"What a stupid article."
"That was terrible."
"What a juvenile article!"
"Lame, lame, lame."
"Most of the article was bad."
(All from ReasonOnline.com Hit&Run)
Many libertarian bloggers and bulletin board sloggers reacted with rancor to the March 15 Wall Street Journal "Party On" article by Julia Gorin that colorized libertarians as comic strip characters.
But many libertarians have brought it upon themselves. "Libertarians generally bill themselves as fiscally conservative but socially liberal" observed Gorin, a position statement I've deplored ever since "Libertarianism for Dummies," my very first online article: "Calling libertarianism an amalgam of certain left handed and right handed principles just perpetuates the myth that all political philosophies exist on a one dimensional scale, like a DOA's flat line."
In case you don't want to read her editorial, Gorin first answers her own question, "So what's a Libertarian, anyway?" and then quotes knee-slapping definitions from other named sources, thusly:
(A libertarian is)
"A Republican with a wild side."
"An amoral Republican."
"A cheapskate who can't keep his pants zipped."
"Republicans who can't admit it yet."
"A Democrat who wants to own a gun."
"A Republican who wants to smoke pot."
Notice one theme that runs through almost all of these definitions. People are thought-bots who can't divest their cranial cavities of the Red-Blue political concept they've become accustomed to. All American politics, they're convinced, must fit somewhere on the Left-Right, Liberal-Conservative, Democrat-Republican horizontal thermometer. They can't comprehend "libertarian" without a reference to that stale two-dimensional standard.
They're descendents of people who saw their first Technicolor movie and wondered where it fit on the black-and-white grayscale. ("Hmmm, it's sort of like those reds are fiscally black and those blues are socially white.") Or people who thought TV was just radio with pictures. Or the internet was nothing more than mail without envelopes.
They don't get it that libertarianism is not just another note on their harpsichord; it's a whole different instrument entirely.
But don't worry about articles in the Wall Street Journals of the world that color-code all of us as toon buffoons. They're actually doing us a favor. The more of these articles that appear in big time newsprint the better. Why? If Gandhi was right, "First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
We've already been through the ignore stage. As anecdotal evidence: In 1993 I bought my powerful 486 Zeos computer with Windows for Workgroups 3.11, replacing my 8086 Hyundai with its potent 80 meg (that's meg, not gig) internal hard drive, and signed up with Prodigy Internet access service. I was hard pressed to find more than a handful of web sites that responded to the HotBot search term "libertarian."
Now consider this: On May 12, 2005, I finger-tapped "libertarian" into Google on my Dell. The result was "about 4,330,000" hits.
So bring on the ridiculing! And don't worry about the people who believe the cartoon libertarian definitions. They'll typically believe anything. Tell them that government welfare programs are charity and they'll nod, agree, and go on with their lives. Tell them it's smart to surrender freedom for security and they'll nod, agree, and go on with their lives. Tell them there's a really big difference between Republicans and Democrats and they'll nod, agree, and go on with their lives.
Those people have never and will never give us anything or take anything away from us. But show a hundred Gorin-style caricature commentaries to a thinking person and he or she will wonder, and ruminate, and eventually discover the reality behind the straw libertarians invented for yucks and chuckles.
"Another ludicrous libertarian lampoon, eh?" they'll say, putting aside their Post or Times or Journal. "But I've read something else about these Librarians or Liberians or Libertarians before. A friend mentioned them a couple of times. And that local third party political chick had some interesting ideas. Maybe I'll need to check these folks out."
Those are the people we want. And someday, when all those unthinking people with their flatlined brain valves repeatedly hear from opinion-makers all around them that only libertarianism safeguards their rights and their property, they'll nod, agree, and go on with their lives.
The statist authoritarians will be fighting us soon enough, when they sense their power is threatened. The storm is coming. So for now, enjoy Gandhi's "laugh at you" phase while it lasts.
Some day the WSJ will know, "so what's a Libertarian, anyway?" And the last laugh will be on them.
Garry is a prolific writer and many more of his works may be found at:
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