Monday, October 4, 2010

Irrational Patriotism and the Freedom of Association: The Case Against New Mexico Campaign for Liberty


Being libertarian and Jewish while being active in the Patriot Movement is interesting and sometimes maddening. Most of the people I encounter within it are conservative, and although we disagree on certain fundamental principles, they are rational in their approach to news and events. We may understand them differently, and often I find myself taking the more radical stand. For example, they oppose illegal immigration and support the Arizona law, whereas I oppose the welfare state and the war on drugs that make free movement across the border a problem. In this case, we both know that there is an invasion going on across our southern border, and we both know that the lives, liberty and property of Americans living near the border are threatened, but we respond to that knowledge from somewhat different perspectives. As a libertarian, I see the source of the problem differently, precisely because I do not accept the notion that the government has any business regulating drugs or "spreading the wealth around." However, we can talk with one another, attempt to bridge differences, and work together on our mutual goal: to restore the Constitution of the United States.


But just as there is a wing nut fringe on the left--those who tell us that Mao is a philosopher and equal to Mother Teresa in charity and those who believe that Hugo Chavez is a statesman--so there are wing nuts operating on the fringe of the patriot movement. They are far from the majority, and unlike the wing-nuts on the left who seem to surround the president of the United States these days, they have no power, except that of chasing reasonable people away from patriot groups. They are often the people who end up creating the conditions for small groups to engage in infighting and to finally fall apart from lack of participation.

My latest experience in this regard:


I have supported Campaign for Liberty for over a year, and I have supported Ron Paul as one of the few principled members of Congress, and for his primarily constitutional stances on many issues. However, I do reserve the right to disagree, as we all should, based on differences with respect to issues. In that time I have noticed the acceptance of a kind of post-modernism among many of Ron Paul's young followers, that is combined with what appears to be a deliberate illiteracy and a terrible ignorance of history and the values of Western culture. This leads to an uncritical acceptance without reason of whatever new conspiracy theory* happens to hit the internet. Sometimes these theories have a kernel of truth, but have been generalized to such an extent that they become meaningless.

* NOTE: I am using the term "conspiracy theory" in the neutral sense rather than the pejorative sense. That is, I accept that there are conspiracies in the world, and that people really do gather together to secretly plan and accomplish illegal and immoral actions. However, a conspiracy theory is a claim, not a fact, until it is substantiated with evidence. Although conspiracies do happen, and at every level, every bad thing that happens in the world is not necessarily a conspiracy, there is room for human error and folly in history.

Further, this generalization leads to a stance of powerlessness in the face of this conspiracy theorizing that is a type of conspiracism, which is the tendency to accept that everything bad that happens in the world has been engineered by the ubiquitous "they" who have god-like powers and have so brainwashed humanity that they control every decision made by every person on earth. Thus, it becomes acceptable to sit and complain, but it also becomes unnecessary to actually develop solutions or to do anything about the problem--whatever it is--because "they" are in control.

Twisting together threads involving an international banking conspiracy (which has a basis in truth but has been over-generalized), and the old myth of a Jewish conspiracy to take over the world (which has no truth), some of Ron Paul's young supporters have uncritically bought into a particularly ugly form of anti-Semitism that hails from the left. They have learned that making anti-Semitic statements outright is frowned upon by most Americans, but that by couching their anti-Semitic sentiments as criticism of Israel, they can claim the moral high ground, and turn and accuse those who point out that the demonization and delegitimation of Israel is anti-Semitic of "censoring" their "criticism" of Israel.

Sometimes I think that these young Ron Paul supporters are not only illiterate with respect to history, but that they are also illiterate with respect to vocabulary, and mistake the term "censor" for the term "censure". There is a difference. But more to the point, without any sense of time or history--which was robbed from them by their post-modernist education--these young people are cannon fodder for any demagogue that begins by claiming to be a champion of liberty and freedom. Ron Paul is a legitimate champion of liberty. He is not a demagogue. But when an historically innocent young person enters the heady waters of the Ron Paul pages, message boards, blogs and discussion groups, his uncritical desire to appear smart in the new milieu is ripe for the demagogic sharks that inhabit the dark waters at the edge of the reef. It is a kind of modern gnosticism.

This is exactly what is happening with the local Ron Paul group, called Campaign for Liberty New Mexico. One person has gotten control of the message boards at the New Mexico Campaign for Liberty Meet-Up group. He has done so by re-posting lurid, over-the-top "criticism" of Israel, much of which would set off the alarm bells of a critical reader. These re-posts come from the kinds of internet sources that have replaced the yellow journalism and propaganda rags of the first Progressive Era in the early 1900's.

For example, a few weeks ago he re-posted an article that claimed that Israel has been caught red-handed stealing organs from Palestinian corpses for the purpose of selling them in the illegal organ trade. That this is irrational from a medical standpoint is the least of it; the article supports a clearly modern form of the blood libel, and can be traced to the standard Palestinian blood libel claim that Jews are ritually murdering Palestinian children to put their blood in the Passover Matzot. (Never mind that the only ritual murders that are proven have been done by Islamists who have slit the throats of Jews like Danny Pearl in some sort of bizarre human sacrifice while shouting "Allahu akbar!" for the You Tube cameras. I guess the point of demonization is to accuse your enemy of your own darkest acts).

At that point, I wrote to this young man asking to be removed from his e-mail list. I had received the post by e-mail and had not realized that the 'announcements' were going out via the Meet-Up Group.

A week or so later, I received another post from this young man, entitled "Support for Israel is Treason!!!!" (multiple exclamation points in the original). Again linking to some Alex-Jones-type breathlessly yellow journalism, he wrote a page-long one paragraph screed complete with the capitalization, multiple exclamation points, bad-grammar and misspelled words that I have come to expect from these young and illiterate intellectual wanna-be's.

Unfortunately, I took the bait and tried to appeal to the reasonable people who might be reading this stuff. I wrote the usual rational arguments and was promptly accused of attempting the censor ideas on the website. This was clearly false since there was barely an idea present in the mishmash of unfounded rumor and over-the-top emotionalism in the post and in the response to my response. When I saw that on the e-mail responses, this young man was being lauded by a few supporters as a visionary patriot, I did some further research. I checked out the on-line message board at the Campaign for Liberty New Mexico Meet-up site. And there I saw that there were some healthy discussions about other topics posted by other members. However, this young man's posts rarely had any responses--it's hard to respond to such irrationality effectively--and that further his new topics were almost all intended to demonize Israel.

What had happened was that this young man had effectively stopped any censure of his views and stopped any argument or any censure of the nature of his posts by effectively using the argument that he was being "censored" for criticizing Israel. Those who lauded him responded, and everyone else apparently did not want to even be associated with such arguments. Further, this young man has put himself up as the next leader of the group through an emotional campaign of screeds against the current group leader, and is likely to become the leader of the group. Whereby he will continue the kind of ranting and emotional demagoguery until the group becomes an ineffective splinter, unable to campaign effectively for Ron Paul because it has become associated with irrational attacks on anyone who doesn't buy the latest conspiracy theory, or who refuses to be associated with demonization of Israel--this guy's pet theory.

I am certainly among those who refuses to be associated with this back-door anti-Semitism. I am well aware of what it is and where it will lead. I have--like the naive scholar that I am--futilely tried to point out the inevitable splintering and the inevitable end that will follow, as this young man and his few followers become more and more isolated until there is nothing left of the original group or its mission. Of course, I have played right into the hands of the demagogue, who has in turn accused me of being part of the world-wide Jewish conspiracy that is trying to silence him because he has the rare truth that Israel is the point of that conspiracy. There is no reason in it, and a rational person will do what I have done. I have disassociated myself with this group not only because I am a Jew, but because I do not want my good name ruined by association with such irrationality.


Unfortunately, this kind of thing drives the splintering of patriot groups often enough that the whole of the movement can be easily tarred with the same brush, rendering the vast majority of patriot positions invisible. It is a problem. It allows the same kind of demonization of the patriots out there that has been done against Israel. It can be used by the progressives and the left to divide and conquer, should we allow such people as the young man I described above to speak for us. And we will be admonished to do so by people who worship at the altar of unity. But unity for the sake of unity is a false god; it has no power. The power to accomplish our goal comes from the Principles of Liberty.

Those of us who want to be successful in the restoration of the Constitution must focus on these principles. That all men are endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights. That among them are the rights to life, liberty and property. That governments are instituted by the individuals in order to protect those rights.

Those of us who want to be successful must also disassociate ourselves with anyone who promotes unfounded conspiracies, and who participates in the demonization of any person or group. Such behavior takes us off the path and promotes endless internal debate that does not rise to the level of reasoned argument. It can't, being essentially irrational in its very nature. The danger of this particular time is to be carried off track and to fall spectacularly from the heights of principle to the depths of populism and demagoguery. We must not do it. We cannot stop it happening at the fringes, but we cannot buy into it or allow it to destroy the essence of the cause of liberty.

What will happen to the Ron Paul R3volution itself is not our concern. I think elections, although important to slowing down the destruction of our liberty, are not the fundamental answer to the problem. Further, Ron Paul sparked the enthusiasm of many young people for liberty. He cured the apathy of many libertarians, like me, who had given up on seeing liberty restored in our own day. But he also inspired true believers who, in their their terrible ignorance and adulation will do what true believers tend to do, and accept any claim associated with him uncritically. And they will turn on him when he disappoints their sanctification of a mere mortal by acting rationally. Indeed, many have done so already, disappointed that he ended his 2008 campaign when it became clear that he was not going to even place in the primaries.

For myself, the way is clear. I cannot be associated with Campaign for Liberty New Mexico. And I need to do a little research to see where Campaign for Liberty national stands on these questions. If there is any hint of anti-Semitism by proxy, or the uncritical support of other such demonization, then I cannot be associated with it either. I will withdraw my support, no matter how good the strategy or how strong the group appears to be.

My grandma Fran used to say to me: "Show me your friends, I'll show you your future." And as an adult I appreciated her down-to-earth wisdom. I have applied it to examining the associations of politicians, and that is ultimately why I do not trust the current President of the United States to support my liberty. He surrounds himself with outright communists and revolutionaries, with admirers of murderers like Mao.

I cannot be friends with anti-Semites--even those who substitute Israel in order to prevaricate upon their actual sentiments. And I understand now what it means to say so. Although I value the right of anyone to have his say, I do not value indiscriminate acceptance of what he says. I simply cannot be associated with unreason that is likely to lead nowhere good. I cannot befriend anti-Semites. To do so would be a suicidal denial of the value of my own identity and being.

"Choose life," we are commanded. "That you and your children might live."



3 comments:

Narada said...

Huzzah!

I think you hit on what I was alluding to in my last comment from awhile ago regarding the "wing nut" factions regardless of the topic....
The unusually left, right, or fundamental belief and the over zealous presentation or defense of a position, belief, or viewpoint brings all sorts of baggage to a conversation that distracts... Too bad I was unable to clarify in a timely fashion - you have reacted to this situation with an eloquent restatement of my original premise although my original was not too eloquently written. You've captured where my ideas were headed Again Huzzah!

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Narada,

Thank you. I appreciate your praise because I respect your premises and positions, and I enjoy your discussion. The nice thing about cyberspace is that we can speak to one another across time and space, and then both of us will benefit from the conversation by stating our ideas with more and more clarity. Thanks, again for commenting.

gadabout-blogalot.com said...

I am late in getting to this one, but let me assure you that I am so very proud of you.

I can never understand why people take a ball of hate and attempt to bounce it off of a good and honorable people.

The "Truthers" and now their fellow travelers have made a nest for themselves and their actions will eventually have them pay a terrible price for their ignorance and hate.

Thank you for your eloquence, courage and good sense to leave when there is no chance to rid the organization of vagrants that hang out to do harm.