Daily Beast: ‘The Insidious Libertarian-to-Alt-Right Pipeline’

Matt Lewis at the Daily Beast:

Libertarianism has an alt-right problem. Many prominent leaders of the alt-right have, at some point, identified as libertarian. I am curious as to… why?

Milo Yiannopoulos has billed himself (and has been billed by others) as libertarian. About a year ago, he came clean about that. According to Business Insider, the alt-right troll Tim Gionet (aka “Baked Alaska”) formerly “identified as a carefree, easygoing libertarian” who “supported Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s bid for the White House, firmly opposed the war on drugs, and championed the cause of Black Lives Matter…”

Gavin McInnes bills himself as a libertarian, but he founded the Proud Boys―a men’s rights group that is considered part of the alt-right. Augustus Invictus, a Florida attorney who literally drank goat’s blood as part of an animal sacrifice, ran for senate in the 2016 Libertarian Party primary and spoke at Liberty Fest. Recently popular among college libertarians, Stefan Molyneux evolved into a pro-Trump alt-righter. And Richard Spencer was thrown out of the International Students for Liberty conference this year after crashing the event.

It is also true that many of today’s alt-righters are disaffected conservatives. However, there are many more conservatives in this country than there are libertarians, which suggests a disproportionate number of today’s prominent alt-righters began as libertarians.

“It’s ironic that some of these people start off calling themselves libertarian, but they are the antithesis of everything that the libertarian project stands for—which is cosmopolitanism versus parochialism, individualism vs. group identity, and libertarianism or autonomy versus authoritarianism,” Nick Gillespie, editor in chief of Reason.com tells me.

Granted, there are a few similarities between the two groups. For example, paleoconservatives (think populist nationalists like Pat Buchanan) and libertarians both tend to be anti-interventionist in foreign policy. But there are also multiple contradictions Jeffrey A. Tucker, content director for the libertarian Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), lists five differences between the alt-right and libertarians). And yet, it seems observably true that libertarianism is disproportionately a gateway drug to the alt-right. Again, the question is… why?

[…]

Like any emerging ideology, the alt-right didn’t just materialize out of nowhere. There were forerunners crying in the wilderness who were generally viewed as harmless kooks. “The paleo-libertarian seed that Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Lew Rockwell planted in the 1990s has come to bear some really ugly fruit in the last couple of years as elements of the alt-right have made appearances in various libertarian organizations and venues,” writes Steve Horwitz, an economist who writes at Bleeding Heart Libertarians.

The Ron Paul Revolution might not have amounted to much electorally, but it would be wrong to underestimate the impact he has had on libertarianism and the alt-right. “In a way, Ron Paul is the guy who lit the fuse,” Nick Gillespie says. “And he embodies some of those contradictions [between libertarianism and the alt-right].” Gillespie tells me that Richard Spencer came up to him at the Republican National Convention in 2016 and said that he was activated into politics because of Paul. Gillespie sees Paul’s legacy as very mixed, as someone who was “simultaneously… positing this very libertarian worldview, but then he’s also speaking to people’s fears and anxieties.” If one were looking for the missing link to explain this phenomenon, Ron Paul (and his paleolibertarian allies) would be a good place to start.

Still, my guess is that this has as much to do with attitude as it has to do with ideology. One explanation for why young libertarians metastasize into alt-righters is self-selection bias. Some of the people drawn to libertarianism are predisposed to be seduced into the alt-right. In this regard, they are merely passing through a libertarian phase. “Libertarianism is an unpopular view. And it takes particular personality types to be open to taking unpopular views,” explains Kevin Vallier, an associate professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University, who writes for the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians. “Some of these personality types are people who are open to new experience, love the world of ideas and have a disposition for independent thought. However, some of these personality types simply enjoy holding outrageous and provocative views, who like to argue and fight with others, who like insult and… shock.” Vallier continued, “The worst flaw in the contrarian trap is that it makes libertarians open to views that deserve to be unpopular and despised, including the thinly-veiled racism of the sort Hans Hermann Hoppe trades in from time to time.” (Note: Some see Hoppe’s support of what he calls a “pro-European immigration bias” as an example of “thinly-veiled racism.”)

[…]

David Boaz provided yet another explanation. “Some people may become libertarians because they’re angry,” Boaz says. “For a while, it’s enough to be angry at the government. But ultimately libertarianism is about peaceful cooperation―markets, civil society, global trade, peace―so it just isn’t angry enough for some people. Racial intolerance is a way to be angry at the whole world. And I think you hear that in some of the alt-right types.”

The most recent example of this transformation is Christopher Cantwell, who has garnered 15 minutes of infamy by virtue of appearing in that viral Vice documentary about Charlottesville.

[…]

Over at HotAir, Taylor Millard says that conservatives and libertarians need to purge white supremacists. If they are smart, they will follow his advice.

Full article

43 thoughts on “Daily Beast: ‘The Insidious Libertarian-to-Alt-Right Pipeline’

  1. Anthony Dlugos

    Pretty good possible explanations, each of them (and maybe all of them):

    One explanation for why young libertarians metastasize into alt-righters is self-selection bias. Some of the people drawn to libertarianism are predisposed to be seduced into the alt-right. In this regard, they are merely passing through a libertarian phase. “Libertarianism is an unpopular view. And it takes particular personality types to be open to taking unpopular views,” explains Kevin Vallier, an associate professor of philosophy at Bowling Green State University, who writes for the blog Bleeding Heart Libertarians. “Some of these personality types are people who are open to new experience, love the world of ideas and have a disposition for independent thought. However, some of these personality types simply enjoy holding outrageous and provocative views, who like to argue and fight with others, who like insult and… shock.” Vallier continued, “The worst flaw in the contrarian trap is that it makes libertarians open to views that deserve to be unpopular and despised, including the thinly-veiled racism of the sort Hans Hermann Hoppe trades in from time to time.”

    As a political philosophy, libertarianism is somewhat unique in its unflinching support of free speech. In some cases, this free speech is unsavory. If you’re anti-political correctness, libertarianism might seem like a good place to land—even if you don’t buy into the whole libertarian philosophy. This affinity for libertarianism “wears off when they realize that we’re principled, that no, we’re not just trolling,” says Gillespie.

    David Boaz provided yet another explanation. “Some people may become libertarians because they’re angry,” Boaz says. “For a while, it’s enough to be angry at the government. But ultimately libertarianism is about peaceful cooperation?markets, civil society, global trade, peace?so it just isn’t angry enough for some people. Racial intolerance is a way to be angry at the whole world. And I think you hear that in some of the alt-right types.”

  2. Massimo

    I agree, all good explanations. I wonder though, why they pin the former libertarian alt-right members to the libertarians, and don’t pin the masses of former union Dems that became Trumpists on Clinton Dem Party. Goebbels and Hitler were socialists, but nobody is asking Bernie to explain it.

  3. Anthony Dlugos

    I agree. There’s some good linked articles, though:

    http://www.nationalreview.com/article/450501/white-nationalists-alt-right-vague-grievances-what-do-they-want

    “They don’t have any straightforward demands like the Teamsters or PETA do, and they do not have a well-developed ideological position like the Communists do, though it would be inaccurate to say that they lack an ideology entirely,” Williamson writes. His best guess? “They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals.”

  4. dL

    I agree. There’s some good linked articles, though:

    That piece from NR is not in the category I was referring to. The Daily Beast piece was quoting a bunch of libertarians to make the case that the libertarian-alt-right connection is an outlier. The pieces to come will not be quoting libertarians and those being quoted will be saying “bedfellows,” not outlier.

  5. Anthony Dlugos

    “The pieces to come will not be quoting libertarians and those being quoted will be saying “bedfellows,” not outlier.”

    I agree. But the NR article is a good one.

  6. dL

    I agree. But the NR article is a good one.

    Generally not a fan of NR, but that Williamson piece was brutally correct.

  7. Tony From Long Island

    Massimo

    I wonder though, why they pin the former libertarian alt-right members to the libertarians, and don’t pin the masses of former union Dems that became Trumpists

    Are you serious? That’s like saying that every Trump supporter is a member of the “alt-right” neo-Nazi movement.

    How many “former union dems” who voted for Trump are members of the Alt-Right? Probably zero.

  8. paulie

    How many “former union dems” who voted for Trump are members of the Alt-Right? Probably zero.

    Massimo said that some former Democratic voters support(ed) Trump, not that they became alt rightists. And in response to Massimo, the reason why is that the alt rightists are an order of magnitude or several more toxic than Trump supporters as a whole. Most alt rightists are Trumpsters, but the reverse isn’t true.

  9. Dave

    Interesting article. From my own personal anecdote I will say I know more RP voting libertarians or at least libertarian leaners who are now feeling the Bern and have become leftists. Though I do know some who went to Trump and full alt-right. It stuck me as odd, but I think some people just are attracted to a larger than life personality. In their own ways Paul, Sanders, and Trump disrupted the ordinary and typical political establishment, and I think that appealed to a certain crowd. Also of note is that all three figures were at least perceived to be less hawkish (though as we’ve seen with Trump, he’s reverting on this. but he criticized Obama and Bush for their foreign adventures.) At least for me I was most attracted to Paul because of the non interventionist foreign policy. I can certainly see how others who supported him might instead gravitate towards someone else speaking the same platitudes on that issue, even if they’re not libertarian in the least. And frankly voices like Sanders and Trump were more dominant in the last election than LP alternatives such as Johnson, Just due to who the media covered.

  10. Andrew McCarrick

    “Goebbels and Hitler were socialists”

    “No, they were not. ”

    ???? Nazi stands for National Socialist is German. The Nazis were center-right socialists aka fascist aka National Collectivists.

  11. paulie

    Socialism means worker ownership of the means of production. Even if we take the state to be a proxy for the workers – something which it has proven itself to be exceedingly poor at – the Nazis did not outright nationalize very many industries, and in fact denationalized some. It’s true that some nazis actually were serious about the socialist part of national socialism – the Strasserites – but they did not set the policy of the Third Reich. Nazi economics in practice were an undemocratic version of democratic socialism as seen in Europe today – a large welfare state within a largely crony corporatist economic system – mixed with hallmarks of Soviet and Fascist authoritarian regimes alike such as the substitution of independent labor unions with state-run ones.

  12. Tony From Long Island

    Paulie

    Massimo said that some former Democratic voters support(ed) Trump, not that they became alt rightists. And in response to Massimo, the reason why is that the alt rightists are an order of magnitude or several more toxic than Trump supporters as a whole. Most alt rightists are Trumpsters, but the reverse isn’t true.

    In response to an article about libertarians becoming Alt-right, Massimo did the usual “but what about . . . ”

    Union Democrats who voted for Trump have absolutely nothing to do with the “alt-right” so why the hell would the author also look into them? it was just such a ridiculously laughable response.

  13. robert capozzi

    Most disturbing, especially since former NAPster Ls are now actual LEADERS of the hater-right.

    I suspect the psychological explanation and the angry appeal of extremism is the most valid explanation of this unfortunate trend.

  14. dL

    ???? Nazi stands for National Socialist is German. The Nazis were center-right socialists aka fascist aka National Collectivists.

    1920s Germany had major workers’ parties represented by the communists and the socialists. The use of the word “socialist” by the Nazis was an attempt to expropriate some of the disenchanted left. The economic program of the Nazis was always geared toward the concentration of capital. These worker parties were then banned after the appointment of Hitler to Chancellor and the Reichstag fire false flag.

  15. Anthony Dlugos

    Right now, after somberly reading the article referred to and about half a dozen of various linked articles, I’m more convinced that we f*cked up not choosing “Building Bridges, Not Walls” as the 2018 convention theme.

    That plus fixing the immigration plank woulda been a great way to scare off the alt-right for good, or at least make them seriously rethink their choice of neighborhood.

  16. paulie

    Right now, after somberly reading the article referred to and about half a dozen of various linked articles,

    http://reason.com/blog/2017/08/23/kat-timpf-on-being-a-fox-libertarian-end#fold is another good one to read to grasp the mentality in play more fully, if you haven’t already.

    I’m more convinced that we f*cked up not choosing “Building Bridges, Not Walls” as the 2018 convention theme.

    I think the silver lining is that it could still be the theme for 2020, which will get more viewership.

    That plus fixing the immigration plank woulda been a great way to scare off the alt-right for good, or at least make them seriously rethink their choice of neighborhood.

    Agreed!

  17. Tony From Long Island

    AD:

    I’m more convinced that we f*cked up not choosing “Building Bridges, Not Walls” as the 2018 convention theme.

    That plus fixing the immigration plank woulda been a great way to scare off the alt-right for good, or at least make them seriously rethink their choice of neighborhood.

    Maybe THAT will get a certain xenophobic frequent poster to leave the LP! 🙂

  18. Anthony Dlugos

    haha.

    Would it, though? It paradoxically might have the opposite effect. I posted that clip from Christopher Hitchens regarding what it must be like to be a Michael Moore-styled 9/11 Truther, seeing secret cabals behind every event.

    Realizing that the LP was fully captured by the open-boarders left might only justify what he knows to be true anyway: “Of course the left captured my LP. They’re in control of everything anyway. Time to get more signatures.”

  19. Anthony Dlugos

    sorry, I worded that wrong. What I meant to say is his Fahrenheit 9/11 conspiracy theories about secret cabals who used 9/11 to engineer the war in Iraq.

  20. paulie

    9/11 was absolutely used to “justify” the second US war in Iraq, as anyone who lived through the buildup and the early years of that war should remember.

  21. Nathan Larson

    Part of the reason is that libertarians are defining “alt-right” more broadly so that now even the Mises Institute is considered alt-right. People who in times past would’ve been considered right-libertarian are now not considered libertarian at all.

    Libertarianism tends to attract intellectuals, but the Libertarian Party has become more anti-intellectual over the years. If someone deviates from “humanitarian” libertarianism by going in a more brutalist direction, libertarian leaders’ response these days is to denounce them and try to get them out of the party, rather than to engage with them and carefully refute their arguments. If someone wants to express a politically incorrect truth, they are told that they are not welcome in the Libertarian Party.

    It becomes hard for the Libertarian Party to claim the moral high ground as advocates of tolerance, when they are intolerant toward those of differing opinions. This hypocrisy turns people off, so that they go in search of an ideology that at least is internally consistent.

    Rothbard writes, “The contemporary movement is now old enough to have had a host of defections; analysis of these defections shows that, in almost every case, the libertarian has been isolated, cut off from fellowship and interaction with his colleagues”. That is exactly what the LP is doing by ostracizing right-libertarians — causing them to become isolated and prone to defect altogether to the alt-right.

    I don’t think it’s about people being losers and wanting to find solace in their identity as whites. Every movement has losers who, having failed in other endeavors, focus on politics instead. Fringe movements, especially those disapproved of by society, may tend to have even more losers, because losers may (rightly or wrongly) blame some of their problems on society, and because losers have less to lose by being controversial. Not everyone who acts in a controversial way is motivated by controversy as an end in and of itself, though; some may use controversy as a tool to accomplish goals.

    I suspect, by the way, that there are some libertarians-turned-alt-righters who will end up getting rejected by the alt-right and coming back to their libertarian roots. The alt-right is mostly anonymous, which can delay rejection, but when people shed their anonymity, that’s often when rejection happens, as the alt-right decides they’re too degenerate for their standards. There could end up being a lot of people who find themselves politically homeless after they get kicked out of both the libertarian and the alt-right movements.

  22. Anthony Dlugos

    paulie,

    Moore’s narrative depicts a far more orchestrated process than what you are suggesting, which I agree with, btw.

  23. paulie

    It becomes hard for the Libertarian Party to claim the moral high ground as advocates of tolerance, when they are intolerant toward those of differing opinions.

    Being tolerant of altreich views is one thing; welcoming them in our own party or movement is another. When they manage to actually be peaceful, unlike in Charlottesville where they threatened violence and proceeded to carry it out to the tune of 35 anti-fascists (and zero fascists) in the hospital, almost half from attacks other than the infamous vehicular assault, and of course that one murder… at those other times I’m all for their right to free speech and protest. That doesn’t mean that others can’t speak out against them or counterprotest, either. I also see no reason to allow confusion between us and them to fester and metastasize given as exemplified here that such confusion is persistent and pervasive.

    I suspect, by the way, that there are some libertarians-turned-alt-righters who will end up getting rejected by the alt-right and coming back to their libertarian roots.

    I’m tempted to say “once you go altreich you can take a hike” but I won’t. If someone sincerely sees the error of that morass and demonstrates they mean it I will give them the benefit of the doubt, cautiously.

    The alt-right is mostly anonymous, which can delay rejection, but when people shed their anonymity, that’s often when rejection happens

    True, as in the case of Mike “Enoch” Peinovich, who turned out to be a pimply, overweight guy with a Jewish wife and kids, and at least according to some of his fellow racists a Jew or part Jewish himself (he denies this, but at least as far as I know is still married to “the Jewess.”) However, it seems that at least some of his fellow altreichers have forgiven him as these facts came out, and his name was on the Charlottesville Unite the Right poster.

    There could end up being a lot of people who find themselves politically homeless after they get kicked out of both the libertarian and the alt-right movements.

    I’ll believe it when I see it. If that does happen, maybe they will find Jesus at long last and join the Constitution Party. Or perhaps they will discover the virtues of socialism that they previously overlooked and become Berniecrats. Come to think of it… perhaps some of these sexually frustrated young men will join their like-minded Muslim brethren, convert to Islam and become Jihadi terrorists in search of 72 virgins in the afterlife. To their dismay, those 72 virgins they’ll find will turn out to be … themselves.

  24. Anthony Dlugos

    “It becomes hard for the Libertarian Party to claim the moral high ground as advocates of tolerance, when they are intolerant toward those of differing opinions.”

    I’m not as intellectual as my friend paulie. If you’re differing opinion can’t help us win, I want you out of my party, and if you can’t help us win AND you’re default response prattle on about moral high grounds, I DEFINTELY want you out of my party.

  25. Andrew McCarrick

    See it’s fashionable to be idiots and not understand what words actually mean…. Done with the fucktards around this place. I’ve never seen a bigger group of incompetent morons and I’ve been on the Libertarian Facebook page.

  26. Andrew McCarrick

    It’s a damn shame that there’s not a single political ideology on this planet that has actual intellectuals in it.

  27. dL

    See it’s fashionable to be idiots and not understand what words actually mean

    No, it’s fashionable for some not to get their history lessons from Rush Limbaugh or Fox News. The word “socialism” in early 20th century Europe was a quite popular word, akin to “freedom” in the US today, and just because the Nazis renamed the German Worker Party “National Socialist” was no more indicative of “National Socialism” being socialist than, say, the American Freedom Party in the US today being a libertarian party.

  28. wolfefan

    I suppose that Andrew McCarrick thinks that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is a republic.

  29. JamesT

    It’s this.

    “Some of these personality types are people who are open to new experience, love the world of ideas and have a disposition for independent thought. However, some of these personality types simply enjoy holding outrageous and provocative views, who like to argue and fight with others, who like insult and… shock.”

    However this is clearly a hit piece to slander Ron Paul. There was also, IMHO, a much bigger Libertarian to BernieBro pipeline. At least form what I saw with people I actually know not just internet sh*tposters.

  30. Cody Quirk

    “Some of these personality types are people who are open to new experience, love the world of ideas and have a disposition for independent thought. However, some of these personality types simply enjoy holding outrageous and provocative views, who like to argue and fight with others, who like insult and… shock.”

    Yep, that’s our alt-right in a nutshell… Including a former Polish American that used to write for IPR & APTR before burning his bridges with a vengeance.

  31. Anthony Dlugos

    Tony from L.I.,

    The Salon article is pretty even-handed, I thought.

    My own personal theory there is: The further we distances ourselves from Ron Paul, the fairer shake we’ll end up getting from the MSM. Time to throw him under the bus, and I’ll drive. I may have to run down Rand too, just to be sure the paleo virus is dead.

  32. Tony from Long Island

    The sad part is that I liked Ron Paul. He was the one thing that was keeping me leaning towards libertarianism when I was ready to go back home. My copy of his “Revolusion: A Manifesto” has hundreds of notes written in it where I agree or disagree with him. That seems like ages ago now . . .

  33. Anthony Dlugos

    I liked Ron Paul too. Given his knowledge of libertarianism, its a wonder he got elected at all.

    Its just too bad he wrapped his libertarianism in what he wrapped it in, and associated with who he associated with. Its dressing that ruined the fresh salad it was drizzled on.

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