by Virgil Vaduva
One of the most difficult things about being a libertarian is that I often find myself defending liberty in some difficult situations. Just like a defense attorney may find himself defending a client charged with murder, and who appears by all accounts to be guilty, he still gives his best defense to his client; defending people and ideas that we do not like and their rights to speak and be spoken is unfortunately a critical element of liberty. This is not easy to do as we are all subject to various paradigms and affected by them in ways that we may not even realize.
The world of ideas is very much the same. Ideas are the foundation upon which humanity builds its future or tears it down. They can be the seeds for things to come or the vehicle to effecting change in the world. Virtually everything in existence today was once an idea, and for millennia ideas have shaped the world into the place we call home today.
There is little else that I despise more than Communism and the ideas upon which that ideology was founded. I spent half of my life in a Communist country, growing up in indoctrination schools, taught that free markets were only benefiting the rich and that State control is key to good and peaceful living. I experienced physical abuse, hunger and mental abuse at the hands of Communists and their ideas. Now, decades letter, I understand those ideas to be false, and even though more than 100 million humans have died as a result of Communism, I still do not find it necessary to punch a Communist or a Socialist who may be peacefully passing out flyers on the street promoting his ideas. Yes, ironically, as a libertarian I find myself defending the speech of Communists, which I despise, and the speech of Fascists which I find abhorrent.
The trend of virtue-signaling we have been seeing lately popularized by the American media often encourages strangers to punch and physically assault alleged fascists or Nazis (supposed “nationalist socialists,” which is not an exactly American term) in order to stop them from promoting their ideas. “Their ideas are dangerous,” they say. The argument encouraging blatant physical assault against people advocating ideas involves the justification that fascist ideas could potentially come to fruition and give birth to violent actions. Yes, I hope you caught the irony here: we must use pre-emptive threats, violence or even murder in order to stop ideas that could potentially give birth to more violence.
This in essence is the philosophy we find at the core of the United States foreign policy which has now been embraced at an individual level by average Americans, even Libertarians who claim to support free speech. For decades, the U.S. government has been pre-emptively going to war with nations that had the potential of becoming enemies of the U.S. and espoused ideas considered anti-American.
Just a few hours ago, Richard Spencer, an alleged white supremacist and a fascist was kicked out of a conference called International Students for Liberty Conference (ISLC); this was apparently the result of a confrontation between Spencer and Jeffrey Tucker. In the spirit of full disclosure, I know almost nothing about Spencer. I have never read anything written by him and other than knowing about him getting assaulted on the street recently.
Spencer was apparently invited to speak at ISLC by the Hans Hermann Hoppe Caucus and a group of conference attendees. There is even video of Spencer peacefully speaking to what appears to be a large group of students. The audio is very difficult to make out, so it is unclear if Spencer is advocating for the extermination of all ethnic minorities or if he is discussing his love for Donald Trump, however it is clear that there is nothing extraordinary happening outside of the fact that ideas are being discussed in a peaceful fashion.
Some pieces of the conversation can be made out from poor audio available, such as Richard Spencer advocating for the use of the State to protect citizens from immigrants and his condemnation of multi culturalism and what accounts to cultural Marxism. It’s unclear why exactly these ideas are controversial considering that Spencer is openly a supporter of Donald Trump.
What we see later however, is Jeffrey Tucker entering the room and disrupting the event, forcing an employee of the venue to come and warn the participants about keeping things orderly to avoid being removed from the premises. Tucker and Spencer quickly engaged each other in a shouting match across the room full of attendees.
Tucker states: “Libertarianism is about human dignity, liberty for all, and not about fascism!”
Of course, what libertarian would disagree with this? I am not a fascist and I don’t want libertarian ideology to be about fascism either. Tucker was immediately triggered by the idea that a supposed fascist was espousing ideas that he disagreed with. The spectacle unfolding on the video is incredible: a meltdown of epic proportions which ultimately leads to a total denial of the most fundamental libertarian principles, the freedom of speech and the freedom of association.
Mitchell Steffen, the founder of the Hans Hermann Hoppe Caucus and a Dominican, an ethnicity he is proud of, invited Spencer to the conference in order to have a peaceful dialogue. Steffen said,
“It was really unfortunate how it turned out. I think the Hoppe Caucus did a good job of pushing the envelope and exposing hypocrisy though. Spencer’s ideas should be challenged with better libertarian ideas. He should not be bullied.”
Jeffrey Tucker’s emotional meltdown and virtue-signaling was a perfect fit for the young crowd of college students. At one point Tucker was surrounded by what someone called “a leftist mob:”
“A mob of leftists, who were even joined by Jeffrey Tucker at one point, were warned repeatedly about their noise-level, but refused to calm down. Eventually, hotel security dispersed the entire mob and assisted Spencer in evacuating unscathed.”
There is very little that is noble here about Jeffrey Tucker’s actions. Yes, I’ve seen countless posts on Facebook and tweets about how heroic Tucker was when behaving this way, but I fail to see the heroism in shutting down ideas and debate, especially about current events and political trends. Furthermore, resorting to “you are a fascist” calls is the easiest and laziest way to deal with an argument.
What is even worse about the entire meltdown is that race and ethnicity seem to have been at the core of Tucker’s initial statement, which is particularly ironic considering that Jeffrey Tucker was linked by The Economist years ago to a series of racist letters published by Ron Paul. The racist letters were not written by Ron Paul himself, but by some of his staff and friends, including allegedly Lew Rockwell, Jeffrey Tucker and potentially Murray Rothbard.
The Economist even called out Tucker for the racist ghost writing, who refused to answer the question asked and pointed to the Mises website for content that he authored.
The suggestion that at some point in time Jeffrey Tucker espoused racist ideas to me doesn’t matter at all as I have never personally heard him say anything racist, but considering his close connections with the issue at hand, one would think that Tucker of all people would favor the open exchange of ideas, as long as they remain peaceful. Someone being invited on private property to discuss his ideas and then being removed by police and State agents as a result of Tucker’s actions should be condemned by libertarians, not praised, or else there is little difference between the cultural Marxists roaming college campuses everywhere using mob mentality to shut down speech.
Mob-driven Libertarianism aimed at shutting down discourse is not virtuous, regardless of what ideas it attempts to shut down. We need to know who the fascists among us are, so we can engage them, avoid them, ostracize them or maybe even attempt to change their minds. The same goes for communists, racists and bigots. Ideas alone do not assault people, they do not murder anyone and cannot be killed.
Jeffrey Tucker did nothing heroic here. He violated private property rights and the right of association. He shut down a peaceful debate by inciting a mob against the people involved. He should not be praised. If anything, he should be condemned for participating in what was virtually a cultural Marxist cleansing. If we are to claim liberty for all, that includes the liberty of others to speak ideas we may find abhorrent and uncomfortable.
In the famous words from V for Vendetta, “Ideas are bulletproof.” Only better ideas can defeat flawed ideas, not violence and meltdowns in a public forum.
Virgil Vaduva is a Libertarian security professional, journalist, photographer and overall liberty freak. He spent most of his life in Communist Romania and participated in the 1989 street protests which led to the collapse of the Ceausescu regime. He can be reached at vvaduva at truthvoice.com.