Ill Tidings

The latest in the comedy-to-fascism pipeline.

Ill Tidings

A couple weeks ago I wrote about some hullabaloo in the Libertarian party. Here's how that all turned out: The bad guys won. An effort to permanently disaffiliate far-right members of the party's New Hampshire chapter failed, leading to the resignation of Joe Bishop-Henchman, chairman of the Libertarian National Committee, and two other LNC members. Dekalb, Illinois city clerk Sasha Cohen, one of the party's 200-odd elected officials, resigned as well.

In his resignation letter, Bishop-Henchman criticized the "toxic culture [that] has recently been harnessed in the service of a grouping with a declared goal of taking over the party and making it as repulsive as possible to everyone except themselves." Cohen reportedly said in a video conference, "we are a big tent party, but no tent is big enough to hold racists and people of color, transphobes and trans people, bigots and their victims."

As I described, for several years now the Libertarian party's Mises Caucus, led in part by comedian Dave Smith, has been engaged in an effort to transform Libertarianism into an explicitly far-right movement. A couple readers accurately pointed out that the Libertarian party has historically been pretty openly reactionary: Former Libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul, himself a Senior Fellow at the Mises Institute, gained notoriety for the racist, homophobic newsletters he published in the 1990s, and many of the Libertarianism's guiding principles (property rights, taxation as theft) are basically euphemisms for structural racism.

This is a fair point, and it merits clarifying that the Mises Caucus's rise is explicitly reacting to inter-party trends away from its mask-off past. Smith says often that he believes the party was at its best in the "Ron Paul days," where he wishes it to return. He affirmed in an interview last year that the Mises Caucus "takeover," which he expects to be complete in a few years, aims to rid the party of its more left-leaning, social justice-oriented elements. Here's something else he said in that interview:

You can benefit from reading all types of different people. I’ve read neo-Nazis and benefited from what they had to say… The thing that I would say I benefited most from was just really taking into account how incredibly fucked up the Treaty of Versailles and the American military campaign against the German people was. And nobody really ever feels for those people. And you know, it's much easier if you just say, "well, Hitler is literally the devil and therefore every German person is literally the devil, and we are to not shed one tear for the innocent women and children who were just slaughtered for being around them," basically. And it's like, hey, you know what, for all the other evil shit in there, that's a really fair point.

I harp on the fact that Dave Smith is a Nazi sympathizer because he is one, first of all, and second because he's really popular. His fascist leanings represent the ideological backbone upon which he is building the Mises Caucus, which according to one LNC delegate controls 25 state party chapters. His project is to recruit people who share his beliefs, both as rank-and-file members and high-profile surrogates: people like shameless anti-Semite Hotep Jesus, a repeat guest on Smith's podcast and speaker at a Mises Caucus event last month, and Smith ally Nick Ashley, a gleefully transphobic Libertarian podcaster. The other half of this project is to drive his ideological opponents out of the party, leaving only the fully mask-off reactionaries. As we're seeing right now, the plan is working.

The Libertarian party is often treated as a joke, and I understand that it may be difficult to muster concern about these internecine squabbles when there's already a far-right political party controlling half the federal government and 23 state governments. I also suspect it will be several years before we see the fruits of all these machinations, but that's sort of the point. Right now Dave Smith and his allies are working to transform the country's third-largest political party into the new home for everyone left behind when the alt-right dissolved. If they succeed, they will have united an array of violent people under the philosophy that violence is justifiable if you feel your property or body are under threat. Dave Smith's political goals include the destruction of the left, mass privatization, and the dismantling of the welfare state. The Libertarian officials who resigned last week claimed to have evidence that the Mises Caucus's plan, once it takes over the Libertarian Party, is to take over the GOP.

But none of this has happened yet. They can still be stopped. I don't know how, exactly, but I have to believe one starting point is for the comedy industry to adopt an unshakeable no-tolerance policy toward the Nazis and Nazi sympathizers using its platforms to build power. If Libertarian party officials can do it, you'd think it would be pretty easy for gatekeepers and other comedians to do it too.