Why Libertarians Self-Censor

AnarchoMama recently wrote a post about a frequent roadblock of hers when trying to write about topics from a libertarian perspective, an obstacle which I too find equally as frustrating as a content creator.

I’m running into this problem more and more: I see something on the news, I want to post about it, and then I think of all my personal friends and colleagues who are bound to either misunderstand or strongly disagree with what I have to say.

As libertarian anarchists, our views put us at odds with nearly everyone we know in one way or another. Those who agree with us on foreign policy will disagree on economics or NSA surveillance. Yes, we have outspoken and loudmouth libertarians, (and don’t get me wrong; we need them) but when it comes to protesting the way in which reality inaccurately reflects the world we envision, we are by far the most tolerant political group in the world, yet we are the ones who have to self-censor because we are the minority and the majority is extremely closed-minded to the conversation.

For whatever reason, it is acceptable for a neocon or progressive to throw a tantrum when someone says something ill of a politician but we are not permitted to calmly and rationally explain why the state is a criminal entity without being accused of lacking civility.

Like AnarchoMama, I too have relatives either in the military or retired. I have friends who fought in the Iraq War. Some of them died, others came back cripple, and another has severe PTSD. I value their friendship and choose not to discuss or debate topics like American Sniper with them; in fact, most of them are completely unaware of my true political beliefs. I also have friends and relatives who work for in the public sector.

But this conundrum makes it especially hard for me to promote this site in the way I would prefer. I don’t post my work on Facebook because everyone sees it on their news feed. It is impossible to properly filter out who gets to see what, as people respond differently to different topics I cover, and I having giving up debating on Facebook.

Some anarchists have thrown off these socially-imposed restrictions and created a personality brand to sell themselves as a liberty writer, which is an effective marketing tactic. Or, they promote libertarianism through softer, gentler means than others, and their work as activists means their enemies can’t hurt them by pressuring their employer to fire them.

Yet, it’s a problem that occurs even with libertarian commentators like Julie Borowski, a.k.a. Token Libertarian Girl, who use their real name with their work.

Having said that, however, none of my reservations are due to fear of what people will think of me. My sole concern is separating my work as a reporter and not burning bridges with people whose relationships I don’t consider worthy of destruction for the sake of a political argument. Unless you are willing to expel someone from your life who refuses to subscribe to your specific beliefs, too often it means confining your libertarian discussions to libertarians and keeping your mouth closed when they spout off something you could so easily refute (and make them appear foolish simultaneously).

Ironically enough, our tendency to self-censor in order to maintain amiable relations with other people in society is actually a rather appropriate example of how voluntary society would still maintain rules without a ruler to enforce them, a concept we often get mocked for when discussing it.

There is no government law to stop us from writing whatever we wish or posting our articles on Facebook, Twitter, or Reddit or speaking our minds whenever we please, save for certain circumstances. What causes us to censor ourselves, if not in our writing then in front of our friends and family, are social rules that have clear yet non-coercive consequences when they are violated.

No one enforces these rules via the state; they are enforced by society without violating the NAP when people choose to disassociate or associate with others based on how they behave; whether their choose displays ignorance and bigotry is beside the point. It is a voluntary arrangement. There is no commissar regulating our social choices….not yet, anyways.

Next time someone claims that a stateless society could not enforce rules effectively, remind them of this.

I’m curious what readers have to say, though. How often do you censor yourself when political topics come up at family events, social gatherings, or at work? What relationships are worth more than the ability to speak your mind without filtering yourself? At what point do you feel expressing your views outweighs the social consequences and relationships?

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10 Responses to Why Libertarians Self-Censor

  1. Pingback: Why Libertarians Self-Censor | Freedom's Floodgates

  2. We here at RoughTradeBlog feel your pain… We all share political beliefs similar to your own. On top of that, one of us works in the military sector and has to constantly self-edit his opinions just to stay employed or, possibly, to keep from being prosecuted. Another is an ex-drug-addicted felon on intense-level probation. He already has these strikes against him when it comes to dealing with employers and “radical” political beliefs would surely not help this. As for probation, he is terrified of drawing any further scrutiny from his probation officer and he knows if his p.o. were to read his rants that would be the outcome. But, none of what we write is actually criminal in anyway, it is only our own fear and paranoia that end up censoring us. People have to realize that social ramifications serve as a sort of law themselves and impinging on our freedoms.

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  3. I have felt the need to withhold my views on occasion but mainly at work when it is ususally inappropriate for any political discussion. Having said that, everyone I work with knows I advocate a stateless society. Im not sure what they really think of me but it doesnt seem to affect our working relationships. Of course I work at a job that isn’t political in nature, so that is a different situation then say the situation of a journalist.

    It is a delicate balance that we all must walk, but I find that I have the most success when I show the views of others with respect, even if I know they lead to great injustice, while offering a libertarian alternative.

    I have found that my conservative friends are easier to debate with than my progressive friends, as the latter’s political belief systems seem to be more grounded in emotion. I do have one progressive buddy that I tend to let the social restraints off with, but we each enjoy our political shouting matches.

    It is a great topic though because speaking about the cause of liberty can destroy relationships if we are not careful.

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  4. DH says:

    It’s like banging your head against a wall. We won’t change anyone’s opinion during a conversation at the bar or through Facebook. So why go through the rigmarole of trying to share our thoughts and beliefs when they’ll be at best laughed off or at worst considered highly inflammatory and insulting. No need to lose friends and alienate family over this stuff. The chances of swaying the opinions of someone, especially someone who isn’t a young adult, are pretty small, especially in the venues in which these conversations usually occur, such as bars, parties, around the water cooler, kids’ soccer games, and family events.

    I think many people who gravitated towards libertarian (or similar) thinking did so on their own accord and not due to being “enlightened” by someone else. Maybe I’m wrong in assuming that. Seems though like a great many of us researched this stuff ourselves, initiated conversations ourselves, and asked a lot of questions. We started the process, not somebody else, and continued to actively seek out information. And isn’t that the best way?

    http://www.skeptictaproom.wordpress.com

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    • I converted to libertarianism in a similar manner, mainly by reading lots of articles and books. Very little involved debating other people directly. It takes a long time to process these ideas and often we need to be able to do this without someone demanding an answer we don’t have. Banging one’s head against the wall is a fairly accurate description of most conversations I’ve had with people (at least after talking to them).

      The problem for a lot of libertarians is how to put our ideals into practice without incurring the wrath of friends and family, or even employers. I find it’s just not worth having the argument, so I have friends/relatives who work for the government and because they don’t preach pro-government messages and just see it as a job, we can avoid the discussion entirely. The challenge is, what if people are very vocal about it? For example, I know people who are very pro-gun control, so when I’m asked about how I feel on guns, rather than tell them all about my pro-gun literature online or my participation in gun rallies, I simply deflect and change the subject tactfully.

      I think it comes down to how visible should our libertarian philosophy be worn on our sleeve? For me, I don’t try to hide it out of shame, but I also believe in picking my battles and being discreet when appropriate.

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  5. Wow, y’all like really smart. I don’t self-censer enough. I should be quit more. That said, here’s a thought. If I don’t warn the sheep, then they will fail. I have no responsibility to or for sheep. If I don’t warn the wolfs, then they will fail, eating each other. Again, not my problem. I don’t make my living writing for fellow sheepdogs, if we, like in this blog, mutually and voluntarily assist each other. Then thanks for the unneeded but enlightening interaction. Now, am I an anarchist or a libertarian ?

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  6. I used to be the confrontational, argumentative type. I would debate anyone at the drop of a hat. But I started noticing that I wasn’t changing anyone’s mind and I was only pushing people away. I got my roommate to jump ship to the libertarians. We’re both history nerds so our normal conversations frequently would contain the political. It just naturally happened. Unless I know for a fact that I’m on the same page as another person, I avoid talking politics. Democrats and Republicans alike only care about being right. They’re not interested in learning about what I believe, or bouncing ideas off of each other, or any of those things. It’s pointless. Also, I get tired of shooting down logical fallacies. Rarely does anything challenge my views. I usually have to talk to other libertarians and discuss “what if” situations.

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    • Sounds a lot like me. I try to refute some misunderstandings or misconceptions on here, but I never do it anymore in person, probably for the same reason. There is no interest in hearing what we have to say.

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      • Seriously, what do anarchists know of libertarians? In the century before 1971 anarchism existed only as a violent and parasitical incrustation on communist, socialist and fascist parties. Suddenly, as if on command, those same activists converted overnight into textbook examples of the fallacy of affirming the consequent. Why do anarchists not form their own party instead of fastening like fetid lampreys onto a party not worthy of their valuable assistance?

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