The Radical Center
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The Radical Center

Swastikas, T-Shirts & Libertarian Lessons

KA Designs seemed to have only the best intentions when they decided to reclaim the swastika. There reasoning was perfectly logical. The swastika was an old symbol taken by Nazis and twisted into something ugly and vile. KA Designs decided they would reclaim the symbol of “love, peace and freedom.” They thought they could use this symbol “to express the victory of love and humanity against hatred and Nazism in general.” They promised, “The swastika is coming back together with love, peace, respect and freedom.” For thousands of years the Swastika was not considered a symbol of evil and that is what they thought they could revive.

Personally I fear the “reclaiming” of symbols or words is fraught with danger. One reason I’ve refused to go along with those “reclaiming” “queer” as a positive application to LGBT people is that millions of people have nothing but severe, negative associations with the words. Many “queer activists” have dismissed that and made it clear that they don’t care who is hurt by their rampant relabeling. I, on the other hand, can’t help but think of the man who wrote me how “queer” always reminds him of his father punching him in the face while spitting that word out at him.

But sometimes, a word or symbol has become so distorted in meaning it can’t be reclaimed. This is what happened with liberalism. There was time that liberalism was a form of libertarianism, or libertarianism was a kind of liberalism — take your pick. It had a good reputation and socialists started applying the word to their idiosyncratic interpretation. They wanted many of the same things the old liberals wanted, but unlike liberals they wanted to use state power to achieve them. In other words, they combined a liberal end with a conservative means.

Now, every time libertarians wish to use the world liberal they have add in caveats. We call it “classical liberalism, “ “traditional liberalism” and some call it neo-liberalism. The problem is that once a name or symbol is corrupted it is much harder to revive it than it is to create a new symbol or label. To say the least, things did not end well for KA Designs and the reclamation project collapsed miserably for them.

They have removed the shirt from their site and apologized. They had good intentions, but once you make room for hatred and bigotry you destroy the reputation of anything good associated with it.

Just as the Progressive Left stole the label “liberal,” forcing real liberals to use the term libertarian instead, we now face a concerted effort to corrupt libertarianism as a term and associate it with the same kind of bigotry and hatred associated with the Swastika.

There have always been closet bigots within the libertarian movement — people who somehow believe that a “free” society can be one that harbours bigotry and hatred. Some like Gary North has talked about how a free society means the community can stone gays to death provided it’s a community project, not a government one, it’s just peachy keen and will make God happy. He is still promoted heavily by the misnamed Mises Institute — who has promoted anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates and a whole slew of racists. Hans-Herman Hoppe has spoken of how libertarian societies will have to physically removed homosexuals. It doesn’t help to have someone who claims to be libertarian urge us to adopt “blood and soil” politics — a slogan lifted directly from the Nazis.

The names of the people working overtime to turn libertarianism into some kind of alt-Right movement are well known. If they succeed in associating libertarians with hatred and bigotry, instead of tolerance, they will set libertarianism back a 100 years. They are working to inject poison into the libertarian movement, and they are succeeding.

The Internet is now filled with these lonely, incompetent trolls who are slinging hate around in the name of “the liberty movement.” They are embracing the values of people like Ann Coulter, Milo Yiannopolous, and Christopher Cantwell. We had the would-be cult leader Stefan Molyneux switch from a radical libertarian who hates women, to radical white supremacist who still hates women. I suspect Molyneux to be a Narcissist in search of a following and he doesn’t care much where the following comes from.

Once libertarians lost control of the label “liberal” it was converted into something quite different. The true liberals of that era were left floundering and classical liberal largely retreated to a few dark corners of the world. The result was the rampant rise of imperialism, war, fascism and the extension of racism into new areas. It was the era of F.D.R, Hitler and Mussolini. Fascists took control in Spain and Argentina. The world marched into a dark hell. And there was little opposition left in true Liberal camps.

It’s taken decades to build the libertarian label back up to where liberalism used to be. And once again there are parasites trying to snatch the label for their own use. If they do it will be almost impossible to reclaim it. KD Designs have learned the error of trying to reclaim something that was turned very ugly.

Well, there is a whole lot of ugly push “blood and soil,” bigotry, and hate. Unless libertarians openly and explicitly reject these bigots, and make it clear they are not welcome, the entire libertarian movement will be pushed back to square one. We need to keep the label as one associated with free markets, peace, social tolerance, free trade, etc. We need to tell the Trumpian haters and the “blood and soil” bigots to leave libertarians alone. Go out and have your meeting with Richard Spencer and other bigots if you want, but stop doing it in our name.

Libertarians need to explicitly reject these people and refuse to have anything to do with them.

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James Peron

James Peron is the president of the Moorfield Storey Institute, was the founding editor of Esteem a LGBT publication in South Africa under apartheid.