I keep saying here that I'm a small-l libertarian. What does that mean? It means that I'm not a member of the Libertarian Party, and don't have any plans to become one. Why? In part it's because I think party identification encourages sloppy thinking and orthodoxy — it leads us to adopt positions not because we've concluded those positions have merit, but because the tribe with which we identify has adopted them.
Also, to be blunt, it's because the Libertarian Party and other bastions of libertarian officialdom (as opposed to individual libertarians) seem doomed to attract cranks and crazies, much to the detriment of libertarian ideas.
Case in point . . . .
Last year I wrote this post demonstrating that the Los Angeles Times had indulged in legally illiterate scaremongering about the PATRIOT Act. In short, the Times asserted that a woman named Tamara Freeman was held under the PATRIOT Act for misbehaving on an airplane, when in fact she was prosecuted based on a law that existed before the PATRIOT Act, based upon elements unchanged by the PATRIOT Act, for conduct that the Times substantially distorted and minimized. In other words, the PATRIOT Act had nothing do to with it. Here's how I closed:
As I have often argued on this blog, citizens should remain vigilant about how our government uses the convenient excuse of the War on Terror to expand police powers and trammel rights in a manner unrelated to legitimate anti-terrorist efforts. The media does it job when it reports on genuine abuses and expansions of power. However, like the boy who cried wolf, the media does more harm than good when it does not do its homework before asserting that pre-existing norms and practices are actually new developments. And the media certainly doesn’t do its job when it attempts to sanitize someone like Tamera Freeman.
You would think that nobody could read that and conclude that I'm a Republican defending the PATRIOT Act.
You'd be wrong. Here's the comment we got last night:
Hay [sic] dumbass Republican’s [sic] you are not safer on airlines becuase [sic] the Gov’t uses the Patriot Act for trivial nonsense like this. The LA Times was very correct in there [sic] reporting. Welcome to the USSA
This was so dumb, so sub-literate, and so completely lacking in any sign of reading comprehension that I decided to Google the email address left with the comment. To my surprise — wait, that's misleading, to my regret — I discovered that the email address belonged to "Membership Chair" of a local branch of the Libertarian Party.
Surely, I thought, this must be some statist trying to discredit libertarians by trolling blogs with silly comments and leaving the email addresses of libertarian party officials. Right? So I sent this person an email warning him that someone was misusing his email address using the name "Joe."
No such luck. Here's what I got back:
No your [sic] the educated idiot. If you think your [sic] safer on a plane because the Patriot Act is applied in this manner and a woman is denied her god given right of Habeas Corpus to go in front of a judge to answer to the charges brought against her then all I can say your a sad human being.
Got it! Did I make myself clear enough this time?
Yep, that sounds like the same commenter. I replied rather brusquely, he replied in kind again:
O.K. Mr. Fed [the name on the email address I used], let's try this, you're an educated moron. Got it? Lay off the conspiracy crack pipe dude. So when from the time she was charged with these "egregious" "trumped up" air crimes was it to the time she was brought before a judge? 3 months? tyranny works on your mind not mine. Take your meds and watch dancing with the stars. Don't insult my intelligence. Nice blog! I look up to controllers like you! lol
Of course, anyone who actually read the post on which this idiot commented would see that I cited, and attached, multiple documents from Ms. Freeman's federal criminal prosecution illustrating that she was not held incommunicado under the PATRIOT Act in defiance of the Great Writ, but routinely prosecuted under pre-existing federal statutes, made multiple and timely court appearances, and only spent time in custody because nobody in her family would bail her out. Again, the entire point of the post was to document that the PATRIOT Act had nothing to do with the prosecution.
That level of reading comprehension seems to elude this idio. As far as I can tell, he read one or two paragraphs of the post at random and then emoted.
There are several possibilities. One possibility is that this person really is exactly this thick. Another is that this person is engaging in the fine internet tradition of trolling, but using the email address he uses in his capacity of Membership Chair of his local Libertarian party. That possibility is sort of a riff on the first one.
Libertarian ideas are important and worth exploring seriously. That's why we've blogged about post-9/11 idiocies and abuses by the TSA, police misconduct, the encroaching Nanny State, and the excesses of the War on Drugs.
If you care about these issues, you should examine them carefully and draw your own conclusions. When you follow a party, or a party's platform, you are letting people like this idiot decide issues for you.
April 1, 2012: In the original version of this post, I published the email address of the person in question, and called him by name (and named the local organization of which he was an official. In a thread that was recent as of April 1, 2012, a commenter "Christoph" pointed out that this seemed to contradict values I've expressed elsewhere.
Two years later, I don't recall my exact thinking in doing so. This jackass was not extremely personally abusive or threatening (two things that might cause me to out someone). I believe that I thought that it was newsworthy that an officer of a local political party would leave such comments using an email address so easily traceable to him, and double down when written. But on reflection, that point could have been made the way I did it above, without the name or email address. To the extent that my post suggested that the guy was a sub-literate choad who reflects badly on the political group that makes him a "Membership Chair," I stand by it. But outing him was not necessary to that end, and contradicted principles I've talked about here and generally try to stand for. So: I apologize to the jackass in question for outing him, though not for calling him a jackass.
On further reflection, I'm not going to write a new post about this. Popehat is substantially more trafficked now than it was two years ago, and the effect (given the availability of Gooogle Cache) would be to draw more attention to the name and email address I previously published.
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