they bash libertarians. When a newspaper’s editorial staff talk about libertarians as being a radical faction of either liberals or conservatives, send them a letter to the editor to set the record straight.

Let me also entertain this thought - a more libertarian society is a goal, not necessarily the means to it’s own end. Liberals didn’t get to change society overnight, and the conservatives are finding out they can’t either. So what makes people think that if libertarians get into Congress that all of a sudden government would collapse? Libertarianism operates on the belief of less government, but also on the belief that people will have to turn to themselves first to resolve problems. And let’s face it, as long as people think more like libertarians, the only "Big Brother" they’ll have to worry about will be their family members and not some tyrannical government straight from George Orwell’s book "1984."

And for all those critics out there who DO read this article, let me say that libertarianism is no more naïve a philosophy than some of the stuff liberals and conservatives churn out from their own rose-colored "Mister Smith goes to Washington" glasses. It’s no more fantastic a principle than the liberal theory of "It takes a whole village to raise a child," and no more outlandish than the conservative theory that everyone should be held to the same moral standards that by no coincidence happens to reflect their standards.

Let hunting season commence…

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