Either way, I think we need to clean up our act

I’m not sure what the saddest part is of finding out that a person you once joked was a Nazi turns out to be like, an actual Nazi.

Or, at least someone who liked to use coded slurs for people of color in emails. And converse with avowed white nationalists. And write for their websites.

Maybe the saddest, scariest part is the part where a different man you met a few times and had lunch with at least once turned out to have seemingly organized a Nazi email list. It’s sad and scary in part because he seemed like a really nice guy, and you never once suspected. You suspected, and suspect, a lot of others. People who tweet about sex work being “degrading” and women’s place being in the home and “traditional” values and race and IQ. But not him. He never said any of that to you.

Actually, I think the saddest part was reading the response from the alleged Nazi to being accused of authoring articles in explicitly white nationalist outlets. You can read the whole response here, starting with the line, “I was on a lot of gossip mailing lists years ago…”

I’m not the best at reading tone, but the word that comes to mind for this email is “sneering.” Bennett has just been accused of something really terrible, something incredibly hurtful, and he writes a defensive, dismissive email. That just hurts me something fierce.

I remember watching Exhibit A on Netflix, which I wrote about here. A few times I’d meet the accused and be convinced they’re guilty. I’d think, no one innocent talks like that. But they did. The show demonstrated that the cases against these people were bogus. In one case the guy I just knew did it literally couldn’t have. He’s too tall. The surveillance footage shows it.

The point is, I don’t know. Journalists fuck up. They believe sources they shouldn’t. Maybe this is a hit job on Bennett. Maybe he didn’t write those articles or emails.

Maybe it doesn’t really matter. Or, rather, maybe we should consider why prominent libertarians keep defecting to a particularly racist, sexist strain of authoritarianism. Why do they so rarely defect to any flavor of progressivism?

Maybe we should talk, maybe I should talk, about how I went from working for an organization allegedly funded by Peter Thiel to protesting his company outside their Palo Alto offices.

Thiel once identified as a libertarian, and has given money to libertarian causes and organizations. My first clue that Peter Thiel wasn’t on my side, ideologically, was when I read where he wrote, “Since 1920, the vast increase in welfare beneficiaries and the extension of the franchise to women — two constituencies that are notoriously tough for libertarians — have rendered the notion of ‘capitalist democracy’ into an oxymoron.” The Cato Institute published it.

Thiel then went on to support Donald Trump’s presidency. And now his company builds technology that helps ICE more efficiently round up brown people and imprison and deport them.

Libertarian principles are supposed to be completely incompatible with authoritarianism. The story I used to believe is that libertarians allied with the right despite their authoritarian drives to regulate women’s bodies and desire to play world police and arm actual police with military-grade weapons. And despite their racism and sexism. Because the right was more economically anti-authoritarian.

I just kind of feel like by deciding that we wanted libertarianism to be a big tent and including people who are racist and sexist as long as they agree on tax cuts we invited not only the kind of person who is okay with libertarianism despite its racism and sexism problem but the people who prefer libertarianism for its racism and sexism. It feels like the only people who we left out of our tent are people who aren’t okay with racism and sexism. To hang with us, those people have to pretend the racism and sexism aren’t happening, or make a big deal about them and get shut out of polite company, or leave. I’ve done all three at various times.

I hope it’s not true. I hope the two mentioned above aren’t actual Nazis. I hope this is all a big misunderstanding. But even if it is, libertarianism has a Nazi problem. Because we’ve chosen to tolerate more and less subtle forms of racism and sexism from our ranks, it’s become crystal clear that many people whose racism and sexism are not, in fact, subtle have felt at home with us.

I bring up Thiel because he also is alleged to have funded Bennett’s latest magazine.

I don’t know what to do about it. Leaking emails and doing purges doesn’t exactly sound anti-authoritarian. I guess I’d love to see more libertarians challenge more and less subtle forms of racism and sexism. I want sexism and racism to see the same, okay, well, more similar levels of acceptance within libertarian circles as it does in progressive ones. Maybe instead of just making a big deal about only very explicitly Nazi ideas, we should also push back against Nazi-adjacent ideas.

I feel like perhaps a person who publicly blames women and welfare recipients for the end of capitalist democracy shouldn’t have felt at that time as though libertarianism was their most comfortable intellectual home.

Perhaps Cato scholars unfairly shitting on the 1619 project is part of why it’s starting to feel like we’ve had more racist authoritarians defect from libertarianism to the alt-right than we’ve had black libertarians at all.

Many people are doing amazing work on this front and I appreciate them. And libertarianism desperately needs more of them.

Mostly though it just hurts my heart that it sure seems like a greater percentage of the people I have socialized with than I would have hoped would regularly go home and secretly joke (I hope?) about the Jewish Question with white nationalists.

It sure seems that way. Either way, I think there’s ample evidence that we libertarians need to do a lot more to clean up our act.

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