Defame Game

I used to be a Big-L Libertarian.  I left the GOP, disgusted that they’d sold the law-abiding gun owner down the river with the 1994 “Crime” Bill.  I joined the Libertarians because they were purists on liberty.

And in a room full of purists, it was easy to explain why believing in private property rights – a cornerstone of Libertarianism and, also, the United States – and the right to free association meant it was wrong to tell, say, a lunch counter owner that he had to desegregate his private property.  The proper response – in a room full of liberties purists who, as a general rule, are less racist than the population at large – is to not go to that lunch counter, and use your freedom of speech to let other people know that the owner ran a segregated lunch counter.

Of course, we rarely had to try to explain these things to people outside the room.  The Libertarians never won any elections – rarely got over a percent, in fact.

Ron Paul started changing that; he brought liberty-minded people into the GOP, and in some places took it over.

The Tea Party furthered this, sanding off (thankfully) some of Paul’s whackdoodle conspiracymongering and focusing on libertarian ideas of taxation, spending and the role of government – a discussion this nation desperately needs.

Rand Paul, running for the Senate in Kentucky, just got into trouble for getting into an argument about classical libertarianism in a forum that’s more concerned with squeedging attack sound bites out of people with elephants next to their names.

Howard Kurtz on the original interview that started the flap:

[Rand Paul] kept telling [MSNBC host Rachel] Maddow he was not in favor of discrimination. He would have marched with Martin Luther King Jr. He supported the law’s ban on bias in public institutions. “Am I a bad person? Do I believe in awful things? No,” Paul said.

But he would not, despite repeated prodding, say the government should legally bar private institutions from discrimination.

And in doing so, he was that one thing politicians all claim to be, but almost none are;  honest.  He’s not a racist – indeed, to principled conservatives racism (imposing group stereotypes onto individuals) is an absolute wrong; to a Libertarian the thoughts in ones’ heart, the things one says, and the company one keeps are none of the government’s business – but everyone must be rigidly equal before the law:

“I’m all in favor of and that was desegregating the schools, desegregating public transportation, use public roads and public monopolies, desegregating public water fountains,” he said.

Which is a hunkydory discussion point among libertarians and Jeffersonian liberals; to them (us?), government has no place telling people they must not offend with their speech, their associations, or the use of their private property.  Among libertarians (big and small), at least as an academic discussion, allowing racists their constitutional rights to speak, associate and use their property as they wish does not in turn make one a racist – merely one who knows what government’s role is supposed to be, and the proper response to loathsome private beliefs, speech and behavior is evangelism and good speech.  It’s one of those poli-sci discussions that big-L Libertarians love to have, in the abstract.

But in politics, abstract questions have many layers of real manifestations:

“How about desegregating lunch counters?” Maddow said.

Mark Tapscott in the WashEx writes about the dim-witted feeding frenzy that ensued:

If the bloody waters that appear in the midst of such a shark frenzy make you uncomfortable, better get used to it. Odds are good that Paul is only the first of many Tea Party linked candidates whose inexperience in political combat with the media will spark such bloodbaths in coming months.

No such flap enveloped Scott Brown in Massachusetts probably because he had some prior experience as a Republican state senator in dealing with a hostile media in Massachusetts.

But many more of the Tea Party endorsed candidates who will gain visibility in the congressional campaign in coming months will, like Paul, be making their first-ever foray in seeking elective office. Like babes, they will go into brutal hand-to-hand combat with Establishment GOP, then Democratic opponents and their sympathetic journos, all of whom are seasoned veterans.

And when it comes to trying to frame your opponent, truth comes in a distant third to “making up a good chanting point to cleverly defame your opponent” and “making that chanting point so simple that any drooling SEIU droog can remember it”, in the hopes of taking a brief soundbyte of a statement intended as part of an academic discussion, and turning it first into “Rand Paul hates civil rights”, and thence to “Republicans are racists!”.

It’s poison for rational debate – but then, that’s not what the left, scared out of their minds by being on the wrong side of a populist tsunami, cares about.

The left is, of course, deeply hypocritical on the subject; via the ACLU, they are scrupulous about some peoples’  rights to speak and associate without question; somehow, the media managed to square the ACLU’s support for Nazis marching in Skokie with the idea that it didn’t mean the Democratic party sympathized with eliminationist anti-semites.   The rights of conservative college students, of course, don’t rate similar scrupulousness.

The lesson is a simple one, though.  It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know a couple of key truths for new politicians to remember when campaigning:

  1. The media is in the bag for the Democrats.  Duh.
  2. The media will cover for the “nuances” in the Dems’ positions; Rep. Keith Ellison, for example, will no more be grilled over whether his support for Hamas means he indirectly supports the extinction of Israel than Obama would be for his “bitter gun-clinging Jesus freaks” quote.
  3. But they will find the energy to go over everything you say and do to find something that can be presented to the undecided to caricature you and frame you as part of the meme they are complicit in circulating about conservatives.
  4. The left, believing as they do as a matter of historical, philosophical fact that “the ends justify the means, don’t care that they toss the entire context of what you say, and in effect lie about and defame you.  As long as it frames you so they win.

In ordinary times, by the way, this would be the point where I”d say “by the way, I oppose discrimination, and think Rand Paul was an idiot to try to get all academic on “nationa” TV on a subject as loaded as discrimination”.   But that doesn’t seem to be enough to keep the smear machine at bay, these days.

16 thoughts on “Defame Game

  1. Pingback: The Greenroom » Defame Game

  2. “allowing racists their constitutional rights to speak, associate and use their property as they wish does not in turn make one a racist.”

    I agree with this 100%. I have been and will continue to be critical of Rand Paul’s ideas and policy, but I oppose labelling him as a racist. I also agree with allowing racists their constitutional rights to speak. Everyone has a right to their opinion. How they associate and use their property, however, is subject to debate based on the circumstance.

    I hope he does get a lot of press over the next few months. The media is always going to cover it all in a veil of sensationalism (since the media is entertainment first and foremost) but I’m optimistic that there will be a valuable and rational national discussion beneath it.

  3. “How they associate and use their property, however, is subject to debate based on the circumstance.”
    Just racists, AB? Howabout commies? Who decides what is racism is and what is not, anyhow?

  4. “Just racists, AB?”

    No. Everyone.

    “Howabout commies?”

    Them too. I’m not sure if you’re missing my point or just distorting it, but I’ll give you benefit of the doubt.

    “Who decides what is racism is and what is not, anyhow?”
    Me. I publish a list of all racists on a weekly basis, but you have to pay for the subscription to find out if you made the list or not.

  5. How they associate and use their property, however, is subject to debate based on the circumstance.

    Well, that’s more or less what I said.

    Of course, this flap is an intentional perversion of the real circumstances, and Rand Paul’s actual beliefs.

  6. As a libertarian then, Mitch, you would place the right to determine aspects of privately owned commercial property above the provisions of the constitution allowing for the regulation of commerce, and endorse the exercise of property rights even when it harms the civil rights of others.

    Make no mistake, discrimination is harmful to those who are on the receiving end of discrimination. I hold that your rights stop at the end of your arm and fist, and at the beginning of my nose. Discrimination crosses that line.

    Having looked at multiple interviews in which Rand Paul has stated his position, and looked at what he has written, I don’t think that there is all that much distortion of his position. He has not advocated repeal of the civil rights act or the disabilities act, but he has indicated that he did not support significant and critical parts of them. That is a valid issue for discussion and consideration. It definitely does not make Rand Paul a racist but it does raise legitimate questions about his priorities as a Libertarian leaning Republican candidate.

  7. It will be interesting to watch developments. It could be that people aren’t as shallow as the media and the elites seem to think, and that they are capable of seeing nuance…and, in fact, live it in their lives. I think most people are aware of the double-speak around civil rights and the Civil Rights Act, and have joked and shrugged about it for years, acknowledging “political correctness” and knowing there is a difference between reality and what “everyone” says is true. They’ve accepted it this because it hasn’t been a huge problem in their lives and didn’t think it was worth the grief to fight the standard. The climate now is such that people are calling “BS” on illusory buyouts, suicidal economics and the general nincompoopery that we’ve lived with for administration after administration because they finally see what is at stake. It could well be that people will look at what Paul actually said, compare it to their own lives (regardless of race and class and demography) and decide he’s right and it’s time to say so. They may see that those crowing or ducking on either side of the aisle are either being stupid or deliberately obtuse … and neither answer bodes well for these strange birds.

  8. “Well, that’s more or less what I said.”

    Absolutely. And I’m sure that Rand Paul agrees in principle as well. It wasn’t intended as a flap or a perversion at all, I was agreeing with you. Maybe that threw you off a bit.

  9. But, DG, haven’t the Diversity Merchants drummed it into our heads for the last two decades that discrimination hurts the discriminator more than it hurts the discrminated?

  10. First off whoever is Rand’s campaign manager should have their ass fired ASAP. You don’t go into the lion’s den this ignorant. First off don’t do this interview, second off if you do decide to do this get a freaking coach. You KNOW this is going to come up since he’s identified with the Teepers (I like it Mitch) and he should bring up the fact that it was DEMOCRATS, actually Al Gore’s daddy, who led the filibuster for the 1964 Civil Rights Act. And that a higher percentage of Republicans voted for it in the Senate than dems. That should be the end of the story. Rand you need a new inner circle, otherwise were going to lose this very winnable seat;

  11. It wasn’t intended as a flap or a perversion at all

    It wasn’t your intentions I was writing about…

  12. “It wasn’t your intentions I was writing about…”

    Then I apologise. If I am going to ruffle a feather I would much prefer to do so on purpose.

  13. maybe they should keep him off of the Alex Jones show too.



    Yeah. Ugh.

  14. I’m sure I’m not the only person who is reminded of Robert Bork in all of this. Whatever else you can say about Bork, he was clear on what his legal methodology was, and where he thought that certain decisions should come down, and why. And in addition to disagreeing with that, the folks who, well, borked him did the whole reductio ad absurdum demagoguery.

    And in both cases, they were punished for their candor.

    That said, I’m glad to see that the hot issue of whether or not the country will or should shortly bring back segregated lunch counters is visible on the political agenda. I thought I was the only person worried about whether or not Congress was working on a repeal that Obama would sign…

    More seriously, for just a sec: the Rachel Maddow show isn’t a place where somebody she doesn’t approve of is going to get a shot at nuance. Any moderate or conservative who goes on that show without having a good sound-bite answer ready for anything is not ready for, err, prime time, and the whole gimmick of turning I believe x has the right to do y into Aha! So you want Nazis to march in the streets of Skokie | terrorists to be released ROR to murder again | illegal aliens to wander the streets to murder with impunity | American citizens stopped and cavity-searched soley because their name is something like Rodriguez | whatever isn’t exactly one of the hidden landmines of politics.

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