Playing the Kevin Bacon Game within the Libertarian Movement
Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state: they are against promoting American citizens’ general welfare and against policies that create a perfect union. Like Communists before them, they are actively subverting the Constitution and the American Dream, and replacing it with a Kleptocratic Nightmare.
Mark Ames The Rally to Restore Vanity: Generation X Celebrates it’s Homeric Struggle Against Lameness
In a previous post, TSA and the Political Left Authority Tards, I included this article, TSAstroturf: The Washington Lobbyists and Koch-Funded Libertarians Behind the TSA Scandal, from “The Nation” in my compiled list. However, in the interim, that Nation article created a backlash that was lead by the likes of Glenn Greenwald and Jane Hamsher among others. Other journalists, including one that works for The Nation, would follow suit in their condemnation.
Now anyone familiar with the libertarian movement would laugh at the two-bit conspiratorial hackery of The Nation hit piece as just a bad and lazy McCarthyite version of the Kevin Bacon game. It’s pretty easy in the Kevin Bacon game to connect almost anyone in the libertarian movement in two or less moves to Charles and David Koch. Myself: I’m a lapsed member of the LP. David Koch is a former vice-presidential candidate of the LP. Therefore, I’m a Koch plant. I’m a card-carrying member of the ACLU. The Koch brothers donated twenty million dollars to the ACLU a few years ago. The ACLU is thus a Koch-funded organization, and I’m once again a Koch plant(It should be noted that Greenwald, who is also a member of the ACLU and who conducted a Cato-commissioned study on Portugal Decriminalization, would likewise be an example of another Koch Plant).
Because Jason Sorens is an Affiliated Scholar at the Mercatus Center, it’s a given that any libertarian or libertarian activist in New Hampshire is a Koch plant. Meg McLain(who The Nation claimed made up her story about the TSA despite the fact that video evidence pretty much corroborates much of her story, although not all of it; absence of full corroboration, though, hardly implies any type of hoax) lives in New Hampshire. Thus, she is automatically a Koch plant to begin with. That she met with Pete Eyre on his “Liberty Tour” only confirms that she is a Koch secret agent. George Donnelly knows McLain; therefore George is a secret Koch plant. This little exercise in the Kevin Bacon game is thus used to cast suspicion of a Koch Astroturf conspiracy over any disobedience to the TSA. The Nation invites other journalists to join them in their little Kevin Bacon game.
In the case of John Tyner, who, from his blog postings, apparently holds radical libertarian views, it appears he might be an example of someone who has had no formal association with anything libertarian. Thus the Kevin Bacon game would be a bit harder to apply in his case. So Ames and Levine merely resorted to establishing the case he was a “right-winger” by the fact he went to private Christian High School and lived in the vicinity of a military base. Plus he has skeptical views on voting. This was enough for them to eagerly invite other journalists to dig around. There’s a Kevin Bacon game to be played here; one just needed to look harder…
Quite rightly, there was journalistic backlash of sorts against this piece. It was that bad. Ames and Levine penned a response. The gist: Their little Kevin Bacon game was not in the service of partisan politics; rather was in the service of some class theory critique that corporate privatization and profiling were the casus belli against TSA. The “Kevin Baconization” of John Tyner was merely peripheral to the main argument.
But the response doesn’t hold up to a more contextual examination. Let us reference an earlier article written by Mr. Ames, the one that contains the quote referenced at the beginning of this post. In that article, Ames juxtaposes a letter by EA Hanks against the backdrop of the Jon Stewart Rally. The intent was to criticize the cultural lameness of the Gen X/Gen Y, but the underlying thesis is that culture and politics have been corrupted by libertarianism. Writes Ames:
Here’s where something much more sinister about what passes for “Liberal” in my generation is revealed: the totally-selfish Ayn Rand activist, the petulant Libertarian protagonist who has a brand manager’s understanding of what it means to be “Liberal” or “Left”. It is this brand manager’s disillusionment with the brand that is fuelling the Jon Stewart rally—by identifying herself so closely with something that turned out to be not nearly as cool as the buzz claimed, she made herself vulnerable, and mockable. Which may seem frivolous to you old folks out there, but for her and for Gen-X/Yers, exposing yourself like that is the equivalent of a decade of marching for Civil Rights and against the war, getting arrested, beaten, jailed, negotiating with authorities, teaching, etc….here is the Gen-X/Y equivalent of “laying it all on the line.”
Ames has been complaining that the New Yorker plagiarized his journalism regarding the Koch brothers, but I would suggest that Ames’ journalism regarding the critique of the “libertarian culture” of Gen X/Gen Y is plagiarizing Mark Lilla. Ames sees this cultural libertarianism as creating political lameness characterized by a (liberal) political culture replete with self-absorbed, window dressing poseurs. Ames excoriates EA Hanks (the daughter of Tom Hanks) as symptom of a culture that equates vulnerability with undressing yourself in a blog or in front of a Oprah Winfrey television audience rather than with the old-school version of it–which would be making yourself vulnerable by marching for civil rights or getting arrested, beaten, jailed, or negotiating with authorities.
Ames blames this on libertarianism and you can see why now how libertarian “Direct Action” would put a monkey wrench is his world view. Therefore, any libertarian direct action has to be deconstructed as Koch astro-turfing by playing the Kevin Bacon Game. In the case of John Tyner, however, Ames and Levine failed to connect him to the game. No matter, they just smeared him anyway. It was this smear that raised the ire of some in the journalistic community. Ames and Levine responded by claiming he was just a peripheral figure in their argument. But they are lying. He would actually be the unexplainable anomaly in their worldview. The one that couldn’t be connected to Koch and the one who wasn’t interested in undressing himself before a media audience.
John Tyner made himself vulnerable by taking on the power of the TSA. For this he was smeared by Ames and Levine, demonstrating that Ames critique of political lameness is nothing but a sham. Indeed, Ames critique of liberalism, as he defines it, is vacuous because he is in no way a liberal. Writes Ames in the conclusion of his Political Lameness article about what it means to be a “non-lame” leftist:
What does the Left stand for? Let me suggest a few things in people’s own personal interests in these decaying times that the Left should stand for: first, people need money. Then if they have money, they need Life. Then they might be interested in “ideals” set out in the contract that this country is founded on. Ever read the preamble to the Constitution? There’s nothing about private property there and self-interest. Nothing at all about that. It’s a contract whose purpose is clearly spelled out, and it’s a purpose that’s the very opposite of the purpose driving Stewart’s rally, or the purpose driving the libertarian ideology so dominant over the past few generations. This country, by contract, was founded in order to strive for a “more Perfect Union”—that’s “union,” as in the pairing of the words “perfect” and “union”—not sovereign, not states, not local, not selfish, but “union.” And that other purpose at the end of the Constitution’s contractual obligations: promote the “General Welfare.” That means “welfare.” Not “everyone for himself” but “General Welfare.” That’s what it is to be American: to strive to form the most perfect union with each other, and to promote everyone’s general betterment. That’s it. The definition of an American patriot is anyone promoting the General Welfare of every single American, and anyone helping to form the most perfect Union—that’s “union”, repeat, “Union” you dumb fucks. Now, our problem is that there are a lot of people in this country who have dedicated their entire lives to subverting the stated purpose of this country. We must be prepared to identify those who disrupt and sabotage our national purpose of creating this “more perfect union” identifying those who sabotage our national goal of “promoting the General Welfare”—and calling them by their name: traitors. You who strive to form this Perfect Union and promote General Welfare—You are Patriots.
That ain’t liberalism. Indeed it smells like the same communitarian, authoritarian claptrap that has underwritten the left authoritarian horrors of the 20th century. And you can’t try to dress it up in the language of “Social Democracy” when you write things like: “We must be prepared to identify the traitors.” And you can’t pretend to equivocate on your authoritarianism when you so clearly embrace organs of the National Security State in your Nation Hit Piece:
As Media Matters pointed out recently, the whole reason why the TSA was formed was because private contractors paying airport security minimum wages were considered a big part of the reason why the 9/11 terror attacks were allowed to happen. Since the formation of the TSA, not a single terror attack originating from an American airport has taken place. But apparently that’s not nearly as relevant as the complaints of a few libertarians.
In the “response article,” Ames actually celebrates charges of being called an authoritarian, indeed wears such charges as a badge of honor, because some Clinton flunkie once called him a communist. Apparently, for Ames, that badge is a license to return the favor, by calling those who disagree politically with him, particularly the libertarians, “traitors” and “Enemies of the State.” For Yasha Levine, who appeals to his Soviet Russian experience to deflect charges of authoritarianism, I will give that the same amount of consideration he gives to Ayn Rand’s similar experience of Jewish persecution in Communist Russia, in terms of evaluating a political philosophy. At least in the case of Rand, I can understand how experiencing horrible persecution underlain by DoubleThink would propel her to formulate a philosophical doctrine of Objectivism. In the case of Levine, I fail to see how his own personal experiences with Soviet Russia gives him license to engage in his own brand of DoubleThink.
For “The Nation,” whose website is graced by imagery and advertisements for the Civil Rights movement, I would only remind you that the Civil Rights movement, an institution that is so revered now, but at one time was a movement that was not so revered, was subject to a similar Kevin Bacon game that it was connected to a foreign communist plot. I would also remind you that the methods of the civil rights, civil disobedience, were borrowed from the libertarian tradition, not the corporate liberal tradition. Defending TSA demonstrates the utter depths of corporate liberal dementia…