Fear and Loathing: Manipulation of the Liberty Movement

May 5th, 2012   Submitted by Bruce Jay

Attention: The world is coming to an end! Buy gold, guns, and gas masks!
The doomsday, Armageddon, impending collapse, mass starvation and war-lording reality, coming to a city or neighborhood near you, is a reoccurring theme among many pro-liberty websites. Whether it’s selling guns, gas masks, and water purification tablets or advising people to place their money into strange and obscure investment vehicles (e.g., nickels), doomsday moneymaking schemes abound throughout the liberty movement.

The yellow journalistic technique of exploiting doom has severe consequences. Not only is the doomsday premise false but its affirmation is damaging to our psyche. It corrupts the virtues of freedom and is counter-productive to the anarcho-libertarian movement. It’s time for a reality check.

Is there any reason to believe the end is coming soon?

In our lifetimes, the answer is no. It’s all about time. The greatest of all empires, the Roman Empire, collapsed over many centuries, not in a few days, years, or even decades.  Most living in Rome were not aware of the decline in real-time.  How could they?

Twenty years ago, my roommate commented that we were living in the decline of the American Empire.  She was most likely right, but twenty years later the change has been practically imperceptible. In terms of economic and political freedom, nothing has really changed. The most glaring exception is the TSA. In market driven areas (e.g., technology, communication, and medicine), things have vastly improved.

Furthermore, the passing of generations adds to the loss of perspective. If you’re four years old today, going to the airport and being molested by the TSA is nothing new to your life experience and hence, you have nothing to compare. God knows how many things I have taken for granted in my lifetime (e.g., income taxes) because I’ve never known any different. Funny, we often laugh at the elderly for their ideas and experiences, yet they are true witnesses of change. Sadly, most have passed on before any of us are old enough to know the right questions to ask.

The point is you can’t plan for doomsday because the process is slow and it takes place in the form of erosion, not catastrophe.  When the demise finally occurs, it has taken so many years to complete that those who might notice have died; others are acclimated from birth and have made the necessary economic and psychological adjustments. Of course, you can leave all your gold, guns, and gas masks to your great grandchildren.

Is it healthy to hoard and hideout?

Do I really want to live in a cave?   Let’s face it, for much of the so-called prepper (survivalist) movement the answer is yes.  I’m all for people taking on the responsibility of self-protection and storing extra provisions for an unexpected emergency, but that is not the psychology of many in this movement.

If you believe in stockpiling weapons and food, among other things, you’re not about preparedness. You’re about paranoia. Your psyche is damaged because you have bought into the marketing hype and propaganda that states it’s us against them. It’s survival of the fittest. You have embraced the idea of excluding people and keeping others out; hoarding resources and protecting your interests against all others, with violence if necessary, all the while crawling in a hole and waiting for…what?

Why wait?  If the U.S.becomes so inhospitable, leaving would be the intelligent choice.  Seriously, do you think stockpiling weapons is going to stop the military might of the U.S.?  Ask the Branch Davidians or the Weaver family of Ruby Ridge how well that worked out.

Will the dollar become worthless?

It is worthless by the standards of 1900. As I mentioned above, time makes this imperceptible to most. No doubt, the value of the dollar is declining, but this process has been going on since the inception of the Fed (almost a hundred years ago). In the late 70’s and early 80’s, the prime rate was increased to 21% to fight hyperinflation. It would be foolish not to consider the possibility of that happening again.  Gold, silver, Bitcoin and other alternative currencies are worth considering as a form of insurance but anything more is ridiculous.

What damage are doomsday promoters doing to the cause of liberty?

Though I am sure there are some well-meaning individuals peddling the doomsday scenario, the clear motivation of many is to make money. Manipulating the fears of common folk, anarcho-libertarians, and the parasites of freedom (i.e., Nazis, KKK, Black Panthers, the Islamophobic, ethno-centrists, etc.), the damage to the credibility of our movement is far reaching.  The most notable casualty is the Ron Paul campaign.

Ron’s newsletters, some written with an extremist, us-against-them survivalist theme, have come back from the past to haunt his campaign.  Even though Ron did not write the newsletters, his name was associated with this moneymaking scheme. The result has tarnished and politically damaged the liberty movement as well as put into question the character of Ron Paul.

The outcome of the doomsday marketing technique is driving people away from the message of liberty, not towards it. Buying gas masks, guns in mass, and other extreme measures are not going to win the hearts and minds of those open to our ideas but hesitant due to the extremist (doomsday) vision many in the liberty movement profess.

If non-libertarians view us as terrorists or anarchists (i.e., Galleanists, Occupy movement, or Timmy McVeigh), then government will grow, not shrink. Our movement will not be the savior of liberty but the deliverer of tyranny.

Don’t misunderstand my message. I think preparing for the future is a worthy undertaking. Learning to use a weapon as the last resort of self-defense, having extra canned goods and water on hand in case of emergency or hedging the value of your savings by purchasing some gold, Bitcoin, Aussie dollar, etc.– all these things have merit as a form of insurance.

Stockpiling gold, guns, and gas masks to prepare for the collapse of the U.S., something that will take centuries to complete and only historians will recognize, is a waste of time and resources. Time and resources that would be better spent by promoting our ideas and encouraging people to join our movement, not out of fear but out of hope.

Of course, I could be wrong and the one in a million apocalyptic vision could come true. In the meantime, as an anarcho-libertarian, I’ll try to enjoy life and spread the virtues of liberty to all who will listen…without carrying a gun or wearing a gas mask.

__________________________________________________

Bruce Jay is editor at the Daily Anarchist.  If you have comments, suggestions or an interest in writing for DA (please send ideas or introductory paragraphs and we’ll talk),  email: bruce_jay@dailyanarchist.com

23 Responses to “Fear and Loathing: Manipulation of the Liberty Movement”

  1. EdNo Gravatar says:

    Mistake #1 The past does not predict the future and never has this been more true than at this moment. There are things taking place in our galaxy and solar system which have not taken place before in our recorded history. We can expect to lose both our electrical grid and communications in the next 1- 2 years. Without electrical power very little fuel will be refined or marketed and most of us will be unemployed, including those currently employed by governments. Without fuel, food does not move. Who eats? If we expect to sell anarchy to those who will be plunged into it by circumstance, why bother?

  2. DarrenNo Gravatar says:

    Bruce – Excellent article! You’re making the point I’ve made to many a libertarian in private conversations.

    Ed – We’re not going to lose the electric grid or communications any time soon. As Bruce points out, this kind of alarmism only makes us look bad. I lived in Venezuela where electricity & water would go off on a regular basis. They were there though. Even if it gets like that here (& I don’t see that coming in the foreseeable future) we would still have them. A lesson I took away from my time in the socialist paradise is that things can decline considerably without collapsing.

  3. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    Bruce, I disagree with your views, but I must admit that they are an underrepresented viewpoint in the libertarian blogosphere. There are many libertarian anarchists that agree with your viewpoint, no doubt. But they are usually drowned out by the alarmists.

    My attitude is that it’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, as one begins to prepare for collapse, one also sows the seeds of independence from the state. To me, preparedness isn’t about living in a way that will only pay off if the shit does hit the fan. Preparedness is about a way of life and learning to take pleasure in the things that bring independence from the state and security against its collapse.

    Learning to garden, can and dry food, gather firewood, exercise, close your bank accounts and develop bartering networks, all help to build community, increase one’s happiness and simultaneously hedge against catastrophe.

    I wouldn’t likely do those things if I didn’t have a doomsday attitude. I’d probably just be another shill in the government-funded science lab.

    But, to each their own. I’m a big fan of diversity and I’m sure there is a need for all-types of anarchists outlooks.

    • Bruce JayNo Gravatar says:

      Seth,

      Yesterday, I half jokingly told a friend to check and see if you had pulled the article. LOL

      I agree with much of what you say, and no doubt, the skills needed to be self-sufficient are a worthy endeavor. However, if I look at the situation from an economic standpoint (an angle I did not pursue in the article), markets are created out of diversity and the result is specialization.

      If I deny my participation in markets as a specialist because I spend time in becoming self-sufficient (i.e., doing things I’m not that good at), then I may achieve psychological satisfaction (i.e., happiness) and perhaps even ethical perfection, but I am not economically efficient.

      I am denying the basis of free markets to which I uphold as an anarcho-libertarian. Furthermore, by denying my talents, I am not doing anything to benefit society as a whole. Think of it in terms of opportunity cost.

      Of course, I might be healthier and happier:)

  4. DisengageNo Gravatar says:

    Bad things can and will happen to your way of life. It could be the collapse of the dollar or a super-flu. It could also be a car accident or a heart attack in the primary breadwinner of your household. Most people aren’t prepared for even the most common disasters, let alone the far-flung scenarios of the fringe. What I’m saying it, people should be prepared to some extent, but they should be smart about it and keep things in perspective.

    Keep three things in mind:
    1) The most likely disasters to befall you are totally mundane (heart attack).
    2) You can’t prepare for everything.
    3) There are some things you might not want to survive.

    But that wasn’t really the point of this article. I, too, wonder why all the “prepper” products seem to be advertised on the liberty or “don’t trust the government” sites/shows. Is this a simple case of advertisers going where their customers are? If so… why aren’t their customers listening to NPR or watching network TV? Why don’t I see dried emergency rations advertised on the latest episode of Bones?

    Does the freedom movement attract paranoid people? Does it CREATE paranoia? Is it really paranoia? After all, you do need to have SOME emergency supplies put away. Even the woefully inept government says so, but most people just ignore that. So maybe “paranoid” people are just smarter? Regardless of the cause, can you really blame advertisers for going where their customers are… regardless of the reasons why the customers are there to begin with? I don’t see anything immoral or predatory about that. Unless you are saying that the advertisers are somehow complicit in creating this heightened state of paranoia just to profit from it.

  5. kunkmiesterNo Gravatar says:

    One big difference between today and Rome is information technology. Memes and social constructs flow at the speed of information. When you had to have someone literally sit down and write every single copy of something you want to tell people about, these flow very very slowly, allowing a centuries long decline. Today, such things will be at the fingertips of hundreds of millions of people almost instantly, and compared to Roman scholars, the rest of the world will know almost as fast. This will accelerate any decline.

    Of course, the opposite is also true–good ideas, memes of new prosperity, etc. will go just as fast. The question is which will be buffered more.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Well said. I would also note that empires don’t last as long as they used to.

      The idea of prepping or not prepping is not unlike gambling.

      (Chances of SFTF times the consequences of being unprepared) minus (chances of no-SHTF times the wasted energy being prepared)

      Another thing to consider is how close we are to revolution. If the country is on the brink of revolution then I don’t see how one could argue not to prepare. I wouldn’t want to be caught unprepared in times of civil war. So, I have to assume Bruce doesn’t think we’re on the brink of revolution. That’s understandable. I, too, sometimes wonder if decline will be gradual or if there will be an unstoppable awakening.

      • kunkmiesterNo Gravatar says:

        It’s this exponential curve of the IT that I mentioned in that essay I sent you a while ago. I don’t know how much longer the current empire will last, but the next one will be much shorter. Eventually, they won’t last at all.

      • Bruce JayNo Gravatar says:

        Seth,

        You are right; I don’t believe a violent revolution is near. That won’t happen as long as people love their widescreen TV’s more than their liberty.

        I do believe a revolution of ideas is currently being fought.

        You, I and all the people in the libertarian movement (minarchists and anarchists) writers, bloggers, and people speaking to their friends at bars, coffee shops, tweeter and Facebook are all soldiers in the cause.

        We will prevail but it is early in the fight.

  6. BlackandGr9yNo Gravatar says:

    I’m a libertarian that has taken steps to prepare for the worst. With the economic condition of America and Europe, I think it’s important for anyone, know matter what you believe, to take precautions and play is safe. I have silver, food, and a nice collection of knives. Although, the collection of knives was created as a hobby, and not for any survival means. =D

    I think there is such a thing as over preparation, and I agree about your view on survivalists. By isolating themselves, they’re only eliminating those community ties that are important in times of need. Humanity is something we all need. Our connections to each other, in terms of spiritual, physical, and emotional needs, are important, and to destroy that can and will lead to disaster.

    I do agree that there is a storm brewing in this world. Gerald Celente, the world’s foremost expert on predicting trends, has been very accurate in his assessments on the global system and what’s becoming of it. He foresaw the economic collapse of 2008, and predicted the rise of movements such as Occupy.

    Bruce, there is one thing that I would like to say. There are signs in this country that something is very wrong, and our government knows it. In 2010, documents were leaked from the Army War College indicating that the United States government was preparing to take on citizens during times of social unrest. In fact, there was a community in a small town that was aware that soldiers were training to take away guns from law abiding citizens. Now, in 2012, reports are coming out that the DHS (or ministry) is stock piling over 450 million rounds of shredder ammo. That’s enough firepower to take out every man, woman, and child in this country. Now, I don’t mean to sound a little uneasy, but something about that is just odd. Whether we accept it or not, there are things going on in this country that are very unusual. Hell, just look at the fact that the government has recently passed laws that allow it to imprison American citizens and even kill them. Putting it all together should force people to stop and ask questions.

  7. Gary gibsonNo Gravatar says:

    That comment about the nickels in the opening seemed a little pointed. I just recommended nickels yet again in my own publication because they are a hedge against deflation and inflation, as sound a way to save as 90% silver coins were before they stopped circulating. I understand the weariness with the preparation paranoia, but why disparage nickel hoarding?

    • Bruce JayNo Gravatar says:

      Gary,

      If this is Gary Gibson editor of WhiskeyandGunpowder.com, then it’s an honor to have you read my article and comment.

      The reference to nickels did not come from your site. My apologies if it appears that way.

      The motivation and research for this article came from my most recent ventures into the blogsphere looking for writing talent. It’s there I was taken back at the number of sites that blatantly or subtly use doom as the premise and fear as the conclusion.

      I take the position that freedom is the premise and hope is the conclusion.

      Note: As an ex-mises.org refugee, (I thank Seth for taking me in, giving me a home and a sense of purpose), I do occasionally frequent your site and check on my mentor J. Tucker.

      Oh, and by the way, the Trayvon Martin article…spot-on :)

  8. MikeNo Gravatar says:

    Well written article; I think that many in the liberty movement have fallen into a trap that statists do-namely thinking that “eveyone else” is “bad” and that only ourselves and our close circle is virtuous. Statists use this as a rationale for insisting on a state, e.g., “without government everyone will kill everyone else,” whereas some in the liberty movement claim that the moment government collapses there will be hordes of urban dwellers roaming and pillaging the counytryside so “better stockpile weapons immediately!”

  9. BlackandGr9yNo Gravatar says:

    ^Well, to be fair, I think a government collapse would bring forth a sizable amount of chaos from the public at large. Psychologically speaking, today’s American public, especially the younger generations, know absolutely nothing on how to survive even the most basic of economic meltdowns. The generation of the Great Depression, where people could make a lot from nothing, is pretty much non-existent. Many individuals have become so reliant on the medium of technology to get things done, that the simple notion of doing something with physical energy just seems alien to so many. I’ll admit that I’ve fallen into the technology paradigm, but I’ve used it to have a better understanding of what to do if a dire situation arises.

    Take from this perspective: as of right now, there are over 44 million Americans on food stamps. What would happen if all those people suddenly lost the ability to obtain their government handouts? Combine this with new numbers suggesting that over 88 million Americans are unemployed, and the brew for something disastrous truly does present itself.

  10. helioNo Gravatar says:

    I appreciate articles like this that challenge my views and conclusions. However, as the division of labor increases and each worker becomes more specialized, the more catestrophic the impact crises will have on economic output. The division of labor in Roman times was still generalized enough that people could still survive a failure of civil society. How many people do you know who live urban lifestyles could quickly adapt their skills in a major disruption?

    • kunkmiesterNo Gravatar says:

      There is a trend back the other way though. Don’t know if you’ve been following the Tireless Agorist, but he’s been covering alot about how 3D printing, low cost precision machining, and other technologies are disrupting the increasing centralization and specialization. I’m not sure it’s at the point where it can protect society, but the trend is there.

    • Bruce JayNo Gravatar says:

      helio,

      Actually, I believe specialization works to strengthen society and dull the impact of any sudden economic changes. It’s like a spiders’ web. You can damage part of it, but most of the web stays intact and continues to function.

      Without market driven specialization, you get Stalinist Russia or Maoist China…not a place to live and definitely not a place to be when a disaster hits.

      I’m glad to know my article challenged your views and conclusions…it is the highest compliment I can receive…thanks:)

      PS>helio…how do you and I get rid of these sad faces?

  11. anonymous infowarriorNo Gravatar says:

    The US will be like greece in 50 years or less. Just watch.
    And then there will be plenty of time for people with slightly extreme views (also known as us) to take over.
    Look what happened there yesterday: communists and nazis now run the government of Greece. No one could expect that. America is a little further right, so our version of communists and nazis will probably be greens and libertarians. Not a bad two groups to have running government.

  12. Bob RobertsonNo Gravatar says:

    I’ve lived in very diverse circumstances during my life, ranging from major city to small town to “way out in the boonies”.

    It is _always_ a good idea to have some bases covered. Winter storms will take out electricity for a week. Even NYC has had power failures that lasted more than a couple of days. People do lose their jobs, and safe deposit boxes have been confiscated by law.

    Riots do occur. While I expect that having a front lawn covered in dead rioters would really not make the local constabulary happy, the fact remains that the Korean shopowners who stood their ground bearing arms were left alone during the Rodney King riots. Their stores and customers were unmolested, no one got hurt at all.

    I think the Katrina experience is a very important teaching opportunity. “It’s not a disaster until FEMA gets there” is an axiom. Those who blindly obeyed got herded like cattle to the slaughter.

    My opinion is that the only thing that would prevent the movement of food to an area that needed it is government interference, creating a disaster where there would only have been inconvenience. But that HAS HAPPENED. Having a week’s worth of supplies on hand is not crazy, it’s good advice for anyone.

  13. rotten777No Gravatar says:

    I think the manipulation is there but the idea that we’re never going to see a collapse is a bit naive. We’re already seeing our children being fatter and dumber and less healthy than any other generation on the planet. We’re seeing death from excess and unhealthiness due to exposure from pesticides/GMO’s/etc… On top of that we have the attacks on our freedom like drones flying over our cities and attempted disarmament, censorship, etc. etc. etc.

    I’m wanting to live a long and healthy FREE life so as far as I’m concerned, the collapse is in action right now and the time-limit varies for all of us. If you want to be healthy, grow your own food or buy organic and local. Quit staring at the television 6 hours a day. If you want to be free, get the hell away from the federal government and start your life free of oppression.

    I don’t expect the grids to go down because those who pull the strings need the grid up to make more money. As long as they can still print it, the money will continue to flow. The machine that makes the billions for the big boys will be kept up or the government will lose their campaign contributors.

  14. RobNo Gravatar says:

    This was a great article.

    The situation at hand is a tough one. It’s seems likely that something cataclysmic is coming and it should be prepared for.

    At the same time, expecting “doomsday” to come at any minute kills optimism, which cripples any motivation to try to make long-term societal (and possibly personal) changes.

    It’s a balancing act that we have to figure out somehow.

  15. SotheNo Gravatar says:

    I wonder if this author has taken the time since writing this to reflect on the timelines of his assumptions for a few minutes.

    The media and the doomsday marketing are an adaptive response to already existing conditions. People were prepping for a few years before the mainstream started creeping over.

    It seems to me that a simple google search would have informed the author enough that this article wouldn’t have even been written, much less done so with such an arrogant presentation.

  16. Martin BrockNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with you, and the point needs reiterating.

    My dad gardened and chopped firewood, and my mom canned food. They didn’t think of it as survivalism. They thought of it as wholesome or healthy or down to Earth or something. I didn’t much follow their example, but Seth is not a survivalist whacko for following it. Maybe he’s a survivalist whacko, but chopping wood and canning doesn’t make him one.

    That said, many libertarians are prophets of doom, and their prophesies either don’t materialize or, as you say, materialize so slowly that few people notice. As a consequence, these prophesies look to many people like the perennial forecasts of the second coming, discrediting the prophets and their message.

    I oppose central banking and statutory monopolies of money and credit, but I wouldn’t even say that the dollar is worthless by 19th century standards. Sure, if you buried paper dollars in your back yard at the turn of the century, they’re worth much less now, but burying paper dollars in your backyard isn’t very bright. You could have done lots of other things with paper dollars at the turn of the century that weren’t very bright.

    Money is a medium of exchange, not a long-term store of value. Sure, you can link a Wikipedia article stating that money is a store of value, but this article happens to me wrong where the dollar is concerned, and statutory inflation isn’t the only reason or even the primary reason. Gresham’s law is the reason. Statutory inflation is a vice, but it isn’t the primary reason that money is not a store of value.

    Of course, if I we simply define “money” as a durable commodity with persistent value, then money is a store of value, but other media of exchange drive this sort of money out of free markets, and we want the media that markets choose, don’t we?

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