Monday, October 20, 2014


I recently got involved in the tail end of a Facebook discussion about the gubernatorial race here in Kansas. Most posters were lamenting the possibility that Libertarian candidate Keen Umbehr’s campaign might be siphoning votes away from Paul Davis rather than Sam Brownback, who was supposed to be the intended target of Libertarian wrath. It appeared to be a pro-Democrat proxy war gone wrong.

I don’t know if the fears were justified. We’ll see in November when the king makers and pundits dissect the campaigns. If Davis loses the election by a “hair,” then I suppose it will be time to tar and feather every Libertarian in Kansas.

After reading the Facebook posts a few times, I suggested, tongue-in-cheek, that the solution to the Davis supporters’ problem was to make voting for an independent or libertarian candidate illegal. Davis supporters would then be able to sleep better at night, believing they’ve been able to stack the deck in their man’s favor.

Then, what began with blind speculation about the negative impact of Keen Umbehr on the gubernatorial campaign became, in the mind of one commenter, “horrible news.” While the comment revealed a lack of understanding of the difference between speculation and news, I understand the poster’s predicament. The line between speculation and news in our media nowadays has been so blurred it’s almost impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

Another pro-Davis poster suggested that it would be better if Independents and Libertarians “were stealing votes from the R’s.” I think I know what the poster was trying to achieve, but my way was much better. Why get Independents and Libertarians involved in criminal activity when disenfranchising them with a bit of legal skullduggery could achieve the desired result.

There was one final post about possible doomsday scenarios. Employing a string of “if” statements piled on top of one another, the poster built one of the biggest ‘hypothesis contrary to fact’ sandwiches I’ve ever seen. The only thing missing was the proverbial, “If pigs had wings, they could fly.”

There was also one clarifying Freudian slip about the similarities of the old Libertarian platform of the Koch brothers to the “ultra-conservative” platform of today.  The words “ultra-conservative” were the philosophical glue that held it all together. After giving the final post some thought, I dusted off an old essay by George Orwell titled “Politics and the English Language.” In the essay, Orwell commented on the way words are used in politics to project negative images of one’s political opponents. He put it this way:  “Words (Orwell used, totalitarian, progressive, reactionary, conservative, bourgeois, equality) of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.”

If Orwell were alive today I suspect he would add the words “ultra-conservative” to his list.

What does it mean to be labelled “ultra-conservative?” It means being considered an extremist or a reactionary and we all know that extremists and reactionaries are dangerous. They’re part of what folks in politics call the lunatic fringe. That was the real point of all the posts.

What is it that makes Libertarians and “ultra” Conservatives so dangerous?

I’m not a member of the Libertarian Party, but I do share some of their beliefs. For example, I believe the following, taken from their 2014 platform:
“We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Is that reactionary language? Is it dangerous?

For over a year I’ve been writing about the dangers of our government’s warrantless surveillance programs. Am I the one who’s dangerous because I’m writing about the spying? Or is it our government that is becoming dangerous because they’re the ones doing the surveillance?

I’ve written about the increasingly dangerous abuse of police power in this country. Does making Gazette readers aware of the abuse make me a reactionary?

I’ve even attended a Tea Party meeting here in Emporia. Some folks around town wanted to burn me at the stake like Savonarola for doing it. Interestingly, I never heard a call for insurrection at the meeting, but I did leave with a copy of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. I keep it in my office. I occasionally read it and I find it quite enlightening. Does reading it make me dangerous?

I’ve just completed editing this piece and something occurred to me. If I’m going to be labelled as dangerous I might as well act dangerously.

My laptop is smoking and I can smell the political op-eds brewing. As David Farragut said at Mobile Bay, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

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