Wednesday, June 6, 2012

so fucking free

Let's look at this.


Professional neckbeard Dan Foster also weighed in.

Now: Michael Moynihan and I have nothing to do with each other, politically, morally, philosophically.   So it follows he should think little of me personally. When we argue politics, we are arguing about the most basic disagreements of values that humans have. I promise you: every political question is a moral question. Every "policy debate" is at heart the question of who suffers and who doesn't. Every one. There is no such thing as friendly political enemies. There's only the differences you allow yourself to ignore. What he calls defamation is only human honesty. When he calls me an asshole, it's the closest his Twitter feed will come to such honesty this year. The problem is the notion that his thinking I'm an asshole is worth remarking on. That should be the default.

The funny thing about DC libertarians is that they-- haters of government, haters of "Washington"-- are the purest creatures of Washington there is. No group is more purely of that culture. No organizations are ultimately more comfortable within an environment of government largess. If you want to understand the basic hypocrisy of American politics, look no further than DC libertarians, out for drinks with their political rivals, as the architecture of big government orbits around them. There's no Cato without the culture of government, no think tanks without the soft corruption of the social infrastructure of state power. That the welfare state can shrink and shrink while government spending increases is a consequence of that coziness. What did you think? That libertarians actually want to win? What would Michael Moynihan do for a job?

Now, let me be plain: very few people do take me seriously. Very few indeed. And I wouldn't have it any other way. Why would I ever want the Michael Moynihans of the world to take me seriously? Nothing could be further from my desires. Why on earth would I want a conservative's respect? A libertarian's respect? This is a very basic notion that so many people can't wrap their minds around: I don't want to be cool with you. I don't want your blessing. And it speaks to a diseased culture, a broken, ugly society of influence peddling and networking, that he thinks I should feel otherwise.

If professional bloggers and pundits were able to say what they feel, trust me, they'd make me blush.

If he should happen to read this-- hi, Michael-- it will be the most beautifully honest political moment of his month, maybe his year. Here we have communication that is realer than anything he's going to encounter, online or in real life. He's going to go into Reason on a typical day and pretend to respect people he doesn't respect. He's going to have friendly interactions online with people who he detests. He's going to go to parties and bars and hold his nose because his culture is a culture built on the fear that someone in the next room is talking about you. He's going to compromise himself, every moment of every day. But not here. The only rule here is "go hard." He can tell me exactly what he thinks, and I can return the favor. If Moynihan were a more thoughtful person, if he weren't so captured by his social culture, he might even appreciate it.

I get emails and comments, sometimes, lamenting my lack of influence or my poor reputation. But honest to god, guys-- the freedom. These professional bloggers have no idea. I apologized for the post that the tweet was referencing. Why? For no other reason than I felt I should. I have no social need, no professional obligation. There was nothing to be lost by posting it in the first place and there was nothing to be gained by apologizing for it. I did both, for the same reason: in that moment I felt it was right to do. You don't know how free that feels. The clarity when you give up on what the horde thinks of you, it's almost indescribable. That's liberty.

By the time I was 15, I had watched my family disintegrate and learned that there's nothing besides cruel randomness and received privilege. I knew then that real politics was elbows and chins. To me, politics is life and death. To Michael Moynihan it's a cocktail party. I want only to express what I think is true at every random moment, without consideration or self-censorship, and when I observe the compromise and corruption of his kind, I know true north.

Update: Moynihan should update his Twitter! I guess he's a Brooklynite and edits Vice now. 

17 comments:

  1. "He's going to go to parties and bars and hold his nose because his culture is a culture built on the fear that someone in the next room is talking about you"

    Or on Twitter? I doubt if universities in the hinterlands are all that different.

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  2. Is the Tweeter who favorited it anybody?

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  3. That would be Jonathan Blanks of the Cato Institute.

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  4. No criticism for him?

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  5. But I mean, why, though? His favoriting that Tweet is a pretty clear indication that he thinks you're an asshole, too.

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  6. First nony was me. Clicked when I should of clacked.

    Conor Friedersdorf, a respectable libertarian, wrote about DC culture a couple of years back:

    http://www.theatlantic.com/special-report/the-future-of-the-city/archive/2010/05/the-tyranny-of-washington-dc/56988/

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  7. I don't know, I like him. We're not friends or anything, I've only met him a couple times.

    Here's another little tip to being free: never let what someone else thinks of you determine how you think about them.

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  8. hard to believe no one's written a response to that friedersdorf essay entitled "the tyranny of brooklyn."

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  9. I may be misreading you, but you seem very convinced that your particular bundle of policy preferences represents some sort of absolute measure of morality. Isn't that completely antithetical to your whole notion of improving the moral imagination?

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  10. I'm sympathetic to j r's argument above at comment 11.

    The ethos of this post strikes me as not just wrong, but dangerous. It’s the logic of extremism.

    By Freddie's logic, if you're a committed, say, Catholic, shouldn't you be working to require the inculcation of religious doctrine in public schools? But we aren't allowed to do that here. Private moral beliefs are private; not every policy debate is about bottom-line moral outlook. That’s good, in my view, because that way we can walk the street and go to work and watch baseball games with people whose beliefs differ from ours.

    All policy debates are provisional. My opinion can change. Events can change. New data can come in. If we make everything a bottom-line moral debate, then we can’t ever agree to any policy.

    Bernard Finel offered a view opposite Freddie’s in the past day or two: "Do we have a moral imperative to act to prevent the murder of innocent civilians? We can debate this until the cows come home. This is simply a moral judgment. I subscribe to the “Spider-Man Doctrine” — with “great power comes great responsibility.” We don’t have an absolutely imperative to act, but certainly we ought to do what is in our power to ameliorate suffering. But look, if you disagree, you disgagree. I don’t see much point in focusing on this part of the debate, since really it is a matter of moral judgment, not something subject to empirical claims or counter-claims."

    I don’t anticipate an America where we all share the exact same moral convictions. So we have to be able to talk about policy in a way that isn’t an assault on one’s private convictions. Freddie’s logic takes politics from “the art of the possible” to the venting of spleen. I don’t want our lives to be 100% about the political to the point where I can’t talk about beer or the Red Sox with someone who has different views that I do on the proper size of the government.

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  11. I may be misreading you, but you seem very convinced that your particular bundle of policy preferences represents some sort of absolute measure of morality. Isn't that completely antithetical to your whole notion of improving the moral imagination?

    Both your premise and your conclusion are false.

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  12. I'm guessing you've never met Moynihan. The man is tapped into a hot spring of hate, and he lets it flow at almost everyone.
    Much funnier in person.

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  13. Yeah, I was just spitballing here.

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