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April 02, 2015

One Writer At Reason Is Actually Able to Condemn Coercion and Witch-Finding Without Equivocation

Will wonders never cease!

Someone at an allegedly libertarian magazine, actually, get this, standing up for liberty, and against totalitarianism, bullying, and Witch-Finding!

The bad news, for those of us on the suddenly victorious side of the gay marriage debate, is that too many people are acting like sore winners, not merely content with the revolutionary step of removing state discrimination against same-sex couples in the legal recognition of marriage, but seeking to use state power to punish anyone who refuses to lend their business services to wedding ceremonies they find objectionable. That's not persuasion, that's force, and force tends to be the anti-persuasion among those who are on the receiving end of it.

Jonathan Rauch had a great piece for Reason two years ago about free speech and gay rights, arguing persuasively that when a minority is hopelessly outnumbered both in public opinion and in law, maximal free expression (and I would add, free association) is their most potent weapon--often, it's all they've got. To fight uphill all these long decades, then get to the top, only to start wielding majoritarianism against the suddenly disfavored minority position? That's ugly stuff.

His news hook here is a state senator who says there's "no place for that kind of thinking" in his town.

Mollie Hemingway wrote a year ago about Reason's strange "ambivalence" on intimidation, Witch-Hunting, and group enforced groupthink.

Too many writers there seem more enamored of gay marriage than liberty itself. Check your masthead, guys -- you're not Gay Men's Health Crisis. Your masthead identifies you as being in favor of liberty first and foremost.

She recounts Havel's story of the Greengrocer and the thought police.

To explain, letís revisit an old essay by Vaclav Havel, the Czech playwright, poet, dissident and eventual president....

"The Power of the Powerless," written under a communist regime in 1978, is his landmark essay about dissent....

"The post-totalitarian system demands conformity, uniformity, and discipline," Havel wrote, using the term he preferred over "dictatorship" for the complex system of social control experienced in Czechoslovakia. We also have a system that is demanding conformity, uniformity and discipline -- it's not just about marriage law, to be honest. Itís really about something much bigger -- crushing the belief that the sexes are distinct in deep and meaningful ways that contribute to human flourishing...

To explain how dissent works, Havel introduced the manager of a hypothetical fruit-and-vegetable shop who places in his window, among the onions and carrots, the slogan: "Workers of the world, unite!" He's not actually enthusiastic about the sign's message. It's just one of the things that people in a post-totalitarian system do even if they "never think about" what it means. He does it because everyone does it. It's what you do to get along in life and live "in harmony with society."


The subtext of the grocerís sign is "I do what I must do. I behave in the manner expected of me." It protects him from supervisors above and informants below.

Havel is skeptical of ideology. He says that dictatorships can just use raw power, but "the more complex the mechanisms of power become, the larger and more stratified the society they embrace, and the longer they have operated historically Ö the greater the importance attached to the ideological excuse." We don't have a dictatorship, obviously, but we do have complex mechanisms of power and larger and more stratified society.

In any case, individuals need not believe the lies of an ideology so much as behave as though they do, or at least tolerate them in silence or get along with those who work with them. "For by this very fact, individuals confirm the system, fulfill the system, make the system, are the system," Havel says.

The fake libertarians at Reason -- which is most of them -- seem to believe, with a couple of honorable exceptions, that this form of intimidation-by-mob-assault is actually healthy free expression -- so long as it enforces the social codes and taboos they favor.

I think Nick Gillespie would have quite another opinion of it were this form of mobbing directed at couples in gay marriages.

Nick Gillespie, and others at Reason, seem to believe, strangely, in the persuasive powers of the Mob.

Newsflash, moral imbeciles and slaves to faddish leftwing desiderata-- Mobs do not "persuade." They do not "argue." They do not present a series of statements and a chain of reasoning intended to appeal to the intellect.

Mobs shout. Mobs demean. Mobs threaten -- they threaten to burn people's shops to the ground, and they offer a $5 donation "for your funeral expenses."

Mobs do not appeal to the cool, empowered intellectual side of the brain. No -- they appeal to the fear-based parts of the targets' brains, every mammal's fear of being cast out of the pack, and they encourage the violence and anger centers of the mob's brain.

This is the salutary form of speech Nick Gillespie keeps finding himself defending.

The only thing he can criticize here is conservatives targeted by mob outrage and threats "bitching" about being threatened.

The mob tactics, he supports reservedly. Where he claims someone crosses the line to become Free Speech Villains is to complain about being so targeted.

"Reason." A magazine for "liberty."


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posted by Ace at 04:15 PM

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