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Pressing the Statist Quo

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The question was blunt: “Why are libertarians so off-putting?”

I’m not sure what I said exactly in response or how I said it. I was too busy forcing myself to be polite. It happened at last year’s Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s and the question came from my sister’s mother-in-law. I had the urge to scream that members of the left and right were off-putting to libertarians. However, I began with the fact that libertarians are not afraid to challenge the status quo. We do it often and sometimes in a manner perceived by statists as politically incorrect.

The political status quo should really be called a statist quo. People would rather accept as truth dubious facts handed down to them by an authority figure than do any research on their own and check out those supposed facts against an objective source or one with a different opinion. People “know” Franklin Roosevelt and his alphabet soup of programs ended the Great Depression. A lie from the prince is more readily believed than is the truth from a pauper.

Government controls those beliefs by hijacking the dictionary and playing puppet master with the mainstream media. When the dictionary is hijacked, definitions are reworded and the meanings of words get changed. Call something the PATRIOT Act and people will believe the implication of the name rather than take the time to read and learn that the bill’s contents are anything but patriotic.

Libertarians push back; we press against that statist quo. The other side doesn’t like that. That’s one reason why so many media types avoid Libertarian Party and libertarian Republican candidates, and why they don’t include libertarian commentators in roundtable discussions. They don’t include any nonmainstream representatives either, unless they can be ridiculed or somehow made to look foolish.

Hence, the tap dance of ignorance regarding Republican Ron Paul’s finish in the Iowa straw poll. He came in second, less than a percentage point behind Michele Bachmann, but mainstream media’s talking heads kept calling Bachmann, Mitt Romney, and Gov. Rick Perry of Texas the frontrunners for the Republican Party nomination for president. Even Jon Stewart from The Daily Show on Comedy Central knew better.

Most national news people, whether from Fox, MSNBC, or anywhere in between, can’t deal with libertarian candidates. Liberty itself is a null concept to them. It’s neither left nor right and they don’t want to deal with anything outside their belief system. They don’t know how. It’s easier to believe than to think and it’s easier to continue the left-right myth than to introduce reality into the political dialogue.

This is not a recent development. Mainstream media types have long ignored libertarians. Alleged objectivity by the national press is also a myth. Including Ross Perot in coverage of the 1992 presidential election was an aberration. Perot bought the coverage he received and couldn’t be ignored because of the millions he had spent. Despite what journalism students are told to believe, however, papers have been biased all the way back to Washington, Adams, and Jefferson. The electronic media followed suit.

In addition to intellectual laziness, there’s also a financial motive for the press to ignore those they deem superfluous and it’s one of the reasons we have an imperial presidency today.

Our Founding Fathers wanted the legislature to be the most important branch of government. They truly wanted to keep presidential power in check. But it’s less expensive for the press to focus on covering one person, the president, than it is to cover hundreds of senators and congressmen. The mainstream press buys a seat at the White House press conference by playing the political game.

Instead of being a watchdog, the media establishment becomes part of the government, helping to choke off the free exchange of ideas that don’t serve Republicans and Democrats. The big loser is the First Amendment guarantee of a free press, a press free from government restriction. The government doesn’t have to enact laws that would hamper the national media. The media simply roll over to get their bellies rubbed and a bone from the master’s table.

And the leaders of those two incumbent parties — better yet, the two sides of the ruling-class party — love it. Even Democrats don’t want libertarian candidates to challenge Republicans.

During the 2010 elections, Pennsylvania Republicans finagled to keep state Libertarian Party candidates for governor, lieutenant governor, and senator off the ballot. The chairman of the Chadds Ford Democratic Party was glad to hear that. He thinks so-called third-party candidates should be disfranchised because, he said, Ralph Nader’s candidacy in 2000 kept Al Gore from becoming president. Statists don’t like outside-the-box competition.

So the mainstream press will continue to support the statist quo. They are linked to and dependent on the power elite. The two groups are tied together and have all but become one. And libertarians will continue to press even if we’re perceived as off-putting.

Despite the abrupt insulting question, there was some good news during last year’s Thanksgiving dinner. I learned that a new relative by marriage self-identifies as libertarian. The family better watch out. I’m no longer alone. There are two of us now — a double press.

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    Rich Schwartzman is managing editor at Chadds Ford Live in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania.