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To dissolve, submerge, and cause to disappear the political or governmental system in the economic system by reducing, simplifying, decentralizing and suppressing, one after another, all the wheels of this great machine, which is called the Government or the State. --Proudhon, General Idea of the Revolution

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

An Open Letter to Keith Preston

A new posting by Keith Preston just came to my attention. I followed it to this trackback by Mike Gogulski:

It was suggested to me some time ago that my blogroll linkage to Keith Preston, of the Attack the System blog, placed me in the uncomfortable position of endorsing someone whose values I do not share.

More than anything else, Keith pushes a sort of meta-strategy for anarchism which aims at pluralism and ecumenicalism and which suggests that all anti-state tendencies ought to unite against the principal enemy of liberty, the state itself, in preference to choosing lesser targets of activist action such as sexism, racism, homophobia and so on. The biggest tent possible, in other words, for the advance of anarchism as anti-statism, absent the baggage of a myriad of other issues.

Of itself, I believe this has great strategic value.

In his posting yesterday, though, Keith unambiguously betrays his own ugly prejudices in a bilious piece entitled “Is Extremism in the Defense of Sodomy No Vice?

My views are identical to Mike's. I expressed them in a letter to Keith Preston:


Dear Keith:

It's hard for me to do this--not only because of your early help to me in publishing my work online, and because of your very kind support and promotion over the years, but (as Mike Gogulski said in his recent post) you have an amazing mind and have written much of incomparable value.

But I believe the line you crossed in this recent post puts me in a position where I cannot in good conscience remain silent:
http://attackthesystem.com/2009/05/is-extremism-in-the-defense-of-sodomy-no-vice/

I have consistently defended you against the charges of fascism, racism, homophobia, and all the rest of it, that arose in response to your "big tent" strategy of offering solidarity to secessionists of all kinds. I still think you went too far in promoting active solidarity with national anarchist groups and racists. But I also still agree with your general assessment back then that the corporate state and Empire presented an extreme danger, and that religious and racialist separatists had no credible ability to enforce authoritarian rule on a local level. In fact I supported a weaker version of the same strategy, seeking common ground with many of the
constitutionalist and militia groups that Dees, Berlet et al reflexively condemned--drawing the line only at expressions of solidarity with explicit racists.

When Aster kicked you out of her Salon Liberty, I thought (and still think) she did so on inadequate grounds, and that nothing you'd said up to that point on your strategic approach (as outlined above) warranted such a reaction. As I recall, I said as much on her Salon at the time.

But since she evicted you, I've noticed that your general language toward gays and transgender people has become increasingly "colorful" (i.e., deliberately demeaning) and hostile, by what seems like an order of magnitude or so. Likewise, you have become increasingly dismissive of all who express concerns about racism or fascism--even when they do not endorse thuggish "antifa" tactics--purely out of what seems to be your own increasingly knee-jerk hostility toward the "cultural left."

For some time I was willing, if not to excuse, at least to understand this as a personal grudge in response to your unjustified treatment. And I have tried to stay out of this not only out of a debt of gratitude toward you, but also because cultural issues are not my primary interest, and I don't like to get side-tracked by anything that takes time and energy from my work on economic, tech, and organizational issues. And besides that, I just hate personal drama and feel that getting caught up on emotionally volatile personal conflicts between other people just sucks the life out of me. Finally, I just hoped you would get over your personal grudge and put things in some perspective.

But I continued to grow uncomfortable with my stance, given your increasingly strident rhetoric. The issue, for me, was not that you merely endorsed a "live and let live" attitude toward cultural preferences, or that you believed gays and transgender people were being "hyper-sensitive"; it was that your choice of language seemed calculated--gratuitously, and for no other apparent purpose--to offend gay and transgender people for the sake of doing so.

And to repeat: this latest offering of yours draws a line that I cannot ignore. You declare the need to make "hard choices" and "establish political priorities." The calculation on which you base your choice, your priority is, as you state it:

As for the rest of us in the anarchist milieu, I say it’s time for a purge, if not an outright pogrom. Does the spectacle of a bunch of white college students crying about “racism, racism, racism” and pretending that they’re Black Panthers do anything to actually increase the number of Actually Existing People of Color in our ranks? It hasn’t yet after decades of trying. The typical convert to anarchism is an angry, young, white, male from an upper strata working class to upper middle class socio-economic background, one who possesses above average levels of intelligence and education, and an interest in history, philosophy, political science and related fields. Do we really attract more people into our ranks by having so many self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered “gender identity” in our midst? Is this really something the average rebellious young person wants to be associated with? Could we not actually attract more young rebels into our ranks if all of this stuff was absent?

Ironically, that's the mirror image of the question I asked myself about your strategic approach from the beginning: "Do we really attract more people into our ranks by having Nazis, Klansmen, Christian identity, white nationalist, and outlaw biker gang people in our midst?"

Even though I disagreed with the extent to which you took your strategic approach, I could at least respect your assessment that the "greatest harms" were "imperialist war, mass imprisonment of harmless people, and severe economic failure," and that the fight against this centralized concentration of totalitarian power justified a "big-tent" coalition of secessionists.

But while I could respect your willingness to tolerate loathsome people on pragmatic grounds, I can't remain neutral when you advocate purging the anti-state movement in order to appease those loathsome people. You have "evolved," if you can call it that, from a willingness to share a tent with racists and homophobes for the sake of defeating Empire as the primary enemy, to promoting an active purge of anti-racists and gays from the anti-Empire movement because the majority of your anti-state coalition might find them offensive. In short, you have "evolved" from tolerating racist and homophobic groups as a means to an end, to withdrawing support from the "cultural left" in order to appease the right wing of your coalition.

You've drawn a line that requires me to take a public stand, and publicly disassociate myself from your statements. If my choice is between "self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered 'gender identity'," and Nazis, Klansmen and white nationalists, I know which side I'll take.

As I said before, I continue to recognize that there is much of enormous value in your work. It pains me to see you apparently revelling in pariah status. I would like nothing better than to be
able to resume endorsing your work without moral qualms, even if I disagree with your tactical judgments. But I cannot do so as things stand.

I do not ask that you revise your original strategic assessment that the threat of Empire justifies a broad secessionist coalition that includes some (in my opinion) very objectionable people on the right. I do not ask that you share my judgment that such objectionable people alienate more potential support than do those on the cultural left. I ask only that you 1) repudiate the flame-war quality of demeaning rhetoric that you have increasingly adopted toward sexual minorities since your breach with Aster, and acknowledge that you allowed a personal grudge to goad you into overreaction on that score; and 2) repudiate your call for a purge of anti-racists, gays, transgender people and the cultural left in order to appease the majority.

I bear you no personal animosity, and remain grateful for your help in the past. And although I wish very much for a change of heart on your part, and for a failure of your political project as you have most recently defined it, I continue to wish you the best personally.

Kevin Carson

Postscript. Since writing the above, it occurred to me (as Mike Gogulski put it) what a deficit of empathy is reflected in Keith's reactions. As an outsider to the conflict, I still feel very strongly that Keith's increasingly demeaning and strident homophobic language is a personal overreaction based on his resentment at being purged from Aster's Salon Liberty. It's odd, therefore, that he fails to admit the possibility that what he regards as "hyper-sensitivity" or "victim culture" among racial and sexual minorities might reflect their own subjective response to what they have experienced as a lifetime of exclusion.

In any case, this post may (or may not) evoke some reaction in the blogosphere and in my own comment thread. I doubt I'll participate much in the debate, either way. I've said what I have to say on the subject. As I've already stated, I try to stay out of debates on cultural issues because I've got a limited amount of time and energy for writing about the stuff I feel personally engaged with, and dealing with personal drama or emotionalized issues sucks the life out of me.

51 Comments:

Anonymous Brad Spangler said...

Kevin, thank you for posting this!

May 21, 2009 11:52 AM  
Blogger Jesse said...

"Do we really attract more people into our ranks by having Nazis, Klansmen, Christian identity, white nationalist, and outlaw biker gang people in our midst?"That's my chief criticism of Keith's strategy as well. I have no problem with working with decentralist paleoconservatives -- indeed, I sometimes write for their magazines -- but I don't see what's to be gained from affiliating with a marginal band of bigots like "Folk and Faith." And that's not just because I find their worldview personally repellant. If you think ordinary people will recoil from "bearded ladies" and "cock-ringed queers," how exactly do you expect them to react to a bunch of Goebbels-quoting loons?

May 21, 2009 12:28 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Keith is somebody I consider a personal friend, being a fellow Richmond anarchist whom I have beers with and who has been particularly generous with his thoughts and time. I share your disappointment with the tone that Keith is taking - and only the tone, because the meat of his message still has value, I think (in the sense that many whom we think are disposed towards radicalism are, in fact, not). A number of us on the ATS list have asked him to drop the vitriolic language as damaging to the overarching cause and a personal waste of time. I guess we all have our personal shortcomings - I pursued a feud with a particularly nasty conservative named "right thinking girl" for quite a long time after I recognized it as self-destructive.

One of the things I embrace about Keith's writing is that he seems to really *get* that radical politics needs to be more than a statement of personal identity (unlike many libertarians and anarchists who pursue politics as a means to achieving the appropriate distinguishing hyphenated label for themselves). It needs, instead, to be grounded in a practical approach to the problems of the world, a less than idealistic strategic construction that gives concrete meaning to the struggle, and a willingness, yes, to stand up to the cult of ideological consistency as an end in itself. Above all, it needs to get beyond the clash of personalities and start concerning itself with the institutions that oppress us all. And so it is profoundly disturbing to see him turn the project of ARV into a personal rejection of particular left libertarians - who, after all, have much of value to say in my opinion (even Aster) - and particular human conditions.

Do I have to publicly disassociate myself with a friend merely because I disagree with him on a particular writing? I hope not. I care far too little about my position in the left libertarian or anarchist movements, I suppose. Ultimately, much of the animosity comes down, in my opinion, to this need we have to construct our own reputations out of whom we approve of and disapprove of and not of what we do and do not *do*. I can like what I like about Keith and dislike what I dislike. Apparently, many left libertarians cannot achieve this nuanced position, and I wonder why.

May 21, 2009 12:43 PM  
Blogger Bill Hartwell said...

Kevin, your post said something that clearly needed to be said. As Heinlein said, there's a vast difference between rolling with the punches and stooling for the guards, and Keith has crossed that line.

It takes someone with your level of recognition to effectively call him out on it, and I thank you for doing so.

May 21, 2009 12:44 PM  
Blogger Kevin Carson said...

"Do I have to publicly disassociate myself with a friend merely because I disagree with him on a particular writing?"

By no means. In fact Aster reassured me that she didn't expect me to take any public action on the matter, owing to past ties of gratitude and friendship toward Keith. Everyone has to draw the line for himself or herself. And there's much I'd listen to from a friend or family member in private life, without withdrawing my affection, that I refuse to associate myself with in public life. As uneasy as I'd become at Keith's rhetoric, I felt this was the point at which I had to draw the line. But you've "eaten a bushel of salt" with Keith, whereas I haven't. I know what your beliefs are and don't ask you to do anything but what you believe is right.

May 21, 2009 12:55 PM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Kevin, I admire what you've done.

May 21, 2009 1:09 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

But you've "eaten a bushel of salt" with Keith, whereas I haven't.I know. I just completely reject the guilt by association that everybody else seems to embrace (though, if I call them out on it, they're quick to deny it).

I've remarked to Keith before that, for all the harshness he gets from the libertarian left, no left libertarian I know *who has had a conversation with him* has had anything but positive things to say about him. So it's sad to see him take such a bellicose stance against people who I've never felt had particular convincing positions.

May 21, 2009 1:19 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I guess the larger issue here is that I see a lot of the bandwidth in the left libertarian / anarchist conversation being spent talking about reputation and public image rather than issues of immediate importance. Let us remember that it has been untoward slander *on both sides* that has precipitated this situation. A lot of this is a symptom of our preoccupation with the old trap of "somebody being wrong on the internet" at the expense of addressing people who are wrong in real life. As a prime offender, I'm aware of this problem with especial intimacy.

I'd also mention that I've seen critiques of your politics more than once because you don't take stronger cultural positions on things like minority issues. So my defense of Keith has often been more broadly concerned with defending what I consider serious thinking on the left from this persistent need to enforce a leftist cultural orthodoxy and pursue an egalitarian holy war for its own sake or out of some self-important demand for perfect ideological consistency and exacting philosophical rigor.

May 21, 2009 1:28 PM  
Anonymous James Tuttle said...

Three Cheers Kevin, There is a bus and "anti-racists, gays, transgender people" have forever been thrown under this bus, when expedient, to accomplish short term political goals (to nowhere).

Anarchy is a place we arrive at together.

May 21, 2009 1:43 PM  
Anonymous James Tuttle said...

Three Cheers Kevin, There is a bus and "anti-racists, gays, transgender people" have forever been thrown under this bus, when expedient, to accomplish short term political goals (to nowhere).

Anarchy is a place we arrive at together.

May 21, 2009 1:48 PM  
Blogger Ineffabelle said...

If I may add my two cents, I'd like to amplify what Jesse said above with some facts.
Approximately 10% of the US population ADMITS to being gay, at least behind closed doors in a clinical setting. When you throw in all the other various "quasi-queer" people, general freaky non-conformists and the like, you have a force that would literally crush a Prestonian coalition like squashing a bug, once they realize that they are fighting for their very lives, and the government cannot protect them.

So if you're going to take sides on practical grounds, the racial separatists and hard-cultural right are not the way to go. Without the support of factions within the state, such movements would never even appear as more than a tiny blip on the historical radar.
On the other hand there will always be gay/trans/queer people, DNA (and thus apparently God) wants it that way.

May 21, 2009 2:53 PM  
Blogger Brainpolice said...

*boinks the loony left* Back to the factory!
*boinks the loony left* Back to Russia!
*boinks the loony left* Back to Africa!

:P

I kid, I kid.

May 21, 2009 3:15 PM  
Blogger rmangum said...

And so the mainstream culture-war is reproduced within the anti-state world. Very unfortunate.

May 21, 2009 4:37 PM  
Blogger Temujin said...

If my choice is between "self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered 'gender identity'," and Nazis, Klansmen and white nationalists, I know which side I'll take.That's precisely what I thought after reading Mike's post at No State. Well said. Tremendous.

May 21, 2009 6:49 PM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Kevin, no disrespect, but a few of us on a list are discussing this, and none of us are quite sure what either you or Preston are trying to say. It sounds like a bizarre leftist soap opera on acid.

May 21, 2009 8:32 PM  
Anonymous Rad Geek said...

Jeremy,I don't think the issue here is Keith's "tone." I think the issue is the substance of his position.

Calling for vocal gay liberationists, feminists, and anti-racists, to be run out of the movement, apparently in order to boost recruiting among those who are put off by that kind of thing, is not just a matter of tone. Do you see nothing wrong with the substance of the position? Do you think that there is a right way to call for such a quote-unquote purge of people who care about these things from the movement?

Similarly, I wonder what you think about the several paragraphs Keith spends attacking "the most extreme forms of pro-immigrationism," by which he apparently means the plumb-line libertarian position against government border checkpoints, papers-please police state monitoring, and government prohibitions on hiring immigrant workers [?!]. When Keith claims that the anarchistic position is to enforce border checkpoints and police-state monitoring of national citizenship papers, the use of government immigration enforcement to exile from the country those that the American government declares "criminals [or] enemies of America" (?!) and suggests government prohibitions against employing undocumented immigrants, and apparently also government prohibitions against employing any immigrants at all during a strike (?!) -- when, in short, he calls, over and over again for the expansion of the state and an increase in the power of government border police, in the name of nationalist politics, and attempts to justify this Stasi-statism by pointing to the majority opinion among those approved to vote in government elections by the United States government (?!) -- what do you think of that? Do you really think of that as just a problem of "tone"? Or is a problem with the substance of his position?

May 22, 2009 12:20 AM  
Blogger Sheldon Richman said...

Stephan, you really can't tell? How could it be clearer?

May 22, 2009 4:21 AM  
Blogger quasibill said...

This is a microcosm of what has estranged from this whole "movement." I agree with Kevin that Keith's response is ironic, given that I see it as a reaction to the clique that has supported Aster her in cyber-stalking and character assassination.

I hated cliques in high-school, but I understood (or at least understand now) the need to create a human scale group in such surroundings. The cliqueishness on display currently is just disgusting, IMHO, and totally unnecessary. It adds to the irony that this clique which has taken to bashing Keith and his ideas at every step, in forums that such besmirchment is irrelevant to the topic at hand, and in ways that are demonstrably false, is in fact demonstrating the very tribal behavior they claim to be against.

I'll also note, though I'm not casting stones, that Kevin's statement (which I agree with in its entirety) is an example of how poorly and one-sided and clique like the moral approbation system in this "movement" has become. Granted, Aster was not regularly using Kevin's forum for her cyber-stalking, yet the truth remains - Aster remains welcomed with open arms, while Keith, in his admittedly vile reaction to Aster's vile cyberstalking, gets public letters of denunciation. I reiterate that this system reminds of nothing less than a situation where a woman gets blamed for escalating the violence when trying to defend herself from getting publicly "pantsed."

The aggressor is the party who should be censured - immediately and loudly. Waiting until the victim hits back, and then singling the victim out for censuring and then, in an off-hand way, noting that the aggressor was "also wrong" and leaving it at that is being part of the problem, IMHO.

Again, to be clear, Keith clearly crossed a line here, as well as before. I'm not trying to defend his action(s). But I do find this to another symptom of an illness that has brewing for some time. I, like Kevin, don't like the personal drama (I have discovered). And to me, the personal drama at issue here can be directly traced back to the warm welcome a cyber-stalker has received.

It's too bad, because this cliqueishness will retard the spread of the otherwise important ideas that should be the focus of this "movement." But maybe this "movement", much like the mises.org crowd, isn't actually what I thought it was in the first place. Maybe my perception of cliqueishness just demonstrates that I don't belong here.

May 22, 2009 4:37 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Rad Geek,

I disagree with you. I don't think Preston seriously means to come off as harshly as he sounds. I think it's just for effect, really. The reason is that I've talked to him before about these issues and he seems to honestly not care about sexual minorities. I understand the reactions of people who have never spoken to him in person, though.

It has always been, IMHO, about people who elevate their narrow identity politics over the larger problems. As I said in other threads, he's contradicting his own position when he (I believe, facetiously) calls for a purge of the anarchist movement - since he doesn't think there's a lot of revolutionary potential there to begin with (I agree with him on that). Based on an email conversation I've had with him since yesterday, I think this is nothing more than a bad attempt at humor, not to be taken literally.

As for the immigration stuff, well, I don't think he *does* call for an expansion of the state. He pretty clearly calls for immigration policy to be pursued via subsidiarity in a decentralized fashion. We simply disagree on whether this is an approach beneficial to immigrant peoples. I do think that the best, most concrete target we can focus coalition on is the institution that subsidizes bigotry in the form of a coordinated, nationwide immigration policy.

Carson pretty much has this 100% right in my view. This is about the ongoing feud with Aster that he should have exited months ago, and getting the rhetoric to conform to a simultaneously political and anti-Aster position. The real irony here is that he's coming across as nearly as sensitive as those he condemns on the totalitarian humanistic left.

May 22, 2009 6:52 AM  
Anonymous Mantar said...

James Tuttle: "Anarchy is a place we arrive at together." QFT, man.

Rad Geek: "When Keith claims that the anarchistic position is to enforce border checkpoints and police-state monitoring of national citizenship papers...etc."

... WHAT. THE. FUCK. Wow, I am completely at a loss. I have nothing to add, just wow.

May 22, 2009 9:29 AM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Sheldon, I guess b/c I never heard of "Keith Preston," and my eyes glaze over when I try to follow all these strategical-tactical quasi-Objectivist official denunciations and breakings. Just not concise and clear enough for me.

May 22, 2009 9:31 AM  
Blogger William said...

"The reason is that I've talked to him before about these issues and he seems to honestly not care about sexual minorities."

May 22, 2009 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Mike Gogulski said...

@Jeremy:

he seems to honestly not care about sexual minoritiesThis, at least, seems to have been made abundantly clear...

May 22, 2009 9:44 AM  
Anonymous Aster said...

Kevin-

Beau geste, above and beyond call.

If you ever find yourself in a tight spot in this bloody world on ours, you have my email. I'm just busy surviving myself, but I will not forget this.

Kinsella-

You and yours have been comparably unpleasant towards Kevin, on class issues, as Preston and his have been towards me on issues of sexuality.

Given this, it is my sincere wish that you find tranquil solitude in such a place as you may enjoy the pleasure of your own company.

May 22, 2009 10:56 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

*chuckle*

I guess if you think the point of left libertarianism is to get to a world where we all care about each other intimately and tenderly, then there's something wrong with Keith "not caring about sexual minorities". OK.

Of course, I meant that he doesn't care about them one way or another (as something deserving special attention in any way from an ideological or political point of view). But it works the other way, too.

Quasibill really nails the cult of indignation and identity politics that seems to be growing in the libertarian left. Whom you embrace and reject politically is not the most important thing you contribute to the world, for fuck's sake.

May 22, 2009 11:06 AM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

"Aster,"

"You and yours have been comparably unpleasant towards Kevin, on class issues, as Preston and his have been towards me on issues of sexuality."

Who are "mine"? I don't even know who "Keith Preston" is. Why you would insult me for not understanding or caring about some bizarre internecine excommunication activist tiff I don't know--but I promise in the future to try to care more about it, and to think it has more importance than it does.

May 22, 2009 11:49 AM  
Blogger quasibill said...

"strategical-tactical quasi-Objectivist official denunciations and breakings"

It's a rare day recently where I think Kinsella has a perceptive comment, but there it is.

And perhaps not as surprisingly, I find myself very much in agreement with Jeremy.

May 22, 2009 1:24 PM  
Anonymous Rad Geek said...

Jeremy:As I said in other threads, he's contradicting his own position when he (I believe, facetiously) calls for a purge of the anarchist movement ... Based on an email conversation I've had with him since yesterday, I think this is nothing more than a bad attempt at humor, not to be taken literally.If you think that he's contradicting his own fundamental positions, then how is that not a problem with the substance of his view rather than merely with his "tone"?

If he did intend the "purge, if not an outright pogrom" passages as a weak attempt at a joke, I have to say it's a weak attempt at a joke he spends an awful lot of time belaboring. Of course, I don't have access to your private e-mail correspondence, but the two paragraphs devoted to explaining in detail why he thinks "cock-ringed queers" and "pissed-off, man-hating, dykes with an excess of body hair" are supposedly hurting recruitment of "average young rebels," and the sort of women of whom he approves, "into our ranks," read pretty seriously to me. As does his attempt to connect what he's doing in his post to something that he clearly does seriously endorse, vis. Rothbard's and Rockwell's efforts "to purge [sic] libertarianism of this kind of thing" during the paleo interlude. If I'm not supposed to read this as a serious effort to organize without, and indeed in such a way as to deliberately alienate, the targets of his bile (notably, vocal gay liberationists, 'self-hating whites,' and queer people whose expressions of sexuality disrupt traditional gender norms) how exactly am I supposed to read it?

As for the immigration stuff, well, I don't think he *does* call for an expansion of the state. He pretty clearly calls for immigration policy to be pursued via subsidiarity in a decentralized fashion.Jeremy, I think you're substituting what you'd like his position on immigration to be for what he actually says in the essay. The only place in which decentralization is mentioned in the discussion of immigration politics is to suggest that criteria for naturalization -- that is, extending the status as politically-enfranchised citizens to immigrants -- be spun off to "local community standards." Once that's done, though, he has nothing to say about changing how the central state treats people who are or are not counted as naturalized. Nowhere does he suggest dismantling existing centralized definitions of "national borders." Nowhere does he suggest dismantling or even decentralizing existing agencies of border fortification, border checkpoints, border patrol, immigration-status documentation and surveillance, imprisonment and trial of alleged undocumented immigrants, paramilitary immigration enforcement, forcible deportation, etc. etc. etc. Instead he suggests giving these existing centralized government agencies more to do. He explicitly calls for deployment of the existing centralized government immigration control system: he explicitly calls for "designated checkpoints" to be run by the government, with "an objective screening process," which is designed to screen out "criminals, enemies of America" (?! how the fuck do you suppose you ban entry to government-defined "enemies of America" in a decentralized fashion?) and people with "certain kinds of contagious diseases"; he calls for deportation of those who don't have permission slips for their existence from the worthless megamurdering United States government (from where to where? if it's outside the borders of the U.S.A., we're not talking about decentralization, are we?); he adds calls for new government prohibitions on "employers ... using immigrants as scab labor" and "employer use of illegal immigrant [sic] labor". How do you suppose you go about enacting and enforcing these government prohibitions and government bans on peaceful, consensual labor contracts, without expanding the size, power, and reach of the State?

May 22, 2009 5:09 PM  
Anonymous Aster said...

To Kinsella:

This is the second time I've had to ask you why you insist on putting my nom de plume, and not others' pen names, in quotation marks.

If, for instance, it's because you regard transgender identities as invalid, and deny the legitimacy of gender migration... and you're trying to communicate this without communicating it... then I for one would prefer if you showed the courage of your convictions and put your cards down on the table where we can all see them.

If, on the other hand, I'm totally wrong to suspect this, then please merely using the quotation marks, throw a feminine gender pronoun in your response concerning me, and I'll deeply and sincerely apologise for my presumption to someone who will have proven to have done me no wrong.

I've no other reason to think you're queerphobic, but if in fact you have the same attitude problems on sex and gender as you've despicably shown towards Kevin on class, then I think you should should follow your intuition and familiarise yourself with Keith Preston's writings.

There may be a bright future for you, and for all other libertarians who insist in the participation and enablement of bigotry, at the American Revolutionary Vanguard.

May 23, 2009 1:43 AM  
Anonymous Aster said...

To all:

...Those who desire a synthesis of libertarianism with the Left, consistently, as applied on all issues and to all persons, should work together in a productive atmosphere of mutual respect, tolerance, and friendship, which implies opposition to all fascists, semi-fascists, crupto-fascists, raciailists, antisemities, misogynists, homophobes, and douchebags who deliberately block the sidewalk against people using wheelchairs and kick the dog.

Kevin has made a clear and honourable statement of principle here. Charles Johnson, William Gillis, Soviet Onion, Brad Spangler, Sergio Mendez, Anna Morgenstern, Sheldon Richman, Darian Worden, Marja Erwin, Shawn Wilbur, and myself have all shown that they believe that individualism applies to all if it applies to one. So have at least half a dozen others affiliated with left-libertarianism who I don't know well enough to address by name but who've come out of the woodwork to do the right thing. I feel little doubt as to where others who have notably contributed to our movement, such as Chris Sciabarra, Roderick Long, Arthur Silber, and Tom Knapp, would stand. That so many people have come forth for this is one of the more touching experiences in my life.

It's also getting to be a Really. Long. List. Perhaps we should say, a supermajority.

I understand that I have differences with others on strategy, decentralism and localism, and personal cultural preferences, and innumerable issues upon which progressive individualists may honestly differ. I came here from Nietszche and Rand. Others came here from Bookchin and Marx. Marja worships Christ, I worship Ishtar, Roderick worships Zeus, and most intelligent people here are fully rational agnostics and atheists. There's obviously a spectrum of views within left-libertarians, to which I'm pretty far towards one pole, altho' there are others, such as Johnson and Gillis, who are to the cultural 'left' of me in terms of approach and issues.

And that's okay. And I need to improve my skills with getting along with other people who see the world a bit differently from myself, and may accidentally cause occasional offense, but do not bear me ill will. I have made errors of judgement, failed to grant rhetorical charity where it was due, lashed out in anger. But so have most of us.

I also realise that there are people such as Jeremy who defend Keith's hatefulness for honest and well-intentioned reasons. I do believe that they are gravely wrong, but this does not equal personal condemnation.

But Keith Preston's bigotry, and that of the national anarchists, is incompatible with the principles of individualism as well as the most basic civilised standards of human decency. And it commits open treason against the legacy of reason and Enlighenment of which individualism, libertarianism, and left-libertarianism are perfections and without which they could never possibly survive. The right of the tribe over the individual mind's free happiness of truth is the choice of Sparta over Athens. It is spirtually tantamount to casting one's ballot for the death of Socrates.

Keith has said many times on his own block that he despises and wants nothing to do with 'anarcho-leftoids', 'self-hating whites', 'cock-ringed queers', 'tranny she-males', 'man-hating hairy dykes', etc., etc., etc. But most people here not only have shown they've no animus towards such people, but have instead shown that they *actively support the principle of fair and equal treatment of human beings*.

May 23, 2009 1:44 AM  
Anonymous Aster said...

And so we come at last,

to Keith Preston:

Follow your own principles. You believe that groups which have incompatible populations and traditions should be segregrated into tribes of their own. Very well, then. It seems that the expectations of conduct within the left-libertarian community are incompatible with your own bigoted values.

You do, however, have a circle of friends and allies who have strongly supported you, such as the national anarchists and white nationalists. You have your own place where hateful epithets and bigotry are accepted and approved as social norms, and ample opportunites to speak your mind as you feel fit to those who are receptive to your philosophy.

By your own principles, and (given the names and numbers who have spoken), for your own comfort, I suggest that you realise that you are standing on the wrong street corner. You want tribalism? Then stick to your own kind and stay out of places where by the illiberal nature of your commitments you cannot logically be welcome. If you believe that your national anarchist, racial separatist, left-conservative, neoconfederate, and Red Tory allies are as worthy as you claim, then your first-rank position among them should be something you can be proud enough to be content with.

Or:

I concede that, as Kevin says, you have an impressive intellect, and from what I understand of your biography, you have suffered as much abuse, pain, and injustice as anyone I've known in my life- and there isn't much I haven't seen by now. I respect one thing about you: that you have preserved a strong and independent mind and spirit in the face of some of the world's nastiest Hell. It is a significant loss to civilisation that you have chosen to employ your considerable talents in such a hateful and destructive manner.

As Jeremy and Brad have both pointed out, your embrace of bigotry is not only (as is all tribalism, illiberalism, and nationalism) a terrible way to live if you wish to pursue happiness... but it is, my the most cynical Machiavellian standards, failing. You're getting beaten up by a girl, Keith. You are losing your reputation, your intellectual career, and your friends.

If you wish to follow your friend Kevin's suggestion and repudiate your tribal bigotry in clear terms which show an understanding as to why such tribal bigotry is irrational and hurtful, and pledge to refrain from it in the future, then I will not quarrel further with you, and will unambiguously apologise for my own vitriol.

May 23, 2009 1:45 AM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Aster, The scare quotes have to do with my distaste for nyms--I find them silly, juvenile, and cowardly; and in any event if it's a nym it's not your name, hence the quotes. It has nothing to do with any sexuality or transgender issues; I have no knowledge of anything about you in this regard nor do I care do; and as for your opinion about whether I'm "bigoted" or not, I could hardly care less nor do I see any reason to answer an inquisition in this regard. In my opinion, it is craven and evil to hurl the "bigotry" accusation without strong proof.

May 23, 2009 10:04 AM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Incidentally, Aster, what in your fevered imagination leads you to think a single word I have ever uttered gives you any reason to even suggest I'm "queerphobic" or the like? Anyone of character and honor would apologize and withdraw such an implicit accusation if they were to realize such a charge is totally unjustified. (see my Second Thoughts on Gay Marriage; also
State Monopolization of Marriage Eviscerates Private Contract)

May 23, 2009 10:10 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

I also realise that there are people such as Jeremy who defend Keith's hatefulness for honest and well-intentioned reasons.Just for the record, I have no defense of Keith's behavior. If you want me to condemn it, look at any number of comments I've made in the numerous comment threads discussing this. I want a libertarian left that can accomodate a pan-secessionist left libertarian and an enlightment principles left libertarian.

I appreciate that you recognize the role you've played in things getting out of hand. In an ideal world, you and Keith would be able to forgive each other and move forward towards whatever paths your hearts guide you. If that can't happen, I hope I can at least be friends with both of you.

May 23, 2009 10:30 AM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

Rad Geek:

All I can say is that, if you want to understand Preston's positions, read more of his writing than one angry essay. I have no interest in playing dueling outrage with you, especially when there's so much more substance on the ATS site for you to deconstruct and parse to your heart's content. Reading between the lines on one essay is sort of a non-starter for me.

May 23, 2009 11:29 AM  
Anonymous Aster said...

Stephan-

My apologies.

The reason I'm touchy one this is because I've had a great number of people, specifically Southerners and Objectivists, refuse to recognise my name or gender out of rockheaded bigotry or as deliberate attempts to inflict pain. If you indeed have no such animus, then I was indeed wrong to bring up the issue. I have done you wrong, and truly apologise for ubjustly offending you- altho' I would like the feeling of absolutely certainty that I ought to apologise, if you could be kind enough to throw in the requested gender pronoun. One 'she' or 'her' and I will bow low and hope that you will graciously forgive this offense.

The reason I thought you capable of anti-transgender bigotry is that you have used comparatively vile language (and ideologies) when discussing class issues with Kevin. I think you ought to apologise to Kevin on that subject, as well as to all poor persons of quality, and to their friends. Talking of 'betters' is a really bad thing, because it makes people want to read Lenin, and Lenin was a painfully atrocious writer.

Speaking seriously, do you put in parentheses the names of everyone on the internet who uses a 'nym? The Geeks, I'm sure, did a fine job of raising Rad, and the Onions are surely proud of young Soviet, but it's not exactly unusual to find people using internet identities. I mean, we're all nerds here. If you really do this for everyone, then I've no objection whatsoever (well, except that I see nothing wrong with people calling themselves whatever they want) and, again, was wrong to being up the issue. It didn't occur to me that you would do this as a matter of general principle.

Just FYI, I go by 'Aster' in intellectual, sex work, and Pagan contexts, and another name (which anyone with a brain, an internet connexion, and a few hours could easily figure out) in my more personal life. If I was an epistemological realist instead of a Sciabarran Randian conceptualist, then Aster *would* be my 'real' name. There's no reason this should really matter to anyone but me (and it's certainly a stupid reason for monks to kill each other); it's a Pagan sex worker culture thing and older than dirt. I've never been particularly interested in concealing my mundane identity.

Again, I seem to have made a badly wrong call. Apologies. Give me a few months without the fear of bigots like Preston throwing hatred at me and I'll get over the oversensitivity issues, as I pretty much have in daily life in New Zealand, where gender prejudice doesn't threaten me very much. American-dominated Anglosphere internet culture by comparison feels almost like visiting a dangerous prison which I once did time in- you have to put the armour back on. The problem is that the future of New Zealand may well be significantly determined by what happens within these electronic walls- and besides, there are lots of people in the States I still care about and like to chat and think with.

May 23, 2009 11:56 AM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

Aster, you seem to be implying you are a transgender female. IF this is the case, and if you are asking if I would use "she" or "her" to refer to you, sure I would. It's just politeness and interpersonal tolerance.

I accept your apology. Though you seem to be stereotyping people with your "Southerners" comment! I'm sure there are bigots all over the world and all over the country. Southerners don't have a monopoly on it.

I don't know what class issues with Kevin you are talking about.

"Speaking seriously, do you put in parentheses the names of everyone on the internet who uses a 'nym? The Geeks, I'm sure, did a fine job of raising Rad, and the Onions are surely proud of young Soviet, but it's not exactly unusual to find people using internet identities."

It's just my opinion, Dear Lady Aster. I despise nyms. I prefer honesty and identity. I stand by my own comments and never hide behind a nym. That said, I can see why some people in some contexts need to use one; and to each her own.

"I mean, we're all nerds here. If you really do this for everyone, then I've no objection whatsoever"

I have scare-quoted Rad Geek before too, Dear Lady.

"Just FYI, I go by 'Aster' in intellectual, sex work, and Pagan contexts, and another name (which anyone with a brain, an internet connexion, and a few hours could easily figure out) in my more personal life. If I was an epistemological realist instead of a Sciabarran Randian conceptualist, then Aster *would* be my 'real' name."

Ah. I see. I guess. BTW I am a friend of and great admirer of Sciabarra. Great guy.

"There's no reason this should really matter to anyone but me (and it's certainly a stupid reason for monks to kill each other); it's a Pagan sex worker culture thing and older than dirt."

Ah. I had no idea you were a Pagan sex worker. I loved The Mists of Avalon, but that's about the extent of my intersection with paganism (though I'm an atheist secularist personally).

"Again, I seem to have made a badly wrong call. Apologies. Give me a few months without the fear of bigots like Preston throwing hatred at me and I'll get over the oversensitivity issues, as I pretty much have in daily life in New Zealand, where gender prejudice doesn't threaten me very much.
"American-dominated Anglosphere internet culture by comparison feels almost like visiting a dangerous prison which I once did time in- you have to put the armour back on. The problem is that the future of New Zealand may well be significantly determined by what happens within these electronic walls- and besides, there are lots of people in the States I still care about and like to chat and think with."

Sounds fine by me. All I really care about is that people be libertarian, and decent.

May 23, 2009 12:36 PM  
Blogger Alex Peak said...

I have never heard of Mr. Keith Preston (or Ms. Aster, for that matter), but I find the letter quite good nonetheless. I draw a clear line at racism and sexism, one that I believe never needs to be crossed for any reason.

I tried reading Mr. Preston's post itself, but simply could not get through it--diminishing marginal utility and all.

Regards,
Alex Peak

May 24, 2009 1:38 AM  
Anonymous Aster said...

Stephan-

Thank you, and I mean that sincerely. You're an honest thinker trying to promote good values. You're looking at reality, and that comes before being on the same team.

I've been experiencing something wonderful over the last few weeks. I had deeply feared, and come close to believing, that so many people were such deeply and irreversably bigoted that it was impossible for me to socially function except at the expense of my principles, and that reason and freedom were powerless dreams. What I find, instead, is that Preston and his national anarchist creatures are the pitiable exceptions, and that an amazing number of people around me have much better in them than I had even imagined.

I still disagree with you on very important things. But I've had a great number of experiences recently which have shown me that the conflicts between people are far more often matters of ignorance, misundertanding, and- as my liberal Buddhist neo-mom keeps telling me- a lack of compassion.

We've had very different life experiences and have a great deal of trouble of understanding each other. But I'm now in my 7th (non-consecutive) week in Thailand, and y'know, if one can easily and benevolently relate to so many thousands of people with whom one can barely communicate with beyond smiles and pointing, I can believe again that a better world is a realistic human possibility.

And you turning out to be so much better than I'd quite wrongly thought is one small part of that. Many blessings.

I do think you've been seriously unfair to Carson, but after this exchange I can understand why he puts up with it and accepts you as a conversational partner in his own house. I think this is an important issue, but it's one Kevin doesn't seem to feel any need to confront at present (or, rather, his entire project in political economy continually confronts it), so I'll leave that disagreement until some future time. Let us sit down over one cup of tea and reason together.

I'll just say at the moment that I deeply believe in the heights and, in fact, a universalised aristocratic ideal, to the degree such a thing is consistently possible. What's changed from my Objectivist beginnings is that I've come to see those of great soul less as essentially superior than as those blessed by circumstance and thus able to much more fully develop their possibilities and talents. I don't think there's any contradiction between admiring the best that human beings have been able to become under favourable circumstances, and recognising a fundamental equality of persons in a world where most are hopelessly crushed by evil fortune before they have a chance to even know what happiness is. We're all heroes and heroines as children.

Your point on Southerners is- with a great deal of emotional difficulty- taken. I discussed the issue a bit recently on Rad Geek's blog, and need to write an essay fully working what are for me are very personal and painful issues. I was brought up in the South to a neoconfederate father who embodied all that it is worst in Southern society. Culturally and classwise speaking, I came from the house right next door to Keith Preston. A great deal of what motivates me to write about politics is a desire to say 'never again' to the kind of world desired by people such as Hoppe, Preston, or Troy Southgate. I've seen it, and it's a horror, precisely because I believe it to be a rejection of everything that precedes libertarianism all the way down to first philosophy.

Now, please allow me to decline further conversation. I'm feeling pleasantly, but very, very tired. I wish to move on, and hope you can forgive and forget my offense to you.

May 24, 2009 9:28 AM  
Anonymous Roderick T. Long said...

Jeremy,

I don't think Preston seriously means to come off as harshly as he sounds. I think it's just for effect, really.If he doesn't want to "come off as harshly as he sounds," what is the "effect" he's going for?

May 25, 2009 2:37 AM  
Anonymous Miguel said...

"...And Kevin Carson crossed the line into the cultural left brainwashed ranks. The End."

Maybe he is being fooled by people like Folk and Faith, thinking they are "preservationists" of some sort when they're not, but your own brainwashing is far worst. If you can't recognize the ultra-sexism in the feminists or the racial hate and the communism in the so-called anti-racists you're completely blind. If you can't recognize the language control from the gramscian left, you're also blind. If you can't recognize the progressive disposession of "white people" (europeans) all over that thing misnamed as "Western World", well, God help us both, you're absolutely blind.

Or the social engineering that's going on over hundreds of million of people of european descent who are culturally indoctrinated every day to change their schemes of behaviour in a self-destructive way: from marriage and the raise of children to their perception of History and identity.

These are facts so true, so undeniable as, for instance, your critics of "vulgar libertarians" or the other one about "the best available options".

Of course you're going to despise everything I could say in this discursive style, and I knew it before I started to write.

One of the most celebrated paragraphs of your article has been this one:

"If my choice is between "self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, or persons of one or another surgically altered 'gender identity'," and Nazis, Klansmen and white nationalists, I know which side I'll take"

Dou you allow me to make some minor corrections on it? Let's try something more descriptive of what's really going on here:

"If my choice is between "self-hating whites, bearded ladies, cock-ringed queers, black and amerind nationalists or persons of one or another surgically altered 'gender identity'," and white nationalists of the non-agression sort, I know which side I'll take"

Me too. Cause I'm not blind. I'm not living in 1960. I live in 2009.

May 25, 2009 3:27 PM  
Anonymous Roderick T. Long said...

Miguel,

Saying "If you can't see the truth of XYZ you must be blind" may be emotionally satisfying, but it also saves you the effort of actually presenting arguments and evidence for your views. And then when people, having been presented no arguments, continue to disagree with you, you can content yourself with the conviction that this is simply more proof of their blindness, without ever having to subject your own reasons to critical scrutiny. Seems like kind of a cheap victory.

May 25, 2009 6:23 PM  
Blogger Jeremy said...

If he doesn't want to "come off as harshly as he sounds," what is the "effect" he's going for?Meh, I take those words back - because they don't make sense and they're mistaken. Preston thinks us left libertarians are dispensable as pan-secessionist allies. I disagree with his reasoning that, therefore, it's ok to piss us off. But I do agree with him that there's not much revolutionary potential in our alliance.

May 25, 2009 7:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I never heard of this Preston character. But I did read his essay and agree with most of you. He went out of his way to be insulting and demeaning. I thought it rather disgusting to come across this. This sort of thing is creeping into libertarianism with cretins like Hoppe and others who I won't mention.

Aster: Enjoy Kiwiland but stay as far away from Perigo as you can -- he is toxic. If he does befriend you he will ultimately attack you and he has no ethics that seem to restrain his viciousness.

May 26, 2009 3:49 AM  
Anonymous Klamityjane said...

Miguel-

May I trouble you with the request to post a link to your own web page, or to a blog or forum to which you regularly communicate, so that we might be better able to understand where you are coming from politically?

May 26, 2009 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Mantar said...

So, Miguel, anyone who opposes racism is a racist, anyone who opposes sexism is a sexist, etc.?

You could have spared us all a paragraph by just summing up your lame argument as "I know you are, but what am I?"

May 26, 2009 9:48 AM  
Anonymous Some guy from Texas said...

I've been following Carson for a while. I stumbled upon Keith Preston's work a while back as well. I liked his criticism of the left and social democracy. But as I dug deeper he just creeped me out. How can you in any sense work with neo-nazis. That isn't to say that you can't reach out, that is another matter entirely. There are, without a doubt, people in authoritarian groups who might jump the fence to anarchism if they were convinced. I just think they are few and far between. Not only that, it really just doesn't make any sense to work with people who are actively working to put people in gas chambers when you want to free them. Plus, trying to cobble together some coalition around some very marginal, very isolated groups who are largely repellent to most people just won't work. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is logic of the state, not anarchists.

June 03, 2009 11:53 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Thus is a controversy that is strangely similar to that going on around the Vermont independence movement, and specifically Thomas Naylor's of the Second Vermont Republic's decision to meet with the leadership of the League of the South. I'd be curious to see what the folks about here think, as to the similarity to the issues raised by this hoopla:
http://greenmountaindaily.com/diary/4614/

July 07, 2009 7:28 PM  
Blogger Decentralist said...

The language and such was certainly not necessary but I think he actually makes a good point or one can be constructed out of the post.

Basically as a more rightwing, conservative decentralist I can see that this politically correct attachment by the far-left to minorities and thier issues has not been particularly helpful to it. Sure I can understand that some are in a bad position but this all most complete take over of some portions of the far-left, as well as a lot of the mainstream left and centre, is unhelpful to them.

This is not what we want to see in any decentralist movement. Sure we believe in gay rights and don't want to associate with racists but to this complete take over, in language and action is not what we want to see.

July 18, 2009 6:38 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

Coming from a strongly Leftist perspective, and being an extreme newbie here, I invite anyone to discard my viewpoint.

I read Kevin's words about Keith's verbiage:

increasingly "colorful" (i.e., deliberately demeaning) and hostile, by what seems like an order of magnitude or so

AND Keith's statement

"I say it’s time for a purge, if not an outright pogrom."

I must agree with Kevin without reservation on the use of the terms "purge" and "pogrom". Humans have had a long history of purges, pogroms, and drives to "cleanse the earth" of whatever enemy du jour.

However, what I think I see Keith proposing (in this essay) is NOT -- far from it -- purging various forms of gay people, various racial types, or any such person from society or from Anarchist circles.

Read in it's entirety, the first half of Keith's essay, is an explanation of his long-standing free-association with all types of people, and his dismay at the ludicrousness of various ranters for exclusion or criminalization of various types of minority persons or activities.

What I clearly think Keith is arguing about purging is the *OBSESSION* with such issues as *center-stage* in any healthy political movement especially this one, and charging a certain degree of hypocrisy that comprises that obsession. I have not had much personal experience with that obsession, but enough to have been denounced (for some bizarre misunderstanding) by some on the Left, to balance out being slimed by Neo-Cons as a worshipper of Obama.

On the weight of Keith's "Sodomy" essay alone, I 'hear' a voice of dismay and ironic humor, characterized by over-the-top language and humor of someone like Doug Stanhope, who on one hand freely flings the terms "fag" or "faggoty" or "gay" around in his comic performances, but then offers a tiny bit of fellatio to anyone in the audience who is offended in order to *prove* he's not really homophobic, just that those are powerful-sounding words he refuses to purge from his performance.

In other words, Keith's rant starts out as an expression of his libertarian values, and then launches into a challenge to NOT be offended by mere words and outrageousness.

In other words: a bawdy "lighten up".

I've not yet read Keith's defense of neo-Nazi types, but as lame as David Neiwert is on larger political issues and his role in defense of centrist Democrats, he makes some solid points about the nature of EXTERMINATIONIST rhetoric on the far right.

I have absolutely NO reason (given what little I've seen) to believe that Keith offers any support whatsoever for the EXTERMINATIONISM and ELIMINATIONISM that Neiwert so carefully documents, though some of the neo-Nazi types mentioned in Kevin's article definitely do.

I think it must be difficult to impossible to resolve issues with Christian Identity types that insist that Jews must be purged from the planet or Blacks from the continent or the USA, but I can sympathize (or *almost*) with their angst about their perception of a multi-culturalist attack on whites for being white.

(I must note that some of the major proponents of multi-culturalism include the current DoD chief and former CIA Director Robert Gates, as well as other Rockefeller-oriented Liberals, and I believe that this has much to do with goals of banker-CIA-Pentagon-G20-run Globalization and Political Totalitarianism, than any hearfelt or romantic notions of 'tolerance'.)

I offer this partial defense of Keith being the number one target of White Supremacists, a Left Wing American secular Jew.

October 13, 2009 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Gary said...

I forgot to mention, I made a similar point on DailyKos about a guy upset over a customer's remark about "killing Liberals" that -- considering the other brief remark he made that was clearly ridiculous -- was probably dry humor.

October 13, 2009 2:06 PM  

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