I’m going to do something that I don’t do often.
Rik Storey is an idiot who has no idea what he’s talking about, cherry-picks to support his chosen ideology, ignores evidence that conflicts with his internal ideas, and spreads this madness for other people to absorb. The only reason I know about this alt-right goon is that he’s a member of a Voluntaryist/Anarchist/Libertarian group I’m in on Facebook, and no one has seen fit to kick him from the group yet for constantly talking about his alt-right positions and why they’re not only part of libertarianism–his latest post is about “the alt-right faction of the Libertarian Party”–but are critical to libertarianism–such as his post “Why Libertarians Need Protectionism.”
This is the idiot who said that multiculturalism is bad.
I’m not going to go into a line-by-line analysis of his writing and where his reasoning breaks down. I’m going to instead talk in broad strokes, because I don’t have the patience right now to read his trite dribble again. I have read his stuff, and I have countered his stuff; he has ignored the counters and continued peddling his inanities anyway.
Anyone who thinks that the United States is at risk of losing its culture needs to turn their sights inward. America runs the world, not just politically but also culturally. Our movies are cherished, our music is highly prized, and our video games are widely praised. Video games are the only cultural area where we don’t run the full sweep, but Bethesda, Bioware, and Blizzard–interestingly, all of whom begin with a “B,” although I think Bethesda is Canadian?–clearly show that the U.S. is a major player in the video game industry, even if it is dominated by Japan. Mass Effect: Andromeda released today, and has surely already sold millions of copies. World of Warcraft, anyone? Fucking Skyrim?
The wonderful thing about mainstream culture is that it’s always representative of the wider cultural values at home. This is obvious when you think about it. No movie in the 1950s would have depicted a gay marriage scene, because gay marriage was almost universally reviled, and the movie makers wanted to make money. Putting in a gay marriage scene would have resulted in widespread protest of the movie, and they wouldn’t have made any money. Culture, of course, is a multi-faceted thing, but the point still stands: America is projecting its culture out into the rest of the world, influencing the rest of the world.
Not the other way around.
We’re not sitting at home watching Bollywood movies and being increasingly influenced by Indian cultural values. We’re not watching Chinese sitcoms and slowly being pushed away from individualist thinking and toward collectivist/clan-based thinking that is more dominant in Asian cultures. American values are a teenage girl telling her middle aged father, “No, father! I will not marry that man, because I do not love him! I don’t care if he can save the family fortune!” An Indian or Chinese film would have the teenage girl saying, “Yes, father. I will do what is best for our family.” Remember, I said we’re speaking in broad strokes.
That kind of stuff influences people. We’re constantly being influenced by movies, television, music, video games, and literature. Take “The Purge,” for example, a movie that I boycotted on the basis of promoting facetious reasoning and the assumption that legality is what keeps people from killing one another. Show people movies like that long enough, and they will come away from it having concluded that the government is what keeps people from killing one another in the streets.
It’s far beyond my abilities to explain how art becomes a catalyst of cultural change while also attempting to be safe enough to make money, but it’s an observable phenomenon. It probably has something to do with the Marilyn Mansons and GG Allins of the world who take refuge in audacity, and whose outlandish behavior breaks down many barriers, opening the door for more mainstream musicians to safely mimic some of that behavior without going quite as far. Marilyn Manson, A Perfect Circle, and Nine Inch Nails all sang about dead gods and anti-religious sentiments, and now no one bats an eye if a rock band says something anti-religion. The dam is broken.
I’ve no doubt that a culture expert can explain this, but it’s not really important to the point at hand. The point is simply that American culture is, by an enormous margin, the most influential culture in the world today. The question we must ask is: What values is American culture promoting? The recent re-release of Beauty and the Beast features a gay kiss, and a lot of conservatives are up in arms about it. This is hardly ultra-liberal, but it doesn’t have to be ultra-liberal, because that dam is already broken. There have already been gay couples in all manner of entertainment, and openly gay musicians and actors. Having a gay kiss is now a safe spot to be in.
Protectionism won’t protect your values if the culture of your society doesn’t reflect your values. You can go as far into isolationism as you would like, and it will not save your social values now. It’s too late. Your values are dying, and nothing can be done to stop that. We will never have an American society again where being gay is criminalized or hidden. We will never have an American society again where being transgender is a capital offense. We will never have an American society where women are depicted as anything less than the equals of men. The tide has changed, and whether your values go as far as these straw values or not, the fact remains that progress is a one-way street. Once people realized that those other people are other people, you can’t convince them that they’re not. Once you convince people that black people are just like white people, you can never again convince them that black people are inferior, because they already identify with them.
The values you wish to protect with your cultural protectionism are already on the chopping block, and isolationism and protectionism can’t save them. Your values are being eroded from the inside, from within America itself. It’s not outside cultural elements convincing us that gay people are ordinary people, too, and that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. That’s something we came up with all by ourselves. We weren’t propagandized by German movies into believing that transgender people are deserving of dignity. We weren’t corrupted by Chinese music into believing that black people are equal to white people. We weren’t twisted by British propaganda into believing that women are equal to men. Again and again and again, these ideas originated–at the very least, in their modern movements–in the United States. We are Ground Zero for these social changes, and we emanate them outward into the rest of the world via our entertainment, which is a reflection of our culture and the very social changes that the alt-right has a problem with.
Outside influences aren’t corrupting us. If anything, we’re corrupting outside influences.
Why do you think China is relentlessly screening what movies, music, art, and literature enters their country? Even video games have to be screened, censored, and, often, changed before China will allow them in. Why? Because China is engaging in cultural protectionism. We are the influencers, you idiots. We are the ones influencing them. We’re not sitting around going, “Oh, I hope this famous Chinese movie has no subversive communist elements in it!” Dumbasses! We’re going, “Sweet! This movie is fucking awesome! U! S! A! U! S! A!”
This notion that outside elements are trying to influence us is so bizarre to me that I wonder if we’re even in the same reality. What cultural influences are impacting us? Paris has long stopped being the art capital of the world. We still have a lot of fondness for European culture–and, for some reason, we consider it more highly valued than our own, as though the Eiffel Tower is just inherently better than the Sears Tower–but it’s not influencing us. Europe is increasingly socialist, and that’s influencing some of our youngest who look to Europe as a utopia, but protectionism won’t change that, either, because it’s not Europe that people like Rik Storey have a problem with. In fact, they want to include Europe in their protectionism, and save it from all the “icky brown people” who are trying to change the culture that we’re literally influencing everyone else with.
These people are nuts. Fully detached from reality. Anyone with even a tenuous connection to reality can see plainly that it’s the United States that is influencing everyone else, not vice versa. It’s our movies that rock the world. It’s our musicians that rock the world. It’s our television shows that break new ground. It’s our Broadway. It’s our Fiddler on the Roof. It’s our Citizen Kane, our Gone With the Wind, our Titanic, our Avengers, our Avatar. What the hell are you worried about? You’re backward. We are influencing them.
The basic idea of Rik Storey’s idiocy is that we need protectionism to keep out “bad elements” because a libertarian society is a high trust one, and so we need to be able to trust other members. I call this “idiocy” because it is.
As always, let’s begin by dissecting assumptions. What is “trust?” Trust is nothing more than a conditioned expectation to stimuli. There’s no such thing as trust; there’s just an expectation that this action will have this result, or that this other person will do that in response to this. It’s not about trust; it’s about expectation. We don’t trust the mailman to come everyday; trust is unnecessary to the process, because we know from experience and real-world examples that the mailman will come everyday. We’re not pulling from some emotional idea and faith in the mailman; we’re pulling from real experiences and real data to establish an expectation that is in-line with our experience.
Similarly, I don’t “trust” that my girlfriend would be pissed off if I cheated on her. I know she would; trust has nothing to do with it. I’m extrapolating from past experiences–not personal experiences, to be clear–and establishing an expectation based on those past experiences. Neither do I “trust” that she won’t cheat on me; I expect that she won’t, based on my past experiences with her. Trust never, ever enters into the picture. It’s just a misnomer, a colloquial way of saying “I have this expectation based on previous experiences.” A betrayal of trust isn’t a betrayal of trust; it’s when someone does something counter to our expectations that impacts us in a negative way.
That said, I dispute the idea that a libertarian society is a high trust one in the first place. I don’t have to trust that Bob won’t rob my house if there is no law against it, because I can shoot Bob for trespassing and violating my property. The state society involves exactly this same trust, too, because we know that laws don’t create moral behavior; they merely provide a framework by which immoral behavior is punished. No one is out there going, “Damn. I would steal, rape, and kill, if only there were no laws against it!”
So a stateless society–or a libertarian one–doesn’t involve more trust than any other sort of society. It doesn’t matter whether there is a law against it or not; trust isn’t the factor distinguishing the two. We don’t operate under the good faith trust that Bob won’t break into my home and steal my stuff in a libertarian society, just like we don’t operate under the good faith trust that Bob won’t break the law in a state society. We expect moral behavior based on our experiences with most people and we have ways of dealing with immoral behavior when it occurs. That doesn’t change in a libertarian society.
For That Matter, WHO Are You Trusting?
Rik Storey makes it pretty clear that he trusts straight, white people. He constantly talks about the greatness of western society, claiming credit for the work of the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans, and the American ancestors. This is common for such people, of course: by taking credit for the great things that other people did, they give themselves an ego boost by identifying with those other people. “I’m great, because people who were just like me did great things! I can take credit for the fact that the Greeks invented democracy, because I’m white and they were white!”
I can’t speak for everyone, but if I was motivated to be racist, sexist, and sexual orientationist, then straight white men would be the last people I would trust. This is where Rik’s “logic” really breaks down: he wants to claim credit for all the great things that–there’s no reason to be coy–white people did, while he says nothing about the abominable acts that white people have done. If we’re talking about “white people” as a single collective unit, then, yes, they invented democracy, libertarianism, self-governance, and other cool things.
They also started two World Wars, executed the Holocaust, enjoyed American slavery for centuries, annihilated the Native Americans, have invaded countless sovereign nations, have tried more than any other race of people to conquer the world, and have dropped not one but two atomic weapons on civilian population centers. They systemically oppressed women, black people, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ people, non-Christians, and anyone else who wasn’t exactly like them. So yeah, if you’re a straight white man with Christian leanings, I could see why you’d be okay trusting other straight white men with Christian leanings. They’ve never turned their viciousness onto you, after all.
But if you’re literally anyone else, then the notion that you should simply trust straight, white Christian men is absurd in the highest degree. There is no other demographic less worthy of trust. Rik Storey’s inability to see this and realize it is exactly because he is part of that demographic and, in the classical sense of that demographic, is incapable of seeing the world through anyone else’s eyes. Straight, white Christian men must be trustworthy, he concludes, because he’s a straight, white Christian man and straight, white Christian men have never done anything to him.
He claims credit for the great things his ancestors have done and uses those great things as reasons why his demographic is inherently more trustworthy, as far as a libertarian society goes. His thinking is that white people invented libertarianism, and thus only white people can be trusted in a libertarian society. He conveniently ignores the fact that white people also invented the nuclear weapon, the cluster bomb, the UAV, and a host of other things that add up to being pretty good reasons why not to trust those people.
I don’t buy any of that. There is no “straight, white Christian male” group that acts and thinks in unison, that is more or less worthy of “trust” than anyone else, because there are only individuals with various characteristics. The above rant is not an attack against men, white people, straight people, or Christians except as an extension of Rik Storey’s own thinking–which I reject in the first place. If Rik Storey truly believes his own spiel, then his conclusion must be that straight, white Christian men whose culture is under threat from the outside world aren’t worthy of trust in the first place, and that it must be a good thing that those outside cultural influences are impacting his values.
Everything about his thinking is backward, skewed, and confused. In a libertarian society, we don’t have to trust our neighbors won’t violate the NAP, because we will have ways of dealing with it if they do. The existence of laws against violence don’t mitigate our trust or increase our trust; they are unrelated to the entire affair, as they are nothing more than the framework we use to punish people when they violate our morality. The morality remains in a libertarian society, and so does the tendency to punish people for violating it*. Just as you’d use law and the state to punish people for stealing from you in a state society, so would you use the NAP and some mechanism to punish people for stealing from you in a stateless society. Trust has nothing to do with it.
And if you really want to ride that demographic identity train, I don’t think it will arrive at a destination that people like Rik Storey will be comfortable with. Because if you’re going to take pride in all the great things that white people, men, straight people, and Christians have done, then you must also take responsibility for all the absolutely horrible things those same people have done: the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the bombed abortion clinics, both World Wars, Nagasaki, Hiroshima… I’d be moderately interested in seeing Rik Storey’s tally where he has added up all the positive things his demographic has done and stacked them against all the negative things his demographic has done, and whether the math shows he is correct in trusting his demographic.
But he isn’t correct, and it’s stupid anyway, because we are individuals, not amalgams of characteristics and not extensions of people who lived and died thousands of years ago. I think it’s interesting that Storey wants to take credit for the Greeks inventing democracy, but I’d bet my shiny new A Perfect Circle tickets [Yes, that phrase again] that Rik Storey vehemently opposes the notion of reparations for black Americans.
So do I, as it happens, but I oppose it because individuals who didn’t do something shouldn’t have to pay for something that other individuals did to individuals who didn’t have it done to them. That is what a position of consistency looks like. “White people are worthy of trust because they invented libertarianism! But that they invented and remain the only people to have used nuclear weapons? No, that isn’t a factor” is not what a position of consistency looks like.
The alt-right is replete with this sort of cherry-picking, denial of history, and doublethink. I don’t criticize white people for the Holocaust; I criticize Hitler. I don’t praise white people for democracy; I praise the unidentified individuals who conceived it. I’m not worried about outside influences impacting American culture because I’m not a blind moron, and I can easily look out into the world and notice that it’s the other way around; American culture is heavily impacting the rest of the world. And even if I shared Storey’s timid, insecure values, I still wouldn’t be able to get on board with his “conclusions,” because I’m capable of noticing that America’s values are changing from within.
And if he’s arguing that those individuals who are fighting to change America’s values from within need to be excised or killed, then he obviously isn’t a libertarian of any sort, but that’s okay, because the alt-right isn’t a faction of libertarianism anyway. Libertarians means liberty for ALL, and let the consequences of freedom be whatever they will be. If liberty means that Rik Storey’s values are eroded and ultimately wiped from history, then so be it. Libertarianism means liberty for all, even non-white, non-straight, non-Christian, non-men. Liberty for one demographic obviously isn’t liberty; it’s tyranny.
So no. Alt-right ideas are fundamentally incompatible with the precepts of liberty. Libertarianism means other people are free to come in and influence your culture, because they aren’t using force, violence, and coercion. If your culture is so weak that it can’t survive that, then there you go–your culture is weak.
I tend to think that Storey must know this. Protectionism is all about insecurity, after all. If Microsoft is so scared of competition that they have to engage in protectionism, then it means they know their products suck and can’t stand up against competing products. If Storey is so scared of competition that he has to engage in protectionism, then it means he knows his culture sucks and can’t stand up against competing cultures.
Letting the weak be defeated by the strong through competition absent force, violence, and coercion? That is libertarianism.
So it’s not other cultures that are incompatible with libertarianism, Storey.
* Which I’m not on board with anyway, but that’s a more complex issue.